Scritchity Scritchity Scratch

Oh My….I didn’t know what a big can of worms I was opening by introducing the “Scratch” software to my son.  He is all over it, looking for ways to create the games he sees in his head.  His process is definitely different from mine…I go searching for code that looks similar to what I want and then edit it.  He takes a little fact from current code and edits the backgrounds and images to do what he wants as well as picking random code and seeing what it does when you click “go”.  He is such his father’s son!

We did wind up making a pretty good “Mario” game which works, but is still getting better.  One of the cool things he did was understand that the computer “recognizes” where Mario is because of a strip of grey pixels under his feet.  The code knows that when grey is next to green (the color of the platforms), Mario can “land” there.  He went into the Mario image and added grey pixels on Mario’s hands and now Mario can hang from the platforms as well  🙂  He also used the knowledge of “color next to color” to edit background scenes to add yellow “traps” that send you back to the beginning, orange “goals” which take you to the next scene, and red “traps” that block you.

My daughter is even able to do some of the editing, using the “Paint-type” software to change colors, add designs, get new images, etc.  I am amazed by the ease of use of this program!  I really thought we would need to wait until the kids were old enough to use Lego Mindstorms to have the ability to program.  This is even better.  You can immediately see the changes you make and it uses computer skills they already have…

Thank you MIT!


The kids stayed up with me tonight learning the basics of how to use “Scratch” to create computer animations and games.  My son is super excited to try to make a “Mario” game tomorrow complete with Bowser, mushrooms, and more… Thanks to this software, I think I might actually be able to help him do it!  It is really cool!  We edited a pre-made game tonight and it was easy to substitute different characters for the ones that were there and even to go into a paint-type program and change their designs. Basically there are little “control” blocks that you stick together (kinda like puzzle pieces) that contain the code.  You can click on the blocks to enter information like colors, timing, how many degrees to rotate something, what key you want to use for each command, etc.  You can also import your own images and sounds.

What Bug Is This?

This bug was found in the water left standing in the tub.

I wasn’t sure what it was, but really thought it wasn’t a centipede and said so. Then my son said it was and ran to his room, bringing back this model.

I had to “Google” it and felt super squirmy even looking at the pictures.  It is called a “house centipede”.  Thank goodness for the internet 🙂  And thanks to the website “What’s That Bug?“.


Some pics of the kids’ recent stuff.

Here is my daughter’s picture of the birds and the cat from the show “Peep”.

This is a book she made.  It shows a momma bird with her eggs in a nest, the momma bird going out to get a worm, the momma going back, and finally the momma feeding one of the newly hatched babies.

These are some of her watercolor paintings.

Here is her craft from last Monday. 

These are some of her marker drawings. 

Here is my son working on perler beads.

Here is his craft from Monday.

New Links on

I have continued weeding through my “favorites” links and have added some of the best to my website.  There were so many fantastic sites about individual areas of interest that I now have a new webpage devoted to school subjects:

I have also added a few more websites to the “Websites for Kids” page, some new games as well as gaming related links to the “Games” page, and a few other miscellaneous links.

In all, I managed to move more than 45 links from my favorites to my website 🙂

Homemade Bowling

The kids stacked up some toys to use for bowling, but some of them weren’t very good at tipping over- bowls and stuffed animals, for example. I mentioned that we had TP tubes hanging around and after trying one out, they decided to make all the pins out of them. An exercise ball made a great bowling ball and blue painter’s tape put easy lines on the carpet.  The wooden nutcrackers were for bonus points 🙂  My son had his dinosaur and kitty cat take turns bowling.


The game we have loved for a long time, The Incredible Machine: Even More Contraptions, is getting new use.  My son has been playing around with all the background graphics as well as the contraption parts, creating his own levels. Here he made up an underwater kingdom.  I have been amazed at the staying power of this game and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys creating or solving puzzles!

Gymnastics Continues

The kids went back to their gymnastics class this week and got to try out some new skills.  My daughter really LOVES the obstacle course and has been creating her own here at home for us to use.

Here is a shot of the one at the gym.

Here she is on the beam.

Here are a few shots of one of our home courses.

I don’t have more shots from class this week.  I was in the balcony and couldn’t see the kids most of the time because they were in the other room.

Cleaning Out My Favorites

I love my “favorites”!  I love the idea that by bookmarking things on the internet I can quickly revisit  interesting articles, neat websites for the kids, or future craft ideas for myself.  However, it has gotten out of control.  I rarely go beyond using the links to my banking, favorite blogs, and online groups.  The time has come to be merciless and weed them out.  The sites that I feel are worth keeping around that might be of value to myself and others, I will be adding to my website.  Others I have enjoyed, which are not necessarily suited for my site, will get posted here.

While looking through, I have been uncovering links about homeschooling that express why I feel public schooling is not what we personally need or want for our children. I have posted an excerpt from this article in the past, but felt it was time to share the entire thing.  It is called “Schooling: The Hidden Agenda“.  The ending speaks to the concerns raised by some people about unschooling.  It is a long article, but worth sticking with it until the end.

When I was first investigating homeschooling, I read books, books, and more books on the topic.  One of the most influential was “Dumbing Us Down” by John Taylor Gatto.  It is a short read, thinner than my thumb from cover to cover, and it completely changed the way I viewed schools- their purpose, their schedule, their methods.  It also changed how I viewed my children and their ways of learning. The following articles are exerpts from the online book “The Underground History of American Education” also by Gatto.  “What Really Goes On“, “Paying Children to Learn“, “I Would Prefer Not To

The final link is to an article by Alfie Kohn, “How Not to Get into College- The Preoccupation with Preparation“.  It is about children (and adults) chasing goals without necessarily examining why they are chasing them or if they enjoy what they are doing.

Grocery List

My daughter wanted to make the list for the grocery store tonight.  She carefully printed each word and J. and I noticed something funny.  When she started out on each side, she wrote forward from left to right.  As soon as she hit the other side of the paper, she wrote backwards letters going from right to left (mirror-image) Here are her lists:

This one says “milk, Am. cheese, tortillas, syrup, juice, bread”

This one says “beef, mushroom, soup, broccoli”


One of the kids’ friends came over after gymnastics and decided to spend the night 🙂

Here are the kids under my daughter’s loft.

One of the best things around here lately, at least for me, has been seeing my kids become great friends with each other.  They have been disappearing to play imaginary games, building stuff, and cuddling up together.  It makes me feel even better about our decision to keep them out of school.


My son lost his first tooth!!!

It was kinda loose last night and today he just bent it back and forth for a moment and it came right out.  He and his sister decided not to leave it for the tooth-fairy, but instead to celebrate by having us do whatever he said for the night.  This turned into playing an imaginary battle/gem hunting game which wound up with all of squeeeeeeeeeezing into the fort under the card table and then playing Pokemon Monopoly.  We stopped when he had 2 monopolies and we (J. and I as a team) had only collected 4 cards.  And we weren’t going easy on him!

Here is the card table fort.  It was heavily imagined into a tipi as I couldn’t come up with anything else to use for poles.  I gave the kids a blank sheet and let them at it with washable markers to make the designs.

Strange Fashion Sense

watch a good bit of “Project Runway” around here and the kids have definitely seen their share.  Their favorite episode was when the contestants made clothes out of stuff from a candy store!

My daughter made this swimsuit today which seems almost as bizarre as some of the PR creations…it is made out of a single piece of bubble wrap which she cut with scissors, no tape or anything needed to hold it together.  She just squirms her way in and out of it.  She even wore it into the bath.