I don’t really hate math, but that’s the title of my post because it’s going to be about someone who DID hate math and how that all played out. Feel free to apply the concept to any particular subject your child hates and your own struggles with that.
Back when I was paving the way with my oldest (Emily), I worried about my children’s futures in the context of my homeschooling choices. There is a lot of responsibility placed on a homeschooling parent’s shoulders. Like, if you don’t get the BEST, PERFECT, MOST WONDERFUL curriculum, you will destroy your child’s love for learning and all her future college scholarships and she will end up pushing a shopping cart only not at the store. Yeah. That. Nevermind if it costs $159,897,657. You can afford it. Your children are worth it. What kind of mom would not mortgage her house for her child’s future!? The catalogs beckon. The siren call of a better math, writing program, history core, grammar workbook and everything else lures you as you go about your never-ending search for THE ONE. The one curriculum/program/workbook/video/online program/something that will teach your child perfectly. And she will love it. LOVE IT. Come bounding out in the morning with a smile wanting to do it. And her future will unfurl with sugar coated bunnies and baby chicks dancing in a field of yellow flowers and dollars – growing on trees. Because it’s her FUTURE we are talking about. Her earning potential. Her happiness. My future great-grand babies living situations! Generations could be affected by the wrong choice!
So, the point is that I worried about choosing the right thing. I wanted to find something that spoke to my daughter’s learning styles, was fun, something she loved, and would help her become everything that she had the potential to become. Oh, and it had to be something I could teach. That too. Every homeschooling parent’s dilemma.
So, picture me, with my lovely 3 children sitting around the table with our books cracked open and me teaching that when you are doing long division you bring down the number and some other mumbo-jumbo algorithm and then I assigned some practice problems and we all smiled and had a terrific day. Not.
The whining started. It was Emily. Whining. Again. Oh wait…was that a teeny, tiny tear sparkling in the corner of her eye? Tears? A flood? My kitchen pipes burst? Emily was crying AGAIN over math. “I hate math!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (That’s me quoting her.) “I can’t do it.” “I don’t get it!” Insert more tears and crying and at least whining. I just knew we were heading toward disaster. She had to learn math. If she didn’t learn math, well…how would she buy food at the grocery store and get good deals and pay her bills and and and…. succeed???!!! At anything??!!! You know, it all ends at the shopping cart. The one…not in the store. Little note: I’m not making fun of homeless people. I’m being sarcastic. Honest. I did worry though…I think we all do, to some extent.
I began the search for the perfect math curriculum. I researched. I studied. I looked up stuff online (when there wasn’t as much online as there is today). Then I started buying. Math stuff. Math workbooks. Math manipulatives. Math programs. Math curricula. Math. Math. And more math. Do you know I still have math workbooks from back then that have never been used?
And I worried (yes, I know I said that – but it must be emphasized!). What if I didn’t get it right? What if she never learned math the way she was supposed to? It would be my fault because I didn’t do a good enough job. Because I didn’t find the right thing. Because I didn’t spend enough, try hard enough, research enough. Etc.
And what if she kept on hating math?!! It would be a total tragedy because my job as a homeschooling parent was to light a fire in her heart for all learning. The last thing any homeschool parent wants to hear is, “I don’t like school.” The last thing a homeschool parent wants to think is that somehow future college math courses won’t be successful because math wasn’t learned well enough at home. The last thing a homeschool parent wants to see is a child not succeeding as an adult because of something that didn’t get taught properly in your homeschool setting. Well, that’s a lot of “last things” you wouldn’t want to think. I guess they can all crowd together at the last together.
Ok, so fast forward through the years (and plenty of tears – oh, and whining): Emily graduated from high school and guess what? She did not like math. She even had to REPEAT some really easy basics. Oh yes, I took her back to addition and subtraction. In the SIXTH GRADE. And she did algebra TWICE. There were glimmers of math-like, like when she tried Teaching Textbook’s Algebra II and Geometry and actually loved it (for a little while). But oh my goodness, Teaching Textbooks didn’t have a higher level math ready yet. And you’ve heard the stories on those super rigorous homeschooling boards about Teaching Textbooks, I’m sure. How non-rigorous it is. How….(let’s whisper here) it will damage your child’s ability to do math at a higher level in college and hence destroy her future chances. The math love petered out due to the unavailability of more Teaching Textbook levels… and horrors! Emily didn’t even take a math course during her 12th grade year.
Did I fail? Was Emily’s future destroyed?
No. Emily has been successful in her college math classes and has even tutored high school math through a charter school. Take that Teaching Textbooks haters! Take that worries that plagued me! Not only has Emily received great grades in math, she actually teaches it to other homeschool students and gets paid to do so! Was it because I finally found Teaching Textbooks and helped her enjoy math for the first time? That might be a small part of it, but certainly is not the entire reason. I think it’s more about the fact that she was allowed to go at her own pace, repeat things when necessary and I taught her something more important than loving a school subject. I taught her to learn. I taught her to know how to figure something out herself, when she really needs to. I taught her to love God and depend on him when the going gets tough (or math needs to be learned, lol). That wasn’t in any curriculum or program or schedule. That was just in me, loving her, believing in her and encouraging her, even when she hated math.
So, next time you are panicking because your child hates a school subject, take a deep breath. No one has to love everything. And that’s ok. I promise.
Next time you are stressing over which perfect curriculum to buy, take a deep breath. You’ll teach it one way or another. If something doesn’t work out, you can try again. You can even start over. We did.
Next time you are tempted to spend money on something you probably don’t really need…put away your wallet and wait. Breathe. Decide if you really need to get something new or if that new curriculum love just wore off. It’s ok to switch and change gears because sometimes you really do need to. And sometimes you don’t. And you know it, but wish you didn’t.
Next time you’re worrying that your current homeschooling choices might forever damage your children’s futures, take another deep breath! It’s not as much about what you choose or don’t choose, it’s about the life lessons you teach. It’s about the kind of person your child becomes. Those lessons don’t come in a package and they don’t cost anything. They are grounded in right choices and a dependence on God. Pursue Him first, and the rest happens. Yes, there may be detours and you may not even end up where you thought you were or wanted to go…but you’ll get where you’re supposed to be. And your kids will too, if they do the same thing. THAT is the important thing to teach.
Emily is a good (and successful!) person who has sought God first in her life and everything else has fallen into place. Even math.
Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”
May God give you peace in your heart as you struggle to find “the right/best/most awesome curriculum”. May He soothe the trouble in your spirit and wipe away your worries as you wonder how everything will turn out in the end.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”