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Partial perfectionism February 19, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, teaching, younger son.
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The younger son had forgotten a text book which he needed to do an assignment, so I told him that he should get done what he could and try to finish it up in the morning.

But mom…she doesn’t accept work unless it’s completely done.

She may not, I told him, but your future teachers probably will, so it’s a good habit.  At least she’ll see you made some effort on it.

There were several classes I’ve had throughout college where I didn’t complete the entire assignment.  Frankly, sometimes I just couldn’t.  Or maybe I was short on time.  However, handing in 8 out of 9 problems, even if it didn’t earn me a perfect grade, certainly earned me enough to get a very high grade in almost all of my classes.

I really don’t like this policy of “it has to be completely done, and I won’t accept anything late.”  I totally get not accepting anything late, but I think the “completely done” thing is bunk.  I would rather a student put it in a thoughtful, partial attempt than not do anything at all.  The feedback I would provide as a teacher may be helpful to the student, too.

The notion of “all or nothing” feeds into perfectionism, particularly the kind that leads to paralysis and lack of motivation.  “It’s not worth it to do anything if she won’t accept incomplete work,” is the kind of mindset I grew up with.  Now that I teach, I know that every effort you make on your homework or on learning something will not be wasted effort.  Few people ever get any topic 100%, but putting in time and effort will get you closer.

I would always tell my students to put the best effort you can into your homework and then go to the teacher for help on the rest.  Teachers would rather see an effort or an attempt to solve something rather than a student who shows up empty-handed and saying, “I don’t understand.”  It’s very hard to understand how to help the student unless you can see where they’re struggling.

This is a good life skill to have, too.  Is it better to wait to clean the kitchen fully or should you at least take 10 minutes to do what you can?  Personally, I try to do what I can because I seldom have blocks of time to allow me to do things with the full depth and effort I would like.  You can make progress doing it a bit at a time.  It’ll never be as fast as you want, but it’s better to keep doing it than forget it because you can’t do it ‘right’.  Once it’s done, it doesn’t always matter how quickly you did it.

It also dissuades people from trying new things.  “Oh gee…I can’t cook crepes perfectly the first time out, so there’s really no point in trying.”  Honestly, a mangled crepe is almost always better than no crepe at all.  More importantly, you’ll learn from the experience.

I am therefore doing my best to teach my son that some effort is far better than no effort.  There are few things in life that we can do as well and fully as we like, so I want to disavow him of the notion of “all or nothing” right away.

Mom, could you homeschool me? December 15, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, homeschooling, younger son.
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I knew we had to do something when, early in the school year, the younger son asked me to homeschool him.  When I asked him why, there was the range of answers that included he’s not looking forward to losing recess when he gets to middle school, he’d like to spend more time with me (obviously we’re nowhere being a teenager right now), and even wanting to finish college at 14 or 15.

All I could think was, “Aren’t you supposed to be the easy one?!”

He is.  Honestly, homeschooling him would be emotionally easy, but I’m not so ready to quit everything and become a full-time mom again.  Or maybe ever.  Not sure, and hope to never find out.  The fact of matter is that he’s involved in so many activities that homeschooling him would involve me becoming a full-time chauffeur, and I know it would make me crazy.

On the other hand, he’s said he’s not sure he wants to leave school because he likes it and would miss his friends.  After several discussions, he told me:

I think I need to write a pro and con list.

In the meantime, I’ve done a list in my head.  First and foremost, he likes school.  To me, that is the prime reason to keep him there.  If he’s got a good thing going, don’t mess with it.

Beyond this, however, we’re discussing some academic acceleration for a couple subjects at school.  I honestly do think that he’s better off staying where he is, but it’s also clear that the standard curriculum is not going to cut it.  At a couple points, I contemplated whole grade acceleration, but I’m now opposed to this idea.  I spent a lot of time reading through the Iowa Acceleration Scale material, and he has a couple things going against him: he’s already one of the youngest in his class, he’s small, and he’s athletic.  Participation in sports is a major no-no if you’re going to bump kids up entire grades because this can have very real implications for the physical development and ability later on.  I’m now certain that this would be a bad idea for him, and so subject acceleration in a couple areas seems to be the best solution.  Fortunately, the school is, so far, open to discussion.

The other thing I’ve come to realize is that there’s really no hurry in getting through school.  Is it really any better to go to college early and find a job early and lose that much time from your childhood?  I realize that, for some kids, this is the only way to deal with the gap between mental ability and typical school pacing.  Or maybe they are really that driven.  I am fortunate in the fact that my kid doesn’t seem to require that level of acceleration, and I’d like to give him as much time as possible to explore his options.

