My daughter loves math. I’m quite thrilled about this. She’ll tell anyone who asks what her favorite subject is that it is math. She does have an aptitude for it, and since we started on our homeschooling journey, once she grasps a math concept, she absolutely loves doing her math work.

Notice I said “once she grasps.” That’s the key. There are days – and many of them at times – when whatever new math concept we’re tackling is about as foreign as if I were asking her to learn how to speak Martian. And that’s fine! But, she struggles with that. Now that she’s in 5th grade, she has learned many of the basic math concepts and is preparing to move onto more advanced mathematics.

Her learning style, in math, is one where she needs lots of scratch paper, lots of time, and lots of patience. She needs to see it, hear it, and write it before she can have that AHA moment. Once she has that, she’s fine, and will pass much more quickly through her work. But sometimes getting there is the problem.

When doing her online math, Teresa had to always make sure she worked out the problems on paper before she worked them on the screen. At times, this seemed to take twice as long, but I found that what that did was make it stick in her mind much better than just on paper alone or on the screen alone.

Fifth grade has proven to be an interesting turning point in many ways, and math is no exception. As she’s preparing to enter middle school next year the math has gotten tougher, and she has had to work harder. But I believe we’re seeing results in how quickly she is picking up the new concepts and how long it takes her to do so. Every day is a new journey.

Little Brothers

Little brothers … so many thoughts are conjured up with the utterance of that phrase. My daughter could probably entertain you for days with the trials and tribulations she’s endured at the hands of her three – yes three – little brothers. (When I gave birth to her third and final little brother she sighed and said “I guess I’m never getting a sister, am I?”) All in all Teresa has been pretty long suffering to the many antics of the boys, but still there are days when I’m sure she’s daydreaming about another girl in the house, or perhaps being an only on the really challenging days.

While some days are better than others, there have certainly been moments when having that many little ones underfoot makes for a challenging homeschooling experience. The boys are 2, 4, 7 – and in 2nd grade, and then there’s Teresa, in 5th grade at 11 years old. Constant interruptions and background noise (screaming, fighting, playing, etc) make for a very interesting school day.

At first, when we were starting out and I just had one little brother for her to contend with it seemed almost impossible. Her brother was into everything and I felt as though I were pulled in too many different directions. Frustration abounded in those days, and I even entertained thoughts of giving up homeschooling altogether. I can’t quite say how we moved past those early days, but over time and with the addition of two more brothers we seem to have fallen into a rhythm.

I’ve learned that the most important factor of homeschooling with other little ones around is not to be too committed to a schedule. I have things I want to accomplish but I look at the entire week rather than a day by day itinerary. This way I don’t let one day of interruptions discourage me from continuing. Some days we can literally tear through a pile of work, and on other days we might only get to one subject. And I’ll put my hand up and admit that yes, I have curtailed school in the first 15 minutes when I sense that we are just getting nowhere that day.

On the flip side of this, there are so many benefits to having the constant activity swirling around while we do school. I’d like to think that we’re teaching the kids to multitask no matter what is going on around them.

A good friend of mine reminded me of something just recently. What I had been calling “interruptions” were actually yet another learning experience for my daughter. For the hundreds of times she has stopped work to help out the 2 year old, get a lost toy for the 4 year old, or explain something to the 7 year old she has learned things they can’t teach in books: patience, kindness, respect, love. When my 2 year old woke up crying the other night and reached his arms out to his big sister, finding comfort in her arms, I realized we’ve been on the right track all along.