Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Write a Googol

Every homeschool family that we're acquainted with in our hometown, this place with a fabulous public library and a fabulous university library, has WAY too many library materials checked out. This is known.

And every homeschool family, every now and then, has its own way of dealing with all the checked-out library items that just sometimes get a little (lot) too plentiful. My friend Jenny sometimes declares a moratorium on any new check-outs until everything that they already have out gets returned. When we go on vacation as a family, we'll sometimes return every last thing that we have checked out, and then start fresh when we get back home.

Our library materials are once again overflowing their shelves in our living room, so instead of our usual schedule this week, we had a "library" week. Instead of regular school, the girls did their math every day and then each chose a couple of library materials to explore. Usually the material would lend itself to some sort of casual, spontaneously-thought-up enrichment activity, and when it was done the girls would decide if they wanted to keep the item or were ready to return it. It was a lot of fun, we got some great schoolwork completed, and we cleared the shelves a bit--yay!

So we read Can You Count to a Googol? all together, and then, with major build-up, I said to the girls, "Alright now, each of you is going to, all by yourself, write. A. GOOGOL!!!"

Willow promptly pitched a fit.

It was pretty hilarious, actually, poor kid, because you could clearly see her thinking that a googol is a huge number--with 100 zeroes!!!--and therefore must take a really, really, really long time to write! Days, perhaps! Perhaps years!

I'll call it an exercise in trust that she did eventually sit down with me and Sydney. I rolled out some butcher paper (I wish I had the adding machine paper that this kid used), gave the kids pencils, and off they went:

 And how long DOES it take to write a googol, you ask? It took a little longer for Syd, who kept losing track of how many zeroes she'd written, until I suggested that she make a mark under every ten zeroes and then skip count to find her place, but for Willow, who never lost count, it took less than a minute to write her googol:

And yes, she was very, very proud of herself afterwards.

I see a lot more "library weeks" in our future. It was nice to get away from the weekly schedule without having to declare a holiday, nice to take a break from our regular studies to explore some new subjects, nice to just read and think up projects and then do them all week. We're back to our regular studies of Latin, skip counting, U.S. geography, grammar, human biology, Ancient Egyptian history, etc., next week, but whenever that all starts to feel stale again, I won't hesitate to declare another school week that's guided by our fantastic library materials.

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