My oldest daughter is currently in the 9th grade in our homeschool. My oldest son is in the 11th grade this year, however, he attended a small private school his 9th grade year. He was homeschooled Kindergarten through 6th, and came back home his 10th grade year.
Because my oldest child’s 7th-9th grade years were out of my control curriculum-wise, that makes my oldest girl the guinea pig in a lot of ways. I did not give her a great foundation for algebraic thinking in the 7th and 8th grade years, and I knew we would have a lot of basic ground to cover.
To be very honest, I did not want to teach Algebra 1 at all. I wanted my daughter to take an online live class or at least a self-paced class, but I had a hard time finding one that we could afford that also included a printed textbook.
I also could not find a local in-person class that used something other than Teaching Textbooks.
Alas, Algebra 1 was shifted back to me as the primary teacher. I’ll readily admit that I wasn’t super thrilled about that!
There are a lot of Algebra 1 options out there, and I tried my best to research each one. I had a few specific criteria that must be met:
- A printed textbook must be included and/or used
- The teaching must include chapters that cover a similar group of concepts (NOT the spiral, disjointed approach that Saxon offers)
- Detailed Teacher’s Guide (I need a LOT of hand-holding to teach math)
I prayed and pondered over which Algebra 1 curriculum we would need to use and I finally settled on BJU’s Algebra 1.
By the way, this post uses my affiliate links, and you can take a peek at my disclosure policy if you’d like. This is not a sponsored post, just FYI.
✔ Take a peek at our other 9th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices.
We have used BJU Algebra 1 since the beginning of my daughter’s 9th grade year, so we finally have a routine down pat. It did take quite awhile for me as the teacher to figure out how to use this particular curriculum. I did not spend enough time on this aspect prior to our school year starting, so we got a fairly rocky start.
I should also mention that math does not come easily to me, and I would not categorize myself as a ‘math person.’
I settled on BJU’s Algebra 1 and I have been 100% pleased with that decision!
Browse through all of the homeschool curriculum posts here at Mama’s Learning Corner.
Why I Chose BJU Algebra 1
I chose BJU Algebra 1 because it met all of the criteria I mentioned above.
My only previous experience with curriculum from BJU was their American Government set, which I loved. It remains one of my favorite curricula in our homeschool.
Because of that experience, I knew that this Algebra 1 set would be teacher-heavy and pretty intense since it is written for a classroom setting. I am wrapping up our 12th homeschool year, so I feel confident in my ability to filter out the “teacher talk” and make it work in a homeschool setting. So this aspect wasn’t a hindrance for me.
The detailed Teacher’s Guide has not been a disappointment in the least. It has provided all of the hand-holding that I have needed this year, thankfully!
Lastly, I try to use curriculum that supports our Biblical Worldview as often as possible. BJU certainly does that, as the orderliness and complexity of Creation are frequently pointed out and expanded upon through its explanation of mathematical concepts.
About BJU Algebra 1 Curriculum
If you are familiar with BJU, you are aware that their textbooks are updated fairly often. This year, my daughter and I used the Algebra 1 2012 copyright version, which is their most recent edition as of this writing.
This set includes:
– Student textbook
– Teacher’s Manual (student pages are reduced in size with teacher notes)
– Student Activities Book (workbook)
– Student Activities Answer Key
If you purchase the Distance Learning Option, the teaching is done for you for each lesson. I really wanted to go this route, but I chose not to simply because I knew my daughter would need more help than what the videos could offer her. If I didn’t re-learn the material to teach it to her, I would be of no help.
Teacher Prep for BJU Algebra 1
BJU Algebra 1 is definitely not an open-and-go curriculum if you, as the homeschool mama, are very rusty with Algebra. I have had to re-teach myself most of the concepts, and that takes a lot of time.
I plan our school week on Sundays, and I usually spend quite a bit of time working through the lessons we will cover for the week, deciding which practice problems we will work on together and which should be done independently.
I also schedule the quizzes and tests according to where we are in the chapter.
I spend about 1-1.5 hours on Sundays choosing what we will cover for the week and then learning that material using the teacher’s notes in the Teacher’s Manual. On a week where I somewhat remember the material, I spend about 45 minutes total on Sunday afternoon during my planning time.
What We Do Each Day in BJU Algebra 1
Our Algebra 1 class looks the same most every day. While that may be boring to some, it is helpful to my daughter and myself since we know exactly what to expect.
We’re plain people like that. 🙂 Yes, I eat only vanilla ice cream. Ha.
Since my brain likes information organized in bullet points, I’ll share what we do each day using that method:
- Go over independent work completed yesterday.
My daughter says each answer aloud and marks any incorrect answers along the way. I work any problem spots on the whiteboard.
If she only gets a few wrong, we work on the problem area and move on to the current lesson.
If she gets multiple answers incorrect and clearly doesn’t understand how to work the problems, I re-teach the lesson from yesterday and we work several new problems together.
- I introduce the concept we’re working on for the day.
This is just a quick blurb about what we are trying to learn and accomplish. For example, when starting Systems of Equations, I explain that we’re looking to solve these equations by determining where they do (or do not) intersect. This means we will be working with only 2 equations for right now, even though they are called ‘Systems of Equations.’ Very brief.
