Homeschool FAQs: Algebra 2 or Geometry?

After more than ten years of homeschooling you learn the most frequently asked questions. The ones that come up again and again. The ones that everyone wants to know the answers to…

One of the questions I hear most often:

Is there an advantage in splitting up Algebra 1 and 2 with Geometry in between?

Would it work just as well if all the Algebra is done first followed by the Geometry?

In other words, is the order like grade levels…something arbitrarily decided by the public school system? Or is there a really good reason for inserting Geometry in the middle?

My answer:

The reason you traditionally see Geometry thrown in between Algebra 1 and 2 is based on the public school model. There are two main reasons “they” do it that way. First, because most kids take Algebra 1 as a Freshman and they want to be sure to get in Geometry before the PSAT in the student’s Junior year. Second, many kids only take two years of math… and if you are only going to take two years, you want to have one year of Algebra and one of Geometry.

Whenever possible, it is best to take Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 back to back. That allows for a smoother transition and less review.

The exceptions? If you are really worried about the PSAT and your timetable is as described above. Personally, I don’t recommend making a choice for an entire year based on one standardized test. (Just my opinion there.) Also, if you have a student that isn’t doing well in Algebra and they absolutely hate it… they may be the kind of student that does well in Geometry. So switch. Algebra and Geometry use very different thinking skills. Two years of Algebra for a kid who is struggling is torture.

In the end… take all the advice, ponder it for a while, and filter it through prayer.

Always, do what is best for your child and ditch the public school model.

Why we LOVE Teaching Textbooks!

It’s hard to believe that we began our homeschooling journey 10 years ago! (I think someone should throw me an anniversary party… but that’s a different subject.) Over the years we’ve used various curriculum. I’ve attended 19 conventions in those 10 years and spent countless hours pouring over hundreds of books in the vendors hall. This past school year I also served on The Old Schoolhouse Magazine‘s Homeschool Crew and I’ve reviewed NEW curriculum that I’d never seen before.

With so many choices you might think it would be hard to pick our favorites.

Not at all.

There are two clear winners in our family; Teaching Textbooks and The Mystery of History. {I’ll save my LOVE for MOH for another post.}

When we first started homeschooling, Cassie was beginning her 7th grade year. I chose a box curriculum with an umbrella school. It meant long days in front of the computer and constant waiting to hear back from her online “teachers” when she had a question. I firmly believe in the use of technology in our homeschool, but this particular curriculum was so heavy on the use of the computer that something was missing. She just wasn’t getting it.

I spent months researching our options for Cassie’s 8th grade year. I chose a traditional textbook that was supposed to be “challenging”.

Well, sure! We like challenging! She’s a smart girl! We can do it!

“We” were wrong.

Daddy was in charge of math in our little Hoosierville Homeschool and the time they spent together trying to get through the work wasn’t pretty. Lots of tears and yelling. Eighth grade, ninth grade… tenth. They worked through Algebra and part of Geometry. They were both miserable. Cassie tried telling us that she couldn’t ‘do’ math. “Girls just don’t do well in math.” Three years of a mental beating against the proverbial brick wall had taken its toll.

I can easily look back now and see the problem. It was not a bad curriculum, it was the wrong curriculum. But I had developed a blind spot. I was focused on the great reviews and so called ‘experts’ who spouted their opinions about the superiority of this curriculum.

Cassie was begging me to buy Saxxon math. It was the curriculum that she had used in public school and she was convinced that it would be better. I was not convinced, but begrudgingly I caved in and bought Saxxon Algebra II. It arrived shrink-wrapped and I refused to open it. The first day of her junior year was getting closer and something in me was fighting opening that Saxxon book.

Then one day the Timberdoodle catalog showed up in the mail. Half-heartedly, I began flipping through the pages.

Hmmm… what’s this? Teaching Textbooks for math?
Brand new?
Rave reviews from Timberdoodle…
Whoa… that’s more than I normally spend, but I’m desperate!

Week one with Teaching Textbooks… this seems to be going well.

Week two with Teaching Textbooks… ta-da! Jackpot!

Can you hear the harp music and the birds singing?

Life was good! Not only was she able to comprehend Algebra II, but now she was working independently. One day we actually found her helping her cousin with her own Algebra homework. She told us, “Now I understand everything I did for the past three years!” For years, she had been putting work down on paper but it had never clicked. Now it all made sense!

Yes!

We had the RIGHT curriculum! Teaching Textbooks is a great example of one of my favorite rules for choosing homeschool curriculum. Choose curriculum written BY homeschoolers, FOR homeschoolers. Oh, how I wish I understood that early on! The value of having a curriculum that doesn’t assume a teacher is standing in the front of a classroom given additional instruction is priceless.

