Life and times of a stay-at-home homeschooling dad of three, board game enthusiast, Anglican.
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Jelly setting


I was fourth grade the first time I got in real trouble at school. I convinced a group of friends to run into the woods during recess to play war. After about five minutes, the rest of the fourth grade class followed, some hundred or so kids. The teachers eventually rounded us up, me and two friends were identified as the ring leaders, and we were disciplined for about a week — licks, no recess, separate seating at lunch, no talking or contact with each other, and special daily sessions with a particularly nasty science teacher where we wrote pages of definitions from the dictionary only to watch her throw them away at the end of the hour. I hated fourth grade. Between hormones, weird social exchanges, and boring class work, it falls into my top three worst school years.

My son is now in fourth grade here at home. He and his two younger sisters just returned from a walk in the woods where they examined different types of tree bark. They’re commenting on the delicious muscadine smell coming from the kitchen where I’m making jelly on the stove. And they’re happily setting up a human body video my wife brought from the library to watch in a rough and tumble sibling bundle on my bed. And it feels good. It feels better than my fourth grade experience already. Just thought I’d share.

Garden’s finally starting to produce… #arkansas #garden

We’re just beginning to explore Android: Netrunner at the house, and I’m finally feeling like I’m getting the hang of it.

(Source: Spotify)


For those of you who know me, hearing that I’m playing a lot of games should come as no surprise. But my most recent gaming addiction has been a bit of a surprise for me, not just because it’s not a board game, but that it’s one of the most dynamic and useful tools for creativity I’ve ever discovered. My son loves Pokemon, and in our respective journeys through the Poke-world, he happened upon something that really caught his fancy, but it’s not Pokemon related. At least not directly. A couple of weeks ago, he mentioned the game Minecraft (which I’d heard of, but didn’t know anything about) and asked if we could get it. It seems there’s a modified version that adds Pokemon characters and allows you to play out simulations like the stories from from the Pokemon cartoon. I said I’d check it, did some reading, and reluctantly downloaded the game. I didn’t get around to playing it (much to his frustration) for a few days, but I did a bit more reading during that time and fell in love with the story behind the game. When it was originally released to the public, still very much in alpha, it was the product of a single independent game designer. He thought development would be easier while people were playing, and he sent the source code out there for others to develop alongside him. It was such a hit among indie gamers that an api was eventually developed, the game went viral in beta, and he released the first official version in 2011 to an eager community of over 1 million users. While that may seem, I don’t know, boring (unless you’re into game development), when you read about the initial versions and responses to the game, it’s actually quite fascinating. You see, there are no instructions in Minecraft, there were no tutorials in those first months. And while there are tomes of instructions, wikis, mods, tutorials, even youtube channels dedicated solely to gameplay now, the base is still the same. You load the game, your character is dropped into a blocky (think 16 bit) 3D world. You look around at trees or deserts, sheep, maybe a large sea, and you figure out what to do next. At night, depending on the setting, monsters come out and try to attack you. You have a limited amount of life and a hunger meter. Now go.

I was very skeptical. Until I started playing. I found the challenge of building a shelter, looking for food, fortifying, making tools and weapons, and exploring my world to be insanely addictive. After a few days, I asked my friends (whom I’d originally asked about the game — I’m pretty ignorant when it comes to videogaming) if they’d played it yet. One by one, they checked it out… and all had the same experience I’d had. In another week, we had a server running where we could play together. In game, one of us would mine for minerals and materials while another worked with Redstone (allowing players to build simple circuits and machines). One of us built a working farm. One of us crafted better tools and clothing. It’s been three weeks now, and we’re still discovering more and more about the game.

Skip to the homeschool. This week, we were studying Newton and Locke in history and it linked to advances in farming technology. So I thought I’d try something today. Over lunch, I set up a local Minecraft server running on my home PC. I spawned a world, sent my son out of the room, and built a very basic place to start in the game. I stocked a chest with a little food, some wood blocks, and a journal (these are all basic in-game components that can be gathered or manufactured). Then I brought him back and told him his backstory. He’s a young man who’s just left home to make his way in the world. His loving mother sent him with some basic foodstuffs and a few supplies. He’s found a great spot for his home, and he needs to survive. He may not work at night. Now go.

And now, I’m sitting here finishing up this article, watching my son build a subsistence farm in the background. He’s discovered some local pigs, sheep, and cows. He’s just finished a small wheat field, which he’ll use to make bread and feed animals (once he gets them rounded up into a pen). I am answering no questions about how to build, where to build, anything, really. His place still doesn’t have a roof, but he’s figuring it out. And I can see the potential for a lot of future scenarios. Community building with his siblings. Trading with NPC villagers for supplies in an in-game economy. Exploration of historical locations through different mods and seeds. Upgrading his farm with automated functions to speed up his harvesting tasks. Endless possibilities.

We’ll see how shapes up?

Please… hold your applause. #mm2k12 #armm #wheresleon #batengoosoft

Getting psyched up for our first Pokemon prerelease tourney! #pokemon #gameallday (at McAlister’s Deli)

Done. #election2012

Back to School

We’re back at it with a new schedule. Summer was good, is good, but it was long and hot. The drought in Arkansas kept us in most of the time with the heat being only bearable for short stints. And while the camps and projects were flowing, the kids were engaged, but when we had slow weeks the boredom set in. So we decided to try a new schedule — six weeks on, two weeks off for the next year. We started Monday. Hopefully, this will mitigate some of the burnout inherent in seeing the same faces everyday — ahh, homeshcooling — the classes are small, the space is tight, and sometimes you just need a break from your family. Some of our curriculum is the same: First Language Lessons, Story of the World, Spelling and Cursive. One of them has changed. We began using a new Writing Curriculum, one in which there is a lot of parent interaction and the student writes themed stories, some fiction, some non-fiction, some formal writing. Connor was really excited when we described it to him, but as so often happens with first impressions, his impression of what we would be doing is not the reality of what we are doing. I think he must have formed his opinion immediately after hearing the part about genre writing. Like any eager young reader, the thought of creating your own detective fiction has a shiny appeal. The process, however, well, I don’t think he gave that a lot of thought. And so here we are, Day 3, and we’ve hit an impasse between what the program expects and what he’s willing to do. He doesn’t want an instructor, he wants instructions. We talked about it for awhile, how you need interaction to foster creativity, bouncing your ideas of someone, to help solidify your thoughts. But he doesn’t want that. And I was ready to toss it, unsure of how we would move past this, knowing that all of my children can be incredibly rigid when they’ve set their minds to something. So I’m trying something different — something that might fail miserably, but trying it anyway. After we cooled off, I handed him the teacher text and all of the prepared supplies for the days lesson. I told him I was willing to let him do the lesson himself if he would agree to ask when he had questions and follow all of the instructions. The lesson should last around thirty minutes. As of right now, he’s been working on it for thirty minutes, and he’s about 1/3 of the way through. But he’s working at it, and that’s what’s most important to me right now. We’ll see how it turns out. I’m restless to go in there and speed him up, read him the instructions, prompt the answers… but I’m not doing it. We’ll adjust as we go.

Campaigning on… LotR:LCG Conflict at the Carrock #boardgames #gamenight (Taken with Instagram)

Make ‘N’ Break #boardgames #gamenight (Taken with Instagram)

One little girl left - let’s find her a good home! Message me! #puppies #abandoned #arkansas #ar #hotsprings (Taken with Instagram at Hot Springs, AR)

Game of Thrones (too many dicks on the dance floor) #gamenight (Taken with Instagram)

AGoT #boardgames #gamenight (Taken with Instagram)

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