Should Homeschool Students Show Their Work?

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What are you fussing about today? I remember having conflict specifically about "showing your work" in math. Exactly how do you know when it is important? And when is it not important at all?

Ah yes. showing your work. I hated fighting with my kids about that.

Some will say "always show your work" and others will say "why show work, anyway?" I think we should take a step back and think about it from a different perspective. Your job is not to make her show her work or not. Your job is to make sure she LEARNS, right? Some children will learn best by showing all their work, and others find the work too repetitive or boring, so giving an oral answer makes sense (like we did for elementary level math.) So maybe our best strategy is to make her show as many answers as she needs to in order to learn.

That's all very well and good, but here is what you might do in concrete terms. If she shows all of her work and gets a 90% or above on her homework, then she is learning her math and has learned how to show her work. Perhaps for the rest of the week she can show her work on just two or three problems. The other problems she can simply right the answer. If she scores less than 90% on that homework, then the following day she has to show all her work again. That will give her an incentive to get the answers correct. It will help her learn to show her work, but also show her that the learning is more important.

If answers don't match the answer key, don't assume your child got it wrong. I've been proven wrong that way MANY times! Math book answer keys are notorious for getting the answers wrong - in EVERY math curriculum, not just Saxon. Try to track down the Saxon website for updates on their answer key, or corrections. They may have a published list. Make use of their 800 number, and call them if you have a concern.

Again, that's all very well and good, but how do you handle it in real life? When my child's answer didn't match the answer in the answer key, I made *them* call the company and get the explanation (most of the time, anyway.) I was so busy with everything else, I just didn't have time, so I told me kids it was going to be marked as wrong unless they called the textbook company and got their approval that the answer key was wrong. The only exceptions were when they talked my husband into helping them icon smile Should Homeschool Students Show their Work?

If her answer is right but she found a different path to get the answer, that's fine. It's important to know there are options to getting the answer. I would only be concerned when the answer is wrong.

I hope that helps!
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, helps parentshomeschool for high schooland is a leading internet home school resource helping parentshomeschool to college. You can find Lee online at and can email her at

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Should Homeschool Students Show Their Work?

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This article was published on 2011/02/15