When we started school back up after winter break, I talked to both my older kids about what they really wanted school to look like.
This is different than what I’ve always done before, which has consistently been some form of “what would you like to study for [insert subject here]?” We’ve had a very check-the-box kind of school, and they’ve had lots of freedom inside that framework. The framework has always existed, though. For this round, I told both of them we were approaching our next six weeks like a zero-based budget: if we started over, completely from scratch….what do YOU want school to look like?
My 15-year-old son’s response was immediate: NO MATH. All caps, at the top of the blank sheet of paper I’d set in front of him.
My daughter was less passionate as she spoke to me separately…..but sounded a bit defeated. Well, I don’t like math, but I guess nobody likes math, right?
So we dropped math for this six weeks.
Writing it sounds so simple, but this was hard, people. It’s terrifying, even if I’m telling myself it’s only for this next little bit, reassuring myself we’re not necessarily committing for the long haul.
My son is currently glorying in his freedom and writing with pretty much every new spare moment he has (not that math took that much time, but still….). Ironically, he uses math regularly as he compiles his rankings of all the things he ranks and reviews, but I’m not about to point that out. (If I did, he’d just point out it’s not algebra.)
But my daughter…..
The 13-year-old lasted exactly one-and-a-half weeks before she looked at me and said, “I need to be doing math.” Much to my relief, it turns out I have one kiddo who isn’t ready to buck the system quite so strongly. We talked it over and came to a few conclusions: No more Teaching Textbooks. No video math curriculum. Somehow, a book, with maybe a parent going through it with her if necessary. I got online and looked at the Kansas math standards for 7th grade (yes, I know Common Core is the enemy, but sometimes you just need a list of “stuff they’re doing in X grade”). Then I got on our library’s website and Amazon and just looked around awhile.
And now Winnie Cooper might be teaching my daughter math.
When she first looked at Danica McKellar’s Math Doesn’t Suck she literally made a face. “It looks like a magazine!” she announced with disdain. (A hardback, inch thick magazine, but…..you know. Cover styling and such.)
I asked her to read just the intro and FAQ pages, and she was hooked. Actually, I think she might have been hooked reading the chapter titles (“How to Entertain Yourself While Babysitting a Devil Child”). But a few days in and this seems to be a very real possibility for getting us over the middle-school math hump. And I am SO grateful. It’d be nice to have at least one kiddo staying contentedly in a “check that box” mentality for high school. It’s a heck of a lot easier.