The other day in a math reader (The Great Number Rumble), I read to the kids about the “butterfly effect.” The theory is that something as small as the wind from a butterfly’s wings can set in motion a series of changes that can lead to huge weather events months later (small causes can stir up large effects).
This year I made a change in the way we are approaching math in homeschooling, and I am beginning to notice ripples of change and am wondering where those changes will lead. (Bear with my brief background of the change, and I’ll get to what I’ve noticed.) At the end of last year, I felt that I needed to experiment with our approach to math because of some of the blocks that Bethany was experiencing. In researching ideas, I came across a program called Living Math, developed by a homeschooling mom named Julie. It takes a literary and historical approach to introducing math concepts; we read about the people who first came up with different math ideas and what was going on at that period, and why they came up with innovations in mathematics, and it gives a framework for the kids to then explore and learn those mathematical concepts.
This has been a fun and interesting way to come at mathematics, and I think it has been positive for the kids. However, it was some resistance that tipped me off to one of the main changes coming through this program. Bethany expressed some frustration with not being able to check something off and be done with it. Last year, she could do the workbook pages I assigned, and yes, there was a whole lot of negative emotion involved in the process, but she could do it, be done, and move on. This new way of doing things, however, requires us to all be present for the process– engaged, willing, hopefully enjoying, but most of all, completely there.
I would say that I have thrown up resistance to really engaging myself in the present with things that I don’t want to do…and even some things that I enjoy. It’s often easier to be mentally in the past or the present or in some alternate reality, and to just let now be on autopilot. Yet, being present, and accepting the present, has probably been one of the most valuable, persistant, and life-changing skills that I have been learning over the last several years. (And I want to say that I’m not very good at it yet, but just having that thought reminds me that I can enjoy where I am now in the process even if it’s not where I hope to be someday.)
That resistance that I glimpsed in Bethany (and see regularly in myself) is to me a sign that we are wrestling (in a good way!) with allowing ourselves to be right where we are, whether it’s in learning math, daily jobs, relationships, spiritual upheaval, or identity upside-down-inside-out-ness.
One of the things I really want for my kids as I homeschool them is that they learn to enjoy and immerse themselves in the process of learning rather than racing ahead to an end or an outcome. That’s really what I want for them in life too, and what I’m learning for myself–to go ahead and enjoy the process, even when (and because) we’re still learning.