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January 27, 2017

Reading and writing and arithmetic

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – In the afternoons we have “Daddy School." My son Dzul finishes up at about 1 P. M. on Monday through Wednesday, while on Thursday it's noon and Fridays end at 11:30 for everyone to attend Friday prayers at the mosque. I don't have a clue why they dismiss early on Thursday.


We begin "Daddy’s School" with arithmetic. Dzul is given worksheets on addition and subtraction. I patiently explained addition, and then gave him an easy 20 problem worksheet. That took all of five minutes. He got them all right. Then I moved to double digits. The same five minute exercise was implemented and completed.


Reading was next. We read an easy passage. He completed the questions very quickly. The next reading unit was harder. As he read aloud I realized he could figure out the words but didn't know their meaning.


I back pedaled, and we learned new vocabulary. I think we were at about the beginning of third grade. They were teaching the letters in school. The same was true of subtraction. We will have to start on borrowing and carrying very soon.


This is how they teach the Quran. The letters are written in Arabic, and the students learn the sounds of each Arabic letter. They have no translation. They simply recite the sounds. I have a feeling that's the way most people learn the religious book. I have tried to read the English Quran, several times, but it makes no sense to me.


Speaking of math, I am a complete klutz. I count on my fingers for the addition problem of 7+5. I see the problem, but I just blank out. When Dzul adds these figures, I hold my hands behind my back and run the numbers through my fingers.


So, how did I teach chemistry and physics if was so bad in math?


I would take several chem or physics problems that we were working on from another book. I would write down the answer in detail from that book. I would then put the solved problems on the blackboard. I would then ask the students to plug in the new information. If the problems were unusually difficult, I would form groups and ask the smart students to explain it to the not so smart students.


I had no idea what they were talking about even though I desperately tried to learn the basics. To my surprise, it worked. For 30 years. So, that is was my secret. And I won many national awards. Please don't tell anybody.


I have elected to use Saxon as my math book. I have been exposed to it, and I find it quite good. Dzul begins with a concept and repeats that concept throughout the text. If in the first section he teaches 1+1, 1+1 will appear throughout the volume until the end of the book.


After we finish "Daddy's School," we go down to the pool. If someone is enjoying the sunshine, I will pick up Dzul and throw him in the center and casually walk to put down my towel. Dzul, of course, swims back to the side laughing while the people are in a state of panic.


Then, I throw Dzul up into the air and he comes down with a splash begging for more. We perform this ritual about 10 or 20 times. Finally, he will tire out, and he will find another friend to play with.


At 65, I am so very fortunate to have a friend like Dzul. Damn, I love him so.


...Life is good. . . . .


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