Animated Music Videos

Miss Em has long enjoyed making videos. Whether it’s live filming, Screen Flow vids of her playing online with friends, or animated drawings, her skill with editing grows noticeably each year.

Right now, her interest lies in creating animated music videos to go with her favourite songs (a very Tween thing to do, IMO – she admittedly describes it as “emo”). Not only does she create the animated images frame by frame, but she then must coordinate them with the music. There is a huge skill set she is building here, and it’s hard to deny that she is building expertise in an area that has much potential for a future career. Two ideas we are working on right now are creating a series of workshops for kids who wish to learn digital art skills and also leading an online conference on the subject in The Village – our homeschool program’s online hub.

Recently, she and her BFF decided to work together on a video. Each took a section of song and created images to go with it. I love that she is doing collaborative work: it is such great practice for her socially and emotionally as she navigates the potentially tricky waters of working with someone else’s creations. The clips below are part of a WIP (work in progress) that she agreed to share with me so I can provide an example of her work.

The first clip shows the video intro. HuskyDragonWolvez is her username, reflecting three of her top animal obsessions over the years. DragonWolf Productions is the name of her “company”, and Slenderchu Productions (a combination of two favourite characters – Slenderman and Pikachu) is her friend.

The next clip shows Miss Em’s portion of the video. While only a few seconds long, this represents hours and hours of work. She told me that she was unhappy with the limited options for text effects, and she figured out how to create some of her own by changing the text on a frame-by-frame basis. So those words that seem to pop out of the screen? Yeah, she did that. :-) And she also made the words move around and appear to fall down into the water. In fact, that drowning scene is one of my favourites, so full of emotion.

I’m so very proud of her and the hard work she has put into this (and her other projects). This is true passion, right here. This girl, who can barely sit still for busywork that is imposed upon her, spends hours and hours of time focused on the creation of these videos and her other artwork. That is the type of focus and passion that Sir Ken Robinson talked about in his book on creativity, and it’s difficult to truly nurture this without a good amount of unstructured free time. Yes, I admit, it is very validating for me as a homeschooling, freeschooling parent. But mostly my heart is filled with joy, because finding one’s passion is – IMNSHO – one of the keys to true happiness.

 

 

Categories: Miss Em, natural learning | Leave a comment

More paper game crafting

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I recently wrote about Mr. Boo’s interest in paper crafting. In that post, I mentioned Joe’s Plush Adventure, his new project for Project-Based Homeschooling. What he built that day was a test level for trying out some ideas (I thought that was pretty farsighted for a 10 year old!). This week he started on the actual game.

In PBH, we are encouraged to use journals, and one reason is to document our kids’ ideas so that we can return to them later if they are stuck or just keep track of them for future reference. The first thing Mr. Boo asked me to write down was a list of “What we learned from the test level”. Here is a list of his Do’s and Don’ts, as dictated to me:

  • first worlds must be easy; our test level got harder as it went along
  • cubes (and any other 3D objects) must be drawn first
  • each level must be long (but not too long)
  • longer levels need more checkpoints
  • without a flag, the level is not completable (unless you have a boss, then you don’t need a flag)
  • floating platforms don’t work!
  • do not put too many box spawners

He also decided that his game would have multiple worlds, and each world would have multiple levels. Players begin at the World Hub (shown below) where there are portals to each world. World 2 and above are locked (as shown by the padlock symbols that cover the portals). World 0 is a tutorial level where the players can learn the moves of the game.

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He hadn’t finished numbering the worlds before I took this photo. He also noticed himself that his “3″ was backwards, and had me draw a “2″ for him so he could ensure that one was done correctly.

World 0 will have 4 levels: ground movement, air movement, combat, and extra moves. Each level will teach skills specific to that area. For example, the ground movement level will teach: move, jump, slide, and jumpslide, and that’s the level he made this time around.

