A little Sunday math

We’ve really been getting lots of messages lately that are helping us deconstruct the idea of “homeschooling.” As you might have noticed, I do well with schedules and routines. I like frameworks. They help me know when I’m doing things “correctly” – and I have a lot invested in doing things correctly!

We know going into this year that we wouldn’t be doing a traditional 5-day a week school schedule, if for no other reason than L is going to a nature-based play-school two days a week that does zero academics. We LOVE this place, BTW. She gets to explore trails, dig in the dirt, collect black walnuts, and generally be a nature-lover. It’s fabulous!

In any case, we knew that even if we tried to “do school” the other five days (M/W/F/Sa/Su), it wouldn’t quite work out. Life gets in the way, particularly on weekends (you know, grocery shopping, laundry, get-togethers, etc.).

I had thought, though, that we’d keep to a schedule. In fact, I even have a schedule pocket chart hanging in the school room. Oh, the schedule hasn’t been changed in months. And we don’t really work in the school room. Except for those details, the plan is working out perfectly! =)

Instead, I’m finding that L is drawn to activities when she’s drawn to them, and I can do a pretty good job of gauging where she is at a given moment. I try not to push that we have to do anything in particular at any particular time. Our “formalized” schooling in the past week has included an hour of explaining to a museum volunteer about her bird beak lab and fossil sorting work (The Cincinnati Museum Center has a great feature in their Museum of Natural History and Science called the Nature’s Trading Post where kiddos can explain about science or show objects they’ve found, earn points, and trade them in for specimens such as the fossilized dinosaur bone she saved up for). We attended a museum program on anatomy. She attended an hour and a half class at the Cincinnati Zoo through their Zoo Troop program. On Saturday, we spent about an hour and a half at a gathering of the Cincinnati Area Reef Enthusiasts where L got to do a ton of hands-on activities including looking for fossilized shark’s teeth. In any case, this is the extent of our scheduled homeschool time.

We have spent a ton of time reading a variety of trade books, she wrote cards and sent them to three family members, she completed 3 “missions” on To Do Math (our very favorite math app), bringing her to halfway through first-grade level, etc.

Today, we decided to do a few math activities. To be fair, she’d seen me print them off and asked to do some of the ones she saw.

We did a quick and easy skip counting maze:

skip counting by two's

skip counting by two’s

We started off by using dots (see bottom right-hand corner) to see what numbers would come next, grouping sets of 5 into a ten. We repeated this through 30. Then, I asked her to pause where she was and tell me the numbers she’d stamped from 0 through 30. I arranged them to show how the ones digit repeated in each column with the addition of another ten in each row. She was able to then correctly predict numbers 32-50 and continue on with stamping them. She generalizes easily enough that I didn’t want to go any more into depth at the moment. I wanted to plan the pattern and see what she came up with later.

We also have a new Greg Tang book! It’s called Math-terpieces: The art of problem-solving. I was drawn to it for her because it incorporates some artwork into it (Degas, Renoir, Monet, etc.) and asks her to think through the problems. For example, she was completing the page that has sets of umbrellas (in a set each of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) and asks the reader to find five different ways to have eight umbrellas. Below are her solutions on a piece of scratch paper. I love that she was really thinking. She did three pages from this, and then I decided to pause there. I want her to savor this book – and I think she will get another run at each of them before they’re memorized (which is not always the case). Score!

Her equations

Her equations

Our final math activity for the night was a freebie on Teachers pay teachers. I want to be clear: I don’t love a lot of what I find there. A lot of it seems to me to be more about what’s cute than what’s deeply meaningful or engaging. However, I do surf it for ideas and I get the weekly newsletter that includes free resources. Sometimes, there’s a freebie that’s worth it! One past freebie that she devoured was this solar system non-fiction passage and graphic organizer. Today, I printed off (and she saw me cut apart) this equation sorting one. I simply printed off pages 7-9 (12 cards per page for 36 total). Each card has two equations (for example, 0 + 5 = 3 + 2). The goal is to have the kiddo sort them into true cards and false cards. There’s an option to complete the activity to sums (5, 10, 15, and 20), but I didn’t want to lead L to that outcome.

I put a “true” and a “false” sign on two cupboards and gave her one of the easier cards. She solved the two equations, found that they were both 5, and taped it onto the true cabinet. We continued with simple equations up to 5, then up to 10, and then above 10. There are subtraction equations, too, which I saved for tomorrow.

We pulled out her Ikea abacus and I did a quick reminder on how to use it for larger numbers. Here is her work showing 11 + 9:

11 + 9 on her abacus

11 + 9 on her abacus

She explained to me that there were 9 brown beads left and 9 yellow beads slid over. That meant that there was 1 brown bead slid over and 1 yellow bead left over. Since there were 9 brown and 1 yellow beads slid over, there would be 10, which she could add to the full set of brown beads and know the answer was 20. Spot on, kiddo!

Here is where we left off tonight – 9 cards is 18 equations. That seemed like a good place to stop for the night!

True equation cards

True equation cards

False equation cards

False equation cards

Activity to be continued at a later time….

So, while we didn’t plan on doing any schooling today, and in fact we did grocery shopping, baking, and attended a work picnic for three hours, we still end up getting the learning in. This continues to be a reminder to myself that I know my kiddo, my kiddo loves to learn, and if I continue to work to put appropriate things into her hands, the learning will come naturally.

At the zoo

What did our homeschool day look like today? We spent a good chunk of the day at the zoo!

We are really lucky. The Cincinnati Zoo is awesome – it’s big enough that you can focus on a different area each visit but small enough that if you want to cover the whole thing in one trip, you can. The interpretive staff is excellent. They have lots of volunteers and students ready to answer a four-year old’s questions. For example, today:

“Do African Painted Dogs like to swim” (Answer: Our male loves to swim!)

“Do African Painted Dogs live in groups” (Answer: Yes! They live in packs with lots of babies.)

“How big was the Ruddy Shelduck when it was a newborn?” (Answer: Smaller than a human fist.)

“What does the corn snake eat?” (Answer: small mice and aquatic creatures smaller than it’s belly.)

etc. etc. etc.

We also got to pet a corn snake and a ball python (where the interpretive staff asked questions back of L, which was fantastic!).

The signage is informative but also readable (L knows right where to find diet information on each sign and delights in reading aloud their diet and then classifying them as carnivore/omnivore/herbivore).

They also have great printables available to use as scaffolds for your own visits (just click on the grade level of interest). We used the Pk-K “color the rainbow” today. Emperor scorpion shells under ultraviolet light glow green. Giraffe tongues are purple. Great opportunities to practice writing, too, which L’s hands are just not quite ready for yet.

So, what did we do all day? Science. Reading. Writing. Listening and speaking. Physical exercise. Oh, we also held hands, laughed, and sang. Zoo school rocks.

Peeking at the ostrich peeking back at us

Peeking at the ostrich peeking back at us