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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Math and reading, reading and math

If there's anything I learned in my near-decade homeschooling, it is that to homeschool effectively, there are two things you need to concentrate on.

1. Math
2. Reading

If I were to start over again with little ones, I would probably spend our mornings on math and reading, and spend our afternoons letting the kids do whatever they wanted... unschooling of sorts.  This is because I love the idea of unschooling and the magic it can create, but I am also a stickler for math and reading.

I think math is so important because I like to educate the child toward college.  Even though I realize this is not everyone's goal, for my and my family it is non-negotiable.  Even for those non-college-bound kiddies or
the undecided, I'd  hate to think I didn't do enough in this area to allow a child every option to get into college and even have a math related career if they so choose.  This doesn't mean that the kid has to excel in math, especially if that is not his thing, but he needs to be uber-comfortable with  whatever level of math he can achieve.  At bare minimum though, I think homeschoolers should be introduced to Algebra and Geometry, and my favorite, Personal Finance.  But there should also be nothing to keep them from attempting Algebra 2, Trig, calculus, and college math. I am going to take this one step further and add that I think math tutoring is something that homeschoolers should strongly consider.  Once the parent has taken the homeschooler to a point where they begin to feel uncomfortable, they may want to have someone else pick up the reigns.  In my kids' cases they had learned to self-teach by this point (Algebra 2) but I can't help but wonder if someone else could have kept them engaged in math and loving it.  While they have accomplished enough math-wise to get into college, they wouldn't be upset if math would just go away.  That makes me sad.

But homeschooling isn't about second guessing is it?

Then there's reading.  A child who reads and likes it, starts writing and liking it.  Plus reading can cover so many subjects, from grammar to literature, to reading about historical people and scientists, so much ground can be covered if the child would just get a love for the written word.  At a young age, I like to cover fiction, historical fiction, fantasy, poetry, and even non fiction.  Then as they get older, let them begin to choose their own reading material, and just give them guidance on what will round them out.

This year, I saw the results of what a love for reading can do.  My daughter reads so much that she can often be found listening to one book on headphones while reading another... Strange, but true.  Her love for reading translated to very high verbal scores on standardized tests.  While my son did not score as high as his younger sister did, his disdain for everything fiction led him to choose NON-fiction for his reading materials this year.  He rediscovered the usefulness of manuals and learned that an instruction book is a mighty-fine thing.  He also found inspiration, and common sense among the pages of his "literature" lessons this year.  I have to say that I am very happy with the result of demanding my kids read for several hours every day.

One top of that the only other thing I would recommend is to let them spend the rest of their hours doing what they love... in my kids case, one focused on music and theater, the other computers, art, piano, and photography. 

If you had two recommendations for homeschooling, what would they be?  Leave a comment.



Happy Elf Mom said...

I like your post so much, I just have to say I wholeheartedly agree! Not very original of me, but I think you are right on here. :)

Catherine said...

I completely agree about reading and math. My daughter is a junior who is passionate about music and loves reading, writing, and literature as well. We have only required her to do "traditional" math through Algebra 2 and she'll do Personal Finance (1 semester) and some basic statistics and probability (1 semester) next year as a senior. Getting into college isn't going to be difficult for her - she wants to go to a state school and she's academically well-prepared. I don't know how to evaluate her musically, but she and her piano teacher are developing a plan for her auditions for next year, and he knows more than I do!

Things are far different with my son. He has dyslexia, so he didn't learn to read well until he was about 10. He is still "behind" in most language skills and he's finishing 8th grade. Because of the language delay, his math skills are also behind, even though my husband is a math tutor. So, we're looking at 9th grade being very math and language (reading, spelling, writing) focused with science and social science being "tag alongs".

I'm not sure whether my son is going to be a 4-year college kind of kid. He loves music, but he doesn't think right now that he wants to make a career out of it. Whatever he chooses, though, he needs solid math and reading skills. Whether he ends up doing a 2 year program for a tech degree, a 4 year college program, or something completely off our radar screen, he needs to be able to communicate well and understand basic math.

All that is to say that I completely agree with you!!