Thursday, October 02, 2014

I Forgot My Cardinal Rule of Homeschooling (Or, The Sun'll Come Out Tomorrow)

(photo credit: FreeImages)

Last week, Ramona and I had a Bad Math Day.

Ah, math ups and downs.

It was just one of those days. Her mood plus + my mood + math did not equal relaxed homeschooling.

Those days will happen, I know that. I don't expect a perpetual state of soma-induced happiness simply because I have dubbed our homeschool a relaxed, unschoolish one. We still have goals and deadlines. We're human beings not homeschooling machines, and no matter how many years I've been at this, or how many kids I've graduated (only two, so I'm no expert), we're still learning. We still break down and are in need of repair some days.

So, math was particularly challenging for her that day and in a different mood that would have been fine. But the combination of the challenging math/mood/gloomy weather had us both out of sorts. Crabby.

On a different day, I would have set math aside for awhile (or even for the day.)

On a different day, she would have risen to the challenge despite how hard it felt.

On a different day, under a different combination of circumstances, we would have been on a mountaintop instead of slogging through a mucky valley.

But this wasn't a different day. It was her bad day, and my dogged determination to make her do something that she wasn't up to that day. When I finally realized that my pushing was making it worse, not better, I pulled back. We took a break. She went and got some rest. A hot shower. A new start to the day.

We were both better for it. I left math alone for a day or two. This week, she has flown through the math lessons. This week has been a great one.

I know there are nay-sayers to an approach like mine: "How will they ever learn to do what's hard if they aren't pushed when things are a challenge?"

That's a valid question. I can say this: I homeschooled my older girls in the same way -- taking into account their humanity and mine, our collective needs, the reality that we all have bad days. And so far I haven't ruined them.

I think, too, that this is actually an authentic, adult, real-world way of dealing with certain problems. Obviously, there are things in life that can't be set aside. I don't ignore that, or teach my children to ignore it and through those things, we proceed. Essentials. But who among us hasn't said, "I need a good night's sleep and I'll tackle this tomorrow," when what's at issue is a non-essential (such as the timing of a single math lesson)?

Regarding my older girls, who are now subject to outside deadlines, classroom rules, and externally imposed requirements, I have seen them take on the real world (if we can even call college the real world) with commitment and responsibility, so I'm concluding that my methods did not teach them to set aside every little thing that is asked of them on a bad day, even if they feel like pulling the covers over their heads and going back to sleep. They get the difference between what they feel like doing and what they truly need to do.

I think my relaxed homeschooling approach taught them that freedom and flexibility are marvelous things to grow up with, and that there's plenty of time later in life to deal with the world's essential schedules and requirements. (See #1 through #9 in this post.)

Ah, math.

Math is not our favorite thing around here and because it doesn't come as easily to any of us, it's the one area I tend to really worry about. But I have found, time and again, that the more I worry and push, the uglier the whole thing becomes. When I stick with tried-and-true methods and remember that there's a reason I love relaxed homeschooling, that I can make certain allowances and learning still happens and thrives, we're all better off. Kind of a natural soma, if you will.

O, Brave New Homeschool that has such methods in it!*


*I'm mixing allusions and metaphors. Sorry. It's my way. I consider cohesion in a blog post to be a non-essential.


Emily said...

I think it's sort of like exercise--there are days when you want to challenge yourself, and you push through, and then there are days when you want to throw the treadmill into the trash. Math--indeed, anything, really--is similar. I think if I'd been able to take a day or two "off" from math, the way I do for music and exercise, I would've done much better. I know when I take rest days/no practice days, my music and my body are much better for it.
So continue on this merry path :)

tanita✿davis said...

My gosh, I think you did right. In the classroom, we so often did not have the opportunity to not do a thing that was required, BUT, as I was the queen of my lesson plans, I just had days where I knew, "Wow are we going to have to go over this again," left it alone, and carried on with something else. There's nothing wrong with cutting a lesson short when it's not working for everyone. Definitely, it's harder to judge, when you have a group, but you teach with a lot of intuition, and I think you made a good call.

Also, with math? It becomes so easy to have One Of Those Days, and it's apparently quickly that pushing makes those worse.

Karen Edmisten said...

Thanks, Emily, and I agree about the music and exercise comparisons. Ramona's piano teacher always says the same thing, too. :)

Ditto on the intuition with teaching, Tanita. And yes, all too easy for it to turn into One of Those Days with math, which does not automatically have our affection to begin with. :)