Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Advanced Scratch

Connor has been learning Scratch and playing with it for about 9 months now.  I am working hard to keep him challenged and find great projects for the other students in my class that have already taken intro to Scratch.

Here are some nifty Advanced Scratch resources:

Buy the book "Scratch for Teens"

A website with Scratch Challenges

Coder Dojo Anthenry has some great projects too!

If this isn't enough look into Scratch and Enchantment (with LEGO mindstorms) or Makey Makey or Raspberry Pi.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Me no how to read"

Poor little princess.  Will someone tell her that she is only two?!

It was bed time.  I needed a break.  They didn't have to sleep, they just had to stay in bed.  They were given the option to read.  I even told Eleanor she could read; knowing full well she would look at the pictures.

She went to her room sad and dejected.  "Me no how to read" while shaking her head.

So now I have been tasked with teaching her how to read.  Immediately.  Yeah, right.  *snort*  I'm going to get right on that.

Advice for a Young Programmer

I have done a lot of research on introducing programming to elementary aged children, but when I received an email asking what advice I would give to a 13 year old I was a bit stumped.  At 13 years old the child should be taking control of his/her education.  S/he should be allowed free reign of the internet and the ability to make mistakes - that means getting involved in Maker communities, hacker communities and finding online challenges.  Here is the draft advice I gave.

I want to add one more thing:  Become a Mentor.  Teach programming to others.  (The basics of scaffolding.  )  Also check out Computer Science Education Week.  December 9-15 (celebrating Admiral Grace Murray Hopper) http://csedweek.org/

I wouldn't consider myself an expert in STEM education, but I am learning and trying to lead our school and the schools in our community into the future with STEM, but more specifically robotics and programming/coding.  Currently I coach two teams of FLL:  http://www.firstlegoleague.org/  Although a 13 year old would need to join either FTC or FRC - both with the FIRST program (http://www.usfirst.org/) and should be available at a nearby school.  FIRST combines programming and engineering and teaches children real-world skills that they will encounter in the workplace; coopertition, community, public speaking, working together, working with adults, etc.

If his interest lie in programming then I would learn AND master every language I could get my hands on.  My kids are young (under 12 years) and we are focusing on Scratch (developed by MIT scratch.mit.edu).  But as my children get older I will introduce them to Java and C++ and possibly Python.

However, there are LOTS of other "children's" languages including Ruby, Alice, etc.  You can find more on my blog.

There are also lots of challenges like the one that Google is hosting right now - Code In 2013  A similar challenge is offered for college students as well.

If technology is interesting to him then check out Raspberry Pi or Arduino.   He can build the computer, then program it - all for less than $50.

Unfortunately programming means self-learning at this point.  Our schools have not caught up and realized how important it is for students to learn computational thinking.  But there are dozens of FREE ways to learn to program.  Code.org is a big one.

Make connections and network.  Hang out on G+ and join some communities like Coding for Kids, Scratch, Maker, STEM, etc.  Do some research and compete in the Google Science Fair.  Find a Coder Dojo near you.  Ask someone who works at a technology firm to host a Coder Dojo.

There are summer camps that are pretty expensive that offer programming classes, but I don't have first hand experience with them and I am inclined to believe that making use of the free options would be just as good.

The important part is to just do it.  and then do it again.  Its the iterative process that will make him successful.  Programming is just like any language.  We don't teach our kindergarteners to learn his/her letters and declare "he can read".  We keep teaching them, for years, about sentence structure, grammar, poetry, different styles of writing, etc.  The same is true of programming.  You become an expert and have mastery of programming after spending years doing it.  Find an online community and share the code and projects.

As a mother it would be hard and scary for me to let my child loose on the internet - but that is absolutely what needs to happen so children can learn.  The information is out there.  Its just a matter or googling or youtubing and then practicing.

I hope this was helpful.  Please feel free to follow me on G+.  I post STEM related stuff daily.

P.S.  Your little kids are ready to code too!  Check out some of the great programming apps.

There is even a board game that teaches programming:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Flannel PJ Baby

Eleanor is our baby.  All the kids are our kids, but William and Lainy Ann definitely favor me in looks and personality.  While Alexander and Connor take after Caskey's family.  But Eleanor is the perfect combination.

The girl can sleep.  She is often the last one up in the morning and likes to go to be fairly early.  She is the spitting image of Connor - complete with round face, tall, and big.  She is wearing size 4T and 5T clothes at 2 1/2 years.  She is a giant.

But she is also *my* baby.  Today during nap time she wouldn't sleep until she was changed into her flannel Christmas jammies.  It was 75* today.  But she needed to be in her cozy flannel jammies to rest.  She cracks me up.  She got them out of her drawer and brought them to me.  She sifted through the elephant jammies, the nightgown, and the new panda jammies with tags.  She was searching for her santa jammies.  Even though her little belly is sticking out since they are last years Christmas jammies.

She is similarly *my* baby at school.  She is a bossy little thing, getting on the other kids to follow directions.  Then when they don't she says, "I'm angry.  No feet on furniture".  If they still don't listen she will move the furniture away from them.  At least she isn't putting her hands on another child.  I guess it could be worse.

Whipping Cream Drink

I have two skinny-minis in our family.  They were always tiny and skinny  It was just part of their DNA.  But once they started taking Daytrana it became a real struggle to keep the calories on them - especially with all of their physical activities.  

My husband suggested the kids drink whipping cream.  This is much preferable to the doctor's suggestion of nightly milkshakes and ice cream - which just causes tantrums in a family of 5 children.  I was trying to give them pediasure for a while too - but the chemicals, additives, corn syrup and dyes make me nervous.

Whipped Cream snack is a whole food and I know exactly what is going into it.  Although I am adding sugar, you can add honey, agave, or even stevia - depending on your sugar preference.  

Each night before bedtime I make the 2 kids a glass of whipping cream.  Whipping cream by itself is pretty bland so I add a bit of vanilla extract and a tsp of sugar as well. 

The goal for me is the snack has to be easy.  I could also make smoothies, but then I am stuck making a lower calorie one for the non-skinnies and then I have to clean the blender.

 After the ingredients are added I stir it all together. 

Whipping cream is 50 calories per tablespoon.  The above serving is approximately a cup putting the caloric intake at 821 +sugar.  

Some people have mentioned that the children should be eating healthier calories.  I agree, but healthier calories are usually a lower calorie count.  We usually make up the difference in calories with fast food hamburgers, fast food milkshakes, or even ice cream.  I can't imagine any of those things are healthier than a drink with 3 ingredients.

The drink is a little cost prohibitive at $6 a quart.  However, pediasure isn't too cheap either.  I believe I got 6 servings out of the quart - so $1/serving.  I plan on looking for an organic less expensive brand in the future.

Finally, I am happy to report a cut-down on sleep-eating.  My medicated kids get so hungry between 10 pm and 6 am that I have found an entire box of granola bars empty or 1/2 dozen pumpkin muffins gone.  Its a struggle not getting mad when they are eating, however, they are eating overnight and not rebrushing teeth.  Plus, it has been very unpleasant finding missing food or crumbs in beds.  With the high fat content of this drink the kids feel fuller longer and don't get hungry, which is why they get it at bedtime. 

Why Soccer is Awesome

We are playing A LOT of soccer.  Lainy Ann is on a club team this year and is also the goalie.  We decided to also have her play AYSO this year.  That puts her total number of practices at 5 per week and up to 3 games each weekend.  Soccer is great for her for so many reasons, but this week she came home and told me a story.

