Friday, May 30, 2008

math lessons

This is how math lessons look when your household goods are holed up on the slow boat to Japan.

At the community center, after visiting Mia's favorite bathroom, we stopped at the vending machine for a snack. Some days having the kids not hungry in the grocery store trumps overpriced-filler-snacks. So Chas figured out how much we would need for three bags of pretzels at 60 cents each. Also, if we use a dollar to pay for the first bag, what is our change and how much more change will we need for the other two bags.
Later at the commissary, we looked at reasonably-priced-filler-snacks to keep in the van, so we wouldn't have to buy from vending machines again. 10 packs of nabs for $1.90, 9 packs of goldfish for $3.70. He is not figuring out exact amounts here - estimates... that's what most adults do when they need to find out price per item. I am sure when the time comes, if he should ever need an exact amount, he'll figure out a way to get it. We also looked at orange juice, 6 little boxes at 8 oz each, how many ounces for $2.99. He began by counting by 8s, then after the third one, he doubled that amount and figured 48 oz in all. The 64 oz carton was the same price, so which one is the better deal? And why is the package of individual boxes more expensive? Convenience and additional packaging cost.

After lunch we are going to watch the third disk of a very long movie that we borrowed from the library called The 10th Kingdom. At 417 minutes, Chas figured out that it's almost 7 hours
long (420, drop the zero, 42 is divisible by 6, 7 times, there's your 7 hours). So how long is each disk, roughly? Estimation is appropriate here too. So Chas, 7 hours divided by three? 3 goes into six twice, that's at least two hours on each disk, with an hour left over to be divided across the three disks, 20 minutes each. 2 hours and 20 minutes!

Please do not be amazed. Most seven year olds could do this, except they are taught that they have to do the math the long way usually on paper to prove that they have learned it, that they aren't cheating, or so the teacher can maintain accountability and prove she is doing her job.

A woman interested in homeschooling struck a conversation with me at the library the other day. I have heard this conversation before, soooooo many times. 'My daughter seems interested in reading, what reading program do you use/recommend?'
You don't need anything. We all learned to walk, and talk, and feed ourselves, and a myriad of other daily tasks - all without the use of expensive one-size-fits-all curriculum. Our family used materials on hand - like Dr Seuss (and whatever the child was interested in at the time, Chas really wanted to read the Thomas the Tank Engine package insert, so Tim showed him a few things, and he asked for more; Mia has a Dora book with Spanish and English labels across a scene), and alphabet magnets (or what ever we have on hand that the child can hold onto and move around and turn and manipulate.) Think of it this way... a child's world is filled with three dimensional objects. A bowl, a bicycle, a teddy bear - turn an object around, upside down, look at it in a mirror, the object is still a bowl, a bicycle, or a teddy bear. Alphabet magnets are able to be held, turned, moved around. They worked well for us because although you can pick them up and turn them face down or upside down, it is pretty obvious which side is the front. We also teach the sounds of the letters along with the names, and I'm not afraid to show a few combinations when they present themselves. OO says u, SH says sh... etc.
And instead of trying to transmit all the complicated rules of phonics, we encourage them to first scan the word and look for letters they know go to together to make other sounds, like ch or sh or th or ar, also look for words within words 'or' and 'in', come across a vowel? try it one way and if it doesn't make sense in the sentence, or just plain sounds like nonsense, trust your instinct and try it a different way.
My point here is that when a child wants to learn something, she'll learn it, there's just no stopping her. I truly did not expect Mia to try to learn how to read in the middle of this move. Sometime in February, she was literally begging me teach her how to read. I showed her a few things, but when I could tell she needed a break, I backed off. Now here, without any of our school room in tact, she has asked for more, and is now reading on her own. I often wonder if my children were not so motivated and interested until later in their childhood, would I be so relaxed? I have a friend whose boy had no interest in reading until well past ten years old. I have no idea her personal struggles with this, as he was thirteen when I met her (and doing just fine, I might add.) Imagine what kind of champion for your child you would have to be to stay focused on him, not on his peers, until 7 years past what the government and the education industry says is normal, average, and acceptable.
It boggles my mind that the government wants all children to learn the same information at the same age and at the same pace. It boggles my mind even more that reasonably intelligent, loving, attentive, parents also think that this is okay. Are parents not the ones supposed to be the most 'in tune' with how unique and special their own child is?

I really miss our school books and other supplies that are on the way. But, I can admit that the time spent without them is opening my eyes to what learning is happening everyday despite the empty schoolroom.

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