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The image above shows the spawn point (the purple circle with a lower case letter j, for Joe, the main character). The player moves toward the blue circle and sees the X, which prompts the player to press X (I should point out that the player will be holding a Playstation3 remote, although it is not hooked up to anything, obviously). This produces the Jump move, and the player uses that to get up on the cube (making this cube was fun: he wanted it twice the size of the one in the test level, which he made using graph paper, and he was able to calculate himself how many squares to use for each side of the cube - yay for relevant math learning!). The player practices the jump move again by jumping over the river. The player is then prompted to press the circle button, which produces the Slide move, and the player slides through the tunnel.

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After that is a second tunnel with an obstacle at the end (shown above). By now the player knows that Circle = slide and X = jump so he should be able to figure out to slide through the tunnel and jump at the end to avoid the small cube. This is the Jumpslide maneouver. The blue circle is the portal back to the Level Hub, where the player can choose to move on to Level 2 (which will be about air movements) or return to the World Hub.

Here he is, demonstrating this level in action!

I’m blown away by how rich and detailed this project is, and how well thought out and organized his ideas are. Often times it seems he is just randomly throwing things together, but he has clearly put a lot of thought into this. Hooray for project-based learning!

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Categories: a day in the life, Crafting, learning is fun, Mr Boo, Project Based Homeschooling | 2 Comments

Downtime for Mama: RPGing with Skyrim!

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I learned early on that my kids need plenty of downtime built into their day, especially after we’ve been out running errands or doing activities. I, too, need downtime, albeit not as often. One of the advantages of having older children is having more opportunities to do things just for myself. I run three times a week, take my dog for walks in the forest, and pursue other interests such as sewing and knitting on evenings when I don’t have work to do. Sometimes I binge-watch a TV series via Netflix, or online, and I read books while I’m snuggling with Mr. Boo at bedtime, waiting for him to fall asleep. It’s really important for me to make sure I carve some downtime for myself out of my week. As they say, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

Lately I’ve discovered a new pastime, playing a role-playing game called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Now, while I do like video games, it’s not really my thing. Yes, I played through the Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time and loved it, and also enjoyed playing Banjo-Kazooie while my kids watched (they were toddlers back then), but after a while those types of games all seemed pretty much the same. My husband likes to play games like Battlefield and Far Cry, which are too testosterone-laden for my liking, and Miss Em and I enjoyed watching him play through The Last of Us (great storylines), but I hadn’t found any games that made me want to come back and keep playing when other opportunities beckoned.

About a year ago, my husband came home with a copy of Skyrim that he’d bought from a sale bin and thought the kids might like. We are a Mac family and Skyrim only runs on PC. We did have a PC hack going on our Mac, but as it wasn’t legit, it crashed a lot. Last month we finally bought a copy of Windows so Mr. Boo could take his programming course from Youth Digital, and installed it on our Mac using Bootcamp. Mr. Boo pointed out that now I’d be able to play Skyrim (neither kid was interested in doing so themselves), but I really didn’t know much about it. So he showed me a YouTube trailer for the game, and I thought it looked pretty intriguing. I was definitely blown away by the scenery!

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I was big into the fantasy genre of books when I was a teen and young adult. I read Piers Anthony, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Steven R. Donaldson, etc. I still have my complete collection of The Belgariad and The Mallorean - which I re-read about every 5 – 10 years - and I own all the Shannara books (incredible series: 13+ books and they are all awesome!). And yes, I dabbled in Dungeons and Dragons when I was in high school (the early ’80s). But I just couldn’t get into it. Frankly, it required way too much imagination, and the action moved a bit too slowly for my liking. But this…Skyrim is everything I’d wished D&D was back then. I am loving this game!

I had no idea how much fun I would have creating, playing, and developing my character. The graphics are amazing, the experience is rich and varied, and I’m quite certain I can get a whole lot of game play out of this before I get tired of it: there is just so much to do!

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Being one who doesn’t read the manual, I jumped in with both feet, but after playing a few hours I realized there was probably a lot here I was missing. So I headed on over to YouTube and found this amazing complete walkthrough playlist by Culveyhouse. As a narrator, his voice is pleasant to listen to (something that is seriously lacking in many YouTube videos and especially important if you have 400+ videos to watch!) and he does a great job of balancing information on all the little things you can do with not making it boring to watch. The first 25 or so videos, which take you from the opening scene up to learning your first Shout words, taught me SO much about all the things you can do in the game and really upped the experience for me.

