Monday, March 23, 2009

The Magic Box

My mom taught school on and off when I was young. I was thinking this morning about the trouble she used to have to go to to make reproducibles for her class. They didn't call them that, though. The teacher made "stencils" and you got a "ditto" from the "ditto machine," otherwise known as a spirit duplicator. If you were lucky, the stencil didn't wrinkle during duplication, and if you were very lucky, you got 50 to 100 nice clear (and smelly) copies before your stencil didn't work so well anymore. (Most schools had moved on from the Gestetner era by that time, although a lot of churches were still back in the ka-chunka ka-chunka '50's, duplicating-wise.) It wasn't until high school that we started getting many photocopied sheets.

Now we have computers.

I'm getting ready for a homeschool week with my second grader, getting back into the groove after March Break. We're going to be reading a chapter about Henry V and the battle of Agincourt. I go to, find H.E. Marshall's book An Island Story, find the right chapter, adjust the printing preferences (no pictures, small font), and print myself out a three-page copy. I Google-Image the words Agincourt Henry, hoping for something to cut out or colour, and come up with a page of possibilities. OK, there's a map. I try to print it out, but it's too big; I save it to our desktop, and print it out with a Photo Wizard (sizing and rotating it to fit the paper). Takes me about 30 seconds. There--one nice map of France, England, and the English Channel, and I'll teach Crayons how to colour water on a map. (I also found a few minutes of the Laurence Olivier Henry V on YouTube--the St. Crispian's Day speech--but Crayons wasn't as interested it in it this time around as she was four years ago.)

Crayons wants to start learning cursive. We do have a Canadian Handwriting transition-year workbook, but I don't think it's enough to get her started--she needs more tracing practice and the chance to learn some strokes before she's asked to go right ahead and write capital and lower-case cursive letters (especially capitals--those can wait). I print out the Kidzone Rockin' Round Letters "a" worksheet, tape it to the kitchen table, and let her go to it.

The Miquon Math (Green Book) pages for this week are a bit confusing; they want you to introduce the concept of factors, as in, what are the factors of 6? (1, 2, 3, 6) I don't like the two Miquon pages in the workbook, at least not to get started with; maybe there's something else online. At first I can't find any appropriate free sheets or instructions for dice or card games, since factoring is usually taught in higher grades. But I do come up with a page of java-based games and other online activities for teaching factors. And there's something there called The Factor Game, which can be played with two people or against the computer. I try it out myself a couple of times and decide we might be able to use this, especially after a You-tube lesson on finding factors from an elementary-school teacher named Tim Bedley. Nothing too high-tech about the lesson--just a teacher writing on a white board (I wish they'd leave out the annoying drum beats, though). I could show Crayons myself, but today I'll let Tim do it, and then we'll try out the game. (Update: success! Crayons really liked the game, both against the computer and against me, although the computer seems very hard to beat.)

We're getting back into French, after several weeks' break. I found some pages I put together years ago, a four-week study of the French version of All Tutus Should Be Pink, an I-Can-Read book. Each lesson was a short passage from the book that I typed out, plus a couple of language activities (reading, copying, finding sounds, putting words in order) for each day. I thought I'd have to type them all out again, but I realized I did have them still in my computer files. I needed new "word cards," though; that was as easy as highlighting my typed text, copying it to another page in a larger font, putting it into columns, and asking Word to put boxes around each word or phrase. (That's on the Word toolbar, something called "Outside Border" with a little icon that looks like a square divided in quarters.) I printed the columns out twice, pasted the pages onto old manila file folders, and cut all the pieces apart. (If this sounds like a Charlotte Mason elementary reading lesson, that's because it is. Only in French.) Now we have word cards for the first lesson that we can match up, play Concentration with, put in order, or play fill-in-the-blanks with.

A very far cry from having to write all that out on a stencil with a pen.

I also find a ballerina colouring page to print out and glue on the front of a file folder, so Crayons has a place to keep her "tutu" worksheets. (I picked the drawing of the two little girls, the fourth one in the top row.)

Oh, and finally today we're going to do some Ambleside Online picture study. Our term's artist (we're off the schedule) is Giotto di Bondone, and I click the link to today's painting on the Ambleside art page. Oops--it takes me to some fashion design site--I'll have to let AO know the link is broken. OK--Google Image search for "Jesus washes the feet of the apostles." There we go.

While I'm getting ready for school, I check Homeschool Freebie of the Day; I decide that I'm not that interested in hoop skirts, but there will probably be something later in the week I want to save. I have a few minutes to look at babies and babies and more babies (everybody's posting about their babies today). Sebastian is discovering Japan, and Lindafay has something about poetry that I want to come back to. Mr. Fixit wants to use the computer too--he wants to check the weather and he has to print out a shipping label for something he's sold on E-bay.

Not every day is this dependent on The Box. But when we need it--it's astonishing.

(And now we're going for a nature walk. No computer necessary.)


Birdie said...

So true.

Enjoy your nature walk.

Kim Anderson said...

In view of your quote about fluffy pillows (a point well taken!), it is good to remember that we have much to thank God for in the works of men's hands as well as in the works of His own hands.

I will enjoy the walks in the cyber library as much as the nature walks!