- We work through each example in the text.
I have already pre-read everything, so I know how to complete the examples in the text. I write each and every one on the white board, explaining as we go along.
If she gets stuck on a step, we go back over it until she understands.
- She works a few of the problems from the Exercises section on the whiteboard.
This makes it easy to figure out her trouble spots, if there are any.
- I assign her independent work.
While there is an Assignment Guide in each lesson of the Teacher’s Manual, I only follow that very loosely. My daughter works efficiently, but rather slowly and needs time to process the steps. Because it takes her a little longer, I assign fewer problems.
I always assign problems from Sections A, B, and a few from C. We are never able to get to the Dominion Modeling section.
I assign at least 2-3 problems from the Cumulative Review each day.
I am always careful to not assign too much work as to not overwhelm her. Overwhelm for this girl (like most of us) leads to burnout.
Most days, our class lasts from 30-45 minutes. I don’t want her to spend more than an hour on math each day for a variety of reasons, so I am mindful of the combined time of class time and independent work time.
I assign her problems from the Student Activities book periodically. I wasn’t sure we would use it, but I ordered it anyway at the beginning of the year. I’m so glad that I have had it on hand!
There have been concepts that needed a lot of work (negative numbers, exponents, etc.), and the Activities book has provided an extra set of problems for us to work. I also assign pages from it when I know I’m not available to have class one day due to our household logistics. It’s been quite helpful for those times, actually.
What We Don’t Do from BJU Algebra 1
Sadly, there are just so many hours in the day and we can’t get to everything. The pieces that fall into this category are not because I don’t think they are worthy; we simply run out of time.
We rarely or never get to:
- Dominion Modeling in each lesson
These concepts are excellent to learn, but they are more advanced. We spend a long time on just the basics, so we never make it to this section of the lesson.
We covered the Sequencing lessons in the first two chapters, but I decided these lessons were not the best use of time for my particular child. Again, these are more advanced and our time was best spent on the basic concepts of the lessons.
- Careers in Math
We only briefly go over these
- Math in History
We are history people, so we briefly read through these aloud; they take very little time
- Technology Corner
The Technology Corner is one of my favorite parts of this curriculum, so I am sad to say we rarely use it. Yes, I feel guilty that we don’t! It goes back to not having enough time.
The Technology Corner sections teach step-by-step how to use a TI-84 calculator in Algebra 1, and the lessons are magnificent. There are instructions in both the textbook and the Student Activities book.
I keep thinking I will carve out time for these, but here we are in the middle of April and we have only completed 1! Ack!
- All of the problem sets
I mentioned this earlier, but I never assign all of the problems in the Assignment Guides for each lesson. I cap us at about an hour, so it is not possible to complete all of the problems. Plus, I see no reason for my daughter to complete all of the problems when we can see her understanding in only a handful of independent problems in addition to the ones worked on the board during class.
Part of the beauty of homeschool is knowing exactly what your child understands to mastery, and then moving on.
Algebra 1 Quizzes and Tests and Grading
We do use the paper version of the Algebra 1 Quizzes and Tests. There is usually a quiz every 2 lessons, and occasionally a quiz for only 1 lesson if it is a “big” concept lesson.
There is a test for every chapter.
As with other BJU homeschool sets, there is not a guide in assigning weights to these tests and it is up to the discretion of the homeschool teacher. I keep track of my children’s grades in Excel, so it weights the grades automatically after I assign the weights.
For Algebra 1, I give 15% for daily work, 50% for quizzes, and 35% for chapter tests.
The 15% is a completion grade only. The exercises are not checked for correctness so I can assign a grade.
As for the quiz or test itself, I always give partial credit since the thinking process is so important. BJU doesn’t offer help in assigning points to each problem as some curricula do, but I have a pretty good method of weighting the actual questions on the quiz or test now.
➡ You can read more about Grades in Our Homeschool if you’re interested in that!
A Few Last Notes About BJU Algebra 1
Here are a few last notes and thoughts about BJU Algebra 1, in no particular order:
→ My 7th grader is working through BJU Grade 7 Fundamentals of Math this year, and I can see from Grade 7 how BJU will provide a rich foundation in Algebraic thinking. I am sick my oldest daughter did not go through BJU Math Grades 7 and 8. Similar concepts are repeated year after year but with more complexity.
→ It takes a lot of work from me as her teacher because I haven’t done Algebra 1 since high school and I wasn’t a strong math student. I have had to reteach many of the concepts to myself, which is time consuming. Other mothers and teachers could breeze along fine with this, but I needed to reteach myself large chunks. Thankfully the teaching notes are plentiful and the tips are invaluable.
→ BJU Algebra 1 teaches to the test. While that’s a seemingly bad thing in the government school realm, it’s a great thing for homeschool. In my vast experience with BJU, Rod and Staff, and Memoria Press, if it is on the test, it is an important skill that they must know. There is no fluff. So teaching to the test in this case is quite important.
