Archive for the ‘Edumacation’ Category

When I was in school (lo these many years ago, when I walked five miles, uphill both ways, in the blizzards since my dad took the dinosaur to work) math and science and all that WAS SO BOOOORING. And had NOTHING to do with The Real World; when am I ever going to need to know the genus of a fruit fly? Who the hell cares where two trains are going to meet when one’s going 70 mph and the other is going 80? Cursive exercises of page after page after page of letters to be practised: I was singled out, since my handwriting sucked, to be tortured to do extra work (not that I’m bitter over this AT ALL as I’m typing this out). I found it interesting that the format didn’t change much for the better, even as I took teaching classes where we explored ways to make kids see what they are being taught can be translated into the real world. It’s the age-old paradox; you want to expose children to a variety of topics to keep their future options open and help them discover areas which they can excel at; the kids don’t see how this can relate to them NOW and so they could care less.

So how can we get beyond “drill till you die”? Here’s a couple of ways to help bring the learning out of the class (NOTE: I may work up how to make playtime a teachable opportunity. I just have seen many excellent online resources for this already that I want to touch on other things):

 COOKING: Everyone should learn to cook, in my not-so-humble opinion. I’m not talking about haute cuisine, either; I’m talking about learning the basics so that when the kids are out of the house, they can fend for themselves. Cooking can be introduced early, like in infancy. Put the baby carrier in a safe place in the kitchen, and talk through what you are doing with the baby (language development). When they get mobile, tupperware (or its equivalent) makes for fun toys, and they learn about spatial relationships by nesting and stacking different containers. Wood spoon on tupperware and pots? Music and rhythm, as well as learning about different surfaces having different sounds. As they get older, you can also talk about the recipes and have them help you out (a two-year old can help you put the chocolate chips into the cookie dough. TRUST ME, they’ll want to help you do this). Different measuring cups equals fractions. Four of the quarter-cups equals one of the cups. three teaspoons equal a tablespoon. Have the kids help you double and halve recipes (hey, if we are making a double batch of cookie dough, and the recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, how much sugar are we going to need?) I have an awesome set of Pyrex measuring cups that are one, two, and four cup size– when we do this exercise I have Preschool Rockstar measure ingredients with the small cups and put them into the larger cups so she can see how much total we have. We also talk about the chemical reactions– melting butter turns a solid into a liquid. Boiling water is temperatures and also liquid to gas. Why cutting the carrots will help them cook faster. Eldest Daughter’s at the point where she’s cooking a meal a week, and she’s learning the finer points of menu planning for nutrition, comparison shopping (get to that in a minute), and time management. Another way to use cooking is recipes– what is a family favorite? What sorts of ethnic cuisine do you like to make? What kinds of foods do other people eat? What did people in history eat and drink? There are some pretty cheap and easy cookbooks out that talk about what the pioneers had, what colonial people ate, et cetera. Explore history through their tummies!

SHOPPING: Yes, I know, it can be hard. I have a toddler that doesn’t like to stay in the cart as well as a preschooler who likes EVERY SINGLE THING WE MUST GET THEM NOW. But there are ways to distract the kids and have a good lesson in at the same time. Have the kids identify colors with a modified I Spy game (I spy with my little eye… a yellow fruit!). Have them identify different fruits and vegetables. Ask them to help weigh the foods. Point out sales, have them work out the unit price and if the larger size is necessarily the better price. Start teenagers (and preteens) thinking about budget by giving them the sales ads and letting them try to plan a week’s worth of meals for a preset amount of money (and tell them a steak dinner and six nights of ramen don’t count). Talk about how things were like when you were a kid– did you have supermarkets like this back then? How did your mom and dad do the grocery shopping? If you coupon, have the kids go through the coupons: Younger kids can identify letters and numbers, older ones can help categorize them. Clothes/toys/back to school shopping: Again, have the older kids work with a budget. I’m a cheap woman and one of the things I’ve done was when the older two would ask for some big-budget item (designer clothes, what have you) I would take them to the store, and have them note the item’s price and we take it with us. I then would get items that may not have the designer label, but were comparable to the look, and I showed them how much they can get vs the one outfit/garment that “everyone in the whole world is wearing except for meeeeEEEEEEeeeee!” as well as counteract the deluge of ads that are hitting the airwaves now for the Gifting Season.

Other chores and activities can help open up the world. Whether you have acres of land or a small little windowbox, gardening can open up the subjects of botany, astronomy, geography, chemistry, biology, history (especially if you take the opportunity to play with heirloom varieties), mathematics, and help critical thinking skills. Laundry can help with chemistry, and with physics (if nothing else, it’d certainly lighten your load!).

Last, but certainly NOT least on this partial list, is communication. Talk to your kids. Engage them, work to be interested in what they are doing in school and help them find the connections in life. Talk to them about what you might be doing– working on a meal plan, trying to balance the checkbook, repairing bits and bobs of life, whatever. If your children see and experience that their education is important to you then they will be much more willing to learn and not see it as “stupid stuff that I’m never gonna use.” And if the kids need help with homework and it’s beyond your understanding… be honest, and see if together you both can find the answer online, or even with the teacher (many teachers are open for email, and would rather have a parent come up to them and say, “hey, what can we do to help son/daughter with this subject because I don’t really get it either” then have the kid stop trying).

