Category: Parenting

Potato Powered

I came up with a bunch of science experiments for Anya’s covid not-a-break. Some are really straight-forward, some are open-ended design challenges, and some are pretty tricky. I thought the potato powered LED experiment was straight-forward. A list of materials, step-by-step instructions, and a clear visual product. Except … one potato generated like 0.8 volts. Cut the potato in half, get some extra clips, and we’re up to 1.6 volts.

I’d read about a research project where energy production was increased by using a boiled potato … I needed to make lunch anyway, so I boiled a bit of potato. I also microwaved another bit of the potato — so we’ve got two raw quarters, a boiled quarter, and a microwaved quarter. All four produced about 0.8 volts. Reading the article, it looks like Wh capacity is what is increasing … not output voltage. Connecting all four quarters (plus finding more pennies, nails, and clips) produced enough power to light up our LED. Now we’re seeing how long the potato-powered LED lasts. From 3PM on 24 March 2020 until …

COVID Break Educational Activities

In addition to a Science Experiments For Covid19 Break, lots of e-books from the local libraries, the free learn-at-home program from Scholastic, and a handful of new physical books, I’ve got four daily educational activities for Anya during this school not-a-break:

10:30    Cleveland Science Center Curiosity Corner    Experiments  
11:00    Cleveland Metroparks Zoo                                Animal info    
13:00    The Kennedy Center / Mo Willems                  Drawing         
15:00    Cleveland Metroparks                                        Naturalist       

There are two get-moving videos that we’ve checked out … but it’s maple sap season so most of our physical activity is “hike in the woods and collect sap” 🙂

Wednesday @ Noon,  does a virtual ballet lesson
Daily, not live,  has mini-workouts

Card Game: Sum War

Anya and I came up with a new card game — sum war. It’s a bit like war, but you throw two cards. The person with the higher sum wins all of the cards & puts them on the bottom of their stack. Keep going until someone has all of the cards. There’s obviously lots of addition involved, but the game uses estimation too (I have a 5 and a 7, you have a 5 and a 9 … you win without actually adding anything).

Equations: The Card Game

We came up with a new card game today — something to practice adding and subtracting (and mathematical thinking). Deal x cards (we’ve had five and seven to start). The remaining cards are the ‘draw’ pile. Flip one card over. Try to come up with an equation using the cards in your hand that combine with the flipped card to make an equation. Aces are 1, jacks are 11, queens are 12, and kings are 13.

There’s a King up — you’ve got 2, 5, 8, 9, and Q. 12(Q) + 9 – 8 = 13(K). You select one of the cards in your equation to place on the top of the face-up pile. The next person then tries to create an equation using the card you laid down.

Zero is a little special — there’s a some card up, x. If you have two cards of the same value, y. X plus Y minus Y equals X … and you can discard one of the cards you used in your equation.

If you cannot form an equation, you draw a card. The game ends when the face-down pile is exhausted. Add the values of the cards in your hand, and the person with the lowest value hand wins. This means you probably want to discard the highest value card in your equation (unless there’s a strategy to having the card — if I have an equation with 5 and 10, but have another 10 in my hand … I might want to hold on to the ten because the two tens are a 0 and are a guaranteed play).

Visual Mathematics: Division

I’ve found a lot of worksheets for visualizing addition and subtraction, and even a few for multiplication. But I could not find any for division. To fill this gap, I made a quick cat themed division visualization worksheet for Anya.

For the problem X ÷ Y, there are X cats in the row below it. Circle groups of Y cats, and count the number of groups. If there are no cats “left over”, then you’ve got the answer. There is one with cats “left over” to introduce the idea of a remainder. Primarily, though, I wanted to focus on the idea of circling groups of Y and counting the groups to find the answer.

Hobbies And Parenting

I lost myself a bit when I had a kid. Reading a “for me” book was the only hobby I managed when she was a baby (i.e. without much opinion of content). I read text books, historical analysis, and crime/mystery novels out loud while I held her. But now ‘reading’ means her books, and sitting quietly to read something on my own … more stress than it’s worth.