I think, most of all, I want him to understand that there’s no reason to hurry up and get there, despite the fact that a lot of people think that’s somehow a sign of competence. I guess I’m starting to realize that no one really will care if he finishes high school in two years or four…just that he get there and finished.  If he finishes in four, though, there’s the opportunity to explore more interests and do other things without the stress and expectations of adulthood weighing him down.  Given the opportunity, there are a lot of other things I wish I could’ve done in my teens that aren’t an option now.  I therefore hope he understands the value of taking his time: maybe he can learn to enjoy the journey.

Oh, that’s right! I have a blog! August 29, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, grad school, older son, personal, work, younger son.
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Summer, at least the social construct of summer, officially comes to a close this weekend for most people.  The younger son has been in school for a week, and I’m scratching my head, wondering where the time went.  It was the summer of “the best laid plans of mice and men,” if you get my drift.  

I did accomplish a lot at work.  However, shifting deadlines there required I push off other stuff.  In response to that, I decided to take some time off and get caught up on some of those other things, which will be easier now that the younger offspring is busy plodding through the halls of a reputable educational institution rather than ones created in Minecraft.  I have a couple weeks of crunching numbers at home before going back to work to do it.

The other thing that will help is that the older offspring has decided that his odd work schedule really isn’t doable, despite a serious effort on his part.  I am relieved because I seem to be getting more sleep again, which has made me a saner, kinder, and more productive human being.  Also, I appreciate being able to form a coherent sentence…

I hate to say it, but I’m glad school has started again.  I usually love summer, but I’m very glad to have a routine and time to work on my own stuff back.

How was your summer?

If you send your kid to public school, you’re a dunce September 1, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, societal commentary.
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That’s a strong statement, calling someone a dunce because they allow their children to go to a school that’s provided for free and, in most cases, even required by law.  Why would anyone say that?  I’m not sure, but it was about as useful as the title of an article on Slate: “If you send your kid to private school, you are a bad person.”  Generalizations are, in general, pointless things, and they aren’t much better as titles.

The article itself, however, was downright appalling.  The author, Allison Benedikt, starts out by saying:

I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental.

That’s probably the only point in the whole article I can agree with.  The whole thing was a judgemental screed against people who don’t send their kids to public schools.  None of it was backed up with evidence or even anything remotely resembling solid reasoning.  She discusses the fact that she attended public schools, and after reading her complete inability to form a cohesive argument, I dare say she made me even more convinced that our public schools have gone down the tubes.

She did have some reasons for her premise that those of us who send our kids to private schools are bad people.  She starts by saying that if everyone would send their kids to public school, they would improve…it would just take ‘a generation or two’.  You see, those of us who have the means to send our kids to private school are just supposed to sacrifice our kids’ and grandkids’ educational needs to meet some utopian goal that has a small likelihood of occurring.  It apparently never occurred to her that she has made exactly the wrong argument to these people:  people who send their kids to private schools may have several reasons for doing so, but I would guess that the main three are going to be that they strongly value education, they  strongly value the ethical systems taught at some of these schools, and they are worried about what I would generally call ‘status issues’ (things like who their kids hang out with and perception of their families).  Does she really think that parents who are that concerned about one or more of these three things is really willing to ‘sacrifice’ their kids?  That’s the whole reason they’ve elected to go with private schools to begin with: the sacrifice of large sums of money is less important than the sacrifice of their kids’ education (and the things that go along with it).  However, Benedikt wipes these issues away and says they’re not compelling.  She started her whole argument by finding the most compelling way to isolate her audience.

In fact, she starts belittling education and claiming that you really don’t need those things.  She is a perfect example, apparently, because her parents sent her to school and really didn’t care about those things.  That is quite obvious given her line of reasoning…and, as I said above, compels me to want to send my kid to private school even more.

Benedikt says school is really about is interaction with other people.  I won’t disagree that a large part of school is socialization, but I, of course, don’t buy this argument as I’ve written before about how public school is actually generally worse than options like homeschool when it comes to socialization.  Throwing together a lot of immature people to learn socialization from each other results in, surprise surprise, lots of immature people.  More adult interaction with those adults role-modeling mature behavior is a far better socialization system than the one present in most public schools.  Again, this is actually an argument against the public schools, in my opinion.

