More Minecraft Love…

May 9th, 2013 § Comments Off on More Minecraft Love… § permalink

I wrote my post, What My Kids Are Learning While Playing Minecraft back in July 2012. I have observed since, that there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of the game and it’s ability to teach our kids real world skills. I’ve heard that even some classrooms are using it as a teaching tool.

Since writing my previous post, I have observed even more opportunities for my kids on Minecraft, especially with the addition of mods.

For instance, there is a Minecraft Mod called the Galacticraft mod. My youngest son is very interested in space, so this mod appealed to him on a grand scale. We got the mod and his interests soared even more. In this mod, you are able to build a space rocket, fuel it up and take off to the Minecraft Moon. You can’t forget your oxygen though. (You can’t breath on your own on the moon). When you land on the moon, you can walk there, leaving permanent footprints,( just like on the real moon.) You can also build, interact with the space creatures and return to earth.

Or, you can build a space station, where you can observe the earth and the moon, do “experiments” or just hang out with your friends in space . The makers of this mod are planning on adding other planets soon. More to explore and learn about!

There really is no end to the subject matter that can be explored on Minecraft. There is a mod on every subject you can imagine. The galacticraft mod got my son off and running, learning about space history, gravity, oxygen, physics and more. He even got a Neil Armstrong “skin” to use when he’s playing on this mod.

There are mods on mythology, forestry, medieval times, farming – Mods that experiment with the atmosphere, atoms, engineering  and many, many more. Here’s a link to just a few of the mods available, all free, for Minecraft.

Often I hear parents asking, “How can I get my kids OFF of Minecraft?”

And I have to ask…

Why would you want to? 

I can only suspect that these parents have either not played or not really engaged with their children while they are playing. Most kids are very excited to share with you what they are doing on there. If we are open to listening without judging the game as a “frivolous” activity, we will see that they are learning far more than we might suspect. And not only that, they are happy and functioning in creative and critical thinking, stretching their minds and enjoying it! What more could we want for our kids?

In my mind, Minecraft is not even a game. It’s a tool for engaging in subject matter that might not otherwise be available. It most definitely holds their attention and gives them the means to experiment with anything and everything they might be interested in. It also leads to fascinations of subject matter that they might not have otherwise been exposed to.

I’ve seen my kids much more open to looking at books on geology and space than they would have been without the game. They’ve also been more interested in visiting museums and other venues that relate to things they are working on in Minecraft. When they are playing with space on Minecraft, for instance, they want to know more. How does the rocket get enough power to get to the moon? Who was the first person on the moon? Why does the moon have less gravity than earth? And so on and so on. It never ends. And I’m glad for it.

These are the kind of questions I want my kids to be asking. I want them to walk into adulthood with questions about our world, with the ability to answer them with their own innovative thinking. Minecraft fosters this type of thinking. It creates a space for passion in subjects that might be boring in school. It encourages them to ask those questions and get creative about answering them.

Two Movies

April 30th, 2013 § Comments Off on Two Movies § permalink

Last night I watched a movie that was a great validation to where I am in my life right now. . . Following my Bliss. Honoring my inner voice. Watching my mind. Allowing my passion to unfold.

These things tend to come into my life at random, seemingly to coax me on and show me that I’m going in the right direction. The movie last night was called Finding Joe, based on the teachings of Joseph Campbell.

Finding Joe – Trailer V.7 from pat solomon on Vimeo.


Again tonight, seemingly by mistake, another movie showed up – a little lamp post lighting my way. This time the movie was called Discover The Gift.


I don’t believe in accidents. I don’t think things happen by mistake. Everything that comes to us has a gift in it. These movies were definitely a gift to me at this time in my life.

As I finish up the end of my blog post a day for the month of April I have come even further along on my writing journey. When I started this commitment through NaBloPoMo, I knew that if I could do it this month – commit to writing – Every. Single. Day. – I would prove to myself that I CAN write, that no matter how I am feeling or how busy I am, I CAN make time for what I love to do.