Lainy Ann will not be able to attend a 6 pm Sunday soccer game 90 minutes from home because of her commitment to FLL Robotics.  We discussed is with the coach and decided he would be able to find other players to sub and since this isn't a league game it would be okay for Lainy Ann to miss.  Lainy Ann is the keeper.  She is the only keeper.  She plays goalie for the entire game, every game.  The team and the parents depend on her.  She is fearless and that makes her a good goalie.

Her teammates were dismayed when they found out she wasn't going to be at the game.  Several said, "What are we going to do without you?"  She replied, "Its okay.  You guys will do fine without me.  When we first started playing I would touch the ball 20 or 30 times during a game.  You all have gotten so good that I only touch the ball a few times during games."

This is why we play soccer.  Teamwork.  Plain and simple.  She is part of a team, part of a whole.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Webelos year

We are kicking off a new scouting year in all the dens and the pack. Connors first den meeting of the year is this evening so we spent Sunday evening talking about the transition from sub scouts to Webelos. We got out his book and talked about how he would need to start keeping track of his achievements as he works towards arrow of light.
We paged through the book looking at all the activity badges, checking off the badges he has completed. Often times Connor would say, "I haven't done that one". And I would assure him that he had during camp in which I was the leader. He kept repeating, 'wow. I have done a lot' over and over.
I told him that I have been working really hard to ensure he achieves all 20 activity badges and although it seems we do soccer all.the.time. That the reality is that I spend even more time reading, thinking, planning and researching opportunities for him to earn his badges.  He was pretty pleased and gave me a big 'thank you' hug.
We really do a lot of soccer these days, but we try very hard to ensure all the kids are doing all of 'their' activity - trumpet, flute, soccer, baseball, scouts or robotics.  Scouting is Connor's thing and he will get his Super Achiever patch next year.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Science In Chores

We have a lot more chores to do these days.  With all the volunteer work I am doing the kids are having to pitch in more, and they are getting older, so they are capable of it.  Today I asked Lainy Ann to disassemble a car seat for washing.  I felt a little guilty about it as that chore is clearly a 'parent chore' rather than dishes which is an everyone chore.

But as I set her to work on the project I realized that she is having to reverse engineer the car seat and figure out how it works to take is apart.  I gave her no other instruction other than "take the cover off".  She did great with the task and accomplished it quickly.

As we have really begun studying engineering and science with robotics it is amazing to discover engineering all around us.  Its been great fun for the kids to do basic engineering tasks - and being gender neutral when assigning them.

The previous day she had mopped the floor and the water on the floor was beading due to oil splatter.  We had a long discussion about oil and water mixing and the use of soap to cut the grease.  She observed the differences and was able to clean the floor.  Connor asked what was going on and she then explained to Connor about oil and water.  Connor responded, "Lainy Ann, I have mopped a floor before."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Women in Science

When my daughter turned 8 I realized I was a feminist.  I realized that women are still under represented in the scientific and math communities.  I realized that its not because they aren't encouraged - but somewhere around middle school we "lose them".  In addition, we are raising boys in a boy-heavy science environment so when they do encounter a woman in the professional world they treat her badly.

As a STEM teacher I am breaking those barriers.  But that isn't enough.  I need to remind everyone that our entire history of STEM was dependent on both men and women.  So here is my list of favorite famous STEM ladies.

P.S.  If anyone wants to print some nice quality black and whites of these ladies with 3 sentences captioned underneath I would love to hang them in my home.

Ada Lovelace

Beloved icon of computer nerds everywhere, Ada Byron was an early computer scientist - a VERY early computer scientist.

Back in the 1800s, Byron, the daughter of poet Lord Byron, studied with English mathematician Charles Babbage. Babbage's early proposed "analytical engine" was one of the earliest computers -- or would have been, if it was ever built.

Ada realized its potential. Her analysis and explanation of how Babbage's "analytical machine" (a giant calculator, in essence) might be used to calculate a series of mathematically important numbers pretty much made her the first computer programmer. [source: image wikipedia, text http://science.discovery.com/famous-scientists-discoveries/10-women-in-science.htm]

Grace Hopper

Grace Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 – January 1, 1992) was an American computer scientist and United States Navy Rear Admiral. A pioneer in the field, she was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer, and developed the first compiler for a computer programming language. She conceptualized the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL, one of the first modern programming languages. She is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (motivated by an actual moth removed from the computer). Owing to the breadth of her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace". The U.S. Navy destroyer USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as was the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.  [cite: wikipedia]

Marie Curie

That Marie Curie lived as long as she did is kind of amazing, considering the woman made radioactivity her life.

The papers that once belonged to her are still so radioactive, 75 years after her death, that they can't be handled without special gear.

In the early part of the 20th century, the Polish-born Curie and her French husband, Pierre Curie, toiled over radioactive elements such as uranium, polonium and radium (some of which they discovered) without any protection and with little regard for the damage those elements might cause living tissue.

Curie would later pay the price: her 1934 death, from aplastic anemia, was most likely due to years of radiation exposure, but her legacy lived on: the two-time Nobel prize winner (for physics in 1903 with her husband, and for chemistry in 1911) was also the mother of Irene Joliot-Curie, another notable woman of science who would eventually share the Nobel prize with her own husband in 1935 for her own work on radioactivity. [cite: http://science.discovery.com/famous-scientists-discoveries/10-women-in-science.htm]

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind Franklin was, for too long, the overshadowed party in Watson and Crick's story of how they unraveled the structure of DNA. Franklin took the X-ray diffraction images of DNA that indicated its twisted, double-helical structure; without her precise lab work, attention to detail and thoughtful analysis, those X-ray images wouldn't have been worth a penny.

What's more, without those images Watson and Crick would not have been able to publish their notable 1953 paper on the structure of DNA. Those images, leaked to Watson and Crick by Franklin's lab partner, made the difference in the discovery...but not in the recognition.

In 1962, Watson and Crick won the Nobel Prize for their work on the structure of DNA; by then, Franklin had been dead for four years, a victim of ovarian cancer. [cite: http://science.discovery.com/famous-scientists-discoveries/10-women-in-science.htm]

Jane Goodall

Jane Goodall's work with chimpanzees opened our eyes to chimpanzee life, and in the process, to our own evolutionary roots.

In documenting chimps' complex social webs, as well as their use of tools and wide range of emotions, Goodall's work blurred the line between human and animal and made it clear that treating primates well was an ethical issue.  In the years since she first became known, Goodall has also become a passionate advocate on the part of primates like chimpanzees, serving as a very public voice for the animals who can't find their own. [cite: http://science.discovery.com/famous-scientists-discoveries/10-women-in-science.htm]

Maria Mitchell

Maria Mitchell (August 1, 1818 – June 28, 1889)  was an American astronomer who, in 1847, by using a telescope, discovered a comet which as a result became known as "Miss Mitchell's Comet". She won a gold medal prize for her discovery which was presented to her by King Frederick VII of Denmark. On the medal was inscribed "Non Frustra Signorum Obitus Speculamur et Ortus" in Latin (taken from Georgics by Virgil (Book I, line 257) (English: “Not in vain do we watch the setting and rising of the stars”). Mitchell was the first American woman to work as a professional astronomer.  Though Mitchell, born in 1818, was the first female member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was widely known throughout the world, she was still paid less than her male colleagues at Vassar - or at least she was until she stood her ground.

In addition to discovering "Miss Mitchell's comet," she also found that sunspots were an independent phenomenon and not a type of cloud.

When she wasn't behind a telescope, Mitchell was politically active, campaigning against slavery and for women's suffrage. All in all, a thoroughly modern woman.  [cite: wikipedia and http://science.discovery.com/famous-scientists-discoveries/10-women-in-science.htm]

Stephanie Kwolek

“To invent, I draw upon my knowledge, intuition, creativity, experience, common sense, perseverance, flexibility, and hard work.”

