Friday, November 18, 2011

Math Idea for Kinesthetic Learners

Long division has taken over the dining room table, complete with those pesky remainders floating about. Max is very literal when learning math.  He wants to know the steps and that's about it, and he sure gets frustrated when he trips on the steps.

Sitting at the table doing problem after problem is about the worst thing he can imagine for a way to spend time.  Today he suffered through twelve problems and managed to eek them out, but he did tell me a few times that he was confused on what to do next as far as the 'steps'.

An idea!  Which I'll work on over the weekend to put in place on Monday.  "Steps".  Like learning dance steps, right?  Dance division!

It might help him if I set up a large-scale division problem out on the driveway with chalk.  Then we can step through the sequence literally (!) and write as we go.  This could also be done on a couple of big pieces of newsprint on your kitchen floor, too, if it's too cold to go outside when one happens to be tackling long division.  Or, bundle up and go out there anyway!  We are going to dance our way through division.  I'm sure this isn't an original idea in the slightest........but it does sound fun, doesn't it?

We learned a mnemonic that applies to long division, too, which is helping - it goes like this:

Dad says to divide
Mom says to multiply
Sister says to subtract
Brother says to bring it down
Dog says to do it again!

I'm not sure what cat, horse, donkey, hamster and fish are supposed to be doing, but at any rate, Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother and Dog are working - albeit they ARE a bit bossy.

I'm willing to bet that dance division is going to help him 'feel' it and he'll get a good grasp with his body and his brain.  Part of the challenge for me is paying attention to how he takes in information and I'm learning that I can't make many assumptions.  It's the coolest thing, really, because it's making me listen up and slow down. 

Here are some pictures from Monday's Driveway Division extravaganza.......

We 'walked through' each step 

Messing with him - alas, he doesn't love division 

Hey!  This is supposed to be math, not art!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not for the Faint of Heart

I guess we both are 'faint of heart', then, because this book disappointed us.  I was looking forward to this particular read-aloud by Ernest Thompson Seton:

But was mainly left with a sad taste in my mouth.  Just a few posts ago I highlighted this book, saying we were anticipating its stories; I'm posting again to add a caveat, especially for parents of younger readers.  

This book, as much as it captures the real essence of wild animals in their native environments, also does a fine job of drawing attention to how horrible human beings can be to those animals in those native environments.  Namely to say that the humans in this book were mainly fixated on claiming the land strictly for themselves, for ridding the scape of all wolves, for torturing both domesticated and wild horses to death...... as much as the author took part in introducing us to stand-out representatives of various species (and they were a pleasure to meet), he also often played a significant role in bringing many of them to their eventual demise.  

Max picked up on this quickly and by the time we got through the chapter titled "The Pacing Mustang", he was spitting mad.  There were parts in several of the chapters that I did not want to read, especially out loud.  I was disappointed and saddened.  Needless to say, we won't be finishing this one.  Granted, the time period for this book was set in the late 1800's, but the "romance" of the Wild West did not seduce us into seeing past the cruelty that was inflicted.  We stopped right there and had enough.  

Harsh reality and much food for thought, so we're thinking about it.  What can WE do to help humans and animals live in more attuned harmony for the benefit of all species?  That's the question that seems almost too big to answer.  It's my job as a parent to try to raise an intelligent, caring, thoughtful and 'educated' youngster who is aware of a deeper reality, one that the world's future may depend on.  I guess Mr. Seton can be credited for getting us a little riled up then, huh?  Sigh.    

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Dane Update!

Well, he's three weeks old on Monday and as of yet is nameless.  We went to see him and hug him yesterday and took some pictures.  Their eyes are open and they are starting to explore their surroundings - and they are starting to get stinky!  The mama Dane sure has her work cut out for her.

So little, but not for long. 

Getting to know each other (one is clearly more smell motivated) 

Another type of 'homeschooling', eh?

He'll be home in about a month.  It would be nice to have a name picked out by then.........Tripp?  Dominick?  Tobin?  Merlin?  Atticus?

Copywork Has Intrinsic Value - Consider It.

Thanks to 'meeting' Charlotte Mason over the summer, copywork has become part of my homeschooling arsenal.  I expected much resistance from the troops, to have to fish him out of his room after he ran to hide, but not so.  Copywork time is peaceful time at the table and we both like it for different reasons.  We try to do some copywork twice a week and occasionally mix in some dictation, too.

Max says he doesn't want his handwriting to look like that of a first grader's.  He seems pleased to see a page filled up with neat writing that came from his hand.  I have more of a covert agenda in that I'm glad he's being exposed to great thinkers who really know how to string words together.  They also are pretty good at using correct grammar, spelling and punctuation!  It's probably a given that readers tend to have a better natural grasp of the elements of language just by the sheer number of encounters one experiences with phrases and words and such.

