Friday, April 25, 2014

Real-Life Learning: Teaching Elapsed Time

"Mom, can I use your phone?"

"We want to see how long it takes to get home!"

Elapsed time. A very abstract concept for a concrete six-year-old learner. The concept is often taught on paper with a story problem:

Emily is baking chocolate cake. The cake must bake for 38 minutes. If Emily puts the cake in the oven at 2:15 pm, what time will she need to take the cake out of the oven?

Most children learn elapsed time by this manner. This is a necessary piece of the elapsed time puzzle. However, there is another piece many parents and teachers miss. Internal, personal understanding of elapsed time is not something that can taught on paper. It must be experienced, not just once, but many times. Understanding this part of the elapsed time concept is a necessity for life. Without it, time management is nearly impossible.

"Don't start the car yet! I have to set the time. When I tell you, turn the key."

Seconds later I was told to start the car. The stop watch on my phone ticking away, I pulled out of the parking space. Heads craned around confining seat belts (though we were excited about learning, I reminded learners they must remain in their seat belts). Shouts of learning excitement filled the car.

"It's two minutes thirty seconds!" An older learner shouted. Little learner listened, as the digital numbers were read orally; another important skill.

"Now it's four minutes twenty-nine seconds!"

Six minutes forty-two seconds later, we pulled in the driveway. 

We experienced lapsed time, visually, auditorily, and kinesthetically.

We unpacked groceries and learners had more ideas:
  • How long will it take to fill a gallon milk jug with water, faucet open as far as possible?
  • How long will it take for a marble to roll down the KNEX ramp?
  • How long will it take me to get dressed?
  • How long will it take for water to boil?
  • How long will it take for the clothes to dry in the dryer?  or Is the time on the dryer dial accurate?
  • How long will it take for us to get to the library? Does it take longer to go to the library than to the grocery store? (Comparison of time is the next level of elapsed time. Write down each elapsed digital time and subtract to find the difference.We do this every day! )
Teaching elapsed time can be fun and relative to life.

It can also help children and young adults plan their days well. Will I have enough time to brush my teeth and still read an extra paragraph before emptying the dishwasher for mom? Will I have time to stop for gas and still get to work on time? 

If you are looking for ways to make take math off paper for little learners ages 4 through 8, you may find A Month of Math: Measurement or A Month of Math: Geometry helpful resources.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Makers of America Series Chronological: Living Books Teach History

One of our family's favorite read-aloud series is the Makers of America books. They have taken us from Kitty Hawk to watch the Wright Brothers fly their plane to the wilds of Penn's woods which would eventually be known as Pennsylvania. We have learned history, geography, and science, walking along side some of the brilliant men and women who have made an lasting impact on American history as well as world history. We have loved every sentence of our journey through time. 

I found the first of our collection at a used book sale, for 50 cents. Yes, 50 cents! I searched the internet as well as some of my book resources and could not find a listing of the books (if you find one let me know!). Eventually I was able to purchase another book in the same series and it had a partial listing of the books in the series. From that list, I began collecting these hard to find literary treasures. We have loved every one we have read so far. 

Made in America series 
(may not be a complete listing)

Leif Ericson: Explorer, Ruth Cromer Weir
Christopher Columbus: Discoverer, Alberta Powell Graham (1451-1506)
Champlain: Father of New France, Cecile Pepin Edwards (1574-1653)
Roger Williams: Defender of Freedom, Cecile Pepin Edwards (1603-1683)
La Salle: River Explorer, Alberta Powell Graham (1643-1687)
William Penn: Founder and Friend, Virginia Haviland (1644-1718)
Benjamin Franklin: Printer and Patriot, Ruth Cromer Weir (1706-1790)
George Washington: First President, Elise Ball (1732-1799)
John Paul Jones of the U.S. Navy, Ruth Cromer Weir (1747-1792)
Lafayette: Friend of America, Alberta Powell Graham (1757-1834)
Eli Whitney: Master Craftsman, Miriam Gilbert (1765-1825)
Andrew Jackson: Fighting Frontiersman, Frances Fitzpatrick Wright (1767-1845)
Sam Houston: Fighter and Leader, Frances Fitzpatrick Wright (1793-1863)
Lewis and Clark: Explorers to the West, Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill
Abraham Lincoln: Courageous Leader, Lillian J. Bragdon (1809-1865)
Clara Barton: Red Cross Pioneer, Alberta Powell Graham (1821-1912)
John Muir: Protector of the Wilds, Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill (1838-1914)
Thomas Alva Edison: Inventor, Ruth Cromer Weir (1847-1931)
Luther Burbank: Nature's Helper, Lillian J. Bragdon (1849-1926)
Jane Addams: World Neighbor, Miriam Gilbert (1860-1935)
The Wright Brothers: First to Fly, Madge Haines and Leslie Morrill

Monday, April 7, 2014

Broccoli Seed Discovery

I often wondered what part of the broccoli plant housed the seeds. 

