Tuesday, November 18, 2014


We just finished a four-week math block for home school.  I like taking several weeks for a subject this way.  This is the first year I've been very organized with home schooling, and it is really wonderful.  I wish I'd been more organized before.  By organized, I mean I go through and do all the activities quietly by myself first, even ones I feel I remember well from my schooling.  There is always some aspect I need to refresh myself on, and just going through and imagining explaining it to someone else helps tremendously.  There is a difference between doing something well yourself and teaching someone else the same thing.  Every day has a predictable rhythm to what we do (although sometimes we do things different to accommodate all kinds of bumps that come from being at home - such as toddler messes, tantrums, and trying to get laundry/dinner done).

We always start with "Circle".  For this block we sang autumn songs ("Autumn is Here" and the pentatonic song, "November"), practiced French (fruits, counting to twenty), recited three different counting poems for first grade (not all at once, of course, for different weeks.  That would have been WAY  too much.  They were "One is the Sun", a finger game called "Dancing on the Shore", and then we sang "Twelve Days of Christmas" for the last week when we worked with twelve), did a 4th grade verse from Rudolf Steiner, and went through the 4 and 8 times tables on flash cards for Mirin.  (I used to feel very strongly opposed to flash cards, but Mirin likes them and they are really helping him.  It's good to be flexible and try different things and find what works).

For first grade we started off with learning Roman numerals and games with counting.  Then each day we focused on a new number, reflecting on what that number's significance is in the world and daily life.  From one to twelve, that took us three weeks (first grade is only four days a week).  I particularly liked seven because there are the days of the week, which also correspond to the Norse gods, and we just read Norse Myths for 4th grade.  Tuesday started out as Tyr's Day, Wednesday was Woden's Day, Thursday was Thor's day, etc.  I was so pleased to find that in French they are named after corresponding Roman gods.  Tuesday is Mardi - named after Mars, the god of war.  Tyr was also a god of war, and apparently it was traditional to declare war on Tuesday.  Even into Asia, Tuesday is associated with war.  Another delightful discover was that the seven visible planet stars - Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, also are connected to the days of the week and the ancient gods they are named for.

For fourth grade we reviewed adding, subtracting, multiplication and division, and also did slightly more complicated things.  The last two weeks were all about factoring, square numbers and primes.  Number Sense and Nonsense has been an invaluable book for this year.  For this block we used several of the activities, one of which was drawing as many rectangles as possible with numbers 1-25.  It was amazing how much you can see from the rectangles.  Square numbers and primes are wonderfully obvious, and factors are a matter of course when working with numbers this way.  Another great thing we learned about from this book was the Sieve of Eratosthenes that quickly sifts out prime numbers.  We also drew number patterns on a circle which made great shapes describing the relationships between numbers (for example, making a circle with 24 equal marks.  Drawing lines connecting multiples of three ends up as an octagon because 8 x 3 = 24)

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