Stephanie Kwolek is the chemist who invented Kevlar in 1965.  She started working as a chemist in 1946 just to earn enough money to go to medical school, to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a doctor. She soon fell in love with the work, though, which combined her interests in science and textiles.

One of very few female chemists working at Dupont, Stephanie was passionate about discovering new ways of working with synthetic fibers. She volunteered in 1964 for a project none of her colleagues seemed interested in: searching for a strong but lightweight fiber to use in tires.

While experimenting, Stephanie created a strange solution that was very different from ones she’d created before. It should have been a clear, thick fluid, like nylon polymer, but instead was thin and cloudy. “I think someone who wasn’t thinking very much or just wasn’t aware or took less interest in it, would have thrown it out.” But her curiousity and passion for discovery won out.

“I discovered over the years that I seem to see things that other people did not see. If things don’t work out I don’t just throw them out, I struggle over them, to try and see if there’s something there.”

The next step in the process of creating fibers from this solution required a machine called a spinneret, which was run by her coworker Charles Smullen. At first, he refused to spin the solution, thinking it would harm the machine. After much persuasion, Stephanie convinced him to run her solution.

They were amazed when the new fiber came back: it would not break when nylon typically would, and had a stiffness at least nine times greater than anything she’d made before! She and her supervisors immediately recognized the significance of her discovery, and the company set to work creating applications for this incredible new fiber.

Besides bullet-proof vests, the tough, heat-resistant fiber has since found over 200 applications. Today it’s used in products as diverse as fiber-optic cables, aircraft parts, canoes, brake linings, space vehicles, boats, parachutes, skis, and building materials.

The most famous application, of course, is the Kevlar vest. Thousands of lives have been saved by the bullet-stopping fiber. One Viriginia police officer even had Kwolek autograph the bulletproof vest that saved his life.

“I feel very lucky. So many people work all their lives and they don’t make a discovery that’s of benefit to other people.”
[cite: http://www.amazingwomeninhistory.com/stephanie-kwolek-inventor-kevlar/]

Jill Tarter

"Someone described my office as an eight-year-old's daydream," says astronomer Jill Tarter, who has been collecting E.T.-themed office ornaments for 30 years. Tarter was the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute's first employee, and the inspiration for the character in Carl Sagan's Contact. [Cite: NPR]

Yvonne Brill

Yvonne Brill
Born December 30 1924 - Died March 27 2013
Dual Thrust Level Monopropellant Spacecraft Propulsion System
Patent #: 3,807,657

Inducted 2010

Yvonne Brill is known for her innovations in rocket propulsion. Her most important contributions are advancements in rocket propulsion systems for geosynchronous communications satellites in the form of the hydrazine/hydrazine resistojet propulsion system, or the electrothermal hydrazine thruster (EHT). Early on, Brill saw the importance of the system for the then-fledgling communications satellite industry.  [cite: http://www.invent.org/hall_of_fame/407.html]

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Parents Expectations

Another year is upon us and I anxiously await the reveal of which teachers my children will be assigned to.  Fingers are crossed that it won't be a horribly miserable year like last year.  And because of last year I can be honest about what I expect.  I know I will be getting lists of expectations from the school and teachers in quadruplicate (because if I sign it 4 times then I must *really* mean it).  But here is my list of expectations for the year:

1.  I expect you to love teaching and to love children.  Seems pretty simple.  But just in case its not; do not make my child cry, do not make my child fear you, do not humiliate my child, do not blame my child for your poor classroom management skills.  FYI, Stockholm syndrome is not okay.

2. I expect you to treat me like a partner.  I know you will be with my child for 9 months, but I am *really* invested in his/her success.  After all I carried that child for 9 month, potty trained, agonized over the right time to start school, painstakingly chose after-school activities to find the right balance between learning and fun.  My only goal is to make my child successful in life. I want to help you succeed in the same goal, so when I ask you what I can do to help at home I expect a real answer, not "I don't know."

3. I expect you to treat me with respect.  I may be *just* a stay at home mom.  But I am busy.  Some days I wish I had a job so just I could have a sick day.  But I can't.  I have 5 young children who each have 3-4 extra curricular activities.  Activities that I am leading!  So, yes, I have a job.  I expect you to recognize that there are other things going on in our lives than just your class.  And I expect you to not send home a letter that says I have to drag 5 children at dinner time to the local office supply store to buy the purple three-ring binder you have requested for tomorrow.  Because if I don't my daughter will be humiliated, cry and get detention for something she has no control over.
Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.
4.  I expect you to trust me.  I *might* know a little about my child, just a tad.  So when I decide my child needs a mental health day, or its better that s/he is late and have 15 extra minutes in the morning rather than rushing and ruining the day, perhaps you should just trust me.  I also may only send my child with a sandwich and grapes for lunch because we are having food-choice issues.  I also may take my kids out of school and go to Florida for a week to watch a space shuttle launch.  I guarantee that that family trip is just as important as your class, if not more important.

If you treat me with the above expectations I will sing your praises far and wide.  When you request (with a one week notice) that I send in extra kleenex and pencils, I will likely do so.  When you ask for volunteers to drive on a field trip, cut construction paper or help lead a science activity -- I am your gal.  I want to be there.  I want to help you.  I have been a teacher.  It is exhausting, you have 26+ students in your classroom who look up to you to nurture and teach them.  That is a hard job and it is getting harder every year.  But it doesn't have to be hard.  Ask me to help you.

I expect to have a good school year.  Because if we don't I know how to contact the district office.


Mama Bear

Sunday, August 4, 2013

WEBELOs SuperNova Award Camp

Many years ago when Connor was just a wee little Tiger Cub and we were new to the whole scouting thing my son looked up at me during the bridging ceremony for the Arrow of Lights and said "Mom I want the heavy shoulder patch"  The award is called different things - but my favorite patch is the Super Achiever patch that looks like a 20 with all the pictures of the pins embroidered on it.  He decided when he was 6 years old that he would achieve all of the activity badges available to him.

And that is how we scout.  I scour the awards and plan our summers around earning belt loops and pins.  We attend scout camps, hike, camp, go to museums, cook outside, dissect squid, and more.  With 3 boys within 2 years of each other (and an adventurous big sister) scouting has been something we are very committed to.

I figured I would lead one or two of the activity badges for Connor's den to ensure he had the opportunity to complete them all.  But when I was asked to lead the camp and six activity badges I decided it would be a great opportunity for Connor to get a big head start on his goal.

It was decided that the scouts would earn their Dr. Charles H. Townes Supernova Award; which includes at least 6 activity badges.  We choose to accomplish the Engineer Activity badges, Forester Activity Badge, Geologist Activity Badge, Scholar Activity Badge, Scientist Activity Badge, and Naturalist Activity Badge.  Scouts also went on a field trip to the Rosemont Preserve and listened to speakers; including a Geologist and an Engineer.

After doing tons of research I discovered cubroundtable.com had lots of the hard work already completed for me - worksheets, crosswords, activities and more.  I decided which activities we would complete and printed the pages that would meet our needs.  After printing I had a 96-page document; including resources regarding southern California native plants and worksheets I created for the Scientist Activity badge.  The book was printed and given to each scout to complete as proof of earning the Supernova Award.

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel so I have linked to the document below.  The document is 96-pages of workbook, another 20ish pages of astronaut themed skits and songs (not original) and instructions for teaching the requirements to scouts in a fun and exciting way.

I spent many hours researching, compiling, creating, copying, fixing, molding and preparing for this award.  Many other websites helped to contribute to my success including CubRoundTable.com and ScouterMom.com and www.boyscouttrail.com/skits.asp‎ and www.scoutorama.com/skit/‎.


