Saturday, January 24, 2015

Student Directed Learning, Guidance After is awesome while kids are in the experimental and exploring phase. They supply an extensive database of skills and challenges as well as providing inspiration from seeing other maker's projects. 

There comes a time when the kids have explored the skill areas that interest them and begin to specialize. There is often a gap in between when that happens and the child turning 16, thus having more options available to them. 

During this time, makers can continue to share their work on their portfolio, but will seek other options for guidance in finding resources, connecting with other specialists, and where to gain inspiration from those who are more advanced than they are in that particular skill set

If the kid has the same interest as their parents, this transition may go pretty smoothly. Others may find it a bit challenging. That was our situation. Neither myself or my husband are knowledgeable in the fields our older two children have decided interest them most. 

What kids can do is continue's framework by creating custom skills and challenges. Ask them what interests them and what they are curious about. Think beyond the skills and challenges that has available. (Although has a variety of skills, there is no way to cover everyone's interests.) Kids can create a skill and challenges using any topic imaginable

So the kid shares either a new skill area, existing one they'd like to go beyond's content with, or sets a goal of something they'd like to do say in the next 3-6 months. They create custom challenges to learn more about those areas, brainstorm what resources are needed and where to find them, and look for those with more experience in that area to gain inspiration from. You help them network and hang out where those people are found. Sometimes that requires finding a coach or mentor to help brainstorm ideas and field specific resources for networking and stretching skills.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Time for Mom . . .

My older two sons are pretty independent now that they are 13 and 14. So for the past year I have been taking classes to further develop a long term interest of mine, dogs. I have two dogs who have opposite personalities, one is very mellow and the other is reactive toward other dogs. I have learned quite a bit through attending private lessons and group classes with my own dogs. Both dogs have passed basic and intermediate training. I've signed up for a Canine First Aid course. I'm working on advanced training with both dogs and am considering training our mellow dog to become a therapy dog. I also have an interest in becoming a dog trainer myself,when the kid's activity schedules allow for it. Meanwhile I continue to learn what I can and enjoy working with my own dogs. 

I'm not thrilled about this "maker movement" going mainstream and being commercialized.

Children have always been naturally curious explorers, and learners. They need time, mentors, and sometimes help locating resources to do what it is they want to do. Children are not buckets to be filled or a lumps of clay to mold into someone else's ideals. They are their own person, each with a unique mix of strengths and passions. Harness that, help them be the best they can be, and contribute to society in a way that fulfills them. 

When adults assign or direct it, it's not authentic self-directed learning. Let your kid lead, observe all the ways they learn through something they have chosen to do. That is the type of learning that sticks and grows an individual. 

I like that others see a need for change within our educational system and sites such as are inspiring a greater appreciation for natural learning. I would like to see that taken a step further and kids being even more involved in the process. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

MountPixel has officially ended! - DIY

I can’t begin to share how much both Pugsley and Ogel have learned from this single @diy experience alone. It has been an amazing experience for them. From the digital citizenship side of things, moderating a group of youth and the friends they have met along the way, to the financial aspect of being responsible for their own server bills, the computer skills: java, making mods, running hosted servers, cloud servers, permissions,etc., to collaborating in creating epic builds and building a community for youth, made by youth. Enjoy pictures and links to some of the Mount Pixel builds - 

Collaborative Rube Goldberg Machine

Friday, October 3, 2014

Allow Your Kids to Use a Nice Camera

I love seeing the world from my son's eyes. Cameras are meant to be used, not kept in a padded case. At home we keep it in a central location of the house and everyone is allowed to use it. It has survived several years of kid handling and because it's kept out of the case, ready to use we have captured spontaneous moments we wouldn't have if we had to go looking for it. Look how happy he is on this family outing with a camera in hand. Love it!

Here are a few of the photos he took on our walk. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Strengths-based Living

Although I have three children, I share more about my experience with my middle son, than my other two. 

My oldest son is a 14 year old computer programmer. He prefers that I do not write specifics about him, so I’ve respected that. In general, his day is similar to that of his brothers. His learning is self-directed. He is very hands on just with technical projects. He documents his work, just with a private portfolio. He has volunteered with in the community. He has regular extracurricular activities. 

I’ve written most about my middle son, because he is the one that encouraged me to have an online presence with Pinterest, Twitter, and Blogging, sharing an inside point of view of raising makers and how adults can support children’s interests. Someday I’ll have to do a blog post sharing some of his early projects. ;)  

My youngest son is the one whose journey I have felt was most important to share, however, I’ve struggled with when and how to approach it. He is on the Autism Spectrum.  That means he has a different developmental timeline, scope & sequence, and way of processing. He has an amazing smile, glow, and giggle. I love that the seemingly simple moments and doing things for others brings him such pleasure. He is extremely driven, determined, passionate, and energetic. 

