Tag Archives: tech

Playing Battlefield 1942

Some people may think it’s odd to play a war game with their kids. A 10-year old game. With Nazis.

Other people would think I’m delusional for thinking it’s educational. But you know what? It is. They’re learning all about the two sides in WWII, which countries were on those sides (The Boy was sure it was a mistake that the Russians were on the Allies), and the names of dozens of the important battles. In fact, they get a general idea of what the battles were like — they know which were at sea, which were in sand, and which countries were fighting there. They get an idea of the technology level at the time, such as what sorts of weapons, planes, ships, and tanks each side had.

The Girl declared the Axis machine guns “dorky”. I told her, yes, they were “dorky” and in fact, their sideways design made them get jammed much more often than the Allies’ guns, which may or may not have been an important factor in the war.

The kids are learning how hard it is to live if you are the person manning the machine gun on top of the tank or the ball turret gunner. (If they were older, I might read them The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.)

Yesterday, they decided to make a role playing game out of WWII in the backyard.

Here, the leaders are making their battle plans in the shade of a canopy.

The medic and the engineer. She declared she could be in battle because she was just like Clara Barton.

(They take in information from games, shows, books, and museums and synthesize them together and make really amazing statements and ask really interesting questions!)

In the lower left, the first Ally spawn point. The troops are running to the upper right in order to capture the next spawn point.

Claiming the base for the Allies.

I think the red thing is an anti-tank mine.

Running to the third base.

After this they overturned the wheelbarrow, which was sometimes a tank and sometimes a bomber.

I’m not quite sure which side was using a morning star, but that’s the side The Baby is on.

Update (6/18/2012):  Because I am submitting this to the Carnival of Homeschooling, I’ll add that clearly not all children react well to games like Battlefield 1942, which does have some older-kid sort of content. If you disagree with it, or your kids are sensitive to that sort of thing, naturally don’t play this sort of game with them. I just wanted to give an example of education in video games, or education in unexpected places.

Also, it was interesting to watch the third Indiana Jones movie (the Last Crusade) see all the tanks, planes, and other technology that the kids learned about from Battlefield 1942.

I Guess This is What Unschooling Is Like

For those of you who aren’t homeschoolers, or don’t know a lot about it, there are actually a lot of different categories of homeschoolers. These are really general categories and there is a lot of overlap and squishiness about the categories, but sometimes it’s helpful to explain to other people the sort of philosophy you have about these things. It’s not entirely unlike explaining what sorts of foods you eat — low carb, vegetarian, kosher, and so forth. Broad categories that everyone stretches this way and that to make it work for them.

I probably can’t do justice to all the flavors of homeschooler right here, but if you’re interested the Homeschool Diner has a list they compiled.

We don’t really fit into any particular group. We have fewer rules than many families, but we’re not radical unschoolers without bedtimes or required chores or anything. I like a lot of the ideas of classical schooling, such as using original sources and mastery of concepts, but we’re not obsessed with following anyone’s particular idea of it and no one is learning latin right now! I buy curricula, but we don’t necessarily follow it, we use it as another source. We sometimes do unit studies, sometimes not. In fact, anytime I try to follow any schedule or routine or list, the kids object.

We are dedicated to randomness.

Lately, I’ve managed to injure myself in annoying ways, or get sick, or find some other reason to be busy, or cranky, or unprepared, and we’ve had a week or two (ahem) here or there (cough) where maybe we weren’t all at the kitchen table doing math worksheets every morning, if you know what I mean.

But the kids still learn. It really hard to keep them from learning, as it turns out. Boredom actually causes them to do all sorts of things. And kids can make anything fun.

One day a few weeks ago, all of us were sick with a fever, a cold, or bronchitis, so my son was playing on the computer. He was using Minecraft, along with a friend of his half way across the country, and he managed to do an entire day of school-worthy activities in just about every subject we need to cover.

