For to be free is not to merely cast off one's chains,
but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.
- Nelson Mandela -

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Mastering maths and science

I thought this might be a good moment to update you on our home ed activities. I just typed that down to see what it looks like and what it feels like to give it that name. Because it certainly feels strange to think about it as such. I don't consider anything we do not to be a home ed activity, really. For a while I tried to uphold the opinion that watching television and playing games on the computer weren't real activities, let alone educational ones. My children have taught me how wrong I was about that. For weeks at an end both Myrna and Owen took the trouble to list everything they'd learned from these 'square activities' and I must admit, I was impressed.
I wasn't the only one impressed. Since a few weeks we have a real and proper tutor coming to our house, Mr R. He's a retired maths and science teacher and he comes every other Thursday morning to do these subjects with Myrna and Owen. They'd both expressed a desire to 'do more maths and science' and Myrna even wants to work towards a GCSE. I've
blogged before about this growing interest and about me feeling inadequate to offer them sufficient challenges and support.
I asked a friend of mine, who's a teacher at one of the colleges in this area, whether she knew somebody with 'soul for science' and she introduced me to Mr R.
He's everything you'd want a teacher to be, most of all flexible and able to go with the questions of the children, without losing his own focus. He has a true love for anything to do with science, biology being his favourite subject. Which resonates one hundred percent with my two, especially Myrna.
The first time he came they did maths, because he wanted to get an idea where they were, how much they knew, so that he could work out what to offer them.
I sat in, of course. Don't want to miss a chance to get a little wiser myself. And I was so amazed to see how little time it took them to convert their practical knowledge into sums. The other good thing about Mr R is that he has a sense of humour that matches that of Owen. When he asked: "If you divide a pizza up into eight equal parts, what do you call one of those parts?" Owen replied: "Too small", Mr R couldn't stop laughing. And to "What do you get when you want to give eight men and their wives an equal part of the pizza?" Owen knew the answer too: "Sixteen hungry people."
I could see these answers coming from a mile away, but Mr R obviously heard them for the first time...
Last week they did biology. Mr R had brought a microscope that was at least a hundred years old and they had to assemble it. Meanwhile he was asking questions about all the individual parts, and to his and my amazement they knew literally everything. What the parts were called, how lenses were made, why you needed light, and much more complicated stuff. Then they went into detail about cells and DNA and that kind of complicated matters, of which I must admit I know very little. So whatever they know, they certainly haven't learned it from me.
Mr R was obviously impressed and asked how they knew so much. Myrna just shrugged and said: "Well, we go to museums, we watch documentaries and films on television and if we want to know more we just look it up on the internet or in a book."
The last half hour of each session Mr R spends with me, to explain the things where the kids and he went too fast for me :) and to give me some guidance so I can help the kids with their homework (hahaha).
Even though I am one hundred percent convinced that what we do is the best for us, for our children, I secretly felt very proud when Mr R said he hadn't expected so much knowledge with Myrna and Owen (because I'd told him we hadn't done any formal curriculum education) and that he really enjoyed their open and inquisitive minds. He also said that after the first session he realised that he needed to prepare these 'lessons' in a different way, because he'd done more in one session than he would have done in three weeks in school.
It's great to see the enthusiasm in the children, too. They are genuinely looking forward to their sessions with Mr R and have asked if we could do them on a weekly instead of a fortnightly basis. I'm afraid that for now it's just not feasible financially, but maybe once the house move (and the double rent) is behind us it could be an option.
Mr R must be genuine about enjoying it, because he's offered to lower his hourly rate if we want to go to weekly sessions. When they were doing maths he spent quite a bit of time trying to understand how Myrna did her calculations (I think they were multiplying fractions). She has her very special own way of doing these things and apparently Ken and I aren't the only ones finding it difficult to follow. But Mr R persisted and let her explain again and again, until he understood. Now he's telling everyone about the extraordinary way she's taught herself to do these sums. It's a prime example of lateral thinking, according to him.
It's wonderful to see how they inspire each other, how teaching can also be learning and vice versa.
In preparation of next Thursday the kids have been gathering everything they could find about the human skeleton. They even had to sit and watch one of these pathology programmes, bless them... The sacrifices one has to make in order to obtain proper education...


shukr said...

Wonderful to read Mieke; uplifting as usual!

Mieke said...

(((shukr))) :)