• Lori Kirkpatrick

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

A few years ago, I remember a friend telling me she was going to homeschool, and I distinctly remember thinking she had lost her mind.

I never ever wanted to homeschool.

Who in the world thinks they can corral their child (children) for 7 hours each weekday, and impart detailed information about math, science, history, literature, arts, music and more?

Teaching requires content experts, superior organization, ongoing comprehension assessment and what I call pedagogy pivoting, stage presence with the worst audience ever, not to mention the patience of a saint.

Yet here I am.

Fifth grade. Fractions. I got this. After all the principal said it would be reinforcing concepts already taught. Here we go.


Johnny has 3 yards of string. He cuts the string into pieces that are ¾ yard long. How many pieces of string does Johnny have?

Mom School:

Ok Emmeline, go.


Can you help me?

I explained the bit in TexasGOMath! about creating a math board, laying out three whole strips, finding an equal number of 3/4 fraction strips to fit exactly under the wholes and voila, there’s your answer.

Blank stare.

Then I explained about drawing a number line from 0 to 3 and dividing each whole number into fourths and skip counting by 3/4.

Eye roll.

Homeschool pedagogy pivot.

Mom School:

Dividing fractions is multiplying by the reciprocal. You know how to multiply fractions right?



Mom School:

Here you go


12 = 4


Mom School:

A+. Now time for PE.

Seriously, I have enjoyed learning with my daughter. I’ve always liked school and learning. I think that has a lot to do with my experiences in school. I was educated before the high-stakes standardized testing era. I credit my teachers and the system at large for cultivating a love of learning in me, for teaching me to ask questions and to think through issues and problems in multiple ways.

That’s what Ms. Samuels would be doing right now. She would be working through the math models, the strips, the number lines and the pie charts.

She would be showing Emmeline not just to turn a fractional division problem into a multiplication problem, but how to visually and intellectually understand the question and to conceptualize the problem at hand.

Isn’t that what we want? It’s certainly what I want from teachers and the education system.

I hope the pandemic and homeschooling has reminded you just how complex education is, how our teachers truly are experts, and what the real meaning of education is.

When we go back to school...

When you vote for a school board candidate....

When the legislature takes up bills....

Remember these times. Support policies and candidates allowing educators and the education system to focus on what’s really important....

Cultivating a love of learning.

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