– Exploration, Expression, Exposition

For Makers, Tinkerers, Hackers and Creators

Today, D. stayed at home, so I asked him to choose from our Home Days Task list to do a project and he chose this:   Working on three challenges towards a Badge from If you haven’t been there yet you should. It’s captured D’s attention on and off over the last couple of years.  Definitely a good place to go to look for project ideas.  A neat platform for celebrating Do It Yourself and Maker culture, and a fun social site to safely present your work and interact with other kids / youth presenting theirs.  I like it.  It’s easy to navigate, and has a wonderful design and ad free look.

D. chose Special Effects Wizard, and happily got to work.  Look what he did!

Cobra Weave, Paracord Bracelet


“the Very Particular Thing”, Hand Puppet, Sepcial Effects Wizard


Roman Bloodstone Dagger, Special Effects Wizard


Rocky Path, Faux Surface, Special Effects Wizard


I love the range of expression here.  D. is definitely content when making.  Not so much presenting or writing though.  I’d hoped he’d be as enthusiastic reporting on his process and writing about why he’d chosen these projects, how his making had gone and how he felt about his end products.  To his credit, he did for the first time take the pictures, upload them onto the computer and then onto by himself. See them here:

He was pleasantly surprised by the few likes he got right away, and the ‘social’ interaction / attention.  Then as if his wonderful artwork // craft spoke for itself, he brushed off my urging to write / talk about his projects and was quickly off to something else.  🙂

As usual D. is not in love with school, but I have seen him charged up and enlivened a couple of times.  His class has recently learned about geometry, solids, and mechanics of form building, and the had to do a group challenge on building with rolled up newspaper and duct tape.  I was reminded as always how much actually DOING things, MAKING things, WORKING on tangible problems and projects can be so wonderful for many students, especially my lad, D.  I have been thinking a lot about Tinkering schools, Maker Labs and Reggio Emilia and how secretly in my heart I want to open a centre / school for such work….what happens when the space, time and resources are layer out in front of a child, and s/he is allowed to fool around?  What happens if we say, “make a mess”, “break stuff”, “make mistakes”, “experiment”, “play”? “What the world needs now is reckless curiosity”.

If you watch Gever Tulley’s video, you will see that the school he and his friend came up with that would take students through an exploration, expression and then exposition phase is similar in many ways to what the Reggio schools are doing……hhmmm….my mind is alive with possibilities.


Little House on the Co-Op Day Two

Are You A Visual-Spacial Learner?

After Rainbow Looming, the kids at Little House on the Co-Op gradually split off into groups: upstairs story-playing with Play Mobile or Lego, running around outside, and so on. K and L had been talking about Minecraft and computer sharing, and had noticed I had a tablet, so I decided to come up with this activity, which I drew up on a large poster taped to a window.   My hope was primarily to capture K’s attention as she is the most visual-spacial / move to think / big impact kid of the lot.  She was happy to help me paint the large block letters, and then was off.   I didn’t invite anyone else to pay attention at all, but just left the poster there to see if anyone would notice it.  This method of home learning is sometimes called ‘strewing’, as  redhead mum writes here:

leaving things you hope might engage your children around the house.


Sure enough, one of the girls noticed K helping and asked if she could help colour too.    Then another asked what it was, and I suggested reading the title.  Not everyone in my group likes reading, but a couple tried, and then looked at me questioningly, “What does that mean?”  Well, I said, what do those letters look like?  “Bubble letters!” said one, “No, block letters!” said another…and then they were off, gone again.   H. came over and asked if she could try it.   I said sure, just go through the questions and ask me if you don’t understand.   Soon enough, each of the kids was interested, some copying the questions, some wanting one-on-one attention, others preferring to help another.  Everyone was engaged.    To answer the first question, I suggested H.  Use the book pictured here to help:


When she figured it out, she chose to colour the three parts in, and then went on to helping the others.

Each of the four girls had a totally different approach, but each was happy to complete the exercise.  The fact that part of it was building on Minecraft was a definite incentive.    10648922_10152259799120957_2643290416815371532_o

When it came to actually figuring out the math at the end, it made sense to use Lego: manipulatives, and we all talked about whether it was easier and/or more enjoyable to do this using a mathematical equation:  3X3X3=? or 9+9+9 =?, drawings, as in the pictures above, Minecraft to build in virtual 3D or Lego.  D joined in last minute for the Lego!  What? touch and grab?!  Move in space?!  So did k!


