My husband and I have been talking about homeschooling a lot more lately.
We generally do that thing that I think a lot of homeschool families do, where he puts complete faith in me that I have read all the things, and listened to all the podcasts, and so he just assumes that I spin some kind of magic here while he is at work all day, like Mary Poppins in a ponytail and skinny jeans.
And sometimes, that works, and other times, I approach him in a tizzy, and he helps, and it buys us all a little time until my next “come apart.”
(Don’t you love that phrase? My sister introduced me to it and I think it perfectly evokes the sort of gaspy ugly-crying that happens when PMS meets the utter terror of failing your children completely.)
Our most recent conversation was about math.
Last summer, I identified math as a BIG PRIORITY in our homeschool.
My kids were doing fine, but I felt like it was something I had yet to get a good grasp on as a homeschool mama. We had tried Fred. We had tried various workbooks and manipulatives. I tried telling them a story about greedy and generous gnomes, and they questioned how the tiny creatures were getting their hands on so many jewels, the authenticity of said jewels, and the approximate value.
(I love Waldorf, but like all methods, it has its short-comings.)
And I tried to relax.
But I had heard so many good things about Teaching Textbooks, that at the end of the summer, we made the investment.
And it was good. Game-changing. I talked about it a lot. I promised to send them a muffin basket.
It felt like it was working. Yeah homeschool!
And then, right after Christmas, it got hard.
Or rather, it got harder for my kids to see the relevance in the lessons. It had slowly transitioned to memorization of facts, and almost simultaneously, the kids threw their hands in the air and declared that they hated math.
And so I brought this up to my husband — that math has become a struggle around here lately.
I thought we were having a conversation about math, but it turned into a conversation about how we want our kids to deal with struggle.
“What does it say if we let them give up?” we asked. “What does that teach them?”
And then, finally … is it really “giving up” at all?
What if we simply switch gears?
What if we look for a way to make math learning feel relevant again?
If we work from our Bedtime Math book, instead of doing computerized lessons, that isn’t quitting — it’s learning to find a creative solution.
And we want our kids to learn that.
We don’t want them to stand paralyzed in the face of difficulty, but we do want them to find new ways of facing difficulty.
As adults, we do this all the time.
Let me give you an example:
When I wanted to learn to knit, I bought a book.
When the book overwhelmed me, I tried Youtube videos.
When I still wasn’t really getting it, I took a class.
And through the class, I found a mentor.
I continued to challenge myself with knew patterns, stitch combinations and socks (oh.my.), and when I would hit a roadblock, I would visit my mentor and ask for a hand.
Now technically, you could say that I quit my knitting book, I gave up on Youtube videos, and I didn’t get everything I needed from my class.
Or, you could say that I kept looking for ways to make learning work for me.
I like looking at it that way a lot more.
We haven’t decided what we are doing about math just yet.
I have pulled the Bedtime Math book out of our bin, though, and I’m going to use it today.
Or if it stops working, then we’ll look for what to do next. We’ll probably keep writing on the windows.
Because learning can happen in so many ways.
Why lock ourselves in and make our kids miserable?
Why not instead teach them that there’s always a way to work past the tricky spots; and that finding creative ways to overcome challenge is a wonderful tool to help them become lifelong learners.