Country life has its ups and downs, and for Melissa, one of the biggest downs was her sons’ education.
When it was time for grade school, she didn’t have many options to choose from. Her options were either her town’s public school, or homeschooling, and as a stay-at-home-mom, she knew she needed the time to herself to work around the home before her sons got back from school.
Though she didn’t want to, she put her sons in public school, hoping that it would work out better than she’d imagined.
But the older her kids got, the more challenges they seemed to face, none of which were being resolved by their teachers or the district.
Melissa and her family are out in the country, which comes with a lot of unique dynamics, as well as a lot of struggles. Her family lives on a ranch, along with their chickens, alpacas, goats, and dogs. Her three boys love the outdoors and have learned ranching from their father, who works full-time on their property.
The positives of the country life: they love inviting their family over for weekend trips, as they have enough space for them plus a little extra. A lot of her family is from the city or suburbs, so coming out to the country is a nice break for them, not only for nature but for the home-cooked meals from Melissa and her sons. They also have enough space for their dogs and outdoor animals, which brings them dinner straight from their property.
The negatives of country life: there aren’t many options for different schools for her sons. In a perfect world, Melissa would have sent her sons to private school, as in the country, it’s not as pricey as in the city. But there weren’t any schools near enough to their home where she could send her sons. The only option was their town’s public school, and it hasn’t been what she’d been hoping for.
She’s typically around her sons when they’re doing homework, but especially since the pandemic with partial or full remote learning, she’s seen even more into the classroom than before. What her boys were struggling with the most was common core math, a new way of doing math, which is very different from the way she understands it.
The older they got, the more the concepts piled up, and the more difficult their tests, quizzes, and homework were. A typical day with a lot of math homework always involved frustration, tears, and anger, not only from her sons but from her.
Her oldest son, Brok, is 13 and has a great memory. He can remember any conversation, any topic, or any name. But when math comes along, the concepts are gibberish to him. The worst part is that when he’s frustrated, he’ll put up a wall, so not even his brothers can help him.
Pistol, her second-oldest, is 11 years old. Since he’s practical and sensical, she’d have thought that math would have come naturally for him. But just like his oldest brother, he struggled with the concepts since he started learning them.
Buster, the youngest at 8 years old, loves living the country life. He’s often found outside playing with the animals, and especially during homework time, the last place he wants to be is inside. When he can get in the zone, it’s difficult for him to get down the concepts.
All three of her sons have struggled in math, and aside from the confusing common core concepts, Melissa sees a lot of issues in the public school system as a whole.
One of the many issues facing rural public schools in America is the lack of funding. They receive fewer dollars per student because of their smaller class sizes, but it doesn’t take into account the many resources they still need that are specific to rural areas, like further school bus traveling, fewer staff members, and higher needs for accommodations for kids who need help buying lunches and having access to resources for learning difficulties. For families who needed kids math programs to help boost their children’s successes, they had little help if at all from their schools.
One of the biggest issues Melissa has come across has been the teachers.
“My boys struggle a ton with the common core in public school,” Melissa explains. “Public school didn’t do a very good job teaching that. Brok gets confused and frustrated to the point where you almost can’t get through to him. Pistol struggles to come to simple answers, and Buster is always struggling to grasp even simple concepts. It hasn’t been a very good experience.”
Whenever Melissa feels like there’s no way out, she talks to a fellow mom friend, as many of her friends homeschool their children. One of them suggested giving Elephant Learning, a virtual kids math program, a try, and Melissa agreed.
She started her three boys on it at the same time. Unlike a lot of other programs that are fit for a certain age group, she found that each of them took to Elephant Learning seamlessly. Their UI Aging platform ensures that the games are appropriate for the age of the child playing.
Before they began their regular practice, Brok, Pistol, and Buster each took a placement exam, which tested their existing knowledge in math. After they completed it, they received their own unique Elephant Age; a distinct number that signified their math understanding.
From there, they each started on their Elephant Learning journey, which was actually much more manageable than Melissa had thought. Her friends whose kids struggled in math would usually send their kids to a kids math program several miles from their home, which took at least two hours out of their week (not including travel time). But with Elephant Learning, each of her sons was limited to 10 minutes on the platform for a maximum of three days per week.
This means that her kids were practicing math for no longer than 30 minutes a week-- a much more manageable time that allowed her to give them the practice they needed without the strenuous hours of sitting and doing word problems.
The best part was-- it was fun. For them, and her. Watching her sons play a game they enjoyed without feeling the strain and suffering that they did when practicing math made her know that she was helping them get the resources they needed-- even amidst a struggling public school district.
Though Brok is 13, he started with an Elephant Age of 9 years old-- a couple of years under where he should have been testing. Though the platform seemed daunting at first, he was determined to set a good example for his younger brothers, so he began playing first.
As his age started to rise, he’d show his brothers how much math he was learning, and how many years of math he was learning in just a couple of weeks. Soon enough, Pistol and Buster started leaning in to watch him defeat all of the math challenges that came his way.
Pistol started next and secretly wanted to show Brok just how good he could be, too. He tested at an Elephant Age of around 10 years old, around a year and a half under his actual age of 12. Once Brok was finished, he’d pick up the iPad right after him, and try to grow his Elephant Age just like his brother.
Sure enough, with more practice, Pistol’s Elephant Age started flying up just like his older brother’s. After around two months, he’d grown almost a year in math, and continued rising. His brother had motivated him, and there was no stopping him!
Finally, Buster caught onto Elephant Learning after seeing his two big brothers continue to grow their Elephant Age. Though he’s 9, he started at an Elephant Age around a 7 and had some work to do. Unlike his work at school, Elephant Learning didn’t punish him for getting an answer wrong. Instead, the game would self-correct and continue drilling the questions he struggled on until he mastered it.
And remember-- this is all through gamification. Meaning that nobody-- not even Buster-- felt like they were playing math homework.
Melissa overcame the struggles of rural public schooling, and her boys now had a kids math program they could all challenge each other with!