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Showing posts from August, 2019

Five Things to Practice for Independent Walks

Getting kids ready to head out into the world on their own?  Here are some the things the kids here did to get ready. Get down on the ground As each new kid here learned to toddle, I took them out of the wrap as often as I could so they could walk beside me, instead of on the side of me.  The kids generally loved it . They got to explore.  They got to interact with the world.  I got to see the world from their perspective: only a few feet above the surface of the ground.  The kid, noticed things I hadn’t seen before.  They showed me their world.  Was it slow?  Yes, yes it was, but it was more than worth it.  The more they walked, the more they could walk, and soon, I was free of carrying kids, and had buddies I could wander around with. Learn to Lead Early on it’s nice to have a rapport at a distance with your kids.  A few simple instructions like left, right, stop, and u-turn are all they need to know.  These things come in handy, but you don't have to take my word for it:

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

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 e

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 divisio

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—n

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 m

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 w

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 the

Camping, Outdoor Free Play, and Parental Freedom Too

I'm a huge fans of unsupervised outdoor play.  I had yet another great experience with it during our camping trip over the last weekend. The kids headed out early in the morning with their nanny to get our campsite setup. Since they’re able to get there early, we're usually able to get a tent site, even during the busy summer months.  The days, the kids haul their own sleeping bags and the tent.  When they arrived, they set up the tent, (the nanny doesn’t know how), put their backpacks inside to anchor it, and then headed out for a  five mile hike into the nearest little town at the bottom of the mountain.  (The place the raptor class took place as a matter of fact.) has a great  interview about the value of free, outdoor play . That afternoon, I met the gang in the same little town, took over from the nanny, and we all headed back up to the campsite via public bus line.  By the time we arrived back at the campground, the wind had tumbled our tent down the mount

Long Road Trips, Libraries, and Screen Time

I often see the question, what do people do on long road trips to avoid too much screen time for kids?  First, a disclaimer.  I have no personal druthers about screentime one way or the other.  I think whatever works best for each family works best.  We, missed the screentime issue by simple circumstance.  When the kids came, we were poor grad students; too poor to afford screens.  Consequently, we’ve just never had them. So, what do we do on road trips without screens?  One of the answers is libraries!  (Actually an article in the New York Times a few days back, commenting on the rising popularity of libraries is what made me think of all this.)  On our latest cross-country road trip, our yearly two-week camping trip, we stopped at about a library a day.  They were delightful!  We go to read a little.  We used their free WiFi to keep up with communications as we went.    The kids read, they played with toys, they messed around on (shudder, hehehe), screens.  They also used the libra

Parenting Gaffe or Time Travel Paradox?

This one’s kinda silly, but what are blogs for right?  I’m rewatching season 5 of The Flash with the gang.  And episode 4, ooooh, episode 4….  It’s driving me nuts.  It did when I watched the first time without the kids, and now that I’ve watched it with the kids, I’ve gotta say, the one parenting scene just rings untrue.  Spoilers below: OK, here’s the setup, Flash and Iris’ adult kid, Nora aka XS, has come back from the future to visit her parents before she was born.  She did it using her super-speed of course because The Flash’s kid.  You might wonder if the thing that rings untrue for me is the time travel, what with all the physics I used to write about.  It’s not. In fact, Dr. Ronald Mallett, has shown that mathematically at least, time travel into the past is possible.  Was his work peer-reviewed?  Yep!  It’s legit.  Since then, he’s been trying to build such a machine.  To Legion of Superhero Fans, yup, it requires a time beacon!  You can only send signal back to time

Kids and Independence: Learning the Ropes and Discussing Stakes

First, there’s a great FB user group if you’re interested in things like kids being independent .  It’s sponsored by .  After the music festival post a few days ago, somebody asked how my partner and I navigate issues where the four year-old might feel like she needs to wander off from the other two kids.  Here’s what’s worked for the gang so far: At the start of the year, right after her birthday, I probably wouldn't have let the 4 y.o. wander off with her sibs.  We do a couple of different things as far as practice and prep.  When the four year-old was three, she wasn't allowed to go with her sibs.  She and I would wander the neighborhood while they walked the dog though.  She got to pick the directions to go, and we talked all about the things we saw.  I think that's how she began to learn about landmarks.  Since she's been four, she has been allowed to go on the dog walks, which have been getting progressively longer.  I asked the big kid, (the eight

Letting the World Strew

Random Strewing: Letting the World Strew for You As an unschooling parent, I strew. For those new to the whole world of unschooling, strewing means putting out things, books, games, art materials, whatever that you think unschooling kids might find interesting.  It’s like an educational slush fund.  Sometimes the kids get interested, sometimes they don’t.   I’ve also found though that the world at large is happy to do the strewing for us.  This week, the gang, (8 y.o. No. One, 6 y.o. No. Two, and 4 y.o. No. Three), went on a three-mile hike through a forest to a nearby beach town.  They’d been on the hike dozens of times before.  It winds down a steep ravine with redwoods hurtling out of the ground on both sides.  The forest off the trail is lush with ferns, moss, and other undergrowth.  They frequently find banana slugs, sometimes see quail, and once in awhile, spot a deer.  When they crusie into town, they visit the local library.  It’s their hangout.  There are books, and gam

Kids Practicing Their Own Limits

Rae Pica posted regarding the tying of shoes yesterday .  Rae pointed out that if we help kids too much, we might, in turn, make them helpless.  The point being, without the opportunity to try and to fail, will they be able to learn how to do things? The gang, (8 y.o. No. One, 6 y.o. No. Two, and 4 y.o. No. Three), have seen other takes on the old shoe saw.  First, there’s the ever-present, your shoes are on the wrong feet.  I’ve talked about me having to deal with that one before .  These days though, we’re also starting to get ‘your shoes aren’t tied’.  Now that the kids’re getting bigger, I’m not the one dealing with these things anymore.  That’s what I wanted to talk about, by not setting some limits on the kids, the kids are learning how to set limits with others.  It’s kinda cool, and pretty handy for the kids.  Let me illustrate with a story. A year or two ago, the kids and I were riding BART headed downtown for one thing or another.  We frequently don’t ride together on

Kids, Festivals, and Freedom

The gang, (8 y.o. No. One, six y.o. No. Two, and four y.o. No. Three), my partner, and got to go to a music festival this weekend.  We saw James and the Psychedelic Furs, and it was soooo easy!  We arrived about 10:30 in the morning to get a good seat.  The kids were with us, we’d be there till about 5 PM.  The music was scheduled to start about 2:30.  We brought a ton of food because the kids and I travel on our stomachs, and wait for it, one activity.  The single activity was a card game that involves the players throwing foam burritos at each other.  The kids played one game of it with their friends.  The rest of the day, they blissfully (for me), and independently occupied themselves with exploring the festival.  My partner and I didn’t have to mess with any of this.  She got to paint with watercolors for a while, and read.  I got to write for a bit.  We got to catch up with our friend, (the parent of the other two kids), and with each other.  (Imagine it!  Thanks to the