Day in the life of a home school dad

I saw Justin Lanier’s tweet about the day in the life project and thought I’d give it a try.  Actually I wasn’t sure until I read Fawn Nguyen’s day from last year.  It won’t top that day, but what the heck . . . .

5:50 am:  My wife and kids are usually out of bed by 5:30 am.  Not me.  Made it down just before 6:00 today.  The boys had finished breakfast and I grabbed some coffee and hopped on e-mail from overnight.

6:10 am:  I work a lot with people in London and we’ve got a couple of new project going on.  6:20 am e-mail from a colleague wanted to talk.  I e-mail back and ask him to call now.  We usually start school at 6:30, but I asked my oldest to start right then since I knew I’d be interrupted.

The project we are doing for fun this year is learning to speed solve Rubik’s cubes.  It has been surprisingly fun, and both the boys like it.    Working on solving 3x3x3 cubes with my 10 year old and 2x2x2 cubes with my 7 year old.  The first part of today is practice on the 3x3x3 algorithms with my 10 year old.

There’s a little bit of math involved in the process – mostly learning about algorithms and spacial awareness – but what the kids seem to really like is charting their progress.  They love setting new personal records and are really motivated to learn new ways to make the solutions faster.  My older son’s record right now is 34s on the 3x3x3 and my younger son’s record on the 2x2x2 is 7 seconds.  Super fun.

6:40 am:  Phone call from London and I have to let my son practice alone for a bit.  After about 10 minutes I’m done with the call and can swing my attention back to helping him.

7:00 am.  My wife and older son leave to walk the dog and I switch to my younger son.  This is the normal process.  The kids alternate days of walking the dog with my wife.

The math topic to cover with my younger son today is divisors.  We are studying in Art of Problem Solving’s Prealgebra book.  I absolutely love this book and am so happy to have the flexibility to work through it slowly and cover some of the more difficult topics in as much detail as we want.  He really likes numbers and is really taking to the number theory section we are in now.  Watching him slowly understand prime numbers and factoring has been amazing.  I also feel that I’m much better at teaching this than I was a few years ago going through this material with my older son.  Today we spent the bulk of our time on the following problem:

Write down the factors of all of the numbers from 8 to 18 and then write down how many factors each of those numbers has.

He proudly tells me that he “discovered” that all of the prime numbers only have two factors and then we talk about why perfect squares have an odd number of factors.  Happy with how the math went this morning.

We  wrapped the math up by making our daily math movie – MathProblems53:

After that, a little Rubik’s cube practice for him and then my older son is back from the walk.

7:40  The math topic for my older son today is the quadratic equation.  We’ve been following Art of Problem Solving’s Algebra book for about a year now.  As with my younger son, we are not moving through the book particularly quickly.  Rather we are trying to cover the difficult topics in detail.  We’ve spent most of our time since the beginning of September talking about quadratic expressions, and today we finally get to the punch line!  It was fun to see all of the steps from completing the square come together for the general solution.

After deriving the general solution, we solved a few equations and then made our movie:  KidMath53:

With that movie finished, I gave him a MOEMs test to practice.  Both the kids have grown to really like math contest problems, so I use them a lot to give them a little math variety.   While he was working on that, I processed the two movies.

8:30  He’s done with the practice test and I’m off to work.  Most days I bike into work, but we had some storms last night so I’m driving in.  I’ll bike home tonight.  My wife takes over the school duties after I leave.

9:00 Arrive at the office and hit the ground running.  Have a couple of questions waiting for me from a project several of us were working through this weekend.  Working through these problems is interrupted several times from calls from London.  My partner is traveling to the US now and will be in our office tomorrow.  We’ll have lots of stuff to get through if all of the calls from London today are any indication.  I’m heading to London next week.  It will be a busy day and week . . . .

