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Math, Drawing and Thinking

20100106_0679 blog
Judah (12) 

My children love drawing lessons (from our Drawing Textbook). All except Keziah and Ezra that is. They hate it. When we sit down to do a lesson, you'd think I just assigned 16 extra pages of math. The resistance I've gotten (though somewhat passive) and the incredible struggles they have, along with a very busy homeschool, has slowed our actual progress through the book some. Instead of a lesson per week, we're doing a lesson per month, broken down into two parts. 

An amazing thing has happened however. Ezra is of course not homeschooling this year, so I only have one student who hates drawing lessons. In the last month or two Keziah has hit a unit on Geometry in her math book. A non-math lover myself, Geometry always seemed like short reprieve from regular math. Our house is filled with good math books ( such as the Sir Cumference Series) which I have read aloud and created units around so my children would have a real life understanding of geometry. But none of this has seemingly helped Keziah. She has struggled immensely with geometry. One thing I noticed early on in homeschooling our Liberian children is, they didn't know most of the basic shape names. And when I went in search of a good resource to teach them, I found they were all aimed at babies or toddlers. Hmm…handing them a baby board book didn't seem to be the best way to boost their confidence. In the end, we just went over and over and over them. While they now know the names of basic shapes, anything beyond that is still a bit baffling to them.

So- onto the amazing observation I made recently. In Keziah's geometry unit, they often want her to divide a shape "symmetrically" or "copy a shape". In other words draw. She has struggled like crazy with this. She finds it difficult to "copy a shape" or even recognize if similar shapes are "the same". It suddenly dawned on me why she has so much trouble with drawing lessons. For whatever reason, it is difficult for her to "see" the shapes. And at the same time, her Thinking Skills book (mentioned yesterday) wants her to do similar things: are these shapes the same? which shapes are different? finish the pattern, put the similar figures in groups, etc. They (drawing lessons, Geometry and Thinking Skills) are all requiring her to "see" the shapes and figures.

 Add to the equation the fact that she now spends an hour and a half a week with a math tutor. An hour and a half where the house is quiet and the tutor is available to just her and Boaz. The tutor has been working with her through the Geometry unit and she has the basics down.

So, last week we sit down for our first drawing lesson in months (due to holidays, busy schedules, broken bones, etc). And guess what? She has improved about 100 times since our last lesson! She was able to draw the lines and the  proper angles. She was much quicker. She is beginning to "see" what we are doing when we draw 3 dimensionally! It's like the three subjects (Thinking Skills, math and drawing) have meshed and clicked in her brain. Not in a conscious sense, but subconsciously. Her brain has made some kind of connection…

Now, I'm not saying she has no more academic struggles. I am simply reporting the first honest, tangible improvement in over 2 years of homeschooling. 

I knew our Liberian children needed the Thinking Skills, due to their lack of basic logic. And I knew I needed to arm them with enough math to be able to cash a paycheck, buy groceries and pay the bills. What I didn't know, was that our "extra" class, that is "just for fun" and sometimes with their academic struggles might seem like a "waste of time" would prove to be one of the missing links to help her learn. 

Combine that with her comment about rock wall climbing being like "Thinking Skills" and this homeschool mom is on cloud nine.

14 Comments

  1. Kate Alva

    Way to persevere! Have you heard of the movie “The Blind Side”? I haven’t seen it yet, but one interesting side note of this true story (google it) is that once Michael Oher had been adopted as a teenager and was receiving constant love, nurturing and support, his IQ score increased 20 points. On a side note, his adoptive family, the Tuohy’s, are Christian.
    Thanks to Keziah for letting you share this great success story!

  2. Sarah

    Good job! God had given you such a special love for your kidos. I was just wondering why Ezra is not home schoooling this year? Have a fun day!

  3. Tammy

    How exciting! I have often wondered how children adopted from other countries adapt to learning here in America. I love reading about how Keziah is progressing. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Verity

    I am impressed! I was terrible at art – even my art teacher asked me not to continue with the subject 🙂 and found maths fearsome so I admire anyone who can do anything in either subject! Way to go Keziah!!
    Is Ezra still in the marching band? (one of my all time favourite American discoveries!)

