“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

We are spending some time over this month preparing for homeschooling in September. For Dave and I, this involves more conversations with the kids, and lots of research about what’s out there in terms of tools and curriculum.

We have decided to continue a structured math curriculum for each of them. This helps us support their math learning without having to create a curriculum ourselves. For H (our dyscalculic), a Connections Academy single course worked well last year for math, and she’d like to continue this fall. We have tried, it seems, every possible variation for her in years past: math at school on a 504 plan, private tutors, LD specialists, etc. Last year was her best year so far, and although H certainly struggled, she definitely had fewer emotional issues with math, and she really learned and retained the material.

E finished Algebra through Northwestern CTD in May. The class was decent, but frankly not worth the money. As it turns out, we paid the price of a college course for a textbook, some grading, and a stamp on a transcript. Although E did have every other week chats with the teacher – which were great – she essentially taught herself algebra out of the textbook. She also loved using the Algebra Touch app on the iPad. Luckily, she enjoys learning, and she truly learned algebra inside and out. However, this year, we are moving on to try Thinkwell Homeschool (which gets good reviews from other parents) for Geometry. We’ll use the HMH Fuse iPad app to go with it. The combination of the two will be about 1/3 the price we paid this year, with potentially higher quality instruction.

This fall will be A’s first time homeschooling. He was in a second grade GT class last year, finishing up the third grade math curriculum at school. I had him take an online, above-level math placement test to see what he really knows. As many parents have found when their kids come home, he knows more higher-level math than I had expected he would. He likes to watch Khan Academy videos to learn new math concepts, and uses IXL to practice math. One of the questions he didn’t know on the placement test was a long division question, and afterwards, he wanted to learn long division. In the “it’s awesome to be a kid in 2013” column, Dave showed him Long Division Touch on the iPad, and he learned the basics of it in about 5 minutes. (I relearned it, too!)

The post-test, though, led to a much more interesting discussion about fairness. We have never required H to perform long division by hand. She has struggled so much to learn basic math concepts that we have had to focus on what is important, and what she will need to know to survive. Long division is not, in our opinion, something that is necessary. So-we’ve had her look at it, so she understands that it exists, but when she sees problems of this nature, we have her use a calculator. In fact, her calculator skills are much better than her siblings, because this is her lifeline to math.

The natural question from my son was: why does H get to use a calculator, while I am required to do it – initially – by hand and in my head? We discussed with all of them that H has a learning disability, and gets tools for this. My son has always struggled with writing down concepts and paragraphs, and so he keyboards or uses Dragon Dictation instead of writing by hand. I explained to him that this was no different; each child gets the tools that will help them learn. He understood, and didn’t have a problem with the situation once we discussed it; he has certainly watched his sister struggle with math as he has surpassed her knowledge level this last year. Plus, he enjoys doing math, which helps. On the flip side, H has watched her brother strain to write a paragraph that would have taken her a few minutes to dash off.

The kids all got iPad Minis for the school year, and we helped each of them choose all the apps that we thought would help them the most. Each of them also has their own laptop, which they use to access Google Drive from anywhere they want. I got to thinking, as I watched them all working away happily at their individual levels, whether it even matters anymore exactly how gifted they are, or which ones have a learning disability, too. As long as we give them the tools, they will learn what they would like to learn, at their own pace, in their own space, and in their own way, no matter what the labels. My thinking is changing to make it so.

Posted by southern girl on August 25, 2013 at 9:09 am

This is what I have come to love so much about Homeschooling….no where else can you cater so perfectly to your child’s exact needs, and make sure that they feel loved and “normal” too. 🙂 Good job mom!