The clever and fun part comes in when I climb outside of the box and try to surprise him with various pieces he can copy.  He is a huge fan of Calvin and Hobbes; dialogues between the free-thinking six year old and his stuffed tiger were among the first bits of copywork we did.  Musical lyrics work very well, too - especially if I pay attention to what he's listening to - that's poetry he can appreciate and relate to.  We finished Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book a few weeks ago and I could not resist the great battle between Rikki Tikki Tavi and Nag the cobra; one of Rudyard's best stories ever!  Pulling material from something your child is reading or has recently read gives him/her almost a sense of ownership over the words.  "Hey - I know those words!"  J.R.R. Tolkein's Bilbo Baggins has offered up some great text, too.

I expect him to take his time and pay attention to word placement on the paper; he has a tendency to want to conjure up never-before-seen hyphenations when he runs out of room at the end of a line.  Already there have been significant improvements in his confidence in not only penmanship, but in all other things composition-related.  It's getting him accustomed, too, to sitting for longer periods and writing longer pieces - something he didn't think he was capable of at the end of fifth grade.  Copywork is a valuable endeavor!  At first glance it appears to look exactly like busywork, but it's got so much more intrinsic value embedded in it.  Don't resist it - try it and see what happens.

Reach far and wide for copywork sources - use that wonderful imagination of yours.  Good stuff might be lurking on the backs of your cereal boxes......use thoughts from Mother Theresa, family stories written up by a senior member of the family, parts of great speeches, pieces of technical writing, scientific papers, newsletters from your favorite non-profits (might wish to double check the grammar and spelling!), non-fiction adventure stories, Winnie the Pooh, other philosophers.  It's wide open!  Plays and other manuscripts can take part nicely, too, and so can some comic books.  I started a file of ideas; some things fit better at different times depending on what we are doing.

I downloaded some quotations from Shakespeare's mind HERE.  I kind of like having him tucked in my idea folder!

Monday, November 7, 2011

By George I Think He's Got It!

It's time to celebrate around these parts.  Two major accomplishments and both deserve some recognition - hence a blog post to mark the moments!  First, my kiddo has officially memorized the multiplication tables!  Second, he completed reading The Hobbit on his own, all 504 pages of that puppy.  AND HE LIKED IT.  Time to pop the cork and have some root beer.

Teaching multiplication has been an arduous undertaking which, believe it or not, we started in fourth grade - two whole years ago.  Repetition, games, practical application, flashcards, worksheets, stories about people who actually use multiplication..........I sure have those facts down for the rest of my life, too!  Quick - ask me what 12 x 9 is.

Much more than the details of basic multiplication was learned and honored in this grand process - stuff that is worth passing along.  I have learned, and from now on will remember, that sometimes he is primed and ready to receive information, other times he is not.  I'm betting that all children are just the same to some degree.  When their brain synapses are aligned correctly and when Saturn's third moon is hurtling toward Vega and pink pigs with wings are flittering around your hummingbird feeders, only then will kids open doors to genuine learning - when they are darn good and ready!  Not a moment before, either.

What I really want to know at this juncture is had I not put an emphasis on learning his facts, would he have eventually grabbed them when he was darn good and ready?  Unschoolers offer a hearty 'yes' to this puzzler.  I can't rewind the tape or Photoshop in a mom with a different anxiety meter, so I'll never know for sure, but I do have a hankering that he would have been much better off without large doses of my worrying mixed in.  This has been a valuable lesson for me as a homeschooling parent.  I need to back off and wait patiently for my charge to take flight.  I didn't exhibit any of these worries when it came to reading and reading is something he has taken a genuine liking to without prodding.

Yesterday Max and I stood in front of the bookshelf that holds our homeschooling materials and he picked out what he wants to learn about this week.  Everything from how muscles work, Grossology, Picasso, more on Leonardo, Ancient warfare and finishing our current literature pick, to how the HSUS moves large prairie dog colonies successfully.  I noticed that he didn't pick any math worksheets, clever boy.  He did a few practice problems on double-digit multiplication today to increase his speed, but then we were on to something he wanted to learn about.

Grandma and Grandpa visited last week and brought him an old Casio calculator - the kind that has the paper roll attached so that you can print out your totals.  Max checked his work using this calculator and was immediately enamored with it.  I remember my mom's fingers flying over that number pad whenever she brought work home.  The hum of the paper feeding through the mechanism brought me right back to childhood, too.  He quickly figured out how to get more bang for his buck with the paper and fed it through differently so the paper could be used four times  - on both the right and left sides, front and back.  It might be fun to take that calculator apart someday - to figure out how that printing and feeding mechanism works.

If you are a new homeschooling parent, learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before you (like,!)  I'm here to tell you that worrying is wasted energy, that you have plenty of time to prepare your child for adulthood, that you can take time to have fun together and still learn a bunch.  This is the most relaxed I have been as a homeschool mom since I started three years ago.  And bonus, as of today, we know how prairie dog colonies get moved in humane fashion!   Here's the link so you can go see for yourself!:  Prairie Pups.  The Humane Society of the United States also publishes a worthwhile magazine called All Animals and their magazine written specifically for kids is called Kind News.

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