When people ask me about upper grades math in our homeschool I tell them it is the EASIEST subject - by far!
( I bet you wouldn't have expected that answer. )
I made a very common mistake with our first child. I sacrificed part of her math education on the altar of "what everyone else was doing" and the "Gold Standard math curriculum".
I'm going to come right out and say it -- we love Saxon math -- TO A POINT.
Once my child hit middle school some things started to change.
Does any of this sound familiar?
- tears during math
- taking HOURS to complete a math lesson
- too much cyclical review that it bores the child to death
- weakness with word problems
- parent and child butting heads (in a big way) during math time
I've been there -- but read on and I think I can help if you are there, too!
I have NOT been compensated to write this post. This post contains affiliate links.
Math in the Elementary Years
Math instruction in the elementary years was fairly straightforward. We used Saxon Math (with a sprinkling of Life of Fred added in for fun) and I loved the mastery and proficiency it produced in my children.
The Classical approach to math education - emphasis on the grammar of math coupled with a lot of drill and repetition - worked very well during this time.
I would say that any math program in the elementary years that focuses on drill and repetition, cyclical review, and consistency is a good choice. Math is one of those things that is consistently building on itself.
The math foundation you lay in the elementary years is crucial for success in the middle and high school years.
Oh -- and don't forget fun math games! We played loads of them and I think that fostered the love of numbers in my youngest child especially.
Math in the Middle and High School Years
Things started going off the rails in the 6th grade for my oldest. Something about Saxon 7/6 just wasn't working.
The lessons were LONG. (She could only get through the even or odd numbered problems in the 1.5 hours math was taking each day.) The concepts seemed to be spiraling a lot. She wasn't performing well on word problems when I would test her. She detested math. We were fighting during math time.
It wasn't good. But I kept insisting that we continue because Saxon was the best. Everyone else was using it. Our homeschool group recommended it. What would it look like if we didn't continue?
What a disservice I did my child. I wish I could do it over again, but I can't. (I've grown a lot since then.)
We continued through Saxon 8/7 the following year and it was more of the same. I purchased the Saxon Teacher DVDs in hopes they would help, and they did help - but not in the way you might be thinking. They simply removed ME from the equation, which just stopped the fighting during math time.
I had a sneaking suspicion her math skills weren't quite up to par, but honestly I was tired from the struggle and that was that.
Having a Math Epiphany
I remember it like it was yesterday. I attended the FPEA homeschool convention in Orlando in May of my daughter's 8th grade year. Even though I was speaking for LEGO® Education, I managed to sneak away and attend a few sessions on my own. My goal was to investigate a new math curriculum for my daughter.
I saw an SAT Math session that seemed intriguing - I thought that by knowing the SAT math requirements I could more effectively plan math for high school.
Going to this workshop was THE BEST decision I could have ever made.
The leader of the workshop was Dennis DiNoia of Mr. D Math. Dennis didn't teach to the adults in the room. He taught to the many high schoolers that were present. He seemed to speak their language. He even had me doing practice math problems (voluntarily!). I was fully engaged and knew that if my daughter had been there she would have loved it.
(Little did I know that a couple of years later Dennis would write an article for this blog all about SAT math!)
I spoke to Dennis after his session, gave him my business card, and told him I would email him when I got home. I also ran into another friend at the convention who had triplets taking Mr. D's math classes - she gave him a glowing review. That was all I needed to make the switch.
I emailed Mr. D when I got home and poured my math heart out to him. He suggested Anna take his summer Pre-Algebra Readiness summer course to see if she liked the class and to see where he could place her. I enrolled her and the rest is history.
Below you will find more details about Mr. D's math classes, but I would say the biggest thing he did in that short summer session with her was restore her confidence and a sense that math can be fun!
This picture says it all!
We ran into Mr. D again at a homeschool convention in Georgia and Anna went to several of his workshops. It's so obvious he loves what he does and he loves KIDS. On our most recent trip to Florida we made a point to get together with Mr. D.
Here we are with the teacher who saved my homeschool math life!
Why Mr. D and What Do The Classes Look Like?
What I have discovered is this: Saxon math got to be TOO MUCH once we approached high school. The intensity of the lessons, the cyclical approach, and just the structure of the lessons no longer worked for my child. I have heard this is quite common.
This is why we switched to Mr. D. Math.
I am strongly considering switching my son into Mr. D after he completes Saxon 8/7.
More details about Mr. D classes:
Math from an Expert - Mr. D is a math educator and former public school teacher. He works with school systems to assist them in bringing up their SAT scores and also runs his online math academy. He has an acute sense of the math skills our older children need to be successful as they take the SAT and ACT. To say he is enthusiastic about what he does is an understatement.
Live Lessons Option - this meets once a week for an hour. The student interact with Mr. D and he keeps a great pulse on each student's progress. In addition to this, recorded videos for the course (a recorded video for each section of coursework) is available to watch.
Recorded Videos Option (Self-Paced) - You can certainly take Mr. D math without the live session, in which case you simply purchase the course, which includes one year of access to the recorded videos for each section of coursework. These videos are thorough, simple, and put math into language your child can understand. Work through a year of math at your own pace. Wonderful.
100% Online - This is great for us when we are on the road. All of the coursework is in the portal (Anna prints it each week). Everything you need is easily accessible through the student login.
Student Graded Coursework - Yes, your read that right. Student-Graded. Mr. D's entire philosophy is one of understanding and MASTERY. Anna completes her coursework each week, then grades her work (answers easily available in the portal). She fixes any wrong answers. She reviews any of the videos that will be helpful. She grades again and this is the grade we record. Her self-esteem isn't beaten down by a bad math grade. Remember, the goal is MASTERY.
Online Gradebook - She enters all of her grades into the online gradebook. At the end of the year I have her grade for the course. This year, in Geometry I haven't done a thing to help her. She is consistently making A's on coursework and tests -- FIRST ATTEMPT!
Parent in Control - This is something I insist upon. The final authority is ME, not Mr. D. I am the one who transcripts the grades for her.
Honors Level - All of Mr. D's classes are honors level. He sent me very good verbiage for course descriptions.
Help Sessions - Mr. D offers weekly help sessions if your child is having trouble with anything! He is also extremely responsive to emails.
(I'm also super excited that Mr. D is offering a Life Skills for Teens Course this fall!)
Math is such an important part of our homeschools. I didn't make the decision to switch math curricula lightly.
I did my research, prayed A LOT, and in the end was led to a math solution that has worked very well for my child. The more I hear from friends and readers who use Mr. D, the more I hear rave reviews.
It's definitely worth looking into if you feel like your child needs a change or if you want a solution for middle and high school math.