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).

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