As an unschool Mom I sometimes look in the mirror and question myself..."What are you doing?" Fighting the mainstream can seem so inevitable. "What are you thinking?" It is always such a struggle to live like "there is no school." The sad truth is, school still exists very much and kids are still in it every day. How do you combat that? When you feel like learning through life is the greatest gift you could give your child. Spending all day learning to garden, sew, cook healthy meals, volunteer your life away, paint hundreds of pictures....only to be constantly reminded that those things "don't matter" until your child has all her subtraction facts memorized, which SHE DOESN'T. I just want to run screaming every time I am reminded of that. I tell myself over and over that those things are not the most important things.
In my heart, I know that all the things she is learning will benefit her more than being able to do math quickly, but in my mind, from what I have been indoctrinated to believe....I feel like she will fail, miserably, if I don't make her learn it NOW! Forget allowing her brain to develop. She needs to know it now. There are these constant screams in my head. Telling me she will resent me forever if we don't "do school." The other one tells me that she will resent me if we DO! I just wish I knew which one was right.
I can usually ward off those thoughts. I can see her growing rapidly as she ages. I see her vocabulary widening by the second! She asks me what words mean all the time. And she is constantly using words I have never heard her say before. She is reading without my assistance. She is curious about the world. She wants to know how it works, how God made it, what it used to be like, and what it is like now-in other countries. She constantly researches her own questions and tells ME the answer. She functions SO well in society, volunteering, talking to other adults, taking part in day to day actions and errands. She is intensely involved in her own interests: mostly art. But she dabbles in other things, gymnastics, about to start swim. She has been studying fairies. What more can I ask for?
So what is holding me back? Well, she doesn't understand math. And I don't mean "Boo Hoo. We never practiced math facts and I expect her to have them memorized by now even without practice." No. I mean, she doesn't GET math. She doesn't understand the concept of numbers. And I am not sure if that is something that can be taught. Am I failing her? Or am I just expecting her to be and know too much? Place value. Why is it so hard to grasp? Is it harder than understanding the mystery books she has been devouring lately? She has always struggled with numbers. She can count. She can add. She can subtract. But she can't WRITE the big numbers out. What is that you say? Write 65? 56. Write 200. 102. I can see the logic in writing 102. However, incorrect is incorrect. How do you teach concepts that involved writing when she can't put brain to paper? It isn't like she doesn't try. I try and try to teach her because she asks me to teach her a certain concept. But she can't grasp it because she can't make that bridge! So I am at a loss as to what to do.
SIL suggested basically, in a round about way, get her some more math tools. Of course they will be completely optional. But maybe it would help. A really good workbook for practice. A computer game that teaches a wide array of subjects. But I am not going to push it. A large part of me truly believes her mind is not developed enough to grasp numbers. It will be one day, but in the mean time, all I am doing is forcing her to hate math. I keep reminding myself that she would just be in Kindergarten this year. She isn't behind and so what if she is. She excels in so many areas!
Math IS hard. (Not that I have ever told her that.) Although I used to love math, I can see how forward and backward it is. When adding, you line the numbers up. You add them smallest number to biggest. Then you read it biggest to smallest. And don't forget place holders. Gosh, those can be so hard to understand.
I get it. I really do. But I'm stressin'. I KNOW in my heart that God showed us unschooling for Samantha. And I have seen wonders through it. I have seen her pick an interest and take off to the moon and beyond with it. Even when I think we are having a lazy week and not doing much learning, not really focusing on anything in particular, she never ceases to amaze me with a new skill or improvement in something. But somewhere inside of me I worry. I wonder if I am doing the right thing. Of course I think no matter what we do, I would always struggle. If she were in school I would struggle with all the time we spend apart. All the time she could be doing other things. If we did "School In a Box" I would wonder if it were all really benefitting her. And with unschool I worry because I don't know the difference between troubles and distaste for a subject. And where to draw the line and say, "We really DO need to learn this." So see, it is all always a battle because we want what is the best for our children. And sometimes that choice seems to clear, such a "no-brainer," and other times it seems like maybe it could go both ways.
Here is what I will leave myself with. A little reminder, two actually:
You can't unschool and expect the same results you get in school. You unschool because you want different results.
Give her mind time to grow.