Chapters Six through Eight – Math, Geography, and Logic
What’s Your Big Hairy Monster?
by Cara McLauchlan
“Teach your student to use these resources to find information about a concept he does not understand. Parents can model this habit for their students simply by being willing to say, ‘I don’t know the answer. Where can I go to find out?’”
– Leigh Bortins, The Question (pg. 110)
There is always a big hairy monster in homeschooling. It is the scary thing that dominates your thoughts and keeps you up at night. When I first began homeschooling, it was more generic—like wrecking my kid’s life or forgetting something important, like how the government works. As things progressed, the monsters became more specific.
When I began Classical Conversations, my big hairy monster was the timeline. Seriously, how would my then nine-year-old ever be able to memorize 161 events in history? We struggled the first year, but by the third year even the dog could recite the timeline (that is, if she could speak.)
Later, it became the Essentials class and diagramming sentences. This was more grammar than I ever knew existed in mankind. I had enrolled my son, a fourth grader, in what felt like a high school level grammar course. He would never get this. Until, he did—little by little, practice after practice, sentence by sentence. He stealthily became a little grammar ninja and I was his ninja master. (Actually, I was just really good at following the guide and asking the questions that went with it.)
At the beginning of Challenge A, the monster was geography. “Drawing the world from memory? Really? I don’t think so.” But, here we are doing it and now we are drawing ears, hearts, mouth, teeth, lungs, and brains from memory, too. I have shared this with my neighbors who are dentists and doctors. They are completely impressed. They cannot believe my son can do this from memory.
As I look ahead to Challenge B, the monsters have turned into the twin “Ls”—Latin and Logic. I thought Latin would be easy for me, since I studied Spanish for a long time. However, if I were in Father Henle’s class, I think he would pat my hand gently and say, “Next year, my dear. You’ll get it. Keep trying.” Thank goodness we have three years to work on it. I do not even know what Logic is. Some describe it as math with words. I thought we already had that in story problems, but apparently not. This is a new and different sort of math with words.
The longer I homeschool, the more I realize how much I do not know. But instead of becoming fearful, I am getting better at trusting the greatest Teacher of all, our heavenly Father. I am learning there are no shortcuts. The path is to diligently do the work, to ask the questions, and to keep showing up, day after day, with a curious heart and a positive spirit. All the while trusting that as I lean on God, He will equip my family perfectly to do the work He has called us to do.
In The Question, Leigh says, “We moderns want that special pill, that new video program, or that popular textbook to take us to the depths of knowledge that can only be accessed by hard work. We want the path to be easy and understandable. Yet as Christians, we should know that the path will be long and difficult” (pg. 95).
That is a hard truth. I think it is hard for me as a parent because I have to “not know” a lot. I have to ask questions and then ask more questions. But I love to hang out in the learning. It is renewing to hunker down into the work of doing something hard, but astonishingly interesting. The good news is that we do not have to do it alone.
The same Father that is with us today will be with us tomorrow and the tomorrow after that, forever. I was recently at a workshop where a seasoned homeschool dad shared some great wisdom. He shared that all through Scripture, those who were called were not called because of abilities, but because of the heart. He said, “Where we end as parents, God picks up. And that is the very best part.”
His power is made perfect in our weakness. Our kids are God’s kids first and I have to remember it is not up to me alone. He will equip them perfectly, according to His plan for my child’s life. I know God is bigger than any thing that is scaring me at the moment. He will carry us through.
So, I look at my monsters of the day and welcome them in. I know they will be entirely different by this time next year. I am grateful for all I am given to learn in this moment. God has begun an amazing work in my family. I look with excitement at what He will do next.
The Question Book Club Articles
Introduction – The Question Expedition
Chapter One – Dorothy, Doubts, and Dialectic
Chapter Two – I Heart Aristotle
Chapter Three – The Extraordinary FAQs
Chapters Four and Five – Three Big Ideas about the Three Rs
Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight – What’s Your Big Hairy Monster?
Chapters Nine, Ten, and Eleven – Who Is Your Hero?
Conclusion – The Best Question