Everyone agreed that using Minecraft was fun, but using Lego was the best!   They all agreed that they were Visual-Spacial learners, and that using Manipulatives or as C said, “using a toy that I am familiar with really helped.”

Not everyone really wanted to complete the arithmetic part of this activity, but neither did they reject it, or feel over-whelmed, going through this process of looking and feeling what a cube is, allowed them to access the abstract math in a way that they wouldn’t have, if I had simply said, “Ok, folks, today we are going to learn what 3 to the power of 3 mean, or three cubed!!  Ya know what i mean?

This lesson would have been perfect if I could have added another two components: 1) Large chalk drawings on the street or a wall, and 2) Moving huge blocks in a gym / big muscle room.  Both of these whole body activities would have engaged the shakers, movers, and high impact kids that benefit most from moving in space even more!

I never did “finish off”  with the teaching component as I would if I’d been doing this in a school setting:   Ok, kids, this is acute right?  It’s three across, three high, and three deep. It’s 3D, right?  it has three dimensions.  We can draw it like this.  we can say it like this.  The math equation is this:  3x3x3, or Three cubed, or Three to the power of Three!!!

Why didn’t I?  Hhhm? laziness?  They were off doing something else..?  they aren’t ready for that info?  They don’t really care?  I mean they’re only grade 2,3,4 kids!    Well, frankly, because there’s no need.  My goal was to ignite the notion that there’s more than one way to look at math, that using visuals and manipulatives help, that creating relationships between things they love and know, like Lego and Minecraft and math is the most important.  And, that finally giving them the chance to see, look, feel, touch, and make cubeness is the beginning and should be common knowledge long before learning the actual abstract math.

What do you think?   I’d love to hear from you.   Do let me know in the comments below if you try this with your kids.

Little House on the Co-Op Day One

Rain Bow Loom:  The Power of Hand Work

Hi everyone,

I apologize for not posting more often.  As many of you know the strike is now over, and regular school will resume on Monday.  While I am happy that teachers and students can get back to business and parents need no longer worry, a part of me is sad to say good-bye to my Strike Days’ adventures in home learning.   From now on it’ll just be weekend and sick days adventures in home learning….;)

Still, I have lots of posts waiting to be published.   I haven’t been here blogging in part because I was busy hanging with a small group of kids over at Little House on the Co-Op.  It was so much fun, the closest so far to my fantasy of home schooling with a small group of kids!   H, one of the oldest said it best: “Belinda, I love doing this, it’s almost like school but even better.  You’re teaching us stuff all the time, there are so many activities to do, but we don’t have to do them if we don’t want to!”

Well, day one started with an intense Rainbow Loom skills trade:

10363428_10152259799135957_5175766923634982965_o 10623533_10152259798905957_6891129082678026448_o 10628843_10152259798910957_9010802042200431544_o 1266395_10152259798900957_512686691278133501_o

I knew Rainbow Loom would be a great thing to start with as it’s something most kids have in common these days.   Everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn.  it’s hands on and suits many learning styles.  I was right.  The kids spent a good two hours working, creating gifts, comparing projects, peer-teaching and negotiating use of the computer, as well as peer-teaching computer skills.

For those who are new to the idea of children learning at home, or even project-based learning at school, this is a fantastic example of the many lessons of socialization: listening, patience, turn-taking, honouring each other’s process, wrangling hands-off and hands-on learning, trading knowledge, observing reasons for making / doing / creating.  Some make to give, others make to teach, others make because they just can’t help fiddling.

This brings me to my most important point: Children who often have a hard time sitting still and focussing on detailed work benefit enormously from Rainbow Loom or other finger work such as knitting, whittling, carving, weaving, beading, lego, rubiks’ cube and so on, where learners / makers sit for extended periods of time using only their hands and eyes.  In traditional school settings most of this kind of work is writing, drawing, math.  There is little art, crafts or making.  Now of course we have typing and gaming as well on computers.

