Not-So-Simple Machines

Hello Friends,

the Second Grade projects keep getting more and more interesting. My biggest challenge is finding the balance between motivating Sweetie to complete these projects, and doing them for her. (There’s that “b” word again.) Sweetie’s teacher has assigned book reports for the past few months, and overall, Sweetie does the work at her level. I try to guide her writing so she doesn’t sound like a complete knucklehead, and of course, I proof read it. Wife also steps up to review the work and help with the projects. Again, Sweetie does fine on these, but I think part of her motivation is that she wants to please us and her teacher. Having that understanding when we help her with these reports makes it easier to step back and let her do the work. The situation gets harder when the work is cool and she is motivated by the project itself.

Sweetie recently brought home a “Simple Machines” project as an extension of their classroom work. As she informed Wife and I, simple machines help move a load using less force, and include things like wedges, inclined planes, wheels and axles, screws, levers, and pulleys. According to her assignment sheet, she was to build a simple machine, and explain its function. Students could build additional machines if they wanted. My attention piqued when she reached the section that detailed the materials one could use and read an example made from Lego bricks. Wham – Dad hooked.

We happen to have a Lego inclined plane and platform in our “Family Collection” (I’m looking on BrickLink to identify the set they came from). Clearly, those two pieces don’t make an interesting project.

But what can go on an inclined plane, either up or down? Yep, a cart – that’s with wheels and axles.

Next came the Technic organizer with its fun variety of parts the girls don’t yet appreciate. And…pulley.

This process continued until Sweetie had built a cart (wheel and axle at each corner), an inclined plane, a pulley, and a lever.

We set about assembling all of these components into one cohesive project:

Next came the testing! No doubt Sweetie’s favorite part was saying, “Test number …,” then setting this whole thing in motion. Once we dialed it in, you would pull the lever and send the stack of bricks off of the platform. This load would pull the yarn over the pulley, pulling the cart up the inclined plane to the base of the tower. This machine moves and lifts the load on the cart.

Sweetie was into this project from the start. She enjoys building stuff like Lego sets and robot kits, so she was immediately aligned with the work. After reading that she could use Lego for this school work she was all in. I tried to keep her involved at each step, but I had to catch myself (more than once) and be sure she was making the connections and building this “not-so-simple” simple machine. I ended up laughing at myself more than once, reminding myself that Second Grade was long ago, and that I wasn’t earning a gold star here.

This project went well, both for Sweetie and the class as a whole. Clearly, it’s a popular one. Her classmates brought in projects at all levels and had a chance to demonstrate them to the class. Judging by the video Sweetie’s teacher took, this was also very popular.

As for me, I’ll keep working on my involvement with the girls’ schoolwork. Again, there’s a balance to strike here. I don’t actually feel like I’m re-living Elementary School, but I do feel like Wife and I are laying the foundation for the girls’ future study habits. I’m sure there is some good info out there for me to read about this, let me just finish this book report about Amelia Earhart first…

Ettabetta Boop

Hello Friends,

We’re going to keep on with this theme of equal daughter representation. Cricket’s class just held their Superkids Dress-Up Day. Funny thing, she chose Ettabetta, just like Sweetie did two years ago.

The circumstances around this dress-up day are funny, because the detour showed up in the Google search results for “Superkids Ettabetta”. For some sites this is an everyday occurrence; for me, it was a reason to do the happy dance. I learned about the search results from two different Kindergarten Moms, whose daughters also dressed up as Ettabetta (she’s pretty popular). They came across Sweetie’s pictures in their search results, then followed the link to the blog. It was great talking with them about D³, as only a few parents at school know about the blog (self-promotion is not one of my strengths).

You all can check out Sweetie’s picture from her Kindergarten year, and of course, here’s the Cricket:

Feel free to form an opinion about “who wore it better”, just be sure to keep it to yourself! As for me, I’ll never tell. Really, though, Cricket is enjoying the Superkids program just as much as Sweetie did, and she is now reading nightly. I know I mentioned in my last post that the milestones are less exciting with the second child, but this reading stuff is still so cool.

So that’s the start of our week, friends. No puns this time around, but I do hope all is going well for you and yours. We’ll see you out there!

100 Days-Take 2

Hello Friends,

This post is ultimately about Cricket’s recent “Hundred Days of School” project, but it’s gonna take a minute to get there.

We just celebrated the 100th day of school, with both girls taking on projects. As I was watching Cricket’s come together, I thought back to Sweetie’s project from her Kindergarten year. Then, when I didn’t post a picture on the exact day, I realized I had fallen into the “second child” cliche.

I’m not sure how it is in your family, but we constantly struggle to give the girls equal treatment. Sweetie is older but quieter, so she can drift to the background easily. Cricket is second but gregarious and grabs your attention. But a look at their photo albums shows the extent of this problem. Sweetie’s starts in the hospital and is consistent up to her third birthday, some pages bursting from the stack of un-sorted photos. It’s a veritable Encyclopedia Brittanica of the start of her life. Cricket, on the other hand – cliff notes. No, really. Many pages with no photos or any information recorded, even though she’s been around for over five years.

And that’s how it goes with the second kid, right? Parents have less energy in general, the developmental milestones are expected and no longer unique, and you don’t cling to every little thing that happens, you don’t hang on every behavior and correct it to an expectation. Huh, reading that makes it sound bad, like I’m an awful Dad. But I know I’m not alone here, folks.

So here’s my attempt to bring balance to our house. Celebrate! Behold Cricket’s 100th Day Project:

Just a panda strollin in the foothills

Mommy helped bring this image together, but Cricket did the painting and placing. That includes counting and hand-painting all 100 of those noodle-bamboo shoots. And the “100” cloud? All her.

All in all, I think this project went well. It served as a good reminder to me to celebrate the girls’ accomplishments, however small, as equally (and specifically) as we can. Cricket engaged the project, which was very cool to watch. And, we made the trip to school without the project getting ruined. Now if only she had allowed the teacher to keep it to display with the rest of the class…

So remember, friends, second children need love too. And for those of you with more than two kids, you have my respect. Given that my hairline is receding and graying from two, I don’t think I could handle another! We’ll see you out there, friends!