Finally, Benedikt says that if only we redirected our private school endeavors to public schools, that would make everything better.  Here, I can only assume she is incredibly naive on so many levels.

I will start by saying that I don’t hate the public schools.  The notion of free education available for everyone is most definitely a public good and vital to maintaining democracy.  However, I think that our public schools have some major problems.  As the political right wing says, they don’t work to educate children.  The structure is set up for teachers, not for students.  As the left wing says, they are underfunded and undervalued.  I think both sides have very valid arguments.  Schools have, for generations, taught children using the least effective methods, mostly by people who aren’t well-educated themselves (particularly in the grade school years).  They have a better handle on crowd control than educational psychology.  On the other hand, they have to because of they way the public school system ties the hands of teachers.

There are so many educational reforms that would make the schools *work* but people are not interested in trying them out or are scared that it may affect their job security.  Or they are just apathetic about education.  I’m not talking about things like vouchers or charter schools.  I mean things like making grade levels fluid, getting rid of grades, making the classroom a place where students are leading their learning and teachers are facilitators.  The notion of allowing children to excel in areas of interest and take more time in areas of difficulty is almost heresy.  In other words, what schools ought to be are places where kids really learn, where interaction provides useful feedback about knowledge and behavior, and where you’re not locked into doing something simply because of how old you are.  Education needs to be tailored to the individual student because teaching to the average is useless for everyone.

These are the kinds of reforms that would bring parents back from the private schools.  Simply saying that the schools would be better if all parents sent their kids to public school is naive, at best.  It is as blind a solution to the problem as just shoving more money to the schools, privatizing schools, or forcing kids to pray in school.  Almost every reform out there is completely blind to the fact that we are using teaching methods that actually fail to education children.  If you don’t change our fundamental assumptions about how to educate students, you’re not going to get any different results.

I will say that I agree that it’s sad not more people take an interest in seeing public education thrive.  However, part of the reason is that the way public education is conducted is virtually set in stone.  It takes a divine act for most places to change even the smallest things.  Too often, school teachers don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with individual students’ issues and the parent of such children is viewed as an enemy combatant.  My choice as a parent then becomes whether I want to devote my time to change the outcome for my individual child through whatever means I have (for instance, by homeschooling or sending to private school) or continuously shoving an immovable object.  If I had left either of my kids in public school, I wouldn’t have fought harder…I would have quit because of the futility in trying to work with most teachers and administrators who have no interest in seeing the system change.

Stupid school year August 20, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, Fargo, personal, teaching.
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I may be in the minority, but I really, really hate the fact that school starts here this week.  I’m of the opinion that school should not start before Labor Day and should not go past Memorial Day.

Part of me would like to say that this dampens my productivity, but I’m not entirely convinced of that.  I think it just lowers my stress-level to not have to worry about running kids around while teaching and trying to get some research done.  I just hate being tired all the time.

Another reason I’m tired is that I’m still not running.  I apparently had tendonitis in my foot, and most likely there was no sprain.  I’m getting lots of ultrasound and massage treatment.  It seems to have improved a lot, and in a couple weeks, I’ll have some new custom orthotics for my running shoes.  Then I’ll get to start running again.  This is good because aside from helping me from feeling so run down all the time, it does a lot to keep my mood up.  I’ve been grumpy for about two months now.

I’m also getting used to being gluten free.  It’s not all that bad, but I still can’t eat things with lots of fructose or lactose.  Those problems should hopefully disappear as my insides heal up.  I just wish I weren’t so hungry all the time.

But in the meantime, I better get finished with tomorrow’s class prep.

When in doubt, pull them out June 15, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in gifted, homeschooling, older son, societal commentary.
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I came across this article about Brandon Elizares this morning.  I feel horrible for his family and for him because of what he went through.  I’ve been meaning to write a post on bullying for a while, but I’ve been hesitant because it’s somewhat personal.  After reading about Brandon, I determined that I should just come out and say it: if your kid is being bullied, do what you have to get them out of that environment.  Whatever it takes.

When the older boy was supposed to start middle school, I took the stance that he needed to start learning how to function in a normal school environment.  Heck…this is something I’m worried about today as we’re looking at college.  But as far as making him go to school in sixth grade, I can honestly say that’s one of the worst things I ever did.