What are the advantages to this kind of focused hand work or fine-motor skills?  How does this work fit in with the value of using manipulatives?  Moving objects in space, using your hands, your tactile sense to make sense of concepts that would otherwise perhaps be too abstract?

Stay tuned for more on this discussion..and absolutely feel free to join in – I’d love to hear your comments.

I’m not impressed.

Explore all the wrinkles: Value the child’s thinking!
I’ve been too busy to blog, busy working with the kids at Little House on the Co-op. So, sorry if you’ve been waiting for another post ;(. There are a few brewing, but for now here’s a reblog. I’m thrilled to have discovered this one, that for me highlights so well the importance of honouring children’s innate wondering.
The answer to the question is another question.

Daily Log – A Topic I Love by T

I’m excited to announce that my boyfriend’s oldest son has agreed to participate too. As a way of engaging him in an on-line dialogue, I’ve decided to ask him to write about a topic he’s excited about these days: Magic Cards The Game

One of his best, life-long friends is a few years older than him and now attends high-school. Because of their different ages, family needs, and very different school back grounds, they haven’t had much of a chance to hang out over the last few years. Not that there’s no school due to the strike, they have the chance to share some interests. One is The Game of Magic Cards.

So, T, I’m happy you’re here too. I’d love to read what you have to say about:

– How long have you been playing Magic and what is it you like about it?

about 6 months.and i like play magic because its fun.

– What’s it like playing with C.? Have you learned anything about Magic from him?

its like awesome.everything there is to know about magic.

– Are card games like Magic Cards good ways for kids / youth to learn?

yes.thanks for having me : ).

Heh T, I’m really glad you decided to join in and enjoyed hearing your voice here.   One thing I’ve learned from you is that kids learn better when they are really excited about something.  you have taught me a lot about passion and enthusiasm.  When I listen to you taking about some of the subjects you love: Magic cards, gaming, modding, hacking and coding, and basically the freedom to be yourself and design your own play and your own learning, I realize how important freedom of choice is for kids.

I enjoyed reading your responses here and get the sense you care about the topic of Magic Cards.  I’m wondering if you could write a little more about each question, maybe give some details.   For example, what are the advantages of hanging out, playing with and learning from an older friend like C.?    What aspects of Magic Cards make it really fun?   You have a lot to say, T.  Our readers would like to hear more from you, and I’d love to see you write more.

xo. Belinda



Daily Log – A Topic I Love by D

I was pleased with my boy D’s engagement yesterday, so I thought I’d try again today!

Yesterday, we set off to spend some money D had saved on Nerf Guns he’s been wanting. He was pleased with his purchases, and headed straight to his dad’s house after the shopping trip to play. Let’s see what he has to say about it all.

Today, D, I’d like to give you a choice. Please answer the first two questions, and then choose one of the last four.

– What is it about Nerf Guns that you like?

i like the nerf guns because they shoot really far, and some of the other nerf guns are really REALLY REALLY!!! big so this one is a good size for me

– How did you choose the two guns you bought yesterday?

well i had wached a lot of videos about nerf guns so i had a pretty good idea about what i wanted.

– Describe one of the guns you bought, what are the good and bad things if any about it, and why you would or wouldn’t recommend it to others. In other words write a short review.

the gun shoots really straight and it is a really cool looking gun….and ,i am 9 the gun is perfectly my size so i would recommend this gun 8 out of 10 or 84 out of 100.

– Please tell us about Nerf Gun Mods. What is a mod and why do young people love them so much?

– There’s a You-Tuber who does videos about Nerf Gun mods. I’ve forgotten his name. Who is he? Why do you watch his videos? Tell us about one of his videos you particularly like. In what ways has it inspired you?

– Some parents do not like their children playing war games. What is your opinion about that? Why do you like playing these games? Can you understand why some people don’t like it for their kids? What would you recommend to them?

Ok, so he did it. This time D answered the questions as quickly as he could. There are other kids around playing video games, making bread, so he’s distracted by them, and didn’t put as much enthusiasm into it as yesterday. Earlier though I was introducing this blog process to my boyfriend’s oldest son, and D said, you should do it, it’s really fun, so hopefully you’ll see a post or two from him.

