Nerd Alert: Moore’s Law and Unschooling.

I’m sitting here dyeing my hair and waiting for my hair color to develop…because why pay $50 at the stylist for a color I love when I can pay $10 for a freakish color that turns my hair a weird reddish shade (no matter which color I choose!) and then pay $70 to go back to that stylist to have her correct it…anyways, that’s beside the point because I came across a great article today that I want to share, over at I, Cringely.

He has a blog over at PBS, and his tagline is “Survival of the Nerdiest”. Love it! Here’s a bit about him, so you can decide if you find him a realiable source or a dillusional lunatic (kinda like me!).

When it comes to information technology, I know what I am talking about. Thirty years in and around the PC business have earned me wisdom, if not wealth. It’s not that I am so smart, but that my friends are smart. The best and brightest in Silicon Valley talk to me all the time. It’s my job to sift through their thoughts for valuable bits to share with you.

And so…

He started out talking about Moore’s Law, exponentially growing processing speed in computers, and the massive cultural shift this technology is creating in our society.

Then he went in a direction I wasn’t expecting, at the end of the 6th paragraph.

we’ve reached the point in our (disparate) cultural adaptation to computing and communication technology that the younger technical generations are so empowered they are impatient and ready to jettison institutions most of the rest of us tend to think of as essential, central, even immortal. They are ready to dump our schools.

In response, I’d like to add, the schools label these bored, understimulated, empowered but unchallenged kids as ADHD and put them on medication. (This theory is mine, not Cringely’s, but I like it just the same!)

Cringlely goes on to highlight the growing chasm between how technology is viewed by the public educational system and the kids (and now, parents) who have grown accustomed to using it every hour of every day.

He summarized the school’s attitude towards technology like this:

in the last five years more and more technical resources have been turned to how to keep technology OUT of our schools. Keeping kids from instant messaging, then text messaging or using their phones in class is a big issue as is how to minimize plagiarism from the Internet. These defensive measures are based on the idea that unbound use of these communication and information technologies is bad, that it keeps students from learning what they must, and hurts their ability to later succeed as adults.

Obviously this is his opinion rather than a statement from the public school’s themselves, but from my experience a valid point.

On the contrary, he summarized the shifting attitude in society at large:

we’re moving from a knowledge economy to a search economy, from a kingdom of static values to those that are dynamic. Education still seems to define knowing as more important than being able to find, yet which do you do more of in your work? And what’s wrong with crimping a paragraph here or there from Cringely if it shows you understand the topic?

I notice this shift, especially with my other unschooling friends. Curriculum is not the end all, be all, apex of academic accomplishment with us or in how we measure our kids. What we allow our children to do is explore knowlege in their own inquisitive and unique way. My kids have 53485394587 questions a day that they ask me, and when I say, “I’m not sure about the answer, how can we find it?” I am met with a chorus of ‘Google it!’ or ‘Let’s go to the Library!’ or ‘I’ll get a book!’. It isn’t what we know right now, but that we know HOW to know it that is the focus. So, I think this is a valid point he raises, too!

This is, of course, a huge threat to the education establishment, which tends to have a very deterministic view of how knowledge and accomplishment are obtained – a view that doesn’t work well in the search economy. At the same time K-12 educators are being pulled back by No Child Left Behind, they are being pulled forward (they probably see it as pulled askew) by kids abetted by their high-tech Generation Y (yes, we’re getting well into Y) parents who are using their Ward Cleaver power not to maintain the status quo but to challenge it.

This is an unstable system.

Unstable because now the very parents that were schools biggest advocates are now a generation that are at odds with how the school system is going. And guess what these ‘Gen Y’ parents are doing about it? Homeschool. Charter School. Early enrollment into college, skipping the last couple years of high school.

The University of Phoenix is supposedly preparing a complete middle and high school online curriculum available anywhere in the world. I live in Charleston, SC where the public schools are atrocious despite spending an average of $16,000 per student each year. Why shouldn’t I keep my kids at home and online, demanding that the city pay for it?

Because that’s not the way we do it, that’s why.

Well times are changing.

I’ll end with how Cringely starts:

It is a war not about technology but because of technology, a war over how we as a culture embrace technology. It is a war that threatens venerable institutions and, to a certain extent, threatens what many people think of as their very way of life. It is a war that will ultimately and inevitably change us all, no going back. The early battles are being fought in our schools. And I already know who the winners will be.

I don’t just know who the winners will be, I know who they already are.

Hat tip: War of the Worlds, The Human Side of Moore’s Law.


Back again.

We took a hastily planned, last minute trip to celebrate my younest sister graduating from college. Yay!

