Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kid Update

Naomi turns 6 in two weeks and has become a little author. She stapled together post-it notes and made wordless books called "In the Light" (in the let) and "In the Dark." She was making these same books over and over again, and talking about how she was going to have a "book fair" and sell them (can you tell what my latest business is? yes, I'm selling books in book fairs and to friends!)

I broadened her scope two days ago, though, by suggesting that she write a book about her toad. She grudgingly changed gears to write more words and actually have a topic, but now is thrilled with her "toad book." She takes it with her everywhere. She's not done yet, but she has three pages written. "mom and dad fownd a toad. i put it in a box. it was cuqte. it jumped a way. i put a toad in a boat. it wus a box."

I've suggested other topics as well, so I'm looking forward to seeing what my budding author puts out in the next few weeks.

Josiah really likes learning French. I'll hear him (occasionally) counting things in French on his own. He gets excited, too, about the idea of teaching our friends French! He still loves his animals and tells everyone that he is going to be a zoo-keeper when he grows up. He can spend hours playing with plastic and/or stuffed animals, in the sand-pile out back, or on his bed and floor, or in the bath. It really doesn't matter!

He has heard me recount many stories of our family when I've said that one of our kids was still in my tummy. I'll tell about something happening and they'll say "Was Ethan there?" "No, he was in my tummy." Well yesterday I was telling the kids about a trip I took with the two older kids when we were in Scotland. Josiah asked if Daddy had been there. I said no, and Josiah replied, "Oh, he was in your tummy, right?" Then he smiled as we laughed.

Ethan loves to go outside. If we mention anything about going anywhere, he runs to get his shoes, brings them to us and then stands by one of our doors, waiting to be let out. It doesn't really matter what he's doing outside; he just likes to be there. He likes throwing pebbles, watching bugs, riding a three-wheeler, pushing the stroller, playing in the sand, playing in the wading pool, watching people mow their lawns, etc.

He is enthralled with trains and cars right now, especially of the matchbox-sized variety. When we see him walking around (or going to church, heading to bed, sitting down to eat...) he usually has a vehicle in each hand. He makes engine sounds as he pushes them around, but still doesn't say the word "car." In fact he hardly says any words at all, which at 18 months, is a concern to the pediatrician, but not to me. Josiah didn't talk until 23 months, and Steve didn't talk till he was almost three!

All three kids like creepy-crawlies. Naomi likes catching them and putting them in "The Bug Box" (a cheap plastic container from Wal-Mart). Josiah does that too, but then wants to let them go. Ethan doesn't like to touch them, but enjoys watching them walk around the box. It's been fun to see what they've found, and watch their excitement.

No Pencils in Math?

What if math education used no writing for the first few years? What if all sorting, arithmetic, geometry and algebra problems were done with movement and objects? Chocolate-bar fractions and M&M probability. Area and perimeter using square tiles and real rulers. Graphing using footsteps and string. "Solving equations" using a scale and bags of goodies.

I wonder how much of people's math difficulties and fears stem from premature writing, and too few hands-on activities. "Manipulatives" is a current buzz-word, but if they're only tossed in as an extra now and then, are they enough? When I tutor math students and they're struggling with a particular concept, I always try to show them in a hands-on manner what is going on. But why should I wait until they're struggling? Why can't math be kinesthetic all along?

My kids are (almost) 6 and 4 1/2 and they've both been doing kindergarten this year. I have done no worksheets about numbers and counting, but we talk about numbers all the time. We spent all Fall doing math activities concentrating on classifying, directions, and quantities. Numbers were something I brought up every now and then. Now my kids bring up numbers themselves and are continually telling me things like, "Mom, 2 and 3 make 5!" My older child has tried writing equations on her own because she's becoming enamored with writing in general. But I wonder if I wouldn't be better off saving the writing for later.

I think I would have more fun teaching and I know the kids would have more fun learning, if math were taught this way. And maybe, as a small side benefit, our next generation would not be so math illiterate.