An Accidental, Mathematical, Poetical Teatime

“That’s my parawewogram!”

“No, it’s mine!  See?!”

“Oh, yeah. {giggle} Mine is hidin’ under the poetwy book.”  {giggle, giggle}

They’re arguing over a parallelogram?  They’re arguing over a parallelogram!  Woohoo!  This is big news!  Not the arguing.  That happens everyday. But the fact that these little ones even care about parallelograms at all. That’s the best news of the week. 

But I must confess, I didn’t teach them this.  It wasn’t some heroic effort on my part that blessed them with the knowledge of the parallelogram.  If anything, it was because I was lazy! 

You see, I’ve got six kids ranging in age from three to thirteen, and sometimes homeschooling all of them just overwhelms me.  Keeping up with six unique learners takes everything that this introverted mama has.  Sometimes I just run out of juice.  Do you know what I mean?  Have you ever felt that way?  That’s what happened on the parallelogram morning.

Every lesson doesn’t need to be laid out in the plan book.  The best learning happens, often by accident, when good things come together to create a spark of connection.  That’s what I learned on the parallelogram morning.

I woke up late, scrambling into the morning.  The list of learning activities I had planned for the day would require much more time than my late start would allow.  As I poured a strong cup of tea and dolloped it with honey, my phone dinged.  Another reminder from the library.  “That whole stack of books you took out.  They’re due. Yesterday.” 

In the first five minutes of my morning, I was greeted with all the balls I’d dropped.  Late library books, late nights and late mornings.  Late.  Late.  Late. 

I cheered myself with a few bites of chocolate while I piled the books onto the kitchen table - mostly math themed poetry books I’d been using to plan a co-op class.  I’ve homeschooled long enough to know that this day was headed one of two ways: into the nothing-goes-right kind of day or into the let’s-make-the-most-of-it-and-see-what-happens kind of day.  The choice was mine. 

Seeing those math books stacked up, knowing we needed to make the most of our morning, I grasped forinspiration.  Thankfully, I found a thread of it and held on tight.  We’ll do math and poetry together, all together. 

That’s when a little bit of magic happened.  At least that’s how I prefer to see the chaos that followed. 

Tangrams were dug out of the back of the closet.  Muffins baked in the oven, dangerously close to burning, while pages spewed from my printer onto the floor.  The geometric coloring sheets I’d bookmarked the week before were saving my day. 

In the midst of all this distraction I heard, “That’s my parawewogram!”

It stopped me in my tracks.  I braced for the argument that I expected to come.  And then melted as the exchanged played out.  My kids were learning from each other simply because I was lazy and hit the snooze button.  Simply because I had chosen a let’s-make-the-most-of-it-and-see-what-happens kind of day.  Simply because there was a spark of connection between my children and the engaging materials which were sitting way-too-close to a puddle of almond milk on the kitchen table.  Learning was happening despite my scatteredness. 

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One by one children found their places around the table, lured by the smell of cinnamon.  One by one, they picked up colored pencils and tangrams, rulers and poetry books.  Mathematical riddles, disguised as poems, were passed around along with warm muffins.  Belly laughs and quiet moments of concentration took turns dancing through our kitchen.  Our morning, though late to start, was long in the best sort of way. 

Math and poetry had accidentally collided.  And for that, I have to thank the snooze button. 

Want your own mathematical, poetical teatime? 
I’ve got the tools for you listed below.

 


The Stack of Overdue Library Books ( plus a few favorites)

The Best of Times, Gregory Tang
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie, J. Patrick Lewis
Marvelous Math, Lee Bennett Hopkins
Math Curse, Jon Scieszka
Math Talk: Mathematical Ideas in Poems for Two Voices, Theoni Pappas
The Grapes of Math, Greg Tang
Math for All Seasons, Greg Tang

Our Favorite Math "Toys"

I love to "accidentally" leave math manipulatives and games out on the kitchen table.  My early risers find them there and dig into some before dawn learning.  As the rest of the crew wakes and meanders into the living room, games are underway.    They made a great addition to our poetry teatime too!

The Geometric Coloring Designs

These coloring pages are open-ended and created a lot of math-focused discussion at the level of each child.  We talked about patterns, angles, similarities and differences in shapes and lots more.

 

What are your favorite ways to sneak some math into your day?  Share in the comments!

A Brave Writer Inspired Homeschool Planning Guide

If you don't already know, I'm a huge fan of the Brave Writer Lifestyle.  That's because it's much, much more than writing guides or a homeschool curriculum.  It is a lifestyle.  Of connection.  Of flexibility.  Of engaged learning.  All of which I want in my home and I'm guessing you do too.

