Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Work Plans for the Week of September 1, 2014: Louisville and Ancient China

TUESDAY: The kids have another poem to memorize in First Language Lessons--it's not what I would have chosen for them, but they like it. Today I set them the job of preparing a play of the poem, which they also enjoyed, and which served the purpose of having them repeat the poem to each other many, many, many times. Mwa-ha-ha!

Will mostly breezed through her task of finding the area of irregular polygons using graph paper and multiplication--I thought it would stump her, at least for a bit, and that she'd need to use the Base 10 blocks to help her, but she looked at the first problem and knew immediately what to do. She's sitting next to me now, getting a little frustrated with the multiplication computation (of course...), but otherwise zipping right along.

Syd, however, is in the other room probably getting more frustrated with her assignment, which is to use yarn, washi tape, and Sharpies to make a very long mileage ruler that we can use with our large US wall map. I'm curious if her engineering brain will allow her to ultimately solve the problem without fuss, or if her perfectionism will ultimately cause her to kick up a GIANT fuss. Stay tuned!

I'm hoping that we'll be able to do some work in the fossil prep lab in the Children's Museum next week (I should probably actually, you know, contact the paleontologists, but I'm sitting on my butt right now and can't be bothered to go find the right business card), so our lesson today was designed to get the kids thinking more about what paleontologists do for a living; the interview questions that they came up with are really cute, and perhaps they can actually conduct their interview when we're finally in the lab.

I'm still not sure how much time I want to devote to spelling as a discrete subject. We're regularly using Spelling City until our subscription expires, and then I'll rethink. Reading is going well, though--more Oregon Trail fictional diaries this week, but I must make a mental note to find some new ground for next week, at least for Will, who's grown weary of all these trekking children and their woes.

WEDNESDAY: This is normally our free day, but with Monday's holiday and Thursday's field trip, I needed this extra school day!

We're beginning a unit on Ancient China, to accompany our visit next week to the Children's Museum to see their exhibit of some of the real Terra Cotta Warriors, and to attend a homeschool class on the Terra Cotta Warriors. Chapter 10 of Story of the World covers early Ancient Chinese history, and next week, before our trip, we'll cover Chapter 11, on Emporer Qin and the Terra Cotta Warriors.

Will's Math Mammoth this week is a review of division; Syd's is a random unit on reading mileage (hence the previous day's mileage activity) and then the order of operations.

Depending on my energy level and the kids' level of rottenness, I may introduce a game to help them memorize their states and capitals, or I may just give them a list and make them sit there and look at it while I sit next to them and glare.

The kids aren't making a ton of independent progress on earning Girl Scout badges (some other moms and I have a Girl Scout co-op in the works), but it certainly does keep them busy and happy doing such interesting things!

THURSDAY: My bestest friend in the world will be in Louisville, Kentucky, for a few hours on this day, so the kids and I are trekking down to eat at a hipster Appalachian tea cafe with him! I think we'll use our ASTC Passport to spend the rest of the day at the Kentucky Science Center.

FRIDAY: Over the past few weeks, the kids and I have been listening to Masterpiece in the car, so I wanted them to have a good idea of what Albrecht Durer's works look like. I'm not 100% sure where this "gallery" that I so blithely speak of will be, but we do have wall space that hasn't been crapped up yet--SHAMEFUL!!!

Ever more never-ending cursive torture for all. Sigh.

Now that the kids are accustomed to having a weekly reading assignment, I'm going to see if I can also get them accustomed to writing a weekly book report! At this point, I'll just be requiring a rough draft, some Momma-led editing, and a final draft, and we'll see where we go from there.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Ballet begins! Matt and the kids will be attending a kayaking class at the Girl Scout camp. A dude will be coming to repair my treadmill. I'd like to get out and do some geocaching. I'd like this rain and humidity to cease so that I can varnish some more shelves.

And what will this weekend's drive-in movie be?!? Last weekend was Maleficent, which I was reluctant to see, but I ended up LOVING it. Maybe that's how the kids will feel about book reports!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Multi-Digit Multiplication Using Area Models

Lest I accidentally promote the false conclusion that I have an eager, happy math learner here, I should tell you right now that Will does not currently enjoy math. So many things come so easily to my bright kid that she is very much disliking the many-stepped process of learning multi-digit multiplication. As she can do with so much else, she wants simply to look at the problem and immediately know its answer. She does not want to compute with pencil and paper, and she certainly does not want to compute for a problem that has more than one digit! She does not want to go through the bother of writing down numbers that carry, and she does not want to also go through the additional bother of crossing out those numbers once she's used them. This, of course, leads to many clerical errors, and she very, very, very much does not want to have to erase and re-compute when she's worked a problem incorrectly because of a clerical error.

