Archive for the ‘Maths’ Category

I tend to avoid avoid blogging specifically about learning these days. Sometimes it feels too ‘try hard’…a bit fake, y’know!? Or maybe it’s because I don’t like to overthink the learning for fear of schoolish thoughts coming into my head!?? Maybe both of those things and more!?

But I guess for newer unschoolers, it might be what the you are looking for….ideas on bringing stuff into the home, looking for the learning in everyday stuff, and strewing…also recording if you have to register….

So…I hereby shall blog about some learnin’ type stuff that’s been going on around here of late! Specifically, since they are the two ‘subjects’ people freak out about the most, Maths and English!

As he approaches 7, lots of things are going on for Kai, I think, at the moment. He has a new awareness of things, he likes things he didn’t like before…constantly growing, learning (and losing teeth!).

He suddenly likes to be read to. Chapter books. Every night. I’m enjoying reading with him greatly and we’ve so far got through about 8 Beast Quests and 3 Boy Vs Beast books! He’s not reading yet, but I see a definite progression in his understanding of words and writing – which has happened pretty fast since Christmas. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll be an independent reader anytime soon, but it’s very cool to watch his learning move forward in such a natural, unforced, way…he can pick out a word in a group of words, and has been following some sentences as I read aloud…

Other literacy things we enjoy here are Rory’s Story Cubes (just discovered they have an App too, while I found that link! Cool!!), which Kai loves…and recently we got a game called ‘Gallows’ from the Op Shop (also discovered an App for hangman getting that link!), which is essentially a fancy plastic version of the game hangman that we all played at school!

Since Kai can’t read or spell yet, we had to come up with a more ingenious way to play Gallows together..…the same day he’d also got some Pokémon Annuals from the same Op Shop, so we decided to play Pokémon Hangman/Gallows. Kai chooses the name of a Pokémon creature from his annual, and chooses the letters to spell it out, then I choose one too, and we play that way. It’s so much fun!! (and  just an interesting aside, ‘Pokémon’ is in the spell check dictionary on my computer! Who knew!?)


Someone on an unschooling group suggested (to another poster) Montessori Crosswords App on the iPod, but that didn’t go down well here, although Scribblenauts is still very popular, especially on long road trips. Kai pretty much knows most alphabet letters now, mostly all from Scribblenauts…

Workbooks are a definite no-no in Kai’s opinion, although we do have a pile in the cupboard (mostly for reporting purposes!)! I think, if a parent is fully deschooled, and a child has never been to school, workbooks are actually a pretty odd concept in general. If school didn’t exist, then workbooks wouldn’t exist…..it’s a simple truth!  Workbooks are set up in a schoolish way that has no relevance to everyday life and learning, so I can’t imagine them being at all appealing to most always unschooled kids – although I’m sure there are some kids out there that like them, before I get jumped on!! He also doesn’t much enjoy Junior Scrabble, but loves Junior Monopoly (see below for maths!).

Other aspects of English of course include public speaking and drama, and Kai has been enjoyed drama class a lot, and we have our first ‘real’ performance in front of an audience tomorrow!! But he’s never had any problems with public speaking and acting anyway!

And although he doesn’t enjoy writing, when he does write, his writing is quite legible…drawing, cutting and gaming are awesome for fine motor control, and I’m sure that has helped his writing when he’s decided to do some….he recently wrote this story about dragons…



Number concepts are so pervasive in everyday life, it seems kinda weird to ‘address’ maths! But, we do have some favourite mathsy type resources that we use a lot….lately those have been board games – Junior Monopoly, Chess, Go For Broke, Blokus….we’ve been playing a whole lot of all of those (well, in truth I don’t/can’t play chess…but Brett does!).

Another game we found in an Op Shop is called CrissCross and has two possible permutations, one with letters and one with numbers. Unsurprisingly Kai doesn’t enjoy the word version, but rather more surprisingly he loves the number version – we use some wooden operator symbols to help him put his sum together, and sometimes the abacus, and he quickly picked up addition and subtraction and actually asks to play that game. Later down the track it’s obviously possible to do longer sums and multiplication and division and stuff in the game….




