Lockdown Home Schooling

It’s been some time since the lockdown, and homeschooling is on in our home as it is in homes across the globe. With a WFH schedule for the adults, schooling three kids with ages ranging from 10+ to 3+, it’s quite a challenge. Add to that some activities to keep them engaged, entertained, engrossed, and not 24×7 on the iPad or iPhone (10+ girl), or watching TV!

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5-yr-old M did a great job in this fill-in-the-blanks test! She did it in a jiffy too! Now, she’s keen to move on to the table of 3.

Then, of course, there’s the looming threat of a hangry’ outburst. They need food to chew on (perpetually) before they bite off each other’s heads! So I dash to the kitchen, my head in a swirl. Peanut butter sandwich…as I spread the butter I re-run a passage I was working on…editing… “that part needs a rewrite”… “What could be a better word for…” I switch channels and get back to the food one… ok, a ham and marmalade one too…and what did Z want? And these are only the in-betweens, there’s lunch beeping, “what’s for lunch?” in another corner of my head!

Keeping their hunger pangs down with this, that, or the other something light they can snack on between meals, without losing their appetite for a proper meal is a daily challenge. There are days when I’m just a breath away from climbing the walls. I let off steam by deep breathing and muttering mantras (I’m doing good. I’ve got it under control. I can do it. I’m patient…) under my breath so they can’t hear, and I do the best I can. 

We’re all trying to do the best we can! These little ones must find it even harder to adjust to being locked in, away from friends, and school with its activities and community. This thought helps me to rein in the frustration and sail on even keel even in choppy waters. But I have my human frailties and limitations too. So I need to accept and acknowledge my feelings of inadequacy that overcome me, at times, and the fatigue, both mental and physical.

I love having the kids around. I am closer to them and am a part of their life more than ever now. We share so much more… conversations, jokes, games, and camaraderie! And I do love doing their lessons with them and teaching them some new things too.

This brings me to the subject of this post… Math… the bane of my life 🙂

I’ve been getting 5 yr-old M to do single-digit addition sums and made a small step into single-digit subtraction. She’s learned her two tables and can max her revision tests: oral and written. Just the other day, I gave her a written test with blanks and she did very well: All correct answers!

As I watched her excited and loving her numbers; sums, tables, and tests, I thought of a 6-7-yr-old me and how I disliked arithmetic. And how tables tripped me up when I was quizzed in an oral test! As she rattled out her answers in her oral test, I compared it to the picture of me and my orals in the same two-three tables. It was funny and I found myself laughing. It was such a contrast in every way – the teachers (me Vs my mum), the students (me Vs M), and the love of the subject (me Vs M).

A foray into my journals threw up this short entry:

Two times Nine is…..umm…is…er…

I think I should add a few incidents with Mummy. Daddy’s been hogging all the space till now. Not that there’s much that transpired with her and me together…..I was always a Daddy’s girl…a tomboy. Anyway, Mummy was (as all mummies were in their homes) my teacher at home. Very bad really, for me, when it came to Arithmetic because she was short on patience and I was short on memory, especially when it came to multiplication Tables. By the end of an interminably long study hour, I’d manage to finally get through one Table and escape.

Oh yes! Escape it was. For my face, which would be burning with the tight slaps she’d land so precisely on my small cheeks, and the small palms that got whacked with a ruler, or my legs that got thwacked with a ladle or whatever was in her hands. Getting away was the greatest relief of the day.

Poor thing, she must have been relieved too! When I think back to the almost stupid way I’d stare at her, while I stumbled and hemmed and hawed my way through the same old Table day after day, my heart goes out to her…..any one would go crazy. So I had to find a method to remember my Multiplication Tables and avoid being slapped. And what a way I devised!!

I’d generally wait till she was in the kitchen instructing the cook and doing odds and ends. I would stand against the door jamb, in the pantry, and my elder brother would stand behind me hidden from her view. Then I’d very quickly and very loudly say the whole Table and hey, without a mistake! Jasper’s prompting got me a lot of praise and shorter study hours, till the day she decided to quiz me. My prompter failed me. Ah! It was back to the grind and a good slapathon and copious tears.

I couldn’t get why she got so impatient and exasperated. She, I guess, couldn’t understand why her bright daughter, good in all other subjects, cultural activities, sports, and discipline was so daft with numbers.

The slapping didn’t last long, though. I sobbed my heart out sitting on Daddy’s lap and convinced him that I was scared of her punishments and so I couldn’t remember anything. He must have spoken to her. She must have understood or found it a huge relief that she was off the hook if I didn’t fare well in the exam 🙂 Whatever, the punishment went back to a longer study hour or Time Out. Grounded. No playing outside with my friends or even my brother. I didn’t mind that because my brother and I found enough of recreation and fun things to do inside the house too.

My grandkids, four of them from 5-10-year-old, are good with numbers… brilliant, in fact! For some reason, that makes me happy!

PS: I still dislike Math! And I’m totally against slapping!

