the sum of it.



Blythe arrived to the kitchen table in a leotard and tutus (yes, plural — apparently one didn’t have enough fluff) for her first day of “kindergarten” three weeks ago. I smiled and nearly fell out of my seat as she eagerly pulled out her math binder, flipped to her worksheet, and asked if I could begin with her math lesson. Someone pinch me. Math has been the dark cloud of our homeschool for the last three years, on the worst days, leading to tears (in spite of dousing them with encouragement and brevity), so having my daughter request time for more formal learning in this area– well, it dispersed the cloud and choked me up a little bit.

Although I have had to chase Liam and Burke down at times for math, they have both performed relatively well in the subject, meaning we’ve pushed them along, even ahead, assuming ahead in levels always means better. Sometimes. Not always. We noticed, in spite of producing enough to move up through the lessons, they were both sluggish with their facts and missing some foundational number sense — sense they’ll need to understand higher level math soon enough. It sounds a little extreme for a pseudo-second and third grader; however, honestly, Mark and my number sense runs a little short. I mean, we both performed well through grade school and university, but neither of us feels very confident as a math teacher, per se. Obviously we know how to do second and third grade math, but teaching it and understanding how all the skills build into the other — well, let’s just say we’re getting a different sort of education by educating. So this year, one of the goals we had for our children (and for myself) centered around this very thing: having more enjoyment, confidence, and mastery with numbers. One way this translated is having both boys repeat the same math levels as last year. What? Repeat? Gasp! I know. Modern education has trained us me to equate repetition as failure, and although I’ve always valued the scalability of homeschooling — the freedom to move at my own child’s pace– it’s hard to avoid these feelings of inadequacy comparison stirs up. Because it does stir up. When I shared this news with the boys, fully expecting their sour rebuttal, they surprised me with their cool nonchalance toward repetition. “So I’ll probably be less frustrated. Plus, I’m sure there’s stuff I didn’t get last year that I’ll understand this year. Right?” Liam asked. “Exactly” I sighed, relieved and astonished by my kids once again. So the last month we’ve been overcoming our math-phobia, and even if it’s still not the favorite subject, we’re peaceful and without tears. That’s the sum of it.

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  1. tutu’s. so motivational.
    maybe blythe’s enthusiasm could have inspired me in my struggling math-homeschool-days.

  2. I come from the other side of the spectrum – getting a degree in math while lacking understanding of literature through college and beyond. It wasn’t until late college (long after my last required history course) that I realized I don’t HATE history. Homeschooling while not encouraging my lack-of-passion in some areas can be an overwhelming thought for me sometimes.

    I feel like an understanding of (elementary) concrete algebra helps immensely in setting a stage for simple math. Concepts like a clock (or math problems with time) make much more sense and fit in seamlessly with real number line math. It’s not as much something the kids would learn, but if you are teaching it with that understanding you can help it make more sense and seem more interesting for them. If you’re interested feel free to ask more about it – I think I have a book you could borrow.

    1. Oh Kathryn, I know exactly where I’m coming for any future math tutoring! (wink.) I know. I felt the same way about history and politics; because I never had a solid framework for either, I always dismissed them. So now, I’m redeeming my education in many ways and modeling for my children what they naturally assume is true — I don’t know everything.

      Don’t be intimidated by homeschooling. If you guys decide to go that route, you’ll have lots of support! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Alisa took Pre-Algebra as a 7th grader, but struggled the entire time. We too decided to repeat this class and the progress is astonishing. She reports “I am actually looking forward to math”. Success.

    1. I know! The kids have been the same way (actually looking forward to math). What a gift! Thanks for the encouragement, Kim.

  4. Have you ever looked at

    1. I love the Khan Academy (and that it’s free)! Thanks for suggesting resources Totilla. Blessing to you guys too.

  5. Can you come to my house? Math is a four letter word (in more ways than one) to Buttercup. Today we haven’t completed math yet because she wanted to do easy math she already knew. So I pulled out a couple of test we skipped over. Didn’t work, but she’s doing them tonight. If I told her we were going to repeat math, oh my, you’d thought the world was ending–at least for her.

    A fun math game I found. Math war with cards. Deal the cards out just like in war, then multiply the cards. Kings-12, Queens-11, Jacks-0, Aces-1. Whoever gets the answer first gets the cards. Helped Buttercup grasp multiplication.

    Every girl needs an extra bit of pouf. :-D

    1. Hahaha! I am no math wizard, and like I said, my kiddos surprised me when they were ok with a re-do. Thanks for the math game suggestion — they just love to play games!

  6. I love that! We have worked slowly and methodically on math! It is hard at times! I decided last year that it didn’t matter what grade level was on the front of the book. What mattered was if we were getting the concept and not kicking and screaming the entire time! Good for you, Bethany!

    1. Yes! Cultivating a love of learning was what intrigued me about homeschooling in the first place, and yet sometimes I squelch that love when I demand we stay on an artificial schedule, opposed to mastering the content. Thanks for sharing and encouraging, Christi!

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