Don’t Fall into the “Let’s Get Through It” Mentality
As a home educator, I am required to take full responsibility for asking questions when presented with new information, which is exactly what this year’s homeschool conference forced me to remember.
The weekend’s workshops made evident how easily all parents fall into the “let’s just get through it” mentality in any given subject (i.e. higher level Math subjects like Algebra, Algebra 2, etc…). Instead, we need to stretch toward the ultimate goal of grooming life-long learners who uphold the merits of full understanding over short-term memorization.
Friends who teach in public and private school settings explain that there is no longer time to focus on individual student struggles in class, and with the decreasing role of parents, there is a perspective shift; now, the teacher, not the parent or student, seems to be solely responsible for whether a student succeeds or not.
It is an unfair expectation and fails on so many levels.
Educating the whole child.
Two years ago my oldest daughter started Algebra 1. I struggled through Math in high school and college, so I surrendered my daughter’s Math education into the capable hands of the local homeschool cooperative. The Algebra 1 class met every Monday morning, attended a lecture that covered a number of lessons, and received countless problems to take home and prove their mastery of the subject.
It was a nightmarish experience for her; not because the teacher was incapable – she was highly-skilled and knowledgeable – but because my daughter did not grasp the “why” of what she was learning, I failed to provide the necessary mentoring in the midst of her weakness, and by default, missed building a foundation to carry her through the year. Not only that, my own insecurities with Math led to the illogical assumption that there were “Math” people and “English” people, and ne’er the two shall meet.
I handicapped my daughter with my (real or imagined) ignorance, and then the next year, I did it again by tossing her into a Geometry class with a barely workable comprehension of Algebra. She cried her way through Geometry, often working 4 hours to get through a single lesson, feeling like an idiot compared to other classmates who just seemed to “get it” without trying.
Somewhere in that two year span I lost the mindset that our family’s homeschooling goal was always to educate by building upon one mastered concept after another – teaching the “why”, as opposed to nonsensical rules, formulas, tricks, and shortcuts.
Do NOT be afraid to change what is NOT working.
In every parent’s mind, there are moments when we cannot run from the truth. This is my oldest daughter’s last year of high school. In order to graduate, she must complete Algebra 2. The two of us have dreaded it through the entire Summer – that is until a workshop at this weekend’s homeschool conference revealed that only an insane person does the same thing over and over expecting different results.
Without a foundation in Algebra 1, she cannot possibly master Algebra 2. While I never expect her to love Math in the way she loves art, design, or the written word, I failed to provide an example of resourcefulness; a skill-set she will need throughout her life.
There we were at one of the largest homeschooling conventions in the state of Texas, with an exhibit hall of curriculum and teaching experts readily available for extensive question and answer sessions. I set out on a quest to find a program that approached the same subject from a different viewpoint – one that could provide new insight and deeper understanding for my daughter.
This year we will begin a new program – one bent on enabling students to develop the ability to think analytically and to understand the “why” behind Algebra. Are we certain it will work? Of course not. Are we willing to take a chance? Yes. Will we keep trying until we find a solution? Absolutely.
Parents are their kids’ primary educators, whether the kids attend school at home or away from home. We need to be in the trenches with them, teaching them the problem solving skills they need so when they do graduate and move into the real world, they can apply the same model of resourcefulness and critical thinking in life.
Besides, I am a strong believer if one can get through Algebra – they can get through anything.
What hurdles have you overcome, or know are on the horizon, in the upcoming school year?