kitchen table math, the sequel: MSMI for schools and homeschoolers?

Monday, October 11, 2010

MSMI for schools and homeschoolers?

In the Homeschooling by the Numbers thread, there was much back and forth critical of criticisms of homeschoolers lacking content knowledge--mostly centered around the ideas that a) schools have the same problems, and b) tailoring to one's child is a good thing.

Wrt to the first criticism, that school teachers lack content knowledge, I've created a not-for-profit corporation to address this. MSMI, the Middle School Mathematics Institute, is aimed at parents, teachers and schools serving students in grades 4-8, offering a variety of services to help build the bridge to Algebra 1.

For teachers, we offer intensive workshops, known as "institutes" that teach the math behind the school mathematics that teachers are teaching. It teaches the foundational pieces to help teachers understand that math is meant to be coherent and precise, and they must teach it that way as well. For schools, we help them to move away from their textbooks-as-curricula, and understand that nearly all available textbooks have incredibly great deficiencies, so great that only a very skilled teacher will be able to overcome them, We then help schools to address their standards and curricula to raise the difficulty and mathematical maturity slowing over those grades so students are prepared for algebra. For parents, we over free talks and pamphlets to help navigate what a good mathematics education would look like for their children.

One group I've not reached out to, even though I have many contacts in that group, is the homeschooling community. Should I? How? I'm happy to reach out to them as I do parents, but I haven't tried involving them as teachers.

My last institute was 5 full days. My next is going to be 9. It takes that many days just to begin to start to teach what mathematical reasoning looks like, even to experienced elementary math teachers.

I find that they homeschoolers I know are even less likely to find the time to attend such an event. One day workshops every month aren't enough. None of the homeschooling mothers I know, even if they are willing to afterschool Singapore, are willing to essentially take a course in learning elementary math if it required meeting weekly.

Am I pitching it wrong? Is there something I can do to reach them? I'm willing to admit that I must be all things to all people, but what would it take to get to them?

I already have to thread the needle--positioning MSMI as supporting teachers in a way that makes them not feel attacked for lacking content knowledge, but instead, supportive of their being asked to teach more and more sophisticated math. I have to reach administrators and tell them that their textbooks are terrible and teachers don't have the knowledge they need to do what their state has asked them to do, and they've basically been given no other options, since all US textbooks are terrible and elementary teacher certs don't require any math. I have to help parents to feel empowered even as I sound the alarm about their child's math program.

That's a lot of defensiveness to dance around. And yet, in homeschoolers, it seems even higher. So even as they admit to me that they don't know any math, and their children know more than they do, they don't want to learn more.

What should I do? How could I reach them? What would it look like?

53 comments:

Sara said...

I think that anything requiring a 5 to 9-day conference away from home, that just targets one subject area, isn't going to get a lot of participation from homeschoolers. They aren't paid for professional development. It's hard to get babysitters and be away from your kids that long. A one-day-per-year local homeschooling conference is about as much time as I could afford away from home.

But it sounds like you think more instruction is necessary. You could introduce your topic and explain the overview in a 1-2 hour session at local homeschooling conferences. Anything more than that would require book-based or virtual instruction.

Anonymous said...

You get more leverage targeting the full-time teachers. By a lot.

Until you have spare slots left over because you have reached all the full-time teachers in your area who care (and can find/make the time), targeting homeschoolers seems like a poor use of resources.

-Mark Roulo (who homeschools)

Allison said...

Honestly, the teachers who attended my workshops weren't paid for professional development directly either. Yes, they do receive clock hours required by their cert, but they weren't paid for their time, and they don't have an expectation that this is going to be a boost to income in their district or based on their resume. They could have done much less work and received the same clock hours.

Now, would homeschooling parents even participate in virtual instruction? How many do you know that are increasing their own subject knowledge in any subject, past a very rudimentary level?

Anonymous said...

"How many do you know that are increasing their own subject knowledge in any subject, past a very rudimentary level?"

Well, I know me (Math and History). But I also know that I am not representative.

-Mark Roulo

Jean said...

Well, there's me. I don't know what other homeschoolers are doing, but I do a lot of reading and research into what we're learning.

