Journal Categories
Journal Tags

Entries in math (10)



I hadn't realized how much I missed it.


What DID we do this week?

Our two biggest events this week were group oriented. On Friday, of course, there was the play and talent show at our HAA gathering, and on Monday we met with another homeschooling group for the first time. It's a more local group—smaller, and two of the families we already know from HAA. It's a very informal, relaxed gathering. The kids played games and designed and created paper airplanes while the moms chatted and watched. We are looking forward to romping through local parks with them throughout the summer, as well as gathering in more distant parks with our friends at HAA. What a fun summer we will have!

Calvin finished reading The Water Horse and Mitt the Michigan Mouse and started The Marvelous Land of Oz. On the subject of books, Thursday we went to see a stage production of something he read last month: The Cricket in Times Square. He wrote a journal entry about the event.

There was Lego play in ancient Egypt, complete with Lego pyramid Egyptian god figures. Calvin read, and reread and reread, Senefer: A Young Genius in Old Egypt (out of print, but we got it from the library), and tried a few fun links suggested by Intellego: Images from inside Tut's Tomb (by Discovery News); a video about tombs, and lots of info on King Tut (from National Geographic); and a great interactive site on the pyramids at Giza (from the British Museum). He also played this silly tomb adventure game (from National Museums Scotland), this silly mummy game (from Schools Liaison), and revisited this great interactive mummy making site (from the Children's University of Manchester). Both The British Museum and the Children's University of Manchester sites have great overall presentations on ancient Egypt.

That Anubis, he's such a trickster...

He was reading about Senefer as an elephant walked by...

He did two Math-U-See lesson sets from Gamma, introducing products of 5 and 10, and we also discussed products of 9. We played Totally Tut a few times, some modified versions of Shut the Box, and quizzed each other on odd-ball multiplication problems (the bigger the number, the better—what is 6 million x 9????) while playing in the yard, while walking the dogs, while eating lunch, while driving...I think you get the idea.

I'm bringing back BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding). We'd been wandering through it last fall but got away from it over the winter, so this week we reviewed some of the topics we'd covered and I was delighted to find that the understanding is still there. The BFSU book is just a guide for us, a way for me to jump start conversations about science, but really we've been talking about these things all along.

There was piano practice, and line practice, what with the talent show and the play on Friday, both of which went very well. There was dog walking, grocery shopping, swimming lessons, and library volunteering.

As a family we started watching episodes from The Pyramid Code on Netflix. It's a little conspiracy theorist in flavor, but many of the ideas put forward are entirely plausible, or at least imaginable, and the show certainly makes one think.

This week we'll be cleaning up from the book sale, which happened yesterday, and heading over to Holland, Michigan for the Tulip Time festival, at which there are likely to be no tulips this year since the season started a month early. No problem, we don't really go for the tulips so much as for the big lake, the beach, and the quiet, relax time we sneak in while there.


Cantaloupes and goals

Calvin and I have been talking a lot about units lately. It comes from some of the math he's been doing, most notably the word problems.

A measurement of anything requires definition of the unit being measured. If you plan on sending someone to the store to purchase 60 cantaloupes, it's imperative that the grocery list say "60 cantaloupes" because if it merely says "60" there's no telling what they'll come home with.

It follows that if you plan to measure your success it's imperative that you define the unit of such success. In homeschooling, at least in our state, setting the goals and declaring when they are met is entirely up to the discretion of the people at home. It's a wonderful freedom, but I have too often suffered from a lack of unit definition. I am a wishy-washy homeschooling parent, and by that I mean I'll mosey along thinking I'm doing okay, and then I'll happen upon another homeschooler's website where they're plowing through ten science projects a day, or twenty craft projects, or reading through both the Iliad and Odyssey at the ripe old age of five, and suddenly I feel rather like a failure.

The internet can be a lifeline, but it can also be dangerous. When we chose to homeschool we did so based on the belief that we could guide Calvin to a life of learning best at home, but we never had any grand plan in mind. No beloved curriculum to follow, not even a full-blown philosophy, and that has turned out to be a weak spot for me, because not knowing for sure what we are doing has left me vulnerable to a feeling of failure in the face of others' proclaimed successes; if I haven't defined a goal, then I cannot possibly declare a measurement of success.

