Minor crisis, I should say. More of a conundrum, really. Conundrum didn't seem snappy enough for a post title.
Big and I did some new work today: more complicated long division, resulting in repeating decimals. This wasn't frustrating for him, because he knows how to do it, but it was tedious. All those steps, and then you have to keep doing them. And doing them. And doing them, until finally a pattern emerges in the decimal and you can put your damn repeating bar up there and be done with the thing.
So he was trying to make it more entertaining, for him and for me, by personifying the numbers in various ways, by pretending he was dueling the problem with swords, by putting in lots of meaningless zeros as unnecessary place holders. All these small diversions resulted in a tense mama who kept directing him back to the problem in a businesslike and humorless way. It also resulted in a single problem taking twenty minutes to solve.
We were clearly at odds, and when he finally dissolved in tears, I lost my temper. Or maybe I lost my temper first, and then he dissolved. That seems more likely, somehow.
And then I tried to explain myself:
Long division is just something you have to do.
The only fun part about it is getting it done. Maybe it gets a little bit fun when you can do it really quickly, but that's only because you're getting it over with.
It's like practicing scales and arpeggios: nobody likes it, but you have to do it.
He eventually settled down and we did several more problems. In a businesslike and humorless way. Which was satisfying for me.
And that's when I had my crisis: Doesn't he deserve a teacher who loves what we're learning about? When I was a teacher, I would at least muster some enthusiasm for a subject, even if my heart wasn't particularly in it. Especially when some of the kids were reluctant. Doesn't my child deserve the same? From me, his teacher?
When I was a kid, I never paid attention in math class, because my mother was (and is) a gifted math teacher, and I knew I could just come home and have her explain it to me, and it would be crystal clear in about twenty seconds. Why bother listening to a thirty minute explanation in class, when I had a home tutor always ready and willing? And interested, I might add. Maybe she didn't find long division scintillating, but she certainly never would have told me that the only good part about it was getting it over with.
So now what? I do think he needs to do his long division relatively quickly, and that he would do well to learn how not to get distracted by all the wonderful and creative things that reside in his head. But I also want it to be fun for him, and I want to do better than telling him it's just something we have to do, because.
Maybe it's too much to ask. Everything can't be fun, and there are some things we just have to do. Like dishes, and long division. But I don't want my feelings about math to dictate his feelings about it. I believe I can do better, and I'd really love to hear from other homeschoolers about how they pull this off.
The amazing thing is that after the long division, we went on to this:
That's Word Roots: Latin Prefixes, Roots and Suffixes, by Cherie Blanchard, which was like dessert. He LOVES this work, and is finding all sorts of amazing connections between what he's learning about Latin and his French lessons, between words he knows, and words he's just now finding out about.
Dessert. Learning Latin was like having a piece of chocolate cake. For both of us, really. It was so relaxing, intriguing, and just plain fun to jump into the world of words.