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How Much Math is Enough?

How Much Math is Enough?
By Christy Severn-Martinez

Recently, my concerns regarding my daughter being a late reader have transferred over to her math. Should I be worried about math to the extent that I worry about her reading? She knows how to count, add, subtract, and do a few multiplication factors. Is that enough for her? Definitely not if she were in school, but she’s not, and I have to say, “Yes, it is enough for her.” But I still worry about her not knowing more.

Well, once again our life learning journey has proven to be her way of learning. So I’m sharing this story mainly to convince myself that she will be fine and that she is learning more now than when she was attending public school – a comparison that will have to be saved for a much longer story.

Today, while my daughter spent most of the afternoon in her room watching TV, another of my worries snuck up on me: She watches way too much TV. This worry is in constant battle with her being a late reader...oh, and don’t forget about her love of video games. (I did mention that I was new to unschooling, didn’t I?) Okay, back to today’s life learning lesson regarding my math worry. While doing my best to stick to my new parenting style, I left her alone. I never checked on her to see what she was doing. Okay, maybe once I walked by her room and to my surprise there she was coloring her new felt poster (which I thought was another wasted purchase she would never start, like so many before). She wasn’t watching her movie, just merely needing some background noise to fill the silence as she sat there coloring. So, I snuck around the hall corner as fast as I could so as not to be spotted “checking on her.”

A few hours passed with the occasional emergence to get a drink or snack and a wave hello as she walked back to her room. This is where I divulge my worry-no-more math life learning lesson. She happily comes into the kitchen to inform me that she has 115 pieces of gum that she counted out by fives! And that was with no persuasion, threats, or coercion on my part to get her to learn some math. She did it all on her own and she was so proud to tell me how she came to count 115 pieces of gum by fives.

Who cares if she doesn’t count dots on a worksheet and show how she came to her answer? I’ll tell you who cares: the schools do. I say all that matters is that she came up with the right answer, on her own, without any help from anybody. Does she need to “show her work” to prove she’s smart? That’s a big “No” in my book. She is so much smarter than that because she figured it out in her head, in her own way, on her own.

What is more amazing than a child figuring something out and figuring it out correctly in her own way? When did people start thinking we had to do everything the same way for it to be correct? That’s not creativity, genius, intelligence, smarts; that’s just following the crowd and there is no originality in following the crowd. Originality is what makes one truly intelligent.

So, in your face, worry……okay, maybe for a few days I’ll let go of the worry on this particular matter. What can I say? I’m a Mom!

Christy Severn-Martinez is first and foremost an unschooling stay-at-home-mom, wife, sister, and daughter. She runs a small business from her home and loves to read, cross stitch, and learn life all over again with her daughter. She lives in Tucson, Arizona with her daughter, husband, and a multitude of pets.

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