April 16, 2014

Math Takes All Kinds


We pulled out some folder activities for school work today just to do something a little different and because almost everything else is packed in a box.  Including the batteries for my camera, so please excuse the poor quality of my phone pics.   Folder activities have a way of feeling like more fun than regular school work just by virtue of being in a colorful folder, and the kids feel a little bit like they're getting away with something when we do them.

With the perimeter folder, I had a really fun time just observing how very different their approaches are to math.  The boys, when handed the same stack of materials, use them in completely different ways and still come to the right answer.

Yesterday I allowed the boys to just tinker with the perimeter folder.  Basically, they take a card that tells them how many bricks around a rectangular building should be, and then they take that amount of bricks and make the rectangle.  Sounds easy enough, but when you just randomly go at it, pretty much every time you'll either close the rectangle and have bricks left over or the ends will never actually connect.

I let the boys try and fail as long as they wanted yesterday, huffing that it just never quite worked out and determining to try again.  Today, however, I guided them with some questions.  "What do we know is true of all rectangles?"  They agreed that they all have two sets of same length sides and that those sets are not the same length, or else it becomes a square.

I just randomly grabbed a handful of bricks from the pile and gave them to Hunter, and gave Haven what was left.  "So, if Hunter's pile of bricks make up one set of sides and Haven's make up the other, what should you both do to determine how long your set of sides will be?"  Again, both boys agreed that they needed to divide them equally.

But how they went about it was so different.  Haven immediately started counting his bricks.  Hunter watched for a second and the rolled his eyes and got busy dealing his like cards into two equal piles on opposite sides of his pencil.

Doesn't he look like he's talking you into buying a car?

Haven said, "I have twenty-two bricks.  Now I just need to know what number I can add to itself to get twenty-two!"  Haven was proud of himself for his plan, but Hunter huffed, "You mean you want to divide twenty-two by two and then the answer will be eleven. Okay?"  I explained that those were two ways of saying the same thing, so technically Haven was on the right path.

Haven wasn't at all bothered by this kind of interruption.  In fact, he looked wowed by his brother's quick assessment and just said, "Hmm, I think you're right!  Eleven!"  and began to count out eleven.


Hunter just counted the bricks on one side of the pencil and called it a day.  I would normally consider Hunter's approach of just sorting out physical objects and counting them later to be a lower order approach, but he clearly demonstrated that he understood Haven's way, and just preferred not to use it.  Haven tried Hunter's way on the next round, didn't like it, and went back to his way.

Once they had both come up with the size of their walls, they put their bricks together to make a rectangle on the table.  They both seemed a little shocked that it worked out after all of the trying and failing to construct a simple rectangle with a given perimeter the day before.  They stayed at the table and did a few more and Haven came into my room and said, "Mom, it works like every single time! Isn't that weird?"

"Nope!  It's math!  It really works every time once you figure out how to approach it instead of just guessing."  He beamed a super proud smile, puffed his chest out a little, and exited with a little more swagger than he had when he came in.  He was feeling all math proud and that made me feel all Momma proud.

It got me thinking about the trend to have kids solve every math problem 4 ways.  I think it stems from the very positive realization that there is more than one way to get to the right answer and that all ways to that answer are valid.  Still, if we understand that kids all think differently, maybe we should allow them to arrive at the answer in their own way without forcing them to learn everyone else's way.  I mean, for some kids, we're just lucky if they find one way that works for their brain.  Why then burden them with an obligation to get the right answer 3 other ways that are less intuitive for them?

I'm feeling happy that the boys have the luxury of doing it how they do it without worrying about having to do it some other way.  I did mention to them, though, that with the Common Core testing, they'll probably be asked to do it several ways, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to just make mental note of what the other one is doing.

Hands-on lessons like these always teach me so much about how the kids learn.  So much fun!

April 14, 2014

Kids and Consumerism


The kids have been flying through their core academics lately and we've got all of this left over instructional time to fill.  It's been a lovely problem to have. The kids voted to spend our extra time on self-improvement type classes to get ready for a completely new life in Oregon.  I'm on board with that!

Today we tackled the issue of consumerism.  I think we talk a fair amount about this on a pretty regular basis, but I don't feel like it has really sunken in for them. They know the language of non-consumerism, but they live in a world of stuff.  Everything is easy to come by and plentiful.  They have no notion of anything being irreplaceable.  They live in a disposable world.

