Thursday, July 03, 2008

Math night times four

In our house homeschooling is often inseparable from life but occasionally the kids parcel off little parts of their lives to dedicate to some sort of formal learning. Currently all four kids happen to be studying math somewhat formally. Most everything else occurs with only peripheral parental involvement, but for whatever reason the kids relish my involvement in any formal math they want to do. At times like this I begin to get a sense of what the days of "school at home" style homeschooling moms are like.

Here "school at home" starts at about 9:45 p.m.. Fiona wants to do some math. I sit on the couch with her and she cracks open her current Singapore book. She's usually good for two or three lessons, though lately there's been so much practice in triple-digit subtraction that she's slowed her pace a little. She especially likes to have help with the writing component. Her little five-year-old hand just isn't ready for the smallish arrays of numbers expected of Singaporean 2nd-graders. So she gives me verbal instructions ("cross out the 8, make it a seven, put the extra hundred with the tens, beside the 3 to make 13...") and I dutifully scribe. Sometimes I purposely misinterpret her instructions and make a silly error. She loves this. She laughs a lot while doing math.

Within a few minutes the other kids have realized, because Fiona's started math, that it's getting late, and they begin staking out their claim on my time too. It's unusual to have all four interested in math during the same month or season, so I get taken aback by the cascade of requests. Sophie is there, book in hand, before Fiona has finished. For a few minutes each girl is a little irked by the interference of the other. I manage to make Fiona feel like she is done at the end of a page partway through a second exercise. She moves down the couch and lies her head on a cushion.

Sophie is wanting to be done with Singapore and move on to something different. We've taken a few diversions this year in an attempt to feed her math interest without moving her too quickly to the end of Primary Math, but she definitely feels it's time to move on now. She's working in the last book now, working with geometric formulae. She is happy doing some of her work without me involved, so once I help her get started, she moves to a corner of the couch and carries on.

Noah sidles over next. He's working steadily through Life of Fred Beginning Algebra now. Most of it's review, but he loves the presentation and it's helping increase his confidence. He's now coming up with humorous Fred-style answers to the practice problems (which we do orally mostly, with the whiteboard on our laps in case we need it). Sophie and Erin both enjoy eavesdropping on the stuff from Fred. By this time Fiona is asleep.

Now it's after 11 p.m. and Erin wants a turn. She brought home the MathPower9 textbook from the school a couple of weeks ago and is now about half way through. Like with Noah, most of this new book is review for her, but unlike Noah she's fairly confident in her ability to make sense of unfamiliar things so she's pushing herself through it quickly. She does about half an hour on factoring polynomials and fussing with exponents and roots.

Math finishes up a little after 11:30 pm. And so our readaloud starts not very long before midnight. I read two chapters, but my deal with the kids is that if I'm to read any more than that (which will take me past my preferred bedtime) they must comb my hair. This helps keep me awake, and makes me happy too.

After four chapters I finally snap the book shut, my hair thoroughly free of tangles, my scalp tingling happily, my eyes drooping. I carry Fiona to bed, say goodnight to Sophie and encourage Noah and Erin to go to bed before too long. They're on the computers; who knows when they'll hit the sack.

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