When children are young, parents tend to have little trouble helping with school work. As a matter of fact, in the early years, many homeschooling moms and dads operate very nicely without so much as a teacher’s manual or an answer key.
As students grow older and the work becomes more difficult, however, parents aren’t always able or available to help with every subject. Though not always the case, it appears that mathematics tends to be one of those subjects.
Research has shown that homeschooled students not only succeed, but usually exceed the standards set by their peers in public schools, even when their parents do not have the highest level of education. This means that parents do not always need to know every subject in order for their children to do well in homeschool. That’s because there are many tools that can help students to learn, even when parents are unable to help.
The trick is learning to find the right tools to help solve the right problem.
So, where can homeschooled students (and their parents) turn for math help?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Another adult
Even if mom or dad can’t help, another adult just might be able to figure it out. Friends, neighbors, aunts and uncles are all good choices. Fellow homeschoolers can also help. Not everyone can be good at everything. But chances are, you already know someone who can help with your student’s particular challenge.
2. A sibling
You’d be surprised at how much material siblings seem to magically pick up by virtue of sharing a room or just completing schoolwork within the same vicinity of one another. Just watching and listening to brothers and sisters can result in the immediate absorption of what the others are learning. An older sibling, and even a younger one, can be a great resource. Plus, even if the sibling can’t figure out the answer, he or she learns something by trying, anyway.
3. The publisher/vendor
Depending on which book, curriculum, or other resource you’re using, you may be entitled to support or other help from either the publisher or vendor you purchased from. Some companies offer a knowledge base of commonly-encountered problems on their web site. Others have a comprehensive set of FAQs that cover a lot of the basics. Browse the company web site or make a telephone call. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
4. The Internet
There is no end to the content that is continually being added to web sites all around the world. With some patience and basic online searching skills, you can probably find a web site or online lesson plan that covers the exact topic your student is attempting to learn. In mathematics, for instance, you’ll find hundreds of online math sites, math games, and even math videos that teach specific topics for free. Try MathVids, Visual Math Learning and Khan Academy video lessons for starters. Or visit Ask Dr. Math, AAA Math, Figure This, Math with Larry, Cool Math, Math dot com, and Free Math Help, just to name a few.
5. Another homeschooler
Sometimes homeschooled kids can only be helped by other kids who understand. Homeschooled students who are slightly older, or who just completed the same material a year or two ago, may be able to explain the concept to your child in a language he or she can understand. Plus, if you are lucky enough to know a child who used the same book or curriculum your child is using, you might also gain additional insights from the more experienced student about how to use that book or resource in the future.
6. Private tutors / tutoring centers
Though this can be expensive, tutoring can sometimes be worth the expense just to get a child over the hump and onto smoother ground. Even just a couple of tutoring sessions, taught by someone who is very experienced in dealing with the exact subject your child is learning, can be a good investment. If a child becomes frustrated, it does not take very long for either of you to sink into a feeling of great desperation. Hiring someone that is skilled in teaching at different levels and explaining material in different ways can be exactly what is needed to move on.
7. A new approach
Finally, with the freedom to homeschool comes the freedom to choose the materials and approach used to teach every academic subject. When one isn’t working, the only right thing to do is to try another. No matter how expensive the curriculum, or how pleasing the book may be to you, if it isn’t working for your child, it’s time for a change. We have all heard of children who go from hating a subject to loving it practically overnight, simply because of a new book, a new teacher, or a new approach to learning it altogether.