  5. Renee

    The reasons for Ezra not homeschooling this year are very complicated, but to simplify it: school is a better place for him right now. Ezra is 17 1/2 and more or less unwilling to do school work for me. He takes “school” much more seriously. Understandable considering in Liberia “homeschooling” of course didn’t exist. We love Ezra dearly, but he is happy to simply hold on for the ride, so to speak. He is unmotivated to do anything for himself. When at home he depends completely on the other children. He will not ask for anything (instead “suggesting” something to the other kids and letting them do the asking). He is fine doing nothing…at school he has to listen, think for himself, and get himself up, on the school bus, listen for directions, etc. He can coast to a certain extend, but not like he can do here at home. He doesn’t have Keziah and Boaz to listen for him, or “help” him. He is forced to come out of his shell a little more. Given his age, he needs to be able to some things for himself. It is one small step toward independence for someone who make not take the step with out a little nudge.
    Renee

  6. Nicole

    Congratulations on the awesomeness of Keziah! =)
    Just curious, what are your liberian kids’ plans for the future, or are they not thinking that far ahead yet?

  7. Kathy

    My son had visual perception difficulties. A block tower looked the same to him standing up or lying down. Working with Legos helped him ‘feel’ the difference and after I built the item from the pattern once, he could take it apart and re-build it again.

  8. Delia

    Fascinating post – I wonder if the spatial/shape brain connections are something that needs to be done in the early developing brain in order for it to be second nature – similar to how learning a 2nd language is easier when you’re 2 years old than when you’re 12.

  9. Tina

    Great insite into your Liberian children! I have six Liberian children (ages 5 – 13) along with eight bio children (ages 2-15) and also have homeschooling struggles with our Liberian children. I really appreciate these last few posts. Of course, I love all of your posts!I am a big fan of A Baker’s Dozen!
    Warmly,
    Tina

  10. Carrie

    This post brought tears to my eyes! I LOVE breakthroughs when kids “get” something…especially after a long road. Having had 2 kids with special needs, it is definitely a cloud nine moment! It is awesome that you are so in tune with the needs of your kids and are willing to try different approaches to meet them…even if that means sending one to school if that addresses his needs. Oh, and I recommend “The Blind Side” too if you have not seen it. It would be a lovely date night if you get the chance. Just beware…bring your kleenex!

  11. Emily Weaver Brown

    Hey Renee, I just wanted to ask if you have checked out any iphone apps for teaching geometric shapes. I have the “Toddler Teasers” app on my phone and Simon only plays it when we are in the grocery store or in line at the post office and he as already learned all of his shapes (even hexagon) and he recognizes them out of the context of the game. He says stuff like “look at the diamond” (pointing to tile in public bathroom). So while the toddler teasers apps are probably really bellow Keziah I bet you there is a basic geometry game in the app store. (But your toddlers might enjoy the toddler teasers app)

  12. Emily Weaver Brown

    There’s an app for that!
    I just went and looked – sure enough – check out:
    Geometry Facts Flash Cards, by Alpine App LLC
    Polygons – Easy Math Fun, by Custom Web Apps
    Geometry Touch, by Mark Keroles
    these are each $.99 and do 3 dimensional shapes and such. There were also a lot more geometry apps that went up through college level stuff.
    and I forgot to say congrats to Keziah for her breakthrough. The brain is so amazing and new neural pathways can still be forged even in adulthood.

  13. joabair

    have you checked out currclick.com? They have some individual classes on there, but your tutor may have taken care of that. Other than what Delia said, bc her comment made me see what the problem might be, why cant she see that things are same/similar/different in shapes? Is it just the early brain development was missed? I just wonder. What makes a brain that way, what makes her struggle. I still think its wonderful that you guys were able to do this for Ezra though I am sure it was hard for you.

  14. Davene

    Yay for Keziah!!
    This post made me think about some of the info I studied in college about how music affects the brain/the connection between music and math/etc. Sounds like art is similar, too.
    Isn’t it amazing how God made our brains? 🙂

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