When I first pulled Kitt out of public school, the year was already two months in. I figured we could learn the math program I found by doing the work she had already done with her class. It was supposed to be a review so she could learn the program without also struggling through new material.
Queue the river of tears.
Since she disliked the first program, we switched to another (thank goodness for free trial periods). That wasn’t working either, and I found the programs easy to comprehend, so I started doing the math with her to see where she needed help. It seemed she was struggling with word problems, which is a common difficulty. I spent a weekend putting together a word problem cheat sheet (since I didn’t like the ones I found online), and thought we’d give it another go.
More tears ensued.
Now, I know my daughter fairly well. I can tell when she is shrugging off the work or faking to get out of doing the assignment. She was genuinely distressed, which doesn’t help with her depression and anxiety.
So, why was my child, who was getting A’s and B’s in math at school, suddenly unable to do a single problem without frustration?
We spent some time working out the problems together, and I started to notice a pattern. If there was a multiple choice presented, she tended to get the answer right. But if she had to work out the problem and type in the answer, she gave up before trying. She did much better when an equation was already written out, but still appeared to be guessing. Questions without mathematical answers, using applied thinking, had her in tears.
Now, I’ll be honest. Some of this was probably due to differences in the school curriculum and the math program curriculum. I’m sure there are gaps where the program taught certain skills at an earlier grade level that she might not be familiar with yet.
However, it was the WAY Kitt was getting her answers that upset me. She was looking at the answers first, and using a process of elimination to narrow down her choices. Then she would make an educated guess, pick one, and move on.
In school, she wouldn’t know if the answer was right or wrong for days, since the teacher needed to grade them. With the program, she knew right away if an answer is right or wrong. While this discouraged her when she got one wrong, it also allowed her to fix her errors right away, and learn from them.
My number one beef with the public school system is their disproportionate emphasis on standardized testing. They teach kids how to get the most answers right, without necessarily making sure the students have an adequate knowledge of the material. Kitt knew just enough to make a reasonably accurate guess on a multiple choice form, but not enough to apply that process to more complex problems later.
She was making A’s and B’s, but always came home telling me she was stupid, and that she didn’t know anything. My poor darling knew she was just playing the school’s game. I just wish I caught on to the problem sooner.
We’ve decided to extend our unschooling period another month, at least in math. We’ll go back to the very beginning and work our way through the math from pre-k up. Kitt laughed a little at the idea, but she’s game.
The way I see it, we can learn this stuff together, and I’ll see which areas need extra attention. We can’t possibly move forward without a foundation to build upon. Besides, we should be able to review each previous year’s material in a day or so… until we find the problem areas.