Use It or Lose It

by S.C. Torrington on December 7, 2007

Casio_Calculator cropYet another humbling real life opportunity to realize what a huge responsibility home educating your child can be and how you can fail so miserably even when you (think you) are paying attention.

A few nights ago, Morgan and I were watching a TNA Wrestling PPV (I guess that’s not gonna play to my competency factor here) and during the Divas match (strike two) an older announcer was drooling over some busty blonde tag team. That led to a comparison to Jerry “The King” Lawler, WWE’s original over-the-hill wet-dreamer.

“How old do you think he is?” asked M.

And this is where it all started going terribly wrong. I looked up The King on Wikipedia and wrote his birth year and this year on a scrap of paper and handed it to Morgan. Because instead of staying in the girl-on-girl moment, I clicked into Home Educating Mom mode and turned a simple question into a subtraction problem.

I could see Morgan was hedging and then he asked me to just tell him. But when I could see he was totally thrown by this second grade math problem, I persisted. Not out of good parenting, but out of selfish pride.

Morgan kept staring at the numbers on the paper. So I got snippy (strike three). His eyes started filling with tears. He had totally forgotten how to “borrow and carry.” But once I finally reminded him, M did the math fairly quickly, got the right answer and then, per my insistence, explained it all rather clearly.

So is there something to be said to rote memorization? I mean we’ve done oodles of multi-digit subtraction problems without problems. But since then, we’ve moved onto aspects of math where subtraction like this hasn’t occurred. If I had made him memorize his subtraction flash cards ad nauseum, would the answer have just sprung correctly from his head?

Granted, once I said the words “borrow and carry,” it all clicked. But does that mean he needs to practice more, every day? Or do I wait for real world opportunities to spring up? Obviously, that didn’t work. Maybe we need to focus on those type of usable, basic skills instead of the Final Jeopardy trivia that fills his Calvert School textbooks and overflows my public schooled brain.

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