Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"C" Words in My Celery Prints

Thought up a fun learning activity while making dinner last night. Cutting celery and onion for baked chicken, I noticed my celery stalk was slicing in the shape of "C". Perfect!

I finished cutting the celery slices until I had a four inch perfect-for-a-five-year-old-sized-hand piece. Then I poured a small amount of paint in a shallow Styrofoam veggie tray (a plastic lid could also be used). Instructing my five year old in print technique, I showed her how to make a "C" print by dipping the end of the celery into the thin layer of paint and pushing gently onto a white piece of paper. Perfect! Prints! Yahoo! She was very impressed, and so was I.

While the paint dried, we (all of us in the kitchen) worked together to list "C words". When the paint was completely dry, my daughter copied the words onto her paper. Perfect! Prints! Great lesson on the letter C. Love impromptu fun learning. Perfect! Prints! Learning! Yahoo!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Academics, Character, Life Skills, A Blend of Many

There's been growing concern about the academic component to home education. I understand it. Home education parents feel the weight of the future of their children riding on their shoulders. Will my child have the skill set to find employment? Will my child be accepted at XYZ college? How will my child parent his future children, my grandchildren? All valid questions.

Mothering little ones (and older ones) I decided to conduct a study. A personal observation study. What is the real focus of our days? What gets the most attention? Where do my mothering energies find themselves during the day? What actions do I find myself correcting, reminding, reviewing, and restewing (if that is a word)? My findings made me even more curious. Yes, we taught academic lessons and reviewed skills, but the skeleton of our day contained much more. Much more.

Here's a brief clip of the scenarios we encountered in a three hour period:

We sit to do math (academic). Child one brings a pencil with an inadequate eraser (problem solving, life skill). Child two sits right down and opens immediately to the lesson for the day (character-work ethic). I begin to explain the math lesson (academic) while child two listens (character-attentiveness, life skill). Child one looks for another pencil (problem solving, life skill). Child two solves the math problem without complaining (academic, character). Child one sits, ready to learn and is soon engrossed with a word problem (academic). I remind each child to line up columns in three-digit multiplication problems (academic, character-work ethic). Each child finishes his or her math problem and moves to the next problem (academics, character-work ethic). Child three runs through the living room leading to the tile floor kitchen, chasing the dog. I remind the child about the safety issues of running on tile with sock-clad feet (life skill). Child one breaks the pencil tip and complains about having to get up to find the sharpener (character-work ethic). Child two continues to work on math despite the interruptions (academic, character-work ethic). While finding a pencil sharpener, child one requests a snack and asks for carrots (character, life skill,academic-nutrition). Child two also asks for a snack, requesting chocolate chips instead of carrots (character, academic-nutrition). During snack break child four works on a vocabulary lesson (academic) and becomes curious about mortgages. She asks me about the importance of saving money and how much is needed for a down payment on a house (academic, life skill). Children one and two, having finished snack, argue over a toy, each claiming they had it first (character-selfishness, life skill-conflict resolution). I pause my conversation with child four to help children one and two work out their dispute (problem solving, life skill-conflict resolution). Sock-clad child three runs through the tiled-floor kitchen AGAIN and I remind her of the danger involved (character). Math complete, I encourage children one, two and three listen to a book on tape (academic) while I continue financial conversation with child four and fix lunch (life skill, academic).

Academic? Character? Life skills? One doesn't happen without the other. In fact, had I solely concentrated on one aspect and not the others, one child would not have completed any written work and we may have had an impromptu field trip to the emergency room or vet clinic. My personal observation study proved valuable and revealing, powerfully reminding. As a home education mom, my job is far more important and a bit more difficult than simply presenting a myriad of facts in palatable chunks. My mothering impacts the totality of my children and will resonate with them for a lifetime.

P.S. For those who know me you may wonder "Hasn't she learned this yet? I mean, she has two young adults, high school home education (and one almost college) graduates?" Apparently, I still need reminding. Smile.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chocolate + Fruit Chews = Math

All Candy 50% Off!

These signs scream math. Practical every day uses for math. And, yummy uses to boot!

Halloween two days behind us, stores in our area are posting opportunities to use practical math. 50% off $6.99, 75% off retail, and buy-one-get-two.

Reading math. Writing math. Doing math. Doesn't matter. It's all learning. Everyone gets involved. Here are some of the fun activities we've tried when chocolate and fruit chews present themselves as deals too good to pass up:
  • We purchase two to four types of chocolates and survey anyone who stops by our house :) If we're really feeling generous, we ask the person which type of candy is his or her favorite and then let them eat it. We ask for the empty wrapper and then use the "trash" for our graph.

  • We purchase M&M or Skittles fun packs and hand them out to whomever might want to experience math with us. (Now you know why the neighborhood kids like our house) We count, sort, pattern, add colors (or three for practice with multiple addends), subtract colors (we do that last so we can eat while we subtract), figure percentages and ratios, and even talk probability (what is the probability of choosing a red M&M from the bag?) All in all, it is a fun time for every age.
  • My older children love to use math to determine whether or not they are getting a "sweet" bargain. We figure out cost (If a bag of candy costs $3.99 and the sale is 50% off, what will be pay?) and cost per unit (If the bag of fruit chews costs $2.19 and there are 50 chews per bag, what is the cost of each individual chew?). Mom makes up additional hypothetical scenarios (If you have a $10.00 bill in your pocket and the candy is $3.29 per bag, how many bags could you buy and how much change would you receive from your purchase?) This has leads to conversation about sales tax, taxable and non-taxable items, and cost per pound. Yes, we've weighed candy with a kitchen scale. Very energizing.

These yummy math ideas (and more) are compiled in my Flip Three Pancakes With One Spatula book, a resource I put together after years of hands-on math activities. Yes, my children love to eat their math. Stop by my website and click on the Flip Three Pancakes page. You will find lots of resources. ENJOY!