Monday, August 30, 2010

Memory Box

I think I’ve mentioned our Memory Box before, but I thought I’d share it again. This little box is a daily part of our homeschool and funny enough the boys really love seeing it come out. 
It started out as just a Bible Verse box, and while that is still it’s primary goal and use I’ve recently started adding in bits of poetry to it. I remember learning bits and pieces of poetry when I was homeschooled and I still quote some of it to the boys. The boys always think it’s neat that I know a poem, especially Morgan who loves it when things rhyme. 
Recently they were having a spat. Okay, a fight. In that moment where you debate shouting or distracting them I was reminded of the poem Love Between Brothers & Sisters. It’s quite a length poem and I’ve been known to quote bits and pieces of it when the boys are squabbling. At the same time The Duel (aka The Gingham Dog & The Calico Cat) also came to mind. When I started quoting that one they asked for it a second time. Thus it was decided that we’d learn The Duel first. 
Due to taking a week off for colds they aren’t very far along with it, but Jayden managed to wow Mr S at the dinner table this evening by quoting half of the first stanza:
The Gingham Dog & The Calico Cat,
Side by side on the table sat;
T’was half-past twelve, & (what do you think?)
Nor one nor t’other had slept a wink!
They are both quite proud of themselves, and the encore this evening came with the same rendition from Morgan. They are so eager to learn it all that I suspect they’ll knock off a couple of stanzas quite quickly.
As for how this little box works in our home, that’s the simple part. We add verses to our box weekly. Often times they come from our Bible Lessons, but they also come from other places. Each Five In A Row story we study has many accompanying Bible verses, when I remember I jot them down and toss those in the box too. I’ll also copy down a verse that I feel the boys need to learn, which usually happens when a bad habit, ill behavior, or other such situation arrises. 

For instance Jayden went through a phase where he was terrified to do anything alone. I believe it was just after the black bird was mysteriously found flying around the rumpus room. Anyway, I jotted down a couple of verses about fear and reminded them that when they were scared they could use those verses to not feel as afraid. While it didn’t work so well with Jayden, we heard Morgan running through the darkest part of the house shouting out, “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee..” 
So each morning at the start of our school day we pull out the box and start with whatever is in the Daily Section. Then we move on to Odd or Even based on the numerical day on the calendar. Then we move on to the corresponding day of the week (Mon. - Fri.) and lastly we wrap it up by covering whatever verses are in the numbered section in the back of the box. 

Sometimes we even find other tidbits in the box.. I purchased some fun Bible trading cards that match many of the lessons we’re learning this year. So when we’ve covered a lesson I pull out the trading card and slip it in a slot somewhere in the box. Each card has a paraphrased version of the event pictures on the card, as well as questions based on that bit of information. I may just ask the questions on the card, and if there seems to be a few blank looks around the table then I’ll read the paraphrasing on the back of the card as well.
All up this fun little box takes us about 10-30 minutes each day. It depends on how much is under each tab (some have more then others) or if we have a new verse that needs explaining and so on. When we have a new verse I read it out to them and explain what it means. Then we say the verse a few times each before moving on to the older more familiar verses. 

Once they know a verse with out any prodding or with only a quick “get me started” word then I move the verse into an Odd or Even slot and if those verses are well known everything gets moved back. 
The boys have been known to request specific verses from the box too, mostly because it’s one they especially like due to a word in it more then anything else. So, sometimes, even when a verse isn’t in the slot for that day we’ll do it anyway. All of this means our time spent with the box can vary greatly. This is one of those treasured moments we’re really enjoying around here.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekly Science Challenge Info

Someone asked if I knew how to find the archived, or older, science experiments that went with the Magic School Bus Weekly Science Challenge. I didn't, and it wasn't until this week when I realized they still hadn't updated their science experiment that I actually had a look around for them.

When you're on the Simple Science page with the Ralphie and Liz, yes sadly enough I know all the characters names, you can move your mouse around to explore the small lab.

See that microscope behind Ralphie? If you click on it you can go to the Lab Library. There you'll find lots of archived science experiments to have fun with! Or you could just follow the link I posted, but you know, either way it gets you there.. And, if you're interested, you can also find most of the Magic School Bus Videos up over at Sqoolquarium! They also happen to house many Bill Nye science videos too, which are often good but many of his videos can/do contain references to evolution. (Just an FYI, not all his videos contain information regarding this subject, but many do. However, we still find his videos extremely fun and informative.) 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Math At The Pumpkin Patch

To give a bit more perspective on how math happens around here at the Pumpkin Patch I journaled another week of math for you. This week is extremely different from last week as very little was intentional due to prior obligations, meetings, and sickness..

