Thursday, March 14, 2013

Q & A ~ Part 2


While I’m on a roll…


Karen asks: I am wanting to make the leap from Jump Math (Canadian) to TT. I don't like math and my little guy who is in grade three but just finished his grade 5 math book is now in math that is stumping me(or at least taking waay to much time to figure out)
When I did research on TT I have read it is behind and that the kids don't test well in higher grades so TT doesn't prepare them. I have always respected your reviews and choices-thoughts??


I’ve heard the same thing. I don’t have long-term experience with Teaching Textbooks (we’re on our third year, finishing up level 5), so it’s hard for me to speak to that. But I am also not sure what my reasonable choices are. My oldest son struggles with math, and I don’t know that a rigorous conceptual math program would be beneficial for him. And I’m not sure that a teacher-intensive math program would work well for us, either, for a couple reasons. What I do know is that he is right on grade level with TT Math and he is managing to meet state standards on testing so far (for the past 3 years). I do have my younger sons work ahead according to their ability. I also supplement with more conceptual math books and programs such as Beast Academy, Critical Thinking Co. math workbooks such as Balance Math, and the out-of-the box Life of Fred books. I may consider Art of Problem Solving for Luke and Leif when they hit middle school. I’ll be sharing a little more about our math approach in the next installment of my curricula series.


Facebook has been an interesting place lately, and I’ve been enjoying several different discussions. Friends often comment on my blog posts on FB rather than here, and I forget that not everyone can see those conversations! A friend of mine asked this question in response to my Q&A and another link I posted over there regarding personality styles: I've been reading and reading (still) Penelope Trunk's blog...what do you think of what she has to say about homeschooling? And then I ended up posting a ridiculously long answer. Since I already went to all the work of typing out my thoughts, it made sense to share them here as well in case anyone is interested. I’d love to hear various opinions in the comments.


Okay, I had to re-read a few of her posts because it had been a while. I DO agree with her on many points, and I find her blog refreshingly unapologetic. I think what I take exception to is her overall black and white approach and the general tone of harshness and negativity. I’m more of a peacemaker personality, and I think homeschooling vs private school vs public school can easily become a point of pride, divisiveness, or even alienation—an ‘us against them mentality.’ Do I think homeschooling is ideal? Yep. Do I think all homeschoolers homeschool well? Nope. Do I think homeschooling is the best case in all scenarios? Nope. I also am not dogmatic about homeschooling for religious reasons even though our faith greatly informs the lens through which we view life, information, and ideas (though I may seem more dogmatic about homeschooling if I am encountering the point of view that Christians are obligated to have their children in public school as a witness/ministry to other non-Christians—I have pretty strong opinions in that case).

Consider her post comparing homeschooling to breast feeding. She thinks that breast feeding is the best option in all cases, no matter the sacrifice. I think it is ideal, but nowhere near the “only way.” When the mom’s physical heath or mental health is at a significant risk? Nope. When the baby is not thriving? Nope. When the mom’s milk supply is inadequate or compromised? Nope. When the family is greatly subsisting due to financial issues? Nope. And is it possible for an adopted child to *thrive* when breast feeding is an impossibility? Yep. I do think there needs to be positive education about the benefits of breastfeeding, but I don’t think we need to vilify and condemn mothers who use formula (and I think that about many baby/child-raising issues—it’s okay to feel strongly about them, but don’t die on that hill).

Can some kids thrive on the freedom outside of school even in cases of neglect or abuse (which was her childhood situation)? Yes. Can all children? A resounding no. Could public school be something akin to saving grace for a child whose home life is destructive? Yes. (She doesn’t seem to think so. For what it’s worth, my husband experienced both of the above scenarios.) Are some kids bored out of their skull in school? Yes. Are some kids appropriately challenged by caring adults? Absolutely. Do some personalities struggle with the way our educational system is structured? Yes. But do some kids thrive in that environment? Yes. I just don’t think it is as clear-cut as she makes it out to be. There are some good schools. There are many incredible teachers.

I absolutely agree that it is worth personal sacrifice to homeschool. But if parents aren’t passionate about their children’s education regardless of what their vision of education might be, many kids are going to flounder. I don’t think parents should homeschool out of fear. Or an overwhelming sense of obligation. They also shouldn’t sacrifice the stability of their family, a marriage, a parent-child relationship, or the mental/emotional/physical health of the mother (to a large degree) on the altar of homeschooling.

Other things that bother me are the hyper-focus on the corporate world (which is her world, the point of her blog, and not one that I can relate to in any way), the idea that all kids should specialize early, and overall view that education and specialization are all about leverage in the work force. I guess I’ve come to the opinion that education is more about cultural literacy, who we are as human beings made in the image of God, and becoming people who are informed and can think critically about the wide world around us. I think education is less about what we get and more about who we become. I may be mis-reading her due to my emotional response (which sets us apart anyway—she is very calculating, I am very emotional).

