I Want to Homeschool, but I’m Terrible at Math

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I am a bit math phobic. Even as a forty-something-year-old adult, I hate keeping score when playing games. When it comes time to tally the score, I can practically feel all the other players breathing down my neck, waiting to see who scored the most points. I can feel my mind going blank and the answers to simple addition flowing right out of my head.

I really can do basic math, but early experiences left a lasting impression that conjures up anxious feelings where the subject is concerned.

I Want to Homeschool, but I'm Terrible at Math

I picked math because it has something of a universal bad rap (poor math), but it could be any subject that makes you feel inadequate to homeschool your children. Maybe you’re terrible at grammar, aren’t a strong reader, or you hate science.

How to Homeschool Subjects that Make You Feel Inadequate

There are plenty of ways to successfully homeschool in spite of your weaknesses, whether they are real or perceived. Whatever makes you say, “I want to homeschool, but I’m terrible at…, there is a solution.

Scripted Teacher’s Manuals

Many homeschool curriculum publishers offer a fully-scripted teacher’s manual. It tells you exactly what to say to explain the concept. We’ve used scripted math, spelling, and reading curriculum. Even the Story of the World (history) activity guides tell you what questions to ask and the gist of the answer you’re looking for.

It’s likely that you won’t even need to rely entirely on the script. Often, the scripted portion provides the key to helping you understand the concept so that you can explain it to your children.

Computer- or Video-based Curriculum

Look for computer-based curriculum for those subjects that make you break out in a cold sweat. Teaching Textbooks has been my saving grace for many years when it comes to teaching math.

Many writing programs, such as WriteShop, offer video-based instruction options. You might also check out resources such as Monarch (try it free for 30 days using code MON30WUH). You don’t have to use the entire program. You may want to use only the subjects that you struggle to teach effectively.

Although we haven’t used it, Kahn Academy comes very highly recommended among homeschoolers. We really like the Crash Course series. Sometimes they do have coarse or rude humor, so it’s better for older kids. They have Crash Course Kids for younger students, but I haven’t tried it since my kids are older.

Online Classes

If you’re new to homeschooling, you may not realize that there are a variety of live, online classes for homeschoolers. My kids have taken several classes through CurrClick. Apologia offers a variety of live online classes. We’ve recently discovered My Fun Science, and we’re really excited about it. Megan is planning to take their life skills class next fall and possibly biology.

I Want to Homeschool, but I'm Terrible at Math


You don’t have to do it all yourself. Consider hiring a tutor. Some good resources to check out include:

  • Teacher friends and homeschool parents who may offer tutoring or know someone who does.
  • College students – Check with local colleges to see if they have a learning lab open to anyone other than students or if they have students who offer tutoring.
  • Your students’ peers – Some teens are great at math (or whatever subject you’re struggling to teach), and because they’ve done it more recently than you, they may be able to explain concepts better than you can. I tutored my cousin in grammar when I was a teen.


Co-ops are known for offering some of those hard-to-teach subjects like math, science, or grammar. Ask around to see what your area has to offer. In addition to several co-ops, our area offers classes for homeschoolers. Parents pay the tuition for as many classes as their student would like to take. Classes include academic offerings as well as fine arts, such as art, music, and drama.

Google Is Your Friend

Say this to yourself, “Google is my friend.” Repeat it. If you type in “how do you…” or some version thereof, Google is usually willing to oblige. Try it.

How do you find the hypotenuse of a triangle?

How do you find the square root of pi?

Should I use affect or effect?

Over the years, I’ve bookmarked some handy resources. Grammar Girl is an excellent resource for grammar questions. I like Algebra Help for, well, you know, algebra help. Math Bits is handy if you can’t, for the life of you, remember how to use a graphing calculator.

Perhaps the biggest consolation I’ve found is that the courses that seemed difficult in high school make more sense now. I may still break out in a cold sweat when I have to tally the Scrabble score, but when it’s just me, one-on-one with my kids, I find that the teacher’s manual, my quickly-fading memory, and the occasional shout-out to Google usually combine to do the trick. I have successfully managed to help my teens understand high school level math so far.

Those of you who conquered your fears, what subject made you sweat when you first started homeschooling? What tips would you offer an unsure, new homeschooling parent? What are some of your favorite resources?

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  1. We like Khan Academy. I have always struggled with math and, unfortunately, so does my daughter. If we are struggling with a concept he has great video’s to explain it. Plus it’s free which is great for our tight budget.

  2. Teaching Textbooks for the win! I’ve also found No Fear Shakespeare and Spark Notes to be very helpful, a high school English teacher suggested both.
    Do you ever speak at homeschool conventions? I will likely be going to GHC in Cincinnati next year and would love to meet you and hear you speak.

    1. I am really a terrible speaker. lol (Except, really.) You’ll love the convention. The one in Cincinnati is amazing!

      We are huge fans of No Fear Shakespeare, too. I think we have all of them.

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