Today was slow getting going, and we started our day with math games. Morgan and I played 3 rounds of What’s The Difference? followed by 3 rounds of Sum It Up? I was happy with the results that he had no trouble doing the math facts with borrowing and carrying. He did state, with our last round, that he was getting confused, but after a few questions the bottom line was that he kept forgetting if he was trying to make a BIG number of a SMALL number.

I then set him up with math fact practice over at He asked me last week if he could play the games there again, and I was keen to see how much speedier he’d be then last time. He was delighted to come in first place against the computer with each of the games he chose.
Jayden wanted desperately to have his own special game that required card flipping and writing out math facts so he devised his own. Every two cards that were flipped over for our game he’d run to the white board and write out a math fact for them. It was could practice for him to write out a full math fact; it also showed me that he needs a wee bit of work there. While he got all the correct answers he put an equal sign under each number and the math sign by the top number instead of the bottom number.
While Morgan does math fact practice on the computer Jayden and I play 10’s Concentration. This is one of Jayden’s favorite games and whenever I let them choose the game we’ll play this is all most always the game Jayden picks. He was so excited when I suggested it.
After dealing out the cards and playing for 5 minutes I realized we’ve been turning over the same numbers with no match. I suggest we leave all cards up so we can figure out what’s going on. It turns out we’re missing quite a few cards which spoiled the game. Jayden wanders off to watch Morgan while I locate missing cards and lament the fact that someone didn’t put the rubber band around them properly to start with. (Quite possibly me!)
Jayden decides he’s like to try the math fact practice game on the computer too so I pull up a new game (since our last visit) where we can all play together. Kitty Match. I play one round alone while the boys watch so they understand how the controls work.

They find the kitten’s hideously long arms immensely funny and I’m not sure they’ve totally caught on to what we’re doing. I load up three different computers with the game and we take off.
I hear a few cries of, “MOM! You took the yarn I wanted!”  Followed by, “Oh man!” “Stop taking all the 5’s guys!” We play a few rounds before I decide to make lunch leaving the boys each playing their own game. Someone else pops into the game room Jayden’s in, but doesn’t push play on their end and messes up the game. I take two minutes to set him up with a new user name and private game room so he can resume. There’s much cheering from his corner when he finally comes in first. 

I tell the boys to finish off their games and pack it away because lunch is ready. This, for the most part, ends our math time for the day. Later, however, in the car we start singing our silly Calendar Song. 
Today is Monday, August 23.
Yesterday was Sunday
Tomorrow will be Tuesday
Hip-hip hooray, what a day!
We use to sing it daily when the boys were younger, but rarely do so now. The boys each have their own calendar (thanks to the surplus we seem to obtain each year) and mark the days off as we go along. They circle days where they feel special things are happening. They do this, daily,  on their own with no guidance or suggestions from me.
The boys also decide to use the play money this afternoon. Morgan sets up a marble maze and Jayden has to pay a “fee” to watch it work. While there’s no exact fee that must be given, they start discussing what the coins in the basket are. 
Today things are more haphazard. I’ve been hit with a cold and we have a rental inspection this week. While rental inspections are standard ever so many months in Australia I still panic each time one arises and spend an abnormal amount of time cleaning stuff that Mr S says is all ready clean. 
Morgan & Jayden play a few rounds of Arcademic skill builders. They play various games working on subtraction and addition. Morgan asks if I’ll play Kaching with him, a multiplication game. I agree but we decide to have lunch first. We both completely forget about the game after lunch however. 
Jayden asks Mr S to play Snakes & Ladders with him before bedtime. This is a Thomas version I purchased a while back when Jayden was first learning his numbers. Remember how the old game use to go to 100? The new games don’t and I was very disappointed in that.

The whole reason I’d purchased the game was to help the boys become familiar not only with their numbers but in using numbers from 1 - 100 forward and backwards. The new games only seem to go to 60, which is nice, but not what I’d been hoping for.
Regardless there’s a battle between Thomas, Darth Vader, and Percy happening on the board as trains, and a lone lego figure, work their way up and down the board. Thanks to board games like that not only have the boys become familiar with numbers but it also helps them visualize things like 6 more then, let’s say 25, is 31.
This game, however, reminds us that we never played Kaching and Morgan and I are both disappointed. We love the game, and it’s a neat way for Morgan to work on basic multiplication facts, not to mention a simplistic way to explain the stock market. We agree that we absolutely must play the game this week, but there’s no time this evening as it’s all ready well past the boys bedtime.
Today is even more hectic then the day before. We also happen to be hosting a homeschool event with our local group tomorrow after our rental inspection. Which means I’ve been thrown into an even greater sense of urgency for finishing our weekly dusting a day early.
No formal schooling happens today between the cleaning and a cold I’m fighting, which Mr S and Morgan seem to have the beginnings of. However, after tea while the boys and I are sitting on the couch listening to Jayden read us a story Morgan starts drawing.

