One of the best things about Smartick is being able to get to know parents around the world with their different lives and interests. Sara is Mexican, a homeschooler who now lives in the United Arab Emirates, and a scholar of educational systems. We love when an education expert like Sara trusts in Smartick for their children’s math lessons. It has been very interesting having her tell us about the world panorama of education from her experience.
After you were a teacher, you were an advisor to the Mexican government on education reform and now you are very involved in the homeschooling community. What do you think are some of the main problems with teaching mathematics?
In my opinion, the problem arises from the uniformity of the curriculum and its objectives.
Children learn at different speeds, many need more time or more practice. On the other hand, many need to move more quickly. The lack of a solid base and ability to convey that knowledge in everyday life, to put it into action, affects the way that students perceive mathematics. It never stops being something abstract and distant.
Using the interests and needs of children in learning and giving them time to assimilate, analyze and integrate them into their daily lives is the only way to counteract this phenomenon.
Most of the time children and young people are pressured to take an exam or subject in a determined amount of time, with little regard for what happens after the knowledge is acquired. The objectives are completely wrong and they are not prepared as personal goals, but rather governmental and institutional goals.
One of the most common complaints about mathematics is that primary teachers aren’t very fond of the subject which leads to failure later on. How have homeschooling parents prepared for this challenge?
Indeed, this is one of the biggest problems facing alternative education, not just homeschooling.
The lack of motivation, preparation, material, focus, and innovative techniques affect the performance of teachers, however, this is not their fault. While each person is responsible for their professional practice, the investment in significant teacher preparation is almost zero and the same goes for investment in new materials and resources.
It is because of this that the majority of homeschool families form communities and within these communities is a constant flow of information about the latest trends, materials, and bibliography. In this community, we have our support, as well as refreshing ideas and knowledge.
All of the families who enter homeschooling have to a deconstruct their concepts of education, teaching, and learning.
Some parents whose children do Smartick complain that our program does not follow a national curriculum. I understand that, but on the other hand, it can be an advantage for homeschoolers, no?
Indeed, and in reality, it is an advantage, for anyone that uses Smartick, to not be subject to any national curriculum. By having general objectives, being flexible and personalized for the student, it allows us to identify our children´s challenges and skills. That way we can increase the work on preferred topics and reinforce those areas where they need more help.
In reality, a national curriculum is limited. When we break away from institutional goals and focus on personal ones based on our skills and interests, this is when we can speak about learning and learning for life, which is not forgotten.
What are some of the reasons that people in the UAE opt for homeschooling? Are they the same as those in Latin America? In which of the two places is it more popular?
Homeschooling in the UAE is much more common due to the multiculturalism that exists in the country. The national curriculum, international curricula (there are many schools that work with the official curriculum of different countries like India, Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, etc.), and private schools do not satisfy every member of the community. It is because of this that a large number of families opt for flexible systems that allow them to incorporate the knowledge that they consider to be vital for their children.
I believe that Latin America is at a turning point with alternative education. Our reality has drastically changed in the last century and formal education has not been able to keep up. There are great exponents of educational theories in Latin America and therefore, there is a very large community of homeschoolers. This is due to the same phenomenon in the UAE, the institutions are not satisfying the needs of the population.
Could you say that within the homeschooling community there is a skepticism with technology or, just the opposite, they consider it to be a fundamental aid?
Both opinions exist and in reality, each family can choose what is best for them according to their reality and objectives.
The most interesting thing about homeschooling is that no two families educate the same way or have the same vision. While it is important to limit the use of devices, in my opinion, it is equally important to educate about the responsible use of technology in daily life and for specific purposes. Technology can be as good or bad as we want it to be, it all depends on the role we assign it in our life.
What do you think are the main advantages of a program like Smartick?
There are many, but I am going to speak about those that made us choose Smartick in our home. There are quite a few proposals for online math programs, however the majority sacrifice ease of use and attractive design too often, which makes it boring and tedious for children.
I love the time limit, it is very practical and avoids the misuse of technology.
I believe that the algorithm used to determine the level of the student and the exercises that are presented are very accurate. It keeps the children interested and presents a challenge that can be overcome, which keeps the children motivated every day