Luke: (into comlink) Yes, that’s it. Dagobah.
Luke: (into comlink) No, I’m not going to change my mind about this. (getting a little nervous) I’m not picking up any cities or technology. Massive life-form readings, though. There’s something alive down there…
Luke: (into comlink) Yes, I’m sure it’s perfectly safe for droids.
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
There’s a new Facebook page I’ve been spending my time on that you or your older kids might be interested in called What Do Engineers Do. It has links to things that are science, technology, math and engineering related, but also some just plain fun things too.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.” – Yoda, Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
Back in the day I was a homeschooling mom, at least that’s what my tagline says. Ok, I’m still a homeschooling mom - or eclectic, non-radical unschooling mom if you prefer that label – but it feels like I’ve let the move take over my life these past couple of months. And it has, to an extent, but not exclusively. I am learning, slowly, to step away from The Schedule and let the learning happen in a more relaxed manner.
In our day to day lives, well maybe week to week lives depending on where we’re living at the moment, Padawan Learner is continuing to explore the world of geometry (which he MUCH prefers to algebra). It’s concrete and tangible and he can readily see it being used in the world around him. And for whatever reason, he loves the fact that all angles in triangle add up to 180 degrees. Simple pleasures.
PL is also nearly through reading Joy Hakim’s A History of US. He’s been going through it in fits and starts this year, but since we’ve borrowed the series he’s making work of getting it read before we leave town. She did a nice job covering the history of our land and the people who have inhabited it. And she did it in a way that doesn’t complete turn most late elementary and middle school kids off. That’s nothing to sniff at. When I read the books, it’s almost like a favored aunt is talking – conversational, informed, slightly gossipy and a bit opinionated at times. We also found overviews that were contradictory in tone and interpretation to make sure that we saw other sides to our nation’s history.
Star Wars ancillary fiction and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series have taken pride of place in PL’s recreational reading these past few months. It would appear that the doings of Moist von Lipwig (and his none too benevolent over-seer, Lord Vetinari) are just too entertaining to put down. I spotted a new visual dictionary, LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary, the other day at the bookstore, but didn’t have time to check it out. It might not be something PL would be interested in anymore (although the fun factor might be too high to pass up), but it’s probably perfect for the younger Fanboy and Fangirl set.
Out of time for now. Just wanted to remember out-loud that there’s more to live than moving. See, I’m learning.
Lando: ”You look absolutely beautiful. You truly belong here with us among the clouds.”
Princess Leia: [coolly] “Thank you.”
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
Sometimes I see something that just blows my hair back. This is one of those times. The videoes I’m referring to are a visual series about mathematics and spacial relationships, and I recommend that you watch them all. The home website is Dimensions; from there you can watch the entire series. Lest you mistakenly think I’m brilliant, the credit must go to Diane Flynn Keith who publishes the rave-reviewed ClickSchooling Ezine with 10,600+ subscribers. If you’re ready to save time and money with fun, web-based curriculum ideas, get your FREE subscription now at ClickSchooling.
Age Range: 12 and up (Don’t let that stop you from sharing aspects with younger children/students.)
My thanks to MaryAnna for recommending this terrific website that will open even the most math-reluctant minds to the beauty and dimensions of mathematics. Created by three math enthusiasts (with terrific credentials) this site offers a free film on mathematics that references the work of renown mathematicians, scientists, artists, and others in a multi-media presentation that is sure to amaze and (hopefully) make the subject matter understandable. The film is divided into 9 chapters as follows:
*Chapter 1, Dimension Two – Learn or review what meridians and parallels are, and “enjoy the spectacle of the Earth rolling like a ball!”
*Chapter 2, Dimension Three – Mixes “elementary” math with imagination and philosophical elements and provides some exercises to make sure you’ve understood the material.
*Chapters 3 and 4, Fourth Dimension – Contains more difficult mathematical concepts. However, the viewer is encouraged to pause the film and consult a reference page for additional information. As the creators explain, “you can always sit back and enjoy the pictures!”
*Chapters 5 and 6 – Contains an introduction to complex numbers that could also be used as a refresher course. As the
designers explain, “If you know nothing about complex numbers, you should push the pause button as often as you like, and try to understand using the references that we propose. These chapters are the most “school-like” of the film. To thank you for your efforts, chapter 6 ends with an amazing deep zoom scene.”
