Ellen on the Parent Intensive Myth

“I really like this, but it’s parent-intensive. I don’t think I’d be able to do it with my kids.”

When I took calls for RightStart, I addressed this concern almost weekly. A parent loves the program, but has heard its parent-intensive. How could they make it work since RightStart Math requires a teacher to work with the student?

Math takes time. The question is not, “How much time you spend on math each day?”

The question is, “How do you want to spend time on math each day?”

When I listen to homeschoolers talk about their school days, math is the one subject that takes time every day for elementary-age kids.

With a computer based program, they are constantly checking in to see if their child has finished. An hour later, they are weary and asking their child, “Why are you not done yet?”

With a worksheet based program, students complain over the 50 problems and the battle begins. Too much time later, the lesson is still not done.

Whatever program you use, it will require you to make sure your child has done their work.

I heard a mom ask a homeschool group, “Does math always take forever at your house?” The group sighed and nodded.

Math is a daily necessity. If you don’t do math four to five times a week, it becomes obvious.

So how does a parent make RightStart work? First, it’s a daily choice to do it. With my goal before me, for my kids to understand, apply, and enjoy math, I found a method that worked for us.

With several kids to homeschool, I spent 20 minutes five days a week on math with each child. Four kids in four different lessons with a toddler at hand. They each got my attention for 20 minutes a day. We were able to spend that time doing math, not fighting about math.

For some of my kids, 20 minutes was all the time they needed for the instruction from me and any written work, if there was a worksheet. For some, I sat with them until their work was completed.

What about the games? Early in the program, the games are the lesson. I put the older kids together to play their games. For extra game time, I used the games as an incentive for fun-time with mom one-on-one. I’d set the timer for 10 minutes. When the timer went off, the one with the most cards or winning number won the game.

Only 20 minutes per kid plus assigning a game. Could I have done more? Of course. I did in the beginning, but I learned 20 minutes one-on-one was their best work. Anything more was us getting it done, rather than understanding and enjoying math.

As homeschoolers, we design our days. Math is one subject we must do daily.

How do you want to spend time on math each day?


Ellen Martin, mother of five, lives is Wilmore, Kentucky with her husband Andrew. With a Masters of Arts in Christian Education and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, author of new release, A Life Shared: Meaningful Conversations with Our Kids. Her days are filled with her workshop “THE TALK: Embrace the Sacred Gift,” writing, and life with family and friends. She can reached through her website alifesharedwithkids.com.




  1. Using a timer makes all the difference! I’m finally getting that now that my oldest is in Level D. Taking my second child through Level B this year and adjusting my expectations of how much we *have* to do each day (meaning, only half a lesson if that’s what it comes to) has made it so much more enjoyable–for both of my boys–and for me! I just wish I had learned this lesson so much sooner.

  2. Daily just never worked for us so we started doing 2-3 x a week. We do subject focus days and do the subjects in block times. So for math we do 2 lessons, sometime 3 if they kids want to, a day instead of one lesson for 20 minutes. It is more focused and I find the kids absorb the info better than when were switching subjects every 20 minutes.

    • Kathleen Cotter Lawler says

      Navine – I love your idea of doing math as long as the child wants to. There is nothing more frustrating than working on a task and having a timer break your concentration and interrupt your thoughts. A person learns to increase their concentration by concentrating! Continual interruptions are counterproductive. However, that said, setting the timer for 20 minutes has its place when a goal needs to be reached, whether it be to clean the kitchen or manage multiple lessons.

  3. I appreciate your thoughts! One thing I’ve struggled with, though, is that when my child *is* self-motivated, she can’t easily progress on her own in math (when we’re using RightStart). She has to wait for me to sit down with her and go through each lesson. I think that with a worksheet-based or textbook curriculum, she could make more progress on her own. I like to think that she may be able to self-teach herself some of the topics (I enjoyed this autonomy as a kid sometimes).