After spending a week with 40 WEBELO scouts talking about science, nature, engineering, college, Bernoulli, Pascal, Newton, sage brush, oak trees, scat, inertia, and more this cannot be anymore true. Every single day the boys made a filthy horrible mess of broken spaghetti, foam explosions etc and every single day they cleaned it up. Montrose Bowl said he has never had a more well-mannered group visit his bowling alley and it was cleaner after we left. Rosemont Preserve said that the boys already knew quite a bit about the native plant life before the hike.

I am so proud of the scouting organization. So pleased about what it is doing for boys and girls. This past week my daughter (10) acted as a den chief - she was an assistant leader to 20 siblings all week long. In addition she helped set up and take down camp every day.

By being involved in scouting we are teaching our children to be responsible, to work hard, to play hard and to learn lots. I am so grateful for this opportunity for them.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Geeky-Girls are geeks too!

I am a mom.  Every part of me is "mother".  Every activity and choice I make is to ensure we are bettering our children and helping them grow into wonderful adults.

That's why I am raising a geeky-girl.  That is why I am teaching programming classes and coach.
I am a geek-mom, raising my daughter to be a geek. She programs in Scratch, she plays with robots, we play board games on the weekend. She is surrounded with nerdiness and science - and so are her brothers. I hope I am raising the next generation of geeky girls and the boys who love and accept them.


Our world has a host of problems to solve; fuel, environment, health and medicine, economics.  These children are our future and not just the boys.  The girls have just as much to contribute not because they are equals, but because girls think differently than boys.  They tend to work more collaboratively and think more before trying to solve a problem.  Boys and girls -- men and women -- need to work together to solve the problems of our future.  Its okay to be a geeky-girl or a geeky-boy.  We are all on the same team.  Let's work together.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sample Lessons for Robots

1. Race to get to the end of the table without touching the wall (geometry and radius)

2. Make robot turn around the book on the floor (loops)

3. Drive into a "garage" (upside down box)

4. Maze on the floor with blocks and touch sensors

Use: My Blocks

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Pass it On Lesson Scratch

Pass It On

What can we create by building on others' work?

In this activity, you’ll create a project that others will remix to extend and reimagine.

First, develop an animated Scratch project in which you experiment with developing characters, coordinating interactions or conversations, and switching backdrops to create different scenes for the project. Then, add your project to the Pass It On studio for others to view and remix.

After you've shared your project, choose someone else's Pass It On project from the studio. Remix the selected project, and then post your remixed version to the Pass It On studio for others to continue.

Activity Walkthrough

Here's our checklist for this activity...

• Create a short starter animation project (e.g. a story, a joke, a music video, a slideshow) for others to remix or extend. Make sure your project has multiple sprites and includes coordinated interactions between those sprites.
• Add your project to the Pass It On studio.
• Choose another project from the Pass It On studio to remix and build upon.
• Add your remix to the studio to pass on to other participants.

When I completed this assignment for #CCOW I only completed the first half of the project.  It would be valuable to complete both halves of the project because I find I have learned as much if not more from simply seeing other's code and how they solved problems.  Making use of the studio is imperative for adults doing self-learning.  The studio can be used for kids too, but with supervision.

Here is my solution to the Pass It On: 

Growing Wings

Its been an exciting summer for our family.  We are all growing and venturing off in new and exciting ways.  The biggest of this though is Connor's adventures without his family.

Months ago he told us he wanted to go to Cub Scout Residence camp, so we set out to buy him his own tent so he could do a test run with us during family camping.  We went to Rocket Academy as a family and he tented alone - he carried his own gear, put up his tent and took it down (mostly) on his own.  He slept alone and was responsible for his own water, sunscreen and clothing.  It was hard.

It went well and he did two more practice runs with the tent in our driveway.  Then he was ready to go to camp - alone - without me.  I wasn't worried so much about bears or him being away, just the little stuff like making sure he stayed hyrdrated and wore sunscreen.

He had the best time EVER at camp and never did want to come home.  He stayed hydrated, he swam in the pool twice a day, he enjoyed movie night, leather working, weaving survival bracelets.  He did not get sunburned and he loved every second of it.

All of it was in preparation for his trip to Canada.  Yup.  Canada.  Be still my beating heart.

Programming: then and now

Four months ago we enrolled Connor in an online Scratch Programming class for elementary students.  It was expensive, but at the time I knew I would not be able to effectively teach my child to program in Scratch.  Caskey may have been able to teach him to program, but I would not be able to manage it from home while Caskey works his long hours.  We settled on a Scratch for Elementary Students class offered by CTY (of John's Hopkins).  The class began a few weeks before we opted to start teaching programming classes at Monte Vista as well.  We decided the chance to see some of the lessons would be beneficial to us as well.

Each week Caskey and I would work together to cobble together a 60-minute lesson plan for 5th and 6th grade students who were above average in math.  We would rush through the planning, create a sample program and Caskey would give me a crash course in the lesson.  In the classroom I was still not very comfortable.  I was okay doing whole group instruction, including students in the concepts we were teaching, but when it came to actually debugging the software or figuring out nuances to the programming - I was lost.  I would ask the students to work with the others around them (which had its own benefit) or wait until Caskey was available to assist them.

As the weeks progressed I found I knew less and less about what we were teaching.  But that was okay because Caskey was becoming more and more comfortable with the students and the students were learning more and more.  But I had a growing sense of dread as to how I was going to continue these classes in the fall for twice as many students.  Caskey's advice was simple - program more and you will become more comfortable with it.

I was thrilled though when I found out Google was joining teams with MIT to have a short 6-week course where educators could learn more about teaching Scratch programming to students.  It was free, online and collaborative.  It was a dream come true.

Connor just finished his online class, just as I have started to develop 20 lesson plans to be shared with the entire Foothill community to be used in classroom for 3rd - 6th graders.  Now I feel like the class was a big waste of money.  I could have taught him these things!  (To be fair the class was very well supported in videos, class materials, a professor available daily via email.)

I am amazed at how my comfort level has changed so drastically in the last 4 months.  I have no problem now saying things like computational thinking and making appointments with administrators at our school site and other school sites and collaborating on curriculum across 6 elementary schools.  I have offered free Scratch training to other parents who want to teach it and plan on offering some online classes to students in the community as soon as that feature becomes available on Scratch.

I never knew I would become a programming junkie like my husband.  But the research is there.  This is the future.  Our children need to know this just like they need to know how to read and do math.  There are so many fabulous opportunities available to them - all free.  I'm glad I feel comfortable enough with Scratch to teach it the students in our community.

Preschool Graduation: Alexander Edition

Same ol' Same ol'.  Four kids, the same preschool.  The same Robbin's Nest song on the plywood stage with little white hats.

Its hard to get excited and choked up about these events now that its the 4th child going through it.  I'm sure once its Eleanor I will be choked up since its my last preschooler, but for now I am excited for Alexander.  We all celebrate and take pictures - but its not like my first graduating preschool.  I imagine the comparison is much like being pregnant for the first time and for the 4th time; you are excited to bring a new life into this world, but the joy of seeing your expanding belly isn't as exciting the 3rd, 4th or 5th time around.

But Alexander has always kept us on his toes.  I remember a time when he was 2 years old and in trouble for being rude.   He told me he was cute and therefore couldn't get into trouble.  He has always turned on the charm to get what he wants.

I took Alexander out of preschool when the older kids were done with school for the summer.  So he hasn't had a chance to rehearse the walking onto stage, singing the two songs, and proclaiming "what I want to be when I grow up."  Now you all know my excuses for his inexcusable behavior.