We had a year of no spending that ended in February, in which the kids' meager allowances accrued and went unspent for a full year.  We didn't go to the Dollar Tree for random junk, we didn't buy toys or clothes that were unnecessary, and we didn't buy junk for the kids just because they didn't have their own money to spend.  I had hoped that they would experience how fine they are without bringing new stuff into the house all the time.

But stuff still came in at a pretty steady rate because you can't make everyone else stop giving your kids stuff.  It is just a fact of American life.  How do you raise a non-consumer in a world that gives your kids major piles of junk on so many occasions?  It's never ending!  You'd have to be a hermit to avoid it.  

Consider birthdays.  Why does there have to be a gift for every guest?  And for siblings?  There's only one birthday kid at the party and it seems kind of crazy that now it's considered a lousy party if every kid doesn't come home with their own gifts.  And kids go to so many birthday parties that the house quickly fills with small, unnecessary plastic objects that get stepped on and thrown out. What a waste!

 Hannah Jane even asked this past year for her guests to bring a small donation for her favorite charity instead of a gift and all but a few guests brought a gift and a donation.  The idea of no gift was unimaginable.

My dear friend recently saw some dinosaurs that made her think of Hunter.  She bought them for him, but then felt like she had to give Hannah Jane and Haven something of equal value, so she pulled out the receipt, calculated the cost and decided to give the other two the cash value of the dinosaurs.  But then she worried that Hunter would wish that he had gotten cash as well, so she added five bucks to everyone's gift so that he would also have what they had.  I mean, very sweet and clearly thoroughly thought out gift.  But completely unnecessary.  If anything, kids should really learn that in life, nothing is handed out in equal portions all the time.  I'm pretty sure Hannah Jane and Haven would have been happy for Hunter and I'm pretty sure he'd have shared the dinos.  But instead, a kind gesture turned into the kids making bank on a random Friday afternoon because my dear friend had clearly stressed a great deal over the fairness of this transaction.  In the end, it felt unfair to the gift giver that she felt she had to consider so many issues just to give a kid a dinosaur.  

Long story short, consumerism feels almost unavoidable.  Like there's no real polite way to opt out. 

So today when our regular school work was done, we watched this really great video called the Story of Stuff.  We paused it regularly because some of the concepts that were mentioned in passing were over the heads of the 6-10 crowd, like the fact that you can't sustain a linear model in a finite system.  But overall, I thought it was very kid friendly and engaging.

In the end, Hunter's response was, "I already figured all of that out.  That's why I tell you not to drive so much.  We should just ride our bikes everywhere.  Then we wouldn't pollute and we wouldn't have time to buy so much stuff."  He's a simple, cut to the chase kind of man.  I like it.  I'll never be sure, though, if he cares about the planet as much as he claims to, or if he simply sees it as a reasonable excuse to spend more time on his bike.  Either way, I like the plan!

Hannah Jane expressed a great deal of shame and the feeling that she might not be strong enough to do the right thing in a country of super consumers.  This is when Haven mentioned his new plan to run for president, ban commercials and limit what people can buy.  This is always his solution to every problem.  When he was just 3, he started saying, "When I grow up, I'm going to be the government," and he still says that at least weekly.  "That's wrong!  I'm going to be the government and fix it!"

We had lots of great discussion after the video and I encouraged the kids to not just feel bad about the situation, but come up with practical ways to step out of the consumerism cycle.  Haven added, "If you feel bad about yourself because you're a consumer, then you'll just go out and buy something to try to make yourself feel better!  And then it will never end!  Stop it!  Stop it!"  Hannah Jane laughed and said with his enthusiasm, maybe he really should run for president.

Tomorrow we're going to work on a family list of kid friendly ways to resist participating in super consumerism.  These kids are pretty interested in this topic, so I expect we'll get a pretty good list.

April 6, 2014

Looking Forward to Oregon!

Doing so much work to get the house ready for someone else to love is kind of a bummer.  Okay, it's a big bummer.  We're ready to leap forward and get on to the next big adventure, and instead we're washing windows that we never ever washed for ourselves, so that someone else can have a nice view.  But that's part of it.

To keep our spirits high while we're doing more dirty work than we've ever done before, I'm focusing on what we have to look forward to.  That's pretty easy to do, being that we've never stopped loving Oregon!

But we've never lived in Corvallis, so I'm filling my free moments digging around online, finding things that I want to check out when we arrive.