My problem, like most homeschoolers, would be finding the time and ability. Where do I put my kids for days at a time? I don't live near a big city; I'd either have to travel or miss out. Most homeschoolers don't really have babysitting backup for a whole day or longer, and that tends to be the sticking point.

I would very much like to learn what you're offering. But a book or downloadable video presentation would be far easier for me to access.

Jean said...

More: I think in order to reach a large number of homeschoolers, you'd have to have a package available--either on paper or download. You could easily get tables at homeschool conferences and push the product, and much better than that would be if you could get a couple of sessions at the conference explaining the need for mathematical reasoning. Then you could at least get people to understand the need.

I'd recommend that you spend some time looking at the WTM forums and Susan Wise Bauer's blog/essays about homeschool conferences and how they could be improved. The people there are neat.

Also, if you want to reach homeschoolers, don't assume that they don't want to learn anything. Your last comment makes you sound like you think we're hopeless anyway, which won't get you the results you want.

Jean said...

And one last idea: have you tried test-running your material on any homeschoolers? Perhaps that would be a good idea. Maybe you should try it out on some people and get feedback on how best to tailor the material to homeschoolers.

Hainish said...

To echo what was mentioned in the previous comments: Virtual and Package.

With the location and childcare issues, it has to be something they can do at home, with or without use of the internet.

With homeschoolers, it might be more useful to pitch it as a complete course that they can complete at their own pace and that gives them the expectation of a very specific result (that they will understand the math their child is doing, that they will be able to teach Singapore level 32, or whatever).

Literally: package it. Put together a bound, printed sequence of materials that parents can have sent to their homes. They can include instructions, at the appropriate points, to go online and "take a class."

Having it in their hand in this way will, I think, help them follow through on it, moreso than if they had to go online and print out pdf's or take online quizzes.

Allison said...

I have been unable to get the home schoolers I know to even test run the materials--but my materials aren't for novices. Now, that may be my inability to sell them, and my inability to find a way to reach them. I don't know. Again, it may be that the materials as such are already too difficult. I don't have a picture of an "average" homeschooling parent to gauge against. Here in the Twin Cities, my homeschooling contacts are all religious folk. I have not even been able to find a secular homeschooling co-op in town.

re: a book: Wu and I will get around to a book, but not this year.

Allison said...

I will think about the online course.

Anonymous said...

"I don't have a picture of an 'average' homeschooling parent to gauge against."

My experience is that the spread (standard deviation, if you will) of homeschoolers is much larger than for the population that sends their kids to public/private schools. In this case, an average may disguise a "head in the icebox, feet in the fire, average is room temperature" situation.

-Mark Roulo

Allison said...

Last comment:

I am a science/math person. My specialties aren't so important as the notion that I know what I know, and what I don't, about math, bio, chem, physics. I have also learned by reading a tremendous amount of history and philosophy, and I know where my big gaps are in these subjects.

I know that I'm not liberal-arts educated enough to know what I don't know about literature and writing. I don't know if I could read enough to learn about literature or writing--that is, I don't know if by reading alone, I could ever really learn about literature or writing well enough to teach it.

But I do know that practically no one can read their way to knowing enough math. You must *do* math. You must practice math by doing math, and it takes excellent instruction in math do learn how to practice math for all but the most brilliant of us.

And that's the problem with trying to teach math without having done math, and even for those who have done math, it's still a problem to do it from the viewpoint of a novice.

No amount of reading the textbook will teach math to the teacher. The teacher still needs to be doing math, and staying one step ahead is not enough to when the textbooks are riddled with problems, inconsistencies, errors, illogic.

Allison said...

Mark,

your point about the variance being so high is why writing a book or preparing a course is so very difficult.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

I posted on MSMI before: http://gasstationwithoutpumps.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/middle-school-mathematics-institute/

It seems like a good idea to me, but it will be difficult to reach many home-school parents. They are indeed a diverse bunch, and many of them either don't care about math or don't know that there is anything they need to know about it. I think that the set who care about math, know that they are not sufficiently educated to teach their kids, and are willing and capable of learning enough to teach them is too small a set to be worth marketing to.