Every lesson in Teaching Textbooks is written directly to the student. The book is the teacher. You have the combination of a traditional textbook with the benefits of lessons presented on the computer. Perfect for visual learners or auditory learners. Every single problem is worked out on the solutions CD! Parents are never left wondering how to get the answer themselves! (Other companies have since followed the Teaching Textbooks model of providing solutions… but Teaching Textbooks was first.) The best part? No more tears! No more fighting over math. No more hours on end working through a handful of problems. She was no longer convinced that she couldn’t ‘do’ math, she was no longer defeated!

Cassie flew through Algebra II and that next spring I was preparing to head out our state’s homeschool convention to purchase Geometry. I told Cassie that I needed to sell her Algebra II book so I would have the money. She didn’t want to let it go! I told her she was done and I needed to ship it out… She gripped the book tightly, “But, but… there are extra lessons at the end and I haven’t done them yet!”

Are you kidding me? Is this the same child?
She wants to do the extra lessons?
Yay for Teaching Textbooks!

The question everyone eventually asks… what about those test scores? Yes! Her scores went up.In public school Cassie had always place in the 98 percentile or higher for math on standardized test. In our beginning years of homeschooling her math scores slipped. Once we found Teaching Textbooks her scores began to soar back to where she belonged. (Oh, how I wish these books were available earlier!)

But honestly, who cares? We are not raising our children to be focused on a standardized test. We want them to KNOW that God has given them the ability to learn. A single test is not what determines that ability.

Since that time we have been blessed as a family to work conventions for Teaching Textbooks. We get to share a little of our story with other families. It is a true joy! The best part has been watching other families come back year after year and share similar stories with us. They tell us how Teaching Textbooks stopped the tears and the fighting in their homes. We’ve even had a dad shed a few of his own tears of gratitude in our booth over how much it changed his relationship with his daughter.

Cassie has worked conventions with us for the past five years. She enjoys sharing her own story with families and considers Teaching Textbooks a “life-saver”! Last week, Lexie even asked me if she go ahead and start her Geometry.

I haven’t even put the first day of the school year on the calendar yet,
and my daughter is asking for her math curriculum???

Win!!!

This week hubby and I are headed out to Houston, Texas to work a convention there. We are so grateful for every conversation we’ve had with moms and dads over the years. What a gift to share a piece of curriculum that made our homeschool journey so much easier. We are looking forward to the time spent meeting new families in Texas. What a great privilege we’ve been giving to share and counsel other homeschool parents in their own homeschool journeys!

We LOVE Teaching Textbooks!

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Yay for Teaching Textbooks!

 

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TOS Crew Review: Virtual Nerd

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Homeschool Crew I was asked to review the Virtual Nerd website.

Virtual Nerd offers online tutoring in math and science to students grades 7-12.  Our service is both affordable and convenient, providing help whenever and as much as needed.  Using our patent pending Dynamic Whiteboard, each student has a very interactive and personalized learning experience.  While watching our pre-recorded videos, they can drill-down for more information and access FAQs, terms and definition to assist in their learning process.  Service is available on a subscription plan basis, a 1-month subscription is $49 – multi-month plans are also available.”

The website is geared for students in 7-12 grade with material to cover Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Intro to Physics. The first thing that we checked out was the intro video on the first page. Very exciting technology! I love the structure of how the website is set-up. Each tutorial is well presented based on a single topic… however, you can move straight to a troubling step, stop and look up a term definition, or move back to find a basic foundational concept.

Think of the organization of a large, extended family tree… sometimes you want to look straight up and down one branch, sometimes you want to look at just one individual person, and sometimes you want to get the big picture. The key is having all the information in the right place with the ability to access it. Virtual Nerd presents math tutorials in an organized fashion with the ability to get the big picture or zoom in directly on a small component. Very nicely done!

Moving around the website is easy. (Lexie is working through Algebra 2 this year.) We click on Algebra 2 and then clicked – Linear Equations. We’re given the option of 3 topics with multiple tutorials for each. The tutorial is presented by the instructor working on a white board. At the same time the tutorial information is presented in a clickable, step-by-step  outline on the right hand side of the screen. Students can easily identify the piece of information that they need. Explanations are clear and concise. The tutorial is visually appealing and the sound quality is great.

All in all, we really liked Virtual Nerd. I believe that the product holds up to the company’s claim of acting as a virtual tutor. It is an intuitive website that presents the information in a logical format and allows the user to go deeper into each topic as needed.

The subscription price may be a potential stumbling block for some homeschooling families. The standard subscription rate for the Premium Plan is $49 per month. (Homeschool families do not qualify for their free educator access unless they are teaching a math co-op class or something similar.) Convenient short-term Options are also available to families in need of quick assistance. Sign-up for one-session at a time, only $5, or for one week of help, $19. A great way to get the help you need, when you need it! A wonderful resource for families in need of math and science help.

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I received a free trial subscription in exchange for this review. I received no other compensation. You can read more reviews to see what my fellow crew members had to say here.