Naturally Learning Maths

I don’t know about you but I hated maths. In high school, I graduated above average in the higher level maths class. But oh how I hated it. I didn’t get it and when I did, I didn’t understand why I needed to know it.

I succeeded primarily by memorisation. There was certainly no joy there and not a lot of understanding either. I’ve since forgot all but the basics and all that is left is a general dislike for maths.

However, being a homeschooling Mum, I don’t want project any of that onto my kids. I want them to continue to learn maths in ways that excite them and are meaningful to them.

Most of us are familiar with ‘school maths’ and it’s the only model we know. Consequently it seems unlikely that you could get all of that simply through living life. Maths learned from life is certainly a contrast to that which is typically taught in schools.

Real life maths is learned through a slow discovery of how numbers work. Through, for example, encountering percentages several times and piecing together the information. Like many of us have taught ourselves what a new word means over time. You encounter it and decipher it in context and as you encounter it a second, third, maybe fourth time – it becomes clear what it means and is something you can confidently use in your own vocabulary.

But how? How will a child encounter percentages or algebra, you ask (I know I did!) Well, maths is everywhere and relates to almost everything else in life. If you live a full life, you will learn all the maths you need merely because you need it. It’s inescapable.

Sometimes it’s simply realising these abstract and sometimes ‘complex’ ideas are for a reason. For example, algebra is just figuring out what you don’t know from what you do know. Some people will love it and get really interested and want to learn more advanced maths and do all sorts of interesting things with it. Most will not.

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So how am I encouraging and facilitating that at this stage?

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Well, through play primarily. Watching Cam play with Spielgaben, I observe so many incidental explorations of mathematical concepts. Even at this age he’s exploring and making connections about many processes: including patterns, symmetry, fractions, probability, multiplication and division.

 

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The best way, in my opinion (particularly early on) is for children to learn maths contextually and in ways relevant to their lives. How can I divide these lollies up so that it’s fair for my friends and I? How much do I need if I halve this recipe?

Furthermore, the most powerful way we as parents can help with maths is to speak the ‘maths language’ out loud. Add up money out loud or figure out the remaining days to a holiday without using paper. Talk about numbers in contextual ways and discuss how we manipulate them in day to day life.

All of this forms the foundation for their mathematical exploration later in life. And hopefully their experiences with maths will continue to be positive.

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Another Week of Living and Learning

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We started off the week with a creek exploration. Tape measures were stretched over rocks and bugs were collected from pools of water.

 

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We were covered by the shade of trees overhead and left alone for hours to play and explore.

 

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What magical surroundings for our classroom.

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It’s beautiful to watch friendships blossom and evolve.

 

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Cam was really into it and dragged a net through the deeper water.

 

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The following days were spent with outdoor play when it was cool and lots of creativity inside during the heat of the day. They loved using scratch rainbow art paper. Cam was amazed to watch the colours come through.

 

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Lucy’s monster with pink eyes

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Cam’s rainbow dragon

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Rainbow dinosaur

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Drawing of his rainbow dinosaur with the beginning of spelling dinosaur ‘din-‘
(he often asks how to spell things now)

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Lucy’s first experiences with little oil pastels

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One of Lucy’s go-to materials from the shelves is now our magnetic number tracing tablet. This is such a satisfying and fun toy – the magnetic wand pops the magnetic balls up as you trace along the numbers and then you can re-trace over and pop them back down.

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They both really enjoyed tracing into black sand on our light table. Cam likes using our letter construction kit on the light table after forming letters.

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Before our homeschool co-op, we tested out this incredibly fun suminagashi marbling kit and made some beautiful ink prints! It’s surprisingly easy and even Lucy at 2.5 years old could complete most of the process independently. They would make some gorgeous cards for family and friends!

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We had a lovely family BBQ by the river to end the week. We splashed in the water and caught tiny fish in cups.

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Today we spent the day at home because I have a sore throat and am dizzy. The kids had a full day of fun and learning though with their Dad home.

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Cam still loves making up the experiments in his snap circuit kit.

 

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Our little family are going on an impromptu holiday in a bit over a fortnight! It’ll be the kids first time on a plane and our first big holiday as a family. We’re very excited and Cam is very interested in where we are going and how big Australia is. This massive map of Australia has been brilliant for our discussions.

Remember to check out what Sara from Happiness is here, Kate from An Everyday Story and Jess from Memoirs of a Childhood have been up to too!

You can see more of what we have been up to on Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

What did your week bring? I hope it was as lovely as ours!

Creating A Space for Your Child’s Interests

One of the best parts about unschooling and following a ‘curriculum of curiosity‘ is watching what your child shows interest in. It’s beautiful to watch them enthralled by a subject. The beauty of curiosity is in it’s ability to transform into knowledge and effortlessly inform.

In my recent post about unexpected interests, I shared how sometimes (oftentimes for me with my eldest) kids surprise you with what they want to know more about.

Back in the 30 Days to Transform Your Play series, we spoke about identifying an interest. Today I wanted to encourage you to honor your child’s interest and create a space for it (both physically and metaphorically) regardless of what it is.

Metaphorically, we need to give them the space too. It is important to sit back and let them lead how the interest unfolds. Let the interest develop and evolve organically. It can sometimes be hard to not jump in and provide too much help and/or information. It’s crucial to give them space to ask questions and seek answers themselves.

Somewhat related, it can be hard to see the value in something your child finds fascinating. Sometimes it is a character or game, or even something you don’t particularly like. But what we need to remember is that this life long love of learning we are facilitating depends on us nurturing these interests. We have to protect their enthusiasm.