This is nothing unusual, Morgan lives to draw or doodle and I still have pictures he drew at the ripe old age of 2 and 4 and... When Jayden puts his book down Morgan tells us all to close our eyes while he prepares to show us his picture. I’m expecting another secret code, something he’s been doing all day.
We enjoyed another two episodes of Liberty Kids over lunch and the topic today was secret codes. Something we covered in our own studies, but never had the opportunity to apply. As I wonder if I can decode this one he tells us to open our eyes and look.
To my surprise he’s drawn a math picture. He’s drawn to complete math facts and an absurdly large and scary looking flower devouring the bigger math fact. I’m impressed he drew this for fun and tell him so.

Jayden, however, is disappointed, “What is that?” 
“It’s a math fact that’s so big the flower has decided to eat it. It’s one of those man eating flowers on Mario.”
“I don’t understand why it would eat a math fact though, I thought it preferred Mario!”
Before a fight ensues I chase them both up to bed.
Today we have our rental inspection early this morning and then we have a few local homeschoolers rolling in afterwards for game playing. The boys are super excited that other homeschoolers are coming to play, & Jayden discusses the prospects of inviting all of them to his birthday party.. You know, the one that won’t be happening until 2011.
We have people coming and going between 10:00 and 3:00 so that eliminates much of any schooling happening aside from a whole lot of socializing. Once everyone departs Morgan complains he doesn’t feel well and within a short time has a fever and seems to be coming down with the miserable cold/flu that’s currently running around town.
I offer to play Kaching with him while he rests. Because this game needs a bit of room to set up he decides to pull out an old white board and we use it as a table. We play two rounds during that time several multiplication discussions happen.

Due to our What’s The Difference? game Morgan is now aware that not all math problems can be reversed and still get the same answer. (Ie: 3+2=2+3 but 1-2 does not = 2-1)  After cashing in some oil derricks for $15 (3 groups of 5) he says, “So if I said 3 groups of 5 is 15 can I also say 5 groups of 3? It seems like I should because if I could by 5’s or 3’s I’m going to get the same answer, right? I’m not really good at counting by 3’s.”
“Yes, you’re right it is the same answer no matter which number comes first.”
I don’t bother to explain, at this point, that it would change the problem a bit. As in having too many groups (or not enough) because I don’t want to totally confuse him. He’ll figure that out as we go along, and for now I just want to answer the immediate question. Plus, no matter how you say it 3x5=5x3. 
Today there’s three of us down with the flu/cold thing and no one has much energy because of it. School is put on hold. However, I decided to make a pot of soup and Teddy Bear Bread.
I use to make Teddy Bear Bread quite often as a teen, but it dawns on me I’ve never made it with or for my children. Plus, we’re hosting one more homeschool event next week. We’ve decided to share a Five In A Row lesson with the others and the book we’re using is Another Celebrated Dancing Bear. I  am considering having bread dough on hand so each child could make their own mini loaf of Teddy Bear Bread. 
Once the dough has risen I ask the boys if they want to do something fun with me. Jayden says no, which isn’t a huge surprise. He most likely suspects I’m going to suggest he do the dishes or clean a cupboard. Morgan however comes running into the kitchen.

I divide the dough into 8ths and then show him how to make a teddy bear from it. This brings up the topic of fractions because we cut the dough into 8ths again. However, we talk more about halves, sixths,  and quarters due to the sizes we’ve broken our dough into and how we need to use it.
It is a completely impromptu lesson and not planned and eventually we both become engrossed in raisin eyes and dough blobs. Jayden, still completely uninterested (he’s not a clay/playdough kinda person lately either) decides to give advise and eventually claim one of the bears as his own (the biggest of course.) While the bears bake Morgan asks Mr S (also home sick) to play KaChing with him. 

Later, I decide to make some oatmeal cookies for the boys. I make a double batch and while I’m swapping trays in and out of the oven Jayden and I decide to play hang-man. This is more about spelling and reading then math, but there is some counting involved. I make the first puzzle and Jayden solves it just before my ugly cartoon character gains his last arm.
Then Jayden takes a turn. I suggest he also pick a word off our word wall for the puzzle. “That way you can just slip the card in your pocket incase you need help remembering how to spell it when I guess letters, okay?”
“Okay!”  Within a few minutes he’s made his selection, verified that no one peeked and he sets up the game board. There is exactly one _ on the board. I try not to snicker as I call out, “A.” He gawks, “How did you know?”
So we discuss probability, but in terms much easier to understand. I point out that by putting only one dash on the board I know that it must be either A or I because those are the only one letter words on the wall. Then I point out how many more 2, 3, 4, and even 5 letter words we have.
I offer to let him go again and he chooses a 5 letter word. I am inches away from being hung (or at least the lego man he’s drawing is) when Mr S intervenes and shouts out, “F!”  I then realized Jayden has spelled Funny. He’s happy with the results this time so Morgan has a go.
Morgan sets up the board like this:
_ _ _ _ _
_ _ _
_ _ _ _ _ _
I wait patiently while he debates what he’s going to hang. He settles on a pinecone. I’d laugh, but seriously people he has issues with “hanging” anything someone might love. Not that we have problems with pinecones in this house, but he figured no one would be offended.. That, and it was the first thing he saw when he looked out the window.
He then announces that he’s ready. I pull a tray of cookies out of the oven turn around and look at the board and say, “Leroy and Stitch.” I win in my first guess and he’s most put out. Jayden tries to explain the chances of probability to him, but Morgan disagrees. After all he had 3 words so he doesn’t feel Jayden’s theory holds up.
I hand out fresh cookies and then pick up the dvd cover off the kitchen table. The boys are oblivious, but Mr S needs a few good thwaps on the back to dislodge the raisin he choked on while laughing.
Notes:  I’d like to say this wasn’t a typical week of math or schooling in our home, and in many ways that’s true. We usually have some form of plans and don’t often participate in things each week that take away from our morning lesson time. However, much of our learning happens in unusual ways or spur of the moment type conversations.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

