Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A 12 Year-Old's View of Middle School

My DD12, Hanover, who has been back in the public school system for two years after homeschooling for three, made the announcement, a bit out of the blue, that she was going to homeschool next year. After talking with her a little bit, here are her main concerns:

  1. School is boring and they spend waaaay too much time learning the same thing (she's pretty bright, so catches on quickly).
  2. She wants to be finished her work early and have more time to spend on her own projects (like writing short stories).
  3. She is sick of the moody and pervy (her word--but not in a gross way, more like mischevious) boys
  4. She doesn't feel like she can really talk with her favorite friends at school because they can be boring, are too much of followers, don't often get her sense of humor, and can be slow to catch on.
  5. The school rules are very much about obedience and don't make sense to her. Examples: even though her math teach has the current textbook page projected on the smart board for everyone to see, she still insists that each student turn to the same page in the book on their desk. The aids are very gruff and commanding in their rule enforcement and she doesn't understand the need for some of the rules or why they enforce rules arbitrarily. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

If You are Near Boston and Love Math: Math is Fun Event by Dads Do Good

From the Math is Fun event listing:

Math Is Fun
at its launch event!
(MIT, Microsoft NERD Center, 1 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA 02142)

It would be a crazy person to choose Mathematics as their first theme but we are convinced Maths can be fun and maybe a little crazy too. We want to share tips and tricks with you on how to make it fun.

Here's what you can expect at the event
Listen to a panel with experts sharing ideas on how they keep Math fun.
See how technology has changed how we deal with Math
Gaming makes Math fun too and you get to try apps and Wii games right there.
Enjoy food as you mingle with fellow parents and experts alike.
Children are welcome and will be engaged throughout
Targeted for elementary and middle school kids
We are excited to partner with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, a global learning company. A wonderful opportunity to be a part of something important.

At this wonderful hands-on event you can learn from math teachers and educators. Dads and kids can experience playful learning through math apps and wii games in a workshop format.
Dads and children (and moms) are welcome! Please register to attend. The event is free.

You can register at this link

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Embracing the Changes

The snow on Saturday was pretty easy for me, a work-at-home mom who didn't have to go out until the late afternoon. Our new plow guy rules. Not only did he plow and sand, his son shoveled the snow from behind our cars and even moved our trash cans out of the giant snow pile. Very impressive!

My four year old can put on his own gloves (mostly) and even put on his own snow pants (mostly).

Accomplishments he notices but that I celebrate silently. He is getting bigger and bigger.

When my first child was little, I adored every new skill she demonstrated and mourned at the same time. I felt like I was always going to miss the gurgling smiles or baby talk words. Every advance was tinged with the loss of the adorable baby-ness that I so loved. Then it was the loss of the adorable toddler-ness, and on and on.

I remember speaking with a friend whose child was already a teenager. I was telling her how much I will miss all of the cuteness. "I just love how wonderful this age is," I said.

She replied, "All of it is wonderful. Every age brings something amazing."

And it is right. Now that my oldest daughter is 12, I can say that seeing her come into her own skin as a young lady is just as gratifying as cuddling her when she was just learning to speak. And as my son learns to be self-sufficient, I celebrate his independence and look forward to fully enjoying, with no sadness, each of his phases of development.

Out of the Mouths of Babes

While preparing the grocery list:

Me: Kids, what kind of fruit do you want for snacks?
Hanover: Apples!
Flurpee: Oranges!
Moose (4 years old): Chicken Nuggets!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bouyancy and Forces Science Demonstration: Floating Corn Kernels with Kitchen Basics (Optional Experiment Included in the End)

You know I am a sucker for introducing kids to science. I have added different levels of discussion for this demonstration based on age. Using easily found items (I may be the only one who still makes popcorn in the microwave with a brown paper lunch bag, so maybe not all of them are right in your cupboard), show a number of different science concepts.

Materials (when you look at the videos, you can see that I had no idea how much I was using of anything):
  • A clear, tall container—I used a 1 quart Mason jar
  • 3 cups of water
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup of baking soda
  • 1/8 to ¼ cup of unpopped popcorn kernels
  • ½ to 1 cup of white vinegar
  1. Mix baking soda and vinegar in the clear container
  2. Add corn kernels
  3. Pour in vinegar (Over or near a sink! It may foam over the top.)—it may need a little stir
If you do not have a 1 quart container, try halving the amount of water, baking soda, and vinegar.

Middle schoolers through toddlers can learn something from this demonstration. My guy was thrilled to see something change. I showed him the bubbles on the kernels and, that when the kernels reached the surface, those bubbles disappeared and the kernel sank.

Older children, elementary-aged, might look at how many bubbles it takes to make the kernels rise. Bubbles float and, when there are enough bubbles on a kernel, that force is more than the force of gravity pulling the kernel to the bottom. They will see quickly that the amount of bubbles on the surface will determine whether the kernel will rise or fall. Try to figure out how many bubble are needed before it rises.

With middle schoolers, start with the same concepts above. They may already know that the bubbles are pushed up by an upward force called bouyancy. The bubbles are bouyant because they are not as dense as water. Each bubble adds its upward bouyant force to the other bubbles on the kernel (a cool property called force superposition).  The kernels rise when the bouyant force is larger than gravity.

More in-depth: Ask your child where the bubbles are coming from. Turn this activity into a science experiment by putting kernels in plain water, water with baking soda, and water with vinegar. Are lots of bubbles forming on the kernels in any of those? What about seltzer water? A chemical reaction occurs when baking soda and vinegar are put together. They create carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide gas dissolves in water. Seltzer water also has carbon dioxide dissolved in it.

For those who just can't get enough, ask why the bubbles appear on the kernel (and wall of the container) at all. (Bubbles like to form on tiny, sharper places, nucleation sites.) They can try to estimate how many bubbles it takes to get the kernel to move up.  
Kim McNeill is the editor and publisher of Macaroni Kid for Southbury, Oxford, Woodbury, and Middlbury CT, blogger at Hearst CT Media Group, Kim's Play Place, the Waterbury CT Family Entertainment Examiner and freelance writer for CBS Local in Connecticut.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Things I Never Thought I'd Say Before Becoming a Parent

Things I Never Thought I'd Say Before Becoming a Parent: You are the master of your body. You control the poop. Be the boss of your poop. You tell that poop it has to go into the potty.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Relaxing Weekend without Kids? Yeah.

You would think there would be no down side to having my father voluntarily take all three of my kids for a long weekend.

I don't know what he was thinking. Although I am with my 12 year old, 10 year old and four year old all of the time, I am sure it must be intense for someone not used to it.

Yet he did take them and they had a great weekend. They spent a good deal of time playing outside because of the unseasonal warmth. The four year old, who is notoriously difficult to get to sleep, went to bed well all weekend--as long as he was sleeping with both of his sisters.

Now all of the kids are back home and we are resuming our usual routines with a little extra oomph because of my New Year's resolution to keep the house cleaner.

And that resolution has already hit a huge snag. I was prepared for my 12 year old to be truculent and derail our efforts.


The lovely, relaxing weekend I enjoyed while the kids were at my father's house has left me with a potty training regression.

Instead of just reminding the kids to pick up after themselves and establishing new chore charts, I'm cleaning furniture and giving baths four times a day. It is difficult to embark on new routines when I have to clean up emergencies frequently.

So I am back to setting timers every two hours to remind my guy to head to the potty. I just hope it is only a short adjustment!