Where the Wired Things Are

So I thought I would give you an update on our unschooling adventure and how that’s going.  As you can guess, even our unschooling tends toward the techie. 

Uber is busily learning Java and studying artificial intelligence.  He’s also considering joining a local group that meets regularly to discuss how Linux can take over the world. 

H-T is writing a book.  I KNOW!! I WAS SO EXCITED TOO!! Until I realized the book is based on the life of a video game character.  But hey, he’s WRITING A BOOK.  Beggars will NOT be choosers in this house.  And anyway, the book is actually pretty darn good so far.  I’m actually invested enough to care about this video game persona! 

Other, slightly non-techie pursuits include their music lessons Canterbury Tales, Woodcut 1484(Uber’s taking piano and H-T’s taking guitar), we’re reading through the Canterbury Tales (thanks to Holly!) and studying a bit of Medieval History, and they are also getting ready to take part in Drama Club, where the spring play happens to be Robin Hood – – how serendipitous!  They also are both doing well with their math studies, which Uber takes on YourTeacher.com, and H-T uses Time4Learning

Overall, this has been an amazingly successful experiment, so far.  I don’t think I could have done it when the boys were in their elementary years…but interest-led learning is SO VERY PERFECT for the middle and high school years!!

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We’ve Still Got It

Increased Geek Quotient

Image by bpende via Flickr

So from time to time, I look back at my bloggy beginnings, and I’m a bit in awe of the way things have taken shape over the last couple of years.  I wish I had a saved screenshot of Topsy-Techie in it’s humble first months…it would be a hoot to do a before & after shot here!

But I also occasionally look back to my goals for what I wanted to accomplish with my blog.  I happened to think a wanna-be techie mom, raising two geeklings – – one a techie-genius and the other a techie-addict – – was somewhat hilarious, and I hoped other people might find it to be so as well.  And then, of course, I wanted to share all the fun ways I had found to integrate technology into our day-to-day homeschool lives.

In some ways, I’ve really stuck to those original ideals.  My Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints series, for instance, has been a way to share my favorite educational technology for homeschoolers on a weekly basis.  But in terms of other content, I’m usually all over the map.  Maybe that’s not a bad thing…it might possibly get REALLY boring to regale you with the tales of Uber’s latest programming conquests.

But today, I’m heading back to my roots.  Gonna fill you in on a little of the true geekiness that’s been going on around here in T-T land.

  • Uber loves coffee.  He loves coffee shops even more.  Our town has its fair share of ones to choose from, and several are within walking distance of our house. So, Uber starts out many of his mornings by walking to a local coffee shop and chilling.  This morning when I asked him what he did while sipping his java, he matter-of-factly explained that he was working through some hexadecimal problems and figuring out how they could apply in real-life situations.  He then told me he had given the barista there his email in case she needed some tech support.  I didn’t bat an eye at any of this.
  • H-T loves video games.  You would think I mean that he loves to play them, but trust me – – that is a secondary interest.  His first love is watching videos ABOUT video games online.  Ratings, reviews, cut scenes, and sometimes people actually just acting out the game as the game characters.  Scary thing is, I’m pretty sure H-T would be making these videos himself if he weren’t so pre-occupied with watching them.  It’s the weirdest pastime I’ve ever heard of.  And he can spend HOURS at it. 

The thing about raising two geeky teens that I find the MOST hilarious, though, is listening to them call each other to their respective rooms:

Hey Uber!  Com’ere!  You’ve got to see this new video game trailer!!

Hey H-T!  Com’-ere!  You are going to FLIP when you see this new Linux interface!

I consider myself fairly technologically savvy, and I assure you that this is all greek geek to me.  But I adore it.  It is a unique and unusual way to live…and I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

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Friday’s Hardwired Homeschool Hints – Summer Brain Boosters

summerToday is our last official day of homeschool for the year, and we are  ready to celebrate by vegging out for three months.  Only problem?  Our brains turn to mush when we aren’t exercising them. Mine is probably much worse than the boys – – I can practically watch my brain cells slough off and fall out my ears if I don’t keep myself mentally stimulated.

If your family is similar to ours, then you might appreciate some of the following ideas for keeping the ole educational nerve endings greased up – – the techie way, of course.

Time4Learning offers a way for kids to keep their minds sharp AND entertained with their summer learning program.  And Time4Writing continues to offer writing classes throughout the summer as well, with courses in sentence writing, paragraph writing, essay writing, and basic mechanics. 

The Wii offers some excellent opportunities for educational fun over the dog days of summer.  Two games coming out this summer that look like winners are: Science Papa, a virtual science lab featuring 30 different experiments and Space Camp, where you are an aspiring astronaut in training.  Amazon.com has a good list of additional Wii games that can be considered educational, as well.

