by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
Picking a curriculum that is exactly in synch with your child’s learning level is nearly impossible. You don’t want it to be too easy (and boring) or too difficult (and intimidating). You also don’t want to waste money on the wrong skill level and buy more than you need.
So, what can you do? Try to look over the materials you are thinking of buying before making your decision and committing your money to it. Sample pages and the table of contents if available on line can be helpful. Ask around to see if someone in your co-op might be using the same level materials. Even an online support group friend can share a peek at the materials if you connect through skype or facetime or by scanning the table of contents for you to review. Check at half price book stores, curriculum fairs, and even thrift stores for used copies of what you need. If you really can’t zero in on the right match, then err toward the easier level (you can always use it for a younger sibling). If you purchased online, when the book arrives look it over more closely and decide if you will keep it or if you misjudged and it’s too easy. When purchasing new materials at a store or from an online source, always be sure you know the return policy and possible costs for shipping or restocking fees. And keep in mind, if you can find it in a store to look it over, you can still go home and order it online once you’re sure it’s the book for you.
Chances are your child will know some of the skill sets in the math text and not know others. No text will be a perfect match and most plan to do a bit of review in the early chapters as they assume your child is returning from summer break and will have forgotten some of the previous level skills. You can use the end of the chapter tests/quizzes as pre-tests to see if your child, in fact, already knows that particular skill set. If the child can pass the test without even going through the chapter, move to the next section and pre-test for that. When you find a section your child can’t easily handle upfront, begin your lessons there.
It is ALWAYS helpful to add math games and activities for hands on experience with the numbers and computations being learned. Applied Math (the math we use to do things) is much more important than just being able to compute something but having no context for it. See more of my info on the Math resources page- especially my article on my Echoing Math Message. Math can be fun when you get it off the page and into their brains!