Now I know!

Thanks to my children who are on a constant adventure for discovery.

Our broccoli plants had stopped producing beautiful heads. 

Then flowered.

Left in the garden, they grew "spikey" things. 

The "spikey" things dried. 

Children found them!

"Mom, look, it's seeds!"

"Can we harvest them?"

"Can we plant them?"

And, the cycle begins again!

We have four inch seedlings ready for planting. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Living Books: Marco Polo and Co-op

Isn't it fantastic when everything we teach, everything we're involved in as a family, weaves together in a learning tapestry? We try to weave together what we can, but it isn't always possible. Monday it was.

Knowing I would be teaching Marco Polo in our co-op (and I knew next to nothing about him, yikes!) I decided we needed to find a family read-aloud, a book we could all enjoy, a book to get our feet wet, a book to give me some threads on which to weave a lesson (which I would have to teach other people's children!).

Looking on our family home library shelves, I found the perfect read, from one of our favorite series, The Story of Marco Polo by Olive Price. Read the first paragraph, we were immediately swept away to the canals of Venice.

"'Today's the day!' cried Marco Polo, a dark-eyed boy nine years old. 

Marco pulled aside the yellow silk draperies which hung at a casement window, and looked down on a wide canal. there were few streets in Venice. Almost every passage through the city was a winding waterway. 

Marco's home was in a fine part of the town. It was large and filled with beautiful things. Marco lived there with his mother and his faithful servants. "

"The day soon came when the great voyage began. Marco Polo set sail from Cathay with two thousand men. He was given a fleet of Chinese ships, each with a crew of three hundred. The ships had splendid sails and were even more seaworthy than any he had seen as a boy in Venice.

The fleet sailed south on the China Sea. It put into ports where Marco saw many new things. He recorded the descriptions of foreign streets and strange people in his notebook. He made drawings of place he had never seen before and charted the roads to them accurately."

We loved the book! In some areas it set ground work. In other areas it filled in gaps with information we hadn't known. It certainly invited us along on Marco Polo's adventure, allowing us to understand the serious crisis Marco met along his journey. I never really appreciated the extent to which navigators risked to give us the geography and understanding we have today. 

Forward a few weeks, it came time for me to teach! 

I set up the room with the major landmarks: mountains, Gobi desert, Kashgar (the trading area), and Shangdu (where the Great Khan resided). Blue painter's tape on tile marked the Silk Road. I gave each child a map of Marco's travels and chose three children to be Marco, his father, and his uncle. Each dressed up with sheets of fabric and straddled a stick horse (pretend camel). As I told a synopsis of Marco's venture to the Great Khan, the children moved along "Asia". After I told the story, the three children sat down with the group and I explained "trading along the Silk Road". Each child had a travel pouch and items Marco found or encountered along the journey: silk, coal, jewels, pearls, spices, furs, and paper money. For thirty minutes, children traded along the Silk Road. At the end of the day, they understood a bit more about Marco Polo and his travel across Asia and then along the Spice Route to the south.

Other living books about Marco Polo
  • Adventures and Discoveries of Marco Polo by Richard Walsh (Landmark)
  • Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman
  • Marco Polo: A Journey through China by Fiona MacDonald, David Salariya and Mark Bergin
  • The Travels of Marco Polo- Volume 1 (other volumes available) by Rustichello of Pisa and Marco Polo and Henry Yule (Kindle version of Polo's manuscript, primary source for high schoolers)

NOTE: In almost every book I've read, there is content which could be considered controversial. This book, The Story of Marco Polo, is no different. I must note, having read the book and penning a post, there is mention of cannibals in Sumatra. As with any book, the parent must decide how and when to handle content with their family. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Living Books Forum: Not Just Literature: Weaving Living Books into High School Courses

I'm working on finalizing the speaking points for my workshop, Not Just Literature: Weaving Living Books into High School Courses. As I add notes I ponder, “I wish I had had the opportunity to attend a workshop like this 8 years ago when I started the high schooling chapter of our home education story."

I'm not trying to sound proud, just wishing I had had the chance to hear from a mom who had walked a less traditional road. I could have learned from their experience. But then again, perhaps I wouldn’t have learned the valuable lessons I can now pass along to others. 

I am thrilled to have the opportunity to walk parents through the process of finding great literature and real books which can solidify understanding in the high school years when young adults are making decisions about how they can use interests and gifts which will impact their college and career choices.

In the session we will discuss where to find real book resources for high school, interweaving reading choices into courses, keeping paperwork and grades to reflect what young adults are reading in regards to home education statute and college admissions. The workshop will interactive with question and answer opportunity.

Consider attending Living BooksForum. There's something for everyone, at any stage of the home education journey.

*The information in this blog post is not intended as legal or educational advice. It is simply a journal of what worked for us. Parents are responsible to oversee their child's home education.