Traditional schools have one clear advantage over homeschool. Consistency.
When I taught public school, if I taught an algebra 2 class first period from 8:30 am – 9:30 am, then no matter what, we had class. Every day. And we did an algebra 2 lesson every single day. Without fail. Sometimes it was exhausting, frustrating, or stressful. But it happened every day, and we completed the course on time every year. Not perfectly, mind you, but we completed it.
This is one thing we in the homeschool community can learn from the traditional school model because consistency is absolutely essential for learning high school math. (By high school math, I mean algebra 1, geometry, algebra 2, and beyond). Consistency means an appropriate amount of time is set aside each weekday for math. This must happen every single weekday without fail. Every single weekday.
The goal would be to complete (and understand) one lesson per day. You can extend a lesson over several days if it is challenging, but you must do math daily. If a student’s schedule cannot fit this in, then something has to give. Change the schedule so they can do math consistently every day. Otherwise, you have greatly increased the chances of math becoming a major stress point in their lives, which ultimately costs them much more time in the long run than just consistently doing math once per day.
Why is consistency so important in high school math? Let’s turn to neuroscience for this one. It’s the brain’s fault. The brain has a hard time processing things that are brand new. If your brain can relate something new to something else it already knows, then understanding and remembering is much easier for your brain. If you are asking your brain to remember brand new concepts that it can’t relate to, then it takes a lot of consistent work to get your brain to understand it.
Now, let’s talk algebra. Algebra is weird. It is abstract. Letters start becoming more present than regular numbers, and you are introduced to brand new math concepts like polynomials and functions. The brain is going to view algebra as foreign, useless, and weird and is going to reject it or throw it out as quickly as it can. This is normal. You have to tell your brain “No. This stuff is important. I need to learn it.” How do you tell that to your brain? By consistently doing it a little at a time every single day. Your brain cannot handle brand new abstract material in an inconsistent way. It’s just not designed to work that way.
In conclusion, consistency is absolutely essential for learning high school math. I know all of the objections for doing math consistently every day. I have been homeschooling my 5 daughters for the last 10 years. I get it. Life gets going and it is hard to be consistent with something like math. Really hard. But, my question to you is whether your child is going for a fairly traditional high school diploma or not. If you want a standard high school transcript for your child that colleges, job applications, training programs, etc., will more easily accept, then you will need to complete traditional high school math courses, which means at least algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2 (download our free Parent's Guide for more info). This means you have to do the things that will give your child the best chances of being successful in math, which also means you absolutely have to make room in their schedule to be consistent with math every single day.
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David is a full time homeschool dad of 5 daughters. He has been teaching math for over 20 years. He holds an undergraduate degree in math education, and a masters in Curriculum and Instruction. He taught public school for 11 years, and has been teaching in the homeschool and private school world for the last 10 years. He writes his own math curriculum and runs “Denison Algebra.”