Monday, March 7, 2016

Do Over

This is the sixth part in a series based on this cost/benefit analysis.  Here you can find Part 1:Scoping out the SequencePart 2: Making the GradePart 3: UnschedulingPart 4: Why DIY? and Part 5: Race to the Finish.  Next I want to talk about this "plus" for us in letting go of our math textbooks:

  • A LOT less time spent explaining work and correcting (and re-correcting) work.

I want to say up front that what I'm comparing here isn't really, purely, textbooks vs. no textbooks.  What I'm comparing is the way we used to do math vs. the way we do math now.


"Math" every day was sitting with one kid at a time and explaining to him what to do on his math assignment.  It went something like this:

"See, they're showing you that in order to divide by a fraction, you just flip it upside down and then  multiply.  Does that make sense?  Here, try this one.  Exactly! Good!  Got the idea?  OK, so you are going to do these five problems about that.  And then how about if you do one of these ... and one of these ... one from each of these sections ... and a word problem and, sure you can do all the Roman numerals.  OK, go get your sister and tell her it's her turn."

So, basically, it was like math, minus all of the best parts of math.  There was no exploration.  No wonder.  No awe.  No lightbulb moments.  No connecting the concepts.  No conversation.  Like a Dementor had kissed our homeschool math.

Maybe we can get into all that some day, I'd tell myself.  Some day when I didn't have to spend 15-20 minutes x 4 kids just telling them what they had to do on their worksheet for the day.  Someday when I wasn't exhausted by all of the exertion of the "management" of six other people while I tried to spend an hour meeting with each of the least destructive ones individually.

And what about quiet work time in the afternoon?  It went something like this,

"Good, all of your Roman numerals are correct.  Oooh, sorry, your long division problem is wrong, so you'll have to do that over.  Stop grumbling; math is supposed to be challenging.  And, oh, wait.  Yikes!  You weren't supposed to flip BOTH of the fractions upside down.  Only the second one.  Oh dear.  I guess I didn't really explain that very well.  OK, maybe I can go over this with you tonight and you can do all these over tomorrow along with tomorrow's math."

Good fun, right??  Can you tell why the kids and I all dreaded math?

Now, all of the exploration of new concepts happens together in a group.  There is still some "people management" - there always will be - but usually the oldest four are engaged (they are either hands-on or answering with their dry erase "slates") and the younger two are coloring, which is their version of "doing math".  And quiet work time?  Sure, they still get problems wrong.  And there are still corrections to be made.  But not as many because:
  1. They are only doing review work - not work on new concepts.
  2. There are only five problems.
  3. There is only one problem per topic, so no more discovering that they've done eight problems in a row wrong because they didn't understand one concept.
I've gotten some questions about what "family math" looks like these days.  I promise to write a post on that when I'm finished with this series (almost done!) but I have to say up front: we've been doing this less than two months!  I can tell you what it looks like so far, though, for what it's worth.

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