Thursday, December 15, 2011


Yule is a celebration of the Winter Solstice. It is the longest night of the year. On this day, Usually December 20, 21, or 22, the year begins to turn back toward warmth and renewal. I know this is not what you usually think of when you think of this long night. For most of us, it is the first day of Winter. The first day of cold, cold days and nights. The beginning of the season of snow and ice and all things cold. But from this day forward, each day will begin to get a tiny bit longer. And each night will be just a tiny bit shorter.

I have always thought of winter as a dark, dreary time in which all life ends. The trees have lost their leaves, all the outside plants have died and the world looks bleak. While it looks that way in the world around us, there is a whole world under the ground that is just beginning to wake up. The tiny seeds that are buried are beginning to sprout. They are sending down roots deep into the soil. And the tiniest of sprouts are beginning to creep up ready to break through the ground in the Spring.

As we approach this dark time, we should finish up all those little projects that have gone by the wayside. We spend a lot more time indoors this time of year. We spend more time with ourselves. But this is not just a quiet dark time for us either. This is the time when we begin planning what we are going to do when the warmer weather arrives. We like to play Nature Games to remind us that it will soon be warm. We plan what we are going to plant in our gardens in the Spring. We start going through vacation brochures to decide where we will go on our next vacation. The tiny sprouts of dreams and plans and goals begin to grow toward the surface.

Instead of whining about the cold and the snow this Winter, celebrate the new beginnings that you will soon face. Enjoy, relax, grow, Spring is coming.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fourth grade math: There IS an order to things

Fourth grade Math: There IS an order to things

I heard a middle school math teacher say one time that the most important skill elementary school students could learn was fractions. She said that if students came to her with a basic understanding of addition and subtraction of fractions, working with mixed fractions, and equivalent fractions then her life was easier, and the children were well on their way to being able to do algebra and geometry. I just thought it was a personal opinion of that teacher until my own child was in fourth grade. My daughter talked me into doing the geometry chapter before the fraction and algebra chapters in her math curriculum. I wondered why she was struggling so hard then I realized that I was having to spend extra time on each new set of problems explaining, how to do the algebra part of the problem, or the fraction part of the problem. We tried backing up to the algebra chapter, and realized a few assignments in that we needed more information on fractions. We backed up to the fraction chapter, and it was pretty easy since we had already seen fractions in the algebra and geometry chapters. Maybe there is some truth to the middle school math teacher’s wish for students well versed in fractions. Once we got the basics of fractions learned, the rest of the math went so much easier. I know there are many math curricula out there, and they may not all do math topics in the same order, but considering how important fractions are to math, it might not be a bad idea to make sure that your fourth grader is getting a good foundation in fractions.