Selling books to save $ for a toy

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D is really into Ninjago. He wanted the Golden Ninja Toy. But when we shopped online, it was just so expensive. We found our way to a local online resale site and found a nice, young boy who was selling off his collection. I called, confirmed the price and made a date to pick up the Golden Ninja toy.

D was already pondering how to pay for it. He started to ask how much various tasks about the house would get him: to feed the cats, to vacuum, to help with dinner. We weren’t ready to talk about allowance, so we started asking him if there was anything he could sell.

He has been talking about having a pop-up-shop since the summer. This winter doesn’t lend itself to outdoor shopping, so we talked about selling things online– a challenging and abstract thing to share with a 5 year old. I ended up drawing an infographic to show the communication between the banks, the online shop and the ATM where he would get his cash.

He decided to sell handmade books– something he already makes daily. We stapled together a few blank books and he got to work. The following day, he decided on his prices and I posted them on a <<popular social media>> website. They flew off the shelves. I think he made his target $10 in about 3 hours. He had orders for more, but really had no interest in making more money. It was pretty interesting.


On documentation

Today was wonderful. After spending the morning with the kids and some friends I got the rest of the day to myself to plug away at my preparations for the start of the semester. I was excited to see that the first email from the PBH Master Class had arrived (PBH = Project-Based Homeschooling.) I read the email in full– getting more excited as I went along.

The focus this week is on documentation. And perhaps not so oddly, that is most certainly one of the topics of great concerns for the grads I am working with this semester. The email was really focused on process (another love of mine)– specifically observational writing, photography and video. But all this in the context of journaling. Of course, that always brings to mind a lonely teenager writing poems at her bedside (been there done that.) But this is, in many ways, a tool for orientation– for reflection. And I know how valuable it can be from the perspective as a designer. And it is certainly something I am excited to be more rigorous about.

What I never considered before and really learned today was the value it brings in the PBH context. As a parent, observing and journaling becomes a tool for encouraging. Lori (from PBH) writes:

Using your journal sends a whole series of messages to your child without your ever needing to say them out loud:

Their work is important and worthy of attention and support.
You are investing time and energy in them.
You are working on yourself.
You are using a tool to help you focus, remember, and plan.
You are paying attention.
You think it’s important to remember questions, plans, and ideas.

And so on. Without you explicitly saying anything, your child picks up on the fact that you care about the work she’s doing:

My family thinks I’m important.
My work is important.
My opinions and my ideas are important.
They think so, and now, so do I.

This is so terribly valuable for me. It feels so liberating– this way of being with my kids. Not as an entertainer, not as a teacher. But that my work is the work of supporting them. And that I take it seriously. And when I take it seriously, they will too.

So after I scanned the email I headed over to the PBH forum. There are two posts in our dedicated class space. I’ve only got through one because I am brimming with ideas. The most profound is that PBH and the Reggio approach are so closed tied to Design Thinking (one of my other works in the world)– it just is astounding. I knew that on a surface level, but once I started diving deeper– it was mind blowing. I have had experiences before where I’ve learned something from a practitioner who works with children– only to have the realization that the methods are also highly effective with adults. It seems to be the same case here. The tools and the methods of PBH and the Reggio approach will be incredibly value to me when I enter a classroom with Design Graduate Students at the end of this week. And I am so excited to share what I am learning with them!

On a final note, I love that we are already practicing some of the tools of PBH. Just today D was talking about how he wanted to learn everything he could about Ninja’s. I nudged him to articulate some of his questions as he was headed out the door. As he spoke, I wrote his questions down on the chalk board so we could explore them more closely another time. He also asked me to write a reminder and go tape it to his bed reading: “D wants to be a Ninja.” Ya know– in case he forgets. (See images)

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Last, I am posting this amazing 15 minute documentary on Documentation in the Reggio School. It was one of the things shared on the PBH forum today. So excellent!

Art Robot!

By far, one of the coolest project tutorials yet– found here on kiwicrate. We had recently found an old motor that was J’s as a kid, but it got lost in the shuffle. So J & D dug around upstairs and found and old tractor toy that was broke but the motor still worked. They carefully dismantled the toy and built the art robot out if it. Some duct tape, a plastic cup and markers finished it.

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What it at work!

The last month of the year. 2013

December has been a challenge. The grown ups in the house are still tied to the academic calendar– so December is busy, and then busy again but in a different way. It’s fun, but after weeks of get togethers and special events, we all get a little tired of its shapelessness and lack of rhythm.

This December was marked by some pain and suffering felt by one of our dearest. We made trips to the hospital to bring toddler cheer. We also made soup. After weeks of uncertainty, our dear Mimi made her way home. But this holiday will forever be marked by her fall– and the joy of her being at home for Christmas.

I’ve added a slide show of various holiday moments, none more important than the rest. All said, it was a great holiday. I’ve also posted some audio of D & E speculating about the demeanor and methods of Santa on the car ride home on Christmas eve. Following this conversation E promptly passed her treasured nukkie (pacifier) to the front of the car and announced she would leave it for Santa to deliver to other babies who need them. She hasn’t asked for it since.

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Stop Motion with Hotwheels

D and I made our first stop motion with a trial version of Smoovie. We were inspired after discovering LEGO stop motion videos like this one. The program worked great and was easy for him to understand. The only problem was that with the trial version you can’t export so I had to make a video of the screen with my phone to be able to share. I am still researching other ways to do stop motion– a program simple enough for a preschooler to get the idea.

Our first subject, of course, is a hot wheels monster truck jam.

Spy comics

We were inspired by James Sturm’s book called Adventures in Cartooning so we started working on our own comics. The book walks you through setting up your own comic at the end, so that was a perfect start to our project. We’d also been reading a “how-to” book on being a spy by Perry the Platapus. You can see the influence there.

What I learned from this was that our kids get intimidated by our (grown-up) way of drawing. D, in particular, gets discouraged by my drawing skills. After he expressed his feeling about this, I took on his drawing style and things went much smoother. I even borrowed many of his visual inventions like the hot cup of cocoa and the window. His work are the first and last pages. Mine is the middle page.

D asked to handle the camera while I narrated the story.

Robin Hood and Her Merry Girls!

For the second year in a row we had the great pleasure of attending a play put on by the School Free Players– a group or ambitious young homeschoolers. This years production called Robin Hood and Her Merry Girls, was written and performed by these talented young people. And for the second year in a row our crew sat totally focused and full of laughter as we watched. D & E are obsessed with the wonderfully hilarious pig character– Robin Hood’s germ obsessed sidekick!

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Act 1 

Act 2 

Dress up


It only been in the last few weeks that the kids have been enjoying dressing up.  Sometimes they pull outfits from the bin, other time they just use what they can find. Last night is was winter coats, undies and bike helmets that qualified them as Spies! And this was the first time they really acted out the story together– there was a fort, gear, sneaking around and dressing up all included.