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.