Things I already love bout Corvallis: 

1.  The Corvallis public library website is thebestlibrary.net  I like a city with library pride!  We have long suffered with a tiny library that never has the book we're looking for, in a county that doesn't see the point in moving to a county-wide library system because the average tax payer apparently doesn't read much.  In fact, our current library might be interested in the web address smallwithmanymormonbooksandnotalotelse.net  I don't know.  Maybe that one was taken. I haven't actually seen our new library just yet, but with a web address like that, I'm sure it at least aspires to greatness.  That is enough for me.  
2.  Corvallis has actual bike lanes AND some bike paths that are off the road for super safe family bike riding. According to wikipedia, in 2009 Corvallis had the highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the United States.  That's pretty cool.  We're looking forward to NOT getting in the car every day.  I'm feeling like I'd rather own a dumpy house in town and bike everywhere than have a McMansion in the country and have to get in the car for every single outing.  But we'll see.  Maybe I'll fall in love with a McMansion and change my mind.  Looks like we'll be renting in line with  my dump but in-town vision so we can try it on for a while and see how it feels.  

3.  There's no mall (that I can find, anyway).  I think I find myself in the mall about 4 times a year and I always feel like a small part of my soul has been stolen.  It's a necessary evil when Joe needs new work shirts, but other than that, I see no reason to ever set foot in the mall.  The fact that a mall doesn't even exist there kind of brightens my day.  

4.  In addition to there being no mall, there IS Goodwill.  I have missed Goodwill so much!  In fact, on our vacation/job interview, that's what we did with our free afternoon.  We went shopping at the Goodwill for summer clothes for the kids just in case we weren't going to be back where there are cheap second hand clothes again any time soon.  Here, there's no Goodwill.  There's the DI, which is an LDS version of Goodwill, which is fine except their prices are ridiculously high for used stuff.  It's cheaper to buy new at Ross than to buy at the DI.  I don't think a second hand boy's shirt with a missing button should ever be $5.  It should be a buck.  Period.  And now it will be once more.  

6.  It's close enough that we can go have clam chowder at the coast on a semi-regular basis.  I don't actually like clam chowder all that much, but Joe does and it makes for an excellent excuse to go to the beach.  Oh, to live close enough to enjoy the beach on a more regular basis! 

7.  Hiking, hiking, hiking in the green, green, green!  That's right!  Green!  Not brown or yellow or on fire.  Green and wet and fresh and clean!  When we moved here, I thought I would grow to love the brown mountains.  I love them when there's snow on them, but I never did figure out how to appreciate the brown.  Maybe I have a narrow vision, but the brown simply doesn't speak to my soul like the green.

There's more, but seven is a nice lucky number so we'll call it good there.

I am so ready to make this move!  Ready!  I feel like I should be trying to savor my last moments in Utah rather than rushing past them to get to Oregon, but my heart is ready to take the leap and be there already.  Peeking ahead to our new home town is making these last few days more bearable.

March 31, 2014

Holi Festival at the Spanish Fork Krishna Temple

Somehow things have just worked out for me to knock some seriously great things off of my bucket list this year.  My final big hoorah in Utah was finally getting to attend the Holi Festival of Colors at the Spanish Fork Krishna Temple.  I've wanted to go absolutely every single year, but it has just never worked out.  It's such a huge deal, I was going to be really sad to leave Utah without having been but it just all fell perfectly together.  

My dear sweet Barb drove out with Hannah Jane and I.  And then an out of town-ish friend, Lori, and her daughter were able to make it out so that we could say our goodbyes in a cloud of color.  It really was quite the day.

Hannah Jane and I danced like we haven't ever danced in public.  We let loose and giggled and participated in the wild energy of the party.  She and I usually hold back a little.  It felt good to be in a crowd and just go with it.  I said, "You were really dancing in there, kiddo!"  and she nodded.  "I'm never going to see any of those people again, so why not?"  I'm hoping we can drag some of that fun into every day life with people we actually will see again.  Just learn to have fun.  Utah has, in a way, sucked a lot of our care free energy away and made us all a little hyper sensitive to appearances.  It felt so liberating to just be there where no one is really watching what you're doing because they're so busy living their own experience.  

There was yoga, chanting, loud DJs with driving tracks yelling, "We're all one!  Say it with me!  We're all different and we're all one!"  And the crowd would go wild.  Each hour there was a mass color throw and before the countdown they would announce, "If you're short, hug someone tall!  If your white, hug someone black!  If you're fat, hug someone thin!  We're family!  Get together!  Free hugs!"  There was hip hop music about forgiveness, monks who talked to us about meditating and praying for the world.  It was all just so much to take it.  The sounds, the colors, the flavors.  It was perfection.  

I'll stop rambling now and just get to the video. I highly recommend this particular festival if you ever get the chance to hit Spanish Fork in the spring.  

Happy Holi!  
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