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We are on our 4th year of home school. We started home schooling when my youngest daughter was in 1st grade and my oldest daughter was in 3rd grade. My oldest went to a private Christian school from Kindergarten to 2nd grade and she absolutely could not grasp math concepts at all. The school used A Beka and Bob Jones math. I think too many concepts were presented too fast for her and she could never master any of them before they moved on. My oldest excelled in every subject except math.
My youngest also struggled in math in kindergarten. Although she received the math award in school for the most improved math student, she admitted to me she still did not understand any of the concepts taught. I knew I had to do something and decided I could do a better job teaching my children at home. After much prayer and consideration, I felt God leading my heart to home school my children.
I looked at curriculum online until my eyes hurt. I prayed and prayed about curriculum. My main concern was what math to use for my children. I graduated from college but I am not a math person; my degree is in art. So I needed something with a great teacher's manual. Ironically, I came across Rod and Staff math curriculum through a negative review. The person complained it moved too slow, it drilled math facts over and over, it was too old-fashioned, it was too old-school, not fun enough, no colors, it was Christian, her kid was bored, it used the mastery approach, etc.
Well, I thought it sounded perfect for us. My oldest daughter is totally distracted by characters, colors, and "fun" curriculum. She really needed a basic math curriculum that taught a firm foundation. She needed to learn her math facts and her multiplication tables, something she never learned in school. She needed a curriculum that would build her confidence and something that didn't jump from one concept to another before she even managed to remember how to do one concept. She was sinking in school with Bob Jones math. She had so many concepts for each test in 2nd grade she was totally stressed out. Thankfully, before each test, her teacher sent home a review worksheet and I would sit with her literally for hours teaching her how to do each concept so she could pass the test. She always managed an A but then the next week she would again be left behind with still more concepts to learn and again more stress.
So I felt Rod and Staff math would be a good fit for both of my daughters according to the negative review. My daughters needed drill, drill, drill. They needed basic, not fancy, or "fun" colorful, curriculum. They needed old-school curriculum that would set a firm foundation. Rod and Staff math turned out to be a complete and total blessing to us. Something clicked with both of them. My youngest has had the easiest time with math since we began home schooling. I think it is because we started her so young with a good solid math curriculum that doesn't jump around so much, she actually asks for Rod and Staff math every year. My youngest is now in 4th grade and she excels in math. It's rare she misses a problem, and she's also learned how to think through her reading problems.
My oldest actually looks forward to math now that she's in 6th grade, a big change from hating math in her private school. She has mastered so many concepts, I'm still amazed. Yes, I agree, Rod and Staff is a bit behind if you have to do standardized testing, but we do not have to do testing in our state. I personally like it that when my youngest was in 2nd grade she didn't have to learn multiplication so soon. She wasn't ready. I didn't have to learn multiplication until 4th grade, after our entire class had mastered basic math skills. I thought starting multiplication in 3rd grade was plenty soon enough for her. I have friends that have chosen other curriculum for their children and some of them are doing just fine, while others are having to get a tutor because they've started concepts such as geometry and algebra at such a young age. Their children became lost because they hadn't really mastered basic math skills before being thrown into hard concepts than even some teens or adults have trouble grasping. I didn't have algebra and geometry until high school when I was ready for them.
I have looked ahead at 7th and 8th grade and as far as I can tell, by the time you reach 7th and 8th grade Rod and Staff math, the curriculum is right on and where the child should be, ready for Algebra by the end of the 8th grade year. I am not interested in my children doing hard concepts in grade school that I didn't even touch until high school. I guess that's fine if you have a child that loves math or is a math genius. If your kid is a math genius, then yes, your kid would probably hate Rod and Staff's approach with drill, drill, drill, and mastering a concept before moving on. To us it has been an answered prayer. To some it may be too slow, but it was the best approach for my children. They are learning math, they get straight A's, and they will be learning life-long skills, such as balancing a checkbook and learning about interest. I think their reading problems teach real-life problem-solving and have taught my children how to think for themselves.
I'm not sure why people think children should know how to do geometry and algebra before they can make change for a dollar. I know children that are doing algebraic equations but can't do long division or count back change. To me math should be taught in a certain order. Rod and Staff math just makes sense to me.
I'll admit, this curriculum is not for everyone, but we love it, and my children don't mind math anymore and they are good at it. Did I mention I switched my daughter to MCP math in 5th grade? Well, that lasted about 2 or 3 weeks. At first she loved it. But then the more I looked at it and the longer we pressed on, it didn't make sense to me or to her; it was beginning to stress her out. They would have easy kindergarten math then they would throw in (out of the blue) math problems that would be challenging for any college student. I know, I had a math-minded college kid look at it and he couldn't figure it out. How's my math-challenged 5th-grader supposed to figure it out? I felt it jumped around too much for her. It was throwing her curve balls and she had no idea how to solve certain problems. It was confusing to me that MCP math had such easy problems—so easy it was boring—then they would throw in problems my math-minded husband couldn't even solve. The teacher's manual wasn't that great either. Needless to say, I was scrambling to get the 5th grade Rod and Staff math books last year for my daughter and regretted switching from Rod and Staff to MCP, a waste of time and money for us.
My daughter sighed in relief when her new books arrived. It was like an old friend she could trust and depend on. She knew Rod and Staff would never just throw her concepts out of the blue or out of order. They build concept upon concept. It does move slow, and for that we are very thankful. MCP had some excellent geometry and algebra included, one reason I bought it. Then I thought, why do I want my 5th grader to learn geometry and algebra right now? She will learn them soon enough. First, she really needs to learn some other things before we hit geometry and algebra. I learned in geometry the shortest distance between point A and point B is a straight line, not jumping all around. I feel other maths jump all around and some children just don't do well with that approach and need a mastery approach. I feel Rod and Staff has it right, learning line upon line, precept upon precept, and building concept upon concept. My daughters are not confused or frustrated with their math, and I'm not frustrated trying to teach it to them. We are all happy and I would highly recommend this to someone that has a kid that struggles in math or is not math-minded.
Thought I'd mention, after teaching with Rod and Staff the past 3 years, I feel more confident in teaching math than ever, everything is explained so well in the teacher's manuals, I am never lost or feel intimidated. I love the teacher's manuals. Teaching my child a new concept is a cinch. We plan to use Rod and Staff math until 8th grade.
My only wish is, that they would come out with Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Geometry. I dread trying to find math curriculum after 8th grade. I can't see anything being as well put together as Rod and Staff. I hope this review has been helpful.