He reached all of his developmental milestones late. He has anaphylactic food allergies. He is under sensitive to pain, feeling ill, or even being thirsty. He loved to be worn in a Maya Wrap sling until he outgrew it. He enjoys foods of all textures, consistencies, temperatures, and flavors from sweet to spicy. His special interest was games, but especially sports. He didn't want to watch or read about sports. He wanted to play them. All of them. All of the time. He used to sleep with a ball in his hand.

It was easy to engage him in the early years as he'd turn any object into a sports game, especially ball stick games. Our house was filled with balls, foam hockey sticks, a toddler basketball hoop, foam bats, and those squishy water balls. He used to spend hours throwing those water balls up in the air and interlocking his arms in a bat position hitting them. We bought a hoppity hop which we used indoors and even had a Little Tikes playground inside. Our basement was unfinished so he would ride his plasma car down there. He was always on the go, but safe in the house, he never tried to go outside on his own. Going out was more difficult as he would try to turn anything into a game. He would dart to the car to try to be first, across a crowded parking lot if you didn't hold on to him. In stores, he would play hide and seek. He learned early academics while in motion, when any type of formal traditional learning was attempted, he'd completely shut down.

When he became too intense with sports in the house, we fenced in the backyard. We added a soccer rebound net, soccer balls, wiffle ball, footballs,  plastic golf sets, a wagon, wheel barrow, sulkey, bean bag games, slip n slide, water squirters, sand/water table, and an inflatable bounce house. Indoors we had hockey nets at each end of our basement, an over the door basketball hoop, and our kitchen table became a ping pong table. His plasma car was replaced with a scooter. Always in motion. He would speak in very short phrases, only when he wanted something and to those he knew well until the age of 7. He had a nonverbal preference, but has always been a truly happy child.

His intensity outgrew backyard and basement sports. His balls were consistently going over the fence and he was flying around the basement, narrowly missing support poles and walls. We enrolled him in martial arts. He tried ice skating. We started taking him to the driving range and mini golfing. We took him to play tennis. He went to the baseball field regularly. He got into racing r/c cars, began fishing, and started running. We bought a Sky Chair, Hammock, and huge bean bag. We tossed medicine balls back and forth. He went to indoor climbing facilities. He can do mean push ups and loves the feeling of being underwater. He goes to the pool regularly and has continued with martial arts.

Focusing on what he not only wanted, but seemed to need to do for sensory input, allowed him to develop other skills and interests. It not only was much less expensive than formal therapies, but less disruptive to our family rhythm and more importantly kept everyone's focus on his abilities. welcomes children of all interests and abilities. I especially love that kids ages are not displayed, that keeps the focus on the variety of techniques and topics. It doesn't matter if a child is advanced, typical, or on their own timeline as celebrates the process of children exploring themselves. DIY has been our key resource for over two years now. While we followed an interest and strengths based approach prior, DIY greatly enhanced this approach.

My youngest recently had his re-evaluation which is typically recommended every three years. At this time, he no longer clinically presents as on the Spectrum. Those familiar with Autism know that the underlying wiring does not change, but one can develop skills to mask Autistic traits. He’s progressed through following his interests, supporting his sensory needs, living out loud together, and participating in diy both locally and online.

We are not our weaknesses. Everyone has them, but they do not define us. 

Strengths-based living develops confidence, skills, and self-motivation.  I am so glad that we used the same neuropsychologist as if we hadn’t I’d totally be chalking this up to the fact that I could have taken him to 6 different professionals and received 4 different opinions. All these labels have symptoms that overlap. One has to look holistically at the individual child.

Instead of spending thousands each year on claims to fix the kid’s x, y, z, or time searching for that magical curriculum try investing in fulfilling sensory needs, living out loud with the child, and feeding their interest and strengths. Every professional who has seen my child has commented on how undamaged he is. I credit our approach to that. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Redistribution of Time

More time in the pool, means Ogel has to redistribute his time. So after being very involved with the Maker Club he encouraged our local library to begin, he's taking more of a back seat role. In the 18 months he volunteered there, he helped plan the 63 events listed below and attended 55 of them! Here's a link to the photo stream of the club he inspired at just ten years of age. 

