Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Picking up the spare

We started back to school last Wednesday, and just one week into first grade we're already hitting a bumpy patch. As challenging as it is, I'm glad I'm the one teaching Jimmy because we have the one-on-one time and the latitude with our curriculum to take as long as we need to work out the snags.

This afternoon we did a math lesson. I've been using Saxon Math, which I really like because it utilizes hands-on manipulatives and a variety of other tools that engage Jimmy's very tactile learning style. Along with whatever concept is being introduced, each lesson in the second grade workbook has a fact sheet, and each fact sheet has twenty-five problems, which the student has one minute to solve as many of as possible. Jimmy absolutely loathes the fact sheets because he hasn't been able to solve all the problems in a minute, and often doesn't even finish half of them.

I wish I could say it was my fault he's such a perfectionist, but I don't believe it's entirely a learned behavior. Too bad, because then there would be some hope that he could be de-programmed from my terrible example by exposure to a more effective role model, or possibly some day in the future when he's got enough money to throw at therapy. I do honestly think Jimmy came hardwired that way (like both his father and I did), and let's face it: with the two of us as parents, he didn't stand a chance in the genetic crap shoot. The good news is, while we're both still wrestling to overcome our own perfectionism, Jim and I are aware that we struggle with it, and are hoping we can talk openly with Jimmy about our own challenges as we try to guide him to find his own healthy ways to cope.

During this afternoon's obligatory fact sheet, Jimmy only finished eight out of twenty-five problems and promptly imploded. Math was our last subject, so I suggested we stop where we were and be done for the day, then corralled him over to the couch for a chat. I told him that I really understood how he was feeling, being angry about not doing a perfect job, and not wanting to even try again because he couldn't do as well as he wanted.

Jimmy responds well to analogies, so after he had calmed down, I told him about what a terrible bowler I am, and that I used to be really grouchy about bowling because I was so bad at it. I didn't want to belabor my point too much but I told him that for me, bowling a strike was like getting a math problem right, while throwing a gutter ball was like getting a problem wrong. He got excited about the bowling metaphor, because he's quite good at bowling, and said, "Well, next time we go bowling, I could help you, Mom."

I said, "That's great. The thing is, on your worksheet, you still bowled more strikes than gutter balls--you just didn't finish bowling every frame." He was quiet for a minute and then he said, "Yeah. And you know what picking up the spare is? That's when I get a problem wrong, and I go back and make it right."

I love homeschool. Because I always get schooled, too.


John and Chantalle said...

Where did summer go? I am so glad that you are having such a positive experience with homeschooling. Reading and listening to your positive (and not so positive) experiences make me excited to jump on the home school wagon.

Holly said...

Do you remember flash cards? I still have nightmares about those. I remember the time sheets too, but In never did figure out why I was so terrible at those. I'm glad to hear you and Jimmy are finding away around the time sheets.