Our school days can be greatly extended these days, as what could have been thirty minutes of math is drawn out with many philosophical discussions that consist mainly of "But WHY do I have to do [insert current step here]?!?" And then when I bring out the Base 10 blocks to once again demonstrate why a certain step works the way that it does (it occurs to me that I should have showed you how to use Base 10 blocks to do multi-digit multiplication prior to this. If the kid ever lets me get them out with her again, I will photograph the process and show you), I hear, "NOOO!!! NOT the Base 10 blocks!" because, of course, the Base 10 blocks make working the problem take even longer--not as long as a problem takes when you spend all your time whinging about it instead of working it, mind you, but unlike the whinging, you get to blame the blocks on ME. And anyway, the question isn't directed at confusion by how the calculations work, but at despair that this multi-stepped method is the only one that whatever idiot who must be in charge of Math could come up with.

Nevertheless, I do like to spend some time with Will each week exploring different concrete manifestations of how multi-digit multiplication works, knowing that although some of her fuss about the computations is just laziness, some of it must also be a lack of confidence, and a fear that she's not "getting" it, quick as she usually is.

Area models are a great concrete manifestation of how the math works, and an understandable extension for the kid, since by now she should have played plenty both with arrays and with area models for single-digit multiplication, back when she was learning her facts.

To do this, you need the same manipulatives that I am forever going on about--a huge set of Base 10 blocks, and plenty of centimeter-sized graph paper. If you're printing your graph paper, as I do, make sure that the "fit to page" box is unchecked; just the other day, I ruined a giant, 1,000-centimeter ruler that I was making Will to use as a multi-digit multiplication and division manipulative by not doing this, and then only discovering after I was done that the damned Cuisenaire rods didn't line up correctly with it--GRRR!!!

The only other tricks to this are 1) make sure that your multiplication problem doesn't exceed the size of your graph paper, and 2) if your graph paper isn't square, make sure that your kid knows to draw the problem going the correct way (our graph paper is something like 20x30, so if I wrote a problem that was 17x27, for instance, I had to make sure that Will drew it just like that. It'll make more sense in a minute).

1. Write your problem for the kid. I wrote mine at the top of each piece of graph paper (you'd save paper if you had a dry erase board set up with a centimeter graph--this is on my "to buy" list!), and gave Will five total problems to solve for this lesson.

2. Have the kid draw a box that represents the problem. She should be able to figure out that 17x27, for instance, means 17 rows with 27 units in each row:

3. Here's where the Base 10 blocks come in, and it's really cool. First, have the kid fill up the box as much as she can with the hundred flats:

4. Then, have her fill up as much as she can with the ten bars:



5. Finally, have her fill in all the rest of the space with units.

6. All she has to do is count the Base 10 blocks to find her answer! This is a great time to encourage her to skip count by hundreds, then continue to skip count by tens, then add on by units. Stretch that smart little brain!

The next time we play around with this concept, in the next week or so, I plan to focus more on the area aspect of it, by drawing an irregular polygon directly on the graph paper, having Will use the Base 10 blocks to find its area, then having her invent a way to compute that area with only pencil and paper (by writing multi-digit multiplication problems that require the correct order of operations to solve, thus making her complicit in the usage of both the mathematical procedures that currently offend her, mwa-ha-ha!).

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Edmontosaurus Teeth vs. Tyrannosaurus Rex Teeth

Our paleontology unit's focus this time (we have had many paleontology units prior to this, and expect many more paleontology units in the future) is on gathering evidence, making observations, and creating hypotheses based on these observations. Both kids already have a huge amount of factual information memorized from our previous studies and from their own interest in paleontology, and this particular hands-on study is best suited to contextualize and bring out the most meaning in our summer dinosaur dig.