Summer 2013
#1 Maker Themed - introduced, made avatar masks, brainstormed names for the club, open make
#2 Minecraft - foam tools and pixel designs
#3 Tape Ninja - duct tape shoes, iPad cases, wallets, glasses, bags, and other duct tape art
#4 Lego - built a Lego community
#5 Perler Beads - open make with perler beads
#6 Cardboard - dragons, robots, houses, shopping cart, mailboxes, games, letters, etc. 
#7 Catapult event - explored making various types of catapults
#8 Marble Run - made with paper and cardboard
#9 Maker Faire - displayed pictures from previous events, makers brought in projects they made at home, and we had an open make

Fall 2013
#10 T-shirt - used contact paper to create custom stencils
#11 Paper Craft - used templates printed on card stock
#12 Minecraft - pixel poster art, felt Minecraft heads, perler beads
#13 Popsicle Sticks - explored with popsicle sticks and hot glue guns, creating mini bow and arrows, boxes, frames, etc. 
#14 Halloween - monster gourds, mini pumpkins, ghosts, mummies, homemade decorations, and duct tape treat bags
#15 Survival - filtering water, making a compass, starting a survival tin, duct tape survival cup, paracord projects
#16 Tape Ninja - experimenting with duct tape stenciling by making mouse pads, bookmarks, pictures
#17 Game/Toy Maker - using random invention supplies and left over supplies from previous maker events,        create your own game or toy
#18 Robots - art bots, passive walker, robotic hand
#19 Winter - paper snowflakes, duct tape snowmen, popsicle stick snowflakes
#20 Christmas - felt Christmas trees, candy pouches, cardboard gingerbread houses
#21 Last Minute Gifts - soap and perler beads

Winter 2014
#21 Print Maker - make your own stamps, do some block printing, and create embossing effects
#22 Sculptor - carve soap sculptures, design molds and make castings, or maker your own unique sculpture from random objects
#23 Cardboarder - use cardboard to make a scale model of a big structure or use it to make a prototype of your very own invention
#24 Open Make and Planning - share your great ideas for projects we should do at Maker Club, submit an idea for’s NEXT LEVEL
#25 Yeti - weather permitting, we’ll make snow structures, snow art, and make and test a snowball launcher. Wear your warm outdoor gear! - if we do not have enough snow or if it’s too cold, we’ll work on making snow goggles, snow shoes, or simple winter garments
#26 Angry Birds - make plush or pom pom Angry Bird toys, paper birds, or Perler bead birds and pigs
#27 Minecraft Lego - Help us create a miniature Minecraft scene, or come and build whatever you’d like. 
#28 Perler Beads/Mosaics - Learn new techniques for making Perler Bead objects, or design your own project.
#29 Felter - learn to needle felt, and make toys or art with regular felt sheets and scraps
#30 T-shirts - make your own t-shirt stencils
#31 vehicles - ballon cars, rubber band cars, and hovercrafts
#32 batteries - five-cent battery & lemon powered battery
#33 light - pocket flashlight & straw light sword

Spring 2014
#34 take aparts
#35 open make & planning
#36 Perler Beads - 4 days Spring Break week 
#37 geology - crack open geodes & start crystals
#38 crystals part 2 - check and examine crystals from previous week, make crystal models, and salt painting
#39 open make & planning
#40 garden - plant garden & make bird frightening devices
#41 owl pellets - dissect owl pellets
#42 Mario (This was an event planned by another maker.) - Mario/Luidi hats, felt mustaches, paper crafts, Perler beads 
#43 Paper Engineering - protect an ice cream cone using paper and tape
#44 pixel post-it art - vote on designs to put on the library windows, pixel art on contact paper using felt squares, and perler bead pixel art

Build Night Sponsor
#48 LittleBits & Arduino at Heart Builds

Summer 2014 
#49 Maker Club - collaborative challenges from the blog “kids who think”  (Marshmallow Challenge & Cards and Straws), individual challenge to Design a Fish, as well as brainstorming at home and fall projects
#50 Maker Club Teen - collaborative challenges from “junk box wars" as well as brainstorming at home and fall projects
#51 Maker Club - use light sensitive paper to make cool silhouette prints, and then use that paper to make whatever you want. 
#52 Maker Club Teen - sun prints on fabric
#53 Maker Club - weaving, use yarn or potholder loops to weave on a cardboard loom, foam plate, or your own fingers
#54 Maker Club Teen - string art
#55 Maker Club - make a rocket powered by antacid tablets or your own breath. We’ll also do a messy experiment with Mentos and diet soda if the weather permits.
#56 Maker Club Teen - soda bottle stomp rockets
#57 Maker Club - no sew fleece critters or felt bracelets, use felt, fleece, glue, and knots to make cute little critters or neat felt cuffs/bracelets
#58 Maker Club Teen - needle felting
#59 Maker Club - brush bots & brush bot obstacle course, use batteries, tiny motors and household items to make your own mini-vibrobot. Then use our testing area to make an obstacle course and test out your bot.
#60 Maker Club Teen - learn to solder badge kit & Altoids flashlight
#61 Maker Club - Take Aparts
#62 Maker Club Teen - LilyTiny - LED plush Monster

Build Night Sponsor
#63 LED’s