Monday, March 09, 2009

A Homeschooling Tip and a Struggle of Mine

I heard this homeschooling tip before I saw it play out in my own experience.

I have since found this to be true several times. I’m having one of those moments right now. The tip is:

Use your homeschooling curriculum, don’t let it use you.

Otherwise stated, it is:
Homeschooling curriculum is a tool to use to help you; it is not a burden to enslave you.

I remain struggling with Singapore Math. I still feel that I have wasted this whole academic year so far, doing review with my younger son, pushing him to do the pages of work that are 95% old, mastered concepts. Today it dawned on me that I feel like the Singapore Math is a ball and chain that is bogging down my younger son’s math progress.

Last weekend I met a homeschooling mother from Virginia who shared that she wasted an entire year after having switched to Singapore from Math-U-See. Oddly her child was also stuck on the operation of learning double digit multiplication. She had finally switched back and was happy. We were in the same boat.

I feel like I don’t have the energy to figure out what to do to remedy this. That includes making the decision to chuck out all the Singapore Math and to go back to the Math-U-See that I loved and that my son was stuck on one concept with. Having written that sentence, the idea seems easy, but I don’t feel like I can or should just do that. I just feel kind of paralyzed.

I thought I’d just share that struggle of mine, and share with you about that homeschooling tip that I needed to remind myself of today. I need to shift my thinking to accept again that the curriculum should help us and make things easier not make things harder or waste our children’s time. I need to wrap my mind around that more and then perhaps I will feel that I can decide what to do next with my younger son.

Or maybe I need a pep talk or an intervention from a more experienced, wiser homeschool mom.

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Karen said...

I would suggest just doing the end of chapter exercises for those concepts you have already covered. If he has problems, then go back and review. If he does well, move on.

That's actually the suggestion from the Singapore math people (it may be in the forums - I can't remember). In my case, the only thing my kids didn't have in the first book they missed things in was writing out number words. I didn't bother with that book, but moved up.

There's no need to do everything in each book if you don't find it useful.


atara said...

As a piano teacher, I suggest using both. Have one of the programs be your "main entree" and the other a supplemental as needed. I do that all the time with my students. Some methods give too much repetition, some not enough. Some introduce concepts very differently and in different orders.

Dana said...

The hardest thing for me about purchased curriculum is skipping what the kids know and slowing down when they don't get it. Suddenly I have a plan that we have to stick to, and all common sense seems to go out the window.

christinethecurious said...

I certainly don't count as a more experienced, wiser homeschool Mom, my oldest is also 11, we've been homeschooling the same amount of time.

I have noticed however, that if you've given a topic an honest effort, then let it rest, they often get it the next time around, particularly if you find a different way to present it/practice with it the next time.

My oldest worked and worked on an intensive explicit phonics program and could just barely read. He'd been read aloud to all of his life, and had an extensive oral vocabulary. All of a sudden, he started reading novels and has never slowed down. We had worked hard with no apparent results, and them SHAZAM! it clicked.

Does your boy have a good understanding of what multiplication is in single digits? Has he played around with hundred boards and looked for patterns? Could you talk him through the process of sizing up a knitting pattern (lots of nice big real world numbers there, plus fractions) Is it the procedures of multi-digit multiplication that is throwing him? Does he need to talk it out? Play with some long Cuisnart trains? Model problems with Legos?

Sometimes knowing what is causing the stuckness helps, sometimes it doesn't. Progress in math can be mysterious.

-Christine in Massachusetts

Risa said...

An older, wiser homeschooling friend of mine once told me, "Teach the child, not the curriculum." That expression has stayed with me over the years.

Momzilla said...

If the child is stuck on one math concept and you have tried multiple methods of getting it across with no success, you could try teaching and drilling the method of solving the problem - in this case the algorithm for multiple digit multiplication - and then going back to the concept after the skill has been mastered. This might seem counter-intuitive, but the human brain is an amazing pattern recognition engine, and drilling the skill can help the brain unlock the pattern. This "backwards" skill to concept method is the core of the Kumon Method, which for all it is often denigrated as "drill and kill" tends to be very success for those who stick with the program as designed. While my kids are in school now, with one about to come home, my oldest has spent more years homeschooled than public schooled, and I taught them all basic literacy and numeracy at home.