Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Homeschooling Our Way - Making Math Fun

Math -- the ultimate homeschool battlefield. Since pre-school, I have struggled to help my daughter grasp the basics of addition and subtraction.  It was, as my husband called it, the explosive subject. I tried many different approaches suggested by other homeschooling moms, to no avail. And it all came to the surface this fall, when my 7 year old daughter packed a bag and walked away in frustration.  I watched her sitting on a neighbor's porch, trying to hide from me, feeling like a failure in everything I was trying to accomplish as a mom and as a teacher.
 I had already moved her back from the advanced level she did last year to an easier, second grade curriculum. We were battling over the basics: 1 + 1 = I hate you. And this was after she had succeeded in triple-digit addition and subtraction at the end of her first grade year (although not without a fight).

As my husband returned from his walk, I alerted him by text to stop by our neighbor's porch and comfort her.  Once he arrived, she felt compelled to cooperate.  Yet, I knew he would be returning to campus very soon, and I would not have him present to help when the next skirmish might arise.

In the days that followed, my husband and I discussed our daughter's very unique personality and temperament.  We decided on an experiment I greatly doubted -- introducing her favorite "puppet personalities" into the classroom.  Since she was two, we've had a host of puppets around to entertain her, and each has developed its own quirky character over the years.  While I reluctantly consented to this approach, I was convinced it would not work.

To my husband's credit, I was wrong.  Our classroom experience has been transformed.  She and I are no longer at odds over homework, not even MATH.  In fact, it has gone from her least favorite subject to her new favorite pastime.  Today her reward for helping with chores was an extra math lesson taught by her puppet pals, Piggy and Cow.  With me urging them on, these two fuzzy puppets write problems on a white board and wait eagerly with red pen for grading (Piggy loves the red pen!).
They encourage her as she reads. And whenever her quick temper begins to spark, Cow yells "Bacon" and Piggy faints. The familiar banter continues, as a temper tantrum and total homeschool shutdown is averted.

We've come a long way over the years, and we have finally learned the most important lesson of homeschooling -- it doesn't have to mirror the methods traditionally used in the public or private school classroom.  Common errors can be made by a puppet, and corrected by another, so that our daughter learns from the mistake without having to make it herself.  Schoolwork can be chaotic and silly.  It can anticipate distraction and a puppet can shout "Focus" without invoking great wrath and defiance from my extremely strong-willed child when her attention wanes. 

We have gone from "making:" her do schoolwork to begging her to STOP doing so many extra lessons so I can prepare the evening meal!  Math has gone from being a dreaded chore to a special reward.  And that's just fine with us!