Why you shouldn’t start your homeschool day with math

“Love is the beginning and end of education because love is the way we become more human” — Stratford Caldecott, Beauty in the Word

I’ve heard the advice and I’m sure you have too. You should always start your day with math.

Why You Shouldn't Start Your Homeschool Day with Math Pam Barnhill Homeschool Solutions

Kids need to tackle difficult subjects while their brain is fresh.

Kids need to get the hardest thing out of the way first.

Kids need to eat that frog so they don’t procrastinate.

Poppycosh.

I am all about personal productivity and doing hard things first to get them out of the way, but let me let you in on a little secret: homeschooling has very little to do with personal productivity.

You can read or listen to this post.

Homeschooling is about relationships.

Instead of beginning your days with a struggle that may involve butting heads and damaged relationships with one or more of your children (ask me how I know), you can fill their tanks, and your own, by beginning the day with delight.

When you start your day with something that delights you and your children, they are more eager to start their school day and so are you.

There is less grumbling about having to do schoolwork, fewer stalling techniques like wandering to the bathroom for the umpteenth time, and more energy. Who knows? Maybe you won’t need that 3rd cup of coffee, after all.

If you’re not starting with math, what should you start with? Here are a few delightful ideas:

  • Reading a chapter of an exciting new read-aloud.
  • Singing a hymn or belting out a praise and worship tune.
  • Reciting a beautiful (or even silly) poem.
  • Playing a game (with movement!) to review math facts or memory work.
  • Making a sketch of a flower or the bird at the feeder in your nature journals.
  • Pointing out the fallacies from a YouTube video of last night’s Presidential debate.
  • Practicing Latin chants — in funny voices.
  • Praying for each other.
  • Sharing a picture book that the big kids remember fondly and the little guy is experiencing for the very first time.
  • Doing Mad Libs — grammar and hilarity in one small paperback.

Doing just one of these at the start of each day moves the needle from grumpiness to smiles. Doing a few of them together consistently can turn around your entire homeschool — really.

So ditch the math lesson first thing in the morning and start with something delightful. You will be happy you did.

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  • Donna Thomas says:

    We have started our home school day with prayer and a read aloud from Heros’ of History or Heros’ of the Faith for years. My oldest home school kid is a senior this year and I thought he would want to change it up for his last year~ he said “Mom that is my favorite part of the day!” We are still doing it!

  • Alicia says:

    Ah! Where have you been all my life?!?! I have about ten different posts of yours open right now, and I feel like a kid in a candy store. Or a homeschool mom at a used book sale. Same thing. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. I look forward to reading more. 🙂

  • Lindsay Hefner says:

    Okay, this WILL be implemented this coming school year! I can see this totally transforming our day. We have been stuck in the do-math/hard stuff-first rut for far too long. “Begin the day with delight” – I love it.

  • Aileen Perez says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I have been “THAT” mom for so long and butting heads for way too long. I will try this starting next week when our school year “officially” begins.

  • Stacy R. says:

    So glad God helped me stumble on to your website!

  • Benedict Hall says:

    This post really rubbed me the wrong way, but I think I can tease apart the bit that I agree with from the part that I think is toxic.

    I agree with the idea that we need to ease into our day. Getting some momentum by doing something fun is not the same as procrastination. However, the idea that math can’t be delightful is a terribly evil idea. Solving a few easy arithmetic problems might be just the ticket to build confidence for some kids, particularly those who see struggling through another reading as totally demotivating.

    I take every opportunity to fight against the toxic idea that Innumeracy is more acceptable than Illiteracy.

  • ML says:

    So what if math is your child’s absolute favorite subject and the one he begs to do first? I have a kid like this, and letting him tackle math first thing means I can use that first half hour to get the little ones settled and read to my younger student.

    Math doesn’t have to be a war – it can (and should) be a delightfully beautiful thing.

  • Meg says:

    Changing “math” for “your toughest subject” in the title and body, would assuage the concerns of those objecting to depicting math as anyone’s toughest subject. However, it would also capitulate to the demand for political correctness in speech in a way that dilutes the authentic, experiential voice of the blog. In addition, since this article isn’t the root cause of innumeracy and math anxiety or dislike in the world generally, altering it isn’t likely to affect that phenomenon significantly.

    Still, I sympathize with those who champion math, and also respect the author however she decides to handle the objection.

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Meg — Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner. Not to mention that an article can’t be helpful if people don’t read it. You have to admit (love or hate) that this title gets attention.

      In regards to championing math, we let the subject have its say here: https://pambarnhill.com/ymb18/. I have also done a couple of Facebook videos on the topic of bringing beauty and enjoyment to math studies, a webinar (not available at the moment), and Kate is coming on the blog in January 2107 as a regular contributor about mathematics.

  • Jennifer says:

    Thank you for writing this! It will be a great addition to our homeschool this year! You are correct, it will set a positive precedent for the day/daily activities.

  • I’m a math first person or I was….now I’m an “exercise first” one.

    One of the reasons I like math first, as a recommendation, is to make sure it gets done. To me the biggest issue with math is….not doing enough math and not consistently enough.

    So going first ensures quantity as much as it can.

    However, I respect the right of experienced homeschool parents to deviate. I would just never recommend that new homeschoolers do math later – anymore than I would advise a new golfer to grip the club unconventionally (even though many pros do).

    I enjoyed this podcast. Thanks!

  • Heidi says:

    This was the FIRST article that I read – and, boy, was it overdue! We’ve always done math first 🙂 for the very same responsible reasons you listed…we need some JOY!!! Thank you so much!

  • Heidi says:

    I did want to add that I think that you are wanting the focus not to be on a particular subject (math is a common one – but obviously there are math lovers!) but the heart set and frame of mind of joylessly beginning a day with a “let’s slog through the yucky stuff, then we’ll get it over with”…but like starting our own day with prayer and an intentional attitude to do all things with joy (even if we stumble) we can gently focus on what is most important – our relationships – first, then have the encouragement to do all things with a good spirit.

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