Homeschool Curriculum Rejects – The Math Factor

Part of this homeschool journey is finding what methods and curriculum options work best for your children.  Sometimes that journey can take a while.  Lord knows we’ve spent some time on this stretch!

We’ve found our groove in most subjects, but it’s certainly taken some effort and experimenting.  Math has been our hardest fit to find though.  While trying to find the best fit for The Boy, we’ve made some stops along the way have left us unimpressed, to say the least.
Homeschool Curriculum Rejects - The Math Factor

While it’s common to discuss homeschool curriculum favorites, unsuccessful purchases often get swept under the rug.  Maybe it’s time to air our dirty curriculum laundry.  Since math has left us the most frustrated, we’ll start with that.  Here’s our list of math rejects:

(Note, I’m using the word “reject” to literally refer to something we tried
and rejected for various reasons.  No snark intended.)

1.  Spectrum Math – I bought this a few years ago because The Boy finished his planned math curriculum earlier than expected.  Spectrum seemed like a good match because it has pretty good reviews, it was inexpensive (on second thought, it was straight up cheap), and would, in theory, build on what he learned earlier in the year.

Despite the fact that Spectrum *can* be used as a stand alone math curriculum, it was a lacking in so much of what The Boy needed.  He’s not a math lover as it is and this just didn’t do it for him.  It was short on explanation and heavy on problems.  (If you’re just looking for a graded book of math worksheets, this could be a great purchase for you.)

Crying.  Wailing.  Moaning.  Gnashing of teeth.  He loathed that Spectrum book.

Homeschool Curriculum Rejects - The Math Factor
Spectrum Math left The Boy frustrated and bored.

2.  Math Mammoth – This could have been -and should have been- so good for us.  Not so much.  It gets stellar reviews and, once again, the price was right.  We tried it for a month and a half and it was a terrible choice for us!  I still can’t quite figure out why this didn’t work, but I suspect it was that it also didn’t have the level of instruction The Boy needed.  It wasn’t as lacking as Spectrum in that area, but it still wasn’t enough.  The layout was also a little funky for us.  Like I said, I don’t really know what the issue was, but it left us searching for a replacement before we were halfway through the first chapter.

3.  BJU Math – In all fairness, BJU Math was great in lots of ways.  It’s thorough, yet manageable without an overwhelming workload.  That’s important for a child who isn’t a math fan.   From a teaching perspective, it was scripted and well organized.  Teaching it was a no-brainer, which is especially nice if you’re not a math whiz or if you’re pressed for preparation time. There really are some positives on this one.

Even with all that good, it wasn’t a good fit for us and therefore still makes this list.  Here’s why:

  • Because it’s written and formatted to also work in private schools, there are plenty of activities that we had to omit because we didn’t have access to a “class” of other students.   Instructions that involve working with other students just aren’t practical for us.  I only have one child working on a given level of math at a time.
  • It was incredibly time consuming.  Sure, it was thorough, but that came with a cost!  My part of the daily lesson took an hour of our day on average, and rarely less than 40 minutes.  Add a child who isn’t a math lover, an additional hour worth of practice problems, and a toddler to that mix and you get crazy mama in the end!  Also worth pointing out, we were spending so much focused time on math each day that other core subjects were pushed aside.  It goes without saying that it also ate up time we needed for art, music, and other nondaily areas of study.
  • It was fairly costly.  I realize that expense can’t always be avoided, but it was on the higher end of my curriculum budget.  I cut corners when possible, like buying a used teachers book to save $20, but math as a whole still caused me to make sacrifices in other areas.  In this case, the sacrifice wasn’t worth it.
Homeschool Curriculum Rejects - The Math Factor
BJU Math is good, but not good for us.

Once again, it was designed to work for homeschool and a classroom setting.  Those two environments are dramatically different – at least in our home!  Fortunately, The Boy had a good year using BJU Math – it does produce results.  Like I said though, too many other subjects were put on the back burner to make it happen each day.  That was our primary reason for saying goodbye to BJU.

It goes without saying that these aren’t horrible choices for all homeschool scenarios, but they weren’t good for us.  There are plenty of folks out there who are happily using these materials and finding great success with them.  We’re just not among that group.

Math hasn’t been the only troublemaker for us.  Curriculum Rejects: The Rest of the Mess is a look at more of the curriculum we’ve tried and tossed aside.

Have you made some math mistakes along the way?  Feel free to share them; there’s no judgment here!

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