It was an 8 hour drive made more complicated by the DVD player in our minivan breaking as I pulled down the driveway. A happy perk to having kids that adore TV in any form is how smoothly the DVD player makes a long roadtrip. I’ve tested this theory to see if it’s the movie or just watching a picture of any sort–I picked a huge selection of science & history DVD’s from our library and played them for the kids to get any feedback. Will they stop watching if it isn’t ‘entertaining’ or ‘cartoony’? The answer: my kids will watch anything as long as it’s a moving picture.

So, I was disappointed when all my Bill Nye & historical non fiction DVD’s sat, unwatched, for the entire drive there and back. Luckily their ipods were in good working order, and Naturalist had a few books from the ‘Warriors’ series to read from. Golfer gets really carsick, and so passed the time looking out the window and thinking some kind of boy thoughts. Sassy kept from boredom by eating all the fruit from the cooler and making her stuffed animals talk to each other.

We shared a hotel room with my other younger sister…Sassy, Golfer and I in one queen bed, and my sister and Naturalist in the other. I spent 3 nights fending off body blows from errant elbows & knees, wresting the blankets back up after my bedmates kept kicking them off, and pulling my bedmates back into a vertical sleeping position (rather than the ‘across the bed’ horizontal position of choice). I got a bigger workout sleeping between Golfer and Sassy than I do in my Bodypump class at the rec center.

While there, my younger sister confirmed that what I had previously thought was my fatigue and lack of confidence stems, as it turns out, from a case of pre-teen attitude from Naturalist being tossed in my direction. Fun plans are met with eye rolls and unhappy sighs. Inquiries into how the fun plans worked out at the end of the day are met with shoulder shrugs and “I guess it was OK”. Until now, these havn’t ever been big issues between Naturalist and me, but combine them with a slumpy posture, tears at the drop of a hat, and an aversion to being hugged or touched, and I think we’ve started into some preteen angst.

Now we’re back, getting cleaned up and repacked for an existing family vacation we’ve been planning on, to Devil’s Tower and Mt. Rushmore. Let’s hope I can figure out what’s wrong with the DVD player before then!

Glitter–the bane of my existence.

Sassy found a big, mega sized bottle FULL of multicolored glitter. Not too hard to do around here, now that all the kids crafts & necessary equipment is down at kid level, so it is accessible to them.

There was a time when I had all ‘messy stuff’ up and out of reach, so they had to ask me to get it down for them. This way, I could be on mess patrol and decide when, where, and how things like glitter, play doh, glue, scissors, paint, and markers were used. Glitter, in particular, is my pet peeve. It is light enough to float on the lightest breeze, spreading out everywhere. It has no real purpose, except to get into every nook and cranny within a 10 foot radius. I avoid buying glitter as much as possible for this reason.

Unschooling has brought out my inner Montessori and slowly the supplies have crept downward in my effort to surrender myself to the idea that learning and exploring aren’t necessarily tidy things. And while I don’t see the purpose of glitter, my kids do, so even that has a place in our box full of stuff.

So now, the kids have full access…including Sassy. The same Sassy that hid a big glitter container in her bedroom until 9:30 tonight, at which point she undid the cap and sprinkled it all over her room. On the windowsills. On the bed. On the floor. Over her 345039485039458 stuffed animals. Everywhere.

It sparkled.
It glittered.
It made a ginormous mess.

She traipsed downstairs where I was frantically working on business and roadtrip packing all at once. (Oh, another roadtrip? Didn’t I tell you?!)

“Mama! I used this all up! In my room! It’s all over!!!” she said, while shaking the now empty glitter bottle.

I could tell in her voice this was something she was proud of.

As I struggled between flipping out about the mess, or enjoying her creativity, I stammered:

“Oh! Uhhhh, well, glitter is great on paper…not really carpet. Or anything else in your room. It’s….just…..really, really…..uh…..messy.”

Hubby was in the kitchen with me, and our eyes locked…which one of us was cleaning this up? And, is glitter distribution a punishable offense?

“Mama” she interrupted with a hand on my arm and then sighed, “Mama, it’s just so PRETTY!”

We melted.

I surrendered to the mess I was sure to encounter and thought, “Hold your tongue and share this moment.”

She took me by the hand and led me upstairs, chatting about how it looked like fairies had been dancing, or a princess room.

Sure enough, I walked into a glitter paradise.

Thank you, Sassy, for keeping me from being uptight and much too grown up.

Thank you for sharing the magic of glitter.

Unschooling Highs and Lows.


* Golfer informed an entire classroom of kids and teachers who were playing a game where you write down an answer quickly, “Hey, I don’t go to school, so I don’t write. Can I just raise my hand when I have the answer?”