Jigsaws are another of our favourite maths resources (spatial reasoning, parts of a whole, etc)….And, of course, cooking and food!…Oh, and we seem to find graphs EVERYWHERE!! Lately we’ve been checking the surf report graph at Swellnet.com to see if there is local surf! Kai can interpret bar charts and pie-charts easily.


But for both English and Maths, computer games have been our biggest and best resource by far….on so many levels (pardon the pun!). Fine motor control helps with writing, drawing, cutting… Problem solving helps with everything, but especially maths. Gaming uses big numbers, 100’s, 1000’s, even 10,000 and more – and so Kai has no problems with the concept of large numbers. A great deal of the words Kai knows by sight are gaming based (play, pause, exit, zombie, etc!). Map reading skills are required in loads of games. The other day he made a hotel in Minecraft and wanted to call it ‘The Cave Hotel’ (no, I don’t know why!) and typed out the letters for his sign.

Minecraft in particular is AMAZING!!!And don’t just take my word for it, read and watch the links below – and then go get your kid Minecraft – it’s only $19.95!!! Cheaper and way more useful than a box of wooden Cuisinaire rods!

Is Minecraft the ultimate educational tool?

Why won’t she get off Minecraft?

So. That’s what we’ve been up to….but remember these are things WE enjoy! They might not be things that float your child’s boat so much, so they’re just a guide – an idea of the type of learning resources available in every day fun life (and in the Op Shops!)…..but remember…. if I forced Kai to sit down and play CrissCross with me – well – I wouldn’t be unschooling anymore, i’d be teaching him maths…..


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I haven’t blogged for weeks.  Well, two weeks and one day, to be exact – but those were only photo posts, so not sure if they truly count!

So. We are busy this week, and it’s hot. Oh. It’s SOOOOO hot! So I can’t be bothered writing much, and will now regail you with pictures from Christmas and New Year, mostly from Melbourne at Nana’s…in no particular order, because honestly, it’s THAT hot!



We met up with our friends David and Orion…the boys have known each other since Boulder, when kai was 3, David 4 and Orion 18 months! We met up with them a lot! Hooray!

We spent a lot of time with Kai’s cousins….



Playing Blokus (affectionately now known as Block-arse!?)….



On the Slip N Slide



Watching “Hairspray” whilst wearing hairspary (New Year Ever!)



Attacking Uncle Dean with silly string! (also NYE!)

Kai also learnt chess, with Brett’s old board…



And we brought back Backgammon too! The board games run continues!

Kai also went to the Melbourne Aquarium with Nana, but I don’t have the photo’s yet! We also went to a Melbourne Unschoolers meet-up, but I appear to have lost the photo’s…rats!

We obviously did a bunch of other stuff. Played with new presents (Wii games, Ninja dudes, new DVD’s – Kai was very happy with his Christmas presents this year :)), went shopping and spent Christmas money (more Wii games, more Ninja dudes!)….but that’s it in a nutshell!

So. We’ve been home since Wednesday. It has been opressively hot and the fire danger is shocking! Other stuff has happened and really it’s all been quite overwhelming for the beginning of 2013! We’ve been to the beach, gone back to drama practice and today we started Kai’s week-long Surf Groms program.

We managed to be there by 10am (Kai was up at 6.30am in anticipation!)…and I’m happy to say he absolutely loved his first day – and already rode a wave in standing up! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of that yet (but I will!) so here’s another…



More to come soon!

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We’ve been enjoying gaming the last few days – old-style gaming! Kai has been particularly enjoying Junior Monopoly and Uno, but we’ve also played a little Junior Scrabble and some Rory’s Story Cubes! This is tonight, playing with Brett (while I was at the gym – this is the end of the game!)…not sure what Kai’s doing with extra pirate debloons….).  I think that bit of rug must be the photographed rug in the world, just sayin’!

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As promised, here is a ‘real’ update of the past week, although there will likely be some photo’s of the green bucket also!

After a week or so away with just Brett and I, Kai seemed keen to spend lots of time with his friends this week, so I made a big effort to make sure we saw someone (or lots of people!) every day….

