Back to (Home) School

Hello Friends,

I hope this post finds you doing well: safe, healthy, and coping with the social distancing measures. We are home still, and healthy and safe too. We are (still) all in this together.

Last week we returned to at-home classwork. The girls’ school schedule worked around Easter, so their 10 day Spring Break was in April. It was a nice break from home-schooling, and we learned a few lessons for our return.

Many of you are also dealing with home-schooling right now, so I won’t dig too deep. Sweetie had a fun volcano project last week for her STEM class, and I thought I would share some of the highlights.

Everything started with a salt dough volcano. As you see, Sweetie was good about sharing the project with her sister. Once the volcano dried, it was time for paint.

I had to laugh at this stage. I set each girl up with four colors of paint. As you can see, everything melded into “grey”, and that is not so bad (we’re big fans here at our house). The project culminated in the eruption-good times!

This was project was a fun part of our week. I was talking with Momstar on Friday (her son killed it on this project, btw), and we realized neither one of us had done a volcano project in Elementary School. The girls enjoyed the different stages of the project, and they loved eruption day. I was glad they got into the project, and worked well together. It was great to have them interacting but not competing, and complaining was minimal. Best part for me, very low screen-time!

Clearly, I’m not sharing anything profound today…and I’m fine with that. I wanted to share this project as an example of a little thing that brought smiles to our in-household. I hope you and your family are finding smiles, big or small, during this wierd time. Honestly, smiles are hard to find on some of these days, but they’re around. So behave and be safe, friends. We’re here, and we’re glad you are too.

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…