An unschooling blog

Archive for January, 2008

HOW-TO: Build a cardboard spaceship

Posted by freeschool on January 24, 2008

Boing Boing posted a set of instructions for building a cardboard rocketship playhouse from out of washer-dryer boxes.

via Boing Boing


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Online Art Game : Jason Pollock

Posted by freeschool on January 22, 2008

Artsy kids will enjoy this online art game, and be exposed to some modern art.

For any enthusiast of Pollock’s particular style of painting there’s a neat flash site by London based artist Miltos Manetas (original design by Stamen) which encourages the frustrated artist in us all to vent and create a drip-style masterpiece!

Tips: Click the space bar or enter button to erase your drawing and the mouse to change the color of your brush.

via Neatorama

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Top 10 Sites for Geeky Kids

Posted by freeschool on January 21, 2008

Geek Parenting has posted the Top 10 Sites for Geeky Kids!  Here’s a summary.  Visit their site for more specifics.

  1. BrainPOP
  2. NASA Kids’ Club
  3. Marvel Kids
  4. 4Kids TV
  5. Making of a Brick
  6. Discovery Kids
  7. National Geographic Kids
  8. PBS Kids Go!
  9. Exploratorium
  10. Ask Dr. Universe

Have any other GEEKY kids sites to add?

via HowToons

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Thomas Edison on inventing

Posted by freeschool on January 18, 2008

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

– Thomas Edison

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Pretend you are a giant octopus

Posted by freeschool on January 18, 2008

Not every kid likes “dress up,” and especially not most boys over a certain age.  My boys (9 and 10) still like dressing up, but only if it means wearing the garb of a medieval warrior (including weapons), ninja, monster, or pirate.

So, when I saw these tentacle arms for sale for only $15 an arm, I knew my boys would be enthralled with them.  I might buy them and hide them under their blankets, with just a slight bit of tentacle sticking out.

While we’ve been using our primitive, apelike arms like a bunch of jerks, the squids of the world have been clutching their prey with their superior tentacles and laughing at us. Until now! For the first time, you can have tentacles of your very own. Equipped with suction cups and plenty of creepy greenness.

And, speaking of giant sea creatures, you might want to listen to the related songs by Jonathan Coulton:

Note that not all kids will get JoCo’s humor like my kids do, nor will all parents find all of his songs appropriate.  The songs mentioned above have no swearing, but a few of his songs do.  Do your kids also like Weird Al Yankovic and Monty Python?
via BoingBoing

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2008 Caldecott and Newbery Books

Posted by freeschool on January 17, 2008

Hugo Cabret book cover image

The 2008 Caldecott and Newbery Award winners have been announced and it looks like there are some great ones!  What’s most interesting about the Caldecott winner is that it is a 500 page graphic novel (read: comic book).

The winner of the Caldecott is  The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.

“From an opening shot of the full moon setting over an awakening Paris in 1931, this tale casts a new light on the picture book form. Hugo is a young orphan secretly living in the walls of a train station where he labors to complete a mysterious invention left by his father. In a work of more than 500 pages, the suspenseful text and wordless double-page spreads narrate the tale in turns. Neither words nor pictures alone tell this story, which is filled with cinematic intrigue. Black & white pencil illustrations evoke the flickering images of the silent films to which the book pays homage.

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies book cover imageThe winner of the Newbery is Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz.

…thirteenth-century England springs to life using 21 dramatic individual narratives that introduce young inhabitants of village and manor; from Hugo, the lord’s nephew, to Nelly, the sniggler. Schlitz’s elegant monologues and dialogues draw back the curtain on the period, revealing character and relationships, hinting at stories untold. Explanatory interludes add information and round out this historical and theatrical presentation.

2008 Caldecott Honor Books are:

2008 Newbery Honor Books are:

via Everybody’s Libraries

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Letterboxing – the lowtech alternative to Geocaching

Posted by freeschool on January 17, 2008

Another hobby for the new year:  Letterboxing, the low-tech alternative to geocaching.

Letterboxing is an outdoor hobby that combines elements of orienteering, art and puzzle solving. Letterboxers hide small, weatherproof boxes in publicly-accessible places (like parks) and distribute clues to finding the box in printed catalogs, on one of several web sites, or by word of mouth. Individual letterboxes usually contain a logbook and a rubber stamp. Finders make an imprint of the letterbox’s stamp on their personal logbook, and leave an impression of their personal stamp on the letterbox’s logbook — as proof of having found the box.

Some links to get started:

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Timez Attack

Posted by freeschool on January 17, 2008

Timez Attack is a great math game for kids to help them learn their multiplication.  What’s different about Timez Attack is that it’s fun enough that kids might not notice that they are playing an “educational game.”  This is because the interface is built like a FPS (first person shooter) style game, like Doom, Halo, or Half-Life.  Instead of shooting the bad guys, you’re shooting monsters a solving multiplication problems.

There is a free version or full version for $39.99.

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Resources for learning piano and guitar

Posted by freeschool on January 17, 2008

Following some recent posts on UnschoolingResources, here are some resources for helping your child to learn the piano and guitar.

Learning the guitar

  • – $20/month with unlimited usage or you can pay an
    annual fee; numerous instructors and video segment; includes demos
  • – software and DVDs, even for preschoolers
  • Bass Guitar Primer by Bert Casey

Learning the piano

Any other suggestions?

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Spark new interest by clearing the coffee table

Posted by freeschool on January 16, 2008

BraveWriter reminds us to “clear the coffee table” to spark interests.

…clear off a space that is taken for granted in your house and put something out that is surprising, new, novel or has been overlooked for a long time.

Suggestions include:

  • bucket of Legos
  • collection of art postcards
  • Poetry books
  • decks of cards
  • the game mancala
  • paintbrushes and watercolor paints
  • new pencils
  • note cards
  • disposable cameras
  • a birding field guide
  • binoculars
  • chess or checkers
  • a mini white board and markers
  • bean bags
  • beads and wire to make bracelets
  • an assortment of shells and fossils
  • teatime essentials (like mugs, teabags, a muffin mix and poetry)
  • picture books from the library
  • jacks
  • back issues of National Geographic from the library
  • a new DVD

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