The children had a non-fiction reading assignment and worksheet about making diet inferences from teeth. This year Syd has really been able to embrace the "reading to learn" concept, now that she's no longer learning to read, and we've been practicing thoughtful reading, highlighting, note taking, etc. To accompany the worksheet, I printed a gorgeous, life-sized photo of a T-rex tooth (just Google it; there are tons of great ones!), and had the kids sort through their personal collection bags from our dino dig to find some good examples of edmontosaurus teeth:
We found these tooth fragments during surface collection on the first day of the dig.

Will was even able to show us a fragment of edmontosaurus jawbone that she'd been permitted to keep:



Gorgeous, yes?

Using these pieces of evidence, the kids were able to confirm for themselves the overriding scientific theories that the T-rex was a carnivore and the edmontosaurus was an herbivore: 

We studied pterosaurs this week, but my next goals are to get us prepping, identifying, and displaying our personal fossil collections. For this, I think we'll need to study vertebrate paleontology and edmontosaurus anatomy at a more technical level--good thing I have a couple of Children's Museum paleontologists in my Contacts list!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Work Plans for the Week of August 25, 2014: US History, US Geography

MONDAY: We had a lovely volunteer shift yesterday--I fetched and carried lots of things, and the kids repackaged lamb's quarter and Panera bread to offer to the shoppers. Syd also ate an entire half of a watermelon with a spoon; that kid lives on watermelon these days.

Math didn't go as well, since Syd's perfectionism made our three-person game of Multiplication Touch a little... tense. I didn't want to give Syd any hints, because she should have her multiplication facts memorized by now, but I do admit that Multiplication Touch can be tricky--at one point, Syd had FOUR "24" tiles, and freaked out about where they could all go--so I eventually, after tears and a tantrum, I told her that Will would help her, and then the game went well. It's a dice roll, because often Will's help is the last thing that she wants, but the odds were in our favor this time, sigh. It did give Will a good review of multiplication, at least, which was the point of the assignment.

Syd also threw a fit during her spelling test, although really she did quite well, and it was Will who should have thrown a performance-based fit, since she did a terrible job! They both completely immersed themselves in Spelling City afterwards, however, with their edited spelling lists, so I have higher hopes for next week's test.

The kids each had a horse breed to research this week (Palomino and Appaloosa) and to compare to the Knabstrupper, so I didn't ask them to also research the breed's geography, as I usually do (Will did so anyway, because she loves Culture Grams). The kids can always find the information that their riding instructor asks for in this horse encyclopedia, and we usually also look for Youtube videos, as well--I've been surprised about what interesting things we've learned about horse breeds on Youtube!

We're still reading through all the wonderful Oregon Trail living history books that I found at our local public library; both kids have books in journal format for this week's assigned reading. Makes me wonder about assigning them fictional journals as writing assignments, as well... I'll think more about that. Syd also read me A Book for Black-Eyed Susan, just because she thought that I'd like it, and it made me cry so much! Syd thought that was pretty excellent, and Will thought that it was hilarious, the rotter.

TUESDAY: Our local newspaper is hosting a children's art contest to design an "I Voted" sticker (does your community give you a sticker prize when you vote? I ADORE sticker prizes!). It was a great chance to talk about the responsibilities of US citizenship, especially for Will, who's still got a couple of activities left for her Girl Scout Inside Government badge, and then the kids designed their stickers as this week's art. Will sort of blew through hers just this side of acceptably, but Syd's currently deep into her fifth or sixth version. I may never get Will to like doing art, but I WILL make that child practice enough that she's competent at it! If she wants to draw something when she's grown, by gawd, she'll be able to.

Math Mammoth today will be a catch-up lesson; every now and then, if a kid is struggling and taking a really long time at her math, I'll take away any pages that she hasn't finished and set them aside for later. Later has arrived today! The reading journal from Barnes and Noble is also a catch-up; I collected these for the kids at the beginning of the summer, but if they don't fill them out and turn them in this week, they'll miss their prize!

Will has been interested in pterosaurs lately, so that's where today's paleontology lesson will take us. The kids have a reading assignment that I plan to use to teach them how to highlight important facts, and then we'll finally whip out the Pterosaurs Phylo deck! I have been promising Will that I'd teach her how to play Phylo for months, the poor kid.

Another mom at our homeschool group's Park Day reminded me that First Language Lessons have something like 100 lessons per grade, so I've given up my plan to blow through both books 3 and 4 this year. I'll just reassess after we finish book 3 to see what I want to do next.