I think that addressing school teachers is much more effective and valuable. Providing a home-study course for the small number of homeschool parents who can benefit from it is a noble goal, but one not likely to result in sufficient change (or income) to be worth the trouble of creating it.

Jean said...

"I have been unable to get the home schoolers I know to even test run the materials--but my materials aren't for novices."

Ask for volunteers here! Or at a homeschooling forum like WTM.

I'll do it. I'm not bad at math (I suffered from bad instruction and "girls are bad at math" as a kid, but as an adult grew to enjoy it) and my husband does calculus for fun and profit, so maybe we could give it a go.

Yahoogroups would probably be the place to start if you're looking for secular homeschool groups. You would find local networks and a national one there, I'm pretty sure. You could also look at Secular Homeschooling Magazine, which is excellent.

TerriW said...

Here in the Twin Cities, my homeschooling contacts are all religious folk. I have not even been able to find a secular homeschooling co-op in town.

There are not any secular co-ops that I am aware of, but there are local secular mailing lists that schedule activities together. There are also quite a few groups that, while not technically secular, are formed for reasons other than religious affiliation. I belong to a few of them, at least.

Whenever I meet folks and the inevitable, "Why do you homeschool?" question comes about, I pull out my pre-packaged explanation about the changes in the way math/reading/grammar/etc are now taught in the schools. I get a few deer in the headlights, but I get a surprising number of folks who not only *get* what I'm talking about -- but they were aware of it before I mentioned it. (Usually from folks whose kids were in school and were later pulled out. Many have choice words about Everyday Math.)

These people may be scattered around town, but they are out there.

(Is there a particular reason why the group has to be secular? I belong to a Catholic group that is top notch, so if it's just a matter of avoiding Young Earth Creationism, that's a non-issue.)

TerriW said...

Also -- to echo what was said above, with homeschoolers, child care is a big issue so an in-person workshop would be tough. Particularly because of the demographics of the recent explosion of HSers, most of them have small children.

I can barely get away to get my hair cut, let alone all day or several days away.

Something online, or printed, with homework that had to be submitted? I'd do that. I'm not sure how many Twin Cities HS moms out there would like to spend their precious free time doing math, but the answer is: at least one.

(Heck, as I mentioned in a previous thread, I'm already starting to re-teach myself French to stay ahead of my kids.)

TerriW said...

Additionally, there are multiple state and metro wide resources (ECHO, EMEH, SPCH, LWOL, TCCA and others -- even HSAdventures could be appropriate) where you could cast a wide net and create a new group of local guinea pigs. I have my fingers in lots of local pies, if this is something you are interested in.

Allison said...

I, too, have small children and have to find childcare for the institutes. Lo, I manage. Nearly all of the folks I know who homeschool with small children go on retreat at least twice a year. The childcare thing is a red herring--if people are sufficiently motivated, they find childcare.

My reason for saying there aren't any secular homeschool groups in the Twin Cities was to speak to the issues of sample bias here on KTM. When people in other parts of the country talk about homeschoolers they know, they tend to talk about people who are very well educated, secular, with strong academic reasons for homeschooling. But those aren't the main reasons here, or there would be secular co-ops.

Which Catholic group do you consider top notch, and what did you mean by this? "There are also quite a few groups that, while not technically secular, are formed for reasons other than religious affiliation."

Hainish said...

The childcare thing is a red herring--if people are sufficiently motivated, they find childcare.

Ah, but there's the rub. The trick is to get to those who are INsufficiently motivated.

Allison said...

Or, rather, find a way to motivate them.

I'm not suggesting I've done that yet. Just saying that if I found the proper way to motivate, this problem would not be a real stumbling block.

Jean said...

"When people in other parts of the country talk about homeschoolers they know, they tend to talk about people who are very well educated, secular, with strong academic reasons for homeschooling. But those aren't the main reasons here, or there would be secular co-ops."

I think your logic is flawed there. Homeschoolers don't all belong to co-ops--you might have lots of secular homeschoolers who get together more casually. Unless you're using the word to mean park groups and such too?