For those who say that kids need to go to school to learn socialization, I call utter and complete bullshit.  Do you know what socialization is in middle school?  Exactly the kinds of things that happened to Brandon.  They were the kinds of things that were happening to my son, as well.  In his case, it wasn’t because he was gay but just because he’s different.  He was being sexually harrassed so badly by one person that I went up to the school and demanded they do something.  They did, and the teasing died down from this kid, but it never stopped.  He just found more creative ways of doing it.  Older son started to refuse to ride the bus home because of the teasing.  He started walking and instead found another group of kids who thought it was cool to beat him up on the way home from school.  Kids would harass him in school while teachers’ backs were turned, and then stop just as he was about to retaliate, thereby leaving him to get in trouble.  He was suspended from school several times, and the one who provoked the attack never received any sort of punishment.

He started shutting down in his classes and didn’t care about the work.  The only class he was succeeding in was his advanced math class…and that’s saying something because he hated math.  However, it was the only class where his teachers were advocates for him.  The rest of his teachers started  treating him like he was an idiot, and when he was evaluated at the end of the year because of his ‘dysfunction’ in the school environment, his English teacher, who’d originally raved about how bright he was, said he wasn’t gifted and there was obviously something wrong with him.

I saw more and more anger bubbling up in him.  As a parent, it terrified me because I was worried that one day he was going to flip and either hurt himself or someone else.  (Yes, I had images of Columbine burning in my head.)  And I’d pretty much decided that the year of school had done more damage than good.  He would not be going back.

The following year was when he was accepted into the gifted school.  About a month after he started, a local television crew visited the program, and I remember a video clip of the director talking about how they got two kinds of kids: the ones that were obviously far above their peers or the ones who were troublemakers and likely to drop out or get kicked out of school.  It was particularly ironic because that statement was made on a day when the older boy was home from school, on a temporary suspension because he’d shoved his PE teacher.  My fears about how this bullying was affecting my kid were obviously not unfounded.  The school said their normal policy was to permanently kick out students who assaulted teachers…but they wanted to give him another chance.

His first year at the gifted school was very hard because he was paranoid and angry.  He thought everyone was out to get him because of the incessant bullying (both from other students as well as from teachers) he’d had to deal with the year before.  The teachers at the gifted school were very patient and understanding of him, and slowly he began to lay aside some of the anger and started making friends.  By the end of the year, things were going better, but then he did something to another kid and was told that if anything else happened, he would be out.  Fortunately, summer came, he had time off, he spent a lot of time thinking about it, and when he went back the following year, he was like a different kid.  That year went very smoothly because he finally felt like people understood him and even liked him.  There were only minor problems, and by the end of the year, the teachers were suggesting that some of the support he’d had during that school year would be unnecessary for the future.

So basically, one year of damaging bullying took about two years and some very special people to make it go away.  I honestly don’t think things would have changed as much had he not been in a place with other kids like himself, or with teachers who understood what he’d been going through.  However, I can say for certain that leaving him in the middle school would have guaranteed that something very wrong would have happened.

I can only plead with parents who are dealing with this sort of bullying to please get your kids out of that environment as quickly as possible.  It will not get better, only worse.  It doesn’t build character: it makes them terrified and angry, and they will find terrible ways to deal with those feelings.  And no matter how willing the school is to police the behavior, other kids find ways around it.  Their drive to harass others who are different is unbelievable.  (I still don’t understand it.)  Getting kids out of school and either into a school where they’re more comfortable or even homeschooling, where they’ll have the opportunity to get involved in things that interest them and gives them a reason to learn, is far better than leaving them in that vulnerable position.

There is no reason any kid should have to go through that, and parents really need to understand that doing nothing is worse than taking some risks to get them out of there.

I. Don’t. Have. Aspergers. April 8, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, older son, personal, societal commentary.
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Today, I came across this post talking about expression of Asperger’s in women.

I have to admit that I’m understanding how my son felt in school.  When he was in 6th grade, the school decided to do an evaluation and said he was Aspie.  The whole thing was rather traumatizing for him.  He talked about how the school psychologist talked to him like he was a toddler, using small words in a loud voice.  It was very patronizing.  He started calling her the psychopath-ologist.  The next year, the ‘diagnosis’ followed him to the gifted school he attended.  I talked him into going along with it because there was help with social skills and things that he really did need some help with.  He said he was okay with getting the help.  However, he did keep insisting he wasn’t Aspie, and the teachers kept saying that his refusal to accept would make it hard for him to adjust.

Here’s the problem: he’s not Aspie.  When he was 4, this first came up.  I took him to out of town to two researchers who specialize in Asperger’s to have him examined.  Nope, not Aspie, they both said.  However, it’s obvious he’s probably gifted.  It was at this point that giftedness could probably be problematic in a normal classroom.

