It’s Math His Way

IMG_0725I love my boy so much. I love him, but sometimes teaching him is H-A-R-D impossible. The funny thing is, he’s pretty good at math, he just wants to do it his way. So, on the day that we were going to work on Roman Numerals he decided to do it his way.

Sometimes I even let my brains listen through the frustration. This time it was a good thing. We had the mancala beads out to learn odds and evens (we’ll get to that soon) the little dude said “I don’t want to draw Roman Numerals, I’m going to do them like this.”
IMG_0726 IMG_0727 And then when it was time to do the drawings to go with our fable – instead he said, “No I want to draw the story of King Equal.” Well, what was I going to say? No? No sweetie, you can’t draw math stories, it’s fable time now.

Dude you go for it, draw away. “Oh, and mom, can I have the gnomes while I do it?”

“Sure honey, you can have whatever you want.”IMG_0728

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This Game Was Made for Waldorf, and You Too!

If ever a game was made for Waldorf it was Enchanted Forest.  I don’t think you could find a game that is more completely Waldorf than this.  The whole Game is based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

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This was wonderful, because as a homeschooling mostly Waldorf mom we had read almost all of the Grimm Fairy Tales associated with this game, and the few we hadn’t read we caught up on, to make the game more fun. This is the story of the Enchanted Forest :

“Once upon a time there lived a king, and he dwelt in a splendid castle high above the enchanted forest. His subjects could not have wished for a better king, so wise and benevolent was his rule.

Many years passed and the king, feeling that he was growing old, began to worry about who should rule after him, for he had no children. However, word had often come to him of strange and wonderful treasures which were said to be hidden in the enchanted forest, and these had aroused his curiosity and now filled his heart with longing. He resolved that a search should be made for these remarkable treasures, so that they might be collected at his castle, where everyone might see them and marvel at them. No sooner had he decided on his plan than he sent heralds throughout the land to announce that whoever should find and lead him to the hiding place of three of these marvelous treasures would succeed to his throne.”

As if that wasn’t enough to make you love the game. The treasures are trees, underneath the trees lie an image of a specific fairy tale.  The image under the tree matches a card.  The object is to travel around the board to get a peek under the trees, and then to match the face-up card to the correct tree.  There are many more nuances and rules to the game, knocking people out, moving to special spots with doubles, etc. but that is the gist.  My son and I can play this game for hours.  It is really fun, and really taxes the memory of this old mama!

I would say this game is best played by boys 7 1/2 and up and girls 6 and up.  Isaiah has finally gotten over that stage where if it’s too complicated he doesn’t want to bother.  If your child doesn’t mind complicated, yet simple rules, go ahead and try it!

I get no compensation whatsoever for this by the way! I just loved this game so much and thought it was so Waldorfy, I had to share!  And if you haven’t read the Grimm Fairy Tales this is the perfect way to introduce them.  All of the tales in this game are completely age appropriate and not at all scary!

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Thank Goodness for Wool and Uggs!

Something I had been missing from our Waldorf days was our morning walks, partly because the weather got cold, and also because we had lost our way… Today was going to be my attempt to bring one more aspect of what I love back to our homeschool day.  (There are more, and I will post about that later.)  Today I decided it was about time we got outside again on a regular basis.  Well, we live not far from Chicago, so you know, it’s not warm here.  Not by a stretch.  Truth be told, I immensely dislike being cold.  Really.  I joke that I get a babysitter just so Isaiah will have someone to go outside with him.

I don’t know exactly what happened.  Maybe something inside of me was whispering, “you need to get outside too” but this morning as I was standing in the backyard with the dogs, I noticed that the air had that really refreshing quality to it.  The wind was blowing in pretty strong gusts, but it was about 30 degrees, so it wasn’t so bad.   It felt a lot like the wind was coming from the lake, which frankly just makes me want to take a deep breath and stay outside.  The sky was pretty gloomy towards the west, but I took only passing notice of it.

