Saturday, March 5, 2016

Race to the Finish

This is the fifth 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: Unscheduling and Part 4: Why DIY?.  Next I want to talk about this "plus" for us in letting go of our math textbooks:

  • I'm not bound up by a need to "finish" a purchased curriculum,  or "get  my money's worth"; no need to weed through and pick out which parts of a lesson to do.

Yes, I have hang-ups.  Yes, I have first-born perfectionist tendencies (though you wouldn't know it to look at my house!).  Yes, it somewhat bothers me to purchase something and then leave it incomplete (more on that in a moment).  But that's not really the pivotal factor in this benefit for us.

We all want to make sure we cover our bases in teaching our kids any subject, but especially one as central (in our world, at least) and developmentally sequential as math.  How does one make sure she covers all the stuff she's "supposed" to cover?  Well, the simplest way to achieve that is to let someone else (usually someone who has a lot more background in the subject) do the research and planning.  You purchase a textbook.  When you've covered all the things in that book, then you move on to the next one.

Sure, you can take a textbook and pull it apart and mix it all up and use it differently.  But unless you are committed to finishing everything in that book, you need some other system for keeping track of what has been covered and/or criteria for deciding what should be covered and what should be omitted or saved for later.

As I mentioned above, it does somewhat bother me that we've got these half-used textbooks on the shelf.  But I got myself into that situation on purpose.  I wanted to experiment ... but I wanted to experiment with a safety net.  I figured that if we tried this system for a couple of months and it didn't work, we'd just pick up our textbooks again.  I also figured that I wanted a few months to test the theory before convention came around (for us that's June) and I needed to decide whether or not to purchase new textbooks for next year.

At this point, I am so enjoying what we've been doing here that I don't see myself wanting to go back to the textbooks.  In fact, I've been letting the kids use up the pages doing "school" with each other in their free time.  I thought that perhaps they would come in handy in case I was in a pinch and I needed something quick to pull out and give the kids to do.  Here's why that hasn't been an inviting option (yet):

  • There are tons of problems on a page.  Deciding what to have the kids do takes some work in and of itself.
  • If I'm there and I don't have 5-A-Days prepared, I can just put some problems up on the whiteboard, everyone can do them on their dry erase "slates" and we're done.  (If I really want to, I can even open up the spreadsheet and track as we go.)
  • For days when I am going to be out (such as to appointments with the orthopaedist!) there have been so many things I've wanted the kids to have more time to do that it isn't a problem to leave them with other activities, like snuggle number!

So, in summary, the real benefit behind not having to "finish" a textbook stems from the fact that we've un-linked progress tracking from textbook scope and sequence.  We keep track of what we've learned, mastered and practiced elsewhere, so we are free to use or not use whatever we want from the textbook - and many other sources as well!

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