Skip to main content


Five Ideas for Preparing Kids for Public Speaking

Eight year-old No. One stood in front of a room of 50 people at the junior track of engineering conference with a mic and a laser pointer.  She was describing a two-bit binary adder she’d built, and she nailed it!

She and her sibs pretty routinely speak in public—although not with that big of an audience—in one form or another.  To them, it’s not a big deal.  It’s something everyone else around them does, so why wouldn’t they?  They never got the memo telling them that public speaking was something to be feared.

Part of their comfort—I think—has to do with the fact that they inadvertently grew up speaking in public; thanks in part to me being lazy.  Here are five things we did together that I think got them used to the idea of public speaking.

Paying the ticket at the restaurant:  It’s always been the job of the youngest kid to take our money for the restaurant bill to our server.  The three to four year-old kid wanders around, finds the person, and gives them our money.  It doesn’t s…
Recent posts

Does Math Matter?

Yesterday when I wrote about the 8 yo kid here learning algebra, I left out one caveat.  Math is kinda one of our things around the house.  We’re all immersed in it all the time.  My partner studied physics with a minor in math.  I studied engineering.  We both enjoy math, and consequently, we talk about math often, whether the kids are nearby or not.  So, math might be easier to pick up at our house just by virtue of being there.

Here’s the thing though, when everyone frets “yes, but how will the kids learn math?”  Beyond the fact that if their interested in it they can find resources to learn it, beyond that fact, maybe it just doesn’t matter.

Every family is into something, lots of things really.  If the family's cooking along without anyone knowing trigonometry, perhaps that’s because the things they’re passionate about just don’t need trigonometry.  And guess what?  The kids in that family will be immersed in those passions.  Passions all the other kids may not be as exposed …

Unschooling and Algebra

Another question I see come up all the time in the context of homeschooling and especially unschooling is “How do you teach  math?”  There are lots of different ways.  I know people that use curricula, I know kids that attend math circles where they work out math problems with other kids, I know kids that learn math as they run into a need for it in the real world. When the real world example pops up, people tend to ask, “Yes, but how will they learn complex math like algebra and trigonometry?"

To which I respond, “The kids here learn those things mostly by talking.”

And that’s how we do it.  Talking.  Usually in tiny snippets at a time.  My partner and I started working with the kids on math as we hung around in coffee shops.  We'd ask the kids—now 8 y.o. No. One, 6 y.o. No. Two, and 4 y.o. No. Three—questions about adding or subtracting.  They'd generally work them out on their fingers.  This worked great all the way through multiplication, but when we hit division the f…

Unschooling, Assessing Learning, and Character Charts

The eight year old kid—No. One—leaned in,  “I think Mary has a really good idea about character charts.  I’ve got two books going, and I’m stuck on both of them, and I think that would really help.”  I quietly shushed her because Mary was still presenting her thoughts on outlining novels to the room of assembled writers at one of our favorite libraries, but my mind was reeling.  So many things had just happened!

First, I didn’t know One was working on two books.  I knew she was working on one book, but not two.  The kid had started a second book, and I didn’t even know.  Cool!

Second, she was paying complete, and rapt attention to the presentation.  I ususally get some kind of indication from the gang they heard what was being said when they attend talks with me, but that indication usually comes days or week later out of the blue.  Not today.  Today, the kid was clearly latching onto every word. 

We’ve attended writing lunches since the kid developed an interest in writing—not too lon…

Truly Devious: Project Based Learning Meets Murder Mystery

It’s unanimous, everyone that reads here is a huge fan of ‘Truly Devious’ by Maureen Johnson.  I found out about the book somewhere on author twitter last year a month or so before Christmas.  I thought it would appeal to my partner because she’s into mysteries, but I also thought it might appeal to the 8 y.o. reader here since it’s in the young adult book category.  When Christmas rolled around, I still hadn’t figured out who the book was for, so it kinda became a present for all of us.  My partner read it first, then No. One, the 8 y.o., and finally me.

The book has a twisted time stream, and takes place in two eras.  The official crime of the book, the one the protagonist originally sets out to solve is a kidnapping/murder that took place at the start of the 20th century.  As the story carries on though, the bodies start to pile up in the present time as well.  Are the new deaths murders or accidents?  Are they related to the original murder decades ago?  That’s part of the myster…

Coffee Shops, Kids, and Confidence

We had a cozy, welcoming local coffee shop in the little college town we lived in when the kids started arriving.  It was a large two story affair with an outdoor patio. All sorts of different mugs decorated the walls.  You’d pick out a mug, tell the kid tending the counter what you wanted, and they’d make it in your chosen vessel. 
This adorable little hangout is one of the first places the gang learned how to head out on their own to work on things they wanted.

When 8 y.o. No. One was almost three, she, her little brother—still in the wrap, snuggled into my chest—and I would go there.  The place had a water dispenser, one of those ceramic arrangements with a plastic jug sticking inverted out the top of it.  It had a spicket on the bottom with a lever that you pushed down for water.  A stack of paper cups sat next to it so you could have a drink of water along with your coffee.  The kid was fascinated with the thing.  She could reach the cups and she could reach the lever.  She watc…

Ten Things to do to Get Kids Into the World

I get a big kick out of the 8, 6, and 4 year-old kids here being as independent as they are.  It’s fun to watch them accomplish things on their own.  The look of pride they have in their own abilities makes me happy.  Knowing that they can do things on their own makes my world less stressful and more free.  Their independence also makes all of our lives more convenient.  They’re starting to learn how to get around town on their own on public transit, so they can get to the things they want to do without me.  They're all developing different interests, so it's great that each of them is pleased as can be doing things on their own without their sibs, my partner and I.  All of this lets them do and experience more.  They also help me with errands we need to get done for the whole family.  Their ability to roam out, free away from me, means they can take care of some of our shopping tasks while I take care of others.

They’ve all been practicing their independence since before they…