New Math Adventures: So Far, So Good

I just have to write down (after my post the other day) how I "snuck" math in the past couple of days!  :-)

I'm trying to get a timeline all across our wall downstairs, something we can add throughout the years.  It's not fancy . . .just a long piece of paper stapled to the wall! 

So, yesterday the girls helped me finish it and we added our first events.  Here's the math:

We had to measure the walls to figure out how much space we had to divide.  I had A adding up one wall measurement to another wall measurement and then B would divide that number by the number of spaces we needed.  Next, they each got to write the years on the timeline, thus learning about centuries and writing larger numbers. 

Okay, so nothing spectacular, but mathematical nontheless!

Oh, and our first entries on the timeline:  the birth & death of Marie Antoinette, the birth of Mozart, the birth of Jesus (in the center) and the creation (as the beginning). 

Then, today I bought calculators at the $1 store for the kids  (we've had several but they keep getting lost!).  When we got home I heard A ask B, "Do you want to go play 'Cash Register'?'  They skipped joyfully downstairs and played for a good hour.  Then, later A came up to me and said, "Mom!  I'm going to make a math book!  I'm going to do problems on my calculator and write them down!" 

I don't know why I keep going back to the drudgery work when I am constantly reminded that leaving their minds free to roam does way more for them than I even could.  A is my daughter who "hates" math, but when I let her be creative, she'll do it on her own.  This reminds me of the time we  had journal writing time and JW taunted, "I bet I can write more than you!"  We sit and wrote for a good half hour or more.  He beat me!  But that was another moment where I let go and didn't push, simply inspired. 

So, pat on the back for me.  I've been spending the time planning and plotting some fun math & reading games and activities to pull out of my hat when the need arises. I'm so excited!

And, to top it all off, I just checked out the book, Math and the Mona Lisa.  I've been wanting to read it for a long time.  No better time than now!


Finally Really Jumping Off

photo courtesy of http://photos.igougo.com/images/p65119-Acapulco-Cliff_Diver.jpg
Today I made a decision (after pouring out all my sorrows at midnight last night to a friend).  Today I decided that I'm no longer going to follow math textbooks.  There has been a battle going on inside of me (and partially with my dear spouse) on the principles of "Inspire, not Require."  As much as I full-heartedly believe in inspiring our children to learn, as much as I have been telling other people to just "let their kids be kids," and as much as I've wanted to practice what I preached, I have been a slave to one subject:  MATH.  It's the one subject I thought I was willing to deal with the tears over and require my children to do, only to see this mentality backfire. 

My focus this year, especialliy with JW in school, has been to strengthen the relationship between my daughters, as well as my own relationship with them.  As pressures of life all seemed to hit at once during their "more formative years,"  I think I have been pressuring my girls faster than their little minds could take in.  Stronger than ever, I'm beginning to believe Raymond Moore's motto that "Better Late than Early" is spot on!  So, after the first week of adrenalin and happiness (everyone is excited the first week!) I found myself fighting the whines and moans and complaints of "I don't want to!" or "I don't understand any of this!"  That's when it hit me that, the kids were right!  They hadn't fully grapsed the concepts from before so WHY was I pushing them to move forward so quickly?  Well, I can say that now I'm taking the final step and hoping it will be more fruitful!

So far, the first day has been spectacular.  We did our chores.  We read aloud (finishing Summer of the Monkeys through tears and choked voices).  I had some "get stuff done" time while the kids played who knows what.  We played a game (matching is a math concept, right?).  We read some more.  Then we did an afternoon project making swords and magic wands out of dowels, ribbons and string.  Now my girls are excitedly putting together a spell book for more imaginative play!  This may not sound too productive or successful to some.  My girls are 8 & 9 . . . they should be reading and doing their math homework.  But listen, amidst all that playing one daughter spent time writing thank you notes to friends while the other worked on cursive . . . without any "hint" from me.  My boys contentedly made shapes on the geoboards.  I got plenty done and still have an hour of time to fill as I please  (something that I'd been missing though it's been "scheduled" in).  And now they are reading their spell book!!

