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Terrified of homeschooling (again) March 27, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, math, older son, younger son.
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Last night, the younger son was working on his math homework while I sat next to him and played sudoku.  I’ve found that this is the best way to oversee his homework because I don’t really pay attention to what he’s doing unless he asks for help, but I’m close by in case he starts getting frustrated.  And really, I can’t concentrate on anything important when I’m interrupted every ten minutes for an explanation.

The younger son has started running into problems with a concept now and again.  After he gets so many wrong, the program will switch gears and have him work on something else for a while.  Then it goes back and tries the subject again.  This happened for the first time a few days ago.  He complained, saying it was repeating questions.  I told him the program thought he needed more practice.  Last night, it happened again.

“Mom, the program thinks I need more practice.  But I don’t. I know this stuff.”

“Well, you’ll have to prove it to the computer.”  And he answered every question correctly.  The fact that he got peeved about repeating questions is a huge improvement from the kid who would avoid doing pretty much anything for fear of getting it wrong…and if he did try and get it wrong, there would be a major emotional blowout to follow.  That kid is a distant memory…but was around as recently as six months ago.  This, in my mind, is why you need to present challenges to perfectionists.

I’m now anxious for another reason.  I really thought the younger boy would slow down in his math progress.  Yes, I did up the amount of time he spends from 20 to 40 minutes per day, my reasons for which are elaborated in another post.  And he no longer gets everything right.  In fact, on his daily practice, he’s usually hitting somewhere between 80 and 90 percent correct answers.  But he’s still not really slowing down.

At the end of the year, he’s going to be three years ahead in math.  We didn’t expect this, and this puts us past the ‘drop dead’ point where the school can do anything.  His school only goes up to 5th grade at his campus.  The other campus starts at 6th and goes through the end of high school. Realistically, he’s not ready for that with his reading and writing.  So now we’re obligated to keep going with his current math program for the next three years.  Because of the structure of the courses, he will have to slow down signficantly.  However, we’re still looking at a realistic possibility of him being through algebra 2 before he starts middle school.  At that point, we are going to have to see if the school is willing to let him join a bunch of high school students for geometry or precalc…when he’s 12.

I’m nervous about this because of what is going on in his classroom.  He’s not participating in the regular math class, but he does work on addition and subtraction drills.  His teacher is putting on his report card that he’s ‘beginner level’ in math based on these drills.  I really am not worried how he’s doing on this because of the fact that I know he can add two and three digit numbers in his head, even though he still writes some numbers backwards when writing the answers.  I am guessing the pressure of timed quizzes, the act of writing, or perhaps lack of interest are causing his poor performance.  (Incidentally, while he may not do every problem, all the problems he does are correct.)

I am concerned that teachers in the future are going to look at this and believe he doesn’t know math rather than looking at what he’s accomplished through the online math program.  And I’m worried this will have a negative impact on our ability to accelerate him when the time is appropriate.  But, mostly, I’m frustrated that so much of the assessment of his abilities rests on judgements of things like basic arithmetic or handwriting when it’s become so obvious to me that he’s got some serious abstract thinking abilities.  No teacher is ever going to see that unless they give him some challenging material.  (I have to admit that I had no idea until we started down this path with the math program.)  Likely, they won’t because they’re so stuck on what I consider to be somewhat superficial things.

Based on my experience with the older son, I guess this is starting to leave me terrified that the younger boy will eventually need to be pulled out of school.  I have that thought every time I get a note about some problem at school.  Admittedly, most of them are small things that I don’t have to worry about.  The thought is sitting just under the surface, though, and pokes an eye out every time something seems amiss.

For now, we’ve decided to just keep him moving through regular school while supplementing math during the school year and language arts during the summer.  I imagine that in about 3 years, however, we’re going to hit a pretty serious fork in the road.  I’m a person who doesn’t take well to waiting, however, so even now it’s still on my mind a lot.

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1. nicoleandmaggie - March 27, 2012

So what my mom and I did to circumvent the fact that I wasn’t an Indian boy was have me take Algebra at the local community college. They couldn’t argue with that. And I got to go to high school geometry (where we had to be driven in a parent car-pool until I begged to be allowed to walk because the boys were harassing me… then they got permission too. Ugh.). (And I scored higher in those classes than the boys.)

As a former math major, I will say that presentation is incredibly important as you go on in math. Once you start doing proofs, you already know the answer– the whole point is showing how you get there. So I wouldn’t discount showing steps and so on even early on. Even if it requires practicing handwriting (there’s a *reason* most math majors cross their 7s while other people do not). Yes, timed drills are superficial, but not everything in that set of things is.

Additionally, I have an absolute FAVORITE geometry textbook that I highly recommend. Proof-based geometry is out of favor right now, but I think it is essential for so many things, computer programming, later proofs etc. And it does force you to slow down and show every step. http://www.amazon.com/Geometry-Enjoyment-Challenge-Richard-Rhoad/dp/0866099654/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pdT11?ie=UTF8&coliid=I24R25VROVOQ8C&colid=17RCDD640W6YK I LOVE LOVE LOVE this text. Had it for geometry, then borrowed it from my former teacher so I could teach it to my sister when they did the switch from proofs to computational geometry.

We’re still doing the, “take it a year at a time” approach… we’re only age 5 though. My mom said, “So if he skips first, he’ll be graduating high school at age 16?” Maybe, maybe not. There’s a lot that can happen in 11 years and maybe he’ll go off to a boarding high school for the gifted and talented and meet his one true love and live happily ever after.

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mareserinitatis - March 27, 2012

“So if he skips first, he’ll be graduating high school at age 16?”

I really don’t understand comments like this. I started college when I was sixteen (dual-enrolled in college and high school), and I think it’s one of the best things I ever did. In fact, I wish I’d skipped most of high school entirely. When I went away to college, I realized that even the college I’d been enrolled in during high school still wasn’t sufficiently challenging.

A relative is now asking the same questions about older son. “He’s done with his GED?! What’s he going to do now?” Well, finish his economics class, maybe enroll in college, likely get at least a p/t job, maybe do some volunteer work. I really don’t care as long as he’s doing something useful and not just sitting in his room all day. In fact, probably the same things he would be doing two years from now except he’s not moving out yet.

I loved proof-based geometry. Helps so much in physics. 🙂

I’m really bad at taking things one day at a time. That’s the problem with being a long-term thinker. I have plans upon plans as well as contingency plans. I do need to let things go. I’m a work in progress, I guess.

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2. nicoleandmaggie - March 27, 2012

I don’t think she meant it badly. She started college at 17. (Her birthday is a few days from my son’s and back when she was little that meant she got to start K at age 4 right at the cutoff.) Though, I do not think I would allow him to go to Caltech at age 16 (18 maybe), but I’d let him go to MIT if he wanted. The difference is the level of adult oversight in the dorms. At 16 he still won’t be a grown-up, as responsible and mature as he seems at age 5, and he will probably need support. Or at least as a mom I’ll be happier knowing there’s a huge support network available for him, which there is at some schools and there isn’t at others.

I get needing contingency plans– that’s why we had to check out the Montessori because if our school goes under I was going to have a heart attack. But there’s plenty of options, and you can make contingency thoughts without borrowing trouble!

Speaking of contingency plans, I do think it would be great if he could go to a G/T school with kids his own age at some point. After all, I do want gandbabies… you know, in the future. (And almost all the men in DH’s family have married their high school sweethearts for at least 3 generations, possibly more.)

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