Disclaimer: if this posts sound like bragging, then I invite you to dust off your high school textbooks and look up abstract and negative numbers along with me. Have fun!
My brain hurts. I am OVER this homeschool teaching thing at the moment. No one ever warns you that hey! You might end up with a kid who loves advanced math!
See, math reluctance is pretty common. I assumed that I would have kids who – like me – struggled with math. I should have known better, right? Because Mr. Genius over here is the former kid who tried to explain quantum physics to his aunt at age 6 or so.
To be clear, I’m not saying that it’s abnormal to like math. In fact, the math reluctance thing is overblown and exaggerated. Anyone can understand basic math concepts – even algebra – if it’s explained in a way that makes sense to them. The problem is that I’m the one doing the explaining.
What math problems?
I haven’t written about the Engineer’s math abilities in a while, so I should probably explain what I’m talking about. His math assignment today, courtesy of my tired brain, was this set of problems. (yes, he only did 3 problems. Because he’s a reluctant learner, and I take what I can get.)
4/8 + 6/8 = ? and simplify
3, 427 + 9,783 = ?
X – 6 = 17 – 3 solve for X
Now, you’re probably thinking “that’s not that hard!” Sure. For you? For your teenager? But this is for a 6-year-old, a first-grader. According to Khan Academy that equation is around the 5th or 6th grade level. The addition problem is 3rd or 4th grade, and the fractions? I have no idea. At what grade level are kids expected to simplify fractions?
Next week we’re going to start doing algebraic equations with multiplication. Yay me.
Here’s the issue
This kid still counts on his fingers for basic arithmetic problems. He doesn’t have many basic math facts memorized. He doesn’t have any multiplication facts memorized, which means he struggles with the mechanics of the problems despite understanding the concepts.
I can’t drill him with flashcards so that he can advance at a normal rate – nope, I just have to balance this dichotomy. A child counting on fingers while doing algebra. /facepalm
Here’s the thing: we’ve jumped, hopped, and skipped over so many grades in math that we have holes. Gaps. He still struggles with telling time, we’re still practicing adding money, and he has no clue what decimals are yet. Plus a lot more. I’m trying to challenge him while simultaneously giving him a rounded math education in multiple grades all at once.
It’s rough. I never expected to do this. I finished college with a sigh of relief – no more math! Now I’m not just doing the math, I’m having to relearn this stuff just so that I can teach him. If he could just READ already I would dump him on Khan Academy and let him loose. But no, asynchrony is reigning supreme in our household.
Math and more …
And it’s not just math. I told him that we were going to learn about DNA in science co-op this week. The next day, he watched ALL of the Brainpop videos about DNA so that he would feel prepared. Not Brainpop Jr. for K-3, but the full version of Brainpop for grades 4-7. Today I caught him listening to a literary analysis of the Lord of the Flies. Yikes!
Just so you don’t think I have a perfect kid, I should share that he was sent to his room for trying to break the glass storm door after art class today. Yup, my smart kiddo didn’t stop to think what would happen if the glass fell to the floor. (It didn’t. Thankfully.)
You could say I should just teach him according to his age grade. Or that I should drill him more, force him to practice more. And I could – he would perform better, certainly. But at what cost? If I keep him to his age grade, he’s bored beyond belief. If I force him to practice more, he’s frustrated – and also bored. So we’ll keep plugging along, doing the high-level stuff while catching up on the lower level stuff at the same time.
And of course, I let him play. Huge, glorious chunks of time for free play and exploring. Even if his brain is advanced, he still needs time to grow and play. He’s only 6, after all.