In order to ensure I don’t encounter any spoilers, I started skipping around after episode 32 and I only watch videos for quests I’ve already done. If I see anything really important I missed, I can always go back to that area, and I just really enjoy seeing the strategies he employs and reliving the quest experience from a slightly different perspective. If you are a fan of Skyrim, or want to see what it is all about, I highly recommend his walkthrough playlist.

I’ve been fairly busy and haven’t had a chance to play for a couple of days now, and I miss it! But once I get started, I like to play for at least a couple of hours, so I save it for my evenings off – it gives me something to look forward to!

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Categories: family life, lifestyle, Personal Growth | Leave a comment

Learning with Paper Crafts

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Last week, Mr. Boo was inspired…by something, I don’t know what…to make a paper game for his stuffies, and he has been doing tons of crafting with paper ever since.

This sudden passion for paper crafting happily coincided with this past week’s theme in my Project-Based Homeschooling Master Class: making (being a maker, nurturing a maker, and mentoring a maker). Like a textbook example of PBH, these paper projects are manifesting as all sorts of learning. We’ve covered physics, math, geometry, fine motor skills, and problem solving. As is usually the case with child-led learning, my son knows exactly what to do – it’s me who needs to learn how to stay out of his way!

For his first project, a basketball court, I confess I did not do a great job of letting him problem-solve. He caught me off guard and my natural inclination was to “help”, thus robbing him of the opportunity to figure it out himself. This is why I’m loving my Master Class so much – I tend to try to solve their problems, rather than let them do it themselves. Consciously, I understand that I shouldn’t do this, but it’s a bad habit; the course helps keep me mindful of my role as mentor. Fortunately, he didn’t hold it against me, and when he next came to me I was better prepared.

The court has two hoops and there are “power-up items” scattered about the court that grant the player special abilities. He decided that the court needed some decorating, and I suggested we look up the patterns of real courts. He pulled up Google Images and copied some of the lines onto his court. Along the way there was lots of drawing, writing, cutting, and taping to work those fine motor skills (something he struggles with as part of his autism).

When he first made this hoop, he encountered a problem: how to get it to stand up?

When he first made this hoop, he encountered a problem: how to get it to stand up?

The solution: straws!

The solution: straws!

The playing field, complete with powerups (flaming hoop, sword, missiles, health).

The playing field, complete with power ups (flaming hoop, sword, missiles, health).

Joe checks out the new game.

Joe checks out the new game.

The day he built this game was also the first day back to his after-school program for kids with autism. He brought the game with him to show all his friends! I loved how much pride he took in his creation.

He went again the next day (he goes twice a week) and they went on a field trip to a local park with a nice playground. Mr. Boo loves playgrounds. But when I came to pick him up, he got off the bus with a bag full of paper! Apparently he and his friend had spent the whole time at the park sitting at a picnic table creating gaming worlds and levels using paper. Those creations stayed at the centre, so I don’t have photos, but the drive to create didn’t stop there.

Back at home he had a big idea for a paper board game that he named “Joe’s Plush Adventure”. He talked about it constantly and couldn’t wait for project time. On the next homeschool day, we headed out to Staples to pick up some supplies (paper, scissors, tape, and thick markers) and put aside our Little Big Planet 2 project to work on this instead. In a brief moment of school-ingrained thinking and parental doubt, I wondered whether I should make him finish the first project before moving on to the second, but I knew immediately that doing so would only squash his enthusiasm about this paper project and make him resent the programming project. Besides, he is progressing with game design through other outlets and this project is something that better fits the bill: the LBP2 idea came about due to a lack of ideas for project time, whereas this was a giant spark that lit him up. There was no way I was going to throw water on that flame!

So, without further ado, here is what he’s done so far:

Making status bars (for health, magic, and strength)...and writing UPSIDE DOWN (so I could colour while he wrote)!