About two years ago we got few new hires at work, and my boss sent out a quick intro for everyone. He has known me for a long time, so included a list of things that … yeah, I used to do all of those. It was, frankly, a depressing read. I decided to pick one thing I used to enjoy and start doing it again. To my surprise, the tiny person wanted to do it with me.

Well, she wants to be with me all the time so the wanting wasn’t really surprising. But she actually does my hobbies too – like pays attention when I show her what to do, respects the equipment and uses it properly, accepts there are some things she’s not old enough to use yet, and enjoys doing the projects. I was really worried the first time she wanted to make jewelry with me, and yeah she made a big mess with the beads. But she also re-sorted the beads back into their containers and was super proud of the bracelet she made. She’s got her own box of beads that is sorted her way,  and she’ll ask me if she can have some of something from one of my boxes. My beads aren’t a haphazard mess, my tools are where they belong, and she leaves the not-for-Anya tools alone.

Now she’s got a sewing machine and sews while I sew. She’s got paints and stamps and scissors — which isn’t really my thing but she’ll paint while I sew or paint en plein air while I garden. She’s getting interested in gardening beyond picking veggies, so this year she’ll be starting her own little garden. She cooks with me – although she’s not old enough to use a sharp knife or handle hot pans, she gets ingredients / chops softer things with a dinner knife / measures and mixes ingredients. And has a lot of fun “thieving” little veggie bits from the cutting board as I cook.

Hiking and biking aren’t as aerobic with a tiny person (unless you’ve got that bike that bolts onto the back of your bike and lets the kid peddle too. That thing looks awesome), but it’s more exercise than sitting at home. Running on paved trails – she doesn’t have the endurance I do, but she can do about a mile and a half at a pace that’s pushing it for me.

Hobbies might be a little different when done with a tiny person, but when someone says I have a hobby homestead, enjoy crocheting, sewing, and bicycling … I don’t feel like they’re talking about five years ago me anymore.

Parenting Books

When my girl was < 1 year, I bought a LOT of parenting books because the advertising promised me some sleep. Quickly formed a hypothesis that a large percentage of parenting book sales are completely desperate and sleep deprived moms for whom the content isn’t as important as the fact they’re trying SOMETHING. Because as a how-to guide? Absolute useless. Which makes sense since human being aren’t automatons, thus it’s pretty much impossible to predict the result of any set of inputs.

I haven’t found the toddler-themed books to be any better. “I hear that you are angry because I won’t let you go outside without a coat when it is 3 degrees” or the toddlereze version “Bean angry, don’t want coat” never once had my kid perk up and say “I’m glad you understand my frustration here. Now that you validate my point of view, sure I’ll do what you’ve asked of me”. My daughter seems to get angrier — “ok, you know I want ice cream for breakfast so why aren’t you doing it?!?”.

Choices are completely ineffective for us too. Presented two equally awesome choices (do you want to go to the zoo or the aquarium), sure she’ll pick one. Otherwise she’ll make up a third option that she does like. Or go with “C: None of the above”. Which, stepping outside of the immediate situation … props to a 3 year old kid for the thought process. But it certainly didn’t help me navigate the day.

That being said, I did like “Time-Out for Parents” (ISBN-13 978-0971030930) which didn’t so much focus on how to parent a child but asking yourself why you get stressed out over some scenarios (i.e. Why do I care if she goes without a coat when it’s 45 degrees outside? No clue, let it go and bring a jacket in case she gets cold. Why do I care when it’s 3 degrees? Health and safety, wear the coat!) and how to re-center yourself now that you’ve got massive amount of conflict in your life.

The Address Game

There are some things that a young kid just needs to know as they venture out into the world — be that a trip to the zoo or a day at preschool. Their address and a parent’s phone number are high on that list. I made a phone number bracelet for her — number beads and a few sparkly stars with a magnetic clasp – for her first trip to the zoo, and I’ve been adding sparkly stars to make it larger as she grew. She more or less accidentally memorized our phone numbers from reading the bracelet. But learning our address wasn’t so easy. I suspect the impetus behind “make a song out of it” isn’t that it’s easier to remember the song but that a kid is quite willing to sing something they’re not normally willing to repeat. Anya wasn’t particularly excited to sing our address either, so the traditional method was out.

