# Our Children Have Not Changed, Math Standards Have

- I am getting close to graduating my fourth and final child from high school.
- I started homeschooling fourteen years ago.
- I am really a “math” person and it generally comes easy to me.
- I have jumped through lots of hoops finding ways to teach all my children math in a way that fits their style of learning. Hands-on, textbook, computer based, online games, drills, flashcards, and everything in between have been used over the years.

All this to say that I have lived and experienced math for a long time.

What have I noticed with math and math standards?

When my third child was in the grammar years, the **State of California** changed their math standards. They shifted many concepts into the lower grades, including algebra into middle school. We were on track to stay abreast of the intensified standards in math because my boys are also “math” people. Algebra in 7th and in some cases 6th grades was not uncommon in our local school district. In fact, if my boys had been in public school, they would have been considered “behind” because they were not finished with algebra in the 8th grade.

What are we doing to our poor children?

Our children and their brains have not changed in the past few years. Our children are still the same but with the added pressure to be successful and competitive, our public school counterparts are pushing the acceleration in math. The crazy thing about it is that I don’t see them achieving much with all their pushing.

Personal example: My friend’s son is taking algebra for the third time in public school. His eighth grade year they pushed algebra on him and he was not ready mentally to handle the course. He failed miserably. He then took it again his freshman year and did a little better with tutoring but he still didn’t master it. He is now a sophomore and taking it a third time….he hates math and he thinks he is stupid. These are the fruits of the public school system that does not recognize individuals and their abilities but tries to force a set of standards onto everyone in a certain grade level.

I could almost be on board with the acceleration of math for some students but if you follow the prescribed track for math, even our average or slightly above average math students are going to be hitting some very high level math courses in high school. For some students this is a benefit and they welcome the challenge but for most students it only makes them feel inadequate or that they are somehow deficient in math.

In our high school district, the choices beyond Algebra 2 are: Advanced Algebra 2, Math Analysis, Probability and Statistics, AP Calculus, and AP Statistics. They suggest you take four years of math. That means a student on track with the typical math progression would finish Algebra 2 in their sophomore year and need to take TWO more of those advanced math classes in addition to all their other courses. Yikes. Even for their “alternative” track you would end up taking at least one of those courses.

Let’s face it. Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2 done with seriousness and the aim to master is a great high school education. After that, whatever higher math course you choose is going to be difficult for most homeschooling parents to offer at home without a great deal of support from an online course or community college course.

I made a deal with my boys. I told them I would get them through algebra, geometry, and algebra 2 and then they were going to need to find an outside source to fill in their math objectives. I could have pushed both boys to finish those three math courses earlier but the pace would have been crazy. I know there would not have been the mastery of concepts that I see now looking back. My friend, who is a public school teacher, tells me that they shoot for finishing 80% of a course and not with complete mastery knowing that the next year they will spend the first five or six weeks reviewing concepts from the year before.

As homeschoolers you know your children best and how much they are ready to handle and to master. I am actually lucky enough to live in a state that does not require standardized testing so I can bypass a lot of the nonsense. I cringe when I hear families that say their child didn’t test well in math. What standard are they trying to live up to? Who made the standard? Who gains from new and “improved” textbooks? Who gains from setting up impossibly high achievement levels?

I say with conviction that it is not the children.

We homeschool to create a better person in our children. We all are not brilliant in math or science or art or whatever subject you can fill in the blank with. We can let our children be the best that they can be without looking at a standardized test score or making them feel inadequate by comparing them to other children.

I would rather create goals for my children rather than to have them test to a “standard”. This does not mean that we don’t reach out for excellence or that they don’t eventually take higher math courses. My two oldest have gone on to college and completed far more math successfully than I could have dreamed of offering at home but they had the basics under their belts and were confident about their skills in math. Maturity in both mind and body helped prepare them for the rigorous math they needed to accomplish their personal goals. They were ready when the time came.

Just a little venting.

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**Follow Up Post on Math-responding to comments **

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I am submitting this entry to the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival and if you have any entries you would like to submit, you can send them to this email address: **[email protected]**.

Barb, keep venting like this please. What a rich and deep post. I wholeheartedly agree with you, even though I know no math and I have little girls. I see this in almost every branch of knowledge you want to look at. Standards are insane, and expectations are driving children to feeling like failure when they are not.

I don’t mean to just wake up every day and look at the ceiling, but we know our children, as you say, and it makes no sense to push them in areas they are not physically and mentally mature for, and I’m glad you said that. Children need to go out, exercise more, explore their talents, be offered a rich banquet of knowledge too, and the PACE. You nailed it there. If we are not going to respect that, it will all be vain and even harmful.

Hugs,

silvia

(I don’t comment much, actually this is the first time, but I read you. Please, keep writing like this).

I couldn’t agree more. You just articulated this much better. I have seen this in my 15yr old already, feeling like a failure because she has (and still does) struggle so in math.

For kids that know they want to pursue a career that requires higher maths, this might make sense, but for most kids, this is so unnecessary!

I agree with Silvia — keep venting like this! It’s good for us all to hear!

Hi Barb,

I really enjoyed this post. We’ve been homeschooling for 10 years and are in the 7th and 9th grade years. I have always been of the mindset to teach when and what the student is ready for. We have taken math at our own pace and our children do well with new concepts because they were not forced at too early of an age and so they feel more confident and successful as each new idea comes along. Like you, I see no reason to force more advanced math concepts on to the entire public school student body… Sure there will always be those who excel and I say do all you can to help them move along, but don’t drag the rest behind them kicking and screaming… Great post!

Deb ( an art loving homeschooling mama)

I really agree with your argument. Maths is such an emotional subject. If a child retains a natural curiosity and confidence, then maths is challenging, and satisfying. However, the moment fear and insecurity creep in, maths is a dreadful subject.