* When asked to solve a math problem ‘the way you would at school’, Golfer again announced, “I don’t go to school, so I don’t know that.”


* The above quotes were at a community math class that Golfer begged to go to. First, he hung out in his class, for grades 2-4. Then, he asked to stay in and go to the class for grades 5-7. Two hours of math, and he loved it.

* It was in the second class that he was asked how to do double digit multiplication…which he’s never done before. Instead of being frustrated and feeling overwhelmed (and out of all my kids, he’s the one to get frustrated and overwhelmed at the drop of a hat) I watched him continue to raise his hand and repeatedly ask, “I don’t understand this yet, can you do it again, but slower?” until, by george, he got it!

* I was really amazed at his self confidence and ability to spring from what he did know to what he didn’t know but wanted to figure out. Also–the fact that he wanted to focus on hours of math rather than goof off with the other kids in class who were, well, goofing off.

* After the classes, Golfer and I had a date at Panera. We sat by the fire, eating our broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl, and had a discussion…a kind of which I only started having after allowing the kids to focus on answering their curiousity rather than the rote questions in a curriculum. It included such topics as: Mutually Assured Destruction, The Cold War, Minuteman Missiles, ‘Horton Hears a Who’, mass and gravity, Newton, why balloons float and hammers fall, a comparison between US and Russian military jet planes, battles of WWII, The Dark Ages, Barbarians, the Roman Empire, The Renaissance, Shakespeare, and Einstein. And, I wasn’t the one doing all the talking! I feasted more on our conversation than I did on my food.

Favorite Poems by Walt Whitman.

I was an American Studies major in college. It was a true liberal arts experience, and I chose it because of the unique way I was able to create my own course of study. I was allowed to pick and choose any course from any department so long as it reflected a part of the American experience (or, so long as I could, at the end, compare it to the American experience.) I loved this freedom!

After experimenting with Poly Sci., Econ., and straight up history, I gradually found myself taking more and more art history and literature classes. Among these I took a class that examined which American poets best fit Emersons discription of ‘The Great American Poet‘.

It seemed to me that my teacher was partial to Emily Dickinson, and really disliked Walt Whitman, and so for our final essay I argued that Dickinson was the quintessential American Poet. I got an A. I also got a haunting guilt trip. I fell in love with Whitman’s poetry, and have always felt bad that I sold him out for a grade.

In honor of National Poetry Month this April, I will share some of my favorite poems from Whitman. In particular, I LOVElovelovelovelove this one from ‘Leaves of Grass’:

180. When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer

WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

I had always thought, especially in elementary & high school, “it would be so much better if I could have a connection and experience FIRST, and then learn about it later!” Turns out, I was right. Little did I know that there was a whole philosophy of education that revolved around this sentiment, and that one day I’d be doing it. While the decision to unschool was radical, it was made easy because I had Whitman’s poetry rattling around in my head, and quotes like this:

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
Song of the Open Road


8. Beginning my Studies
BEGINNING my studies, the first step pleas’d me so much,
The mere fact, consciousness—these forms—the power of motion,
The least insect or animal—the senses—eyesight—love;
The first step, I say, aw’d me and pleas’d me so much,
I have hardly gone, and hardly wish’d to go, any farther,
But stop and loiter all the time, to sing it in extatic songs.


And that there is no flaw or vacuum in the amount of the truth—but that all is truth without exception;
And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am,
And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.

150. All is Truth

and another one of my all time favorites:

THERE was a child went forth every day;
And the first object he look’d upon, that object he became;
And that object became part of him for the day, or a certain part of the day, or for many years, or stretching cycles of years.

…(insert long catalogue of wonderously insignificant things that make up the life of a child)
The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-time—the curious whether and how,
Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all flashes and specks?

…(another catalogue of what a child sees during a day)
The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests, slapping,
The strata of color’d clouds, the long bar of maroon-tint, away solitary by itself—the spread of purity it lies motionless in,
The horizon’s edge, the flying sea-crow, the fragrance of salt marsh and shore mud;
These became part of that child who went forth every day, and who now goes, and will always go forth every day.”

103. There was a Child went Forth

In ‘Leaves of Grass’, Whitman wrote,

73. Full of Life, Now

FULL of life, now, compact, visible,
I, forty years old the Eighty-third Year of The States,
To one a century hence, or any number of centuries hence,
To you, yet unborn, these, seeking you.

When you read these, I, that was visible, am become invisible;
Now it is you, compact, visible, realizing my poems, seeking me;
Fancying how happy you were, if I could be with you, and become your comrade;
Be it as if I were with you. (Be not too certain but I am now with you.)

