SAL-VA-TION: by grace

E-LEV-EN: children from 1984 to 2006

HOME-SCHOOL-ING: since 1990

DOWN-SYN-DROME: susie and gabe

GRAND-CHILD-REN: since 2010

FAITH-FUL-NESS: my steadfast rock, my biggest supporter, my leader, my friend, my love, my husband

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tangent Teaching

I'm often asked, "How do you homeschool?" I'm tempted to say, "You don't want to know." 'Tangent Teaching' would be a good label, I'm always getting off on a tangent! And today that tangent even involved tangents.

Example: We started the day with our morning Bible reading, Genesis chapter 6. Almost an hour later we were talking about the curvature of the earth in relation to geometric equations (I know, not in the typical syllabus for 7th, 5th, or 2nd grade). And we were only on verse 4.

Even I was perplexed as to how we got so far off track, so we retraced our steps. In verse 4 of Genesis 6 it says, "There were giants in the earth in those days,"....and we were off, in this order:

Bryce said, "Did you know they've discovered the skeleton of a nineteen foot man?" (Don't you love giving credit to the all-knowing "they".)

I countered with, "Where did you get that information?"

We talked about reliable sources, primary sources, error in memory, error in communication. We shared stories of misinformation getting spread, we talked about the believability of a source based on how close it is to the information being given. We talked about how deceived we can be as our memories don't always/often recall things the ways the really were.

I gave them an actual example from our family (about 10 years ago or so) where two different library books gave us different elevations for the same mountain. We compared sources to come up with what we determined to be the accurate figure, but was it? How would we know, or could we know? And how do you measure a mountain anyway?

We know you can't use a measuring tape, of course, so I told them about the geometrical equations used to make such measurements. As a "for instance", we talked about the earliest methods used to measure the distance to the sun. Well, how could I do that without first discussing triangles, and equilateral triangles and the relationships between the angles and the lengths of the sides, and the formulas used to calculate the lengths of unknown sides. We made some finger triangles and varied the lengths of the sides without changing the measurements of the angles.

We discussed the measurements taken in Egypt many hundreds of years ago whereby someone calculated the time that the sun shone directly down into a well and then someone else measured the angle from the earth to the sun at that exact same time from a calculated distance away. We talked about how they used the tangent formula for that angle to calculate the distance from the well to the sun.

In our example, the living room light was the sun, a chair was the well, Lisa was the other measuring point, and the 'sun' was at a 56 degree angle.

However, our discussion wasn't complete until we also discussed the inaccuracy of the measurement of the distance between the well and the other point due to the curvature of the earth, so we had to talk about the mathematic equations that scientists would use to figure out the distance the a straight line would make through that curvature.

I stopped short of estimating the size and curvature of the earth. But, we learned that it can be pretty hard to produce accurate information and we have to be careful to understand where that information came from and how it is passed on and communicated.

OK, four verses read, the fallability of man grossly exposed, on to our 'official' history lesson.....speaking of which, as we read of the Dani tribe in New Guinea in the early 1960s and the governmental involvement of the Netherlands isn't it interesting that it also related to our study of New England and the fact that New York City used to be called New Amsterdam because of the Dutch rule, and the Dutch of course were known for their exploration of eastern Asia, and did you know that Indonesia used to be called the Dutch Indies because of this....and on goes the next tangent!


Jamie said...

Wow! You are one smart woman! I couldn't have even begun to have had that kind of tangent! It's been at least 8 years since I was even close to understanding those things!

Keelie said...

I agree with Jamie! I said to Corey, 'that's why I won't be homeschooling!' I couldn't even follow the tangent! But even the tangents are learning moments and that's what's important!:)

Keithslady said...

Jamie, 8 years out of high school I'd have been completely unable to any of that (except the math part, I have a freakish love of the subject). It comes from teaching for almost 20 years, I'm on my eighth round of 7th grade. I don't know how much my kids know, but I sure have learned a lot! In the early days when we had a question--like how to measure a mountain--we'd be breaking out the books and researching in the library. I still went off on tangents but didn't know very many of the answers. I wonder if the older ones are better off for it?...

Joey said...

And in fairness, I don't think many teachers would be able to go out on that tangent either!

Dana said...

Wow!!! You lost me at "curvature"...ok, so maybe it was "geometric equations". are definitely a genius and I'm proud to call you my mother! I've heard many of your tangents but I'd say that beats all!!!