Friday, November 13, 2015

In Praise of Homeschooling

I don't usually rave about homeschool.  I love homeschooling for a lot of reasons.  I love how relaxed it is, I love how fun it is, I love being with my kids all day (despite that being just about the #1 comment I get: "How can you be home with your kids all day?")(To which I always respond, "How do you get them out in the morning and do homework?"), and I love the educational aspects.  I love child led learning.  I love hands on learning.  I love learning that is real and meaningful and motivated.

But all that aside, those are all about my personal feelings about homeschooling.  Today I want to talk about the absolutely miraculous thing that homeschooling did for my child.  Today I want to talk about Math.

If you search for all the Math blog posts I wrote you'll know that Chana was completely unschooled until 3rd grade, when we started doing Chumash.  Everything else was unschooled.  A lot of math came up naturally, but Chana got stuck at fractions and simply didn't understand them.  Every few months I would try, and she just wouldn't get it.  So we just stopped doing math.  It was very terrifying for me to not be teaching math.  But I just felt she wasn't conceptually ready to understand it for whatever reason.  So for three years, no math except an occasional lesson or discussion that came up.  (For example, today Jack, first grade, saw an itunes gift card set with three cards at $10 each.  He asked how much all of them were and I asked him what he thought and he said $30 and I showed him where it said $30 in the top corner and it was very exciting.  An hour later he asked me how many tens made 60 and 50 and then figured out that two tens are twenty.*  He might ask me more questions and we might not talk about math for months.)

Although I was concerned, I also felt that pushing fractions when she didn't understand them was not an option.  As it turned out, in 7th grade, Chana decided she wanted to go to high school, and I said, "Then we'd better do math."  And all the magical things I had heard about unschooling were true.  In three months, Chana easily learned three years worth of math.  It was gaspingly, shockingly, astonishingly easy.  It was fun.  It was pleasant.  It was wonderful.

But the best, best, best part was what didn't happen.  I didn't watch Chana's self esteem erode.  I didn't watch her struggle and fail at math.  I didn't watch tears and misery and hatred of math emerge.  I didn't even watch her dislike math, plod through math, or be bored by math.  She wasn't intimidated by math or stressed out by math.  She doesn't think she's "bad" at math.

Why?  Because when she was having trouble understanding it, there wasn't a class to keep up with.  She didn't have to learn on a schedule.  There was no rush.  We had years to play around with.  We had the luxury of flexibility and the luxury of waiting.

The reason I'm bringing this up now is because Chana was in class today (she attends two classes at the local Yeshiva high school, for Chumash and Torah sheba'al peh) and one of the girls asked her, "Are you good at math?"

"...Sure," Chana replied.  (When she told me this story, I thought, "Sure?!  Sure!?  Do you have any idea what the answer to that question could have been if we hadn't been homeschooling!?"  No, she has no idea!  And I'm glad.)

So the girl asked her for help with an algebra problem.  Chana told me that the problem was very easy.  She showed the girl how to do it, and the girl didn't understand, so Chana explained why it worked that way, and went into some more detail, and the girl was so happy that she now understood it.

Wow.  Just wow.

* We are such a homeschooling cliche.  Doing math at the post office.

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