Children need to feel that our wonderful rich varied world is interesting in all the ways that they discover. They need to feel that what makes them curious and makes them wonder is significant and important to us. Children needn’t feel like there is a hierarchy of importance of knowledge.

The only hierarchy is their own inner guide of curiosity.

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After watching mosquitos in our sandpit and swatting them away at various creeks we have been visiting, Cam is now obsessed with mosquitos. We have been watching HD videos of mosquitos laying eggs and biting humans. It’s brilliant to watch his eyes wide with wonder watching the abdomen of a mosquito swell with blood.

I certainly wouldn’t pick it as an interesting topic to investigate and learn about, personally. But it’s important to him and the questions flow effortlessly. Ultimately, this is how natural learning unfolds. Not by force nor simply by chance; but by allowing that space for curiosity to flourish as well as showing that you respect their interests.

Creating a tangible space (strewing and/or a provocation) that aligns with their interest is the best way to show them that you’re listening.

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So when he excitedly asked about mosquito babies, I decided to create a little space for his interest. I purchased some life cycle figures and found a book that shows his very favourite part about them (and the part we all hate!) – a mosquito sucking blood.

Cam is pretty used to me creating these spaces now. But the little knowing smile when he came across this set up was something that spurred me to write this post.

The key is to tune into and accept your child’s unique interests and curiosity. That way we can live a life enriched by the happy pursuit of genuine passions and meaningful experiences.

Ultimately I want him to guide the path. I’ll be here encouraging him to go deeper and find his own solutions. Giving him the space – both a tangible and metaphorical space to explore, is the answer.

Do your child’s learning spaces involve their interests?

Parenting a Headstrong Child Respectfully

I have wrote previously about parenting my sensitive child respectfully. Today I wanted to write about parenting a headstrong child respectfully.

When you hear about headstrong children – or strong-willed, spirited, even ‘stubborn’ or ‘difficult’ – it’s often negative.

My daughter is at a different space in the social and emotional spectrum. Before she could talk, she had already asserted her feelings and her ownership over herself and her wants. I knew I had to learn a whole new set of mothering tools to help nurture the person she is.

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Lucy is only 2.5 years old but she has made her strong personality clear. She is not afraid to tell you what she thinks and needs a damn good reason to not do something that she wants to do. Even after a reasonable explanation, she’ll often keep going; willing to prove her point regardless. She loves fiercely and isn’t one to follow.

Her headstrong personality lends itself to being unapologetically herself. She already is self-motivated and is happy to go after what she wants.

Boy, do I adore this girl! I want to protect all that she is and help nurture those attributes that could otherwise be seen as unfavourable.

Just as some people view Cameron’s shyness and difficulty in social situations as a result of my parenting choicesso too do people see a headstrong toddler as a byproduct of parenting. But just as it’s a character trait of his, her nature is inherently part of her too.

Like being ‘shy’, being headstrong has a social stigma too. I’ve been told by various friends and family that “she’s a handful” and “she’ll be trouble” all the way through to much more offensive descriptions and ‘warnings’.

Parenting a strong-willed child can be hard. If you let it, there can be power struggles. You can’t control your child, but you can choose to control your response. Really, like with any other parenting challenge; respect is mutual when you listen, are empathetic, give choices and set limits.

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Ultimately, I accept every one of my children’s personality traits. I see their uniqueness and I focus on the positive. I think we should be celebrating the attributes our kids naturally have!

I think both of my children are brilliant. I love their unique innate selves. I think this is what parenting is about! We needn’t pressure or coax our children to conform to some ‘norm’. Not only is it ineffective but it’s harmful.

I know that personally as a child I was very headstrong but I was also shy. I had both of these characteristics that my children do as well as a myriad of other attributes. I remember being called bossy and manipulative as well as being teased for being quiet and a loner. I can see now that often these characteristics were seen as undesirable for my parents.

It seems like society places some form of Goldilocks pressure on kids. Not too soft, not too hard. Not too quiet, not too loud. Not too obedient, not too disobedient. Not too calm, not too hyper. & so on and so forth.

Yet all of us adults feature on this massive spectrum of personality. Despite years of conforming and judgement for certain traits, we are still a huge variety of personalities and strengths and weaknesses.

Still, many of us wear the emotional scars that prove how both ineffective and harmful this conformity is. Do we not? I bet you can think of examples.

So why not celebrate these differences in our children. Celebrate this rainbow of personalities and help nurture them to be the best person they can be WITH these traits, not in spite of them.

Parenting a Headstrong Child Respectfully

This Week of Learning

Our week…

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We started off our week at the creek with friends as we often do.

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We found moss, as I discussed in a previous post.

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We collected fallen flowers.

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We saw a wild goanna.

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Then we played some maths games with our cuisenaire rods.

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Our co-op met at a local water park for lots of fun!

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I had my little niece for the day.

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Cam has been ‘writing’ letters to many people with our new gorgeous little letter box.

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Lucy enjoyed some sorting.

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We went on a whale watching cruise!

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We sat right behind here so Cameron could see the boat captain and watch all the action.

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We were fortunate enough to see three whales – a mother, baby and escort. The baby breeched and was super playful.

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Cameron loved seeing the huge container ship going past.

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I finally snapped a photo of one of Cameron’s drawings. He drew all of these bees and played for hours with the paper making elaborate stories about pollen shortages, storms, goannas trying to hurt the hive.

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Cam’s drawings are typically very active and often used in play.

Now pop over to my lovely friends and see how they spent their week:

Happiness is here | Memoirs of a Childhood | An Everyday Story

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