Don't get me wrong—I'm not second guessing our choice, nor do I actually feel like I am failing on any deep level, it's just that I am chased by the constant, nagging feeling that I could be doing a whole lot better. Then today I found this article, a blog post that probably every homeschooling mom should read, the gist of it being that every homeschooling family has to decide what is right for them, that not every parent is going to love crafting, for example. She's right, of course, and it wasn't those words in particular that I needed to read, but they did remind me that in order to succeed, I have to be clear with myself about my goals, abut my units of success, so that when I see a family reading through all of Shakespeare's plays at the age of six, or the family traveling the world to study history, or the family doing thirty physics experiments a day, I will already know that these weren't my goals, and that I don't need to measure our days against theirs.

It sounds petty, it sounds simple, it sounds obvious, but the reminder is so welcome. So needed.

This afternoon, while Calvin and I sat in the driveway and tossed a football back and forth, he said to me "let's practice math!" (complete with exclamation point), so I started quizzing him on multiplication before I tossed the ball, and he asked me such hard questions as "what is 600 times 80,000?" before he tossed it back. He was cracking up, he was thinking, he was discovering (that the multiplication of numbers with lots of zeros wasn't harder just because of all those zeros). He was empowered in his own discoveries, and I thought, 'you know, this is what my goal really is: for him to be thrilled with learning, no matter the subect', and that definition will empower me until I realize how abstract it is, and then I'll obsess some more, but for now, things are all good.


What did we even DO this week?

Calvin finished reading Charlotte's Web, started and finished reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and then started two more books, Mitt the Michigan Mouse, and The Waterhorse. This has me wondering whether I need to encourage him to delve into one book at a time, but he seems to be comfortable this way, so I'm going to sit back and observe for a while yet. In the meantime, I finished two books to review for Booklist, one that I would highly recommend to anyone who enjoys esoteric counter-culture fiction (Herself, When She's Missing comes out in late May), and one that I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

We started reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane as a bedtime book.

The week was mostly cold and questionable, so we played chess, we played Mammoth Hunt, we played with Legos, with tangrams, with Pattern Play. I hear that this is the first time on record that the month of March was warmer than the month of April in the Northeast, but we did make it to the park twice.

My favorite moment of the week was Calvin and Jon discussing phone lines and the Hubble Space Telescope.

We researched a lot of ancient Egypt. We read about it, we drew about it, we acted it out. We played with iPad apps (Encyclopedia Britannica for Kids), we watched videos (Building Pharaoh's Ship, and Egypt's Golden Empire), we almost finished our mummy project. That's turning out to be a four week project!

Lots of time playing Totally Tut kicked us into the world of multiplication. Calvin started the Gamma book of Math-U-See a couple of weeks ago, so he's already got a head start. On Friday at HAA (our homeschoolers gathering), another mom suggested a some iPad math games, two of which we are happily trying out: Math Bingo, and Hungry Fish.

We were home-bodies on Monday and Tuesday, went to swimming and the store on Wednesday, sorted books at the library on Thursday, had HAA with play practice and art on Friday, and were home-bodies again on Saturday.

And that's a wrap.

One of my favorite things about homeschooling? It's so age intergenerational.


Out of nowhere

We've all been smacked upside the head with a "spring" cold. It came out of nowhere! And we're just laying low. Calvin and I stayed in our pajamas all day today. We skipped our homeschool gathering today—the first day of new classes, too. I even took the dogs out in my pajamas (just to the front yard), and Jon came home early to rest.

Calvin and I both practiced the piano. He drew a lot of maps (I love this), read a little, and played (make-believe) Piglet and Pooh. We played a couple of math games on the computer together, and a round of Upwords, but mostly we hunkered down with history books. We hung another timeline on the last free wall in the house—3,000 b.c.e. to 100 c.e.—and started filling it in with the happenings in Mesopotamia. We read about Gilgamesh and Enkidu, about Sargon, and a little about Hammurabi.

With Jon home early we drank tea, ate snacks, played more games, and ordered pizza. We watched Michael Wood on King Arthur (In Search of Myths and Heroes) over dinner. We started reading The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, together before bed (as a side note, Juster is also the author of one of my favorite picture books, The Hello Goodbye Window).

With a little rest we're hoping to be as good as new on Monday.