During the process leading up to making this commitment for April and during the process itself, I was published in two different magazines. I am feeling a great pull to finish and edit a book that I started a couple of years ago. So beginning May 1, that’s where my writing efforts will go.

All of the sign posts are there, pointing me in that direction. The publishings, the blog posts and now the movies. It seems as though the Universe is screaming loudly for me to jump, yet again, into the vast unknown. To trust in the process, to stay in tune with myself and to take small baby steps in the direction I am being called to explore.

These two movies meant a great deal to me and I am honored to share them here. Perhaps you will check them out and see if they resinate with you and where you are on your path.


How to Care for Introverts

April 26th, 2013 § Comments Off on How to Care for Introverts § permalink



I love this visual about Introverts. Since I have a son that is a true blue introvert, I have learned to interact with him in all of the above ways.

Introverts are such special and gifted people. They usually think long and hard before acting. They can figure just about anything out, given the time and space to do it. When they find someone that is their true friend, they will honor that friendship like no other. They usually don’t like crowds. When they DO speak, they like to be really heard, so pretending to listen doesn’t work with them. THEY DO notice when you’re not really present.

They NEED alone time, much more than an extrovert does. They NEED quiet. They really do need to be given lots of transition time from one activity to the next. When they are rushed they are stressed, more so than the rest of us.

Introverts DISLIKE labels. Don’t label them. Empower them to be exactly as they are.

Honor the introvert in your life by respecting his need for solitude and quiet spaces. Honor him/ her by being ultra respectful of his/her needs. If you do, you will have a confident, loyal and thoughtful person in your life. One who might change the world with his introspective nature.

Unschooling: How will they learn to read?

April 25th, 2013 § Comments Off on Unschooling: How will they learn to read? § permalink




“Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years (who does?), but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it. If we try to make him learn something else, that we think is more important, the chances are that he won’t learn it, or will learn very little of it, that he will soon forget most of what he learned, and what is worst of all, will before long lose most of his appetite for learning anything.”

~John Holt~ Teach Your Own

I belong to and have started several Unschooling groups and it seems that eventually the topic of reading makes it’s way into many of the conversations.

“But…How will they learn to read if I don’t intervene?” one parents asks.

“If my child is showing an interest in reading, should I jump in and help?” asks another.

“If left to their own devices, what if my child doesn’t pick up reading naturally, say by the age of 7 or 8?”

These are valid questions, especially if you are new to the idea of self directed learning. Everyone wants their child to learn to read. And we feel,  as responsible parents, that we have a duty to make sure that they do. And that is very true.

However, do we simply want our child to be able to decode letters and translate them into sounds that come from their mouths? Or, do we desire for our children a love of the written word, the ability and desire to sink into a book or a website and throughly take it in, because they want to?

Compulsory schooling encourages the former. It is the goal of the school to have a child master the sounds of letters by age 5. They then move on to decoding sounds and make them into words. They further progress to assign reading assignments with which the child may or may not have an interest, have them regurgitate what they’ve read and then move on. After 12 years you have a reader. Or such is the goal of compulsory schooling.

With unschooling, we allow the reading process to develop organically. If you are living in a developed country, the written word is everywhere. Internet, libraries, billboards, grocery stores, websites, games – all depend upon the written word. Children now have access to websites, literature, tutorials, games etc. 24/7. They live in a world that deeply relies upon the written word.

It is my experience that when children are left to explore the world in their own way and in their own time, eventually they are going to bump up against words. They are going to want to know how to decode those letters so that they can get on with what they are doing in the moment. It may help to remember back to when your child began crawling or walking or learning colors. Why did they learn those things? Did you need to take them to a class to learn them? Probably not. They learned by watching, trying and failing at times. But eventually, they learned it. They learned it because they made a connection. If they learned (fill in the blank) it would help them to (fill in the blank). With that connection was born a desire and motivation to learn the skill.