Making status bars (for health, magic, and strength)…and writing UPSIDE DOWN (so I could colour while he wrote)!

Geometry: making paper cubes.

Geometry: making paper cubes (and seeing how graph paper makes for more even sides).

Big challenges to solve with this one!

Big challenges to solve with this one!

The big challenge came when he wanted to make a pillar on which the character could wall jump up to the top, then hop over to a floating platform. How to make a floating platform? He didn’t want to place it on its own pillar; he wanted to have it suspended from a ceiling. How to make a ceiling? He attached that ripped piece of paper to the top of the pillar, but oops – it just flopped over. So he taped a straw to it. That was better. Then he tried to stick a piece of paper perpendicular to it for a ceiling. That didn’t work. He made the ceiling piece smaller, then came up with using a straw to prop it up.

After that, he had to experiment with different lengths of tape for suspending the platform from the ceiling. Meanwhile, the thing kept tipping over. He used a pair of scissors to weigh it down, which worked until he added more paper to the thing. Then he tried making a cube out of paper and using it as a weight: not heavy enough. Finally he sent me outside to find a rock, and that did the trick. I’m proud that I kept my mouth shut during all this, given that I already knew the answers. He never got frustrated or asked/expected me to solve it. He just kept coming up with ideas and trying them out until it worked. THAT is real learning!

Watching his enthusiasm, his determination, his drive, his pride…I thought to myself, THIS is why I homeschool. I love giving him the freedom to pursue his passions; honouring his ideas with dedicated time, space, and materials; and – most of all – sharing in the joy of learning, creating, and discovering.

Categories: learning is fun, Mr Boo, Project Based Homeschooling | 3 Comments

Memory Boxes

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I recently wrote about a little box that Miss Em made out of polymer clay. It was a tribute to her former obsession with ladybugs. Well, she has since added two more boxes.

I’m fascinated by where this is coming from. A while back, we were having a talk about passions and how they relate to natural learning. Unlike the system used in most schools, where a variety of subjects are tackled all at once (math, social studies, chemistry, French, etc), I have found that when learning is allowed to unfold naturally, it proceeds more like unit-based studies, where students focus on one topic and then explore it from a variety of perspectives and in a variety of ways.

For example, Miss Em’s interest in ladybugs manifested as: trips to the library to read books about ladybugs (reading), watching movies about ladybugs (listening), drawing pictures of ladybugs (fine motor skills) annotated with words (writing), learning about the role of ladybugs in gardening (living skills), walks through the neighbourhood looking for ladybugs to collect and identify (observing in nature), painting rocks to look like ladybugs (art), and counting spots on ladybugs to determine the species (math). A later interest in Orcas added a bit of history as she learned about whaling and the use of whale oil as fuel, and an interest in dragons provided insight into the myths and legends of various cultures around the world such as Norse and Chinese (cultural anthropology).

A tiny dragon.

A tiny dragon.

I guess this conversation about natural learning and passions really resonated with Miss Em. These boxes are an example of how children process information in a variety of ways. As she crafts these boxes, she is thinking back to those days when she was delving into each of these topics, how that relates to learning and being a learner, and recognizing her ability to learn about whatever interests her, to take ownership of her learning and knowledge. One might say she is dipping into philosophy as she contemplates these things.

It’s sad to me that the process of mass schooling interferes so much with the natural process of learning that few people get to witness it in its untouched state. I find it a beautiful thing to behold…

Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs

Categories: Crafting, Miss Em, natural learning | Leave a comment

Calorie Counting for Kids

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Losing weight is easy in theory. Eat fewer calories than you burn, and you will lose weight. But in practice, tracking calories is hard. You really need to weigh your food, especially foods that are calorie dense, like fats (including good stuff like nuts and avocados), fruit (one banana is about 80 – 100 cals), and carbs. It’s way too easy to underestimate what you are eating, overestimate what you are burning, and end up frustrated and convinced that there is more to it than simple math.

