I’m trying something a little different this year with our homeschooling schedule; instead of moving from subject to subject in one hour increments every day of the week, Eva and I have decided to try more intensive study, focusing on only one topic each day. This is a pretty radical notion; after all – who wants to study any one subject for three hours at a go?? But that’s what we’re doing, and so far, we’re pretty crazy happy. First off, here’s what our schedule looks like:
Our Stellar Schedule
8-11:00 Special Topic
11:30 Band at the local middle school
2:30 Choir at the local middle school
Here’s how the special topics break out:
Tuesday: Science (to be replaced later in the semester by history)
Thursday: Coding/More time on earlier topics that we just can’t get enough of, or other special topics that don’t fit in the first three
Friday: Cooking and Art
Today we started with math, traditionally Eva’s least favorite subject. However, because of our lively discussion last week about all the fun resources we’re going to use, she actually requested to do this one first. To make three hours of one subject work, you have to create a heck of lot of variety. I’ve been brainstorming about this for months, and decided three elements were essential for an Epic Math Experience. And keep in mind: Eva’s about three grade levels ahead in math, and my main emphasis this year is to help her enjoy it again. Math without passion is just numbers. Math with passion is a worldview. A revelation. An epiphany of patterns and logic. This is what I’m going for.
Ok – back to the three elements.
1. Super Fun Videos
There are a plethora of fabulous math related videos that are funny, smart, and fascinating. Eva loves narrative. So using a portion of our three hours to watch some of these DVDs just makes sense. We started with Bill Nye’s Solving for X Pre-Algebra DVD, watching all four 10-minute episodes. Later in the lineup: The Story of Math, The Secrets of Mental Math, Pre-Algebra Power, The Joy of Mathematics, Fractals: Hunting the Hidden Dimension, and Between the Folds. And of course Vi Hart. Starting with a fun video is a good warm up activity. It helps us get in the mode of learning, prompts new ideas, and generates motivation as we are inspired by people who absolutely love what they do.
2. Engaging Text
Finding math texts that engage my fun-loving daughter is difficult. But though I want Eva to enjoy the beauty of math, I also want to keep her balanced and challenged with the computational aspect. I settled on Math Doesn’t Suck by Danica McKellar. I had read a ton of reviews of the book, and though I at first was put off by the “solve problems without breaking a nail” lingo, after working through chapter 1, I am sold. McKellar is no air-brain. She takes math by the horns, celebrates the awesomeness of girlhood, and challenges her female readers to build their inner strength and confidence by becoming… wait for it: mathematicians. I love her, and want to hug her for instantly engaging my mathophobe daughter. The language is fun and light and empowering. It’s a narrative, and it’s hardcore math. I foresee us working through all four of her books together. Eva also agreed to use Khan Academy to find good practice problems that reinforce the topics of her book. Good for all. We spent about an hour on the text today, working through the problems and pulling out beads to explore the prime number aspects of friendship bracelets. Love. It.
3. Creative Hands On Work
This is where the brilliance of Vi Hart comes in. As I have previously mentioned, this year is about making and women. It’s just me and Eva now that Ian’s in public school, and I am determined that my daughter feel proud and confident to be a young woman. This commitment inspired my text choice, and also my Vi Hart choice. Today we selected one Vi triangle doodling video (about 4:30 in duration) and worked through it, copying the triangle doodles that Vi so quickly showed us. We paused the video, doodled, paused, doodled, discussed, measured, doodled some more. We learned so much about the nature of triangles, and we learned to let go and experiment with the shape. With triangles we made spirals, trees, and steampunk looking patterns. We made triangle stacks, pies, and triangle-y creatures. It was so much fun, that Eva asked for more during lunch, and was almost late for choir.
I know it’s day 1, and that not all days will be this awesome. But at the end of it, my math-hating daughter said “Mom, that three hours felt like 10 minutes! I LOVE math!” That’s enough for me. Having three hours at a go in the end wasn’t oppressive, but freeing. I’ll keep you posted as the semester progresses, but for now, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s science party.