Minecraft – Learning The 3 R’s

October 16th, 2014 § 0

minecraft2 minecraft4

 

The first full version of Minecraft was released in November 2011 and since then has taken the world by storm. In less than three years, this game has grown by leaps and bounds. Currently, Minecraft has upwards of fifty million users and is growing at a rate of about 17, 000 new ones every day. Chances are, if you have a child, he’s been exposed to Minecraft.

Despite the popularity of the game, many parents express concern over the amount of time and energy their children spend on Minecraft. Much like the parents of old, who were appalled at the youthful fascination with Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Rock and Roll, they are resisting the hold that Minecraft has on their kids, to no avail. Minecraft is changing the way kids interact in the world, how they learn and how they communicate. Minecraft is a springboard for a change that wants to happen. Like a tidal wave, there’s no holding it back.

With that in mind, perhaps we can investigate what the attraction is and how Minecraft might actually be the tool that your child needs to learn and grow in these ever changing times.

Many of us are so concerned with our child “learning” something that we lose sight of what they already know and are building upon through play. I have observed my own children and countless other children (myself included) as they play Minecraft and have come to the conclusion that the spectrum of learning opportunities is vast. Let’s start with the basics – the 3 R’s, something we all want our children to be proficient in.

If you ask a kid whether they would rather play Minecraft or study in their reading, writing or math book, what do you think the answer would be?

I think we all know what the answer would be. And maybe they are onto something.

READING

I’ve watched my two boys excel at reading playing Minecraft. How can this be?

It’s simple. They’ve found a useful reason to learn to read or to extend their reading skills. It makes sense to them. The motivation to read emanates from their desire to advance in the game.

Websites like WikiHow and various blogs possess valuable information on how to build structures, make tools, set up servers, fight monsters and more. If reading words is the only thing standing in the way of a child getting that information, he will learn to read and do it quickly, perhaps with a little help from Mom or Dad.

The multiplayer worlds are a huge part of the Minecraft experience. On multiplayer servers kids communicate, often through chats. In order to keep in the conversation, they must know how to read. Again, they are motivated. There’s no forcing or coercing to read. They just do it.

As a result of playing Minecraft, my sons have gotten interested in a variety of topics such as biomes, survival, primitive tools and gemstones. We’ve made many trips to the library to find books on these topics. With the reading skills they’ve gleaned playing Minecraft, they are super readers and inspired to read books about the real things in life that correspond with their game.

WRITING

My boys never liked journaling or prompted writing. I tried it with them. They weren’t having any part of it. But Minecraft has awakened their inner artists, inspiring them to draw pictures and write stories about their experiences in Minecraft. . They’ve used online animation programs to create Minecraft stories and shared them with online communities. Spelling has improved immensely because they want to express themselves so that their stories are understood. As time has passed and confidence in their writing skills has increased, they aren’t as resistant to writing anymore. Their writing skills have flowed into all aspects of writing including using email, Facebook , writing letters and making homemade books.

Multiplayer servers rely heavily on the chat section. And believe me, the kids want to communicate. Their writing skills improve on these chat sessions because they have the desire to be heard and to express themselves. The way they do that is through the written word. Minecraft provides lots of practice and practice, as they say, makes perfect.

MATH

One of the greatest adventures in Minecraft is building. In order to build elaborate cities and structures, you can’t help but be exposed to math concepts. I’ve witnessed kids figuring out how many blocks it would take to build a massive building, doubling, tripling and even quadrupling that number in their heads and going on to build a visually pleasing, symmetrical building. I’ve never used flash cards with my youngest but the other day he found a set of multiplication cards and asked me to call them out to him. He got every one of them correct – without ever doing worksheets or working from a textbook. He’s built so many things in Minecraft that he’s taught himself.

I’ve seen kids figure out how many minutes they have until “night time”, average the amount of food needed to go on a mining adventure, divide supplies evenly among players and estimate an area needed to build a city. The math concepts are all around them and they can’t help but learn them if they want to be successful at their game.

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Kids are ready for the changes that are taking place in the world. Whether they realize they are learning or not is beside the point. They are learning. And they’re enjoying it while they do.

We as parents have the opportunity to connect with our kids, play Minecraft with them and look at their game as something more than just a game. Watch for the three R’s while they play. Notice what skills they are acquiring. Listen to them talk about what they are doing there. And relax, knowing that their desire to play is much more than play. It’s learning in the making.

