Saturday, February 23, 2013

Homeschooling Math

The other day my wife and I were having this conversation about how frustrating it can be to get our children, especially our oldest child through a math lesson in the allotted time. She'll get hung up on a tough problem and rather then face it down, she'll dawdle, draw, stare off into space. It can take some constant nagging and then we'll either have to spend much longer on the Math lesson to the detriment of other subjects or not finish.

Added to the dilemma is the way math curriculum is organized and the expectations around math our culture imposes. In a past post, I talked about some suggestions surrounding Suzuki violin practicing that I'll repeat here:
  • "Let the child learn at his OWN pace. It allows him to learn each step VERY WELL before going on to a new idea. (Example of rushing a child - is pushing him to memorize a new piece when he is still stumbling over the notes of his last piece.) Definition: Child's own pace -- is speed at which he learns something under optimal conditions.
  • Because of lifestyles we have chosen, too often practice sessions are not at an ideal time, or are rushed.
  • Because of 'other things' we have scheduled, 'careful repetitions' are not done (poor practice timing, interruptions, or distractions.)
Let a child practice only as long as he is interested and can cooperate. Once his attention is gone, his learning stops. Practice then becomes a measure of endurance and bad attitudes can develop from it. A few minutes, several times a day may work best at first.
If these are a good ways to learn violin, I'm not sure why or how other subjects of learning are different. For our daughter, why not slow down the pace of learning. Why the rush to get through the curriculum at the exact rate suggested? Why risk turning kids against the subject at a very early age and pushing them through the material before mastery has been achieved?

What we concluded is that we'll be consistent and steady, allocate a time window each day at an optimal time of the day. She'll get through what she can get through. Solid, consistent learning for significant years of her life without turning her off completely from the subject is preferable to the alternatives.

And this is one of the reasons why we homeschool: to allow our kids to progress through the curriculum at their own pace. Why should we try to act like traditional school when we don't have to.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Last Episode of Season Three Downton Abbey

If you have not yet watched it, just stop reading this now...

The other night, my wife and I finally got to through Downton Abbey. The last episode was rather bland, but over three seasons you start to grow attached to the characters and there's this underlying tension to this show that keeps you on edge waiting for the next disaster to strike.

At any rate, Mary has her baby and the show is about to end when her husband Matthew inexplicably is killed in a car accident driving from the hospital to retrieve the other family members. Ok, car accidents happen, death from car accidents happen, but coupled with the birth of a child? And not that long ago, Mary's sister died at child birth? And Matthews previous fiancee died of the flu, and Mary's love interest from season one dies in bed with Mary?

The previous deaths, while extreme, made some sense, but this came out of the blue for no reason at all. Well, there was a reason and it had nothing to do with pushing the story forward. The real reason is the actor did not sign up for another season so they had to find a way to write him out of the script.

Inexplicable, really.

First of all, why can't Downton Abbey, a show that's supposedly incredibly popular keep its actors? Second, there had to have been a better way to deal with the character. If they knew he was only going to be available for three seasons, why make him such a central piece to the story?

It was such an inexplicable ending to the season that it seemed the only reason could have been something to do with the actor. Obviously, I blame the writers or maybe PBS just cannot afford to pay their actors what they are worth to keep them on the show?

Needless to say I'm disappointed.