Having watched their father lose 100 lbs and both their parents adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular running, hiking, cycling, and tracking calories (we use this site) our children know what it takes to lose weight. Both are in the overweight category for BMI and it’s no surprise given their distaste for sports and healthy foods and their love of calorie-dense foods and sedentary activities. Miss Em has been fairly active this summer and while she is technically overweight, it’s not too bad right now. She has chosen not to count her calories, but she knows that if she gets to a point where she is unhappy with her weight, there’s a tried-and-true method we can help her with.

A while back, Mr. Boo asked if he could start a calorie counting program. His BMI was bordering on obese and he didn’t like it. Plus, calorie counting appeals to his autistic love of order. We created a journal in which we write down what he eats, and if he meets his calorie goal for the day he gets a small treat (mini mars bars are a favourite, and at 60 calories each, a harmless indulgence). For a child who hates sports and exercise and has a very limited diet, this system is particularly useful as it makes no difference whether you exercise or not, or what you eat, so long as you eat at a caloric deficit.

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With children you have to be careful because they are actively growing. I determined his daily caloric requirements using an online calculator for children and came up with 1700 – 1800 calories/day. To lose weight, you should aim for a 10 – 20% deficit so we set his bar at a conservative 1600 calories/day. Unlike adults, we are not looking for a drop in weight, but a maintenance of weight as he grows. Over a period of nine months he grew almost 2 inches with no gain in weight, and he was starting to look a lot healthier.

But we fell off the wagon earlier in the year when I became overwhelmed with taking on new work and just couldn’t keep track of what he was eating. But recently he asked me if we could start it up again. He was at the doctor’s office yesterday and his BMI is bordering on obese (here is a great BMI calculator for kids) so it’s definitely time to start up again. And now that I feel I’ve found a good work-life balance, I’m ready to take this on.

I’m really happy that this was his idea. At their age, I can no longer control what they are eating and having them fully on board is absolutely necessary. Overeating happens even without junk food around. I’m proud that my husband and I have modelled a healthy lifestyle and given my children the tools they need to lose weight if and when they feel the need.

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Categories: natural learning | Leave a comment

Finding Work-Life Balance

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Last year, Husband reached a crossroads in his career path. It was time for some big decisions, and – as our family has often done – we chose the road less travelled. We came up with a plan that excited us, but it would require some serious belt-tightening for a while. At around the same time, I had an opportunity to take on more work at my editing job, and I gratefully accepted.

I work from home, and I set my own hours. But I do have deadlines and sometimes that means dropping everything, including sleep. Taking on more work turned out to be far more challenging than I’d anticipated. By summer I was feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and unhappy with the way work had taken over my life. My house was a constant mess, I stopped cooking and baking and embraced convenience foods, and I found myself saying “no” to my kids far too often for my liking. My life felt a little bit like this picture below!

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Miss Em turned 12 this summer, and I’ve noticed that she needs me just as much as she did when she was little, but unlike when she was younger, she doesn’t always let me know it. Whereas little kids will actively seek you out to “fill their attachment cup”, a tween doesn’t always do that. I realized that I needed to be proactive about making time for her. And Mr. Boo seemed ready to start getting more focused and involved in his interests, but without someone to facilitate that, it wasn’t going to happen on its own. And I really wanted to be that person.

Although I have always appreciated being able to stay home with my children, I didn’t realize just how much I loved that job until I found myself unable to do it properly. Working only served to reinforce in my mind and heart that my priorities were being with my children, sharing in their learning, and being a homemaker.

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I missed my old life, but I liked my editing job and was glad I could bring in some extra money for our family. I was also very happy to be working from home – at least I was there when someone got hurt, or a crisis came up, or someone just needed a hug – but I was missing the deeper nurturing that comes with spending time together just hanging out, when kids spontaneously ask questions, share their fears, and brainstorm new ideas. These are the types of interactions that you cannot schedule, they have to unfold when the time is right, and you do that by making sure there is lots of time for it to happen.

