Homeschool Math – Choose Mastery Over Perfection

Many homeschool parents struggle with children who understand math concepts but are careless in doing their schoolwork. The result is math incorrect, that is often incorrect, not because they do not understand, but because they rushed through and made silly errors (adding wrong, wrong decimal placement, etc.) Parents can be driven to distraction because they want their children to be careful when doing their work, rather than rushing through and making mistakes. So how should a homeschool parent deal with chronic carelessness?

Carelessness, especially with math, is a complicated subject. Homeschool parents want their kids to do well, understand a subject and achieve mastery. Parents want their children to learn about hard work, and the benefits of doing the job well. But there is another side to care that you have to consider.

I know this may shock some of you, but when I subtract a purchase in my checkbook, I do not always get the answer perfectly right. Sometimes I slip up, get the answer wrong, and have to search until I find the arithmetic error so that it balances again. And yet, I really do believe I have achieved mastery over subtraction (on most days!)

Mastery is different than perfection. Your child may demonstrate mastery by scoring 90% on an assignment (they may even have mastery with less than that, I suppose!) Kids should not be required to be "perfect" though. Now, to be honest, when homeschooling I did have my children corrected all their math errors in their daily work. When they got it wrong, they corrected it. I hoped that the tediousness of correcting would encourage them to be more careful in their daily work. Being careful is a good thing, right? Just do not go from "careful" into "perfection." Striving for perfection can cause strife, and possibly rebellion. Because we all know, intuitively, that we simply can not be perfect.

  • If you are in this situation, here are some ideas you can try in your family. Hold your kids to a high standard (maybe 90% correct.)
  • Have them do half the problems in the math book to give them more time to work carefully.
  • Have them redo the problems they miss so they can understand their errors.

In general, steer clear of perfection, and strive instead for mastery. Tell your kids that 90% is what you consider mastery.

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