math

063. What is the Best Math Curriculum?

063. What is the Best math Curriculum?

Math can be a subject that invokes fear into the hearts of those new to or considering homeschooling. Math may be a subject that you weren’t so great at or maybe you were math minded but are nervous at the prospect of teaching upper level math. Perhaps you feel like you don’t remember enough math from your youth? Remember that you do not need to be an expert in anything to teach your own children. There are a million programs, classes and scripted curricula out there to help you cover this subject with your student and you know your child best. So what is the best math curriculum? In today’s episode, we’ll be exploring the process of selecting the right choice for your homeschool.

Episode 063:

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Show Notes

In today’s episode, we’ll be exploring the process of selecting the right choice for your homeschool. From navigating various teaching styles and philosophies to finding a program that aligns with your child’s learning needs and your family’s budget. The journey to finding the perfect fit can be exciting but also daunting. Come along with us as we dive into the ins and outs of picking a homeschool math curriculum. We’ll share tips and insights to help you choose the right fit, setting you up for math success!

On today’s episode we are going to be answering one of the questions that we get most often! What is the best math curriculum? And boy, is this question ever a multi-faceted ask!  So many things can go into this decision.  Do a search on any homeschool group and you’ll find a zillion questions a day with a zillion different responses. 

Selecting the best math curriculum can seem overwhelming, but with careful consideration, you can find the right fit for your child’s needs and your homeschooling style. But keep in mind that there is no perfect homeschool curriculum for any subject (and certainly not a perfect homeschool math program), things that are worth doing are not always easy. And just because things may be hard doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. 

When you start thinking about math for next year or even switching curriculum now, remember that simple consistency is the most valuable thing you can bring to your homeschool math plan.  Try not to be a serial curriculum hopper.  While ditching things that don’t work for you is great, you do want to make sure that you are giving things a solid go before deciding they don’t work for you. And while reviews are important, take them with a grain of salt- I can’t believe how many people I see sometimes give a review of a program based on just the first short book in the series.

It’s going to be much better and more effective for you to pick something and do it imperfectly, little-by-little, day-by-day than for you to keep bouncing from math program to math program searching for the mythical perfect bullet that will solve all your mathematical woes. Also, remember that every homeschool child is unique. Just because a friend or a random stranger on the internet loves a certain program does not mean it will be a good fit for you and your children.

The best option, when possible, is to look through a homeschool math curriculum in person. Ask friends if you can borrow their books. Go to a local bookstore, or a homeschool convention if possible and flip through the pages and chat with the curriculum authors. And whenever possible, always take advantage of free online math trials!

Textbook and Online Math Curriculum

Here are a few of the common, most popular homeschool math curriculums. The list is certainly not complete.  We’ve used some of these math programs personally over the years with various children and at various levels and then some are ones we’ve reviewed or come highly recommended by friends and other homeschool parents. We will have these all linked in our show notes.

Math With Confidencecurriculum

Saxon Math

Math-U-See *not secular

Mr. D Math 

Keys to Math

Life of Fred *not secular

CTC Math

Singapore Math

RightStart Mathematics 

Beast Academy and Art of Problem Solving 

Math Mammoth

Khan Academy

Teaching textbooks 

Horizons 

Denison

Unlock Math

Derek Owens

Key factors to consider

As a homeschooling parent, I know first hand that choosing the right math curriculum can be a daunting task. There are so many options available!  We both learned over the years that it’s so important to find one that meets your child’s needs, aligns with your homeschool style, and fits within your time and money budget.

Here are a few key factors to consider when selecting a homeschool math curriculum:

your child’s learning style

Every child is different. What works for your friend’s child may not work for yours. I’ve had to pivot multiple times with my own children! The textbook that I started out with and worked great for my oldest made my middle child cry. The issue is not that the math book itself is bad… it just was not a good fit for the way their brain worked. And honestly, it’s one of the best benefits of homeschooling. When something doesn’t work, you can switch it up. You’re not married to the curriculum that a public school is using. Taking full advantage of personalizing your choices is such a great part of homeschooling.

Does your child get distracted by lots of color or too much text on the page? Do they like working deliberately through a worksheet or do they need more hand-holding? 

Does your child do best with hands-on material? Is it helpful for them to receive input in multiple ways like visually and auditory? Do you have a child who is asynchronous in their learning?

If you prefer a hands-on approach, a curriculum that includes manipulatives like Math U See and using real-world applications may be a good choice. If you prefer a more traditional approach, you’ll probably want a textbook-based curriculum.

Likewise, some kids need lots of practice problems so a workbook based program may be necessary, where other kids might do better with a program that allows you to move on once you’ve grasped a concept. 

Remember that you don’t have to rigidly stick to a curriculum as written, either.  If your kids don’t need a million review questions or don’t need to handwrite a million numbers, don’t feel bad about skipping over things that are unnecessary. 

time constraints

Do you have multiple children whose needs you’re balancing? Perhaps you need to outsource some of your math lessons with an online program like Mr. D Math or enroll them in an Outschool course.  Or maybe you just need an additional explanation- a supplement like Khan academy is great for viewing another explanation on how to do a problem or a Singapore mental math workbook can be a great way to take a break while learning some new techniques and then returning to a concept that was tricky.

Do you love math? Perhaps you want to be more involved with the daily teaching of your math curriculum. My youngest and I look forward to doing math together every day even in high school. There’s a lot of other things she does independently but likes to do math with me.

 What kind of approach

Some people like to stay in line with the public school system especially when it comes to something like math that builds on its concepts. You can certainly check the scope-and-sequence of any math curriculum and compare it to your state requirements and personal homeschool goals. If you have an older teenager, and they are college bound, you’re going to want to check out our high school series. One of the most important things we talk about is looking at the entrance requirements for each college they are interested in applying to. This may be a factor for older students or especially for students who are specifically going into STEM majors.

scope and sequence

The scope and sequence for most curriculum is going to be quite similar to state standards. It may be more helpful to notice how the math program is structured. For example, a mastery approach to math focuses more deeply on one topic at a time while a spiral approach teaches smaller portions of the material at a time and rotates through them more frequently.