New Blog(s)

My boys have been asking for many months now if they could have their own websites too. They understand a tad too much web/computer/etc. lingo considering the line of work Mr S is in. Various terms are second nature to them and they love seeing pictures of themselves on my blog or hearing from family who knows about what they were up to because of the upkeep here at the Pumpkin Patch. So, it was only obvious that at some point in their lives they were going to ask about their own blogs. In the past I've put them off, but today after company had departed and the rain kicked in, and everyone was dragging from colds/flu when they asked I said yes.

Now, if I had been thinking right I would have had a camera read and snapped a picture of their faces at that very moment. So much planning started happening right away! I told them that we couldn't set up their blogs until they settled on names. This of course set off a whole new wave of planning and scheming. Morgan came up with a million ideas at once and then dubbed them all, "Not catchy enough!" I nearly snorted popcorn out my nose on that comment! (And for the record, my boys have been waiting 9 and 7 years, respectfully, for that to happen! Seriously. They are incredibly jealous their Uncle has witnessed this fear but they haven't.) 

Amazingly enough it only too Morgan a half hour, or so, to come up with the name of his own blog. Morgan's World. Yep, really. It took him much less time, however, to come up with his first two blog posts. I'm really impressed with how easily he's able to group his thoughts. He's quite capable, and has been for a while, to write a complete sentence, but grouping his thoughts into paragraphs that make sense have been another story. Often his mind works so quickly that we jot down all his thoughts and then piece it all back together so that the thoughts meld together smoothly. I will admit that he wanted to write down everything so quickly he asked me to type up what he said, but aside from that it's all his own. Personally, and I may be biased, I think he did quite well.

Jayden had less trouble coming up with a name. He figured that if I could have a pumpkin patch because I love pumpkins he could have a CornField because he loves corn. And like is putting his passion for corn mildly. In fact, as I recall it when he was 3 he ate cornflakes every single day for breakfast. Running out of cornflakes not only brought about tears and fear, it elicited reason to panic. I'm not kidding around! That doesn't even account for the corncobs, tins of corn, and frozen bags of we've kept on stock. The day I said I thought he might be having allergies to corn he cried for an hour. Needless to say,  the child would be quite at home in a cornfield.

Jayden was equally quick with dictating what he wanted me to write down. Again, because we've never done any formal grammar work I was impressed with how he could quickly come up with complete sentences and did a fairly good job of keeping all his ideas and thoughts grouped together.

If you're interested you can check out their new blogs for yourself! Both blogs still have some cosmetic adjustments that we've promised to help them with tomorrow, but for now Morgan is anxious to find out what a certain Gram-Gram thinks of his blog post(s). Because, "I can't wait to see what she thinks of it! It's going to be awesome!" Which he wrapped up with some weird and scary maniacal laughter. All he needed was the lab coat and the freaky wild mad scientist hair..

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

12 Reasons For Spring

12 Reasons We Can't Wait For Spring

1. Strawberries -- we've all ready got some blossoms on our plants, and we can't wait to plant a few more to increase our crop this year.

2. Flowers Everywhere -- I can't wait to see the garden in bloom again. It's looking a little plain out there with it's monotone style coloring.

3. Pumpkins -- Morgan's dying to plant his orange pumpkin seeds and considering if he'll be able to grow enough to sell at the end of the drive come this fall.

4. Watermelon -- Jayden's just as eager to get his watermelon seeds started. He has no intention of selling it, but of eating every last melon he's lucky enough to grow! I'm just hoping he'll share with me..

5. Fresh Lettuce -- our lettuce bed looks a little pathetic right now, and we can't wait to get some fresh heads growing. Lettuce straight from the garden is oh so tasty!

