The other morning began normally, meaning that I was doing the relatively simple geometry problem of:
- Calculating just how long I could let my daughter sleep (line AB),
- while also leaving enough time to feed her a good breakfast (line BC),
- before rushing off to get her to school on time (line AC),
- so that she can have a good day at school (equilateral triangle ABC).
After a combined total of seven years of elementary school mornings, I’ve gotten pretty good at this kind of equation. We even made it to school early!
Then I went back home. That’s when things got hard.
Coming home to a day of home-schooling with my son is a bit like coming home to a Labrador puppy who hasn’t been walked in several hours. As soon as we walk into the kitchen, he says, “What are we going to do today?”
The calculations of a home-school day are never easy. Even if I have a plan in place (line AB), he is certain to come up with his own very pressing agenda (line BC). This might involve testing out his recently constructed gold-panning sluice in the backyard, building a trebuchet, or making a map of the world.
While these activities may start at point B, I can never predict exactly how far they will extend into our day. Therefore point C is unknown, which of course makes it almost impossible to determine when we’ll get back to my plan (hypotenuse of line AC). Just how long this hypotenuse will be depends partly on the angle of my patience on that particular morning, whether it be acute, obtuse, or just right, so to speak.
This week we’ve been studying explorers. I had readings for him to do, and writing, and of course some math. But he said, “I’d like to build my own sextant and figure out how it works.”
It is at just these times that I feel profoundly under-qualified for my job. It is also at just these times that I feel exceptionally grateful for the internet.
I quickly found this very handy bit of curriculum, and we set to work on the sextant, which in this lesson is technically a quadrant, Tazwell pointed out.
A ruler, a protractor, a washer, a string, some tape… and we had our quadrant. Easy-peasy.
No, not easy-peasy, because then Tazwell wanted to to learn how to use his quadrant to figure out the height of a mountain. “One that you can’t climb,” he clarified.
Now, folks, I have not studied trigonometry for 30 years. Even back when I was in trigonometry, I wasn’t a great student. So I felt very ill-prepared to figure out the height of an mountain, be it “acceffible” or “inacceffible.”
Still, I pulled out the math books. Because the truth is, I’ve been wondering a lot lately about how to take the height of an inaccessible mountain, though my mountains are of the more figurative sort. They include:
- Finishing my novel
- Starting a new career
- Living on one salary in the Bay Area
Well, again thanks to the internet, I found this helpful formula, and using this wonderful home resource, we proceeded to walk through the calculations, using measurements my son had taken with his quadrant:
The only problem was that he didn’t really care about plugging numbers into the formula. He cared about the steps behind the formula. In other words, he cared about the process.
So he re-wrote it:
Now, what motivated him to determine the height of an inaccessible mountain is beyond me. Perhaps it was that we’d recently been in Yosemite to see the snow. Perhaps it was just that he likes to know things.
Anyhow, we spent three hours on this project. Three hours. And it was great, because my son simply LIT UP when he understood the process. This is part of the beauty of homeschooling. And perhaps as a result of traveling that three hours with my son simply in the pursuit of knowledge, I suddenly felt as if my own inaccessible mountains might not be so terribly insurmountable.
So I wrote down my process for dealing with inaccessible mountains. See what you think:
I tried it out. I thought back to when I first started this Year of Yoga project, about four months ago. I know how I felt: Totally terrified. This was going to be yet another of those great ideas that never went anywhere, one of those projects that I started and never finished.
Well, just the other day I got a report from WordPress on my stats for 2015. I’d written 15 posts in four months! Not so bad. And already I’m a third of the way home!
This whole thing is starting to feel way more acceffible.
5 thoughts on “The Trigonometry of Life”
My favorite part of homeschooling is when they “light” up! Happy homeschooling!
Wonderful! This (almost) makes me sorry I didn’t home-school.