Daisy and I nearly clashed heads, yesterday, but I managed to step back and recognise that it was my problem, not hers, just in time.
We were working together on the Mega Maths book that I bought her a few months ago. We’re about a third of the way through it, and it’s still harping on about numbers 1-5, which she’s pretty confident with. It’s not without value – some practice in writing the numbers is useful, even if the constant counting of objects and identifying of written numbers is a bit tedious. Anyway, she did about twenty pages before she got fed up (when I looked, that’s about as much as we managed last time – she seems to have a natural cut off), and then she started being silly – circling the wrong answer, or circling all the answers, or trying to make a pattern with the circles that bore no relation to the answer, etc, etc, and making herself giggle in the process.
I started to tell her off for being silly, then I stopped. What is the point of the book? Is it to give her as much practice as she needs to get a competant understanding of numbers, how to recognise them and how to use them? Or is it to have a neat work-book full of ticks, the prove how clever she is? The fact is, we’re seeking education – understanding and knowledge – here, not neat rows of ticks for the sake of it. I’m not dealing with 29 other children, and the book isn’t my sole record of what she understands. I know she understands, because she understands it well enough to replace the real answer with one we both know is silly. What’s more, it’s her workbook, and I need to let go of the desire for her to keep it to my standards.
It was a bit of a revelation to me. The point is the understanding, not the paper record of the understanding.
And then, of course, I considered what would happen if she took that approach in school – she’d get into trouble for a start, for not doing it properly or neatly, as if there is some innate value in the work ethic of doing things neatly and properly. She might even be held back, on the misapprehension that she didn’t understand the work, because she’d given wrong answers. Which would mean she was given more work that wasn’t at her level of understanding, and she’d get more bored. A vicious cycle.