This is what a home school sick day looks like: he had to multiply out the gold he won in the minecraft RPG he and his friend invented and divide by 64 to see how many stacks that would be (math). He’s making logic gates to power his doors and traps (science). He has to type to me to communicate (English). He taught his sister about the immune response system (health). He made a sculpture of a creeper (Art) and composed a song about how it holds his treasure chests (Music). As soon as I fix the printer, he can print and mail a certificate for another Junior Ranger badge (history — it’s about Clara Barton). 

It’s semesters like this one that makes me wonder if I’m going to eventually just relax, let go of the reins of control, and just be an unschooler. I wonder how far away that even is…

Haiku for the Guild

We’ve recently re-activated our World of Warcraft accounts, thanks to Blizzard’s latest resurrection scroll deal. Originally I stopped playing when I was pregnant with the third child. I can’t think or sit or exist when I’m pregnant, and you can’t do raids with morning sickness. Or at least I can’t. Then I had a baby and we moved and there wasn’t any time. Instead I played a lot of Terraria, Minecraft, Bejewelled, and a few short DS games.

In order to join a particular guild, the requirement is to write a haiku. Now, my son once threw a tempter tantrum for an hour because I suggested it might be fun to write one, back when we were studying medieval Japan. I didn’t say he had to. Just started telling him how it’s done. It was Golden week, too, so we already made samuri hats and origami baskets and all sorts of fun stuff. But he would not even listen to haiku. Apparently it was too much.

Fast forward to today. He wanted to join the guild, so he wrote the haiku.

The little worm plays
Dancing in the sunlit park
Under the oak tree

Coding and peanut butter

As part of our Spring 2012 learning… what? I said I would type up a vague idea of a plan? Well, yes, yes I did. But I haven’t. Sorry, been too busy with the actual learning stuff.

Anyway, I’ve signed up to receive weekly emails from a web site called Code Year. The emails are short, interactive lessons involving javascript, something I happen to already know, for The Boy to begin learning how to program. He really, desperately wants to code mods for Minecraft in order to have all of the animals make poop. Eight year olds have such lofty goals, don’t they? But before we try to dive into adding to a large pile of Java code, I though he should know anything about coding first. So here we go.

So far it’s been pretty good. I like that it offers just little bits at a time, plus short projects with a lot of hand holding and hints. We sit down and work on them together. However, I noticed this week that he didn’t seem to totally get the idea that the computer isn’t going to figure out what he wanted something to do just by giving it a name. For example, he changed a function he wrote from hello() to goodbye() and thought the computer would somehow just know that it needed to say goodbye now, even though he hadn’t changed the string he wanted it to print.

At that point, I realized it was time to break out a non-computer activity: making a peanut butter sandwich.

Some of you know what I mean already. It’s a very old idea. You use yourself to teach someone completely unused to thinking about the details of programming (or writing manuals!) by making them give you commands to do a very simple-seeming task… like making a peanut butter sandwich. Seems so easy! But is it?

The Boy learned pretty quickly that he was going to have to be specific… but he still made plenty of great mistakes.

He frequently forgot to tell me to actually go to the fridge or the counter, so I would respond with an error statement (“No ‘fridge’ object available!”). In some cases, I decided to really get his attention: when he told me to “go to the peanut butter” meaning the jar on the counter, I started to climb up on the counter with it. He didn’t make that mistake again.

After I got a few slices of bread out of the bread bag, he told me to put the bread down. So I dropped it on the floor. (Be specific!)

I think he learned a lot when he told me to put the knife in the sink without walking me over to it, so I threw it across the room. But I did get it in the sink!

But for all of us, the most memorable moment was when I was standing at the counter, two pieces of bread on a plate, holding the peanut butter jar with the lid happily sitting on the counter, and one empty hand. He then declared, “Spread peanut butter on bread!” thrilled with himself. I looked down, saw my empty hand, and took a moment to grin evilly at him. I then reached my bare hand into the jar, grabbed some peanut butter with my fingers, and began rubbing it across the slice of bread. I managed to cover about half the slice before he stopped laughing long enough to cancel the action.

He learned quite a lot about how he needs to state every tiny detail and anticipate what his program will need. I noticed an improvement in his programming right away! And when it comes to making memories, I don’t think he’ll ever forget his mom with her hand in the peanut butter jar…