We are loving A2’s math this week! Overall, I had been very pleased with our choice of a math curriculum for all of the boys. It emphasizes gentle learning experiences for the early years, and incorporates many hands-on projects, especially at this age, which is second grade.
My idea of hands-on projects for boys are real-life, practical experiences that will relate to useful knowledge. So, this week as he’s been focusing on temperatures, he’s been taking temperature readings all around the house, in various places! We found out that under the lamp in his bedroom, it gets up to 111• F! We now know the freezer temperature, plus how cool it is in the windowsill, under the bunkbeds, and several other locations. This is really the type of learning that he thrives on, and I enjoyed watching him take his measurements! Seeing someone love to learn is very encouraging! (And it doesn’t always happen, so we gladly take it when the spark comes on!)
Today was more temperature measurement fun! We borrowed a candy thermometer so we could measure water temps. A2 was really anticipating this–pretty simple–the parent was to boil the water while we measured the rising temps. We actually found out that the rather ancient candy thermometer registered out water boiling at 115•F! Oops!
Little A2 noticed the next part of the project gave instructions for salt water taffy–a recipe to make together! We didn’t have all of the ingredients for that, and I wasn’t sure I could find non-GMO corn syrup, so I thought we’d skip that part. But we found a substitute, with ingredients that we had! And I loved the reference to this taffy being made in the book, Farmer Boy, which we will read when we’re done with Little House on the Prairie.
I found the very simple recipe that we patterned ours after on a site called littlehousebooks.com, but right now it doesn’t seem to be working. There are hundreds of recipes out there, all similar.
We have trouble following a recipe exactly, because it’s always fun to add things–like PEANUT BUTTER! So we did!
Here’s how we made ours, anyway. *****disclaimer*****this made WAY MORE taffy than I thought it would, considering that you can’t eat much at a time. You might want to cut the ingredients in half. I just got tired trying to snip all of the candy into little pieces.
1 cup blackstrap molasses (it’s what we had)
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 or so peanut butter
3 T Earth Balance margarine
We put all ingredients into a saucepan and brought it to a boil. We let it rise to 145 degrees F and cooked it there until it made a soft ball in cold water. This took 15 minutes or so. Then we poured it onto a shallow pan lined with a silicone cookie sheet (or a oiled platter) for it to cool. It was snowing outside a little, but we put ours out on the railing and watched it. When it had cooled enough to handle and not burn, we started pulling!
The pulling was the funnest part. Everyone got a blob and pulled! You’re supposed to pull it until it changes color and feels like, well, taffy! The boys said it was like edible silly putty! I have to agree. The taffy really does feel like and stretches like silly putty. From the pictures, you can see that the boys tasted a bit of the taffy before it was quite all the way done. A messy face tells many secrets! 😉 In the olden days, two people would take a side of the blob and pull together, stretching it across the room. We tried that too, but with energetic taffy stretchers, that can get out of hand kind of quickly, resulting in floor taffy, which nobody wants to eat! 😦
Ultimately, we ended up with LOTS of delicious, rich, peanut-buttery candy, slightly reminiscent of caramel or something I can’t quite put my finger on. Everyone here likes it. Banana Man wasn’t too sure it looked edible when he got home and saw the taffy log sitting there, but once he tried it, he was a believer!
We ended up with so much that I finally gave up snipping and wrapping each piece individually (did I mention that I’m lazy?) and wrapped the remaining log in saran wrap and stored it that way. We can snip as we need it! My hand was getting tired, because it’s pretty stiff taffy.
So….math can be fun. It was this week! Just ask Little A2! And while we need the days of more routine math instruction and drill, these kinds of projects are the moments that will stand out in our homeschool memories. Definitely sweet learning!
Wonder what our curriculum for this year looks like? It’s called Math Lessons for a Living Education. This project was taken out of book 2. http://angelaodell.com/math-lessons-for-a-living-education/book-2/