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First Day of CSFirst Camp!

While I was out of town for work, the gang—7 y.o. No. One, 5 y.o. No. Two, and 3 y.o. No. Three—continued their CSFirst work with my partner.  Google cleverly refers to CSFirst as a club.  No. One took it a step further and decided the club was in fact a camp, you know, like summer camp.  One decided that as a camp they of course needed a banner, and went to work.
I heard during the day that the gang had worked together to set up One’s sandbox—the web app where CSFirst students do their programming work. I also heard that they were pair-programming; I’m a huge fan of pair-programming, so I was excited to get home last night to find out how everything went.

NOTE:  For those who aren’t into programming in general, or agile programming methodologies in particular, pair-programming is the practice of two programmers sitting down at one screen to work on a piece of code.  As one programmer types, the other checks their work.  They both discuss ideas for the piece of code they’re working on…
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Setting up our Unschooling Google CS First Class

The gang—7 y.o. No. 1, 5 y.o. No. 2, and 3 y.o. No. 3—and I received our materials for our CSFirst computer club from Google in the mail last week!  Google had indicated it might take as many as three weeks for the materials to arrive, but I suppose since we’re only 40 miles or so from Google headquarters, the materials arrived in a few days.  If you haven’t heard of CSFirst yet, it’s a program from Google to teach kids how to program.

We’re trying out the Music and Sound theme.  With a group of kids, some of whom aren’t reading yet, this seemed the better choice for us.  I’m hoping the outcome of the programming activities will be aural output each member of the gang can appreciate on their own.  Also, one of the activities is a dance party.  Everyone in the gang loves a good dance party as evidenced by the number of times we’ve watched Xanadu in the last seven years.

When it arrived last week, we dug through our box of materials.  There was a flyer for building interest in the club—…


A few weeks ago, we went to a friend’s birthday party at a water park.  After we’d gained admission to the park, five year-old No. Two was promptly nowhere to be seen.

“Have you seen Two?” I asked my partner.


So, off to look I went.  Fortunately, the water park had a rather compact design.  There was the splash area, a full sized pool for swimmers, and those learning to swim, and a collection of seven or so water slides, all fed by the same three story tall set of stairs and platforms.  I knew Two wasn’t in the splash area because that’s where we were.  As I meandered between the big pool and the slides, I caught a flash of Two’s ultra-blonde mop of hair out of the corner of my eye and way up.

In disbelief, I looked up the water slide tower to see if I had really spotted Two.  I had to wait a few moments, but I caught a glimpse of him again.  He was at the entrance to the slides on a platform thirty feet up in the air.  He’d lined up behind the other kids and adults all by him…

Unschooling Homework Happens Unintentionally

The unschooling gang here gets a science lesson a week.  They learn about things like electricity, magnetism, waves, the Doppler effect, and water pressure.  They don’t do any homework or worksheets . The lessons are based on demonstration and play.  They watch the demonstration first, and then they get to play with it, (perhaps a more stern educational type than I might call it experimenting rather than playing).  There are no worksheets, no homework, and no books.

People might ask, “Can a kid really learn something without doing some type or rote homework to help them internalize it?”  As with most things unschooling, we’re discovering that the repetition that might be necessary to learn happens not at a desk or at our kitchen table, but instead in the outside world where the 7, 5, and 3 y.o. gang here spend most of their time.

Take water pressure for example.  The kids performed a water pressure experiment using milk jugs.  They filled two jugs with water, then punctured one of the…

Free-Range and Unschooling Guilds

Life skill testing?  Sounds like a bad idea, because, well, it is. 

If you’re wondering what on Earth I’m talking about, it came up in yesterday’s post when I wondered if perhaps unschooling kids could hang out with vetted Directors of Tactical Ops, (DTOs aka nannies),  while traveling with their parents on work trips.  As a brief recap, I reasoned/hoped that kids could travel with their parents on business trips, hang out with local DTOs, and then explore the area with their parent over the weekend.  It’s not quite what’s known as World Schooling, where families travel the world freely instead of going to school.  It’s a middle ground.  From the kid’s point of view: Mom or Dad are travelling, there’s stuff I could experience, I’m going with them.  There were two issues though, one was vetting DTOs.  The other one, the one that led me to thoughts of life-skill testing was vetting kids, in order to qualify them to wander around towns with DTOs; to answer questions like, can they handle…

Unschooling, travel, and work are they mutually exclusive?

Unschooling, travel, and work.  They’re three things that don’t always go together, but they should.  When I travel for work, I frequently find myself in places where there’s tremendously wonderful stuff for kids to experience.  Meanwhile, the gang isn’t with me, they’re at home, because work.  Even if we could stay the weekend—frequently, we actually could—to check everything out, where would the gang hang out while I’m at work?  Since the kids here are unschooled, and have been raised free-range, the obvious answer at first blush would be that they should go see the sights without me.  But how?  Many museums--at least in San Francisco—don’t allow kids to free-range below the age of 12, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The gang here is 7, 5, and 3 years old.  They know how to ride public transit, they know how to behave in museums.  They know how to socialize with other kids in markets, and with adults for that matter.  What they need though—-somewhat sadly—is an adult to legi…

Kids in Bars

I recently read about a couple who, while waiting for their table in a restaurant, were allowed to sit at the bar, but thanks to Victorian style child ‘safety’ laws, their five and seven year old kids had to stand against the back wall two feet from the bar.  Kids weren’t allowed to sit at bars in that state.  You know, because safety.  

On our last two trips to New Mexico, we’ve had similar experiences.  On our most recent trip, seven year-old No. One and I were told we couldn’t be seated at the bar even though they served food there, even though we were in a restaurant., because the state of New Mexico has deemed it Wrong.  The trip before that a waitress warned us away from the high-top tables.  Once again, it was for safety’s sake.  On our current trip to DC, the kid vaulted onto a bar-stool, so yeah, I guess she can handle it.

Clearly I think kids should be allowed in bars.  I think it builds both social and real-world skills.  Bars are just one more place they will have already…