One of the mistakes that is commonly made in a homeschool setting is to assume that all children will learn the same way or at the same pace. Additionally, not all curriculum choices will work equally well for all students. It is important to figure out your children's learning styles and then find books and materials that will ensure the best possible learning experience. Hand-me-downs aren't a bad thing, so long as when it comes to using them, they fit.
I have homeschooled my three children, all with different orientations to learning. The flexibility that homeschooling allowed made it so I could encourage them to independently explore subjects that strongly interested them (literature, history, etc.), while being able to be more hands-on with those subjects that proved difficult and uninviting. By the time I came to my third student, I had plenty of curriculum on hand and was ready to go. But, I discovered that much of what had accumulated and had worked so well for my older two, just wasn't a good fit for her. It was then that I made my greatest improvements as a teacher, by finding innovative ways to bring about understanding and explain the relevance of what she was studying.
I won't lie to you; sometimes this can be frustrating and downright difficult. But, that's never been a good reason to quit at anything worthwhile. I've had many opportunities to praise God for giving me insight as to how to "unlock" the door to understanding.
The first real challenge in his academic life occurred with fractions. For some reason, this concept completely eluded him. That is, until I put a dollar sign in front of any math problem he faced. He was always eager to have and earn money, so this proved a surefire way to keep him involved. All I needed to do was put the question in terms of money and what had previously been an obstacle became an area he looked forward to, and often wanted to tackle first each school day.
This one had a hard time with numbers early on. The question: What is 13 minus 3? would stump her. It didn't seem to help to use pencils, or paper clips, or other physical objects to communicate the concept of subtraction. Finally I got creative and made use of the fact that she had been golfing since she was three years old. When I posed the question like this: Let's say you are on hole #3 and Daddy is on hole #13. How many holes will it take you to catch up with him? The answer "10" was out of her mouth almost before I finished asking my question. After that, I would tell her to think in golf terms.
But there are upsides to struggling students. Sometimes they come up with creative explanations for their setbacks. The daughter whose favorites subject is NOT math, is now working on algebraic word problems. She often comes up with some great one-liners. For example, we recently had this interchange during an algebra lesson. The problem stated:
Let's say your brother has been visiting you for the weekend from college. Five minutes after he leaves to go back to college, you discover that he forgot his books. So, you get in your car and drive to catch up to him. If your average speed is 10 mph faster than your brother's speed, and you catch him in 25 minutes, how fast did you drive?
My student didn't waste any time with this one. "Hasn't anyone ever heard of cell phones!" In her mind, the problem did not qualify as a real problem. "I would just call him and tell him to get his own books!"
I think the one I like the best came from Child #2, who demonstrated early on, her proclivity for the law. She had just received a grade of 37% on her 4th grade science test. I pointed out that she hadn't prepared very well, leaving many answers blank. She immediately challenged my grade and told me she should be eligible for partial credit. "Really?" I retorted. "And how do you figure that?" She replied without even stopping for a breath, "I should get partial credit for the ones I left blank. That showed I knew I didn't know the answer!"
Home teaching moms, don't despair when one of your students struggles. It will serve as a character building experience for him and the opportunity for you to become a better teacher. And, you might get some good laughs along the way!