In South Africa, the government introduced ‘Maths Literacy’ for the final 3 years of senior high school as a compulsory alternative to ‘normal’ maths. This is a very practical, applicable maths course and most ‘maths-challenged’ pupils cope. I think this is better than forcing most non-maths pupils to either drop the subject or spend their final years in tears and frustration.

As a former public school teacher turned homeschool mom, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I see the same thing happening with young children and reading. The schools are pushing children to read in kindergarten when most are not developmentally ready for reading. Some can read at that age, but most can’t. Just as some 10 month olds can walk, but most can’t. It’s all develpomental steps.

Thanks for the post.

Thanks Barb! I have a 10 yo son and 11 yo daughter, neither of which are “on level” in math. Reading a post like yours reassures me that I am not crazy on those days when I feel it’s ok for me to not have shoved math down their throats when they were not ready for it.

Barb, please get on your soapbox anytime you like. I so absolutely agree!! We are taking our time and getting it well and happily. I do believe that is the way math should be done, and yet, I still feel guilty sometimes that I am not doing enough or in the right way. Thanks for reinforcing my thoughts.

You know, that pressure isn’t just in high school either. They are pressing three and four year olds to get the up to 10 addition facts, something Miss Mason had on her list of attainments for a six year old. Three and four year olds, in my opinion, should be playing…outside as much as possible. And, you are so right…it is not like it is producing math minded people. It is producing stressed out people who feel like failures and hate math! Ooops…looks like I hopped on the box with you.

I also wholeheartedly agree. I don’t think this is an entirely new phenomenon, though. I was in the AP track back in my HS days (almost three decades ago), and they were pushing the same thing.

I was in classes with kids who could do calculus problems in their heads (Battle of the Brains types) and got perfect scores on their SATs, yet I was struggling with Algebra. How did I wind up there? Test scores that put me there…tests that showed my potential…but my brain development just wasn’t there yet in the realm of math.

I remember (after my second try at passing caluclus in college) FINALLY getting it. It’s like it suddenly made sense. A light went on. It was so much easier after that. Why, oh why, did they have to put me through years of misery and feelings of math-inadequacy? I like Probablility and Statistics, I did fine in basic Algebra, and did all right in Geometry, but Calculus…no. What was the point of forcing it on me? I wound up teaching English. I’ve never used Calculus since college. It is so sad to think of all that wasted time and effort that could have been so much more productively directed.

You’d think I’d have learned something from all of that, yet we still managed to get caught up in the “keep up with the Joneses-itis” with our oldest son over his inability to manage algebra in 8th or 9th grade. We tried everything (except for stopping until he was ready…silly parents), and finally finished it in 10th grade. He refused to try anything higher, until we happened upon BJU Consumer Math which he LOVED (it made sense to him!), and now he owns his own business, so it is just what he needed.

We need to start listening to our kids and our own common sense, and stop thinking MORE is better.

Thanks for your soapbox. I’ll get off mine now, too.

Blessings,

Heather

Barb,

Thank you for this post. It is so easy to get caught up in what others are doing rather than looking to what is best for our own children.

Samantha

Thank you for this post. I had no idea that California was pushing Algebra down than young – 6th and 7th grades! I took it in 8th grade and that was considered the honors path. Even waiting until 8th grade, I went right on up through all of the advanced math in high school including Trigonometry, Analytical Geometry, and Calculus. I had a Calculus teacher that taught us at the same basic pace as she was teaching the college students in night classes, so when I took the AP exam and we had done so much more than the test covered that I “aced” it – literally. But, I was one of the few who did well at math and this pace was the only pace I would have accepted.

Now with twin boys with vastly different math abilities, one is on the path that *could* do the same as I did, but the other will be lucky to start Algebra 1 in 9th or 10th grade. But I am not pushing either beyond their capability. There used to be a saying that “you shouln’t start algebra before you have hair under your arms.” Kids need to be developmentally ready for algebra – it’s not just more arithmetic that can be pushed to the elementary level. My son might start algebra a month before the end of 7th grade, but for the most part he will be doing algebra 1 in 8th grade. That is plenty advanced for me and it what’s right for him!

Thank you for this reassurance. Now that Sprite is in middle school, the pressure begins. It’s really like reading (as another commenter said). The pressure to do more, earlier is ever present. It’s ridiculous to try to address poor performance in our schools by requiring MORE earlier. Duh. If they don’t get it in 8th grade, why would they get it in 6th grade. So totally illogical.

What you’ve shared here is often expressed in terms of reading, but I don’t know that I’ve ever read it about MATH. It makes so much sense, and I was leaning towards this thinking. Sprite will understand the concepts when she’s developmentally ready to. Before then it’s wasting time and ruining confidence. Pointless.

Thank you so much for this post. All I can say is a really needed this post. I’ve just got my oldest reading fluently, a bit late by everybody’s standards and all of the sudden the math monster has been looming in front of me and her.

Thank you,

Rhonda

My goal is progress. Can they read better this year than last year? Can they do harder math this year than last year? That’s the standard I go by.

I am not certain the place you’re getting your info, but great topic.

I needs to spend a while studying much more or working out more.

Thanks for great info I was searching for this info for my mission.

I am so sad to say that, three years later, this rant is even more true and getting more truer as Common Core hits the scene of the wreck.

Thank you for submitting this post to the carnival! It helped to have so many math posts that echo Charlotte Mason’s ideas.

Okay, Barb, there is now so much adrenaline coursing through me that I may not be able to sleep tonight. You are such a respected voice in the homeschool community that your post will be appreciated by many for a long time to come.

Kindly,

Richele

p.s. Beautiful photos. I am going to gaze at your lily pads some more.