The procession in went smoothly, followed by the two songs - Eleanor ran up to stage and enthusiastically announced, "you did it, Xander, good job!".  All the other parents gave a good chuckles and she went back to her seat to watch the rest like a good child.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself at this point, smug even -- 4 kids all sitting independently of me, but behaving well during the graduation and not being rude or disruptive.

Until . . . . Alexander received his certificate and walked to the microphone to proclaim "When I grow up I want to be . . . . NOTHING!"  Nothing?!  Really?!  And of course all those other parents celebrating their first child's graduation did not have my back.  They chuckled and giggled and thought he was cute.  Thanks for nothing parents.  I wanted some stink eye or other negative reaction to keep this class-clown in check.  Ugh!  So he shuffled off stage slowly doing the slow mini-walk you do when playing Mother's May I.  All the while more parents giggled.

I used to blame Robbin's Nest for his audacious behavior.  But it occurs to me that it must be just who he is.  The 4th child who is not content to be number 4.  He must stand out, even though he is brother number 3.

I am planning lots of visits to the principal's office next year.

11 Blocks Scratch Lesson

Using only the following blocks create a program of your choosing:

Go to x y
glide n sec to x y
Say ___ for n sec
play sound
When this sprite is clicked
Stop script
wait n sec
set size to n%

I completed this assignment as part of the #CCOW teaching educators to teach Scratch to children.  Here were my impressions after completing the assignment.

 I completed Assignment "10 Blocks".  I'm not too happy with it.  I kept to the letter of the assignment and did not add additional sprites or backgrounds.  Although, I don't know if that was the right choice.
As someone teaching programming standards I feel the assignment should have included a "stop script".  I did add that to my script.  Also I feel the assignment would have had more creativity if we sub out the "go to x y" block with "move n steps" block.  That would allow a repeat of putting the sprite at particular coordinates and then moving it.  


What can be created with Scratch?
In this activity, we will investigate the range of creative possibility with Scratch by exploring some of the millions of projects on the Scratch website -- and start a collection of favorites in a Scratch studio. Browse projects on the homepage or use the Explore page to search for specific types of projects. Create a new studio from your My Stuff page and add five projects to your studio.

Here's our checklist for this activity...

• Create a new Studio.
• Develop a strategy for finding interesting projects in the Scratch community.
• Add five projects you find interesting to your studio.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Poopy Gummy Bear

At grandma's house this week papa spoiled our kids by giving them gummy bears with breakfast (a breakfast of donuts).  Each child got 3 gummy bears.  My darling Alexander offered me one of his 3 gummy bears.  I wasn't really in a gummy bear mood - but I thought it was important to be positive when he offers such a prized possession.  I ate his sweaty gummy bear.

Then I discovered he had dirty hands - except they were covered in poop because he didn't wipe properly nor did he wash his hands properly.  I just ate a poop covered gummy bear.

Fast forward 2-days:  I was up most of the night with intestinal discomfort.  In the morning I realized my stomach is fine provided there is no food in it.  Great.

Fast-forward another day and a half and I am diagnosed with strep throat.  I am convinced that my immune system was so busy fighting the poopy-gummy bear that it couldn't fight off a simple case of strep.

So, as a mommy always does, I worked cub scout camp while sick with strep throat.

Trying to focus on my son's kind gesture instead of the fact that he infected me.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Praying. Its all that is left

I remember going through this when Lainy Ann was 6 or 7 years old.  She can not NOT be on a schedule.  We would skip 4th of July Celebrations, staying up late for movie night, etc.  My kids are ruled by the schedule.  They thrive with a schedule.  They fail without one.

When Lainy Ann was young I would plan every second of the summer - ensuring we had daily outings, field trips, shopping trips, school work, science experiments, summer camp.  It was exhausting.    We never got to do anything spontaneous or just hang out with friends.  We never slept in or stayed up late.  But it kept the melt downs and bad behavior at bay.

Lainy Ann is much old now and is perfectly happy to stay up late and sleep in.  She loves hanging out with her friends last minute and she loves sitting at home with no plans.  This summer I let our plans relax a little bit.  I decided we should be spontaneous.  We are doing plenty of camps and all of our weekends are booked - but the busy times are interspersed with weeks of down time.

We are failing.  Failing.  The kids have been crazy and out of control.  William can not NOT have a schedule.  I have had a semblance of a schedule with morning tv time, outside time, homework time, nap time, etc.  But its not enough.  Friends have come over to play with us.  We have gone out to run errands and be busy.  It doesn't matter.

We have dissolved into the Wild Wild West where children ignore everything a parent says and destroys anything they can find.  Kids are sneaking off-limits toys.  They think 'quiet time' means run through the house and bounce balls off the windows.

This morning the children were up at 5:30 am - threatening to wake up the other 8 sleeping people in the home.  At 6:30 am I put them outside to play to keep the inside quiet.  They started screaming and yelling.  They turned on the water and were hosing down the house and my car - the very thing that I said was not allowed the previous day.

I was at a loss.  I put the boys into the car in jammies with no shoes.  We went to the police station.  We talked to the police about noise ordinance laws and talked about how we live in a community and need to respect all of our neighbors and their needs (since clearly they weren't respecting my rules).  I was hoping this would really sink in and help them to remember their role in society.  The police gave them toys and thanked them for coming in.

We went to the doctor next because I suspect a med change is in order for William to help him regulate his mood and impulses better.  The nurse tried to send me away since my chid wasn't technically sick.  I told her this was an emergency.  She asked if I could come back later.  I told her no.  I told her if she didn't see me I would go to the ER.  I told her I was in a crisis.

We talked about better applications for the meds and we have a follow up appointment for next week.  I was prescribed a dinner buy myself tonight and a healthy dose of patience.  The meds won't kick in until tomorrow.

So today I pray.  I hand on tight so I don't fall off.  I have disciplined, begged, taken away privileges  invited friends over, promised treats. Nothing has worked.

Today I pray.  I don't know what I am praying for, but I pray.  Because that is all I have left.

UPDATE:  God answer prayers in the form of naps.  Thank you, God.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Daughter and LEGOs

"My daddy!  Play LEGO"

daddy puts it in upside down

"No, fix it"

she shows him to turn it right side up.  Daddy puts it in diaganolly.

"no like this"

She shows him how to do it, she then pulls is apart and gives it to him to do.  Every step of the way Caskey is intentionally LEGOing wrong and she is instructing him how to assemble them properly.  But she is insisting on him putting it together himself.

Daddy correctly assembles the LEGO tower.

She shouts "I did it!"

Friday, May 31, 2013

I Spilled my Bucket

I have discovered something about myself.  I have a big bucket of patience, but little tiny pebbles get poured into the bucket leaving less room for the water/patience.  The more annoyances that are added, the less patience I have.  Annoyances are tiny, most people wouldn't even notice them, but they leave a fine layer of sand on the bottom of my bucket.

Yesterday's annoyance during dinner time was:
1. a sticky kitchen and dining room floor - despite being cleaned 3 times.
2. a toddler screaming in her high chair, just because her voice is so awesome that all must want to hear it.
3. Working quickly to get dinner on the table before all 5 children run away from the table
4. Discussing the weeks upcoming activities.
5. (the big one) a 10 year old who tells you that you are WRONG.  Repeatedly.  All.The.Time.  Even when I am mid-sentence.

So, when for the third time I explained that she did in fact have one less soccer practice on Tuesday and she once again interrupted me mid-sentence to tell me I was wrong.  When I told her that I wasn't wrong and she better not walk away from me AND SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME . . . . I may have "dropped" a bowl of strawberries to the ground with force and broken the bowl.  Maybe.

