We don’t need no education


Here’s the song reference.

Bugaboo greatly dislikes math, although she is, in fact, very good at it.  This causes the occasional conflict at our house, as her disdain for things numerical tends to take the form of pretending she doesn’t know what the numbers mean, or which number is which.  Since she has been correctly identifying digits since before her second birthday, her lament that she doesn’t recognize them holds very little water.

While we do add in fun math stuff, like using brightly colored gems and pompons as manipulatives, the reality is that Bugaboo is at a point where our main goal for her with math is that she commits the basic addition and subtraction facts to memory, and the most effective way for her to do this is to practice.  I’d love to let her design her own problems using multihedral dice, which would definitely amp up the fun factor, but she’d rather not use the dice for their intended purpose  For now, for purposes of both practice and assessment (because she does like to see a page covered with rainbow checkmarks showing all of her correct answers, it’s textbook time.

Yesterday was one of those, “I hate math,” days for Bugaboo.  Her regular math book has gone suspiciously missing, so we resorted to a couple of workbooks I keep around for extra practice problems.  For the record, as of this writing, I have still not located the missing tome, so whoever moved it has done a pretty decent job of hiding it.  As it happens, the book she was given had some slightly easier problems in it than the regular text, so I handed it over, assuming today would be a nice, easy, numbers day, since she could breeze right through the problems and be on to English and science, which she greatly prefers to math, in a matter of a few minutes.

There is a somewhat profane saying about the word, “assume.”  If you’re not familiar with it, do click the link.

It’s not all that unusual for one or more members of the tribe to revolt during our school time; sometimes the rebellion has to do with the work, sometimes it has to do with Baby Guy or Mr. Man being highly annoyed that the kitchen table is not available for car racing, play cooking, or finger painting.  Generally, the offended party settles down in a matter of minutes, sometimes because I’m able to say the magic, soothing words that restore balance to the tiny person’s universe, sometimes because I do my best drill sergeant imitation.  As I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to minimize the drill sergeant voice, because it really bothers me that I’m hearing so much of it coming from Bugaboo (and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Man).

Apparently, Bugaboo and I have both become a little too accustomed to me barking orders in the face of defiance.  For four hours, I kept my tone mild and calmly explained, redirected, encouraged, and ignored, by turns.  For four hours, the math remained undone, or was filled in with random numbers by my oldest child.  By the time she finally got around to completing the work, most of her toys were securely locked in Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom, with the promise that she would earn one object back for each task she completed throughout the day, including, but not limited to, her assignments.

This earned me several rounds of a Bugaboo wailing, “You don’t love me!  If you loved me, you would let me have my stuff back!  I can’t live without my stuff!  I have to have my stuff back in my room if I’m going to do work!  I won’t do it unless you put all of my things back from where you stole them!”

She was, in fact, able to reclaim all of her belongings, with the exception of a couple of small, broken toys she didn’t notice failed to make the return trip to her room, but it was almost dinnertime before she did.  Her math assignment was completed after I finally lost my temper and raised my voice, about an hour past lunch time.  After she finished it, I sent her off to her bed to take a nap, for both of our sakes, and, as I tucked her in, we had a little conversation about the importance of doing our daily, routine tasks gladly, even if they’re not exactly what we’d like to be doing at that moment.  I gave her examples of the tasks I dislike (regular readers of this blog will be unsurprised to learn that most of them are in the housecleaning domain), and explain that even though I’d rather be reading a book, playing a game, or doing stuff with her and her siblings, I still do them, because they’re necessary.  Once the work is done, I can play.  We talked about why math is important, about the times she’s sat next to me while I worked out a shopping list that worked with our grocery budget, and how she would be allowed to help with it if she could only remember the basics of addition and subtraction.

We also talked about how “stuff” is not a good measure of one person’s love for another, which turned into a discussion of people we know who have decided that when material largesse stops flowing, love must stop flowing as well, and how terrible is the hurt that decision has caused.  Bugaboo is six years old, so I’m not sure how clearly she understands the concept that toys, money, and expensive outings don’t constitute the most important part of love, but she did bless me with a glimpse of her comprehension after she’d had a nap.  I offered her a cookie, and she looked at me and said, “Mommy, you don’t need to give me a cookie.  I already know you love me.”

Alrighty, then.

She ate the cookie anyway, because cookies are tasty, and she was a little hungry.  I had one, too, and then we finished her phonics lesson.

Today’s prayer:  Lord, thank You for the four intelligent and strong blessings You have entrusted to our care.  We have made mistakes in raising them, Lord, in that we succumbed to the temptation to use a wrathful voice instead of a reasonable one too often.  Please grant us the grace of patient and penitent hearts as we seek to unlearn the easy path of anger and thereby teach your blessings the narrower way of patient teaching.  We pray that you will use us as Your instruments to teach Your blessings, and anyone else in need of instruction, Your definition of love, which involves neither money nor possessions, unless it is in sharing those with those who direly need them.  Please bless our household with the grace of loving people more than things.

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