Hopefully you’ve gotten a couple of ideas from this post. This is just scratching the surface– if you have any ideas, please feel free to share!

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Recently a lady posted on a Facebook group I belong to, about how they recently moved (a very good thing) and were getting the kids set up in school… and found out her daughter was two FULL GRADES behind in science (which was not her fault; and many parents who have moved have had this fun discovery) and would have to take a test at the end of the year. She needed resources to help her get her sweetheart up to her current grade.

First things first. Every state, despite No Child Left Behind, has their own set of standards as to what every child should know in each subject by grade. Some, like California, are above and beyond what NCLB call for, while other states may still be lagging (and sadly, families that move may get the brunt of that discrepancy). I honestly feel every parent should know what their kids are supposed to be learning, and it’s not even that hard to find out; go to your favorite search engine, type in your state’s name along with state standards for the subject you are looking for. Many states have them on websites, either on the webpage itself or in a pdf format.

Today’s post will concentrate on science again, but this will be for the older elementary set. Many of these sites also give supplemental information/activities for parents and teachers so you can expand on the lesson or casually see how the information’s sinking in.

PBS Kids ZOOM! This has a little something for everyone, with tons of different experiments for different subjects. Children can learn while doing.

Utah Education Network Science grades 3-6— bells and whistles galore (you’ll need flash, shockwave and java to fully utilize the site. Basically a site for home, not for a smart phone). Lots of interactive games and lessons by grade, and seems to introduce concepts and lessons in a fairly entertaining manner.

National Geographic Kids!— a good natural sciences site that can really appeal to the grades 2-6 set. The magazine that’s tied to the website’s pretty nifty too. Another website/mag combo is Ranger Rick.

As before, check your local area for museums, zoos and other such locations. Many offer special exhibits at different times, and sometimes offer unique member-only opportunities; plus your money provides much-needed funds and usually will give you free or discounted membership for a year. Not so bad if you are able to go multiple times and it does give you a place to go when the kids are climbing the walls out of boredom.

Another place to go is the park system. Your child can become a Junior Ranger (hey, I was one!) and learn about the history and the nature that is not so far from the computer screen. During the summer they also offer a program where the kids can go to the park, talk to a ranger or do a little activity and be rewarded with a patch specific to the park you’ve visited. Pretty neato, if you ask me…

Hopefully this can help get you and the young ones excited, motivated, and raring to go. And if you have any other resources that you would be willing to share, I would totally appreciated it if you could leave a comment!

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As we know, a lot of the schools are hot hard by budget cuts, by having to allocate time and attention to the subjects that need to be taught for the state test standards, and… well, some teachers are strong in some areas and weak in others.

But many times, it’s easy to have “teachable” moments, whether it’s a matter of reading a book, taking a walk, or gently directing play into a specific action or toy. Here’s a few ways to get the wee ones interested in science, and see the awesome that is in the everyday:

*Take a walk through the neighborhood. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has noticable seasons, talk to your budding scientist about the differences around you (and if you are like me where there’s no real difference, talk about how the seasons change), and see if they can notice what’s different; the sun is setting earlier, the leaves are falling, et cetra. This gives you bonding time as well as help your kids build their observation skills. Another awesome activity on our to-do list is to go to our local nature center; there they have a great one mile hiking trail that’s pretty level, and it will give both Preschool Rockstar and Toddler Terrorist a chance to check out the plants, and animals if they are quiet enough.

*When out and about, have the kids collect neat leaves they might like. Talk about what trees they came from, why the leaves might have turned colors and fall off the branches. After you have collected a neat portion, press them between two pieces of paper and under some heavy books for three to four days. Then take a section of wax paper, lay it down on your ironing surface and have your little one arrange their leaves on it (leave at least an inch around the edge empty– and best to have each leaf have a little space). When the kids are happy with the leaves, take another section of wax paper, put that on top of the leaves, and quickly press the two sheets together with the iron (I would probably also put a towel under just in case, but I’m paranoid). Now you have an awesome collection to hang on the wall, or in the window, and the kids have a great way to display their knowledge of their local area.

*Tell the story of Johnny Appleseed (since apples will start to come into season). There are also some neat Native American legends. Many cultures also have their explanations and stories; see if you can work a few for your kids.

*Since it’s still pretty hot right now (and for us, we won’t begin any real cool-down till at LEAST mid-October, if that), I was going to teach Preschool Rockstar about evaporation and the different properties of water by making a saltwater still.

*Toddler Terrorist is almost old enough for play-dough, which makes me a little excited. There’s a TON of recipes on the web for home-made varieties (some a little more edible then others, some a little more shelf-stable then others). With play dough you can explore textures, shapes, even squish primary colors together and show how they can make the secondary colors. There’s lots of imaginary play that can also happen, so as you can tell I’m super-happy. When they are a little older (and a little less apt to put the stuff in their mouths), we can play with Gloop.

*Also look in the area for cultural events that are free or not so much money. This coming weekend the Greek Orthodox church in our area is having a festival. There’s also a Hawaiian Hula and Chant contest if we aren’t feeling up for the Greek thing. Later on there will be harvest festivals and the like.

Hopefully this will help you have a few ideas on what to do with kidlets in your life, and hopefully you can experience the world through their eyes– which is humbling, and wonderful, and incredible.

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