I felt better.  Even though now I had to clean the kitchen floor again AND clean up the broken dish.  Plus it was one of my favorite dishes.

Several different things could have happened at this point.  I could berate myself for spilling my bucket of patience or we could learn from what happened.  Here is what I learned.

1.  No one wanted to go tell Daddy what happened.  Several times I suggested someone tell their father so he could help clean up.  Nope.  They preferred to handle it on their own.

2.  Connor immediately started cleaning up the bits of broken bowl.

3.  Lainy Ann refused to let Connor help.  Her words are paraphrased; 'I am the one who made mommy mad because I was rude, so I should clean everything up.'  Then they started fighting about that.  *sigh*

I shouldn't have lost my patience.  I should have balanced that bucket on my head while juggling the balls in the air and riding the unicycle through the kitchen.  But I did.  And my child recognized her role in that mess.  She was willing to clean up that mess.  And her big hearted brother - who was completely innocent - was also willing to help.

Of course the rambunctious-twins used that opportunity to release the kitten from his cage  . . . . . And the toddler kept screaming in her high chair, but now she was mad we wouldn't let her out of the high chair and run around on the floor cutting her feet.  We are so mean.  And thus my bucket acquired more bits of sand . . . .

SCRATCH Lesson #6 **draft*

Final Class

Option of programming alone or in pairs

Create a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors

Extension activities include a reward animation.  Some students chose to create a new costume for their sprite and their sprite turned into the appropriate item (rock, paper, or scissors)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Moments of Awesome in the Middle of Busy

Today Eleanor hugged her oversized flower cookie from Panera.  She told Aunt Cristina all about it.  Exclaimed "my flow-ler cookie" then hugged it, then ate it.  It was the cutest thing ever!

Yesterday Alexander told me that people die when they are 100 and then they are buried in the ground.  He doesn't want to be buried in the ground so he is not going to turn 100.  I asked him how he was going to do that.  He told me that after he turn 99 he will just stop having birthdays.  (bonus: he can clearly count to 100, a Kinder standard, at 4 years old)

William, today, said, "remember when we saw the moon come up over the mountain when we were camping?"  I do remember that.  I remember telling the kids and them being half-hearted about it and going back to watching the fire crackle.  But he remembers it fondly now.  He told me he had never seen the moon rise like that before.  Then he launched into a discussion about why the moon is bigger when it is first coming up rather than after it has already risen.  Then he wanted to know if it is called a sunset, then what is it when a moon goes down.

Connor is chatting with me.  Online.  He is learning the importance of completing a thought.  I am able to teach him and use big words with him - thus teaching him a bigger vocabulary.  Since I can multi-task we can have uninterrupted conversations about fun things.  He also really likes emoticons.  He also likes typing bad words into the thesaurus.  And giggling about it.

Lainy Ann is big.  She is starting to recognize when I am stressed or tired and tries to fix it.  I fel badly about this and tell her its not her job to fix everything, its her job to be a girl.  But she is a fixer (like her mom).  When Eleanor gets really upset Lainy Ann helps her to take deep breaths and calm down.  When I ask her if we should get a dog she gives me rational reasons why its a bad idea.  She is officially big.  I can have real conversations with her about life.  Its scary and wonderful at the same time.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pictures in my Head

Sometimes I don't have a camera handy, or the kids are so far off that the picture would be too small and difficult to make out.  Sometimes it is the atmosphere surrounding us that won't be able to be captures in a picture.

This Saturday we were at the Leo Nedheoff AYSO88 tournament.  Another Saturday and more games of soccer.  Tournaments are different though.  Hundred of same age soccer-playing kids are hanging out at the park, killing time, and when its game time, playing hard.  This past weekend the weather was gorgeous  a little overcast in the morning, a nice breeze in the afternoon.  We applied sunscreen  (not often enough) and the kids were the kings of the park.  They played together, they played with strangers, they looked after each other.

Games were back-to-back.  Every hour a new game started which only gave spectators and players 7 minutes between games to get into place.  It was hectic, but it was running like a well-oiled machine.  At noon the field was empty for a one hour lunch break.  The siblings swarmed the field, barefoot, with their own soccer balls; size4, size, 3, and even a few size 1s.  An impromptu game popped up with the under 8 crowd.  William jumped in goal, he looked even tinier against a U10 goal.  The U5 kids started trying to make goals.  Even Eleanor got in on the action.  It was fun knowing that every one of those kids will be playing in the fall season and when they are old enough they will play tournaments too.

I love being at soccer.  We are surrounded by good people, great sportsmanship, people that are kind and considerate.  People, strangers, that are willing to watch out for another child and enforce the rule of the game.  I love congratulating the other team on a good game, even if we didn't win.  I love when the girls encourage each other on the field.  I especially love when the girls make a tunnel at the end of the game chanting "We are proud of you, so very proud of you".

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lesson 5** - SCRATCH

Share projects students completed at home.  Did anyone make Rock, Paper Scissors?

Review the tools learned from the last 4 lessons:

  • Variable (keeping score)
  • Sub-routines
  • broadcast
  • forever block
  • if-else block

Get into pairs.  Explain the benefits of programming in pairs.

Create a pop quiz with 3 questions and 3 answers.
Create a reward animation when answer is correct.
Change the costume of the sprite to the color/answer.
Keep a tally/score

Color questions:
What do blue and yellow make?
What do red and blue make?
What do yellow and red make?

Math equations:

Shape Questions:
What has 3-sides?
What has right angles?

** This assignment is derived from another project found online:

Assignment 1
Pop Quiz (#9)
1. Choose a quiz topic (Examples: colors, parts of a cell, vocabulary words . . .)
2. Create a list of possible answers
3. Create a Sprite to "ask the question."
4. Allow user to type in an answer
5. Compare user's answer to question
6. Provide user feedback to tell the user if they are correct or incorrect.

1. Keep score of correct answers.
2. Give a final percentage of correct answers.
3. Use movement and sounds to make game entertaining.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birth Order

Aunt Vickie is currently writing a term paper about birth order. She interviewed me about how I have seen birth order affect personality and raising my children.  I couldn't think of a lot of concrete examples.  But this morning birth order smacked me in the face.

She found one of the boys soccer trophies.  She came out of the bedroom and said, "me soccer ball trophy" "take a picture" "Cheese".

Really?!?!  She truly is a product of her generation and her siblings.  She has watched me snap pictures of big siblings showing off their trophies, art work and certificates.  She understands the pride is accomplishments and how that should be shared.  Or she is just playing copy cat.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Scratch Programming: Lesson 4

Using Variables and Sub-Routines

Who changed their random number guessing program to include a count of how many guesses were used to get the right answer?

What other changes did you make to your program?

Teacher flips a coing while student guesses the answer.
1. Ask, "what do you pick? Heads or Tails?
2. Flip the coin
3. Check the answer

There are three steps required to guess coin flips.  However those major 3-steps are broken down to sub-routines.  In this lesson we will learn how to make the best use of sub-routines.  When we used Light-Bot in our first lesson we used functions to give instructions to the robot.

In this lesson you will create one main program:

When green flag is clicked
Forever loop
When broadcast ___ wait
When broadcast ___ wait
When broadcast ___ wait

Set the broadcast to:
get player choice
flip coin
compare result

Then create sub-routines for each type of broadcast.

When I receive get player choice

You must use the "and wait" command so the computer knows to wait until all sub-routines are completed.  Also ALWAYS use a stop script command.

When I receive flip a coin
set coin flip to pick random 1 to 2
use an if-else command to assign the numbers to either heads or tails

When I receive compare results sub-routine
Use an if-else command so the program can decide if the answer was correct.

