Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Flexible Teaching

Homeschooling is going great. One of my frustrations when I taught public school (sixth grade) was that I had short amounts of time with each class and I had to cover exactly what the school district told me to. It made it pretty difficult to do anything creative or exploratory. And one of the few times that I did let the kids explore, I got yelled at by the vice-principal.

I had taken my class downstairs to the sidewalk and let them draw large circles using chalk and string. Then I had them measure the circumferences and diameters of their circles using string, and write down their figures on paper. We had quite a few pairs of numbers from all the various circles we’d drawn, and I asked them to use a calculator and find the ratio of circumference to diameter. Everyone had an answer very close to 3.

My 11- and 12-year-olds had just discovered “pi” for themselves. If I simply taught the formula “circumference = pi times diameter” everyone (remotely engaged) would ask “What’s pi? Where did it come from?” But by having them make their own circles and their own measurements and their own calculations, I (hopefully) showed them that pi is a number that just is. It is the beautiful true ratio occurring naturally in every circle.

Our vice-principal came outside just then, though, and was quite cross with me (in front of my class) for putting chalk on the sidewalk (we all know how horrible that is!) We spent the last rushed minutes of class-time ferrying water back and forth from the bathrooms to wash off our offensive circles.

Anyway, all to say that I love teaching at home, where I can be flexible and innovative without anyone’s permission. I can spend as much time as I like on a phonics game or a sawdust exploration time. We can learn measuring skills through real cooking instead of word problems in a mathbook. We can read “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed” five days in a row and make “alligator bait” (cookies) or jump around the room on pillows to keep safe from the “dangerous alligator in the water” (8-month-old Ethan). At least for kindergarten, this is the right choice for us!


ErinOrtlund said...

Good job! Sounds fun! How frustrating about the Vice-principal. The rain would have washed the chalk away!

I'm interested in homeschooling but I'm wondering how it works when there are younger siblings not being homeschooled. Do they participate in the activities? I wonder how it would work logistically.

Lisa Blyth Gertz said...

I've heard many moms say that the youngest does something fun in a high chair during the schooling, or does something similar to the older kids. Also, using naps or quiet times for the younger ones helps. Right now, when Naomi is doing her reading, I have Josiah doing something fun that helps him learn his letters, like coloring a letter, or playing a matching game myself.