Sometimes we forget to challenge our children when we homeschool because homeschooling, unlike institutional school, affords us the opportunity to take things slowly. We can reassess methods as necessary and because we have more time, we are not in a rush to, uh, rush. It is much easier to track the progress of individual students in a small setting that is not hindered by standardized exams and ineffective regulations. And yet, even with the freedom to make changes and take things slowly, we can make mistakes.
My Math History
Let me begin by saying that math isn’t my strong suit. I struggle with basic math (but I kick ass in the more advanced stuff) mainly because I have dyscalculia, a disorder that makes it difficult for a person to understand basic number sense. I struggle with understanding the logic of numbers and memorizing basic number facts. In other words, a person suffering from dysclculia may not understand that five bees is the same as five cats, or five books. this is also referred to as number blindness.
As you can imagine being number-blind can make grasping math very difficult. By the time that I was diagnosed with dyscalculia, I was in eleventh grade and had been struggling with basic math for years. I carry that with me as I homeschool.
Where I Went Wrong
Because I struggled with basic math I wanted to ensure that Mya had the tools necessary to have a solid math foundation. We began with visual and hands on math when she was three. We played number games, worked on number logic, and practiced fact families. I thought that I was providing a substantial introduction. But I noticed that she struggled. She struggled with place value and basic math relationships (eg. 2+5 = 7 so 7-5=2).
We worked our way through several math curricula- Math Mammoth, MEP, Singapore Math, and various math apps and games. Yet it seemed that she was struggling to memorize math facts. It was a familiar problem and I began to worry that she too was suffering from a form of dyscalculia. There were some signs of her not understanding the logic of math and although she entered fifth grade this year, we were still working though third grade math.
We Must Challenge Our Children
After three months of schooling this year, I recognized something that I KNOW would have been overlooked had she been in school. I recognized that I was doing her a great disservice by refusing to push her past what I believed she was capable. I discovered that she was not experiencing mental confusion of math. Instead, she had stopped “trying” to understand, to memorize, to make sense of math. She had mastered the basics but I was so busy focusing on memorization that I wasn’t giving her an opportunity to apply what she knew in a way that allowed her to prove to herself that she actually knew it all. And after speaking with several parents, I learned that I am not the only one who is reluctant to challenge our children too much.
So I made the decision to dive right into fifth-grade math despite the fact that I wasn’t sure that it was the right thing to do but understanding that Mya needs to be challenged. When she isn’t being challenged, she doesn’t try. She makes sloppy mistakes and she focuses on speed as opposed to accuracy. I purchased various math textbooks from other homeschooling moms on Facebook and threw caution to the wind.
We dove right in and while I believed that she would struggle, I was amazed at how easily she picked up on things we had yet covered. And not only was she now using the skills and knowledge that we spent years covering. Because the problems were more challenging, she could take the easy way out and not try. She had to pay attention, to reread, to recheck, and to ask questions.
What I Learned
I learned that my struggles are not her struggles. That my academic inadequacies should only be a starting point but should not dictate how quickly or how slowly we approach a topic. I learned that it’s OK to challenge her often and to not let her off the hook. That she needs opportunities to prove to herself that she is capable to succeeded even when the problems are difficult.
Have you struggled to challenge your child based on your history with certain subjects or due to your own educational history?