# 5 Nontraditional ways we’ve learned math this week

I just found this post in a window of my computer, unfinished, from last week.  Since I wrote this we’ve been to Cincinnati and back, and have done all sorts of other learning.  That’s another post, though!  🙂

You know we’re never very traditional, and that includes math.  The kids do some math through more conventional means like Khan Academy, Prodigy (a free site that uses Pokemon-style games to teach math concepts) and worksheets, but they also do it in all kinds of not-so-typical ways.  Here are a few that we’ve done this week:

1. Playing darts:  We got an electronic dart board at a thrift store a couple of months ago and it’s been a great source of fun.  We typically play 301.  You take turns tossing three darts at a time trying to get down to 0 from 301 points.  Once you get near zero, if you go over, you bust and your turn is over.  You can hit any number between 1 and 20, bulls eye (25) or double bulls eye (50), plus you can get doubles or triples of 1-20.  The kids are constantly figuring out what numbers they (or we) need to get exactly the points they have left.  For instance, if they are down to 51, they’ll call out “Triple 17!”.  Then if someone hits another number instead, they’ll figure out what combinations of darts they can use to still get zero that round from the new number.  They’re good at figuring out if there are doubles or triples of anything to get a necessary number, and also of recognizing prime numbers that mean it’s impossible to get to zero that round.
2. Mad scientist math:  We’ve been doing this for years and did it again in the car yesterday on the way to Mankato.  Daryl and I took turns asking the kids weird mad scientist questions (If a mad scientist made cats that had 5 legs and 3 tails each, how many more tails and legs would 3 of his cats have compared to regular cats?) and other oddball questions.  Daryl asked Jack a tricky question about battling a hydra — if every time you cut off one of its heads it grows two back, how many heads will it have after x many times you’ve chopped its heads off?  We also did lots of Vikings football player volume ones (how many can you fit in a swimming pool and such, like these at Magical Homeschool).  The kids love them and they really get them thinking about complex math.
3. Foraging:  You know we do a lot of foraging as a family and math even comes into play there.  Daryl and the kids gather asparagus just about every day in May and they always weigh it (along with everything else we forage) to keep a running total of our harvests on the fridge.  The kids tend to hold the bag and estimate the weight before weighing it on the kitchen scale.  They’re getting very good at estimating weights.  Then they add that total on to the last tally.  (In case you’re curious, we’re at just over 25 pounds now and here’s how we find wild asparagus in different seasons).  Also foraged so far in May — morels, pheasant back mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, violets (violet liqueur is steeping now), waterleaf, ramps and probably a few I’ve forgotten.
4. Walking math:  When I go on walks with Alex, I make up math questions as we go along.  For instance, I’ll ask him what 1/4 of 300 is, or ask him how much a shirt would cost if it was 90% off and it was originally \$18.  I also ask him spelling questions, and do the same thing with Jack while I’m driving with him. There is also a lot of time we just spend chatting, but it’s a nice way to sneak in some homeschool.  Yes, I am that homeschool mom.  😉
5. Helping the neighbor:  We have a new neighbor next door to us and she was trimming her trees the other day.  Alex, Jack and Fiona gathered to help her trim and haul the branches, and she thanked them for all their work.  After they were done, she got out a big coffee can of change the last owners had left and divided it among them.  Fiona got mostly pennies but still had over \$3, and Jack had over \$7 and she told him he owed her an hour of work sometime for the extra (Alex didn’t tell me his total).  The older kids helped Fiona count her change, and they all started making plans for how much they would spend on what. The boys are constantly torn about spending their money or saving it up for better things.  Jack has been wanting to save up for a Wii U but it’s a daunting amount of money.  Alex wants to buy a 3D printer and I told him that I’d chip in \$100 if he and any of his siblings could gather the rest.  He gets \$15 a month allowance and Jack gets \$30, so he was figuring out how long it would take them with my contribution if he was the only one saving, if Jack helped, and so on…

# Feeling the Bern

We were hosting homeschool days at the Petroglyphs yesterday but Toria and I left Daryl and the staff in charge and went on a different field trip yesterday.

We carpooled with friends (one old, two new) to see Bernie Sanders in Sioux Falls.

He was not planning to stop in South Dakota this week but he announced on Tuesday that he would come.  He was scheduled to speak at 7:30, with doors opening at 5.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going and looking for company, and Daryl encouraged me to go.  I said yes, woke Toria, and told her the news.  A few hours later we were on the road, by way of Iowa to pick up another Bernie friend, and then stopping in Sioux Falls to pick up another.  By the time we got there via three states, it was around 5:30 and the line went far off into the distance.

