You Are Only Cheating Yourself

I’ll admit it, the Algebra textbook had been difficult for ME, and I had been covering it in college.

Perhaps one of the drawbacks of not choosing a particular curriculum is the ‘winging it’ aspect that we found ourselves using. Some things worked out (Women’s History and American Politics), and other things didn’t (Latin).

Danielle had gotten off to a rocky start with the Algebra book. There were tears and there was yelling as Dave and I, mostly Dave, struggled to teach her the basics.

Dave: Now ‘x’ is what we need to solve for. It’s an unknown and we are going to figure out what it equals.

Danielle: But what IS ‘x’? Is it five? Or what?

Dave: That’s what we’re going to solve for.

Danielle: [tears in her eyes] I don’t understand!

Math was not her favorite subject, something I could completely relate to, but I was concerned with giving her a balanced education, “doing it right” and we pushed through with the book, until one day, a crisis came to roost.

It was ‘math day’ and Danielle slumped into her room to work on her homework. For a half hour there were no wails of frustration, no requests for help, and I figured I had better check in on her and see how things were going. Her door was open just a crack, and as I knocked on it, it opened and Danielle jumped and covered the protruding answer key quickly, a guilty look on her face.

The answer key to the odd-numbered questions are in the back of the book, but college textbooks also come with an optional answer key you can buy that gives the solutions for all of the even-numbered questions. Danielle had found mine and slipped it into her room and was now using it to complete the work she felt too challenged by.

In essence, she was cheating.

The fight that followed had the dog running in fear and Dave nervously wondering if the two of us would come to blows, I was that mad and she was that frustrated.

In the end, it came down to this statement, “Danielle, you are only cheating yourself. And you have a choice here. You can commit to learn Algebra, or you can try cheating at it again. But if you cheat, you might as well go back to public school.”

I’d like to think that the tide changed in that moment. That she realized that homeschool was for her, not me or anyone else, and if she didn’t want it, fine. She missed her friends, but it wasn’t enough of a motivation to go back.

On that day, Danielle chose to stay homeschooled and she didn’t cheat again. Instead she made it through the entire first half of the book of college-level Algebra. The second half was trig, and we decided to leave that for college!

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