Thursday, October 27, 2011

Doing Hard Math

When Mom has a headache, school is done in bed.

During the 4 years I homeschooled Xavier, I had a difficult time finding a math program that kept up with him, let alone challenged him. My problem was that I needed to get the basics in him so that he could fly into the great world of higher maths, while still moving quickly.  I failed miserable. However, he has finished those basics, and was ready to move on this year. Of course, then he decided to go to school. That certainly wasn't the answer to his math woes!

The closest we came to filling his need for math learning was his constant reading of Murderous Maths books.  These are hands down his favorite books. Eventually, we hope to own the entire set. In the meantime, he reads the ones he has over and over again. He desperately wanted his math teacher to like them. Unfortunately, his math teacher is definitely into conventional math teaching.

Now, I have him home. Just in time, Art of Problem Solving released a Prealgebra book. While I think he is ready to do other Algebra programs, I know he wasn't ready for AOPS' Algebra program. I was thrilled to find out they were coming out with a Prealgebra book.  It has been everything I hoped it would be.

For the first time, Xavier is challenged in math.  He really has to think about what the math book is telling him. He has to chew on the information and figure out what it wants him to know. Right now, he is learning about subtraction.  That's right, I said subtraction. This is the problem set he had trouble with yesterday:

Use the definition of subtraction to explain the following equations.
(a) 11-(-13)=11+13
(b) -11-13= -(11+13)
(c) 11-13= -(13-11)

He had no problem with (a) and (c).  (b) gave him fits. You see, he had learned that when you subtract a number from a smaller number, you subtract the smaller number and stick a negative sign on the answer.  He just could not get over the fact that, in his mind, the answer to -11-13 should be -2.  It took much discussion (he does much of his best work out loud), bringing money and debt into the discussion, and a couple hours later, he walked into the dining room and used a few math problems to illustrate what the book was wanting him to learn. Now, he truly has an understanding of negation, instead of having a trick to get an answer.

Finally, Xavier is having to work to understand concepts.  This is very important for gifted kids.  His brain won't shut off. It is always going, usually faster than his body can handle.  We need for him to be challenged. We need him to know there are things that are hard. He needs to have to work at math. Xavier loves math, but it was becoming boring. Now, it is exciting again. Things are so much better when you have to work hard for them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Field Trip, Oh My!

One of the best things about homeschooling is all the field trips we're able to take. One of the worst things about homeschooling is all the field trips we're able to take. Sometimes, a homebody just wants to stay home! Of course, then we would miss all the amazing things we have the opportunity in which to take part.  This opportunity was a last minute find. I found out about it just hours after taking Xavier out of school, and two days later, we were walking among the dead.


First, we stood at a small memorial on the side of a road, while our guide told us a story. He told us the story of a Union Calvary that was made up of former slaves that got ambushed by a group of Confederate guerillas. The part that amazed me was the way the story was found out about.

This man, our guide, had been doing genealogy research on his family. While doing the research, he came across a diary of a headmistress of a local girls' school. The headmistress mentioned a bloody battle. Since he had grown up in the area, and never heard of the "bloodbath," he became curious, and started making inquiries. He found two other men who were also researching this battle. Through the research, they came across a cemetery for African Americans. This cemetery had been in use since at least the civil war, and the last known burial was in the 1970s. Yet, this cemetery went uncared for. It was dismissed. Very few people even knew of its existence. The land the cemetery is on is currently owned by no one. The group is trying to get someone to claim ownership so that they can clean it up, perhaps put walking paths and a picnic area. It really is a beautiful place.


We crossed an old stone bridge.


And followed the old hearse road to get to the cemetery.


The graves ranged in adornment from an elaborate headstone with a wall and gate (no longer standing)


to an indention in the ground that collects leaves, with a river rock for a footstone.


There were several military headstones,


including this one for a man whose father died the same year, and is buried beside him.



This was an unusual headstone. It was for the first wife of a man who was buried above her. His second wife was also buried there, but had no headstone. We think she probably died after he did.



After we looked around the cemetery, we helped do some general cleanup.


I found it interesting that they can only speculate about where the two mass graves of the soldiers are. The townspeople took the time to bury the dead, even though they were all former slaves, and it was not a safe time. (The town had just been robbed by the confederate soldiers.) The group that put up the memorial is not sure whether the cemetery grew up around the two mass graves or if the graves were put there because of the cemetery. They tend to think the cemetery grew up around the two graves, especially given the proximity to the battle site.

