At the HSS forum a mom explained how she took the math manipulatives down from the bedroom closet shelf. She sorted the goodies into baskets, shelves and drawers, all accessible to the children. Wonderful! The fun math tools aren’t helping anyone on a bedroom shelf.
That started me thinking about the hands-on things we have. Are they really free? Does Sprite know they are free to be used at any time?
I thought the answer was an unequivocal yes. But then I remember just a few days ago she asked me where the balance scale was. I was surprised that she didn’t know it was on the shelf with the math manipulatives. Granted, that shelf is a bit crowded. Maybe too crowded to invite exploration. I mean, if you’re afraid that things will fall and crash to the floor, it inhibits your desire to poke around.
When I gave her the balance scale, I was quick to put in one of those mom phrases like, “Be careful with it!” Now, why did I say that? What is it about our educational resources that makes us treat them like fine china? We ONLY pull them out a few days each school year. Then we painstakingly put them away once the lesson is done. Why not leave them out all day for exploratory play? Why aren’t they being used more than just a few days a year?
To be honest, I fear that the pieces will get lost. And then I won’t have a perfect tool for homeschool. How ridiculous is that? I am trying to keep it perfect so it can sit on the shelf for the next 20 minute lesson that specifically addresses that theme (which may be months from now). I’ve got a nice collection of math manipulatives, but what good are they really doing us, sitting on the shelf?
Set the math manipulatives FREE! I declare this coming school year Free the Manipulatives Year. Set out the pattern blocks, the dice set, the balance scale, and the counting bears. Make sure little hands can reach them; make sure little minds know they are welcome to do so. Blur the boundaries between math and play. ( I realize that moms of toddlers probably can’t set their manipulatives free quite yet. But be looking forward to that day, and when it comes — liberate the tools!)
I reorganized our shelf that holds the science and math tools. Doesn’t it look better? Neat is so much more inviting, I think, than cluttered. (How do shelves got so cluttered so quickly?) Here are the before and after photos.
And I came up with a very thrifty way to store our graduated cylinders. I used a tissue box plus a lot of paper towel tubes and a couple of toothpaste boxes. (We keep things like that on hand for crafty projects.) I hot-glued the tubes to each other and to the tissue box so that it’s all quite sturdy. The cylinders go into the tubes upside down. Now they are neat, protected from breaking, AND (most importantly) accessible for chemistry experimentation. The science tools are free too!