Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why DIY?

This is the fourth part in a series based on this cost/benefit analysis.  Here you can find Part 1:Scoping out the SequencePart 2: Making the Grade and Part 3: Unscheduling.  Next I want to talk about this "plus" for us in letting go of our math textbooks:

  • I get to create the lessons and activities myself.

I've said this before many times, but I want to stress again that this series isn't meant to be an objective argument against the use of textbooks, or textbooks for math.  It is simply an exploration of why that choice has "fallen for me in pleasant places".  So if you read the above "pro" for going without textbooks and you think "Why on earth would anyone want to create things from scratch when they could be purchased already done?" then by all means, purchase them ready-made and don't give it a second thought!

I have a dear friend who is constantly knitting things for her children.  One Christmas she made her boys really cool real-looking "chainmail" with yarn!  She makes baby gifts (several for us!) and all kinds of other wonderful, cozy homemade treasures.  For the longest time I felt intimidated.  I saw all of the things she was doing and I thought to myself, "This is what good, dedicated mothers do - they knit.  Knitting is such an essential homemaking skill and it is frugal and it is such a wonderful, productive kind of busy.  If I was a good mother, I would do this, too."

I did try learning to knit, but I wasn't very good at it (maybe just because I didn't give it much of an effort) and I was disappointed in myself.  I thought, "My friend is so diligent and has so much good will power and self-control.  Why don't I have that?  Why don't I make the time to do this important thing?"  And then you know what I realized?  She doesn't knit because she's convinced it is a morally superior way to nurture her family or because she has the self control to "do hard things".  (She would probably laugh out loud if she knew that's what I was thinking.)  She knits because she likes to knit.  She knits because it quiets her soul.  She knits because that is where she finds peace and relaxation.  She knits for the joy of knitting!

And that, my friends, is why I love to make up my children's math work myself.  Please hear me. When I say "love" that is exactly what I mean.  I don't mean "I feel frugal," I don't mean "I feel diligent" and I don't mean "I feel educationally superior" I mean "I just like doing it".  When the children are in bed and I sit down with a stack of fresh notebook paper and a spreadsheet (just another thing that I love, because I'm a dork like that) it isn't a duty thing.  It just clicks with how I am wired.

The other day, I needed to make an activity for my six year old in sequencing numbers.  She's been working on place value to the hundreds, so I was going to ask her to order these numbers from least to greatest:


But just for fun, I also included


This isn't something most first graders would come across in their math books.  But she has been having fun with fractions recently.  At Sunday lunch she was given two cookies.  She carefully bit off half of a cookie and then held them both up together and said "Now I have a mixed number!"  I knew she could handle ordering a fraction in with whole numbers, and she loved it!  It just stirred my soul to get to make those choices myself.

Have you ever bought a used item of furniture or clothing with great plans to pull it apart and remake it just the way you wanted to suit your particular purposes?  And then at some point, did you come to the realization that using the bits and pieces of the pre-made item had actually become more complicated than scrapping it all and starting from scratch?  Well, that's how it was for me with textbooks.  Even after I had made changes in how we did math, I tried using textbook pages (because I still have four half-used consumable textbooks that are sitting on the shelf).  I was surprised at how hard it was to find one page with five problems that fit what each kid most needed to review.  Making the problems myself was just quicker and easier.

And, just to make sure you don't leave this post saying, "She is so good and diligent.  If only I could be a dutiful mother like her" (pardon me while I laugh myself to tears) I want to assure you that it's not all that complicated.  First, it's only five problems a day per kid.  And secondly, remember, I have  a handy spreadsheet (which I did not create myself) that helps me to pick what kind of problems to make.  It might sound intimidating to just make up five math problems.  But what if I said "Write down a three digit subtraction problem that requires borrowing."  You could do that, right?  That's all there is to my job.  It's just that I love doing it!

For me, it was a huge relief to drop slogging through pages of a pre-made textbook and instead much more energizing to make the problems yourself.  So what's the take-away?  The take-away for you is to know how you "tick" and to understand that using that as one of the factors in choosing how to homeschool isn't selfish or lazy - it's just a smart use of limited resources!

For more encouragement on the freedom to choose the method(s) of schooling that works for you, definitely read Teaching from Rest or check out Julie Bogart (founder of Bravewriter) Scoping about the "divide" between structured and unstructured learning.

And just for fun, head on over here and check out Mystie Winkler's page on your Homeschooling Personality Type.  You know what mine says?  Here are some relevant snippets:

The ENFJ ... loves to put together a plan just right for her family. 
  • Strengths: mentoring, teaching, relationship-investment activities like read-alouds and family vacations
  • Struggles: people-pleasing, her own intensity, anxiety and inner conflict
  • Style: whatever she feels allows for the best development of her children; she will prefer an eclectic approach that follows her gut.
I don't believe that personality tests are perfect or that they dictate choices.  But it was pretty fun reading through that list and identifying some of my friends and their gifts and loves and seeing that there is so much variety in how we each are wired and how we homeschool.  That's a good thing, guys!!

I don't knit, but she does.  To each her own!

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