This quote (which I posted recently) highlights what I feel is the essence of education (though obviously not in the negative):

"What they learn, however, is not the value of thinking, the importance of individuality, the mysteries of nature, the secrets of science, the themes of human existence, the lessons of history, the logic of mathematics, the essence of tragedy. Nor do they learn about what is distinctly human, how to become humane, why we have laws, or what it means to be noble." (From Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers by Canadian doctors Neufeld and Maté.)

I also LOVE this article, Labor, Leisure, and Liberal Education by Mortimer Adler, on the distinction between viewing education in the context of labor and viewing it in the context of leisure. (The whole article is long but worth reading.)

“Thus, for example, there can be two reasons for learning carpentry. One might wish to learn carpentry simply to acquire the skill or art of using tools to fabricate things out of wood, an art or skill that anyone is better for having. Or one might wish to learn carpentry in order to make good tables and chairs, not as works of art which reflect the excellence of the artist, but as commodities to sell. This distinction between the two reasons for learning carpentry is connected in my mind with the difference or distinction between liberal and vocational education. This carpentry is the same in both cases, but the first reason for learning carpentry is liberal, the second vocational.

”All of this, I think, leads directly to the heart of the matter: that vocational training is training for work or labor; it is specialized rather than general; it is for an extrinsic end; and ultimately it is the education of slaves or workers. And from my point of view it makes no difference whether you say slaves or workers, for you mean that the worker is a man who does nothing but work—a state of affairs which has obtained by the way, during the whole industrial period, from its beginning almost to our day.”

I really do agree with her more than it may seem. But her mission (and strength) is to be bold, shocking even, and speak without reservation. I'd like to think my mission (and strength) is to inspire and encourage (however feebly I may succeed). We need all sorts of people to make this world go around. [smile]


Heidi said...

My friend Caralyn sent me this response to the TT math question:

I'm assuming Karen is Canadian since she's used a Canadian math program and is now flipping to a US program. I'll add my 2 cents here because a) I'm Canadian b) I’ve also switched to TT and c) my oldest in in gr. 10.

We started with Professor B and LOVED it, even though it didn't teach everything the kids would get in school (no geometry, etc). It gave a solid foundation. We then moved to LoF since my kids were a little ahead - I wanted to ensure they really understood fractions, decimals and percents and going over those concepts again in a different way was good for us.

Since the kids seemed to like LoF, we continued with their pre-algebra books, and naturally moved to algebra. Both of my two older kids did not like LoF algebra, so I was forced to look at different choices. Honestly, I didn’t want to teach high school math because that would mean re-learning it and I hate math. Teaching Textbooks offered the best solution. Was it the best curriculum out there? No. But I know my kids, and I know that neither of the two older ones are going into university math, so it doesn’t have to be the best. It has to teach them and they need to learn. But it doesn’t have to be the best.

Ds in gr. 8 is still ahead, taking TT’s algebra 1 this year (a gr. 9 course). He’s going into public school next year. He won’t know everything the PS kids know because he’s only done an American curriculum, though he will be ahead in algebra. I don’t really care that he won’t know everything, though! He’ll catch on as there’s lots of repetition in school.

Dd is in gr. 10 and TT is really a great choice for her. I love that they have the answers to every question so if they get something incorrect they can go back and figure out where exactly they went wrong.

I met with a university professor of math a few times. He taught high school teachers how to teach math. He personally felt that math was useless for students after grade 8. He said that public school math teachers are awful at teaching math to non-mathy students. They don't think like non-math kids and have a very hard time explaining themselves. He felt that unless a child was going into a math-related field, what they learn in high school was useless.

Of course, *I* could never give it up. I loosely follow my province's curriculum (very loosely...but my kids will be doing math until at least gr. 11). I don't know where my kids are going in life, so I want them to be able to think logically and know math. HOWEVER, since in no way, at all, do I think my kids will go to university for math, having "the very best math program" really doesn't matter to me. Having a math program that doesn't make them have an emotional teenage breakdown every day is of great importance (their sanity = my sanity)! Teaching Textbooks fits that bill.

Do what works for your family. If you like TT then keep up with it. If you child is a math prodigy you’ll easily be able to switch to a harder program. If your child is not, you’ll both be happier using what works FOR YOU, not what works for someone else, even if it’s not “the best.”

Jennifer said...

Thanks for your thoughts (and the previous comment) on TT. We are contemplating a switch from Horizon's. My son (2nd grade) will be going into 4th with TT. He hates math, but loves anything on the computer, and is a very auditory learner. I love reading aloud, studying history, etc., so this is a compromise. He is greatly interested in the sciences, so we might have to change paths as he gets older, but that is a way off. Your whole post encouraged me since I have 4 other little ones, another on the way, a husband who is gone 6 nights a week and is in school, and no family for 1500 miles. Math is our struggle (simple to grade 3 sets of worktexts a day is daunting!). TT it is!