A traditional “just the facts” approach tells the student what to do, gives them the math rules, and then drills them with lots of practice. A math curriculum that focuses on the why will lead the children to discover mathematical concepts for themselves and will help them understand why the tricks and rules work. Our favorite curriculums strike a balance and include elements of all of the above.

What’s your budget?  

We’ve talked many times on our show about budget constraints.  I’m a single mom and so the price of the curriculum is a big factor for me.  But, as we have also talked about many times before,  homeschooling does not need to be expensive.  There are options in every price range and plenty of free or low cost resources out there. I’ve almost always bought my curriculum pre-owned from a friend or on eBay, Facebook marketplace. 

Just be aware that some of the free curricula out there may have a hidden agenda. I see glowing reviews online and in chats for some of the free Bible based curriculum but remember that they are pushing their worldview. And as the curriculum gets more involved as your child gets older, so does the amount of indoctrination especially when it comes to history and social studies. It is our responsibility to have full awareness of what our children are being taught. So please don’t go in blind, and choose a curriculum solely based on the fact that it’s free.

And keep in mind that just because a curriculum is low cost does not mean its low quality.  Not at all.  I do expect to pay something for curricula.  Someone else has put their heart and soul into creating something of value for you and that deserves compensation, but again, there are so many options.  And you can always piece together things yourself.  Many people do that especially in the younger years- you really don’t need a formal curricula for k-3.

Depending on your family’s time and your children’s independence, you may choose to be more hands-off in your homeschool math approach and that’s ok, too! Some people find it works to do math one on one with their youngest while their older children are doing something more independently. For example, we’ve used video instruction from Math-U-See for elementary grades and gradually moved to online self-paced classes from Mr. D Math for high school math and eventually dual enrollment at the local community college.

The realities of your schedule, the demands of multiple children in your homeschool, and the unique needs of your individual students can help you determine if working one-on-one with mom and a textbook or outsourcing utilizing online courses or local resources is the best fit for your family.

And if you’re struggling with indecision, remember the most important thing is that you just pick something, start it, and do a little bit of math every day. If you are in an all out rut, take a break, play math games.  We have a great resource page for that that came out of our “How do you successfully teach math episode 25.”

At the end of the day, an imperfect math curriculum that you do faithfully is going to be better than the mythical perfect curriculum you never start. Nothing is ever going to be perfect for every homeschool family or student. 

We hope you’ve found some insight on choosing a math curriculum today and are feeling empowered to make the right choice for your family. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but with careful consideration of your child’s learning style, your teaching approach, your budget and the available resources, you can find a curriculum that fosters a love for math and supports their academic growth. Trust your instincts, stay flexible, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of learning alongside your child.

FREE Multiplication Wheels

$0.00

13 adorable rainbow multiplication wheels covering numbers 0-12. Use in sheet protectors with a dry erase marker or cut out and laminate and have your child recite one each day for math warm up. Make math fun! We talk about this in Episode 025. How Do You Successfully Teach Math? Are you tired of Math…

Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

BTDT Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

Introducing the BTDT Homeshool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer – the essential tool for every homeschooling family! This 187-page planner is all about tailoring it to your unique needs and making your homeschooling journey a breeze.

A homeschool planner is a tool designed specifically for homeschooling families to help them stay organized and track their progress. It typically includes various sections and features to assist with lesson planning, scheduling, record-keeping, and tracking academic goals. 

Whether you have one child or a bustling homeschooling household, this organizer is here to keep you super organized and on top of things. It’s like having your personal homeschooling assistant! Completely customized and flexible planner that adapts effortlessly to your homeschooling needs. Say goodbye to scattered records and hello to an all-in-one solution! With everything in one place, you can easily access all your information as you move through the school year.  

Planning your homeschool lessons has never been easier. Our user-friendly design makes planning a breeze, allowing you to map out your curriculum with efficiency and precision- whether you are a child-led unschooler or a scheduled parent, the flexibility will work for you and your kids.  

Stay on top of your homeschooling schedule effortlessly, empowering you to focus on what truly matters – educating your children.  

Our planner empowers you to track anything and everything related to your homeschooling journey. From attendance and grades to extracurricular activities and field trips, you’ll have a comprehensive overview of your children’s progress.  

Page by Page view of the BTDT Homeschool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer

What is included in this planner?

We’ve taken the time to include detailed instructions on how to use this planner effectively, but let me give you a friendly overview of how it’s organized: 

PART 1: REFERENCES  

  • Resources list from BTDT Homeschool- Including: BTDT Homeschool podcast, getting started in homeschooling, tips, free downloads, and more to help in your homechool journey.  
  • Password Tracker 
  • Membership/Subscription Tracker 
  • Field Trip Tracker 
  • Attendance Tracker 

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>

PART 2: MAKING A PLAN  

  • Curriculum & Resources Brainstorm 
  • Literature Selections and Rating 
  • Planning For the Year Ahead 
  • Monthly Goals and Accomplishments 
  • Quarterly Term Goals 

PART 3: BUDGETING  

As parents research how to get started homeschooling, budgeting is a top concern. Families want to know how much it will cost to homeschool. Preparation for the costs will minimize the stress that can affect your homeschool efforts and overall success.  

Several factors determine how much it will cost to homeschool. These include the number of children, the grade level, the type of curriculum you select. Each family will have different homeschool requirements, so providing a dollar figure before evaluating your family’s needs is difficult. Your Homeschool Budget is listed in an organized way so you can stay on track and not bust the bank:  

  • Curriculum Budget by Subject  
  • Outsourced Classes/Workshops/Etc.  
  • Summary Budget  
  • Annual Household Bill Tracker  

PART 4: THE SCHEDULE  

  • Monthly Focus Dashboard 
  • Monthly Schedule 
  • Weekly Lesson Planner for 12 Months 
  • Grade Tracker/Student Checklist 

PART 5: REFLECTIONS  

  • Year-End Reflections 
  • Year In Review 
  • Notes 

Get yours today!

