Monday, September 21, 2009

Week 4, day 1

Inspired by the acquisition of the Math on the Level curriculum, I added more math games and activities to our day than usual. I let the kids play with construction paper cutouts of a variety of shapes while I exercised and showered. They spent much of the time instead pretending to be volcanoes, erupting from P's bed onto the floor. Nothing broke this time.

Our Bible lesson and calendar went smoothly, and I paid attention to which concepts on the "beginning math student record-keeping" sheet from MOTL we covered while doing the calendar. There's actually quite a bit - number recognition, patterns (which day comes after this one), simple addition (Friday was the 18th, and that was 3 days ago...), understanding temperature (since we go outside, feel the weather, and then read the thermometer). P was happier to do her handwriting lesson today, so I think we'll either alternate days - "wet-dry-try" day and workbook day - or do a bit of each on any given day. Today's workbook page covered letters we'd done "wet-dry-try" for on Friday, and she happily, readily wrote the letters neatly and in the right place.

The language arts activities included introducing a new letter, looking at the picture dictionary pages, and making a letter sheet. P has been looking forward to the letter sheet all week, and was thrilled that Monday was finally here. The copywork didn't go quite as well. P traced our city, state, and zip very well, and then started to copy it hovering above the next set of lines, instead of on them. I insisted that she write on the lines, and she began to wail and moan. Finally, sulkily, she copied the words and numbers beautifully. It strikes me that this child doesn't like any restrictions on doing things exactly how it occurs to her to do them the first time. Unfortunately, she just has to deal.

E's school was fun for him: he had 2 bags, each containing 8 strips of paper coloured red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown, and black. I placed one of the bags under the fish tank (the instructions suggested using a large box for the child to crawl into, but we didn't have one). He was to choose a strip of paper at random from the one bag, name the colour, crawl under the fish tank, and search through the other bag for the matching strip of paper. At first he was discouraged by the fact that the first several strips he drew from the under-fish-tank bag didn't match his strip, but I suggested that he simply look at each non-matching strip, say to it, "Not this one," and put it aside. This worked well, and he completed the task without too much difficulty. After he'd made a few pairs, I asked him how many colours he had. He counted the strips instead, and continued to do this after each pair, eventually counting the strips accurately to 16.

P, meanwhile, thought this looked like fun and wanted me to let her have a turn immediately. I told her that tomorrow she and E could both play the game, but today it was E's school and she needed to back off and let him finish it without help. She wailed, fussed, and moaned, begging and pleading with me to change my mind and implying that I didn't love her nearly as much as E. Of course, E doesn't do handwriting or copywork, and when the language arts activity involves telling a story, she's the only one who does that. Pointing out these facts didn't do much for her mood. I ordered her to come and sit on my lap, and held her while she calmed down. Eventually I gave her the choice between making a book about Canada before lunch and playing dominoes afterward, or doing the dominoes immediately and making the book after lunch. She insisted that she wasn't at all interested in making a book about Canada, but I double checked a few minutes later when she was calmer, and she decided that she wanted to do it, right now, on the condition that she could do it while sitting on her bed. I think she wanted to be sitting on my lap on her bed, but I chose not to understand that part of the request because it wouldn't be practical. She moved to the table partway through as the difficulties of drawing a polar bear while balancing her small book and a large book to copy from on a 10 cm wide bedframe became clear to her. It turned out well, though the map of Canada that I traced for her was hard to trace through the paper and I had to fudge several of the coastlines. She included a flag, a map, an Inuit man, a totem pole, a polar bear, a moose, and some maple leaves. Tomorrow (or the day after): on to Mexico!

After lunch, I played dominoes with the kids - modified versions of both chicken foot and Mexican Train. I dropped frustrating rules like not being able to do anything until doubles are completed. After we'd finished playing dominoes, P wanted to play card games, so they put the dominoes away (huzzah! We have all 28 now!) and we played Go Fish and War. E participated in Go Fish, sitting next to P so she could see his cards and correct what he asked for: "No, E! That's not a 9, it's a 10! So I DON'T have one. GO FISH!" Most of the time she was pretty gentle. It's nice that she's capable enough to correct him. Neither child has any sense of holding the cards so that others can't see them, but at this stage that's better.

By the end of Go Fish, E had had enough of card games, but P was completely gung-ho for War. We played until she actually won. It's rare for us both to have enough patience to complete a game of War, but I guess I got unlucky (really, lucky) with which cards I dealt myself. For many of the pairs, I encouraged her not just to say, "7 is bigger than 5, so I win," but to tell me by how much she won. She had no trouble with numbers separated by 1, 2, or when I had an ace (which we used as a 1) and she had a large number. For the rest, I showed her how to cover on the bigger card the number of symbols on the smaller card, and count the leftovers. She became quite proficient, so this will be a great way to work on learning subtraction facts. We didn't worry about assigning values to the face cards, they were just described as "a lot bigger" than the number cards. At the end of the game, I showed her equal, greater than, and less than signs on the chalkboard, and she readily grasped the explanation that the mouth is hungry and wants to eat the bigger number.

I set the kids up playing Mighty Mind while I did some of my CBS (Bible study) homework. P completed an impressively challenging card, given how reluctant she was to do any of them a year ago, and E enjoyed playing with the easier ones. Today's activities covered a lot of math - the only major "beginning math" concept we didn't touch on was identifying and counting money, which we can do by playing "store" later this week. I like the ideas for this in MOTL, so I may have the kids go through a catalog later in the week to identify things to establish as permanent "store merchandise" to pretend to buy. Given their enjoyment of the letter sheet, I anticipate that this will be quite popular.

Tomorrow is Titmouse Club again. Hooray!

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