Saturday, December 17, 2005

Math again

Unschooling or not, I took the bull by the horns. Erin had written "completion of Singapore 'New Math Counts' Level 1" into her Self-Design learning plan, quite voluntarily, back at the end of the summer. A term went by and we were encouraged to revisit the plan and what's happened, learning-wise. Erin had not opened the Singapore book. I asked her if she wanted to set that as her goal for the next term. Surprisingly, she said "okay" without complaining.

Erin finished Singapore's primary program (nominally Grade 1-6, but more like 1-7 by Canadian standards) before her 10th birthday. She's now almost 12 and she hasn't really touched formal math in the past two years. Perhaps if she hadn't written it into her learning plan I would have convinced myself to let it lie. Maybe I shouldn't have been quite as eager when I saw the door was opened a crack. But whatever. She seemed to agree it was time to get back to formal math.

The next day, I grabbed the proverbial bull horns and said "okay, time for math."

She rolled her eyes, but came willingly.

Gosh, her computation sure is rusty. And she's having a hard time getting focused on the review work we're doing, as it's hazy and half-remembered. We had a few good laughs over it, actually, which shows how relaxed and comfortable she is with our math work, I guess.

"Okay," I prompted, "so you'll need to take half of eighteen too...."

Erin smiles guiltily, opens her mouth, looks blank and says ... "um, six? or, eight?" and starts laughing at herself.

"Erin," I say, laughing too. "You have this look on your face that says 'My brain is not present, but my mouth is open and I'm going to speak a number anyway.' You nut. Now, when your brain returns, maybe you could let me know what 4/18ths is."

She laughs a bit more and then it occurs to her that it's 2/9ths.

Three days in and it's flooding back and it's apparent that intellectually she's well beyond ready for this stuff and it will come really quickly. She's finished two (of twelve) chapters, and is agreeable and cheerful about our daily work together. It's almost enough to make me start to believe that there really are families that use a parent-directed curriculum without necessity of coercion.

Sophie is blasting through the end of Singapore 2B this week after having taken a several-month break. Noah has started plugging away at 3B again. I wouldn't be surprised if Sophie overtakes Noah some day before too long. She is so enthusiastic, and doesn't seem to have any trouble with the concepts. Noah doesn't have intellectual trouble with concepts either, but his perfectionistic defeatism gets in the way when he encounters something he doesn't get intuitively at a first glance.

So things feel kind of mathy around here all of a sudden. Fiona, on the other hand, is working on reading and writing right now. Today she learned to spell her name, verbally, on the computer, and with pencil and paper. Sophie taught her - what fun!