One of the very real worries that potential homeschoolers and gifted parents alike have is: “how do I teach the things I don’t understand very well?” Most experienced homeschoolers smile and say things like “you have a while until algebra,” or “you can do a co-op class for the nasty bits like frog dissection.” I take this question very seriously and will spend some time laying out ideas if they’re really interested in homeschooling. Because yes – you are not an expert in everything, and you have a right to worry about it.
No one is an expert in everything (go away Elon Musk.) Even the subjects we know and love can be difficult to teach. I may be an artist – but I have trouble articulating that to my art class at times. One of my students asked me to define “cohesive” during our last class, and I stumbled. Bobbled my way through it. Because right at that moment in the thick of things, I had no idea how to quickly distill a very relative, nebulous concept down into something understandable and coherent.
Now, ask me to explain something I don’t know and love, much less understand very well, and see how THAT goes! Not well. Not well at all.
When we first started homeschooling, I told myself “I can do this, algebra is far away.” No problem – and Mr. Genius can step in and handle the math stuff when the Engineer is older, right?
Yeah … about that ….
The Engineer and his dad butt heads. Sometimes a lesson goes well. Sometimes, it ends with frustration because Mr. Genius used the “wrong” word and the Engineer decided to shut down instead of trying to understand. And by wrong, I mean a slightly different term than I used. Not wrong at all – just not what the Engineer was used to and it causes anxiety. Most of their math “lessons” go best in a relaxed setting of playtime, where the learning is woven into play instead of doing math problems on the chalkboard.
So. Math. ::coughs:: Did I mention that the Engineer is doing early algebra? At 6? I am SO screwed!
You see, I am not a math person. It’s logical, it makes sense, but it’s entirely too rigid for me to easily grasp. I have to fight at it. I have to memorize formulas and ways of compensating when it comes intuitively to people like my husband. Who casually told me “it’s just a differential equation” once. I had to ask him this week to refresh my memory on long division because I simply couldn’t remember how to show the Engineer to do it!
I don’t easily do mental math in my head. I have a great grasp of everyday math, and can easily guess percentages and totals fairly quickly, but it’s a vague kind of thing. It’s not exact. Even calculating a tip is an exercise in frustration if I get frustrated or distracted. Which is why I’m liable to tip 20% every time because it’s just easier.
You can forget me doing any kind of complex multiplication or exponent work in my head because I lose track of it. Mr. Genius annoyed me when we were house hunting because he could quickly and accurately calculate the monthly mortgage payment on houses we visited, while I looked like the village idiot trying to understand the difference between payments for one house and the other.
I am so in over my head right now, it’s scary and funny all at the same time. If I could plop the Engineer down in front of a math curriculum it would take so much stress off of my shoulders. I even signed him up for Prodigy math in an attempt to do something – but so far, the placement test is undecided on where to plop him.
This morning, I came downstairs to find him busily building a structure with our ball and stick set from Discovery Kids. He pulled out the measuring tape and measured each side to ensure they matched, and he carefully drew a diagram with the numbers. Then he wanted to know how to figure the “center” part. We haven’t discussed area or perimeter – and I certainly wasn’t prepared for a lesson today! We did it anyway. I pulled out my trusty phone and we calculated the area, defined the perimeter, and then I point-blank refused to figure out the area cubed when he wanted to add in the height measurement.
“Why?” he whined. Why son? Because mommy isn’t clear-headed enough to explain exponents yet, that’s why! And I need to go do some research before I even try!
Did I mention I have a cold? I am not on my best game at the moment, and I was happily looking forward to crashing on the sofa while they watched Kid Should See This videos for a while. Nope, didn’t happen. And the one time I did crash on the sofa, the Destroyer tried to destroy the structure the Engineer was building, leading to tears, screaming, whining, and wailing. And since I’m losing my voice none of that came from me.
So what’s my plan for when the time comes that I can’t teach him anything? That deadline is looming fast – probably within the next 6 months for math.
For now, I’m hoping I can find some Khan Academy videos and let him loose. Hopefully that will be enough. Because if I ever have to explain the “why” behind the equations or the geometry, my brain just might implode.
The teenager that I was thought “if I can just get through this I’ll never have to use it again!” Karma, you suck!