"...what did you mean by this? "There are also quite a few groups that, while not technically secular, are formed for reasons other than religious affiliation." "

I'm not her, but here's my take on it. 'Secular' is a bit of a tricky word in the homeschooling world. Many people identify as such, but others will say they're 'religious but homeschooling for academic reasons' or something similar. They aren't conservative YEC Christians, but they may have strong faith. My own park group is called inclusive, and it's just anyone who wants to come. Lots of hippies, people of various faiths, many of no faith at all, all homeschooling for different reasons, hanging out and having a good time. I don't belong to a co-op.

Nor do I go on retreats, come to think of it.

TerriW said...

Pretty much what Jean said. Most of the groups I am involved with came together because of common geographical region, interests or curriculum rather than common faith. I'm not even aware of what the religion (or lack thereof) of my fellow members are.

This may be a metro thing, though, since people on the statewide secular list tend to complain about being faced with "statements of faith" that need to be signed in order to join groups.

The Catholic group I'm involved with (and like so much) is going to have some selection bias going on there, too. The church tends to frown upon homeschooling because you "should" be sending your kids to the local Catholic school, though they don't actually try to forbid it. I like that group because the activities available tend to be fairly compelling -- one example, they offer a monthly oral presentation session for students to have a non-family audience for speeches, recitation of poems they've memorized, etc. -- rather than just the usual, "Hey, it's park day!"

And "secular" tends to be a weird "code word" in hs circles, like Jean said. It can mean anything from non-religious to "not homeschooling for religious reasons" to "not Young Earth Creationist," depending on context. The Sonlight Secular mailing list is filled with Jewish folks, Catholics and Muslims!

Allison said...

-- Lots of hippies, people of various faiths, many of no faith at all, all homeschooling for different reasons, hanging out and having a good time. I don't belong to a co-op.

Homeschooling for different reasons is VERY DIFFERENT than homeschooling for academic ones.

I mentioned the co op to try and explain what I've found here in the Twin Cities that what I've read about on KTM with other homeschoolers. That's what I was trying to get at. I've yet to find a group of homeschoolers here who self identify as a homeschooling for academic reasons, and while I know of some co ops that meet to cover a language course, karate, oral presentations, or sometimes a science course, I've not found any homeschooling group here that uses a co-op format in order to hire subject matter experts, or even talk about subject matter knowledge.

I'm Catholic, and my parish doesn't have a school attached to it, so I know a fair amount of homeschoolers for that reason, and it's inside-baseball to explain why these families don't just choose a parish with a school, but the short answer is they are dissatisfied with how Catholic the parishes are primarily, and dissatisfied with academics is usually secondary.
Again, some families care very much about academics too, but the number of families I know in these two orgs that are interested in academics as as the primary reason for homeschooling is at most one.

Holding up Sonlight as secular is a bit odd. I mean, cults are not really secular.

Allison said...

or, to finally be pithy:

Since homeschoolers home school for a variety of reasons many of which are not about academics per se, how do you convince them of the need to seriously improve their own content knowledge?

Anonymous said...

"Since homeschoolers home school for a variety of reasons many of which are not about academics per se, how do you convince them of the need to seriously improve their own content knowledge?"

Equally pithy: Maybe you don't.

-Mark Roulo

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

View from California. Most of the home schoolers I know here have worked with an umbrella school (Alternative Family Education) that is part of the school district, but which just provides monthly consultation with a teacher, classroom space for parents to run classes, and a small library of textbooks and literature about education. Most of the parents who I know are involved are doing so for academic reasons, but that may just be the small subset that I know. I suspect that those home-schooling for religious reasons may not be part of AFE.

We've considered doing this program ourselves, but so far the local private and public schools have offered better options for us.

Hainish said...

Allison,

If you haven't read the book Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, I highly recommend that you do. It's all about how to motivate people to change.

Allison said...

Thanks for the book rec.

I've basically come to the conclusion that MN is *much much* more risk averse than the coasts, especially the West Coast, and so change here is much more difficult.

CA, for all of its problems, is not as insulated a culture overall. The culture/genes are of people who were driven to go find their fortunes there--whether in the 1850s or 1950s or 1990s.

MN is different. When they heard Go West, Young Man, they got here, and said "this is good enough". People here are much more likely to say "it was good enough for my parents, good enough for me, so it's good enough for my kids" than people in CA are likely to say. People on the coasts are much more likely to come in contact with international people, have higher expectations about education outcomes, salaries, etc. to drive them to say "What must I do so my child will end up ahead of me?"