 Finished program is below:

Extension Activity:
Make a new game.  This time the game is Rock, Paper, Scissors.  The program will be same as above but instead of only 2 random answers (heads or tails) there is a possibility of 3 random answers.

Rocket Academy: AFTER

The full moon rose over the hill as we finished setting up our tent on the Pack 360 hill at CVO.  It was perfect and magical.  We would have never seen it at home.  There were so many moments like that while we were camping.  I am grateful for them all, but I still hate camping.

Its definitely getting better though.  I invested in an air mattress and a 0* sleeping bag and I slept toasty and comfortably all night long.  We have kicked Connor out of our tent and he has his own now, which freed up some space in our tent.  We planned ahead and set reasonable expectations for the weekend.  Last time we camped I lost a kid, there was a wind storm and the baby pooped up her back.  That was the baseline.  No lost kids and broken lips and our trip would be considered a success.

We kind of cheated this time.  My mom stayed home with Eleanor and a bottle-fed kitten for the weekend.  Last time it was the 2 year old who got lost, this time the 2 year old had to stay home.

Friday night we arrived a tad later than planned, but we still got a good parking spot.  Connor was responsible for hauling his own gear and setting up his tent himself.  Having a 10 year old along and not having a 2 year old really did help things.  The kids truly were able to haul, set, sort, and lift all of our gear.  We did remember our tarp for under the tent.  We also brought a sun shade and 6 camp chairs so the following day would leave me sun-free.  Friday night was a simple meal of corn dogs and mac n cheese.  It was perfect for my picky kids.  We had a small campfire and s'mores.  Then we hauled our food back down the hill to the car so it was "bear-safe".

Connor and Joe slept together and laughed long into the night.  It was annoying for me who was too-tired, but I love that he is creating these great memories with his best buddy.

Saturday morning Connor and Joe were up giggling before dawn.  When you are camping with 60 other families when one person wakes up, everyone wakes up.  We had a morning fire - lots of instruction from lots of scout leaders about appropriate fire usage for the kids.  What a great opportunity for them.  Lainy Ann volunteered to walk down the hill to the car and retrieve our food for the day.  The truth is she was looking for the Pop-Tarts.  At 10 years old it was the first time she had every eaten Pop Tarts. Breakfast was very good - or I was very hungry - grilled cheese omelets  sausage, hot chocolate, and a croissant.

I had decided to park myself in the shade between the Rocket Field, the craft tables, and the BB Gun range.  So we did.  We had brought along our large shade structure and some paracord for bracelets.  I had snacks, water, sunscreen and bug spray. Even Pack 319 came over to make paracord bracelets and visit.   The only thing we were missing was a sign that said "Pack 360".  The children were allowed to do anything they wanted with relatively little supervision.  Buddy-system was imperative.  At one point a stranger "returned" Alexander because he was lost and went on a hike with another pack.  I panicked for a bit thinking of what had happened the previous year.  Turns out that William was also on the hike and he was staying together with his buddy.  He was crying on the way back to us because he was supposed to stay with William.  What a good little guy!  I gave him an extra squirt of kool-aid in his water.

By noon the children were head to toe filthy with bright red stains on their lips from staying hydrated with kool-aid and fruit punch.  They were sticky and gross from sunscreen and bug spray.  And they were happy.

The afternoon was spent watching rockets shoot into the air and fall to the ground.  We made more paracord bracelets, visited with friends, stayed in the shade and let the kids get even dirtier.  Their favorite activity was box hockey, which as far as I can tell is a box, sticks, a puck and dirt.  Lots of dirt.

Connor and Joe decided to "whittle" which just means using their pocket knives to make sticks sharp.  Boys.  We had lots of talks about using our knives properly and not losing them.

As dinner approached I had a mini-break down.  I really can't handle the sensory issues of filth and stickyness of sunscreen.  I needed a cold Pepis and there was none for 15 miles.  The kids needed to be washed down, but they wouldn't stay near me long enough to find them all to clean them and then get them into uniform for dinner and campfire.  Caskey was hitting his limit as well and wasn't very helpful.  But my village came through.  I took a few minutes in the tent to wash myself down, our friends moved all the chairs to the campfire, Caskey found the kids and scrubbed the ring of dirt in Alexander's neck that I was sure was permanent.  We force-fed the kids a meal of cordon bleu.  Yum.

The sunset and the songs began.  My savior appeared carrying a Pepsi and I watched the campfire program with the other scout families.  Lainy Ann had organized a group of 8-10 kids to perform "invisible bench".  I am still really proud of her for coming up with the idea on her own, finding the group to perform with and even rehearsing.  Then at the last minute she had to make a substitution.  It all came off without a hitch.

I fell into bed earlier than the previous night.  Connor and Joe didn't stay up talking all night and I knew that in less than 12 hours I would be home.  Sunday morning we broke down our camp.  We hauled tents, sleeping bags, and bags to the car.  Connor was much less excited about packing up than he was about setting up.  We all worked together as everyone got packed up.

A/C and a bug free environment plus a cold drink from drive-thru made me feeling almost human as we arrived home.  The children stripped naked in the laundry room and were bathed and in jammies by 1 pm.  Our camping trip was a success.

Successes:  Great shade, hat, powdered lemonade to keep everyone hydrated.  Great new sleeping gear for me.

Next Time:  I should have hung my solar shower and bathed the kids.  I would have felt better.  I also should have brought along 2 or 3 Pepsi's in a cooler.  We don't currently have a cooler and we opted not to buy one since we had to purchase a new tent and sleeping bag.

All in all it was a success.  I would prefer not to take Eleanor camping until she is 4+.  Next Rocket Academy will be even better as the kids get older and become more independent.  I love love love camping with friends who know my weaknesses and strengths, who will take my kids on a hike and sit in our shade and make bracelets with us.  We all bring something different to the group, including love and support so moms are able to camp without spouses.

Alton Brown-ie Recipe

I added butterscotch chips, because everything is better with butterscotch.

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

SERVINGS: 16 (PER BROWNIE); Calories: 243; Total Fat: 13 grams; Saturated Fat: 8 grams; Protein: 3 grams; Total carbohydrates: 28 grams; Sugar: 22 grams Fiber: 1 grams; Cholesterol: 83 milligrams; Sodium: 82 milligrams

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

*Its not my recipe.  I found it online.  It is WAY better than break-and-bake fake crap from Nestle.  And it was easy since I didn't have to scoop out cookies.  The best part is you can choose the size of your one cookie - even if the serving size is only 4 cookies. . . 4 giant cookies . . . so you don't have to share.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

2 1/8 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 (3 1/2 ounces) cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (or more)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position.

Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil, letting the excess hang over the edges of the pan by about 1 inch so you can grab those edges and pull the brownies from the pan after they have baked. Spray the foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.

Bake until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 24-28 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature.

Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang and transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Preschooler lessons for Big Schoolers

Preschoolers all have the same handbook, for the most part.  That's why I have the same handbook for them.  I had tons of these stories for Lainy Ann and Connor, but the reality is things haven't changed too much in our house with the additional children.  We just multiplied the love.  Multiplied the lessons.  Multiplied the activities.

So this morning, on a rainy spring day when we rushed out of the house to get all the kids to school on time, for the thousandth time I promised, "if you don't get dressed, you will go to school naked." I had to follow through and teach the lesson.

I silently walked into his bedroom.  Found warm clothing for the dreary day.  I took his hand, found his lunch and his shoes.  I picked up the four-year-old over my shoulder and carried him out the door through the rain.  I plopped him in his overnight-cold car seat in only his underwear.  I carefully buckled him, so as to not give his delicate skin a burn or pinch.  I drove to school while he cried.

