Teaching numbers

(recommended prereq skills: introduction to number symbols; matching objects that look the same or similar)

Teaching numbers is a challenge.

Bean knows the alphabet and sometimes gets confused between letters and numbers. There are also several numbers that look the same (3 and 2, 2 and 5), and she gets those confused as well. But using a combination of our whiteboard, these number sheets from Confessions of a Homeschooler, and our counting bears, I think we’ve stumbled on a pretty good method. We’ve already been over numbers a few times, but this seems to be solidifying that knowledge.

I placed the number sheet for 1-5 on the table beside the whiteboard. Then I explained that I was going to be drawing the numbers on the whiteboard and Bean was going to find them on the number sheet. One at a time, I wrote out a number (sometimes naming it, sometimes not) and had her find the one that matched*. We did that several times, mixing up the order we did them in.

Once she seemed to have the hang of it, I explained our next activity: that we were going to be counting bears and matching them to the numbers on the number sheet. I pulled out groups of same-coloured bears and had her count them in my hand. Once we had the number of bears, I had her find them on the number sheet. And once she had the correct number, I had her place the bears in the squares beside the number, counting as we went.

By the end of this activity, she seemed to have an excellent grasp of each of the first five number symbols. Hooray!

*This activity also suits my developmental psychology leanings. By me drawing and her finding the typed match, she sees variations of each symbol and learns which attributes are essential for a symbol in a particular category and which can be ignored (for example, the height of the top portion of a four is not essential, and neither is whether the top lines are connected or separated, but an angled line crossing a vertical line is fairly essential to make it a four). Google “prototype theory” for more. đŸ˜‰

Math!

Without a doubt, reading is my strong suit.

I continue to go back and forth as to whether I’d like to homeschool the wee Peas once they’re of school age, but whether I do or not, I don’t anticipate much struggling with regards to reading. Mr. Pea and I love to read on our own, to the kids, and love certain kids’ books from our own childhoods. Even if our kids don’t love reading, they will be widely exposed to it.

However, math is where I fall down. It didn’t come easily to me as a child and didn’t seem fun to me in the way that reading was. So our next entire unit is about numbers, counting, and basic math, and I’m hoping I can make it fun as well as instructive.

I saw this really neat math activity at the store, but as it was more expensive than the much cuter bear manipulatives I had already decided on, I picked up an inexpensive white board as well, to replicate the activity at home.

Basically, you take a group of 8 or 10 (or more or fewer) manipulatives, separate them into two groups, and then talk about the different ways each group can add up to the same number. So I drew out this activity at home.

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Bean can’t add, but she can count, so we counted up how many bears were in each group, and then we counted up both groups together. I explained that adding is about taking two groups of things, putting them together, and then counting them up to see how many you have.

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She did well and stayed with me the whole time. I could tell she was coming to the end of her attention, so I wrapped up by asking her to add a few bears to the two groups. Then we counted each group, then counted them all together, and came up with the number 14. Hopefully changing the total didn’t confuse her too much! We’ll focus more on that next time.

For now she’s having fun sorting them in different ways.

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Permission to Fail

I’d like to talk about this video:

More to the point, I’d like to talk about the YouTube comments on this video (I know, I know…). They range from amusement, to snarly indictments against the mother.

Can I just break this down: we’ve all been there. We all get to the end of our rope eventually, and we regress to being kids, where snatching and throwing is the automatic, seemingly reasonable response to frustration. If you’re a parent and you haven’t gotten there, then you’ve lucked out on angel babies, you’re an extreme extravert (meaning constant people and noise energizes rather than drains you), you work outside the home (or otherwise get regular breaks from your kids), or you’re completely lying.

Whether you think this woman’s reaction was understandable or not, can we all at least agree that the horrible comments on this video are a problem? Losing your temper, yelling, throwing a toy or pillow, are ways of releasing pent-up emotional energy. They are a sign that something is wrong, that something needs to change. Emotional energy has to escape somehow, and yes, meditating, retreating to a quiet room, stepping back from the situation, having a calm discussion are all absolutely better ways of handling anger, but they are not always possible with young kids (in fact, are often quite impossible). But if parents are told at this point (at what is possibly the first exterior indication they need a break), that they are horrible parents, what is the likelihood they will be able to seek outside help in the face of such crushing judgement?

Let’s make a safe space here. We all do this. We all face situations where we are exhausted, frustrated, drained, and completely empty. We all get to a point where we have nothing left, and when we are taxed again at that point (a frequent thing with young children), it is likely that we’ll lose our ability to respond calmly and reasonably. We all lose our sh*t. Let’s make it safe to admit that. If we can admit that, it becomes easier to tell people that we need help, that we need breaks, that we need sleep. And when we can admit that we need to care for ourselves, we’re more likely to do it. And when we’re cared for, we can better care for the ones we so deeply love.

Let’s give each other permission to fail.

Coloured Flowers Experiment

Bean already knows many of her colours, so part of this unit is to explore and experience colours in different ways. I found the following experiment on Pinterest:

Flowers

We set it up yesterday and already, the flowers are starting to change.