So, this is what come from missing a day of school, responding to a late email, and taking the opportunity to explore the community around you. You learn so much more than you could possibly ask to learn.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Public School Experiment Gone Bad

When an experiment goes bad, it can be a minor thing, and it can be a major thing. At first, we thought this was only a minor thing. Xavier was bored. We weren't surprised. Although Xavier has learning disabilities, he's also quite gifted. I skipped him a grade to get him into 6th grade. Academically, he could have probably skipped straight into 8th grade. He was making all A's, with one B. He was getting all good conduct reports (except for in band, his favorite class- those percussionists...). When I withdrew him, his teachers all told me how good his conduct was. He was still bored.

The boredom, we were all prepared for. We figured he would probably go out of his mind with boredom. He wanted to try school. He wanted to have the opportunity to make some friends who lived close. We wanted him to have the opportunity to see if school would work for him.

What we weren't prepared for was the bullying. Oh, sure, we knew that bullying goes on in school. We even suspected that Xavier might have to put up with some bullying. But, Xavier didn't tell us about the bullying. Even though we questioned him extensively, he just didn't tell us.

Since school started, Xavier's hard won self control has been consistently slipping. It was getting harder and harder for him to maintain. We were seeing more incidents of loss of control each day. It wasn't until a relatively innocuous incident got blown out of proportion that I saw the pattern. After much discussion, I finally realized that Xavier was being teased at school- a lot. So, even though we had originally made the deal that he would stay for the first nine weeks of school (which ends Friday), I asked him if he wanted me to withdraw him early. He said, "But that wasn't our deal."

When I responded that I had always intended to withdraw him early if he was miserable, he started crying, and asked me to withdraw him as soon as possible. Apparently, he had just been waiting for that nine weeks to be up. So, I went to withdraw him yesterday. While I was there, I learned something else that did not make me happy about Xavier's school experience, but extremely thankful I was withdrawing him.

While I was sitting, waiting for Xavier to go to his teachers to have his withdrawal paper signed, I watched him walk through the halls. As he was walking through a double doorway, there were three girls walking through going the other direction. One of the girls grinned at the other two, then turned and shoved Xavier into the door. She then turned to her friends and laughed. Xavier bounced off the door and kept going, for all the world as though nothing had happened. It gave me the impression this was not the first time it had happened.

When he returned to me, I asked him, "Does that happen often?"

He looked at me blankly, "What?"

I replied, "What that girl did to you?"

He said, "Get shoved into walls and doors? Oh, yeah. All the time."

Now, I have to hope that if Xavier were to ever be hit, he would defend himself. But, Xavier's a bit of a pacifist, even with his short temper, so I'm not sure he would. It is very frustrating to me that Xavier was not only being emotionally bullied, but also physically bullied, and he never said a word. I am so thankful that he is back in an environment where he won't be bullied. And, I have a final word to say about socialization.

I had a couple teachers tell me that Xavier needed to learn to get along socially. I had a very difficult time keeping my mouth shut, but this is what I wanted to say:

I don't want my child to learn that it is okay to make fun of other children.
I don't want my child to learn that it is okay to tell a child he is going to hell, and he should leave their lunch table.
I don't want my child to learn that it is okay to dump another's child's food in the trash.
I don't want my child to learn that it is okay to shove people into walls and doors.
I don't want my child to learn that it is okay to hate learning.
I don't want my child to learn that it is okay to be disrespectful to the adults in his life.
I don't want my child to learn to get along in a jungle.

I want my child to stick up for the underdog.
I want my child to accept other children, no matter their religious beliefs. (I don't want him hating all Christians because a few Christians have treated him poorly.)
I want my child to treat other children with kindness.
I want my child to help other children up when they trip, or help them pick up their belongings when they drop them.
I want my child to love learning.
I want my child to be respectful, even in disagreement. That is the only way we can have a civilized society.
I want my child to learn to be an adult, not a quasi-adult, who still has the impulse control of a 2 year old, and can only be controlled by older adults/policemen.
I want something for my child that the social atmosphere of a middle school just can't give him.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What We Did Today

Way back at the beginning of the year, Gary got a special award. He got a little special something for getting that award. Today, the family got to go see/take part in that little something. It started a little something like this...

In the Fire Suit

Waiting for Our Rides

And had us all standing in line

Race Cars

And included things like this

Another Rider is Up

So we could do this this

Going Around in Cars



It was totally worth getting up early, going out in the cold, and having horrible hair. Thank you to my husband for being such a good soldier, and to the Panther Racing team for supporting the National Guard, and our children for standing around for hours while we had fun!


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