Jean said...

"Since homeschoolers home school for a variety of reasons many of which are not about academics per se, how do you convince them of the need to seriously improve their own content knowledge?"

I'd just ask them if they want to. Homeschoolers are scattered and diverse, but there are places where you can ask that kind of thing; I listed a few above. Find some of the more academically-inclined conferences and set up a table--but you'd need a package first.

It seems to me that you need to develop a network of homeschoolers--from all over--to talk with. That shouldn't be difficult to do. Say, start up a yahoogroup or a blog devoted to this project and put the invitation out there. Start by asking people here if they'd be willing to participate and put the word out--maybe send out introductory materials by email so we know better exactly what your goals and methods are.

Mark said...

Since homeschoolers home school for a variety of reasons many of which are not about academics per se, how do you convince them of the need to seriously improve their own content knowledge?

Non sequitur. That there are many reasons why we homeschool, it is not the case that we ignore academics for ourselves or our children. I have to say, as someone who uses advanced mathematics relatively frequently, I'm a bit surprised at the idea of the seminar taking so long, and even more surprised at the logical fallacies you keep making in discussing this thread. To review:

* Homeschoolers have different reasons for homeschooling, but most are highly motivated to do a good job at schooling, which often means advancing our own education.
* Homeschooling is a huge time committment, which makes any committment more than (say) a weekend event very difficult, which is why online videos, etc. more time effective
* Because homeschoolers are highly motivated, we tend to make the most out of videos, online teaching, worksheets, etc. to learn a subject. Do not dismiss this approach without serious consideration. It seems to work for other difficult subjects like Latin, Physics, etc.
* Homeschoolers are often interested in making curriculum better. Invite some of us to take a look at your materials, and we might make useful suggestions to improve it or adapt it to homeschoolers

Allison said...

---but you'd need a package first.

I've learned never ever again to build a product that people might not buy.

No, I can't build the package first. It's an economy of scale issue.

re: logical fallacies: what I typed doesn't match what you say. I didn't say "homeschoolers" ever as a blanket statement. I said and you quoted "homeschoolers home *many of which* are not about academics *per se*."

Yeah, I know, nine days seems intolerable. It's shocking to teachers too, until they spend 6 days and find out that they still can't explain how division of fractions works, can't motivate it to a child, still can't show how long division works, still don't know how to motivate the multiplication of negative numbers by negative numbers, and realize they've just started to recognize the errors in their textbooks on the above.

Mark said...

To clarify, I was suggesting you let some homeschoolers take a look at your existing materials. An outline of the existing seminar, etc. I'm sure some of us would be happy to give you feedback about how applicable we think it is, how it could be adapted, etc. No new material is required for that.

While the primary motivation a person might have for home schooling might not simply be for academics, it doesn't follow that the same person isn't serious about academics.

Our initial reason for home schooling wasn't academics. Yet I fully intend to have my kids know math better than our district teaches (they're using "Everyday Math" now -- shudder -- so that won't be too hard).

Jean said...

Sure, I can see why you can't just develop a package and hope it sells.

But I do really think that the way to start getting somewhere with this is to develop a network of homeschoolers, as above. Many of us are willing to put time into a project in the hope of a future improvement in curriculum/knowledge.

Crimson Wife said...

Is there a reason why it has to be done in a class/workshop format rather than by just producing a set of DVD's?

I know lots of homeschoolers who have ponied up large sums of money for DVD's on how to teach writing the IEW way. But I think you'll find the workshop format a much harder sell among homeschoolers. Not because of a lack of interest but because of logistics. With a DVD, the parent can watch it at a time and place of his/her own choosing.

Anonymous said...

"With a DVD, the parent can watch it at a time and place of his/her own choosing."

Plus, you can fairly easily post a 5-10 minute clip/excerpt on the Web so people can see what they would be buying. I know I'm much more likely to purchase a book/DVD than I am to go to a one week seminar.

-Mark Roulo

Allison said...

When all of you make enough donations to MSMI to hire web folks, production folks, post production folks, graphic artists, marketing folks and the like, then that might happen.

