Wednesday, December 29, 2010


My secret to listening to audiobooks when I'm home with the kids? One earbud in, one left out so I can still hear them. If they need more than momentary attention, then I just rewind the portion I missed. Obviously this only works on those days where they are happy with their own company while I clean or prepare food.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Science! Must Have for Density

I purchased density blocks from Ward's a few years ago. They are excellent for understanding density. From just handling them for the littlest of students, to measuring them to compute volume for older students, to weighing them and computing density, or in conjunction with a spring scale to explore buoyancy.

I like this set of blocks a lot. These blocks hold volume constant so the difference in weight is obvious. The cube shape allows the volume to be computed easily by multiplication. There are a number of different materials. The floating blocks have enough variation in density that there is a block that is almost fully submerged and another that floats almost completely out of the water. As a warning, dry the metal blocks off well to reduce oxidation. A thin coating of mineral oil (or other non-food oil) will help preserve them.

There are equal volume rods available from Home Science Tools: While I normally like that site for their supplies and prices, this density set is not nearly as nice as the blocks. The materials are very limited (only four compared to 12). The cylinder shape requires using the formula for computing the area of a circle before the volume can be calculated. Though it could be as simple as multiplying, the area of a circle is not usually taught, proven, and understood until algebra. Though the volume can be measured by submersion, I appreciate the more accessible and straightforward cubes.

Ward's e-mail subscribers can get 15% off a purchase for a limited time:

From Edmund's (better price--but check shipping):

As a corollary to the density blocks, this set of equal-mass density rods can really help cement the density concept. Each of the rods is made of a different material and the mass is kept constant. To get the same mass from materials that vary in density, the volume needs to change. The brass rod is only about 1/2 an inch long. This set is nice, but I find it no replacement for the density blocks.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Supressing the Snark

This is Flurpee's first Christmas in public school. We celebrate Christmas and even have a Santa (can you guess who Santa is in our house? That's right--I fulfill that role for our Christmas celebration). Flurpee and Hanover figured out that I was Santa a number of years ago. Flurpee is rightfully proud of knowing something so important.

I warned her that many of her friends still believe in a 'magical' Santa at the beginning of the season and that she did not need to explain to them about Santa since they would understand soon. That has not stopped her from telling everyone what she knows. She even went so far as to take bets about whether Santa is real with her fellow third graders--it's even recorded on paper for evaluation when they get to high school. I told her that I did not want her talking about it in school any more. I really cannot condone this emphasis that is so distracting to the school environment. Apparently my warning to her was not timed well.

Here is an e-mail I received from a mom of one of my daughter's acquaintances yesterday.


Hi Kim - ---------- mentioned to me that he and [Flurpee] have been talking about Santa Clause, etc. and what they were saying. --------- strongly believes in Santa. Maybe you could explain to [Flurpee] :)

[the mom]


It seems rather innocuous, right? Even a nice happy-face emoticon so I would know that she means it in a nice way. Yet it makes my blood boil. I find it offensive on a number of fronts. For one thing, if her son believes so strongly, why is she asking me to get my daughter to shut up about it? And asking me to muzzle my daughter about her views so that her son's views are not challenged is so hypocritical. Plus, this kid is eight and he still strongly believes in Santa. You would think she would welcome some insight if her kid has not bothered thinking about Santa in terms of reality yet. Further, this is a crazy request to try to control an environment for her son that she will have less and less say about. What I found most annoying is what she is implying she wants me to do as a parent to get my child to not talk about Santa.

This was my first response:


Since ---------- believes so strongly, I am surprised that something [Flurpee] said could affect him. I'll warn ......... that ,,,,,,,,,, should not mention that she knows Santa isn't real either.

I forbade [Flurpee] from speaking about Santa not being real last week. I will punish her severely. I would not have known she had continued to tell other children the truth if you had not told me. I told her it was not her place to disabuse other children of their fantasies. I will make sure that she never tells ---------- her beliefs ever again by assuring that the punishment is one she won't forget. She needs to understand that though she is strong enough to be true to herself, not everyone can stand other people believing differently from them.



I realized that, highly sarcastic and snarky, it probably would not help this woman understand that I think this is her problem and not mine. I actually have to deal with her on a regular basis so I should try to be civil and not promote any misunderstandings. This is the e-mail I was finally ready to send after seething all day and having my husband review it to find any latent passive aggressive tones.


Hi ---------,

Last week I counseled [Flurpee] to only state that she does not believe in Santa and not say anything more. I told her that I don't want her to debate her friends about it. I will not tell her to lie or hide what she knows.

When it comes to Santa, most kids will not leave her alone. She is being put on the defensive because so many other children cannot accept that she does not hold the same view as them. It is very hard for her to feel attacked and isolated, especially since she is so young. I have asked her to stop talking when other kids continue to pester her about why she does not believe. She has a strong sense of justice, as all kids do, and she does not feel it is right that other kids can talk about what they believe but she is not allowed to talk about what she knows is true, especially with so many kids bothering her. She is learning very early that there are certain truths people must realize on their own and that is why I do not want her trying to convince other children of what she knows.

I try to empathize with her and I point out that there are plenty of people in this world whose views differ from many of the kids she meets here and, though it is a hard lesson to learn so early, I want her to know she is strong enough to stand up for her beliefs even when other people do not know how to accept them.

It was not clear from your e-mail if your discomfort comes from [Flurpee] stating that Santa is not real, that she does not believe in Santa, or if [Flurpee] is telling ---------- to no longer believe in Santa. I will emphasize to [Flurpee] again that I do not want her trying to convince other children that Santa is not real. Would the wording, "Santa does not come to our house," be better for ----------? I'll ask .......... how she and ,,,,,,,,,, do it since they do not celebrate Christmas at all. It is important to me that ---------- is comfortable with [Flurpee] while she stays true to herself and our family's values. I hope I can understand your concerns well enough to address them respectfully while not undermining the values of honesty and standing up for one's beliefs that our family holds dear.




It was important for me to emphasize that I understand that she has a concern. It is also important for her to understand that there are limits to what I am willing to do to help. Since I have an ongoing entanglement with this family, I need to show her that I am willing to try to help in some way. I can only hope she realizes that her request is asking for tolerance of her boy's views while showing none for ours.

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