Jan 252012

Can you get a visual here? Have you ever tried to bathe a cat? It’s the funniest thing in the world and it can totally traumatize your cat. They eventually dry out and forget about the bath but it leaves a lasting impression on them. The same is true with some kids and math.

Most kids enjoy the beginning stages of learning math. They love to learn all their numbers and to count things and divide things (especially when dividing candy equally amongst each other—you know, “One for me, one for you.”). It’s fun to learn how to cook using measuring cups and teaspoons. That’s one of the best ways to learn fractions. Telling time involves using numbers and time-out teaches them to appreciate every slow minute as it passes. Measuring their height as they grow is always something fun for kids. They love to count money and when they begin to earn money, they also begin to value it and their time.

But somewhere along the way, math gets hard. It turns into Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, Calculus and Trigonometry. You no longer teach 1+1=2 or 5×5=25.

You have to teach x + 23 = 3x + 45 or 3×2 + x – 2 = 0 or Area = l x w or Area of a regular polygon = (1/2) N sin(360°/N) S2, etc.

You hear the question over and over, “When am I ever going to use this?” You can’t help but think the same thing. I used to think about the fact that I had not used any of that math since school except to homeschool my kids.

Sometimes it’s only certain maths that snag up a child. One might like Algebra and another thrives with Geometry. I remember having to bribe my daughter with those little Halloween pumpkins or candy corn type candies—every time she got a problem right, she got a piece of candy. Algebra II and Trigonometry were pretty difficult for her, thankfully, or her teeth would have rotted out. When it came time to teach my son these higher level maths, I was exhausted and simply didn’t want to do it again.

However, I had to. When the State requires that your child has upper level maths, you don’t really have an option, now do you? Thankfully, there are gads of publishers out there who publish high school math programs in all sorts of forms—books, video, cd-rom. And don’t forget math tutors, classes outside of the home and online classes.

Having finished my stint as a homeschool mom, I want to encourage you to press on. Be firm with your children and help them commit to excellence when it comes to their school work—and not just their math work. It is so easy to be too relaxed with your homeschool. I definitely leaned more toward a relaxed attitude regarding the upper level maths and sciences because I knew that my children were not leaning toward careers in those fields. But by being too relaxed in that area I did not always push my children to complete every assignment as they needed to. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating rigidity with homeschooling but I do now see (on the backside of things) the benefit of pushing children to excel beyond their own natural areas of giftedness for the sake of being able to compete in our fast-paced society.
Really, what this boils down to is putting self aside.

When we are selfish, we look at only the things that matter to us. We focus just on what we want to do. If we do not encourage (and even press) our children to stretch themselves, stretch their minds, beyond what is comfortable for them, then we’re not doing them any favors. A person who is at least open to learning something that is of little interest to him or her is someone who is open to letting the Lord teach something new that may be useful to them in the future.

Proverbs 1
1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
8 Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
9 They are a garland to grace your head
and a chain to adorn your neck.

Cat photo by Gayle Lindgren: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1147302


  1. So true…a great word. The view from the backside is so much clearer isn’t it? 🙂
    I have loved walking this homeschool journey with you over all these years.

  2. I really didn’t like this post. 😉 I’m feeling convicted that I should keep my daughter at home with me and do the hard, aggrevating, battle that is building her character instead of sending her to the neighborhood school, which is what I’m trying to talk myself into. I hate the fight every day between her, who tries to do as little as possible, and me, who tries to push her to excellence. But I really want more for her than her little 7-year-old self would choose on her own. Time to carry on …

    • I hear ya! It is so true that our human nature seems to be to choose the easy road when choosing the more challenging road can open up so many doors for us. There were times in my fourteen years of homeschooling that I wanted to quit. I wanted to send them to school so things would be easier on me. Then all of my public school mom friends shared with me how much homework they had to help their kids with every evening and I realized I’d still be homeschooling. I did often find myself doing more teaching than my students were doing learning though. It was like pulling teeth to get them to pay attention. It’s hard to get them to see that challenging work is for their best. If I had it to do all over again, I would start WAY earlier getting them ready for these things. Even if you homeschool all the way through, like I did, they still have to be ready to deal with college professors and bosses one day who will challenge them and stretch them and NOT let them skip the assignment. Press on, sister! 🙂

  3. Remember, one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the ability to find what works and doesn’t work for your child. There are so many different types of math programs, for example. If one curriculum has your child putting his head down in frustration, put it aside and try another one….or another five until you find one that works. I understand your state requires upper level math (I have thoughts about that, but we’ll save that discussion for another time), but kids of all ages need to feel inspired. Inspiration, motivation, and passion is what makes people successful. Completing a math program does not.

    • Oh, I so agree!!! I really do. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on the topic of upper level math…..
      I wish so badly sometimes for “the old days” when kids could be kids and could be encouraged just to follow their hearts. That’s really what I did with both of mine but now I find myself worrying sometimes that they won’t fit into the higher education system if they choose to go to college. (My 21 year old is self employed and hasn’t gone to college and my son is riding the fence on it.) I have two very creative, individual minded kids who plan to make their own way in this world apart from the traditional way of doing things. We’ll see how that goes. But either way, I do agree that it takes a lot more than a math program to be successful.

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