I came inside with the dogs, and Isaiah was his regular screaming banshee self.  I had a bit of a headache, so it was hard for me to be tolerant of his rambunctiousness this morning.  I had gently tried to explain that Mommy had a headache, that would last about 5 minutes before he started screaming again.  Now don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t just sitting there screaming, he was a pirate (I think, like I said I had a headache).  He had two swords. a rifle and a pocket-watch and was playing an elaborate imagination game.  Usually I am much more tolerant of this, I mean he was using his imagination, but given the state of my head I needed something to change.  So I said “hey, let’s go for a walk”.  He looked at me like I was crazy, he knows how much I dislike the cold.  “No, I don’t want to.”  Well I know how he operates, so I said OK, and proceeded to make some tea.  Minutes later I had to ask him to settle down again, he said “you know what? let’s go for  a walk.” Bingo!  “Can I bring my sword and my rifle?”  I agreed, anything to get him outside.  We began to really bundle up, no use being uncomfortable, this way we could take a long walk.  He decided he didn’t want to have to carry his sword and rifle, because he was going to take his bike instead.  Well, as long as he bundled up, right?

So, we were prepared to leave, we opened the door.  The minute we stepped outside the flurries started.  “It’s snowing!” Isaiah shouted excitedly.  Yes it was, well what could be nicer than a walk in the snow.  Only, by the time we got a block from our house it looked like this.

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I don’t think I’ve ever been outside, just for fun, when a full-blown blizzard has descended upon our town.  It was pretty cool.  I could have said let’s turn back, but I thought, hey, what’s the worst that can happen?   We’ll get cold?  So we kept on truckin’ Isaiah riding his bike in the deepening snow, and me walking behind him really letting myself enjoy this wonderful example of God’s beauty in nature.  By the time we were about a 1/4 mile from home, I would say visibility was down to about 50ft.  We were at the park, where there is a huge field and running track around the track.  Isaiah was riding ahead of me, and he would get far enough ahead I could barely see him, but knowing there was nowhere for him to go, I just enjoyed.  For me this was a milestone, I didn’t even rush.  In the end, we were gone for about an hour.  By the time we got home, we looked like snowmen ourselves!  We un-bundled, lit a fire in the fireplace, made some hot chocolate and relaxed to some books and a game.  It was such a wonderful way to start our day, to get som of those ants out of his pants, and to help me get re-connected.  I will continue to try and get him outside every morning, and to remind myself how much being outside is good for our souls.

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Next day, after about a foot of snow (and it’s still snowing), Isaiah riding the weighed down Arbor Vitae, like the dragon in “The Land of Long Ago” by Elsa Beskow!

 

Shared this post with Our Seasons of Joy’s Waldorf Wednesday

Learning Math Visually

As a homeschooling mama, one originally rooted in Waldorf, teaching math to a rambunctious visual learner can be daunting.  I began in Waldorf, teaching him the Quality of numbers.

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This was a beautiful idea to me, I enjoyed trying to create a way to touch him with this idea.  Perhaps I should have persisted. Or, perhaps I was correct in knowing that this was not the right way for my boy.

So, we moved on to something more tangible.  I mentioned earlier, that Isaiah is a visual learner.  A very visual learner, and so, I decided to give a program called MathUSee a try.  This turned out to be fairly more successful.  Up until this point,  Isaiah had a great deal of difficulty understanding numbers past 10.  The shear nonsensity of their names made it almost impossible for him to decipher.  Eleven? Twelve?  What do these things mean, he wondered? Even further down the line was the elusive twenty and thirty.  If you let him count un-interrupted he could count to 20 by rote.  However, if you asked him what came after 10? Well that was another story.  Often when rattling off his numbers eleventytwo came after 19.  Because what was 20 anyway?

MathUSee really helped him to understand the “quality” of numbers in a way that was completely comfortable to him.

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Using blocks of different colors, he began to understand the significance of the placement of numbers.  That where a number falls on “decimal street” determines how you say a number.

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The blue bars represent the “10’s” the green blocks represent the “units” or “ones”.  Here he is building the 74.  He is learning that the placement of the 7 is the same as 7 “tens”, the placement of the 4 is the same as 4″units”.

For every number we learn, he is learning the “quality” of that number.  Isaiah started to like math, he began to enjoy “building numbers”.  Of course, every once in a while those blocks became make-shift legos, and math turned into an airfield and landing planes, but that’s OK.  To me that was a sign that he was on over-load and we should come back to it.

Admittedly, MathUSee is not as beautiful as the Waldorf way.  However, I believe now that I have a grasp of MathUSee, I can find a way to blend the two.  Yes it is un-orthodox.  Yet, I still continue to see the beauty in Waldorf every day, and my desire to keep it’s learning style as part of our lives is very strong.  Once I find the best way to reach him, it seems I can back into where we should be with Waldorf.

