I'm one of those (almost) unschoolers that don't know if I'll ever feel totally comfortable not making them do math! Please someone tell me I'm not the only one!
I used to worry about math a bit,
too. Not to the extent that I bought text books or curriculum, but I
do have DVDs (Standard Deviants), computer games (Math Blaster, Zoombinis,
etc.) and I once made sure they had some sort of math experience for
at least five minutes every day (haven't even done that since joining
this list, though, and wasn't consistent even before :).
This might sound weird, but math was the easiest
thing for me to let go. The reason why is math is all around us, every
day. Telling time, counting days on a calendar, reading music (even
just making music without reading it), handling money, dividing "whatever"
between siblings, creating something that needs balance/strength (even
Legos), doubling a recipe--it's all math. And it's real, not some stupid
problem starting, "If a train leaves Middleton at 12 o'clock...."
It's stuff that matters.
I was reading what folks were saying about math and thought I would share my opinion.
Math has become the paragon of the educational system, the one unassailable "reason" for schools and forced learning to continue. People think that if they wave "math" in the faces of unschoolers, like myself, that our ideas on natural learning will crumble in the face of it's undeniable necessity. WRONG!
Quantity is a concrete, 2 + 2 will always equal 4 but it is this very thing which makes "mathematics", the science of formulas, STILL a choice. Mathematics is what was invented by man to find the sum of a unknown quantity, the quantity always existed, it was the human who needed a formula to find the thing.
We now have calculators which, accept it or not, essentially make the knowledge of formulas obsolete. I can hear the gasps! There are many skills which people once had to know in order to survive, skills we no longer know. We could have clung to them and forced many a child to learn them because they were transformed into a virtue but we have allowed most of them to slip away. I say "Good riddance." I don't want to waste years of my life learning how to build a barn, build and/or repair a wagon wheel or plow a field.
Any skill, no matter how outdated, can be learned if it is desirable or even needed by the individual. To teach them, out of tradition or a phantom "need" is what kills a person's love for learning. Mathematics was essential for most of history, there were no calculators to do the work, thus having a quick skill the formulas was highly useful.
Lanora knows how to count money, knows how much change she should get, knows how to halve or double a recipe, etc. She can do basic mathematics but isn't interested in Algebra, Geometry and it's ilk. She grew uneasy at one point, thinking that "mathematics" was like history or science, that there was information out there that she was missing. When I explained that it was about learning formulas used to find answers she was relieved. She has a calculator, thank you.
An adult asked her, "What about Math?" (we've never heard that one before) She responded with, "That is what calculators are for." Their thoughtful (smirk) response was, "What if there were no calculators, what if all the computers stopped working or we had no electricity?!" Without missing a beat (or a bit of logic) she said, "I think we would have much more to worry about than how much 'math' we know, don't you?"
Lanora knows that if she wants to pursue a career she will encounter math, she wisely figures that she can just learn it when the time comes. She'll memorize all of their little formulas, show that she can use them and pass the required tests, why waste her life, time and passion for learning until it's necessary?
The most important thing for a child to learn is that learning is like breathing, it can't be avoided or halted. A person's passion and natural need/desire/love for learning can be harmed, however, and shoving learning down their throats, making it UNnatural and boring is the best way to do so.
Ah...math....in my pre-unschooling days I used to
tell my oldest daughter (my poor experimental child) that she would
pay for not working on math when she went to college...then we made
the shift to unschooling....it wasn't a sudden shift so I started easing
up on math before giving up on all curriculum. Still....I kept those
thoughts in my head instead of saying them but let the math go. She
has not done formal text-book math beyond the 6th grade level. At 16
she wanted to go to community college so we filled out the paperwork
and she took the placement tests. We were both very prepared for her
math scores to be very low and for her to have to start in the lowest
remedial math class...and I was all proudly psyched to never utter the
words "I told you so". When she got the results...much to
my surprise....she tested in between intro to algebra and algebra. She
chose to take the intro class just in case...and she did just fine.
She ended up with a 3.0. And very glad she never wasted time doing "highschool"
math at home since she was still ahead of many of the kids in the class
who were highschool graduates. And she never once told me "I told
Some great Math Links:
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