Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Calculating an Education

Ev and Clem do math online. It comes in manageable 20-minute bites. This afternoon I asked Clem to do a second session.

Clementine: But I already did math.
Me: At school you'd be doing more than 40 minutes of math every day.
Clementine: Yeah, but at school I'd be able to not pay attention.

Research agrees with her. A meta-analysis of studies of online vs. classroom learning found online learning more effective.

I was planning to skip right over my yearly September ritual of questioning my approach to homeschooling, but then I stumbled upon Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers. I know, I'm a year behind on my reading. But his analysis of why Chinese kids excel at math has me nursing scraped shins. (Psst...if you haven't read the book it's because....they work hard. But read the book, the whole story is fascinating.)

Five years ago when Evelyn was in first grade at the beginning of the year she said her favorite subject was math. By the end of first grade she said she hated math. I blamed myself for killing her love. But five years of taking it easy has not made the kids embrace math. So I figure 40-60 minutes of math a day can't hurt.

The more they do the easier it will be, right?

And heh, with the online math, they can't not pay attention.

And it is not as if Clem won't still have time to invent Marie Mantoinette (which comes out of studying the French Revolution and keeping a pet praying mantis at the same time).

Or to set up a romantic dinner for two. (They look like they might devour the flowers, or each other, for dinner.)

And Ev won't have time to whittle wooden whistles.

Or construct bird traps out of handwoven baskets.
At least, that is the calculation I am making, for now.


Barbara said...

Hi susan...what online math are you using??

patricia said...

Marie Mantoinette is simply fabulous!

I have to wonder: don't you think 20 minutes of *attentive* math each day might be productive enough? At least until they're teenagers?

Often, I'll feel like my kids are progressing fairly well, until I think about how much time school kids put in. But that's nearly always toxic thinking for me. You can't compare homeschooling with what kids do in classrooms. And you have research to back that up!

Kat said...

I love the bird trap! This is how we handle math at our house: http://thekatstopshere.blogspot.com/2009/08/you-do-lot-of-math-at-your-house.html

gina said...

Alot of those projects include math concepts as I'm sure you are well aware- the trap- the scale of the drawing etc. I think when kids want to learn higher math they will until then there are plenty of games to practice math facts.

Susan said...

You are all so fantastic and understanding of organic homeschooling, but this is a yearly ritual of death and renewal which has its own logic. We must tear apart our way of doing things in order to see that it really works. :) I'll let you know how this cycle goes. You never know...

Barbara, the online math is Stanford's epgy program. We do it through their open enrollment option which means that if you get 20 families together you can have access to the program for $130/year/child and without testing.

Kristin said...

Hi Susan,

Here's a bunch of my ideas:

Everyone has to figure out what's best for their own family--and that includes the Mom.

There's busy work and there's meaningful work--which work will the child remember?

I think it's good to have an expectation, but to be flexible about how they achieve it.

In short, I think 40 minutes of math is excessive, unless she wants to do that, or she is willing to do that, especially since you originally said that 20 minutes was fine and then changed your tune. Her response to that new time was ingenious.

Susan said...

The girls, Clementine in particular, had been doing the pessimal amount of math. Just enough to learn a topic and then forget it and then have to relearn it. This is discouraging.

I did a lot of research into what made schools work and one of the most striking and consistent elements in good schools was that teachers were encouraged to treat their classroom like a lab. To try to figure out if things worked and if they didn't to try something else.

What we have been doing hasn't been working. So we are trying something different in our lab school.

Molly said...

now i want to read outliers! i'll have to see if my library has it (unless of course you have a copy and want to lend it to me on wednesday. then i might just have to plan another trip to the bay to return it!) looking forward to meeting you!

Anonymous said...

any news coming ?