Instead, we play a lot of games where she buys something from me (where do you want this unicorn delivered?) or has to get a license or permit (you need a license to fly this aeroplane, certainly need a dragon permit before you can own one, construction requires zoning and building department approval) and she needs to provide her address as part of the game. While she didn’t want to repeat the address as a learning experience unto itself, she happily accepted my prompts, repeated, and memorized the information as an incidental component of the game.

Before she knew the address reliably, I made sure she knew to tell people a regionally well-known (and Google-able) fact about the town. It’s a small town, so really getting to the police here and telling them we live across from the mini golf course would suffice. Fortunately, I never had to find out if a stranger who happens across a small child lost in the woods would be willing to search for buzzard day and acquiesce to her request to call the police at the Buzzard Day township. But I figured that had a better shot than nothing to go on. Plus, I figure it’s a good fallback position if she’s panicked and unable to come up with the address.

Interviewing Preschools

Anya really wants to go to preschool. And, yeah, I know 99% of her desire is “Daniel Tiger goes to preschool, and I love Daniel Tiger. Ergo, I love preschool”. But learning to be around other people is one skill she cannot learn at home. So we’ve begun interviewing different preschools in the area.

What is educational philosophy? How is learning encouraged?
What is the learning style (indirect learning, academic based, blended?)
If academics (reading, maths, etc) are introduced, how so and at what ages? Letters and numbers should be introduced by her age. Especially the spelling of her name.
How are parents involved in the school? Are parents encouraged to volunteer in the classroom? For special events? Are there service requirements or opportunities (and if requirements, what happens if parents are unable to meet requirements)?
Is there more focus on group or individual learning? You will find the tendency is toward group learning.
How is discipline handled? What is the policy for children who cause injury to others (biting, etc)? How are repeat offenders addressed?
How are problems resolved between students (kids work it out themselves, class meeting to discuss, teacher intervention)?
How is growth measured and reported? With what frequency are parents informed of these results?
What is the educational success criterion (i.e. what should we expect kids learn in each level)?

Are teachers credentialed? BS/MS? Child Development Associate? Early Childhood Development degree required and should be what you look. Don’t go for anything beyond early elementary because they are not taught how to effectively work/deal with children of this age group.
Is continuing education required or encouraged? Like all professionals, it should be.
How many staff are trained in first aid? CPR certified? Additional medical training?
What is the turnover rate for teachers?

What is the class size (student:teacher ratio and child:adult ratio)? Check out your state minimum requirements Ohio’s requirements follow…
Are classes age-specific or mixed?
How is the day structured? What portion of the day is free play?
Is there a fixed schedule (if so, is a copy available)?
What indoor physical play facilities are available?
What outdoor physical play facilities are available?
Snacks – Are snacks provided by the parents or school? What dietary principals are followed? What accommodations made for special diets (vegetarian in our case, but in general too)?
Are there supplemental activities (trips)? If so, frequency & examples.
Are there outside parties coming into the classroom for supplemental activities? If so, frequency & examples.

Is enrollment rolling or fixed date? If fixed, what is the deadline.
What is the process for late arrival or pickups or early pickups?
Are any allergens prohibited in the school?
What is the dress code?

What can we do to prepare Anya for preschool?
Can we schedule a time to observe a class?

Class Observation:
Are the teachers getting down to the children’s level to talk with them or yelling across the playground?
Are the rooms organized and show children’s recent artwork? recent work?
Are there areas to play inside and outside?
Are there different activity stations in the classrooms? Are children interested in and using the stations? Ask if the stations varied throughout the year or are they static?
What is the general feel of the place? Ideally observe a full class day. If that is impossible, observe toward the end of class as that is when most classroom problems occur.) Are the students happy and busily engaged?