Homeschool Chat: Rightstart Math

Multiply the number of chairs in each row by the number across...

Just kidding.

Homeschool math is an easy subject for me to write about.  We've used mainly one resource from the start, and plan to continue it for now, so I'll mainly just give you some pros and cons below.

Rightstart Math (Second Edition)

In the latter half of Wyatt's kindergarten year, we were floundering a bit when a friend told me about Rightstart Mathematics.  She said she liked it because alot of the concepts were taught through games.  I knew that was a winning idea (what kid doesn't like games?), so I looked into it more and was quickly sold.

Rightstart comes with a scripted teacher's manual, a printed appendix and student worksheets, and a very large collection of manipulatives.  There is also a separate book of math games that is used through all the levels.  

The way a lesson typically goes is that I read through the lesson on the spot while explaining the concepts to my kid, I usually demonstrate with some of the manipulatives, and then we do whatever worksheet is attached to the lesson (if applicable).  Sometimes I'll split a lesson in two if we are having a particularly hard time with it, and sometimes I'll run through two or three lessons in one sitting if my child already understands the concept.


There are a few things I really love about Rightstart Math, and surprisingly the math games that initially drew me to this curriculum aren't even very high on the list.  

I love that it's a spiral curriculum, as opposed to linear mastery.  In a spiral math curriculum, a concept is taught and lingered over for a few days or a week, and then the next subject is introduced.  But then later the curriculum "spirals" back to previously covered concepts and reinforces them in a different way.  The idea is that instead of sticking on one subject or skill until mastery (which could mean months on one concept if your child was having a hard time with it), it rotates through different topics that are reinforced and mastered over time.  This has been great for my kids - they never have a chance to get bored in this curriculum before learning something new, but concepts are reviewed very often.

The other big thing I like about Rightstart is that there is a big emphasis on understanding the "why" of math, on wrestling with the underlying concepts.  This curriculum emphasizes teaching not just the "tricks" you learn about math, but why those tricks work.  This is something I don't remember being taught at all when I was in public school (1st-3rd grade) - I remember being taught the math tricks, and then later coming to the realization of why they worked.  And even in my own homeschool student years, it took me a while to pick up on the why.  Rightstart really tries to incorporate the underlying concepts before teaching the tricks to solving problems, and I like that.

I could go on and on.  Rightstart teaches numbers in a way that makes sense to me, because it's the way I naturally think about math.  The lessons are pretty short (especially in the beginning levels), so my kids rarely got overwhelmed.  Though the order of concepts is not traditional, overall the program is very thorough and challenging.


One "con" to Rightstart for me is that it is rather teacher intensive, at least so far.  I am the one who has to explain the concepts, and I do have to sit there for the entire lesson (especially in younger grades) while they do the exercises.  This is going to be the case with every math curriculum in the younger years, but the time investment does worry me a little as I add more and more kids into the mix.

Last year I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, and I signed Wyatt up for his level of Teaching Textbooks, which is an online math program.  We did those lessons on the side all year long while I tried to decide if I could handle teaching Rightstart to three kids for this upcoming school year.  In May, I asked Wyatt what he thought - which program did he enjoy better, and he said Teaching Textbooks ("because it's faster").  Then I asked him which math he understood better, and he scrunched up his little face in concentration and said "Probably the one I do with you."

So.  I decided to stick with it.

The good news is that I noticed last year that there was alot more worksheets and independent math work as the kids get older, and I'm hoping the trend continues this year.  If Wyatt is spending more time in independent math work, it shouldn't be too difficult to add in lessons with Clyde (the first level is really quick and enjoyable).

Another con is that this is a pretty expensive math program in comparison to some.  The manipulatives kit, though it is used through all the levels of the program, is a big one-time cost.  I was able to get a partial manipulatives kit used at our homeschool conference one year, and that was a huge help.  I just purchase individual pieces that we are missing as we go.  I've also started purchasing the digital version of the worksheets, which I can reprint for each of the kids.

I honestly foresee us sticking with Rightstart all the way through middle school (which is all the currently available levels), unless doing lessons with multiple kids becomes way too overwhelming.  Time will tell, but I really want to stick with it.  After Wyatt said that he understood Rightstart better, I spent some time reading about the different levels, and it reinforced to me why I picked this program in the first place.  If we can make it all the way through the levels, I think the kids will be extremely well prepared for high school math (which will hopefully make my job easier then!).

If Rightstart sounds interesting to you, I'd recommend checking out this free webinar page, or reading the objectives and free sample lessons here.

What are your thoughts on homeschool math?  Are you a math person?  What do you look for in a math curriculum?
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