Allison said...

The problem with a DVD is the same reason that online courses for college don't work very well in mathematics.

You need a teacher, and that means you an interactive one to correct your thinking in a much more socratic method than, say, history.

But sure, if you guys raise enough money for me to contract with the Teaching Company, sure.

Mark said...

The problem with a DVD is the same reason that online courses for college don't work very well in mathematics.

I pointed out above that in fact it works quite well for homeschoolers in such topics as Latin and Physics. Why you think it can't work for Math isn't clear to me. Look at the following videos for Electric field lines, for instance. This worked quite well for people I know, and following up with a Q&A (say) online in a skype session or chat room would be fine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=laGSICm_agM and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puTZvhOFpRA

Allison said...

Well, then you try it! Love to see the results!

Anonymous said...

Allison said: The problem with a DVD is the same reason that online courses for college don't work very well in mathematics. You need a teacher, and that means you an interactive one to correct your thinking in a much more socratic method than, say, history.

I took several mathematics courses in college and never noticed much interaction beyond a lecture. I suppose if I have gone to office hours things might have been different.

Having a teacher is nice, but it is not absolutely necessary for a motivated student. Clear explanations in a recorded lecture, a good text, and a clear solutions manual can go a long way.

CassyT said...

Allison said: The problem with a DVD ... You need a teacher, and that means you an interactive one to correct your thinking in a much more Socratic method than, say, history.

Don't know many homeschooling families, but maybe they don't have the opportunity for the discussion unless they are in a group or co-op. Just thinking.

I think you get more bang for your buck by targeting teachers.

Mark said...

I have to ask now, what are your goals here? You asked for feedback, but seem to reject all the feedback. Furthermore, your criticisms of existing methods don't seem to be sound.

Finally there's a weird sense of passive aggressiveness. You're telling me to try it? We're trying to give you free market research. What are you trying to find out?

Allison said...

MSMI already has a core mission, a vision, a focus, and a program plan to execute that mission. The main mission is to help teachers to increase their mathematical knowledge and mathematical maturity to where they understand how to think mathematically, and how to approach teaching their students in a coherent, precise manner to best teach the school math that is critical to success at algebra.

I asked if I should, and if so, how, include homeschoolers in their capacity as teachers in that *already existing program*. I didn't ask how should I create a program for homeschoolers.

The answers indicate that I shouldn't spend much effort including homeschoolers in the already existing program. The answers suggest that reaching homeschoolers would at a minimum, require time, money, and expertise that I don't have, and I still don't know what could be achieved.

Mark, you have questioned my goal, my plan, my method, and my materials, and then suggested I serve your target audience. That's not a conversation that makes me want to change focus to a different niche, or think your niche is something I can serve the needs of.

kcab said...

What about letting some of the better-known homeschool math bloggers know about MSMI? That seems like it would be more efficient, if they're interested. Also, seems like you might as well videotape sessions in the future so that you at least have the footage if you ever want to use it.

Anonymous said...

Allison--your original questions were "What should I do? How could I reach them? What would it look like?" When you got answers (it would look like a web course or webinar, it would consist of DVD lectures, it could contain homework assignments) you complained that all that was too much work. You have a low view of homeschooling parents (they lack content knowledge, they won't bother to get proper childcare, they aren't motivated to fix their incompetencies) so I wonder why exactly you thought the homeschooling market was right for you.

You are the one who asked for the help, not Mark, yet you've attacked everyone who's taken the time to answer you. That's not constructive.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Anonymous (above). Your contempt for homeschooling parents is apparent. What comes across in your comments, whether you mean it to or not, is that homeschooling parents need saving from their own mathematical ineptness but they aren't willing to take the time or make the effort to change.

Frankly, I think that a DVD course with problems to work and solutions with commentary (see Lial's student solutions books for an example) would be helpful not just to homeschooling parents, but also to schools who need to educate lots of teachers and can't afford to send them to a seminar.

Lisa said...

Breathing deeply. I believe your biggest chance to reach homeschoolers who are specifically interested in academics and mathematics would be to contact web sites that exist for those homeschoolers. If you are frequenting homeschool math or academic forums chances are you are interested in those subjects and improving your capabilities in them. As for getting away, even when I was working professionally and it was 'encouraged' it didn't happen. I haven't been anywhere without kids in 18.5 years.

