Thursday, March 13, 2014

Marshmallows, Math, Toothpicks, and Dodecahedron Plans

 And speaking of wanting to do things that make learning is fun.  My oldest thinks it's neat when I cut her sandwich at lunch time like a puzzle.  It's kind of random I suppose, but why not, right?

 So speaking of math.  Here's a little math day that happened a while back.  I had played "X from outer space" with the girls before taking this picture and talked about adding and multiplying (Waldorf math introduces the concepts all at once instead of one at a time and it really does make more sense this way.)

Well,  I'd used these little blocks to help illustrate some math concepts and then when the older girls lost interest and wanted to go play with their dolls I just stayed their with the little one hooking blocks that matched together.  We lined them up and the oldest looked over and got interested in what I was doing.  I started wondering out loud how many of each color there were and counted the longest.  Then subtracted to find the numbers for the others.  Note:  I counted by 2s or 10s without trying to "teach" any of these things.  I was just doing and they were observing.  They noticed enough of all this and then we made some stacks of a hundred.  There were 333 blocks total. 
 When I saw that I wasn't needed any more as my oldest wanted to take the blocks and play with them herself I observed the designs she was making with the colors.  I remember doing this as a kid.  My oldest has a keen eye for patterns and I know this will be helpful to her if I teach to her natural inclination.  Right now I'm more modeling and observing than trying to teach much.
Note: how even the littlest one enjoyed this project.  Granted she was basically just eating them, but at least she was happy right? ;]
 We also spontaneously jumped into a math project with marshmallows and tooth picks.  I did this with them 3 or so years ago but obviously, they can get a lot more out of it now.
 Again, I wasn't trying to teach anything.  I was just building right along with them.  What happens if I make a shape with only triangles?  I did talk some about the language of math and how there are names for shapes because it started getting tiresome to say, "You know that shape with four sides and four corners?" This was a great conversation because it took the (sometimes confusing names) and gave them a context and purpose.  You might think that's obvious information, but when memorizing dry facts is the way of it, the more context and interest the better.
 I'd already done just a little too much text book math with my oldest (I could see her face fall when I said we were going to do math this day) but I got to see her learn and try things as we were playing with the shapes.  She was the one that came up with the idea that a bunch of triangles would make a ball shape.  I fiddled with it and fiddled and somehow stumbled on that very shape!  She said she could see it in her brain.  After I'd made a few she tried it too and was able to make a "dodecahedron" as well!

It sort of started like this and you just sort of keep going.  Sorry, that's all I got and that's how we did it.  Left brained people make up the directions but sometimes it's more fun to just fiddle with something till it comes out right then try plan too much and figure out how to do it.

Once we were running out of toothpicks we started to paint the marshmallows!  This was a clever way to keep the 2 year old from eating our creations.  She'd already eaten her whole pile of marshmallows and was quickly swiping some of her sisters work and nibbling.

You do have to be careful to not use TOO much water on them or they'll dissolve, but for the most part the watercolor paint worked quite well.
The middle one (just turned 6) made some cubes and hexagon shapes.  When the Daddy came home and said all impressed like, "Wow you made a box!"  She said, "Actually, it's a cube."  haha, which impressed the Daddy all the more.
And a random moment playing ball with the little one.  I remember really wanting to read something at this point in whatever day it was, but decided a little game of ball wouldn't go amiss. 
The way in which I plan our school and days feels just like how I felt when I made the dodecahedron out of marshmallows and tooth picks.  I could sort of get the general idea of what I was trying to do (it's a bunch of triangles and ends up in a ball shape) but I couldn't make a "how to" unless someone was capturing what I was doing on video or taking pictures as I went and writing it for me. 
This is my attempt to try to figure out how I did it so I could help her make one.
I keep having to remind myself that the shape I came up with is just as valid as the same shape made by someone else with a detailed plan.  We both achieved our objective, right?  Just because I can't plan like most people doesn't mean that our days can't be "put together" in a way that allows for growth and learning.

I'm glad that I can take pictures and blog about what we are doing because so often I feel like I'm not doing enough or doing the right things.  After all, we plant a seed, but can't see anything that goes on with it's growth until much time has passed and the first little leaves have formed.  In the case of children and homeschooling I've planted so many little seeds that I really don't know what those tiny leaves are going to turn into.  Hopefully I've sown more good seeds than weeds (that they'll need to pull later), but that will happen as well.  And right now, it's the time to continually remind myself to play with my kids and enjoy these projects with them.  It's not about rushing to the end. Or hurrying the growth along.  It's about savoring the moments and watering the seeds.

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