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. 

 

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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.

 

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….

WISH it worked for me Wednesday

I love the Works For Me posts over at RocksinmyDryer.typepad.com, but since not much ever works correctly around the Topsy-Techie household, I thought I would talk about what I WISHED worked…

Case in point: Using my son’s Wii Remote as an All-Purpose Remote Tool    

Thanks to a blogging buddy’s Teaching and Learning Spanish blog, I discovered some really neat uses for the Wii Remote today.  This one is particularly cool for teachers and homeschoolers:

So I got to thinking that with my Wii remote, my bad-self techie skills, a couple infrared dots, and some duct tape, I ought to be able to save the planet.  Now don’t get me wrong…the Wii remote in our house isn’t gathering dust, or anything, but surely it could be put to better uses than just helping H-T defeat jungle monsters in the latest Lego Indiana Jones game.  My ultimate goals for the Wii remote would be to:

  • Virtually clean the toilet bowls.  I’m thinking that a couple of infrared dots where the Tidybowl man hangs out ought to do it.  Then I would just swish that remote in a circular pattern, and voila!  Sparkly johnnies!
  • Virtually retrieve the mail – – especially on rainy days.  One dot on the front door of the mailbox, and one on the flag, and I should be good to go.  Although those Wii remotes can be pretty sensitive sometimes.  I would hate to overshoot and pick up my bachelor neighbor’s girlie mags by mistake.  That one might need some tweaking.
  • Virtually water the plants – – .  I love, love, love, my houseplants, but I tend to forget about them when they aren’t making a lot of noise.  Squeaky wheel and all. I mean I never forget to water the dogs, you know, cause they sorta make this moaning, whiny sound when they get dangerously dehydrated.  But the plants?  Well, I’m sure they whine and moan too, but non-advanced human that I am, I can’t usually pick up on it.  So my ideal Wii remote gadget would include a timer, and a virtual waterstream from my sink to the plants, because I also can’t be bothered most days to find the watering can.  Do you think infrared dots do any damage to live plants?  Gosh, I hope not.
  • Virtually write my blog while I am away.  Yep, Topsy-Techie will be traveling to Nevada tomorrow, and won’t be back till next week, so I could really use that Wii remote to digitally post for me while I’m away.  What’s that you say?  My blogging software already lets me schedule my posts while I’m gone??  Hmph. That is not nearly as cool. 

Be thinking of you from Vegas, ya’ll.  I promise that if I hit it big while I’m out there, I’ll split my earnings with everyone who leaves a comment on this post.  So comment away…

Two Tickets to Vegas, Baby

Ok, so an important update on our free plane ticket conundrum……we’re goin’ to Vegas!!  Well, I should clear that up.  Two of us are going to Vegas.  The more we discussed our possible family vacation, the more Uber began to ponder the unfairness of little brother’s upcoming swimming with the manatees trip.  I mean, he has no interest in swimming with manatees (unless they happen to have swallowed a wi-fi transmitter), but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve his own vacation, he asserts.  And, easily guilt-ridden parents that we are, his reasoning began to sound pretty darn sensible. 

So where would a newly-14-year-old computer geek wanna go with his parent?  I suggested several options…how about Yosemite?  I figured he and his dad could have a male bonding experience among nature at its finest.  Uber tried to look enthusiastic, but I could see his techie little heart quivering at the thought of being so wholly disconnected from all things electronic.  Other options came up, such as visiting Seattle (who knew Microsoft hasn’t created a theme park yet – – Bummer!).  We tossed around the idea of heading to a video game convention, but unfortunately they are all located in places like Nowheresville, Indiana this year.  Double bummer.  So we looked through our trusty 10-year-old family travel guide, and came to the page about Las Vegas.  I could almost swear I saw double cherries come up in both eyes as Uber read the descriptions of the lights, sounds, and non-stop technotronics of the Vegas Strip.   

“What do they mean ‘The Fun Never Stops’?”  You mean you get to stay up all night and gamble and watch live shows??!!”  Well—yes–technically.  “Oh, Dad, isn’t this gonna be cool??!!”  I saw my very intelligent husband looking to me for guidance.  Was I actually going to let him take my 14-year-old impressionable homeschooled son to Sin City for a man’s dream-vacation-come-true?  Not for all the chest hair on Wayne Newton. 

So, Uber and I are taking our first ever trip to Vegas sometime this fall.  It will be a blast, I’m sure, although perhaps not quite as scintillating as the trip he pictured with his dad.  After all, my idea of gambling is sinking $5.00 at the VFW on Bingo Ladies Night. But, I have ordered the kids guide to Vegas, and have been checking out family friendly Vegas spots on the web.  There is actually a video game mega-arcade in Vegas that was designed by Steven Spielberg and the Dreamworks folks.  I’m hoping we are able to hit this high-spot toward the end of our vacation, or else we might not ever see a single other neon inch of the city.   

I will drag Uber to a show or two, of course, because I am girlie like that, but I will try to make it up to him by ensuring that at least one of them features either scantily clad gals or dancing Wii remotes.  Whoa–wouldn’t I be mom of the year if I could find a scantily clad gal dancing with a Wii remote??!! And if the saying is true that “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”, then we might even sneak in a tug on a slot machine handle.  But I guarantee that this will be a trip to remember.  I mean how many guys get to look back and remember their incredible teenage Las Vegas trip with their mothers??  Well, I mean those guys that aren’t currently in therapy, of course. 

p.s.  Anybody have any Vegas tips for us newbies??  Please share them below!!

