The process of homeschooling has really helped me to evaluate Brilliant B’s educational strengths and weaknesses in a new light. I have honestly been a little surprised by what I have found. I think every parent could benefit from this intimate attention to the way their children take in, evaluate, and approach new information. I expected that Brilliant B would struggle a little with math because it has always seemed to be her weakest link. So far that has not been the case. After I work through a variety of problems with her, things seem to click and she is able to do quite well on her own. I hope she gains a new sense of confidence in her mathematical abilities. I am pushing her beyond 4th grade curriculum, but she is rising to the occasion. We are still not using a math textbook. I am just printing off a variety of worksheets and building a curriculum specifically for her from those. We are currently getting ready to start calculating the area of triangles.
The hardest subject in homeschooling so far has been history. I was not expecting this at all! We are going through select parts of The Story of the World Volumes 3 and 4 this year and adding in a few other supporting books along the way. For example, we supplemented the chapter on the Pilgrims with reading Sarah Morton’s Day and Squanto’s Journey this week. The biggest problem Brilliant B has is writing her page summary of important or interesting facts about the history readings. She is a great reader and can write well, so I honestly never expected this to be the source of so much 10-year old drama and angst. She seems to struggle more than expected with pulling out the important facts and translating them into words. I suspect the problem is two-fold. She has probably never been expected to complete this type of assignment before we started homeschooling. Also, my husband is supposed to be the teacher on duty for history, but he remains uncertain of what to do and what the expectations are for both of them. I physically cannot be the instructor since this needs to get done on days when I am at the university. My plan for next week is to give her a paper where she writes bullet points of important or interesting facts as she reads so that she is essentially brainstorming as she goes. I am also going to try writing out a few discussion questions for my husband so that he starts to know how to better engage her in conversation about the topic. I guess this is a personal lesson in teaching how to research and teaching how to teach.
That really leads into what I consider to be our non-curriculum challenges for the year:
1. Undo the lazy attitude towards learning that traditional school created. She doesn’t want to work or try because she never had to try too hard in school.
2. Undo the sense of panic that not knowing the answer seems to generate. She is still shutting down if she does not know the answer or how to solve the problem. I think this may be the hardest bit of re-programming I need to attempt. At home there does not need to be embarrassment or frustration over not knowing an answer. I want her to feel free to think critically and problem solve and be ok with the fact that failure is part of the learning process. Maybe we need to find a book or project about how many times successful people failed before they had their big success. I know this is a big problem for gifted children, and I’d love to talk to other parents who struggle with this issue as well.