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Friday, February 9, 2007

Wal-Mart Math

Math lessons are everywhere if you are paying attention. We had some appointment in town yesterday and had time to stop at Wal-Mart to get the baby's birthday portraits taken. There were several racks of clearance clothing, and though the sign might say $5.00, the item might actually be marked down further and not be tagged correctly yet. So we spent about an hour with the kids finding appropriate clothes, seeing what the tag said and what the sign on the rack said, and then checking on one of the price-check machines to see what the price really was. It was fun, got something accomplished, and the kids were working on math. Each had a certain budget to work with for purchasing, and they were very savvy consumers! They knew enough to see that the two-piece sets for $5.00 were a better deal than separates at $3.00 each. And we literally had a cart heaping full of clothes for very little money, as the cashier noted (actually, she jokingly said something about us robbing Wal-Mart), and when someone with an un-approving look at the exit asked if there wasn't school today, I smiled. Those kids were doing their math!

It took me a very long time to adjust to the idea of Homeschooling not being Public School in a Home Setting. I bought books and workbooks and visual aids and manipulatives and CDs, and then felt smothered by the amount of space the schooling was requiring. Don't get me wrong- I want to teach my own kids and am certainly willing to sacrifice to do it, but I saw stacks of items that were never touched. I started to think about those pioneers I dream of being like so often, such as Abraham Lincoln, and how they did not have mountains of books and materials. I also remember my own school years and how the lessons I remember most are those I was interested in and that made sense in life. The same is true for college, just last year! I do not remember much at all about most of the required classes I took to become a 'well-rounded' student, but I remember those history classes and the geography. Those were fun! I also learned more in math class, though my pride got in my way at first to be required to take college math after having completed Calculus and Trigonometry in High School (but it was too long ago to count) because the college book gave examples that were applicable to life, such as figuring out the interest rate on your home and how to pay it off sooner or determining the best food choice by factoring out the calories versus the serving sizes. I actually did an assignment on the sodium content in various flavors of Hamburger Helper!

Learning does not have to take place at a desk for a certain amount of time and in a certain pattern. It is everywhere in everything we do with our children, and learning to let go of the notions that we must be rigid and follow anything but the Lord and our own parent hearts is very freeing!

Wal-Mart is usually pretty empty on Thursday mornings. Maybe we'll start making it a regular field trip. The possible lessons to find there are endless!

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