 

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To read more about the benefits of Minecraft, please check out my other articles: What My Kids are Learning While Playing Minecraft, Minecraft Birthday Party, More Minecraft Love

Subscribe to get updates on Minecraft articles – Coming soon!

 

This article was first published in “The Homeschooler” magazine in their Winter 2013 edition. Learn more about The Homeschooler magazine here.

Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience

August 14th, 2014 § 0

meditation

I have meditated for years. Most of the time I don’t do guided meditations, but I DO love the Chopra 21-Day Meditation Experience. 

For me it realigns my focus. It gives me new things to ponder or refreshes my understanding about myself. It can be a valuable tool for those who have never meditated or who have had difficulty with it in the past.

The Oprah & Deepak 21-Day Meditation series is happening right now and it’s not too late to join. It’s free and the meditations stay up for 5 days, so you still have time to catch up. We are on day 4 now.

I can’t tell you how much a meditation practice has helped me to cultivate calmness, peace and clarity in my life. It can jump start a meditation practice for you and get you in touch with who you REALLY are.

Here is the link to sign up. You can sign up either by email or through Facebook.

If I could recommend just one thing about meditation:

Just sit and allow the experience to be just as it is. If your mind is busy and you are having trouble focusing, just sit with that WITHOUT judging yourself. Just notice that your mind is busy.

It’s only 20 minutes per day and even if your mind is super busy during meditation you can trust that it is bringing clarity and peace into your life.

The benefits may be subtle at first but if you continue you will see that it can make a big difference in your day to day life experience. So, don’t judge what happens in meditation and keep doing it!

I would love to hear from you if you do try the 21-Day meditation practice. Come back and let me know how it’s going!

 

Finding Life Purpose

August 14th, 2014 § 0

 

 

Hand TreeWhenever you become anxious or stressed, outer purpose has taken over, and you lost sight of your inner purpose. You have forgotten that your state of consciousness is primary, all else secondary.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth – Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

 

Despite years of self development work, workshops and spiritual practices, I continue to ask myself, What is my life purpose? Even in midlife, when you’re “suppose” to have it all figured out,  I still wonder about my purpose. What grand thing am I suppose to do before I die? What gift can I bring to this planet to make it just a little bit better?

And yet, I have had the answer to this all along. It’s just that sometimes in the craziness of life, I forget.

My inner state of consciousness is my life purpose. This inner state of consciousness is what produces the outer purpose. If my inner state is murky, the outer looks murky. If my inner state is peaceful, loving and non judgmental, my outer purpose is shown to me in each and every moment.

Many times I forget and gaze into the future for some grand action that will make me “sure” I’ve fulfilled this purpose.

My purpose is to be present with what IS in my life right now. My life purpose is to bring presence and quality to every single moment of my day. It is to bring at least acceptance, if not excitement and passion to  – washing dishes.

It is to accept my kids right where they are in this moment with love and respect. Even when they’re scowling at me. Even when they are frustrated and my presence doesn’t seem to help them shift to a better feeling.

My purpose is to sit and do my work without regard to the end result. To take my eye off of the end and bring it back to each step that I’m taking. There is great power in this practice, which brings quality and presence into anything we are trying to produce.

Taking time to recharge my spirit is my biggest purpose; meditation, journaling, walking alone in nature, yoga – these are the things that keep me present and keep me grounded. If I don’t do these things, my purpose begins to shift to outer things where stress and discontent live.

When life purpose becomes about being at peace and realizing that I am love; when I can quit looking for these things outside of myself and know that I already HAVE these within me, I am living my life purpose.

I am not a religious person and for many years was turned off by religious texts, but as I reexamine them with new eyes, I can interpret them in new ways. There is a verse in the Bible that has become a kind of mantra to remind me of my purpose each and every moment of each and every day:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. ~ Matthew 6:33

That sums it up for me. The kingdom of God dwells within each of us. It’s the peace that passes all understanding. It’s the joy that lives deep within each of us for no reason at all – THAT is the kingdom of God.

When we seek to know that, it is expressed through us into the world and into everything we do. Our inner purpose aligns with our outer purpose and all of life’s gifts are easily given and received. All things that we do from this place of clarity, great or small, have great power in them.

Does this resonate with you? Do you feel that cultivating the inner purpose of  peace and love makes a difference in your outer life? I would love to hear your experiences with this.

