There’s nothing like starting up home-schooling to really bring home how much school teachers do.
Ultimately, what your kids need to come away from their education with is a good grasp of reading, writing and arithmetic: The three r’s. You do these well you can do just about anything else, I figure.
Which might explain my thirty years of poor performance on the corporate career ladder. That, and a lack of drive.
Even now, despite making a living writing, English is like teaching a foreign language once I have to explain things like adjectives and adverbs. Stuff, I might add, I know I learned at school myself because the words that appear in pages of the kids’ workbooks have a vague air of familiarity about them.
And if you think that sounds like I’m struggling teaching my kids, you have no idea.
“I just saw a duck fly,” exclaimed Miss7 recently.
“I don’t think so,” I told her in my best, half chuckling at her naivety, Daddy-is-smart voice. “Ducks don’t fly.”
“You know they’re a migratory bird, don’t you Dad?” said Master12. “How do you think they do that? Catch a bus?”
Nearly as bad as Tracey calling sheep, goats and horses, camels and cows, horses, although admittedly she gets to blame not having her glasses on whereas I just had the pathetic excuse of twenty years of feeding bread to the feathery critters at the local duck ponds, where they were all too well fed and fat to do anything other than float over for a snack occasionally.
But I knew this! I knew ducks can fly! I mean, of course they can! My daughter just saw one doing it for a start!
So what I’m trying to say is home-schooling is going so well some days it feels like we’re starring in our own Idiocracy film.
Not that I don’t think we’re doing a fantastic job in many ways. We’re nailing the lunch break.
And if I’m doing that well on things like barnyard animals and English sentence structure, you can only imagine how the numbers are going with their fancy words like factors, algorithms and reciprocals.
Worst of all, suddenly my usual approach to homework, along the lines of don’t worry too much you can use a calculator in the real world, doesn’t quite cut the mustard.
And before you say, ‘Yeah, right. Weren’t you a banker?’ I’ll just point out the computers did most of the grunt work and for everything else we were allowed calculators, which is why I kept bringing it up when the kids approached me with questions.
So I wanted this Westpac/Mathspace brief bad when I saw it pop up on my screen because it fits in so well with what I’m doing at the moment – genuinely struggling at teaching the kids numeracy.
So what’s so good about this?
Firstly, the Mathspace program is brilliant. Where it differs from many other systems out in the marketplace is its fully worked out steps as opposed to multiple choice. I used to love multiple choice questions at school. I had a system – knock out ‘the teacher thinks he’s a stand-up comedian’ answer then hit the longest explanation. Or if that doesn’t look right, the C. Or B. Unless there’s no obvious answer to knock out, and then you want to go with all or none of the above.
So, yeah, not having multiple choice is probably a good thing.
Secondly, it has lots of video lessons created by real maths teachers – so I don’t have to pretend to be one.
Thirdly, you can use it across all devices, meaning no one has to kick me off my computer because they all have personal tablets.
But all that is sort of secondary to why I think this is going to work for us.
Westpac is giving Australia free access to maths education through Mathspace Essentials. The basic idea is they will sponsor the interactive digital textbook, Mathspace Essentials, providing the free online mathematics programme for your kids. That’s a $99 program for nix!
What we’re going to do is upgrade to the premium product, Mathspace Plus, which allows the kids to get the $10 a week subscription fee refunded directly to their Westpac Choice account once they complete their weekly maths tasks – money they’ll be able to use for the more expensive activities they want to experience on our Big Lap. Things like laser tag and swimming with dolphins and theme parks. Essentially, as we’d have to fork out for those things anyway, meaning no extra cost to the family budget.
Even better, I just saw Westpac will put a $20 deposit into each kids account as an incentive for new Westpac Choice accounts if they link this account to the Mathspace Plus account within 31 days. Check out the website for more details www.westpac.com.au/mathspace
I’m keen to get this underway and the kids, as you’ll see in the video below, are keen as well.
As Master12 said to me last week while we Googled whatever the hell a rational number is, “You make me feel smart, Dad, because you suck at this.”
Raising a family on little more than laughs
This post is obviously sponsored by Westpac, proudly offering free access to maths education through Mathspace Essentials. Get on it. Conditions apply.