→ If there is a day that I know I can’t get to Algebra, I try not to fret and assign problems from the Student Activities workbook. Having a plan for when these times will happen helps me not feel guilty that we are not moving along in the material that day. Sometimes life just happens.
→ While this has been a big sacrifice of my time and effort, this was the best method for my 9th grader to learn Algebra 1 this year. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat! I know that future math courses will be easier to understand and not as frustrating if my child has a very solid foundation in Algebra 1.
→ I make many, many mistakes as a mother and as a homeschool teacher. My prayer is that the Lord will fill in any gaps where I have not said the correct statement, or not assigned the right work, or not explained a concept well enough. I will readily admit that I am totally inadequate to teach my children at all (especially high school math and science!) in my own strength and knowledge. I am acutely aware of this and my prayer is always that the Lord gives me what I need to teach my children so He is glorified in all things, including math:
But He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 13:9-10
This is such an awesome post! My daughter’s doing algebra 1 now with Saxon and we’re looking for a different math for next year. I was thinking of going to PACES only because I like their Bible one for my son. This year we switched our core curriculum over to Generations, but they don’t have upper level math yet. Thank you for posting this.
Hey Kelly! I’m glad this was helpful to you. ❤ I feel like it’s so hard to make curriculum decisions, particularly in the older grades (7th-12th) without looking at the materials in person.
A lot of times, it isn’t possible for me to borrow it from someone locally or browse through it at our local homeschool store.
Then I search out reviews of particular curriculum to see if I can find more pictures of the insides of the books. That’s usually a good strategy if you’re trying to find more information on Paces!
Best wishes as you figure it all out. It’s so time consuming to choose the right curriculum, isn’t it?? ❤
Hello Lauren, Thank you so much for the helpful, detailed post! Like so many of your other posts, I will be adding this to my bookmarks for future reference.
Bless you for sharing this!
P.S. I saw on your Telegram feed that y’all are celebrating a birthday! Happy Birthday to your DD 🙂
Thank you! She was 13 this week!
And then my oldest boy turned 17 on Friday!
(WHEW. We took the week off of school as we always do each year, but I feel like I need another week of to recuperate! 😂)
Thank you for your sweet comment!
So happy for you and your sweet family! I bet it was a lot of work with back-to-back birthdays. Bless you, Mama! Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow!
Hi Lauren, I really needed this post. I feel like I’m in the same situation with my daughter and Algebra 1. We are also using BJU. Math is also not my best subject and I too need to reteach myself each day before I teach her. I was looking into the BJU online teachers when I ran into your post. It confirmed to me that she needs me rather than an online teacher. It was encouraging to hear you don’t do every problem either and are focusing on the main concepts. Thank you so much for sharing. God Bless you and your family. 😊
Hey Elizabeth! I can certainly commiserate with you, as I completely understand your situation! ❤
No, we definitely do not do every problem! In fact, she has done less and less as we have moved through the book because the problems become more time consuming as they become more complicated. In fact, I only assigned her to complete 4 problems today and we are in chapter 8. She had already done two on the whiteboard, so 4 more was plenty for her.
And just as a side note, we are only going to get through chapter 8 this school year. I have hemmed and hawed over what to do in regard to math for next year. I think I have settled on putting a pause on Geometry and going straight to Algebra II for next year. I am going to see where ALg I and Alg II overlap (if at all) and pick up where we left off in Alg I, doing only the material that will not be covered in II. Then we will move on to Alg II for the rest of the school year. Clear as mud?? Haha.
I thought about doing more Alg I over the summer to “catch up”, but this girl has done a LOT of math this year, albeit at a slower pace to solidify the concepts. She deserves a summer off of math!
I will pray for you to be able to make the right decision for your own children! It is no small feat, as we both know. ❤
Thanks for this post… My son used BJU Alg 1 last year, and now we are looking for a Geometry book or Alg 2 book. I was 99% sure we were going to go with Saxon, but now after reading your post and how Saxon lessons are “disjointed” I am hesitating. Can you go into more detail about the bad things with Saxon books? Thank you!
Hey Miki! Well, let me just say they were “bad” for us, but I know several families that use Saxon and love it. It was definitely not for us, however. 🙂
I should really write a post and elaborate on these things, but this is it in a nutshell:
1.) There were no teacher helps. There’s no Teacher’s Guide. So if you need extra practice, extra explanation as the teacher, or more guidance than what the Student Text offers, you’re just out of luck. This was a huge drawback for me.
2.) It was incredibly disjointed to me (and my daughter). Saxon introduces a concept and the student practices it for that lesson and maybe the next. They don’t circle back to that same concept until several lessons down the line. Yes, they practice it in the review part of the lesson, but it would be much more helpful to have the next step of that particular concept in the next lesson. LOTS of jumping around.
3.) This is not a good fit for kids that are not self-learners. It’s probably an amazing fit for those kids that can teach themselves math, but I don’t have any children like that. I feel like the assumption in Saxon is that kids are teaching themselves since the book is written to the student.
Honestly, #1 and #2 are up there are the main reasons that Saxon was such a poor fit for us. And I honestly should have known better since I’ve been homeschooling a long time!
I hope that helps some!