So. Monday was our Natural Learning group park day….we went to a new park (for us) and the weather was lovely, and a good time was had by all…

After the park, we headed to the swimming pool to meet with some friends we hadn’t seen for a while. We stayed for a bit, but the chlorine really affected Kai this time, way worse than usual, and he couldn’t stop sneezing so he asked to leave quite soon….we still had fun though!

On Tuesday, we went to a more general homeschool park meet, which was organized for people in the area new to or thinking about homeschooling, to ask questions of those already doing it. Again it was a new park for us, and another lovely day – although Tuesday was verging on too hot! The kids all got in the creek which helped them cool down!

On Wednesday we visited friends after a quick trip to the library, and Kai took Skylanders and much Wii fun was had by all….there was also some trampoline jumping between Wii bouts….

Yesterday (phew!), we met up with a big group of homeschoolers to go ice-skating. We haven’t been ice-skating since we left Boulder (some 2.5 years ago!). Kai got quite good in Boulder, but I wasn’t sure how he’d go after such a long time…..

The kids started off with chairs for balance and support…

But by the end of the session both were skating sans chairs!

Everyone loved skating, and want to go again very soon! Next time I must remember gloves for me, as well as Kai!

After skating we went to the nearby adventure playground….

And then (some of you may wish to close your eyes now and go to your happy place….), we went to McDonalds and all the kids had a Macca’s burger and fries!

I’m absolutely exhausted after that week (and I didn’t even eat at Macca’s!)…and it’s been interesting to see how such a social week has tired out Kai too! He’s been asleep by 10.30pm every night, and had two sleeps in the car on the way home!  Makes me wonder how exhausting it must be for kids in school, forced into a massively overwhelming environment, whether they like it or not, with no chance to escape or have an afternoon nap!

So, other than all that, we’ve done some cooking – we had our first BBQ of the spring/summer and made kangaroo kebabs…

Kai helped with some skewering….and it all looked a bit fancy on the BBQ…

The kebabs were a hit with all, although the mint yogurt (made with mint from the garden!) was the biggest hit with Kai, who ate the remainder out of the bowl on it’s own!

We’re still trying to figure out a tangrams puzzle that came with our CSIRO Math and Stats by email this week….

So, that’s our week…Oh – the bucket of lollies, nearly forgot! This was the bucket on Monday…

Kai hadn’t eaten anymore from it. Brett and I ate a couple of chocolates! ha ha!

Then on Tuesday, the second load of lollies arrived from Nana!! I did take photo’s, was was about to upload them, but they are on Brett’s camera which doesn’t seem to be here!

Anyway. Lots of different sweets and chocolates came, but Kai didn’t seem to like any of them! He took a bite or two of everything, then put them all back! Honestly, Brett has eaten pretty much all the second lot, and I ate the Violet Crumble – all with Kai’s blessing! But I will find the photo’s for next time anyway!

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It’s been a hectic week! I need a rest! So, I already wrote about Tuesday and Learn Nothing Day….so on Wednesday, we went to the local library, and also went to the pet shop to purchase pets…

Kai has been wanting a pet for aaaagggges! We all want a dog, probably me more than anyone. But our lifestyle and the fact that we don’t know where we will be in 3 years means I’m not willing to get a dog that either has to be looked after by someone else a lot while we are away on trips, or has to be given away in 3 years if we end up moving overseas or something.

So. Cold water fish it was! Minimal equipment required. Easy for friends to look after if we need. Two black and white tetra to begin with…

The fish took a bit of setting up however. Gravel for the tank. Washing the tank (which has sat outside since spring when it had caterpillars in it!). And water conditioner to remove the chlorine from the tap water. We had to calculate the volume of water in the tank to work out how much conditioner to add….here’s Kai measuring the dimensions of the tank to calculate volume….

And here’s one of our fish! Still not sure of their names, Kai has changed his mind daily so far!

We had a day at home on Thursday (phew!), much to Kai’s disgust! I cleaned up and tidied the nature table….this is what it looked like – I wanted to have it look a bit spring-like – and all the flowers and blossom is from our garden…

We also got everything out of the craft box, and Kai used some bits of felt to make a creeper (and drew a bleeding creeper also!)….

