If You Could Learn Whatever You Wanted…


This morning Em wasn’t feeling well. She listed a litany of ailments, but her eyes told a different story – one way or another, a day off of homeschooling was in order.

We don’t typically break for summer, and rarely even for the smaller holidays, so a day off here or there isn’t a big deal. My eldest and I used to call the occasional rare absence from her public school “mental health days.”

So let’s just call today a mental health day. My only codicil was that she could not spend her day playing Minecraft, Skype her friends or mess with the computer in general. I did allow her to watch some television, but a good part of her day she spent reading and playing with her Legos.

After dinner we drove to her evening Monday class, Peacequest, which for this semester was all about loving the Earth. Previous semesters have included studying the middle ages, Native American culture, and more.

“Mama, what is 11 plus 11?”

“It’s 22,” I said. “Close your eyes and imagine the 11s stacked one on top of the other, like the math problems in Life of Fred. 1+1=2 and 1+1=2, so 22. You could also consider it 11 times 2.”

“Okay,” she said nodding. “So why does 9+9=18?”

“Because it doesn’t equal 17, or 19, or some other number, I guess. 9+9 could also be expressed as 9 times 2.”

“So two times two is four, right?” she asked.


“And 3×3 is 6?”

“No. 3 times three is the same as saying 3+3+3.”

“Ohhh! So 3×2 is 6!”


“And 2×3 is also 6, right?”

“Yes, it is. Do you remember the word that describes that concept?” She shook her head, so I answered it for her…”Commutative. It means you get the same answer no matter the order.”

All of this was cool and she was very animated and interested in it. I told her about my difficulty with learning times tables when I was around her age. I eventually conquered it by playing made up little math games, which I still engage in to this day out of sheer habit. Weird but true.

“Mama, I want to learn my times tables.” Emily said excitedly, and began describing how she was going to review the times tables chart on the back of her bedroom door until she had memorized all of them.

And suddenly inspiration struck. Each month, in the last week of the month, we have a discussion. Are there any changes we need to make to the homeschool schedule? Anything that needs more attention or less? I make recommendations, but so does she, and together we come to a basic agreement on what her study schedule will be.

And this is the last week in the month.

I found myself wondering, if she were able to create a study schedule, all on her own, without any expectations or requirements from me, what would it look like?

“Em, for the month of November I want you to make the homeschool schedule. If you had all the control, and you could study whatever you wanted, what would you want to learn this next month?” I told her she didn’t have to answer it all right now, to take her time. But she already had three things she really wanted to do…

  • Learn how to type a story on the computer (I’ll show her around Microsoft Word and show her how to save her files)
  • Memorize her multiplication tables
  • Write an actual story (I guess hanging around two authors day in and day out has its side effects)

So that’s just the result of a ten-minute conversation in the car. I’ll post updates on how next month’s homeschool schedule ends up.

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