 

 

 

 

Parmesan Kale Chips

August 4th, 2014 § 0

Kale Chips sideviewWant a quick and healthy snack?

Well, I’ve got one for you and it’s so simple and so easy it will satisfy your munchies in a snap and will help you get that dose of cruciferous veggies in a very satisfying way – no problem.

Kale is chock full of vitamins and minerals.  Webmd.com has this to say about kale:

One cup of chopped kale contains 33 calories and 9% of the daily value of calcium, 206% of vitamin A, 134% of vitamin C, and a whopping 684% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Pretty good for a cup of kale if you ask me. I’ve prepared kale all sorts of ways – raw, sautéed with bacon, steamed, in salads; but this recipe is by far the easiest and tastiest way to serve it. My kids even love it and that’s saying a lot!

So how do you make them? Simple. . .

Grab your olive oil, garlic salt, parmesan and of course a big bunch of kale.

Preheat your oven to 350° F.

Cut your kale into bite sized pieces, removing the stem.

Raw Kale

Toss it in a bowl with about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkle of garlic salt and a handful of parmesan.

Parmesan

Olive OilGarlic Salt

Dump all of it onto a baking tray.

Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, turning once during cooking time, until crisp.

Voilà!  You’ve got Parmesan Kale Chips to enjoy in about 15 minutes.

A bit of advice: Buy two bunches of kale. The likelihood that you will be making another batch of these in a few minutes is HUGE. Just trying to save you another trip to the grocery store!

Enjoy. . .

 

 

A Little Bit Greener – Letting Go of Paper Towels

July 29th, 2014 § 0

Paper+Towel+HolderI was inspired recently to live just a little bit greener.

Many years ago, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of living a totally green lifestyle. I used cleaners and detergents that had all kinds of fillers and chemicals in them. I had no idea how to maintain a garden. I used paper products and didn’t recycle. It felt a bit overwhelming to change habits that I had grown up with. But one day, I realized that all I had to do was start with one thing.

Years later, those “one things” have turned into many things. I recycle, I garden, I make a lot of my own cleaners and detergent. Those little changes have morphed into big lifestyle transformations. My family is living a much greener lifestyle. I feel a little more connected to the earth. And I just added “one more thing” to the list.

PAPER TOWELS

I visited a friend recently who doesn’t use them. We ate. We cleaned. We created all kinds of things in her kitchen – ALL without using paper towels. It may seem silly, but I was genuinely astonished that you could live, cook and clean without grabbing a paper towel at every turn.

When I came home, I began to notice how many of these tree killing, carbon dioxide producing towels we mindlessly went through every day. I bought the giant sized package every two weeks, using them for everything from drying our hands to cleaning up dog vomit from the floor. When I became conscious of how many we were using, I talked to the family and we made the decision to quit buying them.

Napkins in Bowl

Instead of buying the bulk sized paper towel bundle, I bought cloth napkins and kitchen towels. I gathered up all our old rags and created a community of them underneath our kitchen sink for cleaning up the nastier messes.

 

It was working well. We were doing it! But to my dismay, we were creating more laundry. No one wanted to use the same napkin twice because we could never quiet decipher who’s napkin was who’s. So they went to the laundry each time. I was diligent  in keeping them washed, but knew we needed a better solution.

Then I visited another friend. I was helping her unpack some boxes and saw that she had some beautiful napkin rings. This wasn’t a matching set, but several  uniques rings – not one of them the same as the other. My friend told me that she put them all in a pile and had each family member choose one for the week. That way, they could always put their slightly used napkin back into the napkin ring until it was dirty enough for the laundry.

 

Napkin Rings 1I took the family the next day and let everyone pick out their favorite napkin ring. We bought some brightly colored cloth napkins and came home and set our places with our new table attire. It truly personalized our table and helped us to be more mindful about throwing things into the laundry that might not really need washing. Better for me. Better for the earth.

We’ve lived a whole month without buying paper towels. My hope is that this month will turn into two months and then a year and then years. It’s a small thing, but it makes me feel so much better when I’m being nice to the earth.

 

Napkin Circle 1

What’s “one thing” you can change in your daily life to live a bit greener and feel more connected to the earth? Can you challenge yourself to make the change and see how it goes? Who knows, it might be easier than you think!

If you’ve made a change that’s impacting the earth in a good way, please let me know about it. I’m always looking for that next “one thing” I can add to my list.