Sunday, August 7, 2016

Cracks in the foundation

This post goes on my "I wish someone would have told me" list. 
Let's see, so far I have:
  • How to take care of yourself after having a baby.
  • How hard the few weeks leading up to deployment and after coming home from deployment are.
  • and now this:

The public school that Alison went to for 1st and half of 2nd grade was extremely reading focused; all of their programs and rewards were geared toward reading.  Alison was "off the charts" in reading and sat quietly in her chair and followed the rules, so I always got "she's an excellent student" from her teachers.  Never once did they tell me that she struggled in math.

It wasn't until I began homeschool that I figured out the weakness in her education.  Just mentioning fractions freaked her out.  Multiplication?  Forget it.  She was a nervous nelly before she could even read the problem.  In public school, she had figured out how to work the system; she could ace tests even without knowing the information.

I decided to re-do second grade math at the beginning of 3rd grade to build her confidence and make sure her skills were solid before moving on.  Right after she finished, we began the moving-across-the-coutnry process and used for the remainder of the year along with the occasional worksheet.  I would sit with her once a week and watch what she was working online and I felt like she was being pushed and learning and doing well.  We are ending 3rd grade this week, so I gave her an assessment test to see what curriculum to order for 4th grade.

1st, should be easy peasy, question:
Me: "What is 53 minus 10?"
Alison: starts counting on her fingers..."41"
Me: "Wait. What is happening?  Why are you counting on your fingers? And how did you get 41?"

I finished the assessment and was almost speechless.  Truthfully, I was heartbroken.  You can tell a momma over and over not to take her kids' failure personally, but it's still hard to do, especially when you're the teacher too.

Me: "Alison, you didn't pass the assessment."
Alison"Ok, no big deal.  I'll just try harder next time."
Me"It actually is a big deal.  There isn't a next time."

Yet another thing public school ingrained in her; failure is not a big deal, you have infinite amount of times to try just a little bit more and maybe eventually you'll pass.
But if you don't ever feel the sting of failure, you won't ever try harder.

We spent most of that afternoon discussing issues that are a whole other post and that night we had a meeting with the principal, aka daddy.  It was decided that we would begin math boot camp and continue working on math, even over our break, until she was caught up.

Just a day into our boot camp, it became clear where the major crack in her foundation was.  She didn't have the basic math facts memorized.  She never made the transition from counting on her fingers to find the answers to relying on her memory for the answer and somehow she hid it really well.  I reached out to a friend who helps lots of kids catch up in math and she told me that this is a very common issue with kids.  Some kids just have a hard time memorizing in general and some kids just don't want to leave the comfort zone of counting on their fingers.

What I wish I would have known:

** Use math flash cards starting in 1st grade and keep using them!  Review them frequently.  Give a stack of them to your kids to review on their own before bed.
** Play cheesy math music and watch fun math videos on Youtube and play math games.  They may be slightly annoying, but they really get in kids brains and help concepts sink deeper.
** Don't assume your kids know information!  The saying about assuming is true. 
** Don't rely on computer programs for education and only use it as a supplement.


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