Transform your homeschooling journey by staying organized and on track with the ultimate organizer! With 187 pages, staying on top of your schedule has never been easier, giving you the freedom to focus on what truly matters – educating your children.

Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

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028. How Do You Keep Learning Fun?

keep learning fun

028.

How Do You Keep Learning Fun?

My child hates writing so how do I make that fun?
What are the best learning games?
How do you break up the monotony mid semester?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

keep learning fun

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

It’s important to understand your child’s learning style and preferences. We talk about this in episode 004 homeschool styles and philosophies. Some children enjoy hands-on activities while others enjoy quiet, focused work. Others may need more visual cues or physical movement for concepts to stick. Take time to understand what works best for them so that lessons remain interesting and engaging. This will help ensure that the material is being fully absorbed rather than memorized and quickly forgotten.

People often have the mindset of replicating public school at home but you have to remember that children are learning all the time. On episode 018. Homeschooling lifestyle, I talked about, sir, Ken Robinson. He made a huge impact on the way many people view education. His powerful TED Talk is still one of the most viewed TED Talks ever. If you haven’t seen that video discussing the importance of creativity  challenges educators to radically rethink education. It’s a fantastic video every homeschooler should watch.

Sir Ken Robinson TED TALK

Be sure that your child has a say in what they learn. Everyone is more engaged and remember when they are interested in the content. We want to create lifelong learners. My kids know that I don’t know everything. They will see me reading from the guide or when they ask a question, I don’t know the answer to and I say, “let’s look that up together”. I think that’s beautiful and healthy and they’re seeing an example of a lifelong learner and always being curious. You don’t always have to know the answer, but you want to ignite that curiosity inside of them. A lot of parents when asked a question will just tell their kids to look something up.

My child hates writing so how do I make that fun? (5:18)

The first thing we need to find out before attempting to answer this question is- what do you mean when you say “writing”?  Are you talking about the physical act of pencil to paper handwriting or are you referring to actual foundational writing, sentence structure, detailing thoughts, etc?  Because these are two very different things.

Penmanship

Also, how old is your child?  We see a lot of people struggling with both handwriting and composition and then they will tell us that they are talking about their 6-year-old boy.  It is very normal for a 6-year-old (especially boys) to be resistant or struggle with the act of handwriting, and it’s also not really age appropriate to expect a lot of writing out of a 6-year-old. I, personally, don’t do a ton of writing work outside of handwriting with under 10s.  This can be a really frustrating subject to force when a little time and maturity will often make this a much easier endeavor.

You also want to make sure you rule out an actual physical limitation to writing.  Visual tracking and other learning disabilities can also be a factor.  We talked about that in episode 021. and homeschooling a child with a learning disability. I did take my son to an occupational therapist when he was little because he complained about how much writing hurt his hands.  She gave us some exercises and different kinds of pencil holders and grips.  We will link to some fun ones in the show notes. 

So let’s start with handwriting. When you have a child that hates writing, it’s important to think about the goal of a writing assignment. Is the goal of the assignment to see handwritten symbols (letters) on a page? Then we’re talking about the physical act of handwriting or penmanship. There are so many ways to work on the small motor skills that are going to aid in handwriting.  You can use tracing paper, you can form letters with clay or dough, you can write in sand or shaving cream or another medium.  Get some fancy paper.  You can also experiment with different kinds of pens or pencils or markers. My son for a while insisted on a quill and ink.  Whatever helps!

Drawing is also a great thing to do.  Some hesitant writers could draw all day long. Keep in mind that drawing and handwriting require many of the same skills. One program we really liked was Draw Write Now.  It’s a set of books that include drawing lessons with handwriting skills.  They are super cute, themed and colorful books. They are great for young beginners and those who need to work on those fine motor skills.

Draw Write Now
A drawing and handwriting course for kids that is challenging, motivating, and fun! This book contains a collection of beginning drawing lessons and text for practicing handwriting

Grab these FREE Draw and Write worksheets printable to accompany the Draw Write Now drawing series.

For teaching handwriting, we liked Handwriting Without Tears.  This program uses fun, engaging, and developmentally appropriate instructional methods to enable children to master handwriting as an automatic and comfortable skill.  They teach about grip, letter recognition and formation.  There are several books in this series by grade level and it moves on to cursive.

Learning Without Tears
My First School Book Student Workbook, Pre-K Writing Book – Social-Emotional, Pre-Writing Skills

Handwriting Without Tears Bundle
Includes Printing Power Student Workbook, Teacher’s Guide, Writing Journal

Some homeschooling methods teach cursive first.  This is a Montessori technique and taught because the fluid movement involved in writing cursive letters is easier for children to master.  I did this with my own children, and it was a hit! My little guy felt like a secret detective because he knew a special handwriting code that often his friends didn’t know. Schools have supposedly edged away from teaching cursive at all.  

Handwriting Without Tears SeriesCursive Handwriting Student Workbook
This is my tried-and-true curriculum for handwriting for both printing and cursive.

We do teach it in our homeschool- I joke that it might become a marketable skill during a zombie apocalypse.  You can also try learning calligraphy or italics.  One of my kids was interested in this after learning about other homeschoolers that had their own business handwriting wedding invitations.

Italic Handwriting Series Book
This is the first of a seven-book series (K-6th grade), providing instruction in italic handwriting.

Beginner Calligraphy
Encourage kids ages 8 to 12 to create wonderful words of art using this modern calligraphy workbook

Sometimes we still see people agonizing over handwriting with their high schoolers.  This is a pick your battle moment.  Let’s face it, when your high schooler says he doesn’t really need to write legibly because everything is typed, he’s right.  They aren’t going to do a lot of actual writing in life. This is one of the reasons it was important for me to teach typing. So, while there is definitely a want for clear, neat handwriting (especially as a reflection to homeschool mom), it’s not totally necessary.  And the thing is, your high schooler does know how to write at this point.  If they want to write neater, they can teach themselves how.  If they want to be better at cursive, there are a million resources to practice at any age.  Don’t waste your time with this.

