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Showing posts from April, 2018

"The Island of Dr. Moreau"

Can a not-quite-reading five year-old benefit from literary discussion groups?  I think so, but perhaps not in the way you might have expected.

Five year-old No,. 2 and I went to a book discussion of "The Island of Dr. Moreau" this week.  This is one of our homeschooling sorts of things that tends to raise eyebrows, and cause confusion among other adults.  I imagine, although few of them ask, that said adults wonder what 2 is getting out of such occasions, especially since he's not reading yet.  It is true, 2 hadn't read the book, but to be fair neither had I.  7 y.o. No. 1 and and I read through a graphic novel of the book the day of, and hit the highlights with 2.  Not being 2, I can't say for sure what he gets out of going to these events, but I can outline what I hope he'll get, what he's told me he wants, and what I've observed.  Here we go.

Getting the same perks
2 has seen No. 1, (who reads copiously and among many other things wants to be a wri…

Ham Radio Exams are Back Online

Sometimes intersecting interests are the ones that get you moving:  How homeschooling saved the radio star!

This blog clearly started out as more of a ham radio site.  There are a variety of indicators.  My call sign's in the masthead, The logo by Dash The DogFaced Ham includes a picture I took of an old Westinghouse gauge I found in the basement of the New Yorker while I was setting up a special even station to raise awareness for the restoration of Tesla's last laboratory, Wardenclyffe.  By the way, the logo and masthead will probably change soon to reflect the blog's new focus: unschooling, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Life is full of variety though, and so as the years progressed, the blog focused more on physics as I made my soiree into and then back out of a PhD physics program.  Recently, the blog has changed focus again, and contains posts on my new favorite thing to write about homeschooling, and more specifically, unschooling.  In the meantime, the ham ra…

Facts vs. 'Filiations

What if museum tours aren't about learning facts?  What if it turned out they've always been about learning life?






I read about a museum in the US this week that was cutting their docent led tours for kids.  They had done a study to determine how many 'facts' communicated by docents were retained by their kid charges.  The results came back to reveal not many facts had in fact been retained.

We have wonderful museums here in San Francisco, with brilliant docents.  Watching their various docent-led programs, it's occurred to me that facts aren't the most valuable commodity they provide.  What seems far more important to me are the various affiliations the kids make by interacting with the docents.  Here are a few of them.

Learning the Love
The docents are, to a person, enthralled with the subject matter they lead the kids through.  What I see the kids learning, rather than a list of facts, is the singular fact that someone has such a love for the particular subjec…

“The G-Engines are Coming”, or How the Fringe Funded Higgs before Higgs Was Cool

"Sure," I hear you saying, "Michael Gladych is cool and all, but what does this have to do with the history of physics?" Read on and find out how Gladych reported on the events that would fund Higgs Particle research as well as the relativistic framework that inspired the Alcubierre drive. The same events that inspired Nick Cook's antigravity classic, "The Hunt for Zero Point"


The article that brought Mike Gladych to the attention of fringe physics buffs everywhere, “The G-Engines are Coming”, appeared in its first incarnation in the pages of the November, 1956 issue of American Modeler.  The article begins with the bold assertion that nuclear airplanes will be made obsolete—by the artificial control of gravity—before they ever leave the design phase.  It then goes on to state that many aircraft companies were currently engaged in the study of the control of gravitation including: Glenn L. Martin Aircraft Co., Convair, Bell Aircraft, Lear, Inc., and S…

The Higgs… and Other Things as Related by Fighter-Ace Turned Journalist Michael Gladych

Scientific research in post-war America during the 1950s and ‘60s as seen through the eyes and life of ace fighter pilot turned science journalist, Michael Gladych, reveals a time when scientific possibilities were grander and fairly dripped with the promise of sci-fi style adventure.


Michael Gladych enters our story in the “The Hunt for Zero Point” , the fringe physics classic, by Nick Cook:  “The strapline below the headline proclaimed: "By far the most potent source of energy is gravity. Using it as power, future aircraft will attain the speed of light." It was written by one Michael Gladych…” Gladych, portrayed by Cook as merely the random author of a science journalism article , (figure 1), rapidly fades from the story amidst numerous claims of government and aerospace industry conspiracies to cover-up the ‘true’ anti-gravity programs of the 1950s.


Ironically, Gladych is a far more interesting, and ‘true-to-life’ character than any of the others in “The Hunt for Zero Po…

Unschooling Networks

It happened again.  The kid's network appeared on my radar.  Walking through our local art museum last week, I was stopped by a passerby who was leading a kids' art tour, "You're No. 1's dad aren't you?"  Then, this weekend, we went camping at a state park 20 or so miles away.  We hiked three miles into the nearby town of Stinson Beach where, while waiting in line at the local snack shack, 1 ran into one of her art teachers from last summer.  They took the time to catch up on the artsy things that had been going on in their worlds, and then they headed off their separate directions.

