Breathing Through Your Homeschool Math Curriculum

One of the most valuable concepts I learned as a Waldorf teacher was that “breathing out” is as (or more) essential to successful teaching and learning as “breathing in” is. Recreational time or time out from learning is absolutely crucial to every student’s health, well-being, and true educational success. The good news is that your homeschool math curriculum can breathe!

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Adopting a program like Math By Hand ensures that your students will not only have good, healthy fun in between their math lessons but during them as well go math grade 7. Taking time out from a math lesson or pencil-and-paper practice by having students do jumping jacks is one thing. But what if your homeschool math curriculum was so lively, fun, and invigorating that there was no need to take this sort of time out from it? Now that’s a truly successful math program!

We have only to witness the effects of cutbacks in our schools’ arts and PE programs to note how mistaken the notion of “more academics is better” can be. And nowhere is this notion more apparent than in China’s school system. Yong Zhao, the Associate Dean of the University of Oregon, writes in his 12/10/10 blog that the staggering hours of schoolwork and homework that are expected of top Chinese students (especially middle school and high school students) may be backfiring.

He notes that “Chinese students (a sample from Shanghai) outscored 64 countries/education systems on the most recent PISA, OECD’s international academic assessment for 15 year olds in math, reading, and science.” He wonders why international education experts were so impressed by this statistic since, “It is no news that the Chinese education system is excellent in preparing outstanding test takers, just like other education systems within the Confucian cultural circle-Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.”

Zhao goes on to say that this news did not make a big splash in any of China’s major media outlets. He searched extensively but did not find any mention of this outstanding achievement. What he did find instead was a story from a Chinese middle schooler’s mother that is both shocking and sad, and may provide the real reason behind the outstanding performance of top students in China. It “follows a mother’s online posting, complaining about how her child’s school’s excessive academic load has caused serious physical and psychological damage.”

The article details the grueling work load and unreasonable expectations that are piled on the vulnerable shoulders of these youngsters. The online post says that her daughter’s 7th grade middle school schedule included extra evening classes that ended at 6:30pm. But that since entering 9th grade, her evening classes have been extended to 8:40pm every day, and that 12th graders are also required to take additional classes from 7:30am to 8:00pm on Saturdays.

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