But you don’t have to pay the big bucks to get some educational fun out of Wii this summer.  All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and your Wii remote.  Arcademics Skills Builders has taken some of their best online games and made them optimized for the Wii.  So if you can navigate to their website using your Wii Browser, you can play games like Meteor Multiplication and Verb Viper for free! (http://www.arcademicskillbuilders.com/wiilist.htm)

If you have a rising tech-geek in your family, you might be interested in iD Tech computer camps.  Based in over 60 universities around the country, these camps specialize in video game design, 3D modeling, robotics, web design and digital graphics.  There is probably one near you!  But they fill up fast, so register as soon as possible.

What’s that you say? You actually want your children to go OUTSIDE this summer??  Well, if you’re that type of parent, then I guess it can’t be helped.  But you might be interested in stopping by the Kid’s Valley Garden first, to brush up on all the ins and outs of those veggies, herbs, and flowering things that you’ll be (*gasp*) interacting with out there in the real world. 

As for me, I’ll be taking a break from Friday’s HHH for a couple months myself…   But not to worry.  I’ll keep my brain from turning to mincemeat SOMEHOW. 

 

Homeschool PE – – Shall we ski or go running in the mountains today?

It’s been cold, dreary, and rainy this week, so our physical activity has been limited.  Our choices have whittled down to ski jumping, running through the mountains, hula hooping, or fishing. 

Well, at least those are the Wii game discs I can locate at the current moment. 

Yes, we have been reduced to virtual phys ed.  Our goal is to do some kind of physical activity each day, so when the weather outside doesn’t cooperate, technology comes to the rescue!  My only worry is that for all I know, any muscle we build may be virtual as well.  But since the most we generally lift around here is about…well, whatever weight a mouse might be…I’m guessing virtual muscle will fare us just fine. 

The boys tend to view their Wii Fit “class” as something to taunt their public schooled friends about. 

“So, dude, what’d you guys do for PE today?  Dodgeball?  Oh,  wow.  Bummer.   Me?  Oh.  Well, I don’t like to brag, but lets just say that with all this boxing practice I’ve been getting lately, I wouldn’t pick a fight with me right now if I were you.” 

Granted, most kids suffering through the sweaty stench of  locker rooms and the humiliation of being picked last for the half-court basketball game would probably give their gym socks for a chance to take PE via the Wii.  After all, Mii’s don’t usually call you nasty names when you miss a catch.  Or give you wedgies as you wait to shower.  And where else can you start out PE class fishing by the lake and finish up with a nine hole round of golf? 

Now before you get your wagging finger too exhausted, please know that we fully understand our bodies need the real deal – – actual outdoor moving and grooving.  But… when that isn’t possible, knowing that those little armless cuties are always ready to go nine innings with us is quite a consolation.

 

The Great Dilemmas Of Life

Uber has recently come into some money.  Well, (if Obama can quote scripture, then so can I) the truth is that he has “put off childish things” (1 Cor. 13), and has decided he doesn’t want most of his video games anymore.  He even cancelled his video game rental subscription!  Even though the Video Game Freeze of 2008 came on kind of gradually, I’m still not sure I was completely prepared for the Great Video Game Chuck-Off of 2009.

This was a kid who when he was five years old, could beat his dad at several Sega Genesis games. ( Good times, good times)  This was a kid whose online nickname was always something that involved the word ‘videogamer’ in between some random numbers.  Who used to ask for stuffed animal replicas of his favorite gaming characters. 

Where did that kid go???

These days, it’s all about social networking and portable applications.  If it can’t “Friend” you or let you send text messages while you pee, then what the heck good is it??!!  So after successfully selling most of his massive collection to the future “Videogamer66775”s of the world, he has pocketed some serious bucks, and is poring over iTouch websites and books. 

The good news is that Uber has kindly offered to let me go halvsies with him on the iTouch.  You see, I recently put off a couple childish things myself, and came into a few George Washington’s of my own.  And therein lies the dilemma…

I have been doing a bit of research on one of those handy dandy Roku devices that let you stream your Netflix and Amazon movies and tv shows right to your television.  I had almost put down my payment on the puppy when Uber offered me this alternative way to burn my bundle of clams. 

“You seriously would rather have some device that just lets you sit on the couch and watch movies once in a while rather than this cool portable gadget that lets you not only watch movies, but update your Facebook, help you find cool restaurants when you are out, and keep up with your RSS feeds??” he taunted.