And I rearranged the back room and made some dodgy looking prayer flags from old material I also found in the craft box! I have enough material to make more (perhaps tidier!) one’s for the front room!

On Friday, we went to meet friends at a playground, then we went to Kai’s first ‘Stunt Monkey’s’ class at the YMCA. It’s a big class – around 30 kids….but Kai is never fazed by big groups of kids, he actually seems to love it! He liked the class, so we paid for the rest of the term….hopefully it’ll fare better than circus last term!

On Saturday we headed out early (for us!) to the archery shop. We ended up with a kids fiberglass recurve bow and three arrows – oh, and an arm guard!…..then we headed to the local organic market, and ended up with a large jar of honey, veggies, a book on sharks, and Kai had a play in the playground! Then….we headed to Ikea. The first ever visit to Ikea for all of us…Oh My Stars! Remind me never to go to Ikea on a Saturday again!!!!

So, about 1.5 hours and $220 later, we ended up with two storage cubes for Kai’s room, a TV/DVD stand, and a desk with shelves….and a couple of other bits and bobs…

We all came home exhausted. Kai and Brett set up some boxes outside (in lieu of hay bales….) so they could shoot some arrows right away….

I assembled the TV stand and the storage cubes for Kai’s room…then completely rearranged Kai’s room and the lounge. Here’s Kai’s room now…

It’s much easier for him to find stuff, and get to it, and there is much more room – oh, and he got his desk back! The old storage is now in the lounge which makes for a tidier lounge as its housing toys and the library DVD’s and books!

Today I walked up my mountain, and the boys went to a local-ish feed supplier to get bales of hay for our archery range….it looks pretty good!

In other news, I have been knitting! I decided that my stash of crazy coloured wool, mostly from Op Shops, is embarrassing and I should do something useful with it….however my impatient personality means I’ll never finish anything too complex or big. So I’m knitting squares for a blanket. Which suits all the bits and pieces I’ve got, and since I finish a square pretty quick, I’m not bored….yet….However, my eclectic tastes mean it might be the loudest (colour-wise) blanket ever!!

So, that’s our week! There’s also been board games, Rory’s Story Cubes (Kai loves those!), Wii games, creating with blocks, drawing….yadda yadda!!! I’m hoping for something a little quieter…with less shopping and furniture rearranging this week!

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I don’t write much about what Kai’s learning much anymore. I assume (rightly or wrongly – but I admit I am given to making assumptions!) that regular readers will understand that learning is just happening, and I don’t feel the need to document it or quantify it anymore. This blog won’t be used for registration purposes either, I have enough records without it, and some of the things I’ve said here might not go down so well with the education officials!

To be honest, I’m not sure what direction this blog is going, but I do feel it turning into something a bit different soon….

Anyway, since I have a bit of time, and since we are nearly ½ way through what would have been Kai’s first year at school (yikes!) and we’re going to register soon, I thought I’d regale you with some updates on what Kai’s been learning, and – probably of more interest to most – where he’s been learning it from!

Starting with the big two. English and Maths.

He still doesn’t like being read to. I doubt he ever will. I read to him, a whole book, maybe once a fortnight on average. Last time was Good Friday and I read two books about Easter bilby’s at bedtime because he asked me to!  I offer, he declines. It used to bother me. Now it doesn’t! I don’t think it will be remotely tied to his ability to learn to read, and I really liked this page  as it made me realise that reading aloud isn’t that important, and Kai’s not the only kid who doesn’t like it!

But, there is no lack of reading ‘material’ and written words in his life. Wii games. Ipod games. Books he flips through himself (usually non-fiction – books on knights, dinosaurs and the like!). Brett and I are always reading in the house – Brett usually non-fiction (lizard books!) and me fiction! We get new books from the library every week, fiction and non-fiction, early readers and picture books…whatever we fancy!

His reading journey is hard to nail down, and we are only at the beginning, but in recent months he can pick out a word in a list of 5 or 6 options (ie: which word says ‘knight’ in a list) and is starting to figure out beginning letters/sounds – mostly from playing eye-spy in the car and on the bus.