WEDNESDAY: Horseback riding lesson!

THURSDAY: This is the last week that I'll have the kids working on the summer postcard swap that they're a part of. They ended up disappointed with this swap, since we've only received four postcards through it, although we're still sending out postcards, so maybe we'll get a few more? The kids map each postcard we receive on our big wall map, and so far they've gotten two from Florida, one from Missouri, and one from Canada. Send us postcards, you darn swappers!

For cursive, I'm still asking them to write the cursive alphabet, and having them complete a Startwrite copywork page on the first forgotten or incorrectly formed letter that they come to. I may have to get meaner about this, though, and assign copywork on several letters each time, because this could not be going more slowly!

FRIDAY: We didn't get to the fun activity with the cardstock covered wagons last week, so we'll do it this week, as well as watch a documentary on the Oregon Trail. We've almost accomplished everything that I wanted from this short unit study, and then we're moving on to Ancient China. We're going to see some real terra cotta warriors!

The Girl Scout badges are currently in chaos, with each kid working on random badges randomly, and Will even repeating a bunch of activities last week, because she'd forgotten that she'd already done them--whatever, still educational. I do need to enforce better organization, however, especially now that all the Girl Scout programming is starting up again in this fresh school year, and I know the kids want to have plenty of patches on their uniforms.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY/MONDAY: This is our last totally free weekend before Syd's ballet class starts for the semester, and it's a long holiday weekend, to boot, but considering that we'd like to have a housewarming party at some point, and we need to be unpacked for that to happen, I imagine that we'll spend our relaxing-ish weekend here at home, putting up shelves, varnishing bookcases, painting deck furniture, and creating the all-important s'mores-making fire pit.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Latest: Tape and Cardboard





I only half worked my butt off yesterday, as usual, which means I have, as usual, a ton of stuff to do today: lesson plans to write, an etsy order to create and package, a project tutorial to make and photograph, and two freelance blog posts to write. I should have seriously worked my butt off yesterday, while Matt was out running errands with the kids half the day (you should see Syd's new ballet uniform! So cute!), but I only kinda did. I did get a freelance blog post and an etsy order done, but imagine if I'd done all the blog posts, and all the etsy orders, and the lesson plans, and all I'd have to do today is sit on top of the picnic table and watch the chickens!

Sigh...

AND I have to stay off of Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, because I haven't seen the newest Doctor Who yet!

OOOH! That'll be my reward!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Out West 2014: Yellowstone's Canyon and Yet Another Geyser Basin

We were up early again this morning for a trail ride, which means there were more animals to be spotted:

My brother-in-law finally got to see a bison from a distance that didn't require binoculars. It was ridiculous--that first afternoon that Matt, the kids, and I spent in Yellowstone, we saw loads of bison, even one in the next lane of traffic(!), but as soon as Matt's family came to meet us there, all of a sudden the only bison to be seen were all reeeaaaallly far away, and that was practically the only animal that his brother had really wanted to see!

We saw bison on this day, though. Whew!

After the trail ride, we some driving and hiking along the Canyon:



There is another Young Scientist program specifically for the Canyon, but since this was our last full day, AND the kids were already still finishing up their Junior Ranger stuff and Will was still finishing up her Young Scientist stuff, I skipped it. Don't tell Will, though. She'd freak!

I was able to prove that I'm not a liar on one of these hikes; earlier, Matt's brother had commented on the fact that I mainly wear jeans rolled up to below my knees, and he'd be too hot to wear that. I replied that I'm really quite clumsy, and the less skin that I present to be skinned on hard, vertical surfaces, the better.

I happily, then, showed him my skinned palms after our first Canyon hike, when I decided that it would be awesome if I bounded up the trail's stairs--the roughly-hewn, irregular stairs. I of COURSE tripped and skidded *up* the stairs, banged up my denim-clothed knees, and scraped up my hands. 

I did not fall into the river and die, however. Yay!

The next day, Matt, the kids, and I drove through Yellowstone one last time on our way back to Indiana. Well, we *meant* to just drive through, but there was one more geyser basin that we hadn't yet visited! Can't have that! 



Okay, NOW we can leave.

Oh, fine, might as well stop at Old Faithful and check out one more eruption, and hit the gift shop for presents for the kids' friends back home, but then we're absolutely leaving.

