Thursday, January 24, 2013

Changing It Up To Achieve Learning

To me one of the hardest things to deal with as a homeschooling mother is the sometimes almost constant changing of plans and tweaking and shifting gears with curriculum or methods used.

Looking back on all these years today I realized that truly this has been almost all for my older son who has struggled with various illnesses and symptoms of learning disabilities. I have rarely had to tweak anything for my younger son who seems adaptable and able to handle almost any material or method, so long as it is at grade level (not above). The recent necessity to get prescription reading glasses was the biggest shift, the shifting of plans or curriculum was usually more of a want than a need, such as being sick of that math curriulum and desiring something else. With my older son the changes were necessary not just fulfilling a desire for a switch.

It truly is a blessing of homeschooling that we have the freedom to alter plans and change paths when needed. This very element of homeschooling is the thing that is compromised when we enroll into group classes but even with that we can pick and choose, we can choose to reject a course if something about the course will not work for our student. When we use full programs such as "school in a box" or full programs with online programs we throw this out the window as most times there is not the ability to change materials or to change dates, such as to adapt the schedule should a medical need arise. Those programs also don't allow the freedom to slow down the learning so the learner masters the concepts, or to speed through them faster if learning is coming easily.

The challenge that hit us this week is struggling with the Algebra program my older son is using. It is hard for me to help when I have not looked at the material in about 15 years and when I've not watched the video lecture myself.

I realized that someone needs to work with my son on a close basis to help him learn this math. I don't feel up to the task out of sheer exhaustion and burnout, not out of math phobia. I loved math in school and liked the black and white nature of it and how predictable it was. There was something comforting in the routine, especially since I rarely struggled and found success easily.

I thought about hiring a tutor to do the teaching but that is expensive if we consider more than one session a week, which would not suffice for what my son needs. I want him to essentially have a private math teacher.

So here is the plan I hatched. As of today my husband is going to learn the Thinkwell Algebra alongside my son by attaching the laptop with internet to with a cable to the television. Then my son will do the math and my husband will check the answer after every problem and they can discuss and fix it right then and there. I don't know what is happening with my son that he is not understanding the concepts and realizing what it is he is flubbing up on so that he can target it and learn that one thing so he is on the right path. He seems to get off the path and then to wander and get lost. As with chemistry, according to his tutor sometimes my son just needs the concept explained in a slightly different way and then he gets it.

This is the very first thing that my husband is doing to teach in our homeschool except for being the head coach on two stock market simulation teams and being co-coach of First LEGO League. This will be the first time doing true tutoring, one on one teaching.

I have high hopes for this change.

Let the quality learning begin. Let no homeschooled child be left behind.

5 comments: said...

I find that we no longer change from year to year... but from semester to semester! We are always tweaking our schedule to meet new challenges and opportunities, and we enjoy trying new things. I'm so glad that when something is not working as we hoped or needed, we can set it aside and work out a different solution.

Stealth Jew said...

In my very limited experience, the further the child is working from grade level, the more mixing it up I have to do. My daughter is doing math two years ahead of our provincial curriculum, and I often need to do quite a bit of jiggling to make a concept stick.

Given your experience with your children in high school, what do you think about working ahead of grade level?

Michele Latham said...

I am so glad I come across your blog! What a great resource. I plan to pass this on to a friend experiencing similar challenges. The beauty of homeschooling is that the options for teaching a child are endless!

ChristineMM said...

I will write a short blog post on my opinion of working ahead if grade level. Thanks for the inspiration.

Rachel said...

With my oldest we have done Saxon math, Life of Fred, and are now using Teaching Textbooks. We loved Life of Fred, it was so interesting and fun, but didn't explain the concepts enough and left us confused. We also used Khan Academy and ALEKS in between. The curriculum shuffle is frustrating.