PPS: Just for the record:

1. Mummy was an awesome teacher in everything else. I’ve learned a lot from her. Her love of writing poems, rhymes instilled a love for words and writing. Her expertise in cooking. Her energy and spirit in tough times. Her resourcefulness. Her talent in singing (she sang alto), sewing, and embroidery. Her jovial nature and the laughter that always hovered behind her lips. Her helpful nature. There was so much I had to take away from her to build up my strengths. Her presence, in the house, meant a lot to me.

2. It was not considered as abuse, in India, in those days, to slap a kid and corporal punishment was allowed in schools too. And many kids, even girls, must have got a slap or two or three or more from their moms. Luckily, things have changed since our days.

 

Forty-five Minutes Make An Hour

Being a grandma is great, but at times, it gives you flashbacks just when you’re trying to explain how important Mathematics is to your young grandkids!

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“Some advice: Keep the flame of curiosity and wonderment alive, even when studying for boring exams. That is the well from where we scientists draw our nourishment and energy. And also, learn the math. Math is the language of nature, so we have to learn this language.” ~Michio Kaku

As a child, growing up in Cochin (now known as Kochi), I was introduced to numbers in Lower KG and got to know them better in Upper KG. It wasn’t so bad. I didn’t mind them but I liked the alphabet better. Then came Class 1 or Grade 1, as it is called these days. Now I was introduced to single-digit addition sums! Cool! I had ten fingers to count on and it was fun though it would get tricky when the total ran beyond the digits I had on my hands! That’s when it got my goat!

If I found that exasperating, Class 2 taught me something more… double digit addition and single-digit subtraction and Multiplication Tables! We were introduced to number 1 & number 2 tables. I thought it was a breeze when I was on the 1 table. With the number 2 table, I struggled a bit but got the hang of it. It was easy while writing, “Simple, add two to the previous answer”, said my bro. Just when I thought I was a whiz at it, they started the oral test at the end of the term; we were quizzed in the oral tests in the class!

I thought the teachers were cruel. My mother thought I was being stupid because she feared I’d lose marks and my rank with my low arithmetic scores in the final examination.

 

So, after HW (homework), I’d have to revise arithmetic. This meant, my brother would go out to play an hour before I did. Not fair! The best part is, after a day or two, he felt bad about it too.

Study time was usually an hour for both of us, my brother and me, except when I had to revise Arithmetic. Then it would extend to an hour more.

We were never supervised. You see, we were Christian children and so my mother expected us to be “obedient and good.” Well, I must mention that we were obedient and good kids. I must also reiterate, we were just kids too, minus the adjectives!

There were days when math was too tough to tackle and the games the kids were playing outside a lot more fun. So the devil on my shoulder would start whispering in my ear… and hey presto! the hour would have only forty-five minutes.

 

Now, I didn’t know how to read the time on the clock beyond the hours because minutes and seconds confused me, but my brother could tell the time. So, I’d use all my kid sister wiles, emotional blackmail et al, and get him to put the clock ahead. Of course, I’d want it bucking ahead by a bigger margin but he warned me that it would be obvious.

It was all I could do to keep a straight face when mummy would re-set the time on the clock and grumble about it running ahead and rant at the poor quality of things.

All this was fun until I grew up and lost precious percentage on marks due to poor grades in Mathematics. If only I had put myself to it more seriously at the start; if only folks had been more patient with my Math problems; if only I hadn’t put the clock ahead. So many ifs and buts. So much regret.

I was good with my Math scores in the primary classes, then on, it became difficult and the Math teachers were extra strict, short on patience, and quick with punishments; even corporal punishments were permitted!

Although, I was never punished, I was scared to death when anyone got it. This made it not only difficult for me to learn the subject but it also served to heighten my hatred for it. I scraped through my exams but my low scores brought down my overall grades and percentage. Needless to say what it did to my rank! Mummy had been right.

From being a contender for the first three ranks in class, I was sliding down to the 7th or 8th, and then to the 10th. It didn’t matter that we had over forty children in the class, I had lost my position. Mummy was not at all happy and told me so in as many words. This was a big blow to my self-esteem as ranks mattered a lot in our day. Mummy would berate me and I would rather show my report card to Daddy than her.

If I kept myself going, it was only because of Daddy. I couldn’t drop Math. 

It was a compulsory subject up to grade 9. I could drop it in the next grade. For that, I had to pass this subject, or repeat the same class… no promotion to grade 10. He said my rank didn’t matter. What would matter was if I didn’t try. If I gave up. I assured him I wasn’t going to. Giving up wasn’t an option for me. Mathematics was never my subject anyway and I wanted to get rid of it even more now. That fueled my #determination!

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I studied #Mathematics, right up to the pre-secondary level (Class 9) when I had to pass Mathematics, i.e. Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry in a Board Exam! Well, I flunked in two and had to appear for Math again if I wanted to go ahead. Thankfully I got through. But I disliked the subject even more.

Then, I had reached the secondary classes and could select my subjects… three electives plus two compulsory languages. Mathematics was not one of my elected subjects. What a relief!

Needless to say, I still need my fingers to count beyond a certain number! Ok, that’s an exaggeration. But I am awful at math and anything technical. And that’s not funny but it’s ok!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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