Monday, February 25, 2008

Homeschooling in Honduras...or...half a year of math in 4 days!

One lovely February day as I was walking back from the Pan American Health Service campus to the house where we were staying, I said to God, "I'm feeling useless in the Casita Feliz, like I don't belong there right now. Is there something else I should be doing?" And I got back such an immediate answer that it brought tears to my eyes, "Do school with Little Friend". Little Friend had started second grade in the US and then, at the beginning of November, her family moved to Honduras to help with PAHSmanagement. Little Friend had been working on her 2nd grade workbooks...when mission life didn't intervene...but the new school year in Honduras starts in February and Little Friend was going to be beginning 3rd grade in only 4 days!

I got the okay from her sweet mother and then set about that very afternoon finding out what Little Friend needed to master to make her new school year a success. Fortunately, Little Friend is a very good and eager reader so I soon realized that she'd be fine in reading, spelling, grammar and even writing. Whew!

That left math. Math, of course, is cumulative and leaving holes in understanding/knowledge can cause major problems later. Her US Math book was very thick, with 39 units, only 9 of which she'd completed. Four days for an 8yo to cover 3/4 year of math? Now there's a challenge!

Step one of any teaching program, of course, is to prioritize, so I looked through her math book to weed the wheat from the chaff, to the pluck the basics from the fluff, to identify the essential foundational building blocks for her future math study. Those turned out to be "telling time" "place value" "addition and subtraction with regrouping" and, if time allowed, an "introduction to the concept of multiplication".

Another vital part of teaching is to develop a relationship and then maintain attention. So we did lots of laughing and had lots of silly fun over the math concepts she was learning...and kept attracting curious adults who simply had to see what was so funny.

The goal wasn't to "finish pages" as much as "master concepts" so we skipped blithely ahead and around in the math workbook. We had to improvise manipulatives so we made a paper "clock" using a couple of colored pencils for the hands, devised our own numbers chart (for discovering patterns) and scrounged what we could find to use for counters and to represent ones, tens and hundreds places.

We took lots of move-the-muscles-and-wake-up-the-brain breaks for things like hopping down the hall and running around the house. We had "Snack School", "Tiny Toy Animal School", "Beanie Baby School" and even "Outdoor School". I think Snack School was her favorite--because snack school provides a tiny, tasty motivational snack as a reward for finishing a problem (the first day), row, or page (the last day). One of our new friends who was also staying in the house had brought a supply of granola bars which Little Friend discovered she loved so those were our snacks for Snack School:

I am happy to report that she did it! In four lively days Little Friend mastered telling time, place value, addition and subtraction to three places--with regrouping (borrowing and carrying) and checking for accuracy. I was very proud of her! And when she got her new 3rd grade math book, I was very relieved to see that those were just the skills she needed to have going into grade 3 in her new (bilingual) school in Honduras.

Yesterday we received an email from her mom that Little Friend is doing great in school and math is no problem! It is, indeed, a satisfying feeling to know you've made a real difference in someone's life.


Blogger Sharon said...

Jean, LOVE THIS!!!

It's so good - good isn't even the word - satisfying, to see how God leads us.

God helped you make a difference in this sweet ones life. We're suppose to be doing that all the time...HELP US GOD!!!

You know the pictures you took of her and the angle they were taken - look like Vicki's Maddy. :)

7:00 PM  
Blogger Marilyn@Mixed Bouquet said...

That is so amazing! It's obvious that the Lord led you in this adventure and used your talents to help this little girl.

5:39 AM  
Blogger Renna said...

To think, how easily the opportunity could have been missed had you not been in communication with your Father!

That is such an awesome testimony, Jean. You're an inspiration. :-)

1:30 AM  

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