I’m considering signing him up for the debate team.  He can be seriously persuasive when he wants to be.  So, I’ve given myself a one week cool-down period to decide where my pretty pennies will finally end up. 

Half of an iTouch or a whole Roku?  I may not sleep for a week.

itouch vs roku

 

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Wii-ve Got To Move It, Move It

The Topsies just celebrated our first anniversary with our Wii, and I’ll admit that in the latter part of the year, the poor little guy had been gathering a smidge of dust on his case.  But I wasn’t immune to those cool web ads and demos about the next best thing coming to Wii – – the Wii Fit!!

It has been months since I didn’t have to leave my top pants button unbuttoned, and that means it is HIGH TIME I got serious about getting fit – – and if some techie gadget is willing to motivate me toward my goals, then all the better.

I was hyped.  That is, of course, until I found out I was going to have to break into my neighbor’s house at 3:00 in the morning and steal theirs if I actually wanted one.  The blooming things were ridiculously hard to get your hands on.  Fortunately, there is nothing I like better than a challenge. 

Amazon.com was out of stock, of course, but offered to let you sign up for text messages when the Fits were restocked.  The first time they texted, my phone was out of power.  Missed it by a long shot.  A week later the text showed up during church.  I could barely concentrate on the rest of the service because I was so busy imagining our next sanctuary upgrade where we finally get free wi-fi alongside the hymnal racks in each pew.

A few days later, yet another text came while I was driving down the interstate.  Thank God I still don’t have net access on my phone, or this post would likely be written from the local mortuary. 

Finally, one fine afternoon, Amazon texted me that the Fits were in stock, and all I happened to be doing was laundry.  It was five minutes at the most between the time I got the text and the time I logged into Amazon only to discover that they were already sold out.  I was fairly sure that a personal boycott of Amazon by me and my family probably wasn’t going to bankrupt the company overnight, but the idea was definitely entertained.

But the very next day the little beep on my phone went off, and I  never even checked it.  I just knew.  I jumped up from the couch, ran down the hall, jumped over and across the bed, and bounded into the computer chair.  My fingers fairly flew as I typed in the letters. A-M-A-Z-O-N…   At this point, I figured that whether or not I got there in time, I had already burned quite a few calories in my attempt to order.  Bingo!!!  That was the lucky day that my online shopping cart finally got filled up with the Wii Fit.

The big box arrived a few days after Christmas.  Just in time to fulfill all my New Year’s resolutions and then some.  This is my year to move and groove it, and finally button my pants.  I can just feel it….

Sticking To My Guns (hee)

 

I’m one of those moms. 

You know the type.  Mainstream mamas who hang on to their hippie friends’ coattails and refuse to let their children have violent toys or video games.  hooters

I think I stated once that I would rather let my kids go to daycare at Hooters  than to own a play gun. No, seriously.  People actually say things like that – –  even when they aren’t under the influence of any hallucinogenic substances. But I have a true natural aversion to real-life violence.  I’m keenly aware of the preciousness of life.  And even though I understand that fantasy violence is just that – – fantasy – – I believe that it can desensitize us to the real thing over time.

So of course, it naturally follows that I would spawn a child who happens to be obsessed with all things violent and horrific.  My youngest son would give his left elbow to be allowed to play the video games that his compadres have open access to – –   God of War, Call of Duty, Resident Evil   – – they are all off limits in Topsy-Techieland.

Now I know all about preteen and teen rebellion.  My mom and dad were flower child wannabes, so I tried out my wings as a very conservative Republican for a while.  Even attended a private ultra-conservative Christian college, which really threw a cork in their plans for me.

So as a parent, I well know that putting stuff “off limits” only increases its appeal.  Thus…I have REALLY tried to be more low key on my anti-violence warpath (hee).  The other day, H-T wanted to buy a toy shotgun with his own money.  For the first time in my parenting career, I turned my head and let it happen.  He begged for a violent video game for Christmas, telling us to do all the research we wanted on it and promising to write a homeschool report about it if he got it.  I ordered the game.  He has been spending at least one afternoon each week watching old black and white horror movies on the web.  I haven’t blocked the sites.

I think I am being incredibly generous since everything in my parenting sixth sense is screaming out against these gestures of blooming independence.  But sometimes I feel like I am just giving in and buckling against my own value system. 

So for those of you who have dealt with these issues – – what conclusions have you come to?   Is it more important to stick to your guns (hee) and enforce your own values, or to allow your kids to express their personal independence and test out their own value systems? 

I would truly love to hear some mama (and daddy) wisdom and get some advice from an outside perspective…shoot away (hee).

Remember that every comment this month gets you an entry into the Big Fat November giveaway for that HP Printer!!  

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