So over the summer I decided that, come September, things were going to change. I was going to find that elusive “work life balance”. With support from Husband, I was going to reduce my workload, commit to Project-Based Homeschooling, make an effort to spend quality time hanging out with each child one-on-one, and get a handle on my housework (I had to clean the entire place when my mother-in-law came for a visit and it made me realize how much the clutter and mess had been contributing to my stress level). Toward the end of summer I began to slowly develop a daily routine, shifting my work to later hours rather than mornings, when I have more energy for housework and hanging with the kids. I don’t have what one might call a schedule, but there’s a definite flow to the day.

Three mornings a week, I go for a run first thing in the morning. When I get back, or after I wake up on non-running days, I check my email and my news feed on Facebook while I eat breakfast. After that, I do some housework – a load or two of laundry, dishes, put some clothes away, etc. – or maybe knock a couple quick items off my to-do list. By that time the kids are awake and either myself or Husband has made them breakfast. Mr. Boo and I started a routine of brushing our teeth together so that he gets it done (otherwise he forgets, and I forget to remind him). Then he and I sit down for some PBH, or we work on his Youth Digital course. Next I hang out with Miss Em. We do PBH or we go run errands together (she likes doing that with me, I like having her along, and it’s the perfect opportunity for her to spontaneously share whatever is on her mind). If I have a work assignment, I try to get that started by mid-to-late afternoon, and Husband takes over dinner so I can work into the evening. In between all of this there is the countless putting out of fires that is the life of a stay-home mum. The kids get into fights, they need help with a transition, Mr. Boo needs support with situations that are liable to set him off, my parents deserve at least one long phone call a week, I coordinate appointments, pay bills and track finances, keep track of deliveries and garbage days, and so forth.

It’s a pretty loose schedule. But even though every day is different, I feel a rhythm and a flow to our days now and I’m much happier. True, I’m not making as much as I was before, but what I’ve gained back is priceless. I’m finally feeling like I’ve found that elusive work-life balance, and it feels good!

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Categories: family life, lifestyle, parenting | 1 Comment

Project-Based Homeschooling: Master Class

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Last year at this time I wanted to try Project-Based Homeschooling. I thought I would do it once a week, one hour for each child. But I didn’t really get it: I tried wrapping it up with my own agendas for their learning in a quid-pro-quo type of arrangement. Then Life got in the way: Husband’s career was in flux, I took on a lot more part-time work, and PBH kind of fell by the wayside.

Fast forward to this past Spring, and I’m having an attack of Periodic Unschooling Panic Disorder, or PUPD. Miss Em has about 10 projects on the go in various stages of completion, some of which have been gathering virtual dust for months, and I begin to despair that she will never learn how to finish anything. Top that off with her first paid assignment as a web designer, whereby her grandmother offers her an inflated hourly wage to create a simple website for a recent business venture and it only gets done as a result of constant nagging on my part, and I’m convinced my future adult child will never hold down a job. Just to put that in perspective, she was not even 12 years old at this point. And then there is Mr. Boo, who insists he wants to learn Java and start making his own computer games despite the fact that, as yet, he has nowhere near the kind of drive, perseverance, and patience for such a venture.

While wondering how I could help my kids manage and finish projects, I stumbled across the PBH website again, did some more reading, and realized that this might be just the thing we all needed to move forward. I bought the e-book, read it, and loved it. I liked the Facebook page, began following the discussion threads, lurked around in the forums, and became more convinced that I needed to do this. Not just for them, but for myself, too.

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Having finally gotten a handle on that elusive work-life balance issue (not resolved by any means, but manageable) I decided this year I was going to do PBH and do it right. Three times a week, one hour per child, completely self-directed and no we-do-your-project-idea-and-then-you-do-mine. I was so enthusiastic and excited…and yet so worried that I would not be able to see it through. Forming new habits is hard, and I find schedules almost impossible to stick to when self-imposed. Enter the PBH Master Class.

Lori, founder and guru of PBH, announced that she would be offering another Master Class this fall and after mulling it over in my head for a few days, I decided I really needed to do this. The class delves deep into PBH over a period of six weeks. I wanted to go deeper into the subject myself, but I also knew that if I was immersed in the class there was a much greater chance that I would follow through with my new plans, and by the time the class was over it would hopefully be established as a new habit.

