Whether the difficult subject is Latin or life skills, teaching it boils down to building a good staircase.
No, I’m not talking about teaching carpentry, but rather breaking down any subject into progressive, incrementally attainable steps. The staircase is the first thing I evaluate when choosing curriculum or creating my own lesson plans.
When challenging material overwhelms or bewilders a student, the staircase is faulty or lacking: Sometimes a few stairs are missing. (Or perhaps the student’s tried to skip up them two at a time.) Sometimes the steps are too steep–or they aren’t steep enough, making the climb tedious.
A stair case might be solidly built but need minor alteration to best accommodate the student’s individual stride.
Distinct steps, rather than a ramp or incline, provide important small plateaus atop each step. These brief plateaus afford practice, and establish confidence in newly acquired skills before the student stretches upward once again.
One of my children in particular is always eager for new challenges and tries to turn all her stairways into ramps. If left unchecked, she’ll blithely skate up the ramp–later becoming frustrated when she slides backward without the traction steady steps provide.
As I look at the past year’s weaknesses and successes, I’m evaluating the staircases in each discipline. Did it move upward toward the goal? Was the steps to shallow or too steep?
I’m excited about our new Greek curriculum because the steps set an ideal pace for my crew. (Although, here’s an example of even the best staircases needing altering–I added an extra resource to make the first few steep steps manageable for my youngest Greek scholar who still has a shorter academic stride.)
I suspect my eldest will find this upcoming year’s math to be a well deserved little plateau at the top of a step–a good confidence builder before steeper stairs to come.
On the other end of the continuum, I have a little fellow past-ready to dive into formal math. While his curriculum is a steep step this year, a challenge is exactly what he needs at present.
Different staircases suit different scholars at different places on their academic journey.
No matter how difficult the subject is, with a solid staircase and motivation to reach the top, it can be done–one step at a time.
(This article is cross posted from my regular HSB Taming the Chaos column. Other Old Schoolhouse writers are discussing “How to teach hard subjects” on the Front Porch this week: Hop over to join the discussion!)
~Domestic Chaos tamer and homeschool mom of 5, Dell writes about home, heart and hearth.~