Given my history with the public schools as a child, this had never been a blip on my radar.  I constantly had problems, but very often I and my parents chalked this up to the fact that we were pretty much considered ‘poor white trash’.  Now I can look back and see how that perception along with my very visual approach to things confluenced to make school hell for me.

But as an adult, I keep seeing things about Aspergers.  And people keep saying my son is Aspie.  And I suspect people think I’m Aspie.  And I’m not.  I simply am not.  I am amazed at how many traits of Asperger’s are also present in the gifted, and given my experience with my son, I’m sure that there are a ton of kids out there who are being misdiagnosed as Aspie when, in reality, they’re perfectly normal…for gifted kids.

I know people who have kids who are Aspie, and I understand it’s hard to deal with.  However, I am getting really tired of this ‘medicalization’ of a gift or a personality type or whatever you want to call it.  The problem with calling gifted kids Aspies because they may show some of the same traits is that those labels become a capsule to describe the student.  So-and-so is an Aspie, and so every thing they do that seems off or quirky or different becomes a sign of their disability: there is something WRONG with them.  How many times do people look at these kids and say it’s a sign they’re brilliant?  In my experience, almost never.  By the time older son was finished with sixth grade, the fact that he had a college-level vocabulary was being used as a sign that he had a disability, and the psychopath-ologist was claiming he was actually hyperlexic.  His English teacher, who at the beginning of the year was saying she thought he was a very bright boy, suddenly said he didn’t seem gifted when asked by the psychologist.

I don’t have any issues with parents of Aspie kids, or even Aspies themselves.  However, I am really sick of how society seems to have taken a hold of this ‘diagnosis’ and turned it into a way to categorize anyone who is socially awkward, shy, or quirky.  For a lot of kids, all of their gifts and abilities are now being viewed as some sort of dysfunction that falls under the category of Aspie.

And it’s not just kids.  I’ve seen this and experienced it as an adult.  Maybe I tend to fixate on things, but I need to do that to solve difficult problems.  Maybe I feel things more strongly, but why is that a sign of Asperger’s instead of Dabrowski’s Excitabilities?  Why are all these things viewed as a problem rather than a sign of uniqueness and intelligence?  I know a lot of people view the label as a way to better understand those who are different, but it also seems like a way to write them and their gifts off as an oddity.

Completely stunned August 24, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, younger son.
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We were anticipating some issues with the younger boy starting school this year.  Primarily, we have a problem: he’s already 2 years ahead in math.  He’s been working through Stanford’s EPGY math program, somewhat irregularly over the summer, and he’s managed to move that far ahead.  This has been kind of a surprise because he initially didn’t seem to be that gifted in math.

We decided to sit down with the principal and his new teacher and talk to them about alternatives.  At first, it was fairly obvious they wanted him to be doing math with the other kids but then to add enrichment or even to go to another class.  The problem is that he’s doing well with the EPGY program, so we’re very reluctant to end that.  He also seems to be going at a much faster pace than we expected.  Even now that he’s nearly two years ahead, he’s still only spent about 3 months to do about a year’s worth of math.  Putting him in an advanced classroom that still moves at a slower pace is probably not going to be good for him.

We went in, hoping that they’d be okay with us giving him other things to do during math time.  They didn’t seem real keen on the idea, and we were really reluctant to try to have him do two sets of math each day…one at a lower level or slower pace and then an additional one that’s right for him.

When it was obvious they didn’t like the ideas we suggested, I just sat there and waited for them to come up with something.  Finally, the principal said he’d be willing to help supervise him in doing some sort of independent study project of his choosing during math time.

I just about keeled over.

We went from them not wanting to pull him of math to do something else to them being willing to let him do his own independent study project?!

The principal apparently used to supervise kids where they did this type of project-based learning, and I get the feeling he misses it.  And I think this would be something the younger boy would love to do.

So, despite the fact that I was feeling very uneasy about what was going to happen, I think we hit the jackpot.

The silver lining August 22, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, teaching.
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It’s the first day of school, and I’ve already seen the NDSU shuttle moving around campus.  Classes don’t start until this afternoon here, and the local elementary and high schools start at various points later in the week.  Unless, of course, you go across the river to Minnesota, where they start the day after Labor Day.

I really don’t like it when school starts.  Primarily, I don’t like dealing with homework for the kids.  The older one doesn’t like to do homework, which means I have to nag remind him, which also means he doesn’t do it until I get home.  The younger one has typically been in daycare during the afternoons, so that means he doesn’t do his until I get home (with him).  In either case, this means I spend evenings helping kids with homework while Mike is trying to do housework (or vice versa).

