April 03, 2006

Why we homeschool: reason #672

Actually, this is one of the main reasons we started homeschooling, so it's a lot closer to #6 than #672.

This morning, reading through the Alberta Math Workbook for Grade 3 (one of the things I picked up at last year's homeschool convention), just to see how Laura's work, primarily with Singapore Math, compares to what her friends at the local public school are doing -- more out of idle curiosity than out of any desire to match their efforts -- I was reminded again why I can't stand the provincial curriculum. In two words, "learning outcome"; as in, "Alberta Math is a comprehensive review and practice workbook that provides activities for each and every learning outcome in all strands of Alberta Mathematics Curriculum." Okay, you can throw "strands" in there, too. Which all means what, exactly, Mr./Ms. Alberta Educrat? The particular exercise I read about was "Area fit", where the child is instructed to "Cover a desk or table with the following shapes or items (hand, thumb, book or rectangle, bottom of can or circle, triangle, hexagon). Decided which one is the best to measure the area." And the expected specific outcome for this particular waste of time? To learn to "select an appropriate non-standard unit to measure area." Hmmm. More like to learn jargon and bureaucratese.

And here's a fourth word that drives me batty in the Workbook -- "estimate." The third exercise in the book is on "Counting Strategies." A grid, 12 squares by 12 squares, is shown on the page, and the first question is, "Estimate the number of squares." "Count the number of squares" shows up at number 3, and "Describe anther strategy you could use to count the number of squares" is the last and fifth square. Now, if I didn't know better, and I do, I'd say that in second grade, Alberta schoolchildren must get a good start in addition and basic multiplication for this sort of "counting strategy" question to make it into the beginning of the Grade 3 review book. But..........no. And yet, all through the workbook, the math educators have a ball asking the kids to estimate this and that, rather than having them demonstrate arithmetic skills -- addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, time, measurement, etc. I always figured that the logical progression is to develop a solid foundation in basic arithmetic, and then as you get older you'll understand and know how to make a decent estimate. Which probably explains why I never grew up to work for a provincial education ministry or state education department.

We'll be sticking with our own curriculum and learning outcomes, thanks very much.

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