But this time the lesson wasn't just for the 4 year old, although he learned it well.  The older kids said, "you actually did it.  You are taking him to school naked."  And I realized it was an opportunity.  I said., "yes I am.  I may not be perfect.  I may loose my temper.  But I do not lie."  So I reminded them of all the seemingly-idle threats I make, 'if you hurt my child you will find another place to live', 'if you don't complete your chores you will miss your game', 'if you can't put your clothes away I will take them away'.  Understanding dawned for the older kids.  Mom means what she says.  Then they all recited times in the recent past when I have followed through with threats.  They remembered.  They believe me.

Alexander is not scarred.  He cried on the way to the big kids school.  Then he apologized.  His sincerity earned him the chance to dress quickly in the parking lot of his school.  He will dress faster next time and he will remember.

But so will the big kids.  They will remember that when I say, 'if you slam that door again you will lose the door' that I mean business.    

Mommy: 1
4 year old: 0

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Real Food

I spend a lot of time reading labels, shopping organic or all-natural, avoiding excessive sugar and all dyes.  My kids get 'bad stuff' only about a dozen times a year - birthday parties, Easter and Christmas.  But even so, I take a lot of short cuts.  We eat baby carrots, and lots of fresh ready to eat foods.  It is just easier with our crazy schedule.

But I recently watched a TED talk by Jaime ____ about how low-income children couldn't even recognize certain vegetables in their whole form.  So, although my children eat quite a bit of peas, I don't think they would recognize whole peas or even a pea plant.  We are going to start trying more whole foods, cooking more, and experimenting more.

Last week I purchased whole carrots - up until this point I always bought baby carrots in a ziploc bag - easy and ready to eat.  But this week I bought a whole bunch of them with the greens still attached.

I showed Alexander the carrots when I got back from the store, "Wow!  You got carrots.  Real ones.  Like the ones bunnies eat!"

The kids helped me prepare the carrots, skin them and cut them.  Then they disappeared!  The kids ate the carrots in record time.

Next Challenge:  Eggplant

Monday, April 29, 2013

Lesson Plan 3: Scratch Programming

Review last weeks lesson.  Did the students do any exciting projects with Scratch since last week?

Get into pairs of students.
Give student A a number written on a 3x5 card
Student B needs to guess the number on Student A's card.
range 1-10

Repeat the exercise with the range 1-100

Discuss the strategies used to guess the number.

Any person can guess any number buy using a process of elimination within 10 guesses.  By simply guessing the median of a range of numbers.  The responder then replies with one of three responses; correct, too high, or too low.  The guesser's 2nd guess is again the median of the remaining numbers, and so on.  

The computer will 'think' of a number (use 'random number'
Student will guess the number
range 1-10

repeat assignment range 1-100

discuss the implications of doing the assignment 1-1000

Extension activity:
Student chooses the number.
The computer guesses the answer.

Extension Activity 2:
Add code that counts the number of guesses required to find the answer.  At the end of the program the sprite should tell the player how many guesses it took.

Use "change n by"
Use a "say" line
Use a "join" line to make a sentence.


Last night Aunt Vickie came over with her computer (a Dell Desktop) so Caskey could recover a document for her.  She commented off hand that she should probably get a laptop soon.  Lainy Ann readily agree, "you really should.  That computer is too big to be carrying around everywhere."

LMAO  She is such a product of her generation.  I bet she would be shocked to know I had to type my papers on a typewriter.  She just assumes that all computer are for traveling.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Rocket Academy: Before

It feels like vacation at our house.  It is Friday morning before we head off for Rocket Academy this afternoon.  It kind of is like vacation.  We are vacationing from tball, soccer, Girl Scouts, and kittens.  We are even leaving destructo-toddler at home with grandma.  It would be a vacation if there were a nice 1000-count down comforter to look forward too.  Unfortunately, we are camping.

Or fortunately, depends on how you look at it.  We have been running crazy doing too much.  Caskey has been out of town.  This camping trip will be with friends.  There is no cooking.  And there will be so many activities that the kids will entertain themselves.  Their best friends are coming with us.  I have big plans of sitting in the shade and making paracord bracelets.

I even let Lainy Ann stay home from school today.  That poor child has been practicing soccer and softball 5 hours a week, getting to bed late and playing games on the weekends.  Plus, sssshhhh, don't tell, she will be a big help in getting ready to go camping today.

So we set out on another camping adventure.  The last time we went camping Eleanor was 9 months old and refused to nap the whole weekend and Alexander got lost.  Since then the kids have grown by 2 years, we are leaving Eleanor at home, and I have taken BALOO training - so we are better equipped.  The best part about the whole weekend is that there will be plenty of activities - science activities.

Wish us luck.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Coding for Kids Lesson 2: SCRATCH

Intro to Scratch

Download Scratch
Personal computer to run Scratch, see system requirements here: http://scratch.mit.edu/

Discuss Light-Bot and the process of telling robots which steps to follow
Discuss where Scratch came from.  Programmers at MIT created Scratch so children would learn to program.  It is free.

Familiarize the students with the main parts of the Scratch interface.  Use this link as a resources for the adult leading the lesson.  Intro to Scratch

Students will move the Sprite back and forth across the screen (50 steps, 180* turn, 50 steps, 180* turn) using scripts of more than one command.

Recognize that you can change the number of steps or amount of degrees.

Introduce the Green Flag and Stop Script functions.  Stop Script is a very important function.  It is necessary in all scripts to tell the computer to stop listening.

Using the pen feature students will draw a square (20 steps, 90*, 20 steps, 90*, 20 steps, 90*, 20 steps, 90*)

Teach students to "clear" stage: 'face 90*' and 'clear'

Experiment drawing shapes using the following changes; 60*, 45*, 30* - reduce the number of steps the sprite moves in order to fit on the stage.

15-20 minutes of exploration drawing shapes.

Teach students to assign keys to actions "when x is pressed y happens"  Assign the following keys/scripts:
up arrow is forward
left arrow is turn left
right arrow is turn right
u key is pen up
d key is pen down
x key is 'clear'

Don't forget to use 'stop script'

Draw a happy face (2 circles for eyes, line for a mouth) - now make a triangle for a nose or an arc for a mouth.
Draw a bicycle
Draw a star
Draw a capital letter E

Encourage students to continue to explore Scratch at home.

We did not introduce importing Sprites, playing with sound, drawing background/Sprites, or playing with the paint feature.  These skills are currently taught in computer lab.  We focused only on the programming aspects of Scratch

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Coding for Kids Lesson 1

Why is programming important?
What is coding?
Importance of everyone learning coding.  Use the example that even though most of us don't want to be authors or write novels, each of us has been taught to read and write.  The same is true for coding.  We all need to know basic coding skills regardless of what profession we choose.
There are 1 million jobs in America that are unfilled by Americans.

Students will give instructions to the teacher about opening a door.  It will be demonstrated that the instructions need to be specific, an exact number of steps, exact amount of turning etc.  I will explain that the robot in light-bot needs to be told exactly what to do.  

Students will go to amorgames.com and play Light-bot.  They will work at their own pace.  After the majority of students get to level 5 we will stop and explain functions.

Functions are sub-threads or instructions within the instructions.  By using a function you are telling the robot which set of instructions to use next.  

Students will continue to work at their own pace.  Three of the students passed level 10, the rest were between level 7-9.  

Class was dismissed.  No homework was assigned.  Student were encouraged to continue to practice at home.  

Extension Activities:  
See who can finish a level with the least amount of spaces used.
See who can finish a level with the least amount of extra movements - most directly.  

Next Lesson: