Confession time: I have really enjoyed relinquishing my role as amateur homeschooler now that Jax and Em are in school. I know that they will get a good dose of literacy, math, outdoor play, and creative fun every single day they are there, and that’s a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. Now I can pull out a great craft, some fine motor fun, or a literacy game for the pure pleasure of it, rather than any sense of self-imposed obligation (I know, crazy Mommy). But that also means that since I do it so infrequently, on a morning when Em bats her eyelashes and asks for something fun to do pretty please, I have no excuse but to get my act in gear.
Yesterday, after such a request, I showed her my Rub Some Dirt On It Pinterest board, where all my great ideas of the past are stored for a rainy day. Sometimes there is a cool activity I did with Jax that I never got around to doing with Em, and she usually latches onto those. This activity was no exception–she saw something involving blocks and construction and she wanted in. So although I never intended to do any math games with her that morning, how can I say no to a little learning fun with my girl?
The first thing I did was create a sort of number line on the bottom of a piece of construction paper with Duplo block-sized columns running along the length of it. I numbered the columns 1-9.
Then, without much direction (because I love to see how my kids interpret situations such as this), I told her to stack the appropriate number of blocks in each column. Luckily she already knows her numbers (in part because of fun activities such as this) so I didn’t have to guide her; I just sat back and watched (and of course, took pictures. When are my kids going to realize that moms don’t normally photograph every step of every activity they play? #bloggingmomproblems). She immediately dug into our Duplo box and began stacking away.
I noticed a few fascinating things right away, about how she approached the activity and also how different she is from me as far as learning styles (a little metacognition first thing in the morning never hurt anyone). First, she gravitated toward the larger Duplos with the letters and numbers on them rather than the smaller, plain ones that Jax used when he did this right away. I knew that she was going to run out of room on the page and that her columns were going to be larger than the paper. I wondered if that was going to bother her and whether she would start over with smaller ones once she realized it (or if she has a more relaxed attitude about boundaries than her mom because Lord knows it was driving me nuts). Secondly, she stacked them in her hand, rather than placing them in a line on the paper (which is also contrary to how I would have done it, but definitely smarter). I also realized before she did that she was not going to have enough blocks of that size to finish the columns. How would she handle that?
Simply. She found blocks of the same height (but different depth) and used those. Now the OCD part of me went a little crazy and I had to restrain myself from “fixing it” for her and searching high and low for matching blocks. It didn’t bother her, it was a perfectly appropriate solution, and Mommy definitely needs to get a life.
Meanwhile, because don’t forget there was a 1-year-old running around, I was trying to count Megablocks with Little H in a similar manner. She does like the act of counting and usually wants to do whatever Em is doing. She wasn’t feeling it that day, though, and when I tried to count with her (“1…2…”) she would say something random, like “nine” or “B,” and run away. Okay, not interested. But before I quit I asked Em if she wanted to give the same project a try with the Megablocks and she took the project to a new, 3-dimensional level.
It was awesome! I was so proud of her for thinking outside the box. She really is so much more spatial than I am as a learner. She ran into some of the same problems as before, but she solved them quickly and without any of my OCD tendencies.
She’s so much cooler than me. Obviously.
When she was done, she proudly showed me her handiwork. I asked her if she was very sure she was finished, and when she realized two of her columns were the same height, she figured out how to fix it.
I’m so proud of my Em for seeking out opportunities to learn and be creative, and for keeping me from being a lazy mama. I am definitely lucky to have her.
I hope I can be as cool as her someday.