Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homeschool Reality: Math Struggles

Homeschooling, so far, is proving to be a joy. I'm learning as much as my children are, and I'm constantly encouraged by the fact that little brains aren't all that different from little sponges, soaking up every bit of information that is presented to them.

Except for math.

Math's never been fun in our house, and recently it's become downright ugly. After a math lesson that culminated in tears (from both student and teacher) the other day, I have completely revamped our math lesson plans. I have also thrown any and all expectations out the window. Here's the story:

I am not a Math Person. In school, I waited rather impatiently for math to end so that we could start diagramming sentences. All those numbers held no real value for me. I could regurgitate systems and formulas but none of it actually ever meant anything to me. So when we started homeschooling, I knew math was going to be a struggle. I braced myself, ordered curriculum, and hoped for the best.

I chose A Beka for math, only because it's what I was raised on. I figured I had a grasp of math solid enough to get me through life, so it would work fine for my own daughters. But here's the thing: A Beka is awesome for producing children that can regurgitate math facts. What they don't ever really get is the solid basis for how and why they actually need to know it. There's nothing applicable about the math my third grader is learning, so she has no desire to do it.

I don't learn like she does, either, and sometimes I find it so hard to understand her. I was the kind of student who thrived on a bit of direction and then being left alone. I always found myself wishing the teachers would just stop talking and let me get to work. My oldest daughter is nothing like that. She would like it very much if I would hold her hand through every step of every problem. It's a constant character study in patience for me, as I feel like I should be able to teach her a quick lesson, and leave her to get a worksheet done in a timely manner.

This past year, math has resulted in harsh words I don't really mean, tears from both sides, constant frustration to the point of dreading the time when breakfast is over and the math book comes out. And that is absolutely not how homeschool is supposed to look.

So I'm starting over. I'm tossing expectations out the window. I'm accepting the fact that there will be no independent work done for awhile, that I'm going to have to muster the patience to sit next to her and work through problem after problem.

And I'm ditching A Beka. What worked great for me as a kid clearly is not working for my child, and I need to accept that and let it go. After talking with a gaggle of homeschooling moms with far more experience than myself, I've created a new map of how we will finish this grade and hopefully move into more pleasant math lessons in the future.

First, I ordered Math U See. I picked Gamma, slightly below her level, but it covers things I'd like to see her really master before we move on. I'm hoping starting with concepts that are easy for her will increase her confidence. Then, after hearing rave reviews from several mothers, I spent some time poring over and placing half a dozen requests for "living math" books. Who knew there were so many books that made math actually interesting and applicable? I sure didn't, but I'm glad others could point me in that direction.

My plan is to do Math U See lessons on Mondays and Wednesdays, and to enjoy living math books, play games, sing songs, and do math-related crafts on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We have adopted a four day school week, so that should keep us busy doing math that is actually bearable. Littlest One can be involved in much of that, and I have promised I will buy her her own Math U See very soon.

So that's our new plan. But since I've let go of expectations, I'm fully expecting to adjust that plan as needed to make math fun and interesting - no tears included.


Ms. Fabulousity said...


My name is Anna. I'm Randy and Kim's cousin. I also home school . How did Mathu See turn out?
I use Singapore and so far so good.
I love that you live on a farm . My boys would totally enjoy it.

Ms. Fabulousity said...

How did Math U See turn out ?

Im Kim and Randy's cousin Anna. I also homeschool.