How To Implement Mastery Learning In Homeschooling


mastery in learning

Being new to homeschooling you will hear these terms spiraling and mastery learning very often. We know it may be important but how to implement it in your homeschooling routine? Read on to find out!

To implement mastery learning in your homeschooling routine, firstly make an assessment of your student. If the topic has not been mastered, do the lesson using another approach. Use enrichment activities including hands-on methods and do not continue until the concept is mastered. 

This learning philosophy pays more attention to mastering a skill or concept before moving on to the next topic. So check right now, how well does your child grasp that lesson you just did? I know it seems like common sense, but sometimes when we are doing something new we don’t realize that we do need to take our time to make sure our kids really do master the skill we are teaching. 

Even a quick quiz can verify if our student has gotten it or not. And as a homeschooler, you can make it fun and just do it on the fly. How about checking it while you are in the car on the way to the restaurant? The belief is that a child should not learn many concepts and then spiral back to them later. In that way, a child may not master a particular skill and may only scratch the surface of many concepts but not be able to grasp the concepts being introduced.

Check if the Curriculum is Using a Mastery or Spiraling Method?

An easy way to verify right away if your curriculum is designed for mastery is to check the course description. Usually, the publisher will state this in their curriculum whether they are using a mastery or spiraling method for their texts. Some may use a combination of both. As a new homeschooling family, we just jumped right in and got a few homeschool curriculums for language arts, math, and reading before we understood these concepts. 

Math courses especially will surely emphasize the style as math is a critical foundational course that must be mastered. For example, The Good and The Beautiful Math Level 1 we just got is a mixture of the types spiral and mastery. If you want to learn more in-depth about our review of that cool math curriculum for your child just check it out here. Below is a table we compiled of the top math curriculums and 50% use mastery, while the other 50% use spiraling. You can see the importance placed on the styles and we will show you how to emphasize mastery.  

Below is a table we compiled to highlight the various top math programs and their focus on either mastery or spiraling learning for their curriculums. 

Are the Top Math Curriculums Mastery or Spiraling at Level 1?

TGTB*Math U SeeSaxon MathSingapore MathHorizons MathAbeka
Learning StyleMastery and SpiralingMultiple learning stylesHands-on, spiraling approachMastery and hands-on sequencing of conceptsSpiral approachSpiral

*TGTB=The Good and The Beautiful

Teach to Mastery, Not Test Scores!

Even if you find that the curriculum you are currently using is not specified to be following a mastery method of learning, that is still ok. As a homeschooling parent, you have the option to go at the pace required for your child to fully understand the lessons presented to them. Unless you are under some time pressure you may take some lessons faster or slower depending on your student’s feedback. In homeschooling, you have this luxury to focus on the mastery of a concept before moving on.

Let’s teach for mastery — not test scores | Sal Khan

If you listen to the video of Sal Khan and teaching to mastery, you would realize that the concept makes perfect logical sense. Why would we move on to another subject when we haven’t mastered the current one? Usually, many subjects require a firm understanding and foundation in the previous material before you can continue to another more advanced topic. This is the same in music and many other practical activities like sports. Could you learn tennis by skipping along all of the skills to learn how to hit a serve? Of course not, so why would we do it with education?

Unit Assessment for Mastery Learning

mastery in learning assessment
The Good and The Beautiful LA Assessment

If you checked your curriculum and found that it is not designed with mastery learning in mind, then you can still work with it. However, you may want to break the units down and make sure to be able to check yourself if they have mastered a topic. The concept must be learned before moving on to the next lesson. This is not difficult to do and you may do a quiz or use an assessment from the curriculum. Just select only the sections pertinent to the lesson you want to verify.

For example, the Language Arts text I have from The Good and The Beautiful has a test after they present 21 lessons. That is essentially 3 weeks’ worth of material and then they have a review section, then test. I just select a few parts to verify my son has mastered the concepts of every unit as we go. You may adjust it to fit your strategy, but the concept is to just make sure they are getting it before you go on too far!

Add Further Enrichment or Mastered and Move On?   

Once you have checked that your child has mastered the subject or lesson what to do next? If they seem to have a deficiency, then you may review the section again and add some enrichment activities to enhance the lesson. You may add a video, use another source of examples or add some type of corrective activities to your lesson. Numerous studies show that when a parent or teacher reviews and provides timely feedback to allow a student to master a subject it will enhance and let the student feel more interested and involved. 

Other ways you may provide extra practice or instruction may be to work as a group if this is possible. Sometimes even games or fun activities can make a lesson sink in faster with some fun. And with tutoring with an outside teacher or even an older sibling may be useful if the subject matter requires it. Usually, you won’t need to resort to this level of remedial instruction but it may be required at the higher levels of study. But the concept is to check, provide extra help if needed or if it’s mastered then move on! Check out this incredible article on all the helpful information about Mastery Learning.    

Mastery Learning Can be Applied to Most Subjects

mastery in learning of all subject

You may find most information or curriculums talk about mastery or spiraling when they are describing their math courses. However, mastery should be considered and implemented for all subjects, not just math. We strongly believe that this can enhance your child’s mindset for mastering something, and doing it well! Imagine a watch smith who has not mastered the art of putting your expensive watch back together well?

Think about it, even in team sports, coaches are building skills daily to enhance the athlete and the team’s performance. They want to master their skills to perform at optimal levels to win! And this mindset can be applied in education and the students can be taught to strive for excellence and mastery in a subject. 

It’s surprising that many families do not pay much attention to this important learning concept. I also checked and found that the groups I belong to online for homeschooling only 2 out of 100’s of topics discussed were about mastery or spiraling learning methods. We will suggest mastery to any new parent getting started as a way to raise the bar for education in their family.

Robert Dad

I'm Robert "Daddy" Macias the father of 3 wonderful kids. I am embarking on a new journey of homeschooling and green living. I realized my wife and mothers all over the world were doing this all by themselves. So I realized as a dad, I must jump into action!

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