Where does math fit in here?  Don't worry.  My hubby wiill be sure to keep me accountable for that.  He has a "math every day" policy . . . and I agree.  So, what am I working on?  This week we're just going to kind of take a break while I plan my mathtime fun!  What I did is go through the Core Knowledge series by E.D. Hirsch.  I made columns: 1st, 2nd, 4th.  Then I made rows listing all of the mathematical topics that should be covered in a year. In each box, I then wrote down the more specific goals for each age/grade.  We are now going to study math in TOPICS rather than textbooks.  I'm not sure exactly how I will structure it, but I do know there will be lots more books, games and fun involved.  

I feel free.  :-)


Humanitarian Aid Jar

This year we tried something new!  I've wanted my kids to be as little more aware of what goes on in the world around them.  I have a goal for them to realize they are not the center of the universe!  :-)  Taking an idea from The Christmas Jar, we created a Humanitarian Aid Jar.  Since January 1st, all loose change we find around the house has gone into this jar.  Then, at the beginning of September we counted out the money and created kits to donate to the Small Things Gathering event our church holds each year.  It's amazing how much money you can find around the house (mostly in the laundry!).  We were able to provide 4 hygiene kits, 3 baby kits, 5 pairs of flip flops, 5 t-shirts, a sweatshirt, 2 receiving blankets, 1 baby sleeper, 4 different sizes of medical gauze, some little girl hair ribbons, & 2 ace bandages.  It was great to see my kids so involved!  I think we just might have come up with a new family tradition!

Life According to Children

I just overheard this conversation between my 9yo and my 5yo:

9yo: Nerds are smart.
5yo: Yeah, I'm a nerd because I know 40+40


Must Read Books of the Month

All of these books are by the same author, Leonard Sax.  He is amazing and his books just grab you in! 

These books are more than self-help books, more than parenting books.  These books, each one in their own way, changed my perspective on male/female roles and how to teach my children!  Phenomenal books that I am literally telling EVERYONE about  (apparently there is now a long waiting list at the library, get your name on there now).  :-) 

Why Gender Matters:  Great for undestanding gender differences but not like Men are from Mars or whatever that popular book was all about (you know, put two different species together from different planets and see what you get!?!).  It's more about the fundamentals of gender, how the differences are not societal pressures but truly hardwired into us, and how we can foster these seemingly ancient traditional roles.

Boys Adrift:  Are you wondering why there are so many young men still living at home with their parents at the age of 30!?!?  Example:  watch the movie Failure to Launch and you'll see what this guy's talking about (but I do recommend ClearPlay if you do watch it!).  This book addresses the WHYs of this epidemic and how to solve the problem. 

Girls on the Edge:  Oh my goodness!  I think every parent with girls needs to read this book.  I rarely "force" my husband to read a book.  This one will be the one!  And the great thing about this book, too, is that I learned so much about MYSELF while reading it.  Excellent!

So, go forth and read!! 

To find out more about what Dr. Sax is doing go to http://www.leonardsax.com/


Mentoring Mothers

Last year a few of us were talking about how nice it would be to create a setting where we mothers could sit and chat about the principles and keys of TJEd.  We wanted to see how others were applying things and create an edifying support group of sorts to hash out our educaitonal goals and purposes.  So, I started holding what we call Mentoring Mothers in my home once a month.  So far, each time has been so edifying for me and those who participate.  Last year we just took a principle/key (i.e. You, not Them or Classics not Textbooks) and explored them more in depth.  This year we will be exploring the PHASES (core, love of learning, scholar, depth, mission) under the principle of YOU, not THEM.  We mothers need to become secure in who we are first, understanding and accepting who we are and the phases we go through in life.  I thought I would just share some of the things we discussed.

This month we talked about three keys in the CORE phase:
** Virtures - putting the important things first
** Balance of Work & Play
We started with the question:
(put this up on your mirror!!)