Anonymous said...

I'm homeschooling for the first time and I am a science teacher/math tutor. I'd love to attend your workshops if that were possible. There is no homeschooler stereotype - we are all independent people and suggestions by anyone that religious people hate math is extremely narrow minded and immature. Back to the topic - I very much enjoy the products provided by The Teaching Company. They more or less record classes taught by professors - some DVD and some just audio. Could you produce DVD's of your seminars/workshops and sell them without having to modify anything? Another idea is to perhaps move away from the goal of teaching parents everything that you teach in the workshops and break it down into the top 5 or 10 essentials. I think that you may find that there are many non-homeschooling parents who might like this as well as they are trying to help their kids with math homework. Another thought popped into my head (I didn't read everyone's responses so I could be repetitious), perhaps a slow-moving online course - just add a new concept every two weeks or 1/month - if well-made and affordable I'd do it.

Crimson Wife said...

If you are wedded to a classroom format, then no, I don't think you'll get very far with homeschoolers. But it's not because homeschoolers lack interest in improving their math understanding and teaching skills.

The thing with homeschoolers is that we've become spoiled by the flexibility that homeschooling offers us. It's like TiVo- once you've gotten accustomed to watching the TV shows on *YOUR* schedule rather than the network's, it's really hard to go back to the old way of doing things.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Allison, as a homeschooler and a Math Teacher who teaches at a Christian homeschool coop, I think some of your comments are condescending, stereotyping, and offensive. Those alone would keep me from attending any conference. I take my math very seriously and am constantly learning and improving my classroom techniques. Most homeschoolers that I know are proficient enough to teach math and ask for help when they are not. Although there are some outliers, I am curious why you want to market us so badly when normed against public school kids we average the 80th percentile on standardized tests? It seems like you should concentrate on the 98% rather than the 2% that are on average, doing quite well, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

How many [homeschoolers] do you know that are increasing their own subject knowledge in any subject, past a very rudimentary level?

Nearly all of them. In fact, it's nearly impossible to take on the challenge of teaching the most important people in your life, your own children, without feeling an irresistible urge to learn more so you can do a better job. Any lack of interest in what you offer would just be a lack of interest in what you offer, not a general lack of interest in becoming a better teacher.

------

How do you convince [homeschoolers] of the need to seriously improve their own content knowledge?

That's like a guy trying to sell an investment newsletter wondering how to convince people of the need to seriously improve their income. The only problem is convincing them that what you offer is worth more than it costs.

-------

I'm Catholic [POT].... Holding up Sonlight [KETTLE] as secular is a bit odd. I mean, cults [BLACK] are not really secular.

As an atheist, I had to laugh at this gem. I'm sure your cool reception from homeschoolers could only be due to their intellectual torpor. I mean, what other explanation could there be?

-------
What should I do? How could I reach them? What would it look like?

Hmm, let's see:

The childcare thing is a red herring--if people are sufficiently motivated, they find childcare [for nine days].

Well, it probably wouldn't look like that.

You aren't willing to create something for homeschoolers. Okay, got it. You've learned not to create anything that people won't buy. Check. And you want us to send you money to make products to sell to us. Uh-huh.

In the meantime, if I had a 9-day seminar and were more interested in spreading math wisdom than in making a paycheck behind a not-for-profit tax shield, I would do what everyone else does these days: get someone with a consumer video camera, a wireless mike, and a tripod, to record the live seminar, upload it to YouTube, and let them host it.

At that price, you'd be guaranteed buyers, you'd solve the daycare problem, and most homeschoolers would at least check it out if it had good reviews.

Of course, you've already protested that if they were not actually in your presence, they couldn't possibly learn about math. Gilbert Strang at MIT seems to be able to manage it. Several hundred thousand people have watched his linear algebra videos. Maybe you could ask him for some pointers, if offering something of great value to as many people as possible really is your highest priority.

Math tutor said...

The articles on the MSMI site are useful. If you could add more as time permits, people would read them and spread the ideas to friends, fellow teachers, fellow homeschoolers, their own children...