A few weeks ago, the homeschool group to which we belong held a meeting about dealing with negativity from relatives or friends who don't homeschool. Interestingly, the fifteen or so parents at the meeting made a discovery: we are pretty well our own worst critics. We dread even thinking about what other people are thinking, it seems.
In this group, I opened up about my secret fear that Luke and Owen will grow up Math Illiterates, without even basic concepts to help them get through life. My really secret fear about this secret fear is that somewhere down the line, when this gross oversight in their education finally comes to light, everyone will point to me - and then the torches and pickaxes, a la Frankenstein, will inevitably follow. "Look at those two boys! They could have been accepted into Harvard... but their mother refused to teach them any math!" Much head-shaking will ensue, and my boys will move out into life unable to recite their times tables or figure out how much to tip the wait staff in restaurants. They will die, friendless and alone, because their mother didn't do her job.
At the meeting, we all reassured each other about our fears of criticism, and remarked upon how we all expect the negativity to come from the outside - but how in fact we are really our own worst critics.
The parents, especially those of older children, made me feel so much better about the lack of math in the lives of my two interest-led learners! They pointed out that, when math becomes interesting to Luke and Owen, it will take precedence. Also, they reminded me that just because a kid sits in class while math is being taught, doesn't mean the child actually learns any math. And, they helped me remember that math comes in different forms, several of which the boys love - logic is Luke's specialty, while Owen adores geometry and patterns.
It turns out, what I've really been worrying about is arithmetic - and that is why God invented calculators, which nowadays are acceptable at high levels anyway.
I went home feeling better, realizing that much of the negativity comes from my own mind, and not the outside world at all. What does come from the outside world can be addressed and dealt with so much more easily, when I set out with the positive notion that the boys are learning in the best style for them, and also that their timetables (oh, ha ha) for learning are the most important ones.
The funniest thing was that the morning after this meeting, Luke came to me asking to play Mythmatical Battles, a great card game that utilizes the multiplication tables up to nine in Yu-Gi-Oh-esque battles. We've since played Mythmatical Battles several times, and gotten a link to an awesome video game that teaches the multiplication tables, Timez Attack (with a great free download for stingy folks like me!)
Suddenly, arithmetic is in, leaving me laughing at my biggest critic - myself.