I'll begin by asking a question: How much of the subjects that you hated in school do you really remember today? If you're like me... not much.
I think I've mentioned before how I detested math, never understood it at all, but got mostly A's on the tests. I memorized the formulas and order of operations and spit all of that memory back out onto the test - with none left in my long-term memory!
I am finishing one MA this fall, working on an MS, have 18 months full-time of almost straight A's in a doctorate program - and yet when I took a college math placement test years ago, I found I needed a remedial math class. Yet, somehow I made it through all of these degrees without any college math other than statistics (in which I got an A and semi-understand it). In other words, I'm smart but I never truly learned math.
So it's been a big goal of mine in homeschooling this amazing child of mine who is passionate about animals - and thus about science - in such a way that she will both understand math *AND* not hate it. A tall order indeed! ;) And as we've gotten further along, I'm delving into mathematical concepts I haven't used since early high school.
In line with the unschooling, child-led-learning, or organic-learning philosophies, I've strewed her path with a zillion math things. Some of that is described in other posts here. But I can't emphasize enough how important I believe it is to be flexible and to respect a child's feelings in regards to learning. Last year Helena discovered Kahn Academy and really enjoyed working through some of the problems with the video instructions. Soon she came to hate it though. So we went back to the drawing board looking for more options. I purchased a large number of math riddles and stories used on Amazon and eBay (much less than the cost of a math curriculum!!) and we enjoy reading them together. I'm learning a lot that I never understood the first time around. We tried some Life of Fred math stories/curriculum which we borrowed -and she hated them. We also just recently discovered Math Antics. They're hilariously goofy short videos explaining one math concept, partly through lecture and partly through humorous special effects. These she loves!
As I write this, my sweet girlie is snuggled up in her bed binge watching Math Antics, interrupted only to excitedly tell me what she's learning about. And that's why I'm excited!
"Trust children. Nothing could be more simple or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted" - Two-time public school NYS teacher of the year turned unschooler, John Holt.
As a parent, with today's regimented, one-size-fits-all educational model and the popular idea that homeschool = school-at-home-with-textbooks-curriculum-worksheets-and-tests, it is admittedly difficult to break away from the norm and follow your child's lead, to trust them that they'll learn what they need to, to trust them when they say that the current method is REALLY BORING, to trust them when 2 problems a day is enough, knowing that at some point they'll binge learn about it because you'll have strewed their path with something that really grabs their interest. (Now I get that this method isn't for every family, and for some families the school-at-home model really works - or public or private school works- and makes their children excited about learning.)
I continually read about unschooled kids who didn't do math at all for years and then suddenly did several years of high school math willingly and easily in 6 months - because they were ready, interested, and found it relevant to something in their life. I'm not quite that liberal, which would get me disqualified in some strict unschooling circles. I do insist on 2 math problems most days of the year and doing math with me in real life, figuring out percentages while shopping or what-not. NYS requires reporting and testing and I do believe in following that. But I can still give tremendous child-led freedom within that!
For those wondering... all of the data gathered on students who have been life-long unschoolers or democratic-free-schoolers show that they're successful in doing what they love in life and don't have difficulty getting into colleges if that's their goal. In other words, child-led education really works! But seeing how it works first-hand is really exciting! I know few kids who would willingly spend hours on math voluntarily. It's so exciting to see that when math is integrated into real life with many different options to choose from that it really does grab a kid's interest! A few months back Helena, like most kids, was beginning to hate math courtesy of Kahn. Now she's spending hours on it of her own free will! That's exciting to my nerdy self!