Saturday, April 15, 2017

You Suck At Math Because Your Parents Sucked At Math (ispo facto, your kid will suck because you do)

If your kid is awesome at mathematics, please don't read this post.  

If you're not interested in my rants, please don't read this post.

If you're a cry baby and take things too personal, please don't read this post.

If you're a believer in the victim mentality, please don't read this post.

Warnings done... proceed at your own risk.

Let's stop blaming the schools. Let's stop blaming the teachers. Let's stop blaming the genetics. Your kids suck at math because you do. This is true whether your kids are in public school, private school, or homeschool.

You suck at math because your parents sucked at math. Your kids suck at math because you suck at math.

"I can do math in my head, I know math" No you don't. You know how to drive a car, but that doesn't mean you know how it actually works ... and you need to know how it actually works to teach how to build a car.... and make no mistake, the fundamentals of math are all building block items. Multiplications, Fractions, Subtraction, Probability, etc.

"You don't need to teach them math, they will figure out what they need as they go." WHAT!?! Wow. How far does this line of reasoning go with you and into what areas of life? Or is this a selective thing only applying to math? Well, your kids, your choice. I, on the other hand, will most definitely ensure my children understand mathematics before they find they need it (such as with predatory credit card terms, mortgages, insurance rates, etc.)

So, who will break the cycle? You? Your Kids? Or will you continue to allow it plague your family lineage and build in an excuse system?

I was horrible in math in elementary school. The pain! The Pain! (I can hear Paul Mordeeb in Dune screaming in the pain amplifier!)
Memorize this, Memorize that, go faster, wtf is this? Crazy madness. It all made no sense because those who taught it didn't understand it. But wait, that's the teacher, right? Yeah, but parents are the first teachers. Teaching math is a natural part of raising a kid. Basic math is infused in all aspects of our society. I bet you don't understand it so you can't infuse it into a family discussion. I truly understand math. In fact, I can teach mathematics through set theory and numerical analysis (300 and 400 level college), and I know I can step into a college and pass a class in combinatronics.

Am I saying that my kids will be doing this level of mathematics before they leave home high school? Extremely doubtful. Unless one of my girls is very clear that she wants to go deep into some computationally intensive science, our math education will barely, if at all, touch trigonometry or calculus.

What is key is to really understand the fundamentals of computational mathematics and how it works. If your kid knows 6 times 7 of the top of their heads, that's fantastic. But does your kid really know what 6 x 7 means? Can they explain it, can they show it, can they swap in a something other than a 6 and still lay out what is going on? Can they substitute an apple for the six and still get it? Can they add the apple as the unit and get it? Can the explain what the units are implied or not by 6 x 7? Do they understand the place holders that the 6 and 7 represent? Do they really understand that we are simply speaking out, in a short phrase, "six times of a 7"? Do they know that 6 times 7 will never be presented to them that directly in the world? Can they transfer from a real life situation into the 6 x 7 memorized fact? Do they know the answer to 6 apples times 7 oranges? Do you? It isn't a trick question, if you understand mathematics.

If you don't really understand math, go back and study it. I did. As silly as this may sound to you, when I was 20 years old I decided I had to really learn math. So, while I was stationed in Korea, I plopped my ass down in the post library almost every day for six months and started to learn. I started with basic counting. Literally doing 1 plus 1. What was 1 plus 1 really? How does it work? What do these things mean? 1 what? Etc. Etc. I did this for about 6 months, getting into geometry. I now really know math and can transfer that into my children, making it a part of our daily lives. It isn't some vague concept or algorithm sequence to memorize. I can explain and show why, and I can infuse logical thinking steps into our daily lives to help my kids grow and explore through mathematics in real terms. I can have discussions around Miles Per Hour and help them discover how that is a fraction with units and translate that further into distance covered over some period of time. I sure wish I had this comprehension before entering the adult world.... I would undoubtedly have made better financial choices as a young man.

As a nation, we approach mathematics education wrong, and we seem to be suck in this vortex of wrongness. We can either let it perpetuate or fix it. I'm fixing it, what about you?

