Real World Math and…Fairies?

Real-World Math

After flipping and flopping over how to teach math, I’ve settled on a plan of attack that seems to work. Real world math.

These generally manifest in the form of word problems.

Here are two from the other day…


The second one took a few minutes, but the first one took us nearly half an hour as we worked our way through the problem, tossing out possible scenarios.

Me: So my usual preferred objective is to earn a minimum of $30 per hour. Did I earn more or less than that?

Em: More, definitely more.

Me: Did I earn a lot more?

Em: I think so.

Me: Double that?

Em: I don’t know.

Me: Great, let’s try some numbers out.

And we worked through multiplying 1.75 hours times 35, 40, 45, and even 50, before finally narrowing it down to just over $48,50 per hour.

She was pleasantly relieved when the grocery store problem was solved quickly.

I’m going to continue working with Em on real world math. It means that we don’t have a TON of math each week, but it will get pretty in-depth.

This eventually falls into my overall goal/question of: How do you raise a capable, self-sufficient adult?

That is the basic focus of education, isn’t it? You want someone who can balance a checkbook, understand interest rates, mortgage rates, sales tax and more. You want someone who is capable of washing their clothes, cleaning up their surroundings and holding down a job. There’s more, but that is for another post. Stay tuned.

We Dream of Fairies

This morning, as I was preparing breakfast, Em asked me, “Mama, could you braid my hair back into a ponytail?”

It has been a long time since Em asked me to do her hair. I don’t miss doing it every damned day, but I did miss it. I tried my best to brush out the handful of snarls deep in her golden locks of hair. As I did, and she flinched, I apologized.

She said, “Mama, remember the Tangle Fairies?”

Dad, who was finishing his breakfast, looked confused, “The what?”

I laughed, “The Tangle Fairies. I told Em and Danielle these stories about the Good Hair Fairies and the Tangle Fairies. It distracted them while I got all of the tangles out.”

Em nestled against me, “I loved them, and I always kept a sharp eye out for the Tangle Fairies. I believed you even after we moved here to this house.”

“It did seem to entertain and distract both of you.”

I related giving Danielle a “magic” hairbrush that the Good Hair Fairies had left out after one of their festivals. It was a tiny pinecone, no longer than an inch in length. “I told Danielle that it would take a while to brush her hair with it, but if she did, the magic brush would mean that she never had tangles.”

Em giggled and then asked, “And didn’t you used to pretend you were an elfling? For Sister?”

“I did! I could show it to you if you liked.”

We ran upstairs and found it – a journal which spanned intermittent entries over SIX YEARS. I had started it when Dee was just eight years old, and the last entry was when she was approximately fourteen.

Obviously, she had known it was me by then, if not all along.

I had started writing to her as Iliana Llorena Elfling, a summer elf that lived under her grandmother’s back porch the first summer we came here to Missouri in 1997. She had been so sad – missing her dad and her little half-sister, missing the only life she had ever known.

I remember thinking that if I could only connect with her on a level that no parent can ever truly do when our children are young – that of a friend – that perhaps I could help distract her, help her slide into her new life, and find happiness in her new world. Not just that, but as a friend and not her mother, I could laugh with her, be silly and fun and weird.

Yes, I could have done that last bit as her mother, but I hadn’t realized that at the time. I was too busy providing, protecting and guiding and feeling like it was ALL ON ME because, in the end, it WAS.

And let’s face it, it’s hard to be friends when you are also teaching your child, guiding them, and doing your level best to raise a capable, independent adult. I don’t know a single friend who will tell me to brush my teeth, clean up my room, or get back to doing schoolwork. Do you?!

Iliana became my alter ego. She was spontaneous, fun-loving, adventurous, creative, loved nature, and was self-assured, and surrounded by her people. All things that, for one reason or another, I was not and could not be.

As I read the entries to Emily today, she said wistfully, “I wish I could have a fairy write to ME.”

And as is my down-to-earth way I said, “But you would know it was me!” I thought a moment and realized that Dee had probably ALWAYS known it was me. It hadn’t mattered. She had still written back.

I guess it is time to dust off my magic pen and re-imagine a world which has elflings running amok within it. Or one with another magical creatures. One of whom will do what I, her mother, cannot do until she is grown…be her friend.

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