Thursday, May 30, 2013

My 17th Little Thing

Recap:  I have been horizontally productive, completing many tasks on my list from last week.  I have also napped a lot and grown larger.

Week 17:  Encourage purpose-based learning

Sophomore year I had to take geometry.  I made it through algebra the year before and did well.  Geometry is not algebra.  Add to that I also took chemistry the same year (math in science is not okay), and there was the TAAS test and it’s math portion to contend with. (TAAS was our STAAR test back then and stood for “multiple choice ways to make you feel like a dumb-@$$", same as what STAAR stands for.)  I barely passed geometry with the main focus being on just that:  passing.  I learned close to nothing because I was so behind by the end of the first nine weeks I could not have crammed all that junk in my brain no matter what.  As opposed to having the option of slowing down to really learn, I was fast tracked to pass so I wouldn’t be a “failure” who had to repeat geometry.  God bless my teacher for all her hard work and for helping me slide by with a C-.  It wasn’t her fault I learned nothing, but I am so scared of geometry I had panic attacks trying to teach my children shapes.  I also dropped out of chemistry the first nine weeks.  I passed the TAAS math test by one question.  Tenth grade taught me an important lesson:  It stinks to feel stupid.  And hard work forced on a person by standardized testing and other people’s timelines does not particularly amount to success.  It amounts to a person working hard, still feeling like a failure, and not sure what went wrong. 

I carried this lesson with me, opting out of all higher level math classes in high school and college.  I opted out of any science classes that might somehow sneak math in as well. (I took anatomy because I can count bones.)  I decided I was stupid in math.  I was called artsy.  The label was fine with me because at least it meant I wasn’t bad at everything.  Just things with numbers.

My daughter taught me this week what I may have missed:  I did not see a purpose in geometry and I wasn’t ready for it.  I still tried because of the fear of being called a failure.  That wasn’t enough to make it stick.

This week Wren was working on a connect the dots book when she reached numbers she could count but did not recognize the looks of.  For instance, counting to 50 and knowing what 50 looks like are two different things.  Attempting to figure this out on her own led to her saying, “Look what I made” and me responding, “Oh, um, yes a…possum?” 

Wren:  I think it’s an owl. 

Me:  An owl possum?

Wren:  Hmmm…

Realizing some lines were connected to the wrong places, she started asking me “what’s 1 next to 6” and I would say 16 and so on.  After a few times, I decided to make her flash cards to help her out.  By the time I finished, my daughter had completed another page of number connect the dots perfectly with every line in the correct place from 1-30.  She figured out the pattern.  Why?  Because she did not want to create another picture that looked like a possible owl possum.  She wanted to see what the picture was supposed to be.  She saw a purpose in figuring it out, so she did.  No threat of failure.  No force from an outside source.  She wanted to learn. 

 As we continue in our very early and primitive homeschool endeavors, I want to remember this lesson.  Sure, I will introduce some ideas and concepts and basics and wait for the kids to be ready to latch on, but purpose and readiness are key.  When they are ready they will learn, and when they see a purpose it won’t have to be a struggle.  And if they need three years to understand proofs and theorems, whatever. (Does anyone use those?  Please chime in; I still don’t get it.)

I am focusing on this specifically this week because I am mapping out a very loose plan of what September-August for homeschool will look like, and I don’t want to get overly wrapped up in the details.  If we try something and no one is ready or finds purpose at that time, moving on.  I don’t want my kids to have the sophomore year experience if possible.  They will be challenged; they will learn to do difficult things, but I would like it to not be at the cost of their dignity and self-worth.

Wren telling Sammy, "I am rolling you up in a manger."  We may need to work on the
definition of manger.

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