6. Sun Ripened Tomatoes -- our tomatoes always seem to do well, but they rarely make it inside. The boys tend to eat them straight off the vine and they can't wait to plant this years crop. I'm considering hiding a few plants around the garden so I will actually have enough for fresh salsa and tomato sandwiches!

7. Chicks -- is there anything sweeter then seeing all the fledgling birds each spring? We've all ready spotted lots of lapwing chicks! In fact, poor Jayden was attacked by a pair of them at the park the other day when he was playing hide and seek with Morgan. He only escaped without being pecked raw by turning tail and running for his life!

8. Open Windows -- I'm really missing having the windows wide open so we can enjoy as much fresh air as we want. It won't be long now before we can open them up for a little bit each day again!

9. Grapes -- oh how we miss our grapes! It's only been a couple of months since they were gracing the shelves in the shop, but it feels like it's been much longer! Green or red, we're not too terribly picky just so long as we can have some fresh grapes again!

10. Nectarines -- I can't wait for nectarines to be available again either, they are so tasty on your porridge in the morning, or for lunch, or dinner.. In fact, they're just plain tasty! 

11. More Sunshine -- the days are slowly growing longer again and we're enjoying ever minute of it we can, but we can't wait for those sunny evenings that mean summer is coming ever closer!

12. Dry Laundry -- it'll be so nice when our laundry can dry in one day instead of two! It's nearly there, and I really can't wait to start hanging the laundry on the line out back instead of under cover of decks and roofs. 

We've begun the official countdown here, only 9 more days to go!

Monday, August 23, 2010


I live for cherry season! Really, I do. I'm a greedy cherry eater and I can't get enough of them. Mr S once lamented at Christmas Dinner that he woke up one morning that summer to find me at the table with a pile of cherry pips on one side and a bowl of cherries on the other.

It's true. He did. I even went out and bought a cherry pitter where you stick your big huge rolly polly cherry on and squeeze it shut and out pops the pip. My kids love using it, and it's great for sticking cherries in your fruit salad, or in your mouth, or ice cream, or in your mouth, or on top of a cake, or in your mouth, or...

So a couple of weeks ago, when I spotted big juicy plump cherries in the shop I got excited. The thing is, we live really close to two amazing cherry farms that produce the biggest cherries I've ever seen. And if their size wasn't enough to leave me in awe the flavor was! When we see cherries in the supermarket the excitement is usually knowing that we're getting closer to spring and the oncoming cherry season.

However, I decided to pick up a few, and only a few. The ones in the supermarket just aren't as big and sweet, normally, as the ones we can get around the corner. Needless to say, the ones at the shop were amazing and there was a small squabble over who'd get the last few after tea that night. Mr S lucked out and got them in his lunch pail, all though as I recall he was home with a tummy bug so Jayden and I shared them instead..

I've gotten some funny looks and comments for the price I'm willing to pay for cherries, and in all honesty I probably am willing to pay a bit more then the locals. The thing is, where we lived in America cherries were $19.95 a pound. That's half a kilo (or just under.. roughly 495 grams or something like that) and when I see the cherries in the shop here for $13 a kilo (that's 2 pounds 2 ounces) I feel like I'm getting a huge deal!  However, when I can buy boxes of cherries (5 kilo; 10 lb 10 oz) at the local cherry shed we frequent all summer long for $19.00 I feel like they are practically giving away the cherries!  We are so ready for cherry season here!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nature Studies & More

CurrClick is having their annual back to school sale, which means lots of books are on special over there. I was delighted to find a few at an amazingly low price and I snagged them up.  We'll be using most of them in the warmer months for nature study and outdoor schooling. We love taking our studies outside when we can, so long as we can keep the majority of the flies at bay, so having studies that actually demand we be outside will be heaps of fun!

As winter makes it's slow departure we're all ready dreaming of summer and the fun ahead. Last summer we spent most of it learning about the ocean and being down in the ocean. So when I spotted the fun books by Simple Schooling & Homeschool Bits I knew they'd be great for our recurring summer ocean studies. I picked up Weedy Sea Dragons & Leafy Sea Dragons as a bundle for $1.00. Jayden has always had a huge fascination with whales and dolphins, so at .50 for the All Whales Study I knew he'd enjoy that this summer. I think his favorite part will be the amazing whale mobile craft that's included! He's on a big crafting streak right now, but he likes to be able to do them "without help." 

Whole Word Publishing puts out these fun little mini books. They are absolutely loaded with information about the subjects they cover, and they also come with bits and pieces for lapbooks. We had heaps of fun with the ice cream study mini book we did; in fact my kids are still desperate for me to make them banana splits.. So when I saw the Strawberries, Honey Bees, and Ladybug books on sale from .50 - $1.50 each I decided they'd make great summer (or spring) Nature Studies. Now, if I could only get a few ladybirds to come live permanently in my garden..