Yesterday, I also asked D what he thought of the exercise and he confirmed that he likes typing a lot more than hand-writing because it’s faster. So I’m wondering now whether I should just keep him going on with these mini check ins, appreciating what he has to offer, or whether I should encourage him to write more.  What do you think?

What happens when we give children choice?  Will they always chose the easiest route?   Do their experiences at school with being forced to do work they don’t necessarily want to do lead them to avoiding difficult tasks?

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below.

Anyway, thanks D.  I’m glad you’re doing this with me.

First Day – Video Games and Role Play

My son, 9 and a half returned from  the weekend at his dad’s this morning.  The first thing he did after a polite dose of weekend description, and a half hour greeting, play and breakfast with the boys upstairs, was play a video game.  I let me him loose on it, knowing he’d be eager to play at his own speed, rhythm, but after an hour or so, I encouraged him to get off so that I could use the home computer.  He’s now dressing up and role-playing, likely based on the game….here’s my question, is this learning, and if yes, in what ways?  Here are a few questions I asked my son and his typed responses.

–  Can you describe what you’re doing right now and why you like it?    

me and my friends  always used to play ARMY, guys  with are ARMY, costumes and          our ARMY, guns and grapplehooks  and  boms.   butt we stopped doing it so today i was dressing up and inventing new costumes because i want to start doing  it again.

– Why do you like the video game you were just playing and how did it inspire your dress      up play?

      i really don’t  know why i like this  video game its just really fun , the video game is called tf2 or team fortress two and this video game did not inspire my dressing up at all except the fact that they are both related to  modern warfare.

– How do you feel about the strike?  Are you going to miss school?  Why or why not?

i do not miss school at all because my friends are not in school either.

Ok, that was a fairly painless and simple task.  The question still, is this learning?  I chose some basic questions based on what my son was presently engaged in, I let him answer them when he was ready, and basically put no pressure on him at all.  He’s not very keen on writing, that’s why I chose two topics that he is interested in: gaming and costume / role play.

I am pleasantly surprised.  First of all, he accepted my task willingly, he applied himself, asked for quiet, and requested a few spelling tips.  He spent about 20 minutes doing this, which felt like a lot to me.   I know getting him to do hand-writing in class is like pulling teeth.  It’s both a physical and emotional staring for him:  his hands hurt and he can never think of stuff to write.  I think he finds hand writing laborious and slow, and so loses patience.  Because he jumped right in today, I have chosen neither to correct his mistakes  nor to discuss his content with him right away.  I will engage him in a feed back discussion tomorrow, if it seems he’d like that.  What my aim here is to bring out his love of expression in the written form, and to not lose him, as his school writing often does int he drudgery!  My boy loves to talk, he loves to tell stories, and reviews of films, he expresses his opinions in volumes and torrents, but has not yet caught the bug of writing it all down.

As a language teacher, I am trained to look at spelling, punctuation, syntax, and content of course, but what is intriguing me and pleasing me most in my son’s answers above his wealth of expression.  You can clearly see which two questions engaged him more.  Also, he has used a couple of lovely complex sentences and phrases to express himself very clearly.   While there are a few mistakes in punctuation and spelling, I can see that D has used comas and periods, a creative use of capital letters to emphasize, and was engaged in spelling. Overall, what is revealed by this exercise is that he does have something to say, and he says it fairly well.  Few of these techniques have been taught to him directly, rather he’s developed his expression from lots of discussion at home and school, and a lot of reading and encounters with complex ideas.

Did he write about topics he cared about?

Will he return to this forum again to do more writing?

Did he enjoy this or at least find it satisfying?

Can I track his progress and engage in an expressive exchange with my son in this way?

My guess is yes to all of these, and so for me the answer to the question, is he learning? is YES.

Does your child struggle with literacy skills?  Would you like to see her/him writing more?  What ideas have you tried to engage your child/ren in writing?  Have they worked?   Does your child prefer other forms of self-expression: talking, making videos, music and so on?  Can these be viewed as literacy?  Does your child love reading, but not writing?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Tune in tomorrow, for another day in Strike Days Adventures in Home learning.