Thursday, August 9, 2012

But what about math?

Families considering the homeschooling option can usually grow increasingly comfortable with the idea of helping their kids to learn reading and writing, history and social studies, art and music.  But what about math?  This question often freezes parents, particularly when they consider higher-level math, and can make them question their ability to homeschool their children.

When I get asked how I know what to teach my children my common response is: I don't teach them; I help them to learn.  That means giving them the time and space to explore and discover on their own, but it also means recognizing interests and abilities and learning styles and identifying resources to help them to learn.

For math, helping children learn may mean investigating various math curricula, using an online math program (I like IXL.com), and/or tapping into ample community resources.

One of the great benefits of homeschooling, I think, is the opportunity for our children to learn subjects from subject-matter experts: people in the community who are passionate and knowledgeable about their field of expertise.  Children learn history from historians, botany from botanists, economics from economists, science from scientists, art from artists, and so on.  For city homeschoolers, these subject-matter experts are everywhere--at museums, universities, libraries, community centers and enrichment programs, and in our own neighborhoods--and they are usually very eager to share their wisdom with others.  For example, our neighbor is a biology professor specializing in snails and mollusks, which my kids happen to be very interested in, and he provides information and resources that ignite their imagination.  Dropping off snail shells, letting us "babysit" his lab's hermit crabs, talking with the kids about some of the vocabulary they have learned from their books (what is the correct way to pronounce "operculum" and "anemone"), has led the children to want to learn more, to read more, to know more.

The same is true for math.  Homeschooling allows our children to learn math from actual mathematicians--those who have studied and trained to be mathematicians, who are currently practicing mathematicians, and who are passionate about getting others excited about their subject.  My kindergartner has developed a strong interest in math, especially multiplication, and I thought I would see what community resources might be available to her this fall.  Through my homeschooling network, I discovered a local, MIT-trained mathematician who teaches math workshops for homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers and is adored by those who learn from her.  

I wonder how many of us would be more excited about math, less intimidated about teaching and learning it, if we learned from a passionate, practicing, trained mathematician when we were young.

7 comments:

  1. Math can be a touchy subject with some. I have always loved math. So I don't mind teaching it and exploring it. Sounds like you have great resources at hand for your kids to learn from!

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  2. Sadie, that's a great point. It seems that people either love or hate math. I really started to love math once I got to college and saw its application in economics, learning from passionate economists and statisticians.

    Thanks for visiting the blog!

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    1. Heather, thanks so much for visiting and commenting!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this blog. As a strong believer in unschooling, and with lots of support, I let my kids do no formal math, as they were not interested. At 17, my daughter took the old SAT and scored 500, about the same as her friends with 13 years of school math. She then took a one semester Harvard Extension course in Quantitative Reasoning. In 4 weeks, her professor had her helping the other members of the class, who had had school math.
    She then took the SAT again, and got 600, high enough to get her into Harvard College. She took the Freshman Math course there, and with some help from her dad, passed it and that was it for math.
    And no, she is not a genius - just a person who did not have her learning interfered with by imposed instruction.

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    1. Maureen, I really appreciate your insights and your visit to my blog. You always have such wise words to share on our homeschooling message board and I hope to meet you someday -- and to enjoy your literature classes!

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