I’m changing my schedule so that we can get this stuff done earlier in the day and kids (and myself) get to bed at a reasonable time.  In that way, I’m glad that school is starting.  While there’s no homework in summer, there is a bit of difficulty keeping a schedule…especially when the sun is coming up around 5 a.m. and not going down until nearly 10 p.m.  I think being on a schedule keeps life a bit more in balance and helps with productivity.  On the other hand, I hate having every moment of my life down on a calendar, which is what I have to do to keep track of my own activities as well as that of three other people and a few fuzzy creatures.

Another event of mixed happiness and sadness is that we’ll be returning PicoPig this week.  While I really think she’s cute and wonderful, I also discovered that I have a serious allergy to timothy hay.  I’ll be glad not to have to do any more cage cleaning, but I’ll miss her burbling and, especially, her purring trill when I pet her.

The math critic June 9, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, math, teaching, younger son.
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The private school that my younger son attends uses the same math program as the Fargo Public Schools.  It’s a program called Everyday Math.  During the last few months, after my son switched to the school, he was actually using two math programs: the one at school as well as Stanford’s EPGY online math program.

In discussing how to move forward with the boy’s academics, my husband and I have been very impressed with the EPGY program as well as the younger son’s attitude toward it.

The school, of course, would really rather he stay in the classroom and maybe go to an upper-level classroom for his math instruction.  When we were looking at options, I told the principal that I didn’t really like Everyday Math.  Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of the program, but what I have seen bugs me.

About the time Fargo adopted the program, I was starting to homeschool the older boy.  I didn’t look into the program because I’d heard it wasn’t the best.  Instead, I chose to use Singapore math for the math component of his homeschooling education.  That was a few years ago, so I knew that I didn’t particularly like the program, but I didn’t have any specific objections.

Before school ended, the school principal handed me a copy of the state math standards.  I’m guessing he is worried I think the program doesn’t teach to the standards or that I think they aren’t following the standards – or maybe even that I don’t realize there are standards.

Since this conversation took place, I’ve spent some time researching Everyday Mathematics, and I’m now even more convinced that this is not a program I want my son using.  (A good starting point is this page.)

Unlike a lot of the objections, I don’t think constructivist math is bad.  The fact that they teach alternative algorithms is great.  (I personally am a huge fan of lattice multiplication, and even though I don’t use it myself, my older son uses it unfailingly.)  I think that learning to explore and play with math is a good thing.  My objection is that it doesn’t have the kind of implementation that Singapore has.  There doesn’t seem to be a logical flow, there is no textbook, and it does omit teaching some things that I DO think are important (like that pesky long division).

Let’s face it: my objection is that any math program, no matter how well written, will suffer if the person teaching it doesn’t have a decent background in math, and most elementary school teachers do not.  Making a student rely solely on a teacher presentation because there is no textbook will certainly spell disaster for some students.  If a student doesn’t understand during the presentation, they don’t have much recourse…and the methods used are not ones that most parents have grown up with, leaving them unable to help much.

Second, Singapore has a great progression, allowing kids to see how the concepts are connected, building from previous material.  This isn’t strictly going from one concept to another, but within a concept, moving from concrete examples to abstract application.  It also teaches the use of mental math – which basically means one uses shortcuts or handy rules that can be used once there is already an understanding of the concepts.  This is how I view long division, and that’s why it’s a shame it isn’t taught.  The algorithms presented in Everyday Mathematics may be useful as teaching the concept, but they’re, in many cases, very impractical for everyday use.

Finally, there is the jumping around.  Repetition and cycling are not inherently bad things, but they can be done without a seemingly random approach.  In fact, it’s much better if they’re not done randomly.  The best way to retain knowledge is to attach it to something you’ve learned before.  That is, it’s best to have a point of reference.  By randomly approaching the topics that need to be addressed, they’re removing the foundation and sense of connectedness that should be present in a well-taught mathematics curriculum.

Those are my objections, at least.  I’m not sure how to approach this with the school, or whether I even should.  I am considering seeing if they have some sort of curriculum committee where I could be involved.  I’m also contemplating letting the principal know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding this curriculum, including extremely poor evaluations in other states like California and Texas.  I feel fortunate that we have good reason to keep my son on the EPGY program, but I feel bad for the other kids who are learning math in such a haphazard way.

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