After Action Report for Homeschool Curriculum for Dad – 2019.02.05
A good start to the week! Two good school days in a row! To what do I owe such favor! 🙂
We had reasonably unhurried time today. I didn’t pay attention to timers, etc. and just let things flow. Doing this a while now, it’s easier to detect when things are getting sidetracked and adjust accordingly. There wasn’t as much unexpected serendipity today, but we took advantage of our foreseen opportunities, especially Bee-Bot.
Oddly enough, I have not been looking forward to engaging with the coding resources. I am a big programming nerd. I’ve been computer programming literally since I was 8 years old, and my first programming experiences were some of the most revelatory experiences of my life. So why would I not be looking forward to this?
I can’t say that I fully understand why. Part of it is that my passion for these things makes it difficult to reduce to a level that is palatable to 5- and 10-year-olds. Part of it is that I want them to understand these things at a deep and fundamental level as quickly as possible, which isn’t possible until they experience the joy of such things first. All of it is a mental and emotional trainwreck inside of me, and processing and expressing such things is nearly impossible for me.
There are multiple ways that homeschooling can be hard for a parent… 🙂
Fortunately, it seemed to have gone really well. I took a short video about what they did today, so look forward to that below!
Noodle seems to be back in the reading saddle again. Today’s book, Kittens, was harder than the Red Car book she melted down over, and today she breezed through it. It’s amazing what a difference attitude makes. Yet another reminder: do not force things when they are going poorly. It just doesn’t work.
Started Paddle-to-the-Sea today. Just the first page. It’s about an Indian boy (as in Native American: it’s written in the 1950’s) who carves a model of a canoe and sends it down a journey from Lake Superior to the ocean. It’s Minn of the Mississippi but along the St. Lawrence Seaway (I imagine).
I’m really looking forward to this. Minn was a book that Tyboy and I did together that really made a big difference in learning to interact with him, as well as being an enjoyable learning experience. I need less help in interacting with Noodle, but I hope it will be a fun opportunity to share an interesting learning experience with her.
The Elements. Tyboy is normally engaged with this, but oddly, Noodle was much more engaged in this than normal. Her having the cards while we all read the book has given her something to focus on and interact with. We now compare the densities and melting/boiling points much more than before: they’re much more noticeable on the cards than in the book. I still think that the value of the cards are limited if you already have the book — at least for the material found on them; as a tool to engage with children, though, they seem to have more value than I had appreciated.
Abraham Lincoln’s World. A chapter about Tecumseh and Tippacanoe, a story I did not know beyond the campaign slogan. US History can be pretty terrible, and relations with Native Americans is way down on the bottom of that list. It’s an area where a homeschool parent really needs to think: how do you handle your obligation to create balanced and well-rounded adults? These lessons are not to be glossed over lightly.
Coding Explorations. Leah described the bag we got from the library: something like three books about coding, written for, say, a 5 to 8 year old audience, and a toy called a Bee-Bot. The kids had already looked at the books (we’ve had the kit for a week?), but I reviewed them with them. Three of them have audio CD’s with them, so we will be using them during audiobook time (which is often 30 or so minutes before dinner: time for them to start settling down a bit).
The Bee-Bot is a plastic rodent-looking thing (it’s colored like a bee but looks like a large plastic clockwork mouse) that has buttons on the top: forward, reverse, left, right, pause, go and clear. You press the buttons and the bee remembers them, then you press Go and it executes them. With this, you can enter a program (a series of steps to execute) and then watch as it executes your program.
We started relatively simple: how about make the mouse (err, bee) go forward and back? Interestingly, rather than use the forward buttons and then the back buttons, Tyboy came up with having it go forward, turn around, continue “forward” (back the way it came) and then turn itself around again. Neat: it’s definitely the hard way, but it will certainly make my next idea easier… 🙂 I was pretty impressed that he came up with that.
Tyboy got out a clipboard with a piece of paper and wrote out what he thought the program should be. Then Noodle used his notes to press the buttons on the Bee-Bot. Then we put it on the floor and Tyboy got to press the Go button. Sure enough: it did exactly what they set out for it to do the first time! I was impressed that he thought to add the turn around at the end. Otherwise, it would be facing the wrong way.
So for the next challenge: can you make the Bee-Bot go in a square? How did it go? I got the idea to take a video, which shows how they did. I’ve uploaded to YouTube and included here for your viewing enjoyment! 🙂 It’s only a couple of minutes long.
I’ll try to get more of the kids in the video next time. I’m very new to this video thing…
So, they were able to create a program, find a mistake and correct it. Pretty cool!
Next, I asked them to make it go in a rectangle. This was a little trickier for Tyboy to figure out — it’s no the same thing twice like the line, or the same thing four times like the square, it’s a pattern of two things twice. So I showed him how he could draw a picture to help figure out the process. Draw a picture of the path: a rectangle. Then draw the Bee-Bot and where it should be to start, then break down the rectangle into the pieces that you need in order to complete it. In his case, he had drawn a fairly wide and short rectangle, so it ended up being three forward, turn, one forward, turn, three forward, turn, one forward, turn. So he used his diagram to then create the program, and it was Noodle’s turn to type it in.
We ran into the next problem: Noodle guessing. She too was keyed to a consistent repeating pattern. So the three forward was hard for her to grasp. Then the one forward was hard for her to grasp. She kep guessing what the next one was rather than looking what the next one was. It was just like her reading! 🙂 So that was interesting.
I didn’t let her type the program in wrong. I made sure she did it correctly. That will be the next level: what happens when your program concept is right, but your actual program is wrong? Baby steps… 🙂
At that point, it was time to put the toy away. I think we’re going to need one more structured session to help them with a few more programming concepts (like the debugging one I just mentioned), but then it will be time for them to start coming up with their own ideas on their own. I imagine this will rapidly devolve into what I’ve seen every time kids are ever unleashed on LOGO (a similar programming language for computers where you drive a “turtle” (a triangle) around the screen): they create a program of a zillion random steps, the device rapidly drives out of range somewhere and nothing works right. Happens every time. Fortunately, the Bee-Bot only stores 40 steps, so they can’t go that crazy with it…
I look forward to seeing how the next structured session goes, though…
I would love to hear your thoughts regarding coding in your curriculum. Have you tried to include programming? How have you done it, and what were the results? Let us know!
See more Homeschool Curriculum for Dad posts.