Yeah, we didn't really make great time that day...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Out West 2014: Yellowstone's Hot Springs

Mornings in Yellowstone are good for animal-spotting:
Mule deer! We also saw more bison, and an animal that I think was a fox but the kids want to believe was a coyote.
It was also a great morning for a hike of the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces--



--although I did think it prudent to fortify ourselves with ice cream beforehand:

Ice cream lets kids RUN up massively steep walking paths instead of weeping up them! It also, unfortunately, lets kids run doooooown the massively steep paths, and we actually offered a band-aid to a family of tourists whose kiddo had wiped out on the path. As the band-aid bearer, I quickly realized that I know of no word in any of my languages that even approximates the word "band-aid," or "bandage," or "owie," but fortunately simply wielding a band-aid is a universal sign of first-aid, like the Red Cross, and the German mom, washing her kid's knee off with water from her water bottle, seemed happy to have it. 

And now I'm curious as to what the German word for "band-aid" is. Anyone?

The hot springs are all, you know, HOT (what I wouldn't have given to have had the infrared thermometer on this day!!!), but in my travel research, I had heard tell of the Boiling River, a place where a hot spring flows into the Gardner River, and you can soak and wade and play there. 

We got directions to the Boiling River area from the Mammoth Hot Spring Terraces visitor's center, and drove and hiked over there (the directions will tell you that it's about half a mile. It's WAY more than that, in my opinion, but whatever). Somehow, out of the four adults present, it turned out that I was the only one who was actually planning to enter the water with the children. 

At first, I figured it wouldn't be that bad. The icy river ran around our feet, and to our left were several spots where the boiling river emptied into it, forming hot pools and then spilling over to warm the water where everyone was wading. The river bed was super rocky, but although there were people painfully picking their way and stumbling and wincing all around us, we were all wearing our sandals, so we were relatively good, except for the weird giant rocks in our paths and the sudden drop-downs, etc. 

Will stumbled over one of those rocks, and in the approximately five seconds that I took my eye off of Syd to attend to her, Syd managed to walk away from me, step off of a sudden drop-down into a pool of very hot water, and then scramble up out of the water onto a quite narrow ledge, barely wider than one of her sandals, in between two of those boiling inlets, totally out of my reach. 

I didn't even see her at first when I looked up, and I looked around for a few seconds before I saw her, thinking, "Huh. Did she go back to the shore?" I finally saw her standing on the ledge and sobbing silently while a woman stood outside the hot water and gestured to her not to step down again. 

Just as I started to splash over to her, and gawd knows what I would have done other than wade through the boiling water myself, retrieve her, hike back to the car, and then ask to be taken to the nearest emergency room, another random guy saw the commotion, stepped with one long leg into the hot water, reached way over with his long arms, lifted her off the ledge, and was handing her to me by the time that I got there. 

I'm one hundred percent sure that I told them thank you, because I have excellent manners, but I'm absolutely sure that I didn't thank them enough, and by the time I had finished making Syd soak her legs in the freezing river water to my satisfaction (a LONG time later), those two people were either long gone or completely lost in the anonymity of a river full of strangers. 

Thank you, Kind Strangers! You deserve all the good things.

Syd had to sit in the very cold water for a VERY long time before I could assure myself that her legs wouldn't blister, and an even longer time before I could comfort myself that they wouldn't even end up pink, and it was an even longer time before she was back to happily playing and had forgotten the entire incident. That's why in this single photo of the river, taken by Matt from the SHORE, thank you very much for being zero help here, Mister, the kid can be seen playing contentedly in four inches of water and I can be seen totally on edge, lifeguarding between her and Will, just off camera, also playing contentedly in about four inches of water:

I think this is even before Will stepped, on purpose, onto a rock sticking out from one of the boiling pools, and was offended beyond words when I hauled her back again. You're just going to have to imagine what I looked like after that--shoulders up to my ears like Prufrock's crab, head on a swivel of high alert like Hank the Cow Dog.

As I'm writing this now, I'm thinking, "Why the hell didn't I just leave the damn Boiling River?"

Because the kids were having fun. And then I was rendering emergency first aid for an hour. And then they were having fun again. And I said to myself, "Surely nobody will almost boil their skin off AGAIN." And then after somebody did, I said to myself, "Okay, NOW nobody will almost boil their skin off again."

And they didn't! So... yay?

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