His progress reminds me of when he learnt his colours – when he was about three (and before unschooling, but when I was considering homeschooling) I was freaking out because he didn’t seem to know his colours. But soon I realized it was how I was asking the question that was important; if I asked ‘what colour is that?’, he wouldn’t know, but if I asked ‘which colour is orange?’ then he knew. And lo and behold, he now knows all the colours of the rainbow and more! Similarly, if I said ‘what does that word say?’, he wouldn’t know, but if i said ‘which word says ‘Roman’?’ he can usually guess.

 Myself, I recently came to the realization (I’m a bit slow on the uptake sometimes!) that knowing the alphabet (ie: the names of letters) has absolutely NOTHING to do with learning to read. At all. However, he also now knows most of the letters, from playing ‘Scribblenauts’ on the ipod.

I made a few word searches for him, which he liked and can do. He’s written a few birthday cards, but dislikes writing on the whole – although his writing is actually quite legible!

Numbers seem to come to him somewhat easier than words and letters do. He can add in his head, up to three different numbers, and recognize all the numbers up to 100 (he learnt that mostly from speed signs on roads, and video games!). He has an awareness of larger numbers which are bigger and smaller (ie: can guess if he has enough points to buy something in a game) although can’t do addition/subtraction of larger numbers (Jeez – he’s only 5!). He recognizes plus, minus and equals operator signs, and knows what they mean, but dislikes written sums in general. 

He can tell the time to the hour and half hour – usually I ask him to tell me what the clock says at some point in the day, when I’m in another room without a clock – we have a clock in the kitchen and one in his room.

Right, so that’s that for those. I don’t know what else people are interested in knowing about!? Science – well, most of our science of late has come from visiting exhibits and museums – paleo week, The Abyss, also TV shows like Deadly 60, Barney’s Barrier Reef, Backyard Science.

I know some people worry about science, but science is such a massive part of our lives, always, that I don’t consider it really!  Kai’s been out with Brett putting out temperature loggers, measuring rocks with the tape measure, etc, etc…he’s not so keen on experiments as he once was, but all the stuff is there when and if he is again – we also found some moth wings the other day that we have ready to look at under the microscope (I might be more excited about this than him!).

History has been, and still is, big….still keen on medieval history and knights and weapons. We got an awesome DVD from the library last week about the history of weapons, from stone age to duels and jousting to guns and firearms (it’s called Conquest, if you’re interested!)….we’ve been watching that together. He has learnt so much about history in the past few months, it’s mind-boggling! In a couple of weeks we’ve got the local Medieval Fayre to look forward too! Yay!

So that’s where we’re at…..and soon to go on a big trip overseas, where he’ll learn so much more –he’s pretty excited about visiting medieval sites in England (me not so much, but i’m sure i can muster up some enthusiasm!).

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My goodness…where has the time gone? September is gone. It’s already nearly a week into October! Agghhh!!?

So, clearly I’m not doing Blogtober. I had no intention of it anyway…we have too much on this month with a big field trip, and the Unschooling Conference (whoot!), and I have lots of work to get through before I leave – there’s no way I can be blogging every day! However, this is a bit ridiculous, I didn’t mean to miss a whole week….and Unschool Monday!

So, here I am with a (possibly very long!) update on what we’ve been up to in my blogging absence!

I’m going to start from last Monday, because truthfully, that’s as far back as I can remember, and surely I’ve posted a couple of things since then!?

So, we went geocaching up the top of our local mountain. Once more we failed to find a cache, but we did have fun tootling around in the National Park and, apparently, escaping from some kind of monster that was stalking us!

On Tuesday last week we went to Four Oaks Farm with our Natural Learning group. It was such an amazing day. The weather was just beautiful, and the farm had so much for the kids to do – we barely saw them! We even got to have adult conversations that were actually finished! There were pony rides, merry-go-round rides, an old fashioned fire truck that they could ride on, a horse carriage, a little petting zoo….all unlimited for the two hours we paid for ($30/child) – and we actually got unlimited use of the merry-go-rounds for the whole time we were there – and we stayed for hours and had a picnic on the grass…..

