Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The tale of an unfaithful math teacher

If you can't tell by reading about the things I like to do, I fall on the creative/artsy/fun side of things - not the science/math side :) It is always a challenge to teach that with which you are the least comfortable, or the least interested! As many go through life, looking for that "perfect someone" to complete them, I have searched high and low for the math program that could meet all of my needs. Of course, intellectually, I know there is no "perfect program." Try telling that to the hopeless romantic, in search of her soul mate. Usually the success of a program is a combination of the child's motivation, ability and the teacher's perseverance. I am now ready to confess, I have spent 5 years cheating on my math curriculum. My story is similar to many homeschoolers out there, it began with Saxon K. Everyone said it was wonderful, all of the homeschool moms love it. We hated it. I quit. What is the deal with that stupid meeting book anyway? I transferred my affections to Singapore. That was quite successful for a while, but we hit a roadblock around third grade. By that time, the little princess was using Singapore also. Like a fool who returns to a bad relationship, I had a Saxon 3 book someone had given me, so I tried it again. We hated it. I quit. Again, what is up with that stupid meeting book? Then Andrew Campbell introduced me to Ray through Latin Centered Curriculum. I got it, and enjoyed using it to teach multiplication/division to the crocodile hunter, and so the year went switching between Ray's and Singapore (with a little bit of Gnomes and Gnumbers thrown in for good measure). When we got stuck with Singapore, we went back to Ray's, and for a while I pretty much dropped the Singapore. The drawback with Ray's is that it does not cover a lot of topics most people consider a math book should cover. There is not instruction on telling time or other "practical math" application. That did not bother me at first, I don't need a math book to teach my kid to tell time, but it did make me nervous about whether I was going to miss other important areas.

Then, last year I was at the curriculum fair and was wooed by the siren song of Math on the Level. Now, I think if I had found Math on the Level years ago, I might have been faithful (or maybe not, since I seem to be quite unable to be monogamous when it comes to math). I was in love. It seemed perfect. It is a wonderful program, giving you every concept you need for K through pre-algebra. It gives multiple ways of teaching each concept, it allows you to select the topics you want to cover according to the maturity of your child. This program is flexible, thorough and very attractive. The problem? Like any relationship, it requires work. It requires a lot of time in learning how to use the record keeping system, and is completely teacher directed. At no point will you be able to hand your child a book and say, go work these problems and get back to me. You are the teacher, you are expected to teach. In my gut, this is how it is supposed to work. This is how you envision homeschooling. This is the sort of program that emphasizes baking pizza to learn about fractions. This is the romantic vision of a starry-eyed teacher, in first love with a math program. As I said though, it takes work, and when it came to practical application, I did not work hard enough.

So now, I am at a cross-roads. Part of me wants a nice workbook to hand over to my kids and say - learn your math! I also realize that does not work with every child. I have looked over an old ABeka 5th grade text I have, and even, shamefaced, peeked at an old teacher's edition of Saxon 6/5 that has been on my shelf for 5 years (thank goodness they finally drop that meeting book!). I have pulled out all the many options, as I try to decide which one is the best fit. After analyzing these many failed math affairs, I have come to a realization. I have commitment issues (at least when it comes to math:). Apparently I need to go back and read some of my own advice. And yes, there is a new love in my life, Strayor Upton. This lovely book has been my summer romance. I am taking it slow, and won't tell you I am ready to commit to a long term relationship with Mr. Upton, but I can say it has been a nice easy pace, allowing me to sit down for 15 minutes a day with each child and work several pages of math aloud. It brings back fond memories of our success with Ray's, and it has given me a bit of consistency over the past few weeks. So, while I still am not sure what the future holds for me and math, I am making a commitment here and now. I will remain faithful through the summer. I will not stray or become complacent. I will carefully and prayerfully consider our choices for the fall, and pray for the strength to be true to those decisions. And I will become violent with the person who posts a comment about their favorite program that I "really should take a look at!"


Erin said...

Ha Ha! Thanks for the word of warning to me, the one who has been wondering lately, "Should I ditch this and try something new?" You've just reminded me of the upside of committing to a virtual school for certain subjects. We're entering our third year with K12 math and I will confess I've never had any problems at all. So why fix what isn't broken, right? It uses a Sadlier Oxford textbook and frankly we really like it, especially for the problem solving skills. I especially like that I really do just hand him the book and say, "Take this to your friend's house and do it while I'm away." And he learns and usually likes it. But, I'm NOT trying to say you should check it out . . . just saying . . . thanks for reminding me to stick with my own faithfulness.

Unknown said...

Have you ever tried Math-U-See? I used it from 4th grade through high school with great success!
Best wishes!