So, fellow educator, take accountability. Own it. Go back, and really think through mathematics at the basic level. Do it to gift your family tree, as I have.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

How To Make Travel and Vacations Meaningful Education Experiences for Kids

One of the many reasons we homeschool is the freedom to travel.  Our life experience is that visiting the world brings you closer to it, building a deeper bond with peoples of the world. It also puts muscle and color onto the dry bones of book based history, geography, and anthropology.  There isn't anything like talking about WWII with our girls, and then recalling our visit to Dresden.  History gets teeth this way. This, a huge part of our home education model is to include travel.

From our home school charter Philosophy section

III.4: "Actual experience is a far superior teacher to theoretical constructs.  As such, Exerevno Academy aggressively seeks to provide its students with experience based learning opportunities."

and from the tactics section of our home school charter

VII.3: "Cultivate self-driven inclusion in the human race with extensive travel"

Our girls have thus far been to 22 different countries, traveled by train, plane, boat, bus, automobile, motorcycle, bike, and their own two feet.  They've backpacked in Europe, Kayaked in Honduras, rode camels in the Sahara, and more.  We literally started when they were babies, carrying them with us as we explored the world.  All this experience has allowed us to hone our travel infused education model.

What follows are some of the ways we blend our girls education with our passion for experiencing the world.

Folders For Trips
For any trip we take, we start educating ourselves on the place about 6 months out.  In the case of Egypt, however, we started about a year out. Each week we do something related to the trip.  This something is always two or more hours in duration, and can span multiple weeks.

In the very first week, we discuss our upcoming trip in detail.  We talk about what we want to get out of the trip, why we are taking the trip, and the kinds of things we would each like to do.  We build out a tenative itinerary and plan together.  We then create holding folders for the trip.  The front cover is a map of the area to be visited.  These folders not only keep things organized, but are put away for the girls when we are done so that when they are adults, they have a nice keep sake.

Youngest With Her Map
Our first set of activities are always map related, and takes about a month to complete. The girls build out world maps, showing where they are and where the destination is.  If we are going through multiple countries, they mark each country on the map. With the world map done, we then drill in and they build out country maps (one per each country visited).  On each country map, they identify major cities and land features (such as rivers).  In some cases, like when we went to Paris, we had them do city maps too, showing where major things like the Eiffel
Tower and the Louvre were in relation to our hotel.

Our second set of activities is always history related, and takes about about a month to complete.  The girls start building out history time-lines, showing major events in a particular countries history.  We usually build these out using history podcasts from university history lecturers.

Our third set of activities is around the famous people associated with the countries to be visited.  Be they good, bad, or otherwise, we study the major historical people that are associated with a place.   It is neat because the girls have bumped into some of the same characters now multiple times like Napoleon and Julius Caesar. This approach has also let us view these people from multiple perspectives.  Napoleon's quest in Egypt, for example, with his 150 scholars, engineers, and scientists as a major part of his force highlights a different view than we got when we studied him before going to France.

Once we have our maps, history, and people noted, we then go in multiple directions.  We make dishes from the country, we listen to music from the country, we study art from the country and create our versions of it, we do projects related to the religion of the country, we study the political system of the country, we write fiction stories about the people in the country, and so on.  We create fiction stories
Stories, Colorings, and Paper dolls
about people in a country, and we write out own history books on a place.

The results, after years of doing this, have been astonishing. The girls have demonstrated tremendous knowledge about places, people, and history as compared to others their age (and older)  as they whip out facts, opinions, and thoughts based on first hand experience and study.

We have done a few TV shows as sources for material, but have found that the information does not stick as well as when they do their own projects or when the listen to the same information in a podcast.  This probably isn't surprising, but anecdotal evidence that TV isn't the ideal way to gain knowledge (at least not for our kids).
Abu Sunbil July 2016

It is a lot of work for me, to get all this material rolling.  However, the experience can't be beat.  It also helps increase the value of a particular vacation.  For example, traveling to Egypt ended up costing us around $12,000.  We were gone for 2 weeks, coming out to an average of about $860 per day, or about $210 per head per day.  However, looked at another way, we spent a year studying the place before we left.  We built dioramas, listened to songs, ate different foods, etc. that we wouldn't have and that is also time that could count towards the 2 weeks.  If I were to estimate, I'd say we spent 4 weeks of time doing these other things before we got to Egypt.  That makes the entire Egypt trip event 6 weeks (2 there plus the 4 actively preparing).  Now we have a spend of about $285 per day, or about $70 per head per day.  Well worth it!!!