I’m loving the course so far. We’ve begun with journaling as a way to be more mindful of our children’s interests, to observe their learning, to document what they are doing. While I am not yet mastering the art of journaling every day, I have created some entries, begun using a sticky-note system (on my smartphone, and with actual sticky notes on my desk), and am generally just being more conscious about talking to my kids about their interests. When you have older kids who do much of their work alone or in their room, it’s easy to miss out on so much of what they are working on, exploring, thinking about, wanting to learn. By regularly checking in with them I am not only getting a better feel for what they are up to, but they are responding to my interest, being the focus of my attention, and my efforts to help without interfering.

I will be posting about my own progress in the class and what I’m learning, as well as posting about the kids’ projects. We’re only one week into it, but I’m feeling pretty good about it all, and excited about where we can go with this.

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Categories: Homeschooling, Personal Growth, Project Based Homeschooling | 1 Comment

Fundamentals of Programming

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Mr. Boo is really into making games. While he occasionally makes board games out of Lego, or by drawing on paper, his favourite medium is video games. We’ve recently started this amazing course by Youth Digital called 3D Game Design, but before that Mr. Boo used to satisfy himself by designing new levels in Little Big Planet 2, a sandbox game with beautiful graphics, played on the Playstation console (other favourite sandbox games include Minecraft and Garry’s Mod).

This past week, Mr. Boo gave me a tutorial on how to create levels in LBP2. He made a rudimentary level that involved getting past a sackbot (the LBP2 version of a minion) and then battling a giant robot by shooting it with a paint gun.

I was really impressed by the degree of programming knowledge he has picked up by working with this platform. The “controllinator” function looks a bit like a circuit diagram, and there are definite logic functions involved in assigning movement, features, and other aspects to your game.

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For example, to create the giant robot shown in the photo above, he first sculpted the figure. Then he added a “health meter” and attached it to a counter that registered a decrease in the meter with each hit by the paint gun. To do this, he had to add a function that detected each hit with the paint gun and conveyed that information to the meter. Finally, he had to program the robot to dissolve (destroy) when the health meter ran out. I was amazed to see how easily he accomplished this. While the tools in LBP2 are wonderful and easy to use, the fact that he understood all the steps involved, and without having to run through the scenario several times to determine what was missing, really stood out to me. He’s clearly had a lot of practice with this platform, and his level of knowledge was impressive.

I think he is off to a great start as a future game designer!

Here is a very short video demo of his robot boss being defeated by the paint gun.

Categories: learning is fun, Mr Boo | 2 Comments

Miniature Polymer Clay Box

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Miss Em has long loved to sculpt things with polymer clay. She especially loves doing miniatures, and used to spend hours watching YouTube videos of people making tiny creations. She recently picked up her bin of clay and got to work on a little project.

I had mentioned to her a while back that when she was 3 years old, she went through a phase where she was obsessed with ladybugs. I told her how one day we were out walking in our neighbourhood and saw an interesting insect, which she said might be a ladybug larva. Sure enough, we went home and looked it up, and there it was in our insect book.* She smiled as I told her this story, but I figured she had about as much enthusiasm for “when you were little” stories as I did at age 12, which is to say “virtually none.” Little did I know…

So a few days ago she is sitting there with her clay and asks me “Mum, what year was it when I was 3?” I told her, not thinking much of it, and went back to my work. A little while later, she shows me what she has made. It’s a tiny box, with a lid that fits snugly over the top. The whole thing is no more than 2 cm wide! On the lid is a ribbon tied into a bow, and the year “2005″ in tiny lines of clay (she still gets her 2′s backwards sometimes, so cute). Inside the box…was a ladybug. It was her little commemoration to her love of ladybugs when she was 3 years old, and it warmed my heart!

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* turns out I blogged about our discovery, and in the blog post I discovered she was actually 5 years old, not 3.

Categories: a day in the life, Crafting, Miss Em, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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