"All I could think of [after she asked me that question] was that I didn't have time to be good example because I was so busy doing so many urgent and important tasks that never stopped coming. I ran around getting a lot of good things done, but I knew I wasn't any model of peace, sustainability, or healthful living. If people lived like me, we'd have a world of exhausted bodies and despairing hearts. But I also knew it was time - - time to be able to say it with integrity in my heart. So, can YOU say it out loud? "I am a great example of how I want the world to be!!" It is possible to say this with integrity, it really is, and it's worth working toward. It's the quickest way I know to deep happiness and peace, but it sure doesn't just happen."  - - Cat Charissage, It's Time (see tjedonline.com)

With this in mind, we talked about goal-setting . . . not necessarily as tasks we wanted to accomplish, but character traits we want to build, more like a personal mission statement.  One friend gave a great idea on how to write a mission statement.  Instead of putting things that you wanted or wished to be, make the statements as though it is already YOU. "I am smart. I am energetic. I am...."

We talked about putting virtures ahead of academics (for moms that means being too task oriented that we forget to make time for the character building) and how important it is that we make that time for ourselves to be alone, to evaluate our needs, and have interviews/discussions with our spouse and children.

Work vs. Play. Being women we can be so emotionally driven, right?!  We can get so caught up in the "to do" lists we forget to live in the moment.  Okay, maybe I just speak for myself on that one!  :-)  But seriously, sometimes I just wish I could be calm, cool and collected all of the time or be more playful with my children.  An article on tjedonline talks about Emotional Intelligence. 

"Emotional intelligence involves being aware of one's own feelings and being able to manage them effectively and being able to respond appropriately to other's feelings. This awareness of feelings in oneself and in others hould lead to quality relationships." - - Marilyn Robb

This quote spurred on a great discussion on how we can become "emotionally stable" (Secure, not Stressed!) and how part of going through the Core Phase personally requires letting go and/or accepting how you became who you are  (strengths & weaknesses!). 
We need to use them to "get back to our roots." Oliver DeMille suggests that we look at where our ancestory came from and read the classics from that location. Spanish: Cervantes, English: Shakespeare, Italian: Virgil, Greek: Homer, etc.... These are the books your ancestors were reading. These were the books that shaped their culture. Getting back to your roots brings that culture into your home for you and your family! I loved this. :-)

These meetings take place the 2nd Wed. of each month.  Next month we will be exploring relationships and gender roles.  I'll try to keep the notes coming after each one.  :-)


Books mentioned/used:
Joyful Mother of Children - Linda Eyre
Spiritual Lightening - M. Catherine Thomas
The New People Makers - Satir
Books that Build Character
Say Go Be Do - Tiffany Earl



Many years ago I read A Joyful Mother of Children by Linda Eyre and was struck by the idea of watching and listening for the "tone" in your home.  She said, "parents are the 'sound system' in the home, and the mother is the 'volume, balance,and station selector.'"  If you were to enter our home on any given day you would see we are not the quiet type.  We are loud!  We are talkative!  Loving, but strong-willed!   I've come to accept that family trait as "ours." However, oftentimes I've noticed that we will "freak out" before we communicate our needs. And I'm sure we all know what I mean by "freaking out!"

"Mom! He won't stop bugging me!" 
"Get out of my room!" 
"Stop playing with my things!"
"I can't concentrate!!" 

And so I am now training myself and my children to communicate before the frustration hits.  For instance, the other day A. was stirring marshmallows on the stove (for our delicious peach pies) when suddenly, without warning she blurted in exasperation, "I just need a stool!!!"  I simply asked her, "A., did you communicate that need before getting frustrated?"  That's it.  One simple question. 

I'm thrilled to say it's working!  I have seen progress, mostly in myself.  I react less often to their reactions because I have a question in my head just for these moments:  "Did you communicate before the frustration hit?"  Or if I hear some sibling rivalry happening, I simply say, "Communicate" and they (sometimes) catch the hint.

Changing the Tone in Your Home
Eyre also gives a guideline of how to make these types of changes in our homes. 

1. Write downt he behavior that causes problems in your home.  This can be a collective family weakness, the behavior of an individual child, your spouse or in yourself. 

2. Write how you usually react to that behavior when it occurs.

3. Write how you will react in the future

You cannot change bad habits simply by saying, "I'm not going to _____."  There needs to be a positive to replace the negative.  There needs to be a planned response.  For me, this week, it has been, "Did you communicate that need before getting frustrated?"  Just having that question in my mind has helped me to be calm rather than stressed, in control rather than reactionary.
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