I also snagged a unit study on Reptiles. A year or so ago we did a study on mammals, studying a new one each week and making a fun poster to help us decide if each animal had the correct characteristics to be considered a mammal. I've been debating moving on to reptiles or amphibians, and when this fun reptile study popped up the choice was made. At .79 you can't really complain now can you! When we join Mr S's family on our annual camping trip to the middle of no-where we always spot a lot of owls on the way down (if you travel at night.) Which means we enjoy reading Owl Moon each year before heading down, so for .50 I figured the boys might enjoy digging in a bit more with this owl study. I also picked up the fun Frog Study as we'll be learning about frogs this summer too (or so we hope.)

Lastly, I think, I picked up the My Body book which has been on my wish list for ages. Jayden is completely infatuated with how the human body works. The idea with this book is that you trace your child onto a large piece of paper and then as you learn about the body they color organs, muscles, bones, etc and place them in their paper body where they belong. The only downside is our local shops are suddenly out of large rolls of paper, which means Jayden is impatiently waiting for me to find a very large piece we can trace his body onto.  Knights & Armour was also purchased with Jayden in mind. He loves knights and castles and we'll be rowing The Duchess Bakes A Cake towards the end of our year and then spending a week (or two) having fun with knights and castles. The All About Clouds book will make another fun Nature Study, but Morgan has taken on a great fascination with the weather and wants to make a weather station with Mr S. I thought this cloud book might come in handy for helping them learn to predict the weather.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Math At The Pumpkin Patch

So, I get asked a fair bit about how we do math here. Now, I know you don’t mean the literal “how” because surely it’s obvious the things that we do for math. I guess that means more, how we fit it into our day. Maybe the best way to explain is to show you a few excerpts from our day..

I had planned to start Morgan on a new math game entitled What’s The Difference? last week, but due to being down with the tummy bug we never got to it. So today after we’ve accomplished Bible, our read aloud, and the kids reading I say, “Muggins, want to play a new math game?”

He rarely says no, and is eager to run and wait for papers to come out of the printer for us to use. It is not necessary to have papers with neat little boxes on them to play this game, but because I don’t want to frustrate him should his numbers not line up I made a game sheet. He’s back in two minutes and while he was gone I located pencils and pulled out our deck of math cards.
I’ve all ready pulled out the 0-9 cards and have them shuffled and ready to go. Morgan passes us each a math paper and I explain the game, “We’re going to do something called borrowing, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes numbers need help from their neighbors so they simply borrow from each other.

“In the top six boxes we have to put numbers that we find on the cards when we draw them. Then we’ll do the math fact to find out what our answer is.”
“This is going to be easy, it’s a lot like Sum It Up!” 
“Yeah, only we’re subtracting this time so instead of a big number we want the smallest we can get!”
We let Jayden flip the cards over because he’s decided he’d like to be our helper. He flips over a card and is unimpressed with the number and shoves it back in and pulls out another. Morgan is insulted by this gesture. Jayden tells him to be quiet, and I sigh.
“Jayden, you can help us, but you can’t swap the numbers. You must tell us exactly what the number on the card is okay?”
He sighs, but complies. We get our six numbers written down and I tell Morgan to watch me do my math while I silently pray I won’t need to use my fingers to find out the difference. As I do my problem I explain to him that 5 is smaller then 8 so I need to borrow. He listens, but doesn’t quite comprehend, which I soon realize when he does his own problem.
When I point out he needs to borrow he says, “I don’t understand. When I add I can easily swap the two numbers and still get the same answer. Why can’t I do it with subtraction?”
To help him visualize the problem I pick up the extra cards, “Pretend these are candy bars. I’m going to give you 5. Now, I want you to give Jayden 8 of those candy bars. Can you?”
“No, because I wouldn’t have enough. Plus, he’d get more then me, and I’m not saying that to be selfish, it’s just that I’d like a candy bar too, you know if it didn't have sugar in it.”
I make a mental note to refrain from food talk while doing math, “You’re right, you can’t. So that’s why 5 needs to borrow from his neighbor.”
I then have him cross out the number to the left of 5. I explain that when we add 10 to 5 we get 15. He crosses out 5 and writes 15. So I explain that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what he did, but next time if he’d like to save himself time he can just stick a 1 next to the 5. He finishes his math problem and is disappointed to see he ended up with a negative number which doesn’t count in our game.
We play another 4 rounds of this game, and slowly he’s able to see how to avoid the negative number issue. However, in his effort to avoid negative numbers he’s not getting much borrowing practice in and as a result is ending up with larger numbers. I suggest we put the game away and play some more tomorrow. He’s only slightly disappointed, because while he really wants to win a round he’s starting to get a little frustrated.
I suggest lunch and over lunch Morgan says, “I’m glad you were helping me figure out where to put my numbers, but when we play next time I think I’ll try it myself. I really want to be able to do it as good as I do the adding game.”
“Fair enough, but will you mind if I copy you sometimes?”
After lunch I pull out Joey-Joey which is freshly stocked with new fact families (4 & 5, addition and subtraction on top of the 1 and 2 family, doubles, & 10 family) we play 3 rounds. They don’t go as well as normal. 