Foundational writing

Writing is a complex process that requires the integration of multiple skills, many of which are executive functioning skills. Writing involves having to visualize ideas in your mind, so that you can manipulate your thoughts into structured sentences that make sense.  You need to search your brain for the proper sounds that make up letters and words and ideas.  And then transpose those letters on paper by hand.

This is actually a lot and it makes sense that handing a kid a piece of paper and saying “write a paragraph” about X can be totally overwhelming.  You can ease into this by starting with things like asking questions that don’t allow a yes or no answer and getting into various dialogs that can inspire writing.

Encourage narration- have your child tell you a story or answer a question in their own words.  We did this all the time! Narration is an important skill. 

One thing I did from a really early age when they were toddlers 2-3 years old… They would tell me these elaborate stories; they were so creative as most children are at that age. I happened to type really fast so I would sit down at the computer and have them tell me the story and I would type it up for them and we made these little books that I printed, and they loved to cuddle on the couch, while I read their story back to them over and over again. You can even write this down and let them practice handwriting from their own words.

We’ve talked about programs like Story Starters before.  This is a book with a series of story beginnings with illustrations and the student then finishes the story. Writing Prompts/Journaling can be great practice for this as well.  We’ve found some really great writing prompt books at Five Below that I just have in a morning basket.

Story Starters
It has all the right ingredients to inspire even the reluctant writer or the student who has experienced discouragement.

Night Zookeeper is an online learning program that helps teach reading/writing skills.  Kids are tasked with raising and caring for mythical animals in a zoo, and have a variety of challenges and activities in the form of writing prompts to advance in the game.

So, whether you are working on penmanship or crafting stories and paragraphs, it’s important to remember that your relationship comes first. We are lucky that we are in the unique position that we are with our children daily and have the ability to influence our children. The words we choose with our kids can make or break their spirits. When we encourage our kids and give them our undivided attention, their confidence is going to grow.

What are the best learning games? (14:17)

When I am out with my hiking group and I end up with all of the little kids up front with me, but I really want to jump into the adult conversation happening in the back, I have a great little trick that I use.  I simply ask, “Does anyone here play Minecraft?”  They all do, and they all have a million things to say about it, so I let them talk to each other and then I can fade away!

My kids got involved with a group called “Minecraft Homeschool” years ago.  I believe it was a mom who set up a server for her kids and eventually opened it up to her whole co-op and then started making classes that could then have built assignments and other activities through the game.  It was quite brilliant.  She had a whole host of teens that helped as moderators and architects, and she built some awesome history and geography classes around the game.  It eventually morphed into a fully functioning curriculum platform with classes in all kinds of subjects- math, cooking, history, science.  It’s now called GamEd Academy.

If you have kids who are into coding or learning how to code Minecraft can also help with that. If you have a Raspberry Pi, your family can learn how to use Python code to program interactions with the Minecraft world. If you don’t have a Raspberry Pi, there are also all kinds of posts and instructions out there on how to learn Python with Minecraft.  There are also books on that: Learn to Program with Minecraft: Transform Your World with the Power of Python 

Coding for Kids: Python
Learn to Code with 50 Awesome Games and Activities

CodeSpark Academy is an app that teaches kids coding in a fun and interesting manner. There are also so many Outschool classes that teach coding and other aspects of computer programming.

Outschool

Reading Eggs and Starfall are two computer based programs that can help kids learn to read and increase phonics skills.

Explode the Code is another phonics program- it comes in a book form and now also has an online version.  We only did the book form.  They are quirky and funny and the kids enjoyed them.

Learn to Read! For ages 2-13

Bedtime Math is a program that sends parents a math challenges every day.  It will have a tale, then 3 problems- the stories and challenges are like a game. The idea is to include it into your bedtime routine as a way of building and reinforcing math skills.

Board Games– Classic games like Scrabble, Yahtzee, Life, Scattergories, Ticket to Ride, Apples to Apples.  These are all great ways to incorporate learning while having a lot of fun.  We recently put together a long list of math games, too, which we will link in the show notes.

Top math Games

Cards can also be great learning games: Professor Noggins series, Timeline, Bananagrams, Uno, Catan.  

 Download your 14 FREE Board Game templates below. Have your kids create their own board game. You can also create your own boardgames incorporating concepts your kids are working on: Math, Reading, Social Studies, Science, and more! 

Professor Noggin’s History of The United States Trivia Card Game and all the other Professor Noggin games are so much fun!

Timeline Inventions Card Game Fun Educational Trivia Game for Adults and Kids Ages 8+

Mudpuppy Map of the United States of America Puzzle, 70 Pieces, 23”x16.5″, Ideal for Kids Age 5+, Learn all 50 States by Name & Capital, Double-Sided Geography Puzzle with Pieces Shaped like the State

Apps like the Jeopardy app,  Wordle, crosswords, the geography “Worldle” are all great learning games that are quick and simple.

Wordle

Puzzles are classic and fun.  We still have so many puzzles in our house of all types- I always like to have a puzzle table up at Christmas time.

