Monday, September 01, 2008


Son and I have been struggling with the start of school.

For the last few years, we've been "unschooling" in a heavy way--not following workbooks or parent-made plans. That does not mean he doesn't do and learn a great deal, or that I have nothing to do with what he studies and how he learns things. Unschooling means constantly putting books in his path and opportunities in his way.

For years, Son has been exploring math concepts in a fairly advanced way--but often he is stopped by his inability to do basic math facts with ease. He's never really learned his multiplication tables or even memorized those pesky addition facts. Because he has to think them out each time, it makes doing complex problems difficult. Even when he gets the complex idea down right away, he often can't get the answer right without it taking forever.

This year, we've decided that we want to use a math workbook and even rote drill in order to help him brush up on those underpinnings.

Needless to say, given a very intense child with perfectionist issues, he's often frustrated.

So am I.

This morning, Son had a meltdown over what I thought would be a very easy math exercise. After he erupted in tears (and before I lost my temper at his over-reaction), David and I asked him to do something that would help him regroup--hug his stuffed animal upstairs, do yoga, get a drink, or whatever.

He went to his bedroom.

I picked up my knitting, a Diamond Fantasy lace shawl (designed by Sivia Harding) knit with silk laceweight yarn. The pattern requires just enough concentration that it helps me really refocus and relax. If it were any easier, I would continue to stew in my own misery while making the stitches. (In fact, the first Diamond Fantasy I knit helped me through clinical depression.)

Somehow, rather than knitting new stitches, I took to heart my son's need to backtrack and set things anew. I found myself TINKing (KNITing spelled backwards to indicate one is undoing stitches one by one). I undid about 30 stitches before I realized it. When I saw what I was doing, I immediately smiled and was (mostly) back to a place of patience. The magic of knitting.

Son is currently sitting with David going over the same kinds of math problems. Neither of them is in tears yet...


teabird said...

Lovely shawl, lovely story. The magic of knitting - yes!

shalom - teabird / ravelry

Sheepish Annie said...

I was a junior in college and firmly entrenched in my belief that I "couldn't do math," when a kindly tutor told me to just get a calculator and stop worrying about it. Now, as a special ed. teacher, I let kids use multiplication charts when they do their math. They can do more advanced math without worrying about the calculation and the multiplication facts are reinforced through repetitive use.

It's a struggle, no doubt about it. Here's hoping that Son finds his way around the block and is able to see the beauty in the numbers. When I stopped seeing them as bad things, it was sort of fun to make them dance to my tune!

Carrie K said...

The shawl and the colors are just fabulous.

I warred with math my entire childhood. I was out sick for most of the basics and eventually memorized the multiplication tables - all but 9's and I have to go through the formula every. time.

Learning curves. We all think we're above them and it's just not true! Even at my age, it galls me. At least no one can see me crying in frustration. Good math thoughts to your son! Math is fun.

Ruth said...

Ah, I've been there. We had a lot of resistence to learning the times tables from Eldest, who came up with the concept of multiplication on his own when he was five, but didn't see why he had to learn the basic stuff first. You're wise to tackle it now.

Veggie Mom said...

Sometimes it just takes that one "Ah, ha!" moment. As a high school English teacher, I often have students who are frustrated with writing. It's wonderful when the "light bulb" suddenly goes off!


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