Both of my sons got to be proficient readers by playing video games and reading comics. Those were things they were interested in. My oldest son liked to draw long before he knew how to read. He was attracted to comic books early on. At first he would flip the pages and just look at the pictures or would make up his own story based on the pictures he saw. But eventually he wanted to know what the words said. That was my cue to sit with him and help him as long as he wanted. Video games and animation games were the same. He wanted to write his own words for his online comics or he wanted to chat with friends on a video game. Reading helped him to communicate more with his peers. Reading became a big priority for him so that he could reach his goal of communicating.

I would help them read when they needed a word decoded or needed the spelling or definition of a word, but at times I was unavailable and they wanted to play their game or read that latest Garfield book NOW. Over time, they got very motivated to learn to decode words on their own, look up the meaning of words and use written words in their chats on games. They recognized the link between reading and communicating. They put full attention on learning it and got better and better at it as they saw the usefulness in it.

I’ve seen so many unschooling parents that think that if they’re unschooling, it means that they don’t help their children. They feel that they perhaps shouldn’t interfere or suggest activities because it is totally a child led philosophy. There could be nothing further from the truth. Our job as unschooling parents is to be super involved with our kids and suggest away! You know your child better than anyone. Leave that comic book lying around, get those library books on Sharks. Then let it go. If they are not interested, let it sit. Let it rest for maybe another day, week or year when they will jump at the chance to tackle that item you left for them. If the child is asking for help – GIVE IT TO THEM. This philosophy of life is about supporting your kids in any way that you can in this present moment. But it’s also about trusting them to let you know if something is working for them or not. That manipulative that looks so cool to you, may not look so great to them. A chat on a video game may seem like a waste of time to you but it may be a learning to read connection for your child. Balance is the key here. Taking cues from your kids is empowering for them. Pushing and demanding is a turn off and while they may oblige, they are probably feeling that learning is not fun.

If my kids ask me to spell a word for them, I spell it. If they ask for the meaning of a word, I explain it. If I don’t know the spelling or the definition of a word, I look it up for them on their computers. I don’t send them off to look it up all by themselves. Why? Because that is the shortest way to getting them to be uninterested.

Many times parents feel as though they have to “toughen” their kids up for the “real” world. “The kid has to learn sometime,” I’ve often heard parents say. But if you push them off on their own,many kids feel unsupported and they may stop caring about reading, spelling and writing. I know when I was told as a child to “go look it up” I usually NEVER did.  This not only made me stop asking my parents for guidance, it made me HATE dictionaries and thesauruses until later in life.

Both of my kids have online dictionaries. Not because I won’t spell for them or give them the definition of words, but because they asked for them when I told them there was such a thing. They saw me looking up words for them. So when they needed a spelling or definition and I wasn’t available, they started looking them up themselves. By being available to them when I could and helping them when I didn’t know myself, they gained the confidence to start looking things up for themselves. But they made the decision to do that on their own. This is helping your child in a way that empowers him to begin doing things for himself, in his own time and at his own comfort level. Pushing them off before they are ready only discourages them and many times will make them want to give up.

Kids learn to read by watching you. They learn to read because it is all around them. They may play video games in which reading is necessary to advance, they may be at a grocery store where they want to know the ingredients in  a particular product, they may be in the backseat wondering what the street signs say. They may see you chuckle as you read that favorite comic or novel and want to know what you are laughing at. They may listen as you read them a book and make the connection between the words on the page and your voice reading the story. Reading is a necessity in our modern world. When children are left to their own devices, with your loving guidance and understanding, they will learn to read. The WHEN is up to the child. And when the child discovers the usefulness of reading, you will have a life long lover of reading on your hands or at least a person that can read to get to something else that he wants. Does it really matter if this happens at age 5, 10 or even 12? They have a lifetime ahead of them. Make reading an enjoyable fun thing to do and let them choose when they want to do it.






Awesome Art

April 24th, 2013 § Comments Off on Awesome Art § permalink

near_for-painting_crop-FLAT copy

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