Thursday, October 1, 2009

Week 5, days 3 and 4

Yesterday was "Oma Day", when my mother-in-law (whom the kids call Oma) takes the kids out for the morning and brings them back after lunch, and I go to Arabic Bible study. When they got back, P was tearful. In fact, she cried a solid 5 minutes before even coming inside, and then sat on my lap and sobbed for another minute or two before she was able to explain what the problem was. Through sniffles, I heard that she had been given a choice between 2 kids' meal toys at the Sonic where they ate lunch. Oma had suggested that she choose one toy - quite emphatically, as I later heard - and she had ignored the advice and chosen the other. Now she was thoroughly dissatisfied with her choice, wished she could have chosen the other toy, and was upset that the opportunity to do so was lost. After about 10 more minutes I had finished my lunch and decided that we needed to start school, if only to distract P from this little childhood tragedy which was still causing the occasional whimper. Before we started, I suggested that if E was completely happy to do so, perhaps she could ask him to trade his toy for hers. E was quite willing, and they traded, which finally put an end to the shaky breathing and trembling lower lip.

After we were done with Bible, calendar, handwriting (P asked to do 2 letters instead of just 1) and language arts, I gave P her first "5-a-day" math worksheet. Looking through the MOTL "Beginning Math Student Record Sheet", I realized that the only basic math concept on the sheet that she hasn't fully grasped is identifying and counting money. However, we haven't done much written work, and she needs practice writing numbers, so I wanted to see how she'd do with a worksheet. I used concepts I knew she was familiar with: simple addition and subtraction, sequencing, number recognition, greater than and less than. She needed a fair bit of explanation and encouragement from me, but she got 4 of the 5 problems right (the one she missed was recognizing the number 12 and drawing that number of hearts - she was quite able to draw 12 hearts once I told her it was a 12). At first I thought perhaps she wasn't ready for the seatwork yet, but mulling it over I decided that the main area she's weak on is translating her intuitive grasp of math concepts to written form, and the 5-a-day is a good way to make sure we cover written math as well as just concepts.

After P had successfully completed her 5-a-day (despite E crawling under their child-size table and then attempting to stand up, almost toppling the table and wrecking one of the hearts P was drawing), we started looking at the Caribbean. On the Markable Map, I labelled the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea (to E's chagrin, as he wanted to trace all the places his imaginary Friend Lion had visited and I wouldn't let him), and identified Cuba, Haiti/Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. I had found 5 different articles on the region among my awesome collection of National Geographic magazines, from just a few years ago as well as the 1980s, 70s, and 60s (I knew, back when they were taking up half my room at Caltech, that they'd come in handy sometime), so the kids and I looked at the pictures: coral reefs, hurricane damage, sea turtles, sugar cane, and the contrast between rich tourists and impoverished locals.

When we were done looking at the National Geographics, Opa (my father-in-law) asked to do an experiment with the kids. Several weeks back, he had brought a sun-bleached cow bone as a present for E, and tried to partly dissolve a fragment of it in vinegar. This didn't work, so Ari bought some hydrochloric acid with which they half-filled a jar and placed the bone fragment in it. The bone completely dissolved, leaving almost no traces, though the colour of the HCl changed. Now, Opa wanted to show the kids what happened when various types of rock were placed in the HCl. After a lecture on the implications of the HCl dissolving the bone and what this might mean if it got onto anyone's skin, we went outside with the jar of HCl. I was there to enforce the safety rules, but Opa performed the experiment. He first placed fragments of meta-sediment and quartz into the jar, and not much happened. Then a scrap of concrete was placed in the jar, and it bubbled quite a bit. Opa explained that concrete was made partly of quartz and partly of calcium carbonate, which is found in corals and shells. He had some coral pieces, and a fragment of that was placed in the HCl, where it bubbled significantly more than the concrete had. It was explained that the bubbles were carbon dioxide, though I'm not sure whether anyone but me was listening. The children were impressed, and my presence was found to be useful as P became more excited than sense would warrant and I stopped her from getting too close.

Note to the reader: I did not love the idea of combining preschoolers and hydrochloric acid. I really didn't love it at all. But Ari didn't completely share my feelings (he bought the HCl, after all), and as his dad did this sort of experiment with him throughout his childhood and he survived unscathed, I decided not to put my foot down. My mother-in-law was more inclined to my view of things, so I at least took comfort in not being the only one unexcited about the idea.

Today, after CBS and lunch, we needed to make a new calendar page, it being October 1. I taped 4 sheets of printer paper together to make a large sheet of paper, and the kids watched while I drew squares with a ruler, wrote the days of the week, numbered the days, and taped the new calendar to a pair of flattened, empty cereal boxes for support. P did her handwriting page happily, and for E's school we revisited the coloured egg activity. This time, he was able to identify which of the 4 different colours of eggs I removed almost every time (particularly when I threatened him with packing up his school immediately when he started being silly). P got every question on her 5-a-day right, this time with no help except in reading the questions. I asked her if she enjoyed this kind of thing, and she said that she did. She seemed quite happy at the idea of doing a 5-a-day every day, so I'm going to go for it.

We read (actually, mostly looked at the pictures in) a book about oceans, and then re-read the book Big Numbers (And Pictures That Show How Big They Really Are). This is the one that shows the number of peas increasing by powers of 10, so that 100,000 peas make a large pile on the table, whereas 100,000,000 peas fill the kitchen and half the dining room, and a quadrillion peas make a mountain. The kids had both expressed disappointment when the book had to be returned to the library, though today they didn't look at it with quite as rapt attention as when we first read it.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon cutting out and assembling pictures of coins on index cards to make a memory game. All the possible ways to make 1 to 10 cents are represented, in addition to a quarter. We could also use the cards for a game like "War". I look forward to playing the game with the kids tomorrow.

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