A couple of nice distractions during the day today.  I stumbled on an old favorite probability problem this morning – one person flips 50 coins, a second flips 51.  What is the probability that the 2nd person gets more heads?  Fun problem.  Had a discussion on Facebook with a former student about it.  Also, a high school friend sent me a neat problem from a math contest her kid participated in this weekend.  I’ll run through it tonight with my older son.   Also, I heard on the radio that the NY Jets were the first team in NFL history to go 5 – 5 through the first 10 games with alternating wins and losses.  I suspect that the number of 5 – 5 teams in NFL history isn’t so large as to make the fact that only one team has done this a big surprise, but who knows.  I think that would be a fun combinatorics / statistics problem for a kid interested in math.

5:00 pm  I’m lucky to be able to have time flexibility in my job.  It means that I don’t have to be at my desk to work, so I can get out the door pretty early most days.  The weather tonight is ok to bike home.  Super actually.  Biking to and from work has been a great way for me to clear my mind and make the transition from teaching to work to teaching the boys.

6:00  pm  Arrive home after a nice ride.  Inhaled a couple of ribs and had about 45 min with the boys.  I made the movie with my older son about the math contest problem that Anita sent me.  We’ve studied a little number theory before and also have been talking about last digit problems, so it was actually a nice problem to go through:

I played a few number games with my younger son, including trying to make the number 34 using some of the numbers from the jerseys I have on my wall:

Frisbee Math

7:00:  My wife does a karate class a few times per week and she’s out the door before we finish up.  The kids are reading and getting ready for bed.  I’ve got about an hour of work to finish up tonight once I get them down, though I might not make 9:00 pm tonight myself.

All in all, a pretty typical day.

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Comments

8 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Very interesting day! Sounds like you are providing your kids with some excellent math challenges/lessons. What do you do with all the videos you make?

    • All of the videos are on youtube. They are not organized at all, except by title. I’ve never really known what to do with all of them – we are up to about 1400 now. I also put them on a FB page called Mike’s Math Page.

      Probably the most fun series we do is one we do on the weekends called FamilyMath. We started that last year with FamilyMath1 about paper folding and did FamilyMath103 based on some of the stuff on Fawn Nguyen’s visualpatterns.org site.

  2. I’m pretty sure this is the first time I read a DITLife post from a home-school version. I’m borrowing (shoot, I need to return it) my colleague’s Art of Problem Solving’s Algebra book, and I like it. Much better than what we’re using. I like how you’re going through the book slowly and spending more time with the more challenging stuff.

    Hope you’ll get to squeeze in some fun with your work in London.

    Thanks for the shout-out, Mike, and sharing this post. You know how much I always enjoy the videotapes — pretty amazing to capture your kids’ mathematically thinking through the years. Bravo!!

    • Thanks Fawn – hopefully this blog can build on some of the stuff I see on Twitter. Especially stuff where a short response doesn’t quite work. I have a feeling that the list of things I want to write about will end up being much longer than the list of things that I actually write about, though! ha ha.

  3. With such a storehouse of those videos, do you have time to go back with the boys and watch the development of their work and strategies? Perhaps, even just limiting it to the younger son watching his brother work through some of the ideas that he is currently working through might be interesting.
    Thanks for a different view!

    • I do it pretty frequently, actually. Seems like every single time my first reaction is how much they have grown. It is fun to see them moving forward mathematically, too. Haven’t done it with the younger one looking at the older one’s work, though, at least not specifically with that intent. Too much sibling rivalry already with the boys!

  4. Very cool. My school started as a mom who homeschooled, but she couldn’t handle high school-level bio and English, so she hired the retired professor down the street for an hour a week and a tutoring person for writing skills, etc. We still do independent learning as the majority of our coursework. How do you pick your curriculum, or do you let the kids just figure out random stuff?

    • I’m slowly working my way through the Art of Problem Solving books on the math side. We do a few other things for variety – neat problems from old math contests, mostly.

      My wife follows a curriculum from the Well Trained Mind which she and the kids seem to really like. It took us a while to find the right groove, but things seem to be going pretty well now.

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