Jayden was frustrated he couldn’t answer some of the new questions quickly and thus tried to hunt in the tin for the older facts. This caused accusations of cheating and slowed the entire game down while they were both lectured about being poor sports. I suggest that tomorrow we play sitting next to the hundreds chart so they can use it to help themselves along until they get quicker at the new facts. 
While the boys run off to play, I jot down notes on my Homeschool Journal & on my Game Log sheet. I realize that while I like using the bigger blocked pages for logging extra notes about our game playing, that I need to work on a better layout, because I’ll end up with way too many Game Log sheets by the end of the school term.
Today we opt to do math before reading & I pull out a number tracing paper for Jayden. This isn’t something I normally hand out as both boys are fully aware of how to write their numbers, but Jayden lodged a complaint recently.

He stated that his twos were sloppy, his fives were squashed, and that he was struggling to fix them. So I pulled out a sheet from a Crayola Number & Letter pad and hand him a marker. 
“Here Jayden, because you were frustrated with writing numbers I found this paper and thought you might want to trace the numbers for practice. It’s not about how fast you can do it, but about how great your numbers look when you’re done.”
He eagerly takes the paper and sits at the table with it while Morgan and I take off with What’s The Difference? again. We get in a few extra rounds today because I don’t have to explain how to play the game or what borrowing is. 
Morgan makes the choices on where to put his numbers occasionally asking if he’s making a wise move. I offer ideas and suggestions and say things like, “I might put it here because then you know for sure you won’t get a negative number, but if you put it over here and then draw a 3 you’ll get a really low number. You have to choose for yourself.”  Sometimes he takes the advice and other times he makes his own choice.
He does well, but then has a “moment” and attempt to work his problem from left to right instead of right to left. I don’t catch it until he tells me his answer, I remind him to always start at the side farthest away from the math symbol. He reworks his problem and is delighted to find out he beat me. We play another round before putting it away.
Today we sit next to our hundred chart, which means moving the dog’s food and water out of the way, to play Joey-Joey. This eases yesterday’s frustration and we manage 3 rounds (3 minutes each) before we put it up for the day.
Morgan and I settle in with fresh game boards for more What’s The Difference? I want to be sure the concept of borrowing is well cemented before moving on to anything else. I also don’t want to confuse him by reviewing Sum It Up! So this is our sole game this week. It’s not uncommon to focus on one game, but often times we’ll play more then one in a week. 

Today I ask Jayden if he wants to play Jr Star Traveler, he acts unsure until I say, “Oh you know, the star game where you have to try and not get your star all colored in!” He agrees as long as he can use one of my special scrapbooking markers. I’m not keen on the idea because they are permanent, but I relinquish the marker in the name of education.
I get the game set up and remind him of the rules. He starts off slowly and I have to send Morgan off on an errand to keep him from attempting to over help.  Once I’m sure Jayden is well on his way I agree to let Morgan play with him for a few minutes.
We keep things short today as we had quite a late start on our school day and the boys very eager to dig into their new supply of books from the library. So after 3 rounds Jayden hands his game over to Morgan and announces, “I beat the start twice!” 

I skip Joey-Joey today because Jayden has worked on both addition and subtraction with his game. While I’m keen for the boys to be quick on their math facts, I figure we can skip it today because both have easily covered a variety of math facts.
Today is going to be a half day of school for us as Nana is due back in town after a long vacation. The boys have been ready to head to the airport since Monday and I know their focus will be more on the planes overhead than anything else.
I announce that I found some fun math papers online, “Anyone want to try them out?” Morgan is always eager and runs upstairs to check the printer for the paper. 
The papers happen to be from & Jayden thinks it looks fun and would like to try one too. I’ve set Morgan up with a 3rd - 4th grade level paper and print Jayden out one from the 1st - 2nd grade section. Both eagerly sit down at the kitchen table and set to work.
When the boys do math papers that work on concepts we’ve all ready covered I try not to say anything at all unless they ask me. I might hover in the same room or, because we have an open plan kitchen/dining/lounge area I might wander to one of the other corners and work on something. Updating our Homeschool Journal, embroidery, answer an email, or day dream out the window while wishing the ocean was warm enough to swim in.

