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a homeschool day

When we let it slip that we homeschool, we get a lot of questions about details. "Do you use a curriculum?" is common. We don't, and often what we do is so far from what someone interested in "curriculum" would expect in an educational setting that I can't even think of how to respond. But sometimes it all hangs together to make it look like I know what I'm doing. Like yesterday.

Harvey working with our homemade balance (a 1-by-2 teetering on a block)


On Sunday Harvey and I were talking about balancing and balances, so first thing Monday morning we set one up in the living room. We started with pairs of blocks and then moved on to a wide variety of other objects, comparing weights and noticing that size and weight aren't always clearly related. (And of course, part of the lesson was letting Harvey and Zion tell me that, when one side of the balance dipped, it meant that the object on that side was heavier). We learned that a small stone weighs about the same as 217 foam base-10 blocks—and less than Harvey's new wooden boat, a kit from Home Depot that he put together over the weekend. "Does that mean that my boat won't float?" he asked me (it had been an topic of discussion earlier). "I know stones sink..."

Before we dealt with that question, we had some math practice to do. Which because sometimes I plan ahead was totally tied in, and also gave Harvey a different way to think about addition and combinations.

a math worksheet

this was just as much fun for him

A little bit later we took what we'd learned about weights outside to the wading pool. Harvey's intellectual hypothesis was that his boat would sink, being heavier than a small stone, but his common sense told him otherwise; and indeed, it floated fine. So did a big heavy piece of lumber, while very very tiny light stones sank instantly. I proposed an experiment using tin foil, which had the following results: a ball of tinfoil will float, the same size sheet of foil folded will sink, and a canoe molded out of foil—again, the same size piece—will be able to hold many rocks before sinking.

a boat molded out of tinfoil floating, supporting several rocks

interesting results

Leaving the pool to the littler boys, Harvey and I retired to the shade to think about what was going on. And it didn't take much hinting from me for him to realize that the important factor was the proportion of air contained within an object. That led us into a discussion of density, and memories of the helium balloons the boys got at Bedford Day helped us to imagine how even gasses could have different densities. For a more explicit demonstration, we looked at what happens when you combine water and oil, and water and honey: compared to water some liquids sink, and some float (we did the oil and honey in separate containers so the boys could drink the honey water when the experiment was over).

That was our school day yesterday. Today I painted the porch and the boys played hide and seek. It's homeschooling.

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