  4. Sometimes it takes my children 10-15 minutes just to get through the warm-ups! I honestly don’t know what to do in those situations other than skipping the warm-ups. If we were to limit the lesson to 20 minutes we would never get through the book. (Despite going through all the RS materials since Kindergarten, my daughter is still very slow with multiplication and division, so the multivide warm-ups were just daunting and time-consuming.) Some days we are fighting about math, but usually it’s just that it takes them forever to get through the material, and then we are behind on other topics and chores, etc. Any ideas to help with this would be appreciated.

    I do appreciate your input about setting timers and assigning games, and how ultimately it is a choice how we spend our time with math. Those are good reminders!

    • Rachel Anderson says

      Hi, Andrea.

      Thank you so much for your question! Of my four children, I had one that was able to just work through the Warm-Up equations in a very short period of time. I had another child that worked through those equations in a reasonable amount of time (maybe 3 to 5 minutes). My other two children would work so hard on the equations that they were worn out by the time we finished the Warm-Up section and had no mental energy or really desire to keep working through the lesson. So here are some thoughts for you.

      First of all, most students can work through at least a portion of the Warm-Up section. Plan to spend about three minutes on Warm-Up equations. Find one or two to ask your child before starting the lesson. Obviously, that would not include the multivides. 😉 So, if the multivide is the only Warm-Up provided, then just ask to do one multiplication and/or division equation within the multivide for your child to do.

      Next, the important part of the Warm-Up is the fact that it is a review for previous material covered. If you know that you child knows the material, then you do not need to linger on that specific section of the Warm-Up. However, if you are unsure, it is good to pick an equation or two to see how your child is doing. If there is indeed a struggle with the concept, then perhaps you need to go back to the section of lessons that cover the material to help your child remember and retain the material previously covered. That really is the main purpose of the Warm-Up section.

      One thing that I did was to move elements of the Warm-Up section to either the middle of the lesson or even at the end of the lesson. Sometimes changing the time of when the questions are asked, my kids did better in solving those quick equations. There is no reason why it HAS to be at the very beginning. 😉

      Finally, if the reason your child is unable to work through the Warm-Up section is because they do not know their math facts well enough, then that is your cue that those math facts need to be strengthened. Take some time off the lessons and play math card games to help those math facts get learned and strong. Moving forward in math concepts will be hindered if your child cannot do the math facts. There have been times in my home when I stopped lessons for a week, two or even a month to get my child’s math facts stronger.

      I hope those thoughts help! Of course, if you have any further questions or struggles, please do not hesitate to email us at info@rightstartmath.com. We are always happy to help – even to guide you to specific math card games that might be helpful for your child in their specific struggle.

      Have a great day!

      • Rachel Meurer says

        When you take time off from lessons to really focus in on fact fluency, how do you catch up then so you can finish the lessons by the end of the year?

        • Rachel Anderson says

          Hi, Rachel.

          Thank you for your reply.

          So, when I take time off (even a month or so to practice their math facts) I know that I need to make up the time. That means that I teach math during the summer months to be sure I get through the lessons. I usually only have to teach 2 lessons a week for that to happen. In the summer months, we can go a little longer because my child’s mind is not so ‘tired’ with all their other school work.

          Also, I have spent years on an ‘off’ cycle. What does that mean? It means that I start a level in August, and then don’t finish it until the following October. Then I start the next level in October and don’t complete it until the following December. I do take more than a year to complete a level if my child needs to.

          Here again, I need to catch up. So, when I can, I double up on the lessons. Some of the Geometry Lessons my children love – so it is easy to double up. Some lessons simply do not take that much time to do, so I double up on those days. I am not an ‘assessment’ type of a parent. So, I do not necessarily take every assessment in the level. I already know how my child is doing through the Warm-Ups or the Reviews.

          Other days, I can do more than one lesson a day by working through a math lesson in the morning and then another one in the afternoon (when I have the time). I have even worked through a lesson in the evening when my husband was out.

          Most of my catching up, though, is done during the summer months. Honestly, by simply working through a couple of math lessons a week not only helps me move forward in the curriculum, but also helps my child not ‘forget’ everything she learned during the summer off math. When the fall comes, she is ready to go.

          I hope that helps! As always, if you have any further questions or concerns, do not hesitate to post them here or email us directly at info@rightstartmath.com.

          Have a great summer!

Speak Your Mind