Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Doing Maths

We do not have a lot of structure around here. This does not seem to be a big problem for my kids, but it starts to make me uncomfortable after a while. I have a need to see where things are going, a need to plan, a need for the bigger picture, and a need for a vision for those smaller steps. When we are involved in a lot of outside classes - choir, soccer, dance, coop, swimming, reading - the structure finds us; we only have a couple of "home" days and we neatly fit those projects and reading time into their spots (ha! I am laughing that I used the word "neatly" to describe anything that happens at this house!!). This fall, however, we have chosen to spend a lot more time at home. I think this has been really good for us: there are more days of harmony, and we spend much less time decompressing after spending too much time with other people (and by people, I generally mean large groups of kids, though I need a certain amount of decompressing after being with the adults as well.) We have become more selective about who we spend our time with and what we spend our time doing.
With all this home-time, it is becoming more and more important to me that we have some structure to our week. We are definitely still figuring it out, but one thing that has emerged is something I call "doing maths". During our homeschool evaluation in August one suggestion or comment that the teacher had was that even in "unschooled" families, there tended to be more structure around math, and that in her family she had not done this with child number one, but was finding it very helpful to have this foundation with child number two. In September I ordered the primer level of MathUSee (though I am suspicious of anything that uses "cute" spelling, I had heard good things about this program from people I think highly of). I sat on it until October when, during a morning of Peter Pan play, the Darling children (think Wendy and Michael) requested some lessons. Perfect!! Out came the blocks and the lessons I had drawn up ahead of time. Because we were in London, we of course called it "Maths" and proceeded to zip through 4 of the lessons that morning, all of us with a strong British accent.
We have continued to "do maths" once or twice a week, each time moving through several lessons at once. I chose the first level knowing it would be easy, but thinking it would be a good training ground for both Eliza and myself, and would leave her wanting more, feeling confident and giving us both the vocabulary we would need later in the program. Anika is the one I thought would take quickly to the program, but she has no interest in practicing any of the problems, so she listens (and absorbs!!) and plays with the blocks or the geo-board or builds around us on the floor. I notice the girls finding math in their days, not shying away from figuring things out, presenting math-type problems to me as we ride in the car. I was never a math person, so this makes me feel more grounded and confident about how we are proceeding.
I use to feel sheepish about the fact that we usually do this in our accents. I mean, we're playing, right? You'd be amazed at how much further I can get in leading them into a project or what I'd loosely call a lesson, if I bring out an accent. They are immediately engaged in play-acting as schoolchildren, and we are off!


Stephanie said...

I was talking with a friend about math last night.
I'm waiting on Family Math from the library - it's a book for k-8, we'll see how that is. I've been waiting for almost two months! I was #4 at first, now I'm finally first. :)

The accent is awesome since your babes like it. Humor goes a looooong way toward keeping something fun. Levity is definitely a good idea.

slim pickins said...

We are enjoying Family Math - found it at a yard sale this summer! Some of it is a little old yet, but we'll use it a lot down the road...

yes, yes, yes on humor...they love it. i mean, i would have loved it if any one of my math teachers had had an extra dose of humor!