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Showing posts from May, 2017


The kids climbed this week!  Not metaphorically, although, I’m sure they did that too, but actually physically.  They all climbed things they’d never been able to climb before.  It started, I suppose, with the giant El Cid statue outside the Legion of Honor here in San Francisco, where the kids met their friends to go see the Monet exhibit one last time before it closed.  The statue is a huge brass affair mounted on top of a ten foot high concrete pedestal.  One of the kids started to climb up it.  Soon the other five kids followed suit.  There were beveled curves cast into the concrete that looked to have been created expressly for the purpose of defeating climbing.  The kids, however, quickly came up with a way of wedging their boots onto the concrete while grasping the bevel above and pulling.  They were making it up the side, but it was a bit too tall.

Perhaps it was later that night—it might have been a few nights before—we found our two-year-old, No. 3 on top of the second bunk…


One of the kids' friends asked about magnets a few weeks ago.  This led to three weeks worth of play dates on electric circuits, electromagnets, and last but not least, Motors!!!  (It's nice to have a physicist in the family).

The motors were amazingly simple to put together, so I’m including the instructions.  Here’s a picture so we have something to talk about.

The parts are:
•1 D cell battery
•1 pound of 18 awg magnet wire, (you don’t need the whole pound, but Amazon sells It by the pound… seriously)
•1 piece of cardboard out of the side of a box,
•1 magnet
•scotch tape

The How
Tape the D cell to the cardboard so it can’t move.  Next, cut two 4 inch pieces of magnet wire.  The next step is a bit of work, but use a kitchen knife, or a piece of sandpaper to scrape off the red insulation until you just see bare copper wire.  Place a dime size loop in one end of the wire, and then bend it over at a right angle to the rest of the wire to serve as a foot.  In the other end of the …

An Open Thank You Note to the DeYoung Museum Doing & Viewing Arts Docents

Doing and Viewing Art at the DeYoung Museum was an incredible program offered here in San Francisco that, sadly, came to an end last weekend after a 35 year run.  In the program, kids were led on tours of the museum by incredibly talented docents.  After the tour they worked on an art project informed by the tour, led by equally incredibly talented teaching artists.

People often ask what we think our kids aged six, four, and two get out of visits to the DeYoung.  I think the following open thank you note to the Doing and Viewing Art docents sums it up pretty nicely.

To the DeYoung Doing & Viewing Art Docents:

Thank you so much for making Doing & Viewing Art such an extraordinary experience for our three kids!  You were what made the program great, and it won’t be the same without you!
It was your confident, and inclusive tours of the museum that inspired our kids to be confident in the museum.  It was your love of the art that seeded our kids’ love for art.  Your inclusion o…

May's Reading List

I've been reading books by and about awesome women this month!  One's set in modern times, the other is set at the beginning of the last century.  Both tell the tales of women who built extraordinary media empires.  One was born into privilege, the other into homeschooling in the South.  They both did things the way they wanted to!

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)
What a fun book to read! I found out about Felicia Day first when my future wife told me about Dr. Horrible and later, on Eureka. This book details Day's experiences through the present day: what it was like to be home schooled, how she started started a successful internet company, and what it's like to be a fan icon. The stories are entertaining and funny even when they deal with serious subjects like depression and creative burnout.

I approached the book from a curious perspective. What does it take to be an internet sensation? This book was remarkably clear on just how much work it takes. It…

Binary Math Lessons: The Secret Origin

Unschooling?  How did my last post have anything to do with unschooling?  As soon as I saw the title on the screen, I cringed.  The benefits of binary math, check, anything to do with unschooling?  Nada.
As it turns out, I’d started in the middle of the story.  Our six year-old, No. 1, and I started heading towards binary math—in more proper unschooling form—because she wandered into the room one day and said, “Dad, I want to learn what you do at work.”
All I do at work is test machines whose sole job it is to move ones and zeroes around: microprocessors and other digital devices also known as computer chips in the vernacular.  So, since one and zero are pretty simple concepts, and as it turns out, the logic gate building blocks of digital devices are also really simple, off we went!
The first thing we need to nail down were the handful of logic gates I encounter.  What’s a logic gate you ask?  It’s just an electrical embodiment of a logical construct, (you know like the one’s you ha…

Unschooling Math: Binary Addition

Faced with the specter of having to memorize addition tables, and with the reward of building a calculator from scratch, our six year old—aka No. 1—and I have been working on math from a slightly different tack.  We switched to base 2 numbers.  Base 2 numbers, also known as binary, are the numbers all computers use.  For those unfamiliar with binary numbers, the binary system, (technically referred to as a ‘base 2’), only gives you two numbers to work with: 0 and 1.  Consequently, the binary addition table is far easier to memorize:

Addition Table + 0 1 0 0 1 1 1 10

In contrast, the number system we’re all familiar with, (known as ‘base 10’), gives us 10 numbers to work with: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.  Given a single digit in our ‘normal’ base 10 system, we can represent up to 9 things.  If we have ten things, we have to add a new digit—known as the ten’s place—hence 10 uses two digits.  In base 2, given one digit, we can represent at most one thing.  So, when we want to represent two …