I just felt a need to brag about how great my Katie is.
We had each of the kids choose one project or goal for the summer so their brains don’t go to mush. She’s homeschooled, and we don’t quit for the summer but we do back off a little. (The other two kids are in public school, not by our choice.)
Well, she wants to finish her sixth-grade math book. Her choice. In public school, she’d have just finished 5th grade.
This is the kid who hated math (although she did well at that and everything else) when we started homeschooling. She took a really long time to do it and agonized over every problem. She was absolutely afraid to get anything wrong.
I can’t blame all of that fear of failure—or even most—on the school system. Her father was drilling her on her multiplication tables when she was in first grade but never bothered to actually explain what the damned things meant. And they certainly weren’t doing that in school yet, so she was just floundering around trying to memorize numbers that made absolutely no sense. And he screamed and made her feel like a total failure if she couldn’t rattle them off perfectly and quickly every single time. And she couldn’t, because she’s not good at memorizing data with nothing to hook it to (neither am I, and neither was he, but he didn’t really care about that).
So she got really afraid of messing up. And she slowed down more and more, being really careful and constantly second-guessing herself. I tried to help her, but she was pretty traumatized by her father about math in general.
We’ve had two full years of homeschooling now. She didn’t really get up to speed on the math until this year, but towards the end of the fifth-grade text, she started really feeling good about how much easier things were getting as she got faster and more sure of herself. I didn’t push her to speed up, by any means.
The way we do things is that if she misses a problem the first time, she goes back and does it again. If she misses it again, we do that one together, then she does more practice on that type of problem (not out of the text, but with whatever I find for her). That way we both know that she has a concept down before she moves on to the next concept that’s supposed to build on it. And in math, of course, that’s especially important. Spending as much time as we need on each concept is one of the advantages of homeschooling.
I find that she needs a practical reason to know how to do a problem, too, or it just seems stupid. Reading a word problem isn’t enough. Saying “Okay, we have 1.67 lbs. of ground beef here, and I want to use the timed defrost feature on the microwave. It wants us to enter the weight in pounds and ounces. So how many ounces is .67 lbs.? Figure it out, program the microwave, and get it started. Yes, I’m hungry too, and the sooner you get that going the sooner we’ll be able to finish cooking dinner,” is the kind of thing that sticks with her and gives her a reason to actually retain how many ounces are in a pound, or how to convert .67 to x/16, etc.
So her goal for the summer is to do the whole sixth-grade text. (I think she’s pushing to do algebra sooner, and that’s fine with me.)
If she can get at least 95% of the questions on the chapter pre-test right, she can skip that chapter. The book has 12 chapters. She just tested out of the first four. Chapter five is about dividing fractions, which she’s never done before—and she got 80% of that pre-test right. 🙂