*Chapters 7 and 8 – Get an introduction to the Hopf fibration. Again the film creators explain that even though it’s not
beginner’s stuff, “it is quite pretty and deserves to be understood.”
*Chapter 9 – Shows the proof of a theorem of geometry that is relatively “elementary.” As the designers explain, “Without proofs for theorems mathematics would not exist, and we wanted to make this very clear at the end of a film that is essentially about mathematical objects.”
Each lesson or “chapter” of the film is 13 minutes long. Watch it in segments or sit down and watch the whole 117 minutes in one sitting. You are encouraged to use it in a way that works for you “based on your interest, your prior knowledge on the subject, or simply on your mood of the moment!”
Diane Flynn Keith
Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved
Permission to copy the above review in its entirety was obtained from the author.
“Remember: Your focus determines your reality.” - Qui-Gon Jinn, Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
In the end, it came down to the Pre-Algebra programs from Thinkwell or Chalk Dust. They’re both strong, content-intensive, video-based programs, which appeals to Padawan Learner’s preference for learning things visually and auditorially.
We borrowed the Chalk Dust Algebra I tapes and book from M-T’s Mom and both Dad Windu and I were impressed by how thoroughly and clearly the instructor presented the materials. I was especially impressed by the number of examples that Dana Mosley uses to really drive a point home. He is, however, a tiny bit dry (fine for me, but less so for PL) and the lessons seem to drag on a bit (because of all those great examples). The biggest drawback is the price. Chalk Dust is almost prohibitively expensive. That said, I would say that I think that they’re probably worth every penny in quality of instruction and the extent of material covered. The price wouldn’t have been a make or break deal, especially since there is a huge market for used Chalk Dust programs (for just this reason).
Thinkwell’s program is based online, with the option to buy CDs for additional offline use. This is nice as there is no delay in starting the program and you can access it from anywhere. You also aren’t without your program completely if you lose or break a CD. Because of the internet-based nature of the program, it can be produced and distributed less expensively as well. I was very, very impressed by Edward Burger’s teaching style, which incorporates a lot of humor. Essential, for a lot of kids. The lessons are very engaging, the material and examples are top notch, and the individual units are short and to the point. You can tell that he absolutely loves math and loves teaching math.
After letting PL watch both demo videos, I left the choice up to him. We talked about the pros and cons to each program and he had a little bit of a hard time choosing. In the end, he chose the Thinkwell program, preferring the humor-laced instruction and the unit by unit layout. He also liked being able to track his progress through the online program and doing the chapter reviews online. We signed up and he started yesterday afternoon.
“Into exile, I must go. Failed, I have.” – Yoda, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith
Saxon 1/2 is being banished from Padawan Learner’s homeschooling routine. It is a completely poor fit for him. I know, I know. There are legions out there who just love this program, who swear by this program, who think it’s the best thing e.v.er … I am not one of them. Granted, it’s an easy math program for parents who don’t want to do math with their kids or for kids who want to do math by themselves (being pretty much a self-teaching text), but it’s an absolute disaster for kids who don’t learn best by rote memorization and who always want to know “Why?”. This was the deal breaker for Padawan Learner.
Every day, he’d be cruising along feeling all smart and sassy, following along with the straight and narrow explanations in the book, until the problem sets took a left turn or he ran across one on the following days’ review sets. He became a first class “number plugger” when the problems looked exactly like the examples but get him into a different type of situation and he was lost. Obviously, the Saxon method isn’t teaching him to think about using these numbers and methods flexibly to solve a problem, or how to translate the information and processes into dissimilar situations.
So we’re moving on.
While I look into other materials that might work better for either this year or for next, I’m taking the Saxon 1/2 book and making real-life projects, puzzles and “chew on these” questions out of the information that he has been learning and what he would be studying in the coming weeks. I’m emphasizing the relationships between topics – area and per unit costs, LCM and ratios, for example – and building them into challenges for him to sift through, puzzle over and figure out. I’ll be there to help him make sense of the mathematics, giving him nudges and clues along the way, but ultimately he seems to grasp concepts quicker, more easily and more deeply when he’s allowed to chew on them as part of a larger whole.