That Telltale Squeak

Our mail delivery truck has a brake squeak.  Sort of a drawn out whine with just a touch of nail-on-chalkboard action.  We live on a fairly busy city street, so you would think that such an innocuous sound wouldn’t cause much stir.  And on most days, it doesn’t.  The dogs will usually protest the invasion of their 0.8 acre domain, but other than that, we hardly look up from our screen when we hear the squeaky signal.

But then, there are other days….like today…when that high-pitched squawk signals far more to Uber and H-T than doggie disgruntlement.  It signals the possibility of a Gamefly arrival.  Gamefly, for those of you who are blessedly unaware, is an online video game delivery service that sends out games of the renters choice via mail.  Whey have played the game till their thumbs are dislocated, they stuff it back in the original mailer and send it off to the magical game distribution center while they wait with bated breath till their next online choice arrives.

During that agonizing 3-4 day wait, the boys must pacify themselves with the 746 “old” games they already have.  This rarely helps, however.  Each day becomes an eternity-long lesson in patience…and motherly torture.

“Guess what came in the mail today?” I will ask with a sweet smile as I walk in the door.  As they jump from their chairs so fast their mouse keeps spinning, I will gleefully hold up the cover of my latest issue of Birds and Blooms.  “Have you ever seen a chartreuse green hummingbird before?!  Magnificent, isn’t it?”  

On day #2 of Gamefly watch, I tend to spice things up a bit.  Ruffling through the stack of mail fresh from the box, I will put on my game face.  “Darn it!  It happened again.  They confused our mail with the Stevenson’s again.  Don’t worry though, I’m sure the Stevenson boys will bring your games back when they finish with them.”  Seeing their horror at the thought of the two grammar school terrors down the street playing with their precious cargo, I will usually come clean. “Oh, my mistake.  That actually is my BBC Catalog.  Never mind.” 

mailbox Day three is a long one.  They start watching the dogs for twitching twenty minutes before the mail is due.  I’ve been known to open the rusty pantry door slowly just to get their hearts racing.  Poor things.  They have banned me from actually retrieving the mail myself on day three, so I have to get my jollies somehow, you know.  Today was no exception.  Super Smash Bros. Brawl was on its way, and you could get a shock just from standing too close to the static excitement emanating  from the boys’ direction. 

Finally, the time had arrived.  I don’t know who heard it first – – the dogs or the boys – – but there was no denying that familiar scratching of brake against worn-out pad.  The boys were out the door and down the sidewalk before I could even remind them to put their shoes on.  I’m not sure just what our mail carrier must think of us.  Two geeky kids running outside in 40 degree weather in bare feet?  I’m hoping she has better things to worry about.  Like getting those brakes fixed, for one.  But I hope she doesn’t hurry about it.  

Ok Grandma…Time For Your Wii-habilitation

My mom had surgery yesterday – – a complete ankle reconstruction.  At her age, I guess her ankles were developing unsightly wrinkles, so before sandal season, she decided to have them done.  (Just kidding, mom. Geez!)   Anyway, Grandma (for kicks, lets just call her Time-worn Techie, or TT for short) will be off her ankle for a few months, and in need of some serious physical therapy for quite a while.  But the great news?  Her grandsons are fully ready to be her primary therapists.

Apparently, according to the Associated Press, doctors and therapists are recommending the Nintendo Wii as part of some patients’ therapy protocol.  As all of us who have secretly been sneaking into the den after little Bobby and Betsy are safely tucked in for the night in order to play Wii Golf know, the Wii is more than just a little fun.  And playing Wii games requires many of the same range of motion movements that therapists use with their patients.  So combining fun and therapy is a win/win situation, right?

 

Well…unless you are not exactly as techie as some of us.  My husband had knee surgery last summer, and had a good many physical therapists throughout his recovery.  I have to admit I’m getting a little tickled trying to picture any one of those dear ladies trying to operate a Wii for their patients.  One of them had great difficulty remembering exactly where the therapy pool light switch was located each time.  I’m guessing that she might struggle a bit with setting up a patient’s Mii, toggling between connection settings, and logging patient game scores.  But who knows?  Maybe there was some suppressed, untapped tech-iness lying dormant underneath those hot pink scrubs.  I’m just thankful it didn’t burst out all over my unsuspecting hubby!

Perhaps we are getting to experience a new cultural phenomenon.  What if PT’s all over the country are aging out of their profession as we speak?  What if Wii Therapy begins being offered as a High School elective, and instead of heading to their part-time job at McDonald’s after school, teens beeline toward Regency Sports Therapy for some extra gas money?  Fathers all over America will be lecturing to their ten-yr-olds how they had to wash filthy cars and mow overgrown lawns to help out their family, and the time has come that they must pick up their Wii remotes and pull a little weight of their own.

Well, my boys are primed and ready.  They’ve spent countless hours in on-the-job training.  They have sacrificed precious homework time to prepare themselves for the task.  When TT gets home from the hospital, she has two of the most highly skilled, experienced Wii therapists at her disposal.  Just remember, mom…we don’t take insurance.  (I love you mom…get well soon!!)