I read a very inspiring post today by Sheila at Sure as The World.  It was an example of learning the Grade 1: Four Processes.  She has definitely inspired me to go back over my Waldorf curriculum and see how I might link back in the beauty of the story telling to explain the four processes.  Thank you Sheila!  I will let you all know how it goes!

Our Block of Chess or Our Chess Block

Who says chess can’t be a block?  I’ve never read about it on one of my homeschooling sites.  Wait, let me look…nope, even my favorite site Homeschool Share doesn’t have one.  You know every time I read that over I read cheese block!  LOL!IMG_0359

Recently Isaiah has developed an interest in chess.  I was never a chess player, but we have my father’s old chess set in the house.  I know how the pieces move, I know how you win, but I do not know one ounce of the strategy that goes into winning.  I figure that doesn’t matter much, what does matter is that he’s waking up, getting himself ready, setting up the chess set and excited to go!

So I’m liking the idea of chess as our first block of the day for a week.  We are replacing movement, which I think isn’t a bad idea for this boy.  He tends to be hot and cold when it comes to movement.  I figure If I don’t force a circle time or movement time and instead alternate week to week we have a better chance of it not becoming a struggle.  This is a way to make our first block of the day a win-win.  After reading the research , I am happy to alternate movement and chess week to week.

From Johns Hopkins University “It’s not about Kings, Queens, and Rooks, but rather, quadrants and coordinates, thinking strategically and foreseeing consequences. It’s about lines and angles, weighing options and making decisions. Chess might just be the perfect teaching and learning tool.”

“Research shows, there is a strong correlation between learning to play chess and academic achievement. In 2000, a landmark study found that students who received chess instruction scored significantly higher on all measures of academic achievement, including math, spatial analysis, and non-verbal reasoning ability (Smith and Cage, 2000).

IMG_0361While studies have shown chess to have a positive impact on kids in elementary, middle and high school, AF4C targeted second and third graders as the evidence, and certainly our experience, suggests it’s the ideal age. Eight and nine year-old minds and thinking skills are developing rapidly, and chess teaches higher level thinking skills such as the ability to visualize, analyze, and think critically.” (read this article here)

For me the test results are not an issue.  Whatever happens happens, but I can’t deny the strengthening effect that chess has on the way my son uses his mind.  Without forcing him to think like an adult, or teach him formal reasoning, he is learning all of these skills passively.  Just as they point out later in the article, my son originally knew how the pieces moved, but moved them without much thought.  Then after a few days he began to ask, “If I move here, then you can get me right?” he would spend much more time deciding exactly which piece to move where.  He still was operating more on the defensive than the offensive, but I am sure that’s coming.  Funnily enough, he didn’t even seem to care who won, although it often ended in a draw.  Since chess is new to me too, who knows who will be the chess champion before long?!

Mom. I’m feeling mad. I’m going to felt.

Yes, you heard it right. He was feeling mad. That’s been happening a little bit more lately as we’ve been cooped up inside due to the horrendous midwest weather.

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Last week I taught Isaiah how to felt. I tried a couple of months ago. Back when I was so inspired by the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival that I wanted to move to a sheep farm. At the time, he just wasn’t interested. I thought spinning and felting would be something we could enjoy together, but I wasn’t daunted. Even though he showed no interest, I didn’t let my interest wain. I wanted to felt. Needle felting is cathartic, how could it not be? You get to pound a hunk of wool with a needle. A lot. So of course I completely understood Isaiah’s statement, and was very proud of him for identifying a need and finding a constructive way to deal with it. After a few minutes he went from being mad to wanting to felt a pancake. Yes a pancake. I know, I felt birds, gnomes, princesses and even little play men for Isaiah. I never thought of felting a pancake, but hey, who am I to squelch his creativity?

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More about needle felting. There are a ton of great resources on YouTube, I basically taught myself by searching for needle felting tutorials and watching a few. You need some supplies, and I suggest getting decent ones. I picked mine up from the Sheep and Wool Festival from Mielke’s Fiber Arts. Don’t get them from Michaels, their stuff is cheap AND expensive. I think felting is a great project for kids who are responsible enough not to poke themselves, or can handle poking themselves without tears. Because, let’s face it, even I poke myself 🙂 The needles you use for felting are barbed, so that they push the wool down and then lift it up again as it comes out (which is what it does when you stick it in your finger too). The point is you are tangling the fine fibers together so much that eventually what was soft fluffy wool becomes a dense wool object, it is really quite cool, and very satisfying! Don’t be afraid to try it, I think it’s something even the most craft-impaired person can do.

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