Thursday, December 19, 2013

Homeschooling as the Accidental Bystander Geometry

Geometry scares me. The thought of teaching it horrifies. I have worked hard to get myself up to snuff. This summer I took a MOOC's course at Stanford called How We Learn Math. The class was taught by a charming woman Dr. Jo Boaler and was geared for educators. It focused on new research of how our brains learn math. It was all about transforming the mindset and math experience. Wow was that right up my alley. This coursed knocked down myths, changed my mindset, taught me to value mistake making as key to any process and empowered my intuitive organic feelings about the importance of conceptual learning.  One of the best languaging phrases I learned form this course was, "I am not good at math...YET!"  So take the course. It will be offered again.
Even though the course did not cover geometry, it did empower me that I can teach geometry.  I started with Montessori materials and the Zome Tools I mentioned before, all strong in concrete images. We are learning the nomenclature concepts of Geometry. Along the way I have picked up these books that serve as our text books for geometry addressing the way my son's brain is wired to learn it.  We use some Waldorf materials for math and geometry.  I like the way the Waldorf method incorporates art and specifically drawing into math.

 I had stumble upon Math by Hand the 1st year we homeschooled. Math by Hand a elementary Waldorf math curriculum where you buy a grade level and everything is included.  Conor loved it.  It covered form drawing of geometrical shapes and all kinds of movement based drills and patterning work.  It led me to investigate all the Waldorf curriculum which I will get into later with a page of it's own. The orange and purple booklets here were purchased at the the Randolph Steiner College, an online source of Waldorf materials. They are books that instruct the student on geometrical relationships and teach how to draw them with a compass and ruler. The biggest find here is the "A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe".  This book has been a blessing for learning all sort of concepts and how they apply to nature and math.  I cannot stress enough the importance of concrete to abstract principles in learning for math and the brain.   I had bought the book years ago "The Kids' Whole Future Catalog".  My whole family loves it.  The engineers and the artist reach for it when they come over.  It is 30 something years old now but fun stuff can still be found between it's pages.  Geometery is more fun if you can take the conceptual ideas and see what people did with them.  Problem solvers solve problems.  Another resource we watch often is a documentary on NetFlix and You Tube about the inventor Jacque Fresco creator of the Venus Project.  Conor finds him inspirational.  Me too! Here's a link to what he is about.

I also have used the good old Montessori materials to teach Geometry. While some of the more traditional geometry experiences we all had in school are coming, further down the road, right now I am focusing on application and geometry as fun.  I want to create a strong foundation and positive mindset about the subject.
Euclid board before my husband fixed it.  As you can see the pieces did not fit as the materials came to us.  My engineering husband fixed it right up.

geometry cabinet

We also have worked with the triangle detective game and the geometry task cards by ETC Montessori.  These card have activities and experiments to teach the child all kinds of critical thinking skills and problem solving.  Again the focus is on play and experimenting.  Learning the difference between isosceles, equilateral and scalene triangles is so much more exciting when you can see the difference right in front of you.  When you can trace and create the concepts of inscribed, circumscribed, concentric, aligned, congruent and tangent in your math journal using temp plates it is just fun.

I am very grateful for our grant and living in a state that allows for us to buy these wonderful materials. Many of the materials the voucher program does not cover.  It is always a challenge to buy books and materials that are not covered by the State voucher program.  I use Amazon used books, shop at thrift stores and hit garage sales for children's books  I buy used equipment and resources whenever possible.  I shop around for the best deals and make many materials myself.  I also ask Grandparents and Aunties and Uncles for books and materials for our school.  We are blessed with a large family and many of our brothers and sisters are highly educated with no children of their own.  Uncle Dan and Auntie Lisa, both PhD's in engineering are so generous with gifts and take a genuine pleasure in seeing Conor learn and grow. My father and mother -in-law recently bought Conor all the Sir Cumference nonfiction books. 

These are so valuable and I am so thankful for them, and the lovely gifts Grandpa and Grandma gave us.  Also so many family members support us.  My Mom and Dad, Mike's Auntie Mary who is a math professor in Ohio, who has been a super encouraging mentor to bounce off ideas and give me counsel too.  Auntie Lisa and all the rest who just listen when I go on and on about what we are doing and bore everyone at the table with our lesson plan. Also I want to thank Liza Z. my friend and Montessori guru who has helped me so much as a mentor and Conor's and my teacher.  Also Laragene W. who always gives me so many ideas and inspiration and kickstarts me to think outside the box and embrace being vulnerable.  Another encouraging source is my Facebook friends who have been with me all the way building me up and keeping me focused.  So many people in my village who's shoulders I stand on to be where I am an educators. Thank you!

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