What’s that? You ask. It’s our brand new math and science club, and today was the first day. We met at a friend’s house this morning.
Nine children ages 5-8, divided into three teams. Three five-year-old girls (Girl included), two seven-year-old boys and one girl, and three eight-year-old boys (Boy included). Six moms. Three challenges. (Three moms have an activity table, and three accompany the teams to the different tables. We meet every other week, so that means each mom has to provide a challenge once a month.) The teams get a half hour at each challenge table, during which time they earn buttons to put in their jar. When the jars are full, in some number of weeks, we celebrate.
At my table today we did tangrams. For the two younger groups I showed them the solution to the puzzle, and they had to arrange the pieces like they were in the picture. (It’s more challenging than you’d think!) For the older boys, they actually worked on solving the puzzles. Every solved puzzle earned them a button in the jar. The tangrams themselves are hard, but what they are learning is also how to work together as a team, to talk to each other, not to grab. Collaboration.
At the second table, the kids made clocks powered by vegetables.
At the third table, two kids sat on opposite sides of a partition. One kid laid out a design using pattern blocks, and then directed the kid on the other side to make the same pattern. No looking. Then at the end, they check to make sure the designs are the same. So again, math-y spatial skills, but also: communication, articulation, patience.
All of the kids did great. The three teams ended up being very well suited to each other in ability and temperament. I was impressed with how well the kids did with the tangrams, and I think I’ll do that again next month when it’s my turn again.
After the challenges were completed the kids got to play outside and eat lunch together. There was a lot of running and sword fighting.
Later when most people had gone home there was quiet, earnest Lego building.
Tonight at bedtime we read a long picture book about a family in rural Honduras learning some new farming methods from a progressive school teacher (composting, terraces, marigolds, cash crops for the farmer’s market) and how it made their life better. Boy and Girl were TOTALLY into it. I could imagine that book might not hold a lot of kids’ interest, even though it was beautifully illustrated. I felt really appreciative of what empathetic, interested kids we have.
There are some genuinely difficult things about homeschooling, or just having a family. Well, about being alive, if we’re being honest. We all need moments where can see and feel the evidence of being on a good path. Not the only path. But a good one.
Late this afternoon, while the kids were playing in our back yard with a jump rope, Girl fell hard on her hands and knees on the cement, tearing a hole in the knee of her favorite beautiful, flowered cargo pants with very good pockets. Even when we got her calmed down, she wouldn’t let us see her scraped knees. She insisted on going into Boy’s room and closing the door to inspect the damage in private. We could hear her weeping to herself Why, why, why did I do this? Why did this happen?
She would not let us in, she would not let us see, or help. But she did come out for a popsicle, a cookie, and some hugs and kisses. Later, though, when Boy came inside, she asked if he would come look at her scrapes. She said only he could see them. So back they went into his room, closed the door, and I guess either pulled her pants down or pulled them up over her knees so they could look. They were back there for a while, talking quietly. When they came out, Boy reported that Girl had one ‘medium sized scrape’ and the he recommended ‘the SP-word.’ (That would be: spray.)
Girl wished she had an arnica tablet to put under her tongue like Miss S gave her when she fell on her way in to the American Girl party a couple of weeks ago. She said under no circumstances would she let me see the scrape, so there was no way I could put spray on it. What if she put it on herself? I suggested. Okay! she agreed brightly. Back into Boy’s room she went with the bottle of antiseptic spray. When she needed a paper towel to wipe the excess, I was required to close my eyes and back into the room, holding the paper towel out until she scootched over and grabbed it from my hand. She protested that it stung more than both I and the bottle claimed that it would, but was pleased with herself for taking care of herself.
Me too, little Girl.