One of the members of our party uses a wheelchair and she headed right to the officials in front of the building to ask where we should go.  Our party was ushered right through the doors and through security, where a volunteer pushed Deb’s wheelchair and led us right in and through the crowds.  I must admit that I felt guilty and lucky for their exceptional treatment of handicapped attendees and their parties, because we frankly would not have gotten in otherwise.  I didn’t even realize as it was happening what was going on, our friend was simply efficiently taken care of and they beckoned us to quickly follow.  Even the people waiting in line at the metal detectors just moved over as we came in.  Bernie supporters are a caring bunch.  I guess it sort of goes with the territory.

Thousands of people were unable to get in to see him.  Over 2,000 got in to see Bernie, but over 2,000 had to wait outside (I’m wondering if they were in overflow rooms with monitors, as it seemed afterwards that masses of people were coming from a different area than we were).  I assume that this was because they didn’t have security to control that large of a crowd, because there were additional walls they could have opened up to greatly increase capacity and they did not open them.  There were lots of secret service agents and local police, but since it was a last minute gig then I’m guessing they felt they could only guarantee his safety in that size of a space.

Because of this, it felt almost intimate in spite of being in a crowd of 2,000.  I’ve seen some of the crowds that have come to see Bernie, and we were in a room that could have held a (very) large wedding party to see Bernie Sanders.  It was surreal.

We got there at 5:30 and he wasn’t scheduled to speak until 7:30, so there was a lot of standing and waiting in what felt a lot like a mosh pit.  It was standing room only, other than the section for the disabled (they asked us to stand in a separate area from Deb once they got her in her spot, so wheelchairs and people who needed the ASL interpreter were all in one area to the left of the stage).

They had occasional speakers and entertainment as we waited, including a local band that played some fun songs and a phenomenal, moving performance by Native American dancers and musicians.  Several candidates and local politicians spoke also, with a focus on their collective message that they shared with Bernie.

Bernie was greeted with thunderous applause, of course, but also with a bit of annoyed booing when he accidentally called the town Sioux City (a city in Iowa) instead of Sioux Falls in his opening sentence.  🙂  I cringed and figured the local news would lead with that and not much else.  The crowd quickly forgave him and he proceeded to give an inspirational, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent speech about not only what he wanted to accomplish as president but how important the people were (not him) in effecting change and how important it was to change the current political rules and climate.

Look how close we were!

Among the issues he discussed were:

• Injustices against Native Americans (he also met with Native Americans at the impoverished Pine Ridge reservation this week)
• The importance of acknowledging and heading off climate change
• Eliminating fracking and the dependency on fossil fuels
• Creating jobs for all workers displaced by moving to clean energy
• Taxing wall street speculation to fully fund free college education
• Enacting legislation to allow all Americans to refinance existing student loans at the lowest available interest rates
• Creating American jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, railway)
• Creating paths for citizenship for immigrants
• Taking care of disabled veterans (this was mentioned often)
• Taking care of our elderly and ensuring that social security and medicare are protected
• Establishing a \$15 minimum wage
• Ensuring that women finally get equal pay to men
• Taking political power back from the very rich and putting it back in the hands of the people
• Getting rid of Citizens United
• Getting rid of tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes
• Sending the message to American companies that they need to employ workers here in America and not take advantage of slave labor options in other countries or we will not buy their products here
• Dealing with race inequality and issues for Latino and African American communities
• Making companies provide a living wage for their employees so the American people no longer have to subsidize the billionaires
• The importance in taking part in democracy
• Using our money on building our country, not wars

Bernie talked a lot about the importance of thinking big and thinking outside of the box.  He also pointed out that no significant change has ever come from the top — it has always come from the bottom up.

He talked about the African Americans and their white allies who helped end slavery, often at the expense of their own lives.  He talked about the women and their male allies who helped get women our right to vote (pointing out that only a hundred years ago, women did not have that right).  He talked about women who went on hunger strikes, were jailed and who sometimes lost their lives to bringing about that change.

He said that if someone had told you 20 years ago that we’d have our first African American president in a few years, you would have said it was impossible.  He said if you’d said 10 years ago that we’d see gay marriage legal in every state in America by 2015, you’d say it wasn’t possible.  He said that five years ago, if someone said fast food workers would win the right to a \$15 minimum wage in cities and states around the country this year, you’d say that was an impossible number.  He gave many examples like these of things that people thought were dreaming “too big” and we’ve made them happen.

And again and again, he said it was the people who did it.  When the crowd would shout, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…” he would smile and shake his finger and tell us, “No… You.”

All in all, it was a long, incredible experience.  I can’t speak to Victoria’s perception of it (though she is certainly a Bernie supporter and seemed to really love it) but she often just had a big smile on her face.  It was quite an experience for a kid who turned 18 just this month and will be voting for her first president this fall.

