My Unschooling Book Series (27)
Today, I’ve been writing about unschool maths, jotting down notes about how we went from ‘unschooling except for maths’ to unschooling with complete trust.
Unschooling except for maths? Is that really unschooling?
I want to discuss that question, but first: Why is it so hard to let go of maths? (I’ve never heard anyone say, “We unschool except for history or creative arts or…) Why do many of us cling to old and false ideas about learning when it comes to maths? Do we not really believe our kids will pick up all the maths they need by living life?
Or maybe we don’t think that’s enough maths. Although we may never have used it, perhaps we think our kids should learn higher maths just in case. Just in case of what? If our kids ever need more maths than they know, they can always learn it. It’s never too late.
We might tell ourselves that even if our kids never use all this maths, it’s a good mental exercise. They might not retain everything, but it won’t be a waste of time and effort because their brains will have got a workout.
And maybe we think that because we survived higher maths, it won’t hurt our kids to do it too.
I’ve also been pondering another idea: Perhaps some of us don’t want to let go of maths, both primary and high school, because it would make our homeschool record-keeping more difficult.
My daughter Charlotte completed part of a higher maths course. Her story illustrates how we can fool ourselves. I won’t say we are dishonest, but we know that if we look too closely at a situation, we may discover something we don’t want to deal with. So we don’t look.
I told everyone Charlotte loves maths. “I love maths. My kids love it too. We’re a maths family. We like playing around with numbers.” This explained (I hoped) why my kids did structured maths courses even though we called ourselves unschoolers. I told everyone that they enjoyed these courses. But did Charlotte really like working her way through the many levels of higher maths? For a long time, I didn’t know because I didn’t ask her. She never complained about doing maths. Therefore I assumed that she enjoyed this subject because it was convenient for me to believe this.
Yes, sometimes we can look at things with half-closed eyes because it’s convenient. Charlotte’s online maths course records provided an easy way for me to prove she was doing the required maths for homeschool registration purposes. If she gave up her course, what was I going to do? I’d have to find other evidence that she was learning maths. Could I do that? Maybe but it would certainly be much more difficult than running some maths worksheets and progress reports under the homeschool registration visitor’s eyes. So I continued not to examine the situation too closely. We continued ‘unschooling except for maths’. We weren’t ‘unschooling but I require my kids to do maths’. I didn’t require maths. Oh no, my kids wanted to do it. They loved this subject.
Except they didn’t. One day, my daughter Sophie said, “I hate maths.” And eventually, I got brave and asked Charlotte how she felt and she confessed she wasn’t enjoying her course as I had hoped.
I want to write more about what changed my mind about unschool maths. I want to tell you how I was forced to open my eyes and look at the situation in an honest way. How I ended up with no choice but to let go and unschool with complete trust. And I’m going to do that. But for now, I want to go back to that question: Can we call ourselves unschoolers if we require our kids to do maths?
If we think of unschooling as a pathway that we progress along as we learn more about this philosophy, I think it’s quite okay for us to require maths and still call ourselves unschoolers. The particular point where we are standing at the moment is the one just right for our family. And maybe we’ll stay there. Or perhaps we won’t.
But we all have to keep our minds open. Keep thinking. Keep learning. And be honest. Ask the question: Are we really at the correct point for our families? Do we need to be brave and examine what’s really going on rather than what we hope is happening? Perhaps we’re doing something a certain way because it’s convenient and not because it’s right. If we find out that our kids’ learning is being negatively affected, we have to face that. Do something about it. We can’t stand still and say, “This is what suits our family,” when really it might only suit us, the parents, and not our children at all.
I’ve got a lot more I want to say about unschool maths but that’s enough for today! Also, I’m not going to use what I’ve just written as it is. No, it needs lots of work. I’m just sharing my raw thoughts. I invite you to share yours!