How do you break up the monotony mid semester? (21:47)

  1. Use your boredom to start planning next year.  This is a great time to really review and figure out what worked, what didn’t, and get hyped about what’s next.  Nothing get me through the remaining lit books we need to tackle, like a cart full of next year’s books waiting to be ordered (I like to sell my used ones first)
  1. Set small goals with an incentive at the end.  If we can get through this, this, and this this week, we can hit the skatepark on Friday.
  1. Take a field trip.  We just did an awesome episode on field trips and created a field trip blog post with 100 ideas as well as some super awesome printables to go with it.  Check it out if you haven’t already.  It was one of our favorite episodes to do.  
100 Awesome Homeschool Field Trip Ideas
100 Field Trip ideas with FREE printable>>
  1. Move schoolwork outside.  It’s hard to struggle through work inside when it’s a beautiful day out! Move your workout outdoors.  Let kids play while you read, do your writing in the dirt.
  1. Remember that schools actually only complete 75% of curriculum. Figure out what you *need* to finish and what you *want* to finish.  Have a lot of reading to get through soon?  Take an opportunity to watch a play or the movie version of that book.
  1. Take a break- if you school all year, it’s easy to get swept into the traditional school end of year wrapping up crazy while you can actually take a break.
  1. Change up what’s not working- Don’t feel like you need to finish something that has been totally excruciating just for the sake of finishing it.  The beauty of homeschooling is that we decide our materials, we decide what’s a passing grade, we decide when our kids are ready to progress.
  1. Invite friends over to do a fun project- some subjects like art or geography/culture study, science experiments, are way more fun with friends.  You can also consider putting together a science fair, or show and tell time, current events club or homeroom, a living wax museum or country/culture presentations with a group.
  1. Change your scenery- library study room, coffee shop, college campus, hotel lobby- all of these are great alternative locations where you can get your work done without the distractions of home
  1. Find a creative way to get an assignment done.  Need kids to do a written summary of a book?  Let them do it with puppets, or put on a play with siblings or friends, let them make a lego stop motion video, or design a movie poster.  Take chalk outside and do your math in the driveway.  

The Pencil Grip Original Pencil Gripper, Universal Ergonomic Writing Aid For Righties And Lefties, Colorful Pencil Grippers

Pencil Grips for Kids Handwriting for Preschool,Silicone Pencil Holder Pen Writing Aid Grip Posture Correction Tool for kids Preschoolers Children Adults Students in Special Needs

Pencil Grips, 4 Pieces Pencil Grips Trainer for Both Left-Handed and Right-Handed, Pencil Grips for Kids Handwriting,Pencil Grippers Trainer for Beginners Preschoolers Kindergarten

Firesara Pencil Grips, Original Breakthrough Assorted Writing Aid Grip Trainer Posture Correction Finger Grip for Kids Preschoolers Children Adults Special Needs for Lefties or Righties

PenAgain Twist ‘N Write Pencil Kids Learning Writing Assorted Colors 4 Count

026. Where Do Homeschoolers Go For Fieldtrips?

Homeschool Field Trips

026.

Where Do Homeschoolers Go For Fieldtrips?

Are field trips expensive for homeschoolers?
How do you find unique field trips?
How do you organize a field trip?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

Homeschool Field Trips

Episode 026:

Scroll Down for this week’s FREEBIE:
Field Trip Bundle with 100 ideas (pdf)

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Take learning to the next level by incorporating a lot of field trips in your homeschool. Field trips are the perfect example of hands-on, real-life learning.  Field Trips are one of the best ways to enjoy learning in a fun way with a homeschool group or just with your own family and the opportunities are endless! It’s great to use a field trip as a nice break after a busy week or use it as a way to complement a lesson you are already doing.  

We were lucky to live in certain parts of the country that were relevant to the history we were learning at the time- how fun is it to actually get to put your hands on history?  Or other things you may be learning about. You can go to the local art museum just to find pieces by an artist that you have been reading about.

One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is that we are the keepers of our time, and that means we are not at all limited to schooling during the week and only having afternoons and weekends for exploring.  We discuss how to create an entire homeschool lifestyle in episode 018. One of my favorite things is to hit a museum on a Monday morning or Thursday afternoon and have it all to myself.  I always joke with people that I homeschool so that I never have to go to the zoo or mall on a Saturday!  

Are field trips expensive for homeschoolers?

The short answer is that they don’t have to be!  Obviously there are going to be places that charge an entry fee or admission but there will also be places you can visit for free.  You could also consider planning your own field trip in order to get a free or discounted rate.

One of the things I would like to share are two organizations that offer reciprocal programs.  Basically, if you have a membership in your town to one of these participating museums or facilities or to the program itself, you can often use the benefits in other places. These programs are: 

ASTC Passport Program

If you are a member of a science center or museum participating in the, you are eligible for benefits such as free general admission when you travel outside of your local area. Learn more about ASTC memberships.

American Horticultural Society 

A current membership card from here or from a garden participating in the Reciprocal Admissions Program (RAP) entitles you to special admission privileges and discounts* at 345+ gardens throughout North America! 

How do you find unique field trips?

Can you include transportation as an element of your trip?  Does your area have a train or bus or trolley or boat or other alternate transportation that you might not typically take?  Include it in your trip. For littler kids, just that transportation ride can be a field trip in itself.  

I coach a Future City Engineering Team and have found some really cool field trips to go along with our topic for the year- we have toured a Wetland filtration facility and last year, I reached out to a commercial landfill for a tour (we were doing a project on garbage).  This ended up being the coolest tour- we drove all over their facility, climbed on huge equipment and trucks, and learned so much- I came home excited, myself, for a future in waste management.  The funny thing was, after that tour, I asked how many students came there and we were the only group that they had ever hosted!  So don’t be afraid to call and just ask if someone would be interested in showing you their workplace.

Civil War Museum battle wound care. The kids won’t forget this one!

We also have a friend who coaches a local Model United Nations group.  Every year her team represents a country, and she immerses them in learning all kinds of things about that country.  She finds the coolest events and activities- one year when all of our kids were representing Italy, she took us to an Italian Car Show, a Latin Vespers Mass at a monastery, an Italian restaurant and an Italian cooking lesson for a holiday meal, and many other things.  We’ve been to Asian Art talks when we were representing China and Budhan, a mosque as Kuwait, and the Greek Festival as Greece.

Ask around to other parents in your group- what kind of jobs do your friend’s spouses have?  Neighbors?  Your uncle?  Through the years we’ve toured my dad’s Air Traffic Control Radar Facility and my husband’s hotel’s commercial laundry.  You were able to get us into your kids’ dad’s company once to see the giant pendulum (Foucault pendulum) in the Hunt building downtown Dallas.

