Challenging Ourselves to Challenge Our Children

Math games like spin an equation challenge our children to find uniques ways to solve problems.
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Sometimes we forget to challenge our children when we homeschool. Unlike the more common form of schooling, homeschooling affords us the opportunity to take things slowly. We can reassess methods as necessary, and because we have more time to do so, we do not have to rush to get through the material. It is much easier to track the progress of individual students in a small setting. We do not need to focus on standardized exams and controversial regulations. Despite the freedom to go slowly and to make changes as we go, we can make mistakes.

My Math History

Let me begin by saying that math is not my strongest subject. While I struggle with basic math, I sail through the more advanced concepts. I have dyscalculia, a disorder that makes it difficult for one to understand basic number sense. I struggle with understanding the logic of how numbers work and memorizing basic number facts. A person suffering from dyscalculia may not realize that if one has “five bees” and another has “five cats,” or “five books,” both people have five objects. The aforementioned is what many call “number blindness.”

As you can imagine being number-blind can make grasping math very difficult. By the time that I received my diagnosis of dyscalculia, I was in eleventh grade and had been struggling with basic math for years. I carry that with me as I homeschool.

Where I Went Wrong

Challenge Our Children to show their work to help with understanding the process.

In an attempt to prevent Mya from encountering the problems that I faced, I wanted to ensure that she had a solid math foundation. We began with visual and hands-on math when she was three-years-old. We played number games, worked on number logic, and practiced fact families. I thought that I was providing a substantial introduction. However, I noticed that she was struggling with place value and basic math relationships (e.g. 2+5 = 7 so 7-5=2).

We worked our way through several math curricula- Math Mammoth, MEP, Singapore Math, and various math apps and games. It seemed that she would never be able to memorize math facts. It was a familiar problem, and I began to worry that she too was suffering from a form of dyscalculia. There were some signs of her not understanding the logic of math and although she entered fifth grade this year, we were still working through third-grade math.

We Must Challenge Our Children

Challenging Our Children to take on harder problems.

After three months of schooling this year, I recognized something that I KNOW many teachers would have overlooked had she been in what is considered a regular school. I was doing her a great disservice by refusing to push her past what I believed she was capable. I discovered that she was not experiencing a form of mental confusion in math. Instead, she had stopped “trying” to understand, to memorize, to make sense of math. She had mastered the basics, but I was so busy focusing on memorization that I was not giving her an opportunity to apply what she knew in a way that allowed her to prove to herself that she knew it all. So after speaking with several of my homeschooling friends, I learned that I am not the only one who is reluctant to challenge our children too much.

Armed with that knowledge, I made the decision to dive right into fifth-grade math despite being uncertain of the outcome. What I knew was that Mya needs to work her way through a challenge. Of course, she prefers that things remain easy and when faced with a challenge, Mya will give up rather quickly. When the material is too comfortable, she makes careless mistakes and focuses on speed rather than on accuracy.

Challenging Our children with math

Once the collection of new material arrived, we dove right in, and while I believed that she would struggle, I was amazed at how easily she picked up on things we had not yet covered. Mya was finally using the skills that we had spent years covering. Moreover, because the problems were harder than the previous material, she could not take the easy way out. Mya had to pay attention. She had to reread. Moreover, she had to check her work and ask questions.

What I Learned

My struggles are not her struggles. My academic inadequacies should not dictate how quickly or how slowly we approach a topic. I learned that it is OK to challenge Mya often and, maybe, more importantly, I can not let her off the hook. She needs opportunities to prove to herself that she is capable o succeeding even when she has to struggle to do so.

Have you struggled to challenge your child based on your history with particular subjects or due to your educational history?