Kids and networks.  It's a thing.  In my experience, unschooling kids tend to build networks for themselves and their families.  They build them the same way the rest of us do: by being outside, living life.

It seems to be that simple.  Just by being out and about, interacting with the world that's around them, they network.  I frequently meet people on transit who kn…

The Look

Every so often it happens, someone asks how unschooling is working while giving me the ‘surely they’re done with that by now’ look. Sometimes the look gets to me, and gives me pause to think about whether what we’re doing really does work or not. Then, I remember where the kids really are academically, almost universally ahead in my opinion, and I relax a bit.

Annoying as it is the ‘look’ winds up being a positive force in general. It makes me re-evaluate my goals for unschooling in the first place. I just have two of them.  The first is  for the kids learn in a natural easy way that echoes the way I learned things growing up.   The second is for them to get out into the world to experience it, and to build the skills necessary to work with it.

Sometimes when I review, I realize we could focus more on one or the other of those goals, and try to amplify my efforts accordingly.  For example,

“No. 1 mentioned she wanted to learn to solder, we need to take time to make that actually happe…

Always Watching

A few weeks back, Mom-person lost her wedding ring.  I was walking across the room one morning, and noticed her engagement ring laying on the rug, but the wedding ring was nowhere in sight.  She and I started a search for the errant ring.  We looked under the rug, then under the bed.  I emptied out the recycling bag, (Ick!), since we’d been cleaning house the night before.  We looked in all the places the ring should be.  It wasn’t in any of them.  Finally, we asked five year-old No. 2 if he happened to know where the ring was.  He’s frequently the moving force behind ‘misplaced’ items.  He earnestly told us he had no idea.

Having assured ourselves that we weren’t shipping the ring to the recycling plant, we got on with life figuring the ring would turn up, and that we’d remount a more extensive search later.  Life, as it does around here, proceeded to trod rapidly along.  Before we knew it, a week passed before we’d even thought to look for the ring again.

Then, one morning, from ou…

Snip Snap & Vampire Baby: What the kids are reading this week

I've been catching up on my old X-Files episodes this week after bedtime.  It may be more proof of our hive-mind theory that the kids picked up two urban-legend themed books on their latest trip to the library: Snip Snap! What's That? by Mara Bergman and Nick Maland; and Vampire Baby by Kelly Bennett and Paul Meisel.

Five year-old No. 2 took the time to snuggle in so we could read Snip Snap! What's That? as I was recovering from whatever kind of sinus/allergy/snot sort of croop has hit this month.  I loved the book, and it's clearly one of 2's favorites!  To be honest I liked that 2 is picking up more and more letters and their sounds all the time.  He's pointing at letters, making the sounds, and sounding things out!  Now that he's started in on this learning to read thing, it seems he's unstoppable.  I also enjoyed it because it brought up two tropes I'd forgotten about long ago.

The first is a big-city trope I had as a child.  From watching tele…

How Unschooling Kids Learn: Environment as Classroom: Part 1 of the soldering series

Lots of people ask how unschoolers learn without classrooms or teachers.  The perhaps paradoxical answer is that they have classrooms and teachers, just not in the traditional sense.  The kids' (7 y.o. No. 1, 5 y.o. No. 2, and 3 y.o. No. 3), teachers are whoever they happen to be around when they're curious about something.  Their classrooms tend to be anywhere but our house, where we all typically decompress for a few hours around dinnertime before we head off to bed.  We do have haunts form time to time where we spend more time learning.  When the kids were younger, we had a favorite coffee shop with a grass lawn and an upstairs.  We'd hang out upstairs practicing numbers and division. 

Since we've come to San Francisco, our favorite learning haunt has changed.  Google came the closest to what we use for a classroom when they implemented rolling study halls:


More times that not, the gang and I find ourselves discussing 'school' subjects on San Francisco publ…

San Francisco Spring Break Pointers from an Unschooling Perspective

So, I have it on good authority that Washington public schools are on Spring Break this coming week.  Perhaps this is the last week of Spring Break for the country in general.  I don't know.  Like every year since we've moved here, I have noticed that the population of San Francisco has been augmented over the last few weeks with interested families excited to be here.  The gang, (seven y.o. No. 1, five y.o. No. 2, and 3 y.o. No. 3), get out and about in San Francisco all the time.  Consequently, we've picked up some San Francisco travel tips I'd like to share.

First though, the obligatory shoo off.  You may want to go somewhere else for Spring Break, and if so we're all for that.  Lines will be shorter here, and we'll get to get out and do a few more things during the Spring Break weeks.  If you'd rather go somewhere else, that'd be OK.  Still coming?  OK, here's what works for us.

Getting Around
We don't drive here.  Ever.  The public transit …