Interesting community field trips (16:16)

100 Field Trip Ideas
Lots of inspiration to find the perfect field trip for your family!

How do you organize a field trip? (44:39)

Organizing a field trip is not difficult.  It will require a bit of organization and a lot of patience though. Be creative and plan things you know your family will enjoy. Plan ahead and contact a business to see if they offer free tours or discounted rates for groups. I have often booked field trips for places that I want to go but maybe have a high entrance price that we can get a group discount on.  Sometimes, the organizer gets a free ticket- that is great motivation for booking, as well. 

One thing I consider before planning any kind of field trip or event is, will I be ok with doing this if we were the only ones to show up?  Especially if there is an early morning and or long drive involved.  Obviously there are things like sports style activities and some classes that are not going to be fun with just one family.  But generally, if we are ok going with just us, then anyone else attending alongside us is just pure fun friend bonus to me.

Second, is there a cost that needs to be paid upfront, or a minimum number needed for an event to happen at a certain price.  If so, you really need a firm commitment from your attendees and I would caution you from putting up your personal dollars if you aren’t sure you can recoup those costs.  It is totally fine for you to put out info about the event and request that dollar amount up front.  You can say something like, you are not confirmed until I have both your RSVP and program fee.  Also, determine and state if your event is refundable or not.  I have booked groups in the past where I will say no refunds but they can try and resell their spots to someone else in the group.  Do what is simplest for you.  Feel free to make strict rules about it, too.

Third, I will be honest, homeschoolers can sometimes be a flakey bunch.  Especially if an event does not have a cost to it.  It is super embarrassing to have 40 people confirm yes to an event and then that day 6 people show up.  I handle this in a couple ways.  One, in one of my groups I let people know that my yes-es must be firm.  If you’re not going or change your mind last minute, you must change your rsvp.  Likewise, I don’t count “maybes.”  People can “maybe” all day to keep the event in their calendar feed (like on facebook).  That is fine.  I don’t want to spend a ton of time at the location, figuring out who all is showing up or not, because someone decided to ditch at the last minute. The other thing I do sometimes is charge a small fee to hold their space that I will refund on arrival.  This was easier when we all wrote checks, but you can do it now with venmo/paypal/zelle, too.  People are more likely to show up to something that they have paid for, even if it is a nominal fee.  Any money that you get from no-shows can go in your pocket or you can make a donation to the place that you are going to.

Obviously, you want to put out detailed information as far as address, parking information, hours, age related info, if it is a trip that has restrictions, arrival time.  I always fudge arrival time.  Set a meet up time that will guarantee most people are there well ahead of the program start time so you don’t hold up the group.  Include info about lunch/snacks, or maybe a picnic spot nearby for after or for parents with littles not attending. I typically include a rule about what ages need a chaperone if parents want to drop off.  And any information from the facility about their rules. Have your contact information available- you may even want to tell people to only contact by text day of because you will be driving and might not see their message on another post or messaging forum.

I typically organize group events on Facebook.  I start with my immediate friend group or if it’s a field trip I am organizing from a specific group, I’ll start with them.  If I still need to fill spots, I’ll open up to like groups, or bigger groups in my area.  Some people may just need numbers and so they set it as a public group that anyone can join. Make sure you keep a detailed second list for yourself with payments collected for your references.  If individuals are paying their own way, make sure to include information for that. Confirm with the location 3 days prior.  Let them know final numbers and see if there is any additional information or details you need to pass on to your group.  Send your group a reminder. On the day of an event, get there early so that you have time to deal with any last minute communications from your attendees.   

There really are two kinds of homeschoolers- people who like to plan and organize and people who show up to things and do not ever want to plan something themselves.  If you build it, they will come! Field trips can be more than just extras in your homeschool. They are one of the best tools you have in your homeschooling toolbox. Adding field trips to your homeschool will make learning come alive for your children and create lifelong memories!

This Week’s Freebie:

As you plan your field trips for your homeschool, this resource will help you take full advantage of these natural learning opportunities. This homeschool field trip pack includes:
*Tips to planning a field trip
*100 field trip idea check-off list
*Review sheet to help your kids reflect on their experience. Give your children prompts for writing and drawing about their adventures.

025. How Do You Successfully Teach Math?

Math Anxiety

025.

How Do You Successfully Teach Math?

How do you deal with math mistakes?
What if my child is anxious when teaching math?
Do homeschoolers need to give math tests?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

Math Anxiety

Episode 025:

Scroll down for your FREEBIE

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Show Notes

We talked in a previous episode that teaching your child to read would be the hardest part of homeschooling, but math can sometimes also be a challenge. For many parents, this was a challenging subject for them and it’s easy to be a bit nervous about teaching it, especially upper levels.

math anxiety

The good news is, that like with many homeschooling subjects there are tons of options from video format to scripted programs out there and you do not need to be an expert to teach math to your children. If you find it hard and frustrating to teach math, you’re not alone. Many parents find the very thought of teaching math daunting because nothing ruins your homeschooling day more than fighting about math. The whole day will be miserable if every time you pull out math there is arguing, whining, and crying. 

Why does my child have math tears? (4:27)

There are some kids that hate math. So no matter what we share with you here today and all the tips and tricks to help make teaching math easier, some kids are still going to hate math. But hopefully we can help guide you and give you some tips so there are less math tears in your home. 

There are different reasons why kids are discouraged by math. Some find it too hard; others find it overwhelming, and still others are so bored by it that they can hardly bring themselves to complete their assignments. I’d also caution you to make sure you aren’t projecting your own feelings about math onto your children.

Base 10 Blocks, Place Value Blocks, and Activities Set. Fun way to learn and understand place value with manipulatives. 5+

It’s also important to rule out an actual, real obstacle to math, like a learning disability.  We talked about dyscalculia in our learning disabilities episode if you haven’t listened to that we will link it in the show notes.  For the most part though, math obstacles are often caused by other issues.

