Sunday, April 13, 2014

Saturday School

Every Saturday at 10am is "Saturday School" at our house. It's only an hour or so. The important thing is that it's firmly on our calendars, so we schedule around it. Playdates, museum trips, and errands begin later than they used to; lazy mornings end a bit sooner. It's an extra commitment, though it's far short of the commitment homeschooling parents make on any given weekday.

Reading has always been a daily thing in our house, so Saturday School has just been about math. On any given Saturday, my wife and/or I might work with the kids on such things as:
• A maze, a dot-to-dot, or some other warm-up activity--this gets them comfortable at their desks.
• A worksheet that I make up (I just create it quickly while they're doing the warm-up activity). Our kids are at different stages mathematically, so I create separate worksheets for them.
• Some pages from this series of workbooks, which the kids really enjoy (individual grades here). We also have some word problem books that we draw from.
• A dice game, using these fabulously glitzy dice that I found on Amazon.
• Another fun dice game that we got at the Museum of Mathematics in New York. (This is my kids' favorite museum in the city.)
With the younger we're aiming to build up some number bonds, get to recall with some of the single-digit sums, get some practice with counting on, build understanding of two-digit numbers, use some properties of operations, and do some easy word problems (she's practicing reading too). With the elder, the main goals are number bonds, recall of single-digit sums, practice with making ten, and the harder kinds of word problems about the uses/meanings of addition and subtraction. I also include a multi-digit sum for her. (She thought it was really cool when she was able to calculate 3,258,152 + 5,131,646 lickety-split using the standard right-to-left algorithm. Of course, she doesn't really have a sense of those numbers, but that didn't stop her from getting the answer...such is the nature of an algorithm, after all. And computing such a stupendous sum made her feel like a little big shot!)

Here's one of the games we play with the pink dice. Roll the dice. Now mentally compute, or know from memory, the sum of the two values shown; record the sum on paper; and keep a running total. The first player to reach 100 points wins. It sounds boring, but they love the dice, and we've had some exciting contests that came down to the last roll. A friend says she plays a similar game, with the added wrinkle that if you roll a 1, you have to start all over again at zero.

Clearly it's not a real curriculum by any means. But I think we might be seeing some learning progress even over the short time we've been doing this. We expect to do a bit more during the summer, maybe with some Core Knowledge lessons, and these phonics workbooks that worked so well for our elder when she was in kindergarten.

In any case, my wife and I are enjoying teaching our kids. It's exciting to watch their minds work. It's also a way to share with them our own values about persistence, effort, and the pleasure of academic ideas. And after a long week when it can seem that the family is a convoy of ships passing in the night, it's just nice to sit next to each other for an hour.