What a field trip.  🙂

(If anybody wants me to post a video clip or two, or more pictures, I took plenty.  This has taken a long time to write up and I have dinner to start and a dart game to play with my hubby, so I wasn’t going to add more unless anybody was actually interested!  Let me know if you’d like me to post them!)

# A Typical Thursday in May

I’ve talked plenty over the years about how we don’t have a typical day for our homeschool.  The only thing predictable about our schedule is its unpredictability.  🙂  That said, I’ve also talked about how we homeschool through the seasons, making the most of what type of learning each part of the year is suited for.

There are so many reasons to homeschool by the season.  It keeps things fresh and new for everybody (parents included).  It allows you to seize opportunities.  It encourages diversity in your homeschooling.  And it incorporates rhythms into your homeschool, which are really comforting and satisfying for kids and adults alike.

Fall for us involves lots of work in the gardens and foraging, putting things up and processing.  It teaches life skills with a heavy focus on nature study and economics.  We’re outside as much as we’re inside, and we relish the beauty of the season.

Winter is a time for holidays and putting aside traditional schoolwork, then for diving into lots of books and projects once the holidays are over.  It’s a time for snuggling up in blankets and watching fun educational shows, gathering for great read-alouds, doing lots of art and science, practicing handwriting and playing games as a family.  It’s also a time for lots of baking and making use of all the goodies we put up in the fall, and getting snowed in and catching up on all the things we kept meaning to get to the rest of the year.

And then it goes with spring and summer, and so on, and every month is a little bit different.  June will see the frenzy of pageant rehearsals for Daryl and the three younger kids, as they practice for the play every week night.  July will see the magic of performances every weekend, with thousands of people coming to take part in that magic after dusk by the banks of Plum Creek.  And on and on.

Yesterday was a typical Thursday in May for us, then.  We spent a lot of the day puttering in the garden.  Fiona helped me plant more potatoes and water the gardens.  The boys did math on the homeschool computer and had Nerf battles outside.  Alex read a Garfield book. Fiona drew lots of pictures. Daryl took some of the kids out to forage wild asparagus, and brought back over a pound (it’ll start popping like crazy in the next few days).  He also went to Worthington to shop and run errands with Toria and Fiona.  The younger kids watched some TV and the older kids spent some time on their computers.

It was warm enough that there was no excuse to say no when the kids asked if we could go to the lake in the late afternoon.  All 7 of us climbed into the van and drove to Lake Talcot, about 15 minutes away.

The younger kids waded and splashed.  Rhia took pictures and read a book.  Toria chased a tadpole with the little ones, read, hiked and looked for fossils, arrowheads and shark teeth.  She found a gorgeous piece of petrified wood that made her father jealous.  Jack waded in the lake, careful not to get his cast wet on his broken arm, and then went on a hike with me.  We talked about stinging nettles and adrenaline and lightning.  I read a catalog of unusual bushes, trees and vines that produce edible fruits and nuts and watched the kids play.  Alex ran, splashed, climbed and explored.  Fiona collected rocks and caught a toad.

On the way home, we checked on lots of flowering trees and shrubs that we’ll be watching for their fruits to come.  There are wild plums, gooseberries and more.  We’ve learned how to find them and when to start checking them for fruits to beat the birds and other foragers (don’t worry, we leave plenty) while still allowing them enough time to ripen.  At home, Daryl started a pot of rice and went to check on a few other asparagus patches to bring me home enough for dinner.  I made a simple rice casserole for the kids who don’t like asparagus and mushrooms, and cooked up the wild asparagus with mushrooms, butter and garlic for the rest of us.

Friends stopped by later in the evening and we were all out in the dark street, laughing and greeting them.  I fed them leftovers and we chatted while the kids played for an hour.  Then some of the kids and I watched a couple of shows on Hulu (The Goldbergs with just about everybody, and then Blacklist for me and Toria).

Today, Rhia is off at garage sales with her boyfriend and Toria is at an art conference with Daryl.  We’ve been gardening again and playing outside.  We cut bouquets of lilacs that we brought into the house.  I had Alex do a couple of worksheets of spelling/handwriting.  The boys did math on the computer and Fiona drew me a darling picture.

The day is young and I don’t know what else we’ll do.  I have to work in some math with Alex and go over the driver’s ed book with Toria.  I’m hoping to have the kids watch an episode of Maths Mansion and maybe start on one of the Crash Courses for history or science.  We’ll read lots of books.  We’ll probably go walking.  We’ll talk a lot.  Daryl bought a spelling card game he wants to play with us when he gets back.

This is typical for us in May.  Or this May, anyway.  Sometimes we’re in Florida or Nebraska too.  It’s always different, yet there is a familiarity in this.  It’s the perfect “schedule” for us.  🙂