In the middle of a lesson, your child may struggle to make connections between math concepts, or they may forget the procedures needed for a simple calculation. And this leads to a lot of tears for them and in turn, sometimes for you too. No, it’s not just the kids that are crying here! The more frustrating math time is, the less you want to teach it…which causes even more forgetting and tears. It can become a vicious cycle.

I’

And as hard as it may be for you to teach it, it’s probably even harder for your child trying to get the concepts. When your student is making a recurring mistake, it is an opportunity to pause, and then ask together, “Okay, what parts of this are we not understanding? Is there a way we might approach this differently?” Remember that when things sometimes get too hard, it is ok to walk away and come back to it later.  Sometimes that magically leads to understanding. But eventually, we are going to have to get back to the topic at hand.

Mathemagical World – Addition & Subtraction Math Board Game. Includes Two (2) Levels of Difficulty and Speed Ages 5+

Eight (8) Unique Magic Worlds: Desert Island, Dinosaur Island, Pirate Island, Zombie Island, Unicorn Island, Ice Island, Dragon Island, and Ninja Island!

Instead of beating themselves up every time they get something wrong or make a mistake, you want to teach them to see math mistakes as opportunities to evaluate, improve, and learn. This will equip them with a skill that is useful for all of life. Recognizing mistakes is something that is extremely important in math because this is one place where you can’t have a partially incorrect answer.  It’s either going to be right or wrong.  Sometimes you really need to slow down and look at where mistakes are happening and why.

It’s also important to model working through mistakes. When you do this, you are empowering students to become an advocate for themselves, and this is especially the case as they progress into the upper levels of math where the level can be especially challenging. And honestly, some children really breeze through some of the early math, but they may not really completely understand the concept so then when they get to things like algebra, you really need to have a complete understanding of the concepts because you aren’t going to be able to fake your way through.  This is sometimes where real math anxiety hits because it’s finally gotten challenging. It’s so important when teaching the skills that you’re not just teaching memorization, and your child is really understanding the math concept. 

Finding ways to model this process of turning math mistakes into opportunities for your child is so important. You spend a lot of time with your child, and they see you day in and day out, and we all make mistakes, and they see that.   Use those opportunities to model that what would be otherwise considered a mistake is an important part of the learning process. Children need to know that they are in a safe place to make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the process—a place that actually celebrates those mistakes. Really, they are learning opportunities and with this mindset, your children will see they are learning opportunities. 

Fraction War Math Game – Fun way to Learn, Compare and Simplify Fractions. Fast-paced card game that helps players get comfortable with fractions, comparing fractions and converting fractions. Ages 7+

When doing math, you can say things like, “something doesn’t seem right here,” and “oh, I see, I see where we are having trouble.” If your child does not understand something or is having trouble with a new concept, you can help them to see that it’s not a reflection of their intelligence, potential, or skill. Learning to see mistakes as opportunities is a good skill for everyone to have. You can help them understand that the struggle to acquire knowledge is an intrinsic part of the learning process.

Finding the right level of challenge is key to helping kids enjoy math, too. There’s no satisfaction in whizzing through easy busywork problems, but it’s very frustrating to plug away at problems that are too hard.  We don’t always stick to the curriculum as scripted.  While there is certainly a place for rote fact memorization, it’s also fine to move on from concepts your student has mastered.  

Another thing you need to think about is if you are using a program that works for both you and your child? You may want to think about evaluating what you’re using and if it’s a good fit for them. And there are a lot of programs out there. And what works for you might not be working for your child’s learning style. 

How do I deal with math anxiety? (12:57)

Math anxiety can be a very normal part of the process.  Again, when we talk about modeling behavior for our kids, we do want to make sure we are careful that we are not projecting our math anxieties on them.  Watch the things that you may say, I hate math, I’m not good at algebra, I’ve never liked geometry.  These statements can have an impact on our kids even though we don’t mean them to.

Some children who have had bad experiences with math can experience math anxiety and even panic when faced with the prospect of making mistakes or revealing they do not yet understand something. It is not uncommon for some kids to have immediate panic when they see drill sheets or workbooks filled with word problems, lengthy tests, etc.

Pizza Fraction Fun Game, 13 Fraction Pizzas, 67 Piece Game 6+

If your child experiences math anxiety, I would encourage parents to consider these possible solutions:

  • Take extra time to master more difficult concepts and if your kid melts down at the site of a drill sheet, begin with a few problems and work up to more. Also, I would avoid timing drills altogether especially if math is already an issue in your home. 
  • Limit the time you spend on a concept that your student has not yet mastered. For example, the attention span for an 8-year-old when trying to understand something is typically around 10 minutes. A good rule of thumb is to use their age number +2 as a guide to determine what is average for your student’s age. If you want the math session to be longer, you can either switch out to reviewing math the student has already mastered or work with games or activities using known skills. This really helps build confidence. And not just in math – you can use the technique and other subjects. Ask them questions that you know that they already know. Kids love to be a ‘know it all’, so give them a shining moment! Another option might be two short sessions with a two-hour break in between.
  • When introducing a new concept, coach your student toward a more positive mindset by saying something like, “Okay, this is our first day on this, let’s see if we can catch a piece of it today.” Again, limit time spent per session on the new concept to their age +2.
  • Collaborate with your child to set the pace for each day. If your math plan for the day involves a worksheet, ask, “How many problems do you think you would be comfortable solving today?” or “Let’s start out with finishing the odd-numbered problems first.” This way, you can evaluate any areas which might need additional assistance. Bring them into this process and help them regain a sense of their own learning.
  • I would encourage you to give your child permission to skip the questions that they don’t know how to solve. You can then say something like, “Oh good, you skipped that one. We know we don’t know that one.” This gives you an indication of what concepts to spend more time on with them while sparing them the anxiety of being penalized for knowledge that they have not mastered yet.
  • Looking over the work together helps your child feel ownership of his learning and a greater sense of responsibility. Plus, you show your child that learning from mistakes is part of the learning process.
  • Consider if the reason you are struggling is because of a missed concept along the way.  It’s ok to work backwards to find that.  Sometimes the success of later math is completely hinged on something that you learned earlier and that things built on.
  • Another thing you can do to help reduce stress is to build routine into your day. We talk about this in our schedules, routines, and rhythms episode. This applies to teaching and learning as well as the rest of your daily activities. When children can depend on a schedule and consistent people involved in that schedule, they are more able to settle their minds and take risks in other areas of their lives. Create a routine, inform them about that routine, then review it with some regularity.
  • It’s extremely important to model a positive attitude towards math. If you don’t like math yourself, I know it can be hard to fake a positive attitude. But we moms set the tone for our homes. When we’re dragging, everyone’s dragging. When we’re energized and positive, the kids are much more likely to be, too. A little bit of positivity. When you pull out, the math books can go a long way.
  • Also, something that causes a ton of math anxiety in my house can be remedied with just slowing down.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten hung up on a math problem, turned to anger, and then done something really dumb like angrily write a number from the first part of a multi part problem incorrectly, just because we are in a hurry to get it over with.  Don’t do that.  Slow down.
  • Bust out the teacher’s guide gathering dust on the shelf. They are a wealth of useful information! Most will help you understand the main objective of the lesson and show you some ways to demonstrate the concept. Some will even provide games and activities to reinforce what your child is learning and add some fun to your math time. Learning concepts with games and making it a fun time rather than drill and kill can completely turn your home around.