And that’s the beauty of poetry. Sometimes when I see my kids scrambling over rocks at the creek, running through a field of flowers, discussing which birds are outside our window, painting still life, racing bikes, sleeping out under the stars and identifying constellations…sometimes I think of a random verse of Whitman and feel for a second like he is, indeed, here.

And then I think, “Sorry Walt, for selling you out for an A. You know I love you best.”

Wordless Wednesdays–Number 7

From Mama P’s photo challenge, “Number 7” which is also one of our favorite songs from TMBG Here Come The 123s.”.

The song is about a bunch of 7’s invading a house yelling, “We want CAKE! Where’s our CAKE?!” Classic.

This was taken August, 2004 at the cabin up by Yellowstone. Look at Golfer!!! He’d just turned 5 and was obsessed by numbers (still is, actually.) We played Uno every night from the time he was 3 until he was about 6. It was no coincidence that he found a ‘number 2’ stick on this trip…he saw numbers everywhere.

What does this have to do with number 7? Well….if you add his age to the number 2, you get 7. That’s the best I’ve got.

BTW, if you haven’t listened to or puchased TMBG “Here Come the 1,2, 3’s” then you are dead to me. Well, not quite, but almost.

National Parks Week

April 18-27!

Time to visit a National Park!

Golfer and Naturalist at Yorktown Battlefield, Virginia.
Yorktown Battlefield

National Park Week is an annual Presidentially proclaimed week for celebration and recognition of Your National Parks.

Your National Parks are living examples of the best this Nation has to offer – our magnificent natural landscapes and our varied yet interrelated heritage. Parks can provide recreational experiences, opportunities to learn and grow, and places of quiet refuge.

This year, take a moment, an hour, a day to visit the national parks near you.

This is a great excuse to get out and visit your local National Park…or even a National Monument if a big park isn’t within driving distance. Chances are there’s one within an hour of you! If you can’t physically go, there’s a great resource for kids at WebRangers…an online community where kids can earn virtual badges and explore more of the National Parks system without leaving home!

I’m especially passionate about this because studies have shown that visits to national parks are down by as much as 25 percent since 1987. This is crazy to me, because I am MAD for our National Parks! My best childhood memories, and my best memories with my kids are at National Parks. All the articles and worksheets in the world about taking care of our beautiful planet aren’t worth even an ounce of the real experience of watching Old Faithful erupting, or standing under a natural arch, or walking through a Giant Redwood, or standing on the battlegrounds of the Revolutionary & Civil Wars. And then to share that with my kids?! Fuhgedaboudit!

Golfer was so overcome while walking back from the double arches that he had to take a few moments to commune with the awesomeness of nature.

Starting with Yellowstone, National Parks are an important contribution to conservation and one of our best exported ideas (besides ‘Baywatch’ and ‘McDonalds’, of course.)

Golfer and Naturalist watching Old Faithful erupt for their first time.

Richard Louve studied this trend and wrote a great book about this disconnect with Nature, Last Child in the Woods. He terms this ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ and cites the overwhelming technologies that keep kids indoors (TV, Video Games, the Internet…) but goes on to point out:

Many parents feel that if they don’t have their kids in every organized activity, they will fall behind in the race for Harvard.


Everyone that I’ve gotten to know either in homeschool groups, online groups, or blogs is bucking the trend and exploring places that I’ve never been. So, in honor of National Parks Week, and in the spirit of getting out and experiencing natural places, I want to know what your favorite place is to explore with your kids. Whether you go this next week, or have already been…my challenge is for you to blog about it, link back to here and leave a comment linking us to your blog. If you don’t have a blog, just leave a comment telling everyone where you love to go. I’m not tagging anyone*, but if you live in Colorado, then I need to know what’s around here to do! If you live ouside of Colorado then I want to see places that are new to me! If you live outside of the US of A, then I take it back and tag you.

*yes, I am! I am totally tagging people! Because I started thinking about where different people live, and who I’d like to see pictures from, and, well, I’m using my evil tagging powers to make people share their adventures with me. So, I tag:

Here Comes Trouble. She’s in ITALY! ‘Nuff said.
These Go To Eleven. Virginia in the house! We love Virginia and the kids talk about moving there all. the. time.
Throwing Marshmallows. ditto.
My So Called Homeschool. ditto.
A View From Here. I hope she’ll show more pics of her kids on her new (to her!) farm!
Mama P. Iowa…our favorite John Linnell song on ’50 States’.
Mischief Makers. What’s going on in Chicago area? Where is there to go with kids?
Zayna’s Garden. Oh, Canada!

So, go forth, be one with nature, and blog!

Interview with Richard Louve HERE.
My favorite guidebook, Frommer’s National Parks with Kids (Park Guides)