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I split the stems of the taller flowers to see what would happen when they’re in two different colours of water.

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Here’s a picture of one of the carnations when we started the experiment:

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Here’s the flower in blue water from last night, about 5 or 6 hours from starting:

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Blue this afternoon:

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Red:

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And orange:

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I think I’m having more fun with this than Bean. đŸ™‚

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The Paint, Cut, Paste website indicates that the colours will really spread over the next 10 days. I’ll update as we go!

Letters & Numbers

Today was a great day.

Mr. Pea is back at work and Bean, Peanut, and I are flying solo. That being the case, I knew how important it would be to keep Bean busy. So I raided my craft/homeschool bin for supplies and quickly printed out a few worksheets from Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler.

At 2.5 years old, I’m not expecting Bean to be anything like school ready. Our main goals for this unit are recognition and exposure, so most of what I’m doing with her is to aid in that—to provide her with tools for exploration (of numbers, letters, shapes, and colours).

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Bean really enjoyed these worksheets. The visual representation is, I think, really brilliant. Most counting sheets or ideas are a little more abstract, whereas this one clearly shows the number, the amount of empty boxes that each number represents, and since the boxes are empty, provides the opportunity to lay out the correct amount of manipulatives for each number.

I also found this awesome set of letters and numbers at the dollar store:

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Each square is about an inch and a half. They all separate from each other (and fit with each other), and the letters and numbers pop out of each square. Bean spent a significant portion of the day separating the squares, popping out the letters and numbers, and then matching them all back together again. It also gave us the opportunity to talk about letters, refresh her memory of forgotten ones, and to properly name the numbers that she confused with similar-looking letters.

The final thing that occupied much of Bean’s time was a set of alphabet flashcards. She took them out of the box, spread them around (identifying pictures and seeking certain specific cards), and then collected them and fit them back in the box (and repeat). And this gave us the opportunity to talk about sounds (“That’s a turtle. Turtle starts with T, and T makes a tuh sound. Do you hear that? Tuh, tuh, turtle.”

So thankful for creative moms willing to share their ideas and work online, and for affordable activities that captivate for so long. đŸ™‚

Gentle

I have no idea what this morning’s sermon was about.

Darn.

Bean has needed extra help settling into her class since Peanut was born (and even before, as she was anticipating his arrival), so I spent a good portion of that time with her. But when I did return to the sermon, this verse was up on the screen:

A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.

-Isaiah 42:3

I’ve long cherished Isaiah 40:11,

He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

I’ve clung to that last line as I’ve struggled to be faithful while rearing children. Faithful, at least, in the ways I learned as a child and honed as a young adult. I had so much time and so much energy before having kids. Now, even when I do find time to myself, I am either falling asleep or vegging and wanting to be asleep.

But I am reassured by that line, that God gently leads those that have young. Parenting young children is a stage in life, and a very difficult one at that. But it is only a stage. To know that I am being led gently in this stage is comforting and encouraging.

I don’t know how exactly the first verse I quoted applies… but it seems connected, at least in my life. God will not snuff out a smouldering wick. He is just, kind, merciful, loving, gentle…

Praise.

Colours, Shapes, Letters, and Numbers

Bean has been splitting her time between wreaking havoc, wandering listlessly around the house (saying, “I want…” as often as she draws breath, a phrase that seems to be her version of “I’m bored”), and occasionally playing happily.

I think this means we need to get back on track with our homeschooling. We’ve not done much of anything for the past couple of months, but now that Mr. Pea is back to work and Grandma Kay has gone home, we need to find things to keep us engaged.

I’ve bunched several topics together, mostly because Bean has a partial grasp of most of them. She knows her uppercase letters (though she could use a refresher), she knows most of her colours, some of her shapes, and she understands the concepts of counting and “how many”. So this is an effort to explore, review, and fill out her understanding of these things.

As always, I’ve started by pulling a bunch of ideas from my Pinterest boards. I’m most excited for this colour-changing flower experiment:

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And this density tower:

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Since Bean is still a little young for what these concepts are illustrating, I’ll be using them primarily as means to explore colour in different ways.

We’re also going to start with some very basic “writing”, with letter tracing

Letter tracing

and salt writing.

Salt writing

I’ll probably stick to the basics (wooden puzzles, etc) for shapes.

And I’m not completely sure how I’ll do numbers (Bean keeps misidentifying numbers as similarly shaped letters, i.e., she says S when she sees the number 2…), but I did find some great ideas online. This sticker/manipulative sheet looks the most promising for Bean:

Number sheet

(The rest of the activities on that page look great, too!)

And as with any unit, the first step is to go to the library! I don’t think I’ll be picking up many unit-related books (we have scads of unit-related books, or books that we can force to be unit related). But as Bean is an avid reader without yet being able to read (meaning Mr. Pea and I know more children’s books by heart than is probably good for us), bringing fresh books into the house is essential.