John, who struggled through kindergarten big time, is doing well in school. He loves his teacher. He is in a class of all boys, and they love to create little boys' clubs, but somehow Mrs. C. always makes the cut and gets included, too. She is the mom of all boys, so she's particularly well suited to handle this tribe.
Some of the credit for his new found love of reading goes to Pizza Hut. Thanks to the Book It! program which offers pizza for reading, John has stuck to a book -- Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson -- long enough to realize -- drum roll, please, -- that reading is fun.
Thank you, Pizza Hut.!
(I'm so grateful to Pizza Hut, I'm choosing to overlook a few alarming details about our recent visit. The last time we cashed in our pizza certificates, we encountered what appeared to be a human hair coated in mozzarella cheese and a waitress who was three sheets to the wind or worse. Yeah.)
For those of you who aren't turning away with a queasy stomach, let me continue.
Reading is going great. But then there's math.
Math. Oh, math. Math, math, math.
This is a challenge, and I turned to my homeschooling friends for advice.
I love homeschooling blogs. I'm a closet homeschooler, really. I got into blogging, in part, because I fell in love with Elizabeth Foss and Melissa Wiley and then Danielle Bean and now Mary and Kendra and Dwija.
My favorite posts are back to school summaries that list all the materials for the year. I want to buy every last book and project and CD. I'm probably not a homeschooler because we'd be broke, I'd never be able to wade through the mounds of materials I had bought to find the materials we should actually be using, and instead of teaching, I'd spend my days sampling new stuff.
(And I'd likely strangle one particular child which doesn't quite jibe with my long term educational goals for him).
Anyway . . . I was a high school teacher, am currently a catechism teacher, and am simply fascinated by the process through which children learn.
If you want an amusing take on homeschooling (and a lot of other topics), check out Kendra's blog. I loved her post on curriculum choices. Handwriting Without Tears? She was turned off by the title alone. By golly, she wanted handwriting that promised at least a few tears, i.e. she wanted to push and challenge her children with high standards, i.e. she's a woman after my own heart. I'm all about that, yes, I am. (Says the woman who just thanked Pizza Hut for inspiring her son's love of reading).
I want to feel like my kids are really being challenged. I don't want "Handwriting Without Tears," (which I am not familiar with at all, so this is not a knock on that program and I'm sure it's lovely) I want "Handwriting You Almost to Death for Excellence in Handwriting." For sixth grade this year, we had a choice of grammar books. One was "Easy Grammar" the other was "Voyages in English." This was a no brainer for me. If they had offered a book called "Hard Grammar," I probably would have chosen that . . .
Hard grammar. Give me some skin, soul sister. I am not philosophically attracted to techniques that promise to make things easy. Excellence is not easy. Ever. Not in sports. Not in music. Not in writing. Not in math. Excellence demands repetition, attention to detail, perseverance. I love the quote attributed to Jack Nicklaus: I've noticed that the harder I practice, the luckier I get.
I look at a child like John and think a two-pronged approach could get us moving in the right direction.. First, old school drilling. Second, a new and different approach that might foster a deeper understanding of what doesn't seem to come easily to him.
On the old school methods of rote memorization, drilling, flash cards and all that, I have watched one of my sisters use Kumon for years. To my untrained eye, there is absolutely nothing innovative about the Kumon approach. Their take is something like this: The brain is just another muscle. Exercise it.
The long term effect (and I'm talking probably a good eight years of Kumon) is that my nephew can pump out some math problems. He moved on to higher math because Kumon ensured that the foundation was rock solid.
Math U See might be the other prong -- a completely different approach that might slowly build an understanding of numbers and patterns and concepts.
Time will tell.
Thanks to all my homeschooling friends on Facebook for your input. Thanks, especially, to Rachel for loaning out her Math U See materials and to Holly who's going to give me a tutorial on the program.