Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now

math block, more exciting than it sounds

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The weeks leading up to Christmas were full of family times at home and lots of time exploring  our great town, Boulder. We hiked familiar trails, sledded, knitted, cooked, baked, and played! We took the bus downtown, visited the library several times, enjoyed the creek path and one day, splurged on an awesome lunch out. We shared beautiful meals at home with friends and enjoyed others’ hospitality.  Vail made the agenda with an overdue visit to P.  I thought of my mother throughout the season, now gone 4 years- recognizing that each year brings with it another layer of grief and absorption.  We celebrated the 12 days of Christmas once again, beginning on Christmas Day and ending on the eve of the Epiphany, the night before the Magi’s visit. A & A ‘s mornings started with such sweet excitement as they found a new present. Never did they rip into them– they always waited for us to come downstairs. These two enjoy taking it all in!  With our special new addition– the piano, we were able to sing and play songs throughout the holiday. The girls love “We Three Kings” which I find so interesting because it is the one song I have such a deep connection with from my own childhood. I remember singing it in church quite young. The song is beautiful, the mood, somber.

It was bittersweet getting back to morning lessons after such a wonderful holiday together.  I managed to get some substantial planning for the rest of the year done when Stephen and the girls had their own fun together. I was really excited to start the first block after the new year, an introduction to the four processes: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I pieced together my own plans from ideas online and the general framework I’m familiar with of Waldorf education. We explore the four processes through a container story of adventure and discovery, four little gnome’s (that correspond to the four processes) guiding them along…

A gift each received during the 12 Days was a beautiful hand carved wooden Inuit woman with a baby on her back. I didn’t plan to use them in the math story, but it worked out perfectly. For the two women were lost and their chance meeting with the ancient one (wolf) led them to their meeting of Gnome Share (division). I decided to start with division since I could insert the process into the story with out their “knowing” right away. They’re familiar with the concept of sharing, but not “dividing” unlike addition and subtraction. Gnome Share lives deep in the mountains where he mines for gems and as his name would suggest, he loves to share all that he finds! When he met the two women and ancient one, he quickly hauled out a bag of gems for them to share amongst themselves.  Throughout the week the story evolved with new characters and more items to divide- gems, nuts, beans, eggs, cookies, napkins…anything we could get our hands on, we shared. By the fourth day we had worked some in our lesson book, copying illustrations of what we were doing at the table or on the floor with sharing, or division and eventually turning them into the basis of their first “equations.” They LOVED these lessons. The flow was natural, the activities fun. There was “work” for them to think through, challenges and achievements. Ada does very well with the lesson book work- she enjoys the organization and the writing. Arlene enjoys the more active parts of our lessons- getting out all the nuts and dividing them between the baskets or tossing the ball while we count.

We do a lot of active math in our circle time and throughout our lesson; we practice skip counting (by 2s, 3s and 5s) with fun verses. We toss bean bags and balls, shape numbers in the air.   At the start of the year I felt a little overwhelmed with trying to learn all the stories I’d be telling them, the verses, the poems. Now several months into this rhythm, I’m comfortable tweaking — learning the verses with the girls and keeping the focus on the fun practice of what we are doing– introduce these foundational skills in an age-appropriate and enjoyable way!! This is an approach that excites and inspires, but also works their edge.

On the last day of the week,  Gnome Share gifted them beautiful napkins with the suggestion of baking cookies and… sharing them. They appreciated these sweet paper napkins like treasures! Arlene said we should put some aside to give to our friend Becky–that “she would just love them.” I smile so big thinking back on that moment. We fleshed out the division problem first with napkins, then with ingredients and got set to bake!

Morning lesson ends with a  couple picture books (math inspired this month), closing verse, tidying up and typically some outdoor play- jump rope, hop scotch, or a walk with Happy.  We return and pile up on the couch for some chapter book reading. Our current novel is incredible. I can’t recommend enough, Louise Erdrich’s series The Birchbark House. For starters, she’s one of my top authors and I only recently discovered she authored these novels– probably geared toward 3rd-6th grade. We’re on the second in the series, The Game of Silence which continues to follow the story of Omakayas, an Ojibwe girl who lives on an island in lake Superior during the middle of the 19th century. It has brought up meaningful conversations about Native Americans and Europeans.  As with any historical fiction, I appreciate the nuances of the story, of this period in time- these events aren’t a series of marches, onward, onward…

I hope the girls and I  can make a map from the book once we finish- we can draw the island in Lake Superior and then add pieces from the story: where the family winters, the Birchbark House, willow by the pond, where Omakayas met the bears, Old Tallow’s cabin, Neewo’s grave…

The first week back to lessons was also the holiday of Three Kings’ Day. We prepared with star crafts, read lots of stories about the kings and of course completed our nativity scene. The kings arrived! We baked a cake with 3 beans hidden in the dough– the lucky recipient of one of those beans, the king or queen for the day.  In years past the beans have cooked in so much that we never discovered them. This year Ada found the first and then Arlene the second. Chickpeas did the trick! They raced for their glitzy crowns and adorned their heads…

I’m so pleased with the week! The days were comfortable, but SO full and I’m excited for the one upon us!

 

 

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