Homeschooling High School: But How Do I Teach Algebra?

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One of the most common concerns I have heard from most parents when it comes to homeschooling high school is the fear of teaching higher level math and science courses.

And, why shouldn’t that be a concern? Many of us struggled through classes like algebra, trigonometry, chemistry or physics, so it only makes sense that the idea of teaching those subjects to our own children would cause us to doubt our abilities to homeschool through high school.

Thankfully, there are many options for teaching those subjects to my children that don’t involve me having a firm grasp on the material myself. As a matter of fact, Samantha mentioned several options in her post on high school science.


Knowing how I struggled with algebra when I was in high school, I always had an idea in my back pocket for Brianna – a math-whiz friend who tutors on the side. So far, we haven’t had to call on her, but I will if it becomes necessary.

Tutors can be expensive, so another idea to keep in mind is local college students. Most cities have a community college nearby, even if there aren’t any larger schools. Call the school office to see if there are students willing to tutor area high school students. You get an inexpensive tutor and a college student earns some much-needed money. Win-win!

homeschool high school

photo by freedigitalphotos.net

Homeschool classes and co-ops

Our area offers both co-op settings and classes that amount to once- or twice-a-week school classes for homeschoolers. Both of these are great options for those sweat-inducing subjects like upper-level math and science, as well as classes that work more effectively with a group of students, such as drama.

Learning alongside your kids

When Brianna was in 5th grade or so, I discovered that I have a much better understanding of the metric system than I did when I was her age. That’s been true with other things, as well. So, don’t discount the fact that you may be able to learn the material alongside your student and help them understand it, too. It’s actually kind of exciting to realize that the subject that seemed so hard in high school really can make sense.

Video courses

We’ve used both Teaching Textbooks and Thinkwell for upper level math subjects and they’ve been wonderful. There are courses for other subjects, as well. (Samantha referenced some of the online courses for science in her post.)

One thing I liked about the video courses is that I’m not the one trying to explain the subject to Brianna. And there is no laziness or feelings of inadequacy in that statement – there is, however, a sense of relief that I was able to skip some of the teenage “mom-you-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about” drama for a couple of the hard-to-understand, frustration-inducing subjects.

Dual enrollment

Many colleges are now offering dual-enrollment for high school students. This can be a great option for tackling those difficult subjects while simultaneously earning college credit.

Trading skills

Don’t ever discount the skills of the homeschool community. What may be a difficult skill for you may have been one of your fellow homeschool moms’ favorite subjects…and, perhaps the subject that was your passion was one she loathed. Offer to trade skills.

Maybe a fellow homeschool mom or dad could help your high-schooler with his math while you help theirs with her grammar. This also comes in handy for skills outside traditional academics. Maybe you can teach a friend’s kids how to cook or can vegetables and her she can teach your kids how to change the oil in their car and check the spark plug wires. (Hey, I’d have no clue, but I have a cousin who knows more about cars than the average man.)

As Samantha mentioned in her post, one thing that helps many parents through the high school years is realizing that we become much more facilitator or adviser and less teacher during those years…and that’s a good thing.  The high school years are a time of transitioning responsibility for your child’s education from your shoulders to his. It’s a time of making sure that our goal of teaching them how to learn, rather than what to learn is being realized.

What resources have you found helpful in helping your students learn subjects that you find difficult?


Be sure to visit these brilliant women during our 10 days adventure between November 7th-18th!

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. We use Aleks.com.  It is a math mastery program that goes all the way up through college level courses.  It has been fantastic.  My son struggled with math until we found this site.  The explanations are clear and I love that it is a mastery system.  It will not allow him to move on until he has mastered the concepts.  LOVE it

  2. So true.  I have a tutor/teacher for my son and we use Teaching Textbooks as on of the resources.  I have recently gone back to school and am now taking Algebra and the tutor has been helping me.  I have even been able to help my son already.  Math was always my weak spot when I was my son's age, but I do have a better capacity to understand now that I am "old."

  3. Hi Kris. I just popped out to Thinkwell.com and went through their free trial of Pre-Algebra. This looks like a great fit for my son. Before taking the plunge and purchasing I was wondering if you'd be willing to share any specific dis-likes you had of the program and/or any tips/hints for someone about to purchase? Also, as a way to save money I was considering purchasing just the online program…will I regret not getting the CD's/workbook?
    Thanks so much for all the advice and encouragement you give on your blog; I'm a daily reader!

  4. Kris, I just popped out to Thinkwell.com and went through their free trial for Pre-Algebra. Looks like a great program! I was wondering if you'd be willing to share any specific di-likes you have of the program and/or any tips or hints to someone who might be considering using it. Also, as a way to save money I was thinking of just purchasing the online version…will I regret not buying the CD's and workbook? Thanks for all advice you give on your blog! I'm a daily reader!

  5. Hi, Becky. Here's a link the the review I wrote about Thinkwell when we used it – https://weirdunsocializedhomeschoolers.com/2010/10/review-thinkwell.html

    The only two things that I really didn't like about it were:

    1) It wouldn't let me reset individual problems. Things may have changed since then, but at the time we used it, there wasn't a parent account. If I recall correctly, you could email tech support and they could reset the entire lesson, but the parent couldn't reset individual problems. I like my kids to rework the problems that they get wrong so that they understand them the next time a similar problem comes up.

    2) The subscription price was for one student for one year. Like most homeschooling families, we're on a budget, so I like to be able to reuse curriculum.

    Other than that, though, I was really impressed with Thinkwell, and Brianna really enjoyed it, which is saying something for algebra. We only used the online program. We didn't have the CD/workbooks. It wasn't a problem for us.

  6. Thank you for your thoughts, Kris. Your #1 was my concern as well. I couldn't find where I'd be able to re-set the lesson (as you can do in Teaching Textbooks).  And TT allows the curriculum to be re-used for other children so I'm thinking it's probably the way to go. Thanks for letting me think through that "out loud"!! 🙂

  7. Oh my gracious.  I just found your blog.  I'm am GIGGLING with glee over your title. 
    Love, a freakishly weird unsocialized homeschooling wacko.

  8. I really enjoyed this post, and all of your suggestions!

    We use the Khan Academy videos to supplement our math and science learning.  (https://www.khanacademy.org/)  They are free to watch and download, and excellent.  I tend to learn or re-learn subjects alongside my kids, and it is nice to have Sal to help explain something I don't have a full grasp on, and to just have another person explain something a little differently than I do.    Subjects range from basic science, math, and history, up through college-level sciences and math through calculus. 

  9. You've given great ideas for tackling a difficult subject like algebra.  I'd just like to add one idea that I use in the homeschool day-school algebra classes I teach two days per week:  youtube and other online videos.  Some really excellent teachers explain math concepts at every level, and I provide links to these videos for my students to watch at home to review before beginning their homework assignments.  One of my favorite math websites is Brightstorm.com .  Especially if the parent is "learning alongside" her child, these videos come in very handy!

  10. Another option is the Khan Academy youtube videos. They may not work for teaching it but may be helpful for tough to understand topics.

  11. I am terrified about transcripts for my child who will be a highschool freshman this year. I am horrible about keeping grades recorded, although I do keep all of her work. I know colleges do not always require transcripts for homeschooled students but I thought it might be nice to have something to show that she has learned something!

    What do you suggest?

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