Before I had children, I never considered teaching as a vocation. I had a successful CPA career even as our family grew, and we began homeschooling in 1997. In 2002 my husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and have me leave my career to stay home with our four children. Fifteen years later, we've graduated three, and our "baby" is entering her senior year in the fall.

Through teaching co-op classes for our kids over the years we homeschooled, it became apparent that there was a particular need for "living" math classes at all levels. In the elementary years, I learned how to mentor my kids in math through reading math stories, learning about math history, acting out math discoveries, playing games and exploring patterns in mathematics. This was shared with our local community as well as the larger homeschool community through the Living Math Forum and Living Math lesson plans.

As our children grew and moved into middle and high school grades, however, their needs and the needs of our friends changed. The kids began to need an understandable pathway or bridge to college level math, and to feel that this was attainable for them, that math could be understood and mastered. This is where I've found my passion and energy to be more recently poured into: helping homeschool kids understand high school algebra and higher level math concepts that are critical to success in STEM careers. 

So over the last decade, I've slowly been developing a pathway to guide students from the arithmetic of elementary math curriculums through the concepts of algebra, connecting the abstract ideas with the geometry of graphs ("pictures" that represent the abstract ideas of algebra), to advanced Algebra and Trigonometry, disciplines necessary to move up to calculus or college statistics. No text or curriculum is perfect,so mentoring and working alongside students to gain that understanding has been incredibly rewarding. Seeing kids who never thought they were good at math succeed and go on to college calculus continues to motivate me to do what I'm doing. 

Not every student will go into a STEM career, but this can be a conscious choice, rather than a path they avoid due to lack of understanding or confidence in math. Further, some level of proficiency in advanced algebra and geometry is, for better or worse, a gateway to college acceptance. Performance on SAT or ACT scores are often key factors in attaining financial resources and scholarships that are not available to students who cannot demonstrate adequate proficiency.

I am teaching now because I've seen how much this means to families and students who have not been able to find this in their curricula or other resources. And it is so good to see kids spread their wings and move on to college math courses with confidence and deep belief in their ability to learn. I never intended to be a teacher, but it seems that my life path has brought students into my life, and I couldn't feel more at home with teaching as a second career after raising our family. 

Julie Brennan

March, 2017