To allow for the flexibility the Brave Writer Lifestyle offers, I created a Brave Writer Inspired homeschool planning guide.  It's nothing more than a graphic that I've printed off and tucked into the front of my planner.  But despite it's simplicity, it has become an integral part of my monthly, weekly, and sometimes daily planning.

I learned long ago that for things to flow smoothly in our homeschool and for us to make the most of our precious days together, I need to be intentional with our time.  I need to think ahead to include things like Poetry Tea Time or a trip to the theater. 

The graphic lists core learning areas that we intend to work on each week, sometimes multiple times a week.  Our work with The Wand ,  The Arrow , and The Writer's Jungle are part this time.  The bi-weekly section are activities, we typically enjoy every other week,  while the Block schedule section lists the subjects that we aim to explore in an extended block of time throughout the month.  Sometimes we get to all three in a week, but some months we find ourselves immersed in a science or history topic that we just don't want to pull away from.

The icing on the cake are the things we sprinkle throughout the year.  Our Documentary Day   and family movie night happen quite regularly, especially during the winter months.  Party school, a time when we celebrate a topic we're learning about through a themed party, happens only 2-3 times a year. 

As you can see, there is a lot of flexibility with this approach.  If you're a family that loves science, maybe that would be listed in Core Learning.  Perhaps you have a co-op day so you need to do a long math block on Thursdays.  With the Brave Writer Lifestyle, you can do that!  The beauty is that every family can tailor it to their own needs and interests.  You can take some.  Leave some.  Change it up.  Whatever works for you.  In doing so, I think you'll find the engaged learning and connection with your kids that is at that heart of a happy homeschool.  Feel free to pin a copy from my Pinterest page.  Happy Homeschooling!

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Documentary Day: February Edition

The days of winter are short, but they can feel so long, especially when you’re home all day.  Sibling squabbles, sniffles & sleepless nights, long weeks of gray skies can start to wear on even the most enthusiastic of homeschool moms (and kids).   If this sounds like you and your family, I’ve got a solution for you: Documentary Day!

Documentary day started last winter, as a way for me to take a breath during the closed-in, kids-have-so-much-energy days. It was my way of pausing, while continuing to remain engaged in meaningful learning.  What started as a tool for surviving the winter months, became an anticipated space for connection with new ideas and each other.  Together, my kids and I were exploring the world without leaving our living room.   We had big, juicy conversations about history, science, art, and music.  By listening to my own needs and the needs of my family, we found treasure in learning together.

So now, each month, through every season, I look for documentaries to complement our studies and special events.  I keep a list of YouTube links handy so that all I have to do is open and click.  Or I reserve DVDs from our local library.  This small amount of planning allows us the freedom to use Documentary Day in a variety of ways. 

3 Ways to Use Documentary Day:

 

  1. Choose one day each week to watch a film.  For the month of February we’re choosing Friday evenings. 
     
  2. Choose a day or two a month.  We once binge-watched a whole series of wildlife documentaries.  At the time I wondered if it was a good idea to spend all afternoon two days in a row watching documentaries.  Our next trip to the library proved it was a fruitful choice.  As I watched my kids sit among stacks of animal books, I knew that they were truly learning.  Sparked by the images and information the documentaries provided, they were insatiable for weeks with all things wildlife.
     
  3. Keep your list handy for an S-O-S.  This can be a Save-Our-Sanity day or an honest-to-goodness sick day.  Either way, you’ll be glad you have a list of educational films to nourish the mind while the body rests.

February's Documentary List:

*Please use your own judgment about whether or not a film is appropriate for your family.  I have included documentaries of various maturity levels.  There are countless other documentaries that could be included.  If you have a suggestion, I’d love to hear about it!  Please share it in the comments.


Black History Month:
Animated Hero Classics: Harriet Tubman
Up from Slavery
 This links to the trailer for the 7-part series.  I highly recommend previewing this before sharing it with your children.  It is definitely more appropriate for high school age.

Chocolate, in honor of Valentine’s Day (February 14):
The Dark Side of Chocolate: Stop the Modern Child Slavery - History Channel
How Stuff Works: Secrets of Chocolate - Discovery Channel

Great Backyard Bird Count (February 17-20):
Snowy Owl - National Geographic
Hummingbird - National Geographic

Presidents’ Day (February 20):
The Presidents 1789-1825 - History Channel, series
Animated Hero Classics: George Washington

Engineering Week (February 19-25):
Engineering an Empire: Ancient Greece - History Channel
Hoover Dam - National Geographic  

Artists:
Art Institute of Chicago - Sister Wendy series