Joshua’s First Experience With Subtraction

When our three sons were growing up we homeschooled them. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day that our middle son, who was six years old at the time, opened his math workbook and saw subtraction problems. He said, “What is this?” I said something like, “Oh, Joshua, I need to explain. That’s subtraction. It’s a bit different from what you’ve been doing. Instead of making more, you take some away.”

And before I could say anything else or show him how it works, he spoke up and said something like, “What? I don’t understand. What do these people want? Who wrote this? I don’t know what these people were thinking. What do they expect? I’m going to bed!” And he did.

I followed and talked with him for a bit and saw that he really needed to calm down about it before we tried again.

A couple of days later I got out the felt board and the felt fish and felt seashells that we used to illustrate math lessons. I called Joshua and his little brother to come see something. Without using the word “subtraction” or saying anything at all about the day Joshua went to bed, I ¬†proceeded to illustrate subtraction. I showed them a group of five fish. While showing three fish swimming away from the others, I asked them, “If five fish are swimming along together and three swim away, how many are left?”

Joshua jumped up and said, “Where’s my math book! I want to do my math!” I was having fun with the felt, but he was already up and running to get his book.

I guess some of us just don’t always react with calmness to big changes that seem to be suddenly thrust upon us. Especially when we are young.

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Just One Blade, or a Whole Package?

Today, some friends who homeschool and I, who used to homeschool, were talking. During our conversation I remembered one time I needed a single edge razor blade for a science demonstration. At the time, my oldest son was a teenager and the other two were probably about nine and ten years old. I told them to stay in the house while I walked around the corner to the store to get some razor blades.

For sentimental reasons, I walked past the store my sons would usually go to, so I could  go to the one that my friends grandparents owned when I was a kid. The two stores were across the street from each other.

I went in and saw the razor blades behind the counter, so I told the man I needed some single edge blades. He took down a pack and asked me if I needed the whole package or just one blade. I just sort of shrugged my shoulders and said one would be fine, that was really all I needed. So, I bought one blade.

I was really surprised he asked me that. I hadn’t been in that store in forever and he didn’t know me. I could have been a cop. Rather than just getting the science demonstration, my sons got a bit more of their drug education. (Some people use cocaine and they use razor blades to “cut a line” so they can snort it.) They got a lot of their drug education as we came across stuff. Such is homeschooling in the ‘hood.

How My Homeschooling Sons Learned About Drugs

We homeschooled when my three sons were growing up. When we started this adventure my oldest son was in 6th grade, the middle one was in 1st grade and the youngest was in kindergarten. Some people worry about what kids might miss out on if they are not in public school. What about all the things they won’t be exposed to? Like what, I wondered? Drugs? Ha. Not where we lived.

My sons’ drug education began when one of us found a crack pipe on the ground across the street from our house. It was made with a baby food jar and an ink pen that someone took the innards out of. Since I had to tell them what it was I decided it was a good time for a field trip. We went to the police station and took a tour of their museum so my sons could see the pipes and such that had been confiscated. (I think they were really more interested in the counterfeit money.)

I had to explain to my oldest when he was 12 or 13 that the young man who lived on the corner didn’t really want to be his friend. This guy had come to our house a time or two when he saw my son outside. He was about 20 years old. Sorry, son. He’s not looking for a friend; he’s looking for a customer. (And no, my sons weren’t deprived of friends. We had to scale back on outside activities just to get all the school work done.)

Another bit of education happened at a park. We found a metal pot scrubbing pad that had a “tail” and was burned a bit. I know this is nuts, but I brought the thing home. I remember putting it on a piano in the den. I don’t know why I did that. I think I had thrown it away? – or was it still there? – when something crazy happened and we had to call cops. Probably someone shooting a gun in the woods behind our house. (We had moved by this time. Still in the exciting area of town though.) Anyway, a cop was in our back yard and for some reason he walked through our house to get to the front. If that stupid thing was still on the piano he didn’t see it. I just remember being extremely relieved – so it was either there and he didn’t see it, or I had just recently tossed it in the garbage. Either way, it was a very narrow miss!

We also saw another one of those pads along with some spilled baking soda on the parking lot of the convenience store on the corner. Since I’d explained things by then (I even used pamphlets) they knew what that was about.

One day we were going to do a science demonstration and I needed a single edge razor blade. The guys stayed at the house while I walked to a different convenience store that is no longer in existence. The razor blades were hanging behind the counter and when I told the man what I wanted he asked, “Just one?” I told him yes, and he opened the package and sold me a single blade. I couldn’t help laughing a little when I told my sons we wouldn’t go to that store any more and why.

Well…they didn’t miss out on drug education.