Morgan takes a look at his paper and is excited to set to work on the pyramid math problem. The idea is that you take the bottom line of melons and add two together and place the answer above them. You continue in this fashion until have a whole new row of numbers; eventually you will have one melon with a large number that will answer what the heaviest watermelon ever recorded was. 
This pyramid not only works on adding & carrying, which he successfully manages without problem, but it also encourages him to get a scrap of paper and transfer a horizontal problem into a vertical problem. I’m glad, because he recently said he was struggling with that and we’d set up a few fun problems on the white board to help him climb the hurdle. It takes him a few minutes, but he reaches the answer and when I check his work he’s made one minor mistake when taking his answer from the scrap paper to the actual math paper. It’s quickly fixed and all is well.
He debates between adding fractions with like denominators and doing some square foot work. He has to determine the size of each friend’s garden by reading a graph and adding up the answers. He’s able to do this on his own and then debates tacking the fractions. While he’s eager to do them he’s also staring out the window at the rain, “Do you think Nana’s plane will be late?”
“Yes, she all ready called, but not by much. If you’d rather save those fractions for tomorrow you can.”
There’s also a code that needs to be broken and to do so he’ll need to answer some triple digit addition and subtraction problems which will help us see if he can tell when to borrow and when to carry without confusing himself. I’m eager to see if he can do this without help, but I also know he’s reached his limit and that his concentration level is gone. 
He puts away his math paper and decides to go wrap the homemade present and card he has made and can’t wait to deliver.

Jayden, in the mean time, has tackled all the problems on his paper with very little help. I was delighted to see addition and subtraction facts with counters, but he had to decide, based on the clue words, if he was adding or subtracting. He’s spend a good portion of time working on word problems the past month and I’m happy to see it has paid off for him.
Last month I wrote out two word problems a day for him basing it on people in our home, games we’ve played, and even favorite characters. I was, however, chastised for one problem when I indicated that 6 penguins were strolling through the zoo and Dr. Blowhole snatched 3 of them. He changed my problem to say, ‘5 penguins were strolling through the zoo and Dr. Blowhole grabbed 2 of them.’ Apparently he couldn’t move beyond the show he’d watched and was greatly insulted by my attempt at entertaining him with math.
After tackling the addition and subtraction problems he moves on to a graph problem as well. Half his data is missing and his job is to fill it in. Again, this requires adding and subtracting and he manages all but one problem correctly. I help him fix the mistake and he answers the questions based on the graph that is now filled out.
There’s also some clock work to do, and he does great with all of the analog problems, and mixes up the digital clock. I find this slightly amusing; I explain where’s he gone wrong and he corrects his work without help. 
The last set of problems are some greater and less then problems. Before he starts he asks, “The mouth eats the bigger number, right?” I nod and he races through the work. He’s drawn some mean looking flowers gobbling up the big numbers and is proud of his work. I help him punch holes in the paper and we file it away in our math notebook.
I’m quite pleased that both of them are capable of doing a grade level paper without help and completely understand the concepts. While we’ve played no games today and didn’t do a vast amount of written work I don’t mind. We often try to do some written math at least once a week. This allows us to see that the boys are truly comprehending what they’ve learned, but I don’t stress about handing them a math paper each and every day.
Today, for school, we only tackle finishing off our read aloud. We’re so close to the end we refuse to put it down before finishing it off.  Then, while eating lunch we opt to watch Liberty Kids, which is an historic cartoon taking place during the Revolutionary War. The boys are so excited about a playdate at a friend’s house this afternoon I decide that watching a cartoon we can pass off for American History is a better choice then trying to convince them to stop watching the clock (who taught them to tell time anyway?) and pay attention to whatever game we would have played or finishing off that paper from yesterday.
This could be a typical ordinary week for us. It’s true that sometimes over meals we drag games into play. For instance a week or two ago I pulled out the game Digit Place again. It’s a simplistic game, and it’s fun to play to help with number neighbors and many other math skills. Instead of using paper I drew the board on our whiteboard. After playing a few rounds over lunch we left the game board. Mr S came home and spotted it and set up a few rounds over tea. 

The boys have also been known to request some of math games “just for fun” because they enjoy them so much. I’m also good for making up word problems over breakfast, just for fun. I’ll say incredibly nerdy things like, “So last night after you went to bed the farmer next door was making such a fuss I ran outside to see what was up! Turns out, he wanted to buy his sheep little gum boots but he had no idea how many boots to buy for 6 sheep. I promised I’d help him, but that I had to get my sleep first. So, do you guys know how many boots I should tell the farmer he needs?” 
Sometimes, Jayden will look at me and say, “Mom are you being serious? Like did the farmer really ask you that?” Sometimes I don’t give a straight answer, at least not until after we’ve worked out the problem.

I like the idea of bringing the problems into real situations. Which, funnily enough I’ll hear the boys doing while they are playing. I’m actually looking at purchasing a few of these so we can start making our own math story book. The idea is that we each write and illustrate a story. You’d use the picture to find the answer to the math problem. I’m pretty sure my two coloring and drawing maniacs will enjoy leaving me stories as much as I will enjoy leaving them some.