One thing I see a lot of homeschoolers grappling with is the structure of their homeschools. It seems like, in order to validate what we’re doing as legitimate, it is most comfortable for us to replicate many of the structures of schooling. For example, blocking off particular times for subjects, attempting to hit the “major” subjects multiple times during the week, and even adhering to curricula produced to look similar to what schools use (textbooks, workbooks, etc.). I get this urge – and I certainly have used aspects of these same structures.
I want to tell you about what happened last night, though.
As frequent readers of this blog will know, we took a big old break (like, all of July and) from anything that looked like schooling. Maybe it was instinctive because we needed a break, maybe it was due to summer business, and the reason actually isn’t important. We took this break and have been working our way back into schooling over the past few weeks.
L is definitely gifted in literacy. She reads and writes and spells and generally grasps the point of text and how to manipulate it.
In mathematical thinking, she’s still advanced and it comes more easily to her than to many other kids I’ve worked with, but it’s not intuitive to her the same way literacy is. So, while I’ve essentially abandoned a literacy curriculum altogether (because she’s engaged in literacy work every day organically), I feel more drawn to ensuring that we work on mathematical thinking on a regular, more structured basis.
We play lots of games, as you may have seen. We use lots of manipulatives. We even use some great apps on the iPad. I also like to help her awake the connection between what she’s seeing when we do things hands-on and the written language of math. For this, I use some resources like this.
When we last left our more formal mathematical practice (in June), her answers and handwriting were shaky. Something like this excerpt took her about 15 minutes with side-by-side support:
… and now, having taken a month off, she has grown! Her handwriting is sure. Her ability to work independently is much improved. And most of all, I can watch her thinking – she gets what the questions are asking and can visualize the processes. The written notation is more meaningful. This entire page took her 15 minutes last night:
I hope the difference shows in photos! I can tell you, it does in real life!!
My point in this is not to brag about what she has gained (although of course I’m proud of her!). My point is this: homeschoolers work with their kiddos at home primarily because what’s happening at schools doesn’t work for their kiddos. So, don’t feel constricted by what schools look like! Use your most powerful educational tool – which is your knowledge of your kiddo. Trust that what you’re doing is working, and don’t be afraid to take a break when you feel the break needs to be taken. I firmly believe that L grew more mathematically in the past month having not “done” math but instead playing games, working with her hands to strengthen the muscles, and simply noticing and talking about quantities than she would have had I stuck to “regularly scheduled programming”.