We’ve always been big gamers, and have used games in our homeschool from the very beginning. A lot of homeschoolers use the term “gameschooling” when incorporating games into their homeschool. Games are a fantastic way to solidify a concept – especially in math! So we’ve taken all of our favorite games and organized them per concept for you.

Enjoy one of our TOP MATH GAMES when you need to take a break from the worksheets and solidify concepts:

Top math Games
Check out the Complete List >>
We’ve categorized our TOP MATH GAMES list per concept
  • Shape, Color, Pattern
  • Counting
  • Place Value
  • Telling Time
  • Money Management and Investing
  • Addition and Subtraction
  • Multiplication and Division
  • Equations
  • Fractions
  • Mental Math
  • Logic and Strategy

Games are a great option for teaching math, reinforcing math concepts, or just taking a break from boring worksheets!

We also really like this set of books:

The goal is to lessen stress, embrace mistakes, and provide your anxious student with many small victories. Through these kinds of processes, you and your student will begin to realize how to find learning success with limited anxiety. Not everything about learning will be fun, some things you do have to power through, but knowing how to advocate for their own learning process is a skill that will assist them in becoming lifelong learners and enable them to reach their full individual potential.

Should I give my child a math test? (26:18)

This is going to depend on a lot of things. And opinions are going to vary on this topic.  Where are you on your homeschool journey?  If you are brand new to homeschooling out of a school environment, you may want to consider testing just to get an idea of where your student is and if perhaps there are some learning gaps that you need to work on before advancing.  Many homeschool curriculums do have their own placement tests that you can use for this.

Testing in general can be a tricky concept because often, if you aren’t actually teaching to a test, testing isn’t always going to be an accurate representation of what your student actually knows. I, personally, do not recommend taking a test until your child has demonstrated mastery. If they need extra time to achieve mastery, then give them extra time. Another great benefit of homeschooling. You can move at your child’s pace.

Prime Climb Easy to learn, and endlessly replayable, thanks to dynamic mix of strategy and luck. Learn and master multiplication, division, factorization and prime number concepts. This is a fun and favorite game in our house! 10+

We love a mastery approach.  The “wait for mastery” approach to testing teaches them to develop an understanding of what they need to be prepared for on an exam. This sets your child up for success in testing so when they see the word “test” at the top of the page, they feel confident in their ability to tackle it.

When there are errors on the test, try to keep them in the same perspective you would with daily work. When working through mistakes you can ask: Were multiple problems missed that use the same concept? If so, this might be an indication that they need to revisit a concept for some additional practice. Did they rush through it? Were there distractions? It might indicate that they were tired or not feeling well that day, which might have made it hard to focus. By asking these questions and having a conversation about the errors, you can again reinforce that mistakes are an opportunity for growth. Together you’ll learn and make decisions regarding next steps for continued success in both daily work and test prep.

Adsumudi Math Game – The Monstrously Fun, Smart Game for Kids to Practice Multiplication, Division, Addition and Subtraction – Great for Kids Ages 8-12

Celebrate Accomplishments

When your child accomplishes something especially hard, like mastering a new concept, do something fun to celebrate! The more that you and your child embrace the perspective that mistakes are opportunities to grow, the more positive the learning process will become for both of you. I’m confident that your student will grow to feel like math is something they can do, and possibly even enjoy!

2 Freebies This Week:

Top Math Games

Top math Games

Is Math Driving Your Children To Tears?

Maybe it’s time to play some fun math games!

Whether your kids find math challenging or you simply want to help enhance their math skills, there are plenty of fun math games that will help your children improve their math skills.

Games have been a big part of our family long before we even considered homeschooling. Games are an excellent way to spend quality time together as a family. We talk about all these fun math games in episode 025. How Do You Successfully Teach Math?

“Gameschooling” can be especially powerful when it comes to math! Math is intimidating for many learners. Games help to make the material more accessible. You may be surprised when you find your children falling in love with math! Get TWO Math Freebies:
Download your FREE Math Charts (pdf)
Download your FREE Multiplication Wheels (pdf)

We only recommend games that we have loved and enjoyed with our own children.

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>

We’ve categorized the following math games per concept:

We hope you enjoy these games as much as we do!


Shape, Color, and Pattern Games


Counting and Number Games


Place Value Games


Telling Time Games


Money Games


Addition and Subtraction Games


Multiplication and Division Games


Equation Games

24 Game 9+

Equate 8+

SMath 6+

Squik 6+


Fraction Games


Mental Math Games


Logic and Strategy Games

Chess 6+

The Genius Square 8+

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