Monday, April 27, 2009


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.


Kat said...

Boy you hit on a key there. I think no matter your parental choices we are often our worst critics. I agonized over different educational decisions I have made with/and for my kids and have gone through all the 'what they might say' scenarios. Then I have to remind myself that I consistantly teach my kids to not be too concerned about what people say. TO do the right thing and then stand by it. Hmmm I need to learn the lesson too.

Melissa R said...

I try to keep that in mind every day. That I am the one who cares the most about my child's education and so I am the one who will be the most critical.
My friend's six year old is now interest led. And a while ago it was math. Addition and subtraction had already been mastered when he was 5 so multiplication was suddenly his greatest interest. All day, every day, he wrote multiplication problems over and over. He wrote books with problems filling the pages between the pictures he drew.
Before that it was anatomy. He filled books with facts about the body. Of particular interest to him was the workings of breasts.
If interest led is working for your family, then be patient, they will touch upon many different things as the years go on.
Thanks for this blog, I will keep it in mind on the days when I am feeling critical of myself.

topsytechie said...

Definitely been there, done that. I'm uber-critical of myself as a homeschooling mom, and yet everyone outside looking in has always told me what a "great job I'm doing with my boys". I don't know why it is so difficult to believe them, but it often is. Great post...thanks!

Susan said...

My daughter had such a passion for Timez Attack for a while! Great game. And lovely post.

Dana @ Our Sunny Side said...

Very well said...I know I am my own worst critic.

I'm excited to check out Timez...J is getting into multiplication too. Thanks!

Suzanne said...

Everytime I start to do this to myself, I remember a woman I used to work for. She had absolutely no idea how to use her e-mail and I would have to stand next to her and assist her sometime 20 times a day to send her e-mail. She also had no idea how to do math of any kind.
She was public schooled, went to an excellent college and is a brilliant attorney. But she can't figure out a tip, her taxes, or split a bill to save her life. And if you need her to send you an attachment you better be ready to wait for it!
It has nothing to do with what you are taught, it has everything to do with what you retain.

Mister Dad said...

can i add, that this crazy "expectation" of failure has a wildly quantum way of becoming. when my kiddos or i feel we "can't..." we invariably self fulfill such. and this happens just as frequently on the polar opposite, when we expect, intend and take action to succeed.

so let's make a promise to each other that we'll not feel negative or guilty any longer, but expect miracles. because they happen as well, every day...

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's not about what you're taught. I think it's a whole lot about what you're interested in, and also about how a person's brain is wired.

I'm no dummy, but numbers just don't "click" for me like they do for some people. And it's not for lack of trying. I think some people have a talent for math, or at least their brains approach it differently than mine does. :-)

A friend of mine, who is very bright and has a Master's Degree, is a terrible speller, no matter how hard she tries. I think words just "make sense" to some people, too.

Maybe I have a defeatist mentality, but I just figure I can't do any worse with my kids than the public schools did for me. At the very least, my boys are happy people.


Jen Niles said...

OMG that second paragraph really hit the nail on the head! I laughed with recognition, as I act out that scenario in my head all the time. Not about math, but other stuff.

I was glad to see I'm not alone.

And I loved Melissa R's comment too. What a riot. We have a six year old boy and this rang so true with us.

Ruralmama said...

It's funny how much we harm ourselves with negativity, isn't it?

What a great post, it's sure buoyed my spirits. Thanks!

OH my, my word verification is "addiden"--how funny is that?

The Stone Age Techie said...

Thanks for reading and commenting, everyone! It is nice to know that I am not alone, in the self-criticism (wish we could do less:-)and in the certain knowledge that we are doing right by our kids.
- K

frootbat31 said...

I just happened upon your blog today and your words really struck a chord in me. You're right about we, as homeschoolers, are the worst critics of ourselves. I also worry that my son will be so inept with life when he's older, though everyone around me assures me he's fact, he's doing great. He's well spoke, well mannered, and curious about the world around him. I guess I'm doing a good job after all.