Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mining and Marble Mazes

   I had some very sleepy boys this morning.  Two of them slept past 7!  I can't remember the last time that happened but I'm pretty sure it was long before we turned the clocks back.  The younger boys also had to feed the next door neighbor's cats and so we barely had time for breakfast before running out the door to karate.  Which means I didn't have to time to encourage them to grab some schoolwork for the car ride either.  We listened to our book on CD and the boys played Kindles.  I did encourage them to play educational games and Ian told me all the different ways Minecraft is educational while he played.  Evan and Alec both played Free Flow on their own Kindles.  They tried to argue that they had done school in the car on their kindles when we got home after karate.  That didn't fly.  Though I did debate about throwing up my hands and just watching to see what they'd do with their free time since I was feeling pretty tired too, but within just a few short minutes I was already seeing an increase of fighting and I find it works best in our house if I help them keep busy for at least a portion of our day. 
  Evan and I sat down to read another elephant and piggy book.  Today's book was called Should I Share My Ice Cream?  He did another great job reading and decoding.  Sometimes it feels like we're hardly making any headway since it's hard to see the day to day improvement but looking back we've grown by leaps and bounds since starting school in September.  I think it was a good decision not to push him to try reading more last year when all his public school friends were learning how to read; he just wasn't interested then and I feel like he's catching on faster now that he is interested.  Plus I have the added benefit of not having crushed his desire to read or listen to stories.  But I must admit I'm getting sick of hearing "oh, he's 7?  He should be reading already then, right?"  I try so hard to pull away from all the age/ education tie ins and just let my kids be, but it is pretty hard to keep my head down and ignore all the criticism. 
   Evan and I finished up his school day with a few quick workbook pages.  We worked on long vowel sounds today and did two pages in his phonics book working with the long a and the long e sounds.  For math he learned about the greater and less than sign.  I say he learned about the sign because he already knows what greater and less than mean and can easily apply those terms in real life.  His math workbook page had him counting up groups of stars, writing the numbers for each group and then drawing in the greater than or less than sign.  It was great because the stars were in lines of 10 so he also practiced counting by 10's and practiced writing his numbers (something that still makes me cringe!).  He did great on his page and was happy to have finished school in less than 20 minutes today.
   While I had been working with Evan, Alec had been working in his math workbook.  I had given him a quick lesson in multiplying two digit numbers by a one digit number and then set him to work on half of the problems.  I told him that if he could get them all correct he didn't have to do the rest.  I often make this deal with my boys because most workbook pages have tons of problems and practice questions on them but I believe that if they understand the concept enough not to get any wrong than they don't need a ton of problems to drive the point home.  He did great and told me it was easy.  He took his math minute today and got 14 of the 16 problems right today.  He's real hopeful to pass tomorrow. 
    When he was done with his math test he flipped the paper over and practiced writing his name in cursive using both hands.  He wanted to see how much harder it was to write with his left hand versus his right hand.  He tried over and over to duplicate his right handed signature using his left hand and compared the two.  He pointed out to me that it would have been even harder to do if he had a name that wasn't so loopy. 

Using his left hand

Not bad!

     We stopped for lunch and I read another chapter in Harry Potter while we all ate.  After lunch I convinced Ian to sit down with me and work in his math workbook too.  We worked on a page turning improper fractions into mixed fractions and then the bottom of the page had him working on turning mixed fractions back to improper fractions.  I was nervous about attempting this page with him.  Last time we tried to work on a fractions worksheet together it was pure torture and that's when I let him start skipping all around the book.  It went so smoothly today I couldn't believe it!  I reminded him of making mixed numbers out of improper fractions in the On A Roll dice game that he had been playing with Alec.  We did a few problems together and then he did the rest by himself.  I didn't make him do them all since he was doing so well.  I then showed him how instead of dividing and subtracting we'd be multiplying and adding and set him to work on making improper fractions.  I explained why they're called improper fractions and when we'd need to use improper fractions.  We got to the end of the lesson and I asked him if he remembered trying to do the opposite page on fractions a few months ago. He agreed that it was torture then and we both marveled at how much better it is to teach/ learn at his pace.  I don't feel like we've done all that much more with fractions in the past few months but I think just the passage of time and the fact that he was ready to learn them have made all the difference. 
   I was going to get Alec and Ian to do some more schoolwork when I saw that Alec and Evan had pulled out our Contraptions box of blocks and were working on building marble mazes with them.  Ian loves these blocks too and the next thing I knew they were all building with them.  They each made their own thing and had a ball.  They were problem solving, planning, adjusting, and comparing their structures.  They came out pretty neat too.  Evan built his in stages, trying out each stage before moving onto the next.
The rug wasn't working well for balancing blocks

we moved to the table and started small

he got a bit higher

He pulled the box over to catch his ball

He added a jump




   Ian's garage had a whole story to go along with it and I learned that the owner of the garage's wife was not happy with him because he had so many trucks and loaders.  It was cute.  He also used other items like sticky notes to help build his garage. 

His owner was out for a drive checking on his job site. 

 Alec sat down at the computer to listen to a Tumblebooks book called Tops and Bottoms through our library's web page.  I always forget our library has that option and so I was happy to see him engaged and reading along with the book.  The pages of the story are a bit animated too so it's just a bit different from reading a "real" book.  When he was done Ian reminded me that we had signed up to learn about a copper mine last week with a live web show.  Lucky for us it was still available to watch.
   We settled down to watch Dig Into Mining and learned all about copper mines.  We learned so much watching this 1 hours special and we can't wait for part 2 to come out.  We learned about the different types of rock, the rock cycle and how geologists study rocks.  We learned about all the jobs associated with mining, the different ways they keep mines safe, and their impact on the environment.  We learned about all the ways we use metals in our everyday life as well.  They had scientists showing how they take core samples, how they study core samples and what they use the samples for.  They showed us tests they run on rocks and minerals to determine what types of minerals they are.  We learned that diamonds are the strongest and talc is the weakest and their rating on a Mohs scale of mineral hardness.  It was pretty fascinating.  Ian is more determined than ever to mine now.  After the show there was a small interactive page called Metals in Your Everyday Life and he got to read through the different ways we come into contact with metals and check off the ones he uses. 

    While we were watching the video Alec was still hard at work on his marble run.  He ended up dismantling Ian's garage to have enough pieces to finish his.  Evan had moved onto playing some favorite board games on the WiiU using the Family Game Night game.  He had made his marble maze over a few times and even added a jump before getting tired of rebuilding.  Alec used his blocks to add to his structure too and complained that even with the whole box of blocks he still didn't have enough pieces to build what he had planned.  He modified his structure, ran a few last balls through and declared it done. 

It's really shaping up now. 

For the final touch, he too used the box
 to catch his ball

The completed ball tunnel

    Ian tried to put some more of his wooden airplane together and then set it aside to dry again.  He went outside to dig in the dirt and "opened two more mining cuts" in his site.  He quickly came in though since it was pretty cold outside today.  He settled down to watch a few more Magic School Bus episodes. 

   Alec went to play Wii with Evan and they played Battleship for a bit. They went on to play Sorry!, Sorry! Sliders, and Connect Four.  They would have played some more but they heard Ian start up the Magic School Bus movie and they decided to abandon one screen choice for another.  They watched the Magic School Bus Under Construction and learned about building bridges.  We'll be putting what they learned today to use tomorrow when they build a nice strong bridge out of toothpicks and marshmallows. 

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