We’ve been to the library (twice now!) and done the usual download apps, return a pile and get out another pile scenario….We have some cool new apps – Kai has been enjoying Gravity Lab lately, always Zombie Smash, and new one’s Where’s my Water and Age of Zombies….

On Thursday we went swimming, and this week lots of our friends joined us, which was really great. We stayed in for a very long time and everyone had fun…after swimming we headed over to the shops to get Kai a keyboard for his laptop, so he could play Harry Potter Lego properly. We also found a double-ended General Grevious lightsaber on special….so, since it was $30 off (1/2 price!), I agreed to pay for it there and then, and Kai agreed to pay me back from his allowance for the next 3 weeks for ½ of it.

Also at the shops, we went to Riot, mostly for me, since Kai is the anti-crafter! However, while i was choosing some pastels, he came upon some Halloween craft sets, and the macabre side of him was attracted to the idea of making scary stuff…..so he asked for two craft packs. And….drum roll please….he actually sat down and finished one whole thing from one pack, and a vampire bat (that you had to sew – no less!) from another pack!

He did the whole thing himself, including the sewing – although i did thread the needle and get him untangled a couple of times! It is in fact so rare that we do any kind of craft in this house, that I had to consult the hideous SACSA framework documents to decide where this activity should be filed in my Evernote files (yes – i’m still an Evernote convert and a data dork!)….turns out to be ‘Design and Technology’ and, specifically ‘understanding the processes and sequences involved in producing a product’….Holy Crap! Could they make sewing and sticking more confusing and less related to obvious use in real life situations!?! And….apparently students are not expected to hand sew until Year 3!

Oh, and the teller in Riot also informed us of the upcoming Zombie Walk in Adelaide….which we are VERY excited about (this came about because Kai was telling her all about zombies, and that you can’t eat too much brains because they are high in cholesterol! I will add he learnt that little snippet from Plants Vs Zombies!).

Friday we mostly stayed home since it was rainy. We did pop to the shops to go op shopping for outfits for the Zombie Walk. We also rented Rio from the video shop, which we absolutely loved! We were both a bit vexed there was no short doco on the DVD about rare parrots, but we did our own research and discovered that ‘Blu’ (the ‘hero’ from the movie) is a Spix Macaw, and they are thought to be extinct in the wild….which is very sad.

Saturday was the Grand Final. Which we don’t care about. At all! We decided to go out for Indian food, and finally discovered an awesome Indian not too far away – which we are most pleased about! Then we went to the movies – Kai and Brett went to see Spy Kids 4, and I went to see Horrible Bosses, which was very funny. Kai loved Spy Kids too (not so sure about Brett!).

Sunday I walked up the mountain, while Kai and Brett went on a ‘man’ trip to Bunnings. We also stopped at the park and Kai played outside in the sun – a week or so ago i moved his trapeze swing out the front, and he likes it much better there….

Monday was a holiday here (Labour Day) and it’s also school hols, and the weather was lovely. So, really, everywhere was likely to be packed! Brett took the car lizarding, so Kai and I walked through the National Park to the playground. A 6km walk. It was definitely packed, and I queued ½ hour for a bloody ice cream! School Holidays! Blah!!!

On Tuesday we did another hike with friends…not quite so far, but up a very steep hill and around waterfalls…. Kai and I stopped for ice cream on the way home at the café on the mountain, and saw an echidna!

So, busy busy! Aside from all that socializing and hiking and what-not, Kai’s been ‘reading’ a lot more than usual – I suspect something to do with the Star Wars books on battles and lightsabers we got from the library. He’s flipping through them, and then asking me to read stuff. He’s still off bedtime stories though!

The renewed Star Wars enthusiasm has also seen a return to the Leapster, and he’s been playing Jedi Math a lot the past few days. He seems pretty happy that he can quite easily get to levels he couldn’t do before….so I guess that means his grasp of numbers and sums has improved considerably since the last time he played – but I have to surmise this, since I’m not allowed to ask!

Oh, and we think one of our caterpillars has turned into a chrysalis, but we can’t find it yet in the tank! Pics to come….if i ever find the thing!

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