Thursday, June 03, 2010

Creative Projects and a Big Step toward Independence

Before I forget, don't miss this week's Objectivist Round Up, at The Rule of Reason!

We spent much of the day today working on creative projects and it was lots and lots of fun. Morgan spent a couple of hours doing DreamBox math. She hadn't used the website in a while (preferring regular old flashcards somehow), so I thought she'd become disinterested in it. Wrong! Maybe she just needed a break.

DreamBox is like Starfall for math (only it's not free), and is for kids in grades K-3. She was really getting into it today. Apparently the kid does a certain number of math problems and earns tokens of some sort. After so many tokens, you can unlock new games to play. Morgan was determined to play a certain new game and managed to do it. (She also managed to fall off of her chair in her excitement, but that's how she rolls.)

One thing I like about DreamBox is that they send me email every time she has mastered a new concept. There's a parenting dashboard too, where I can go and check her progress on certain levels. Right now, she is solidly in the middle of first grade level math, and knowing the ideas she was working on today will help me reinforce them in every day life. Very neat, and totally worth the price. Now if I could just get Ryan to play it! Sadly, he won't--there aren't any battles and therefore, what is the point? I'm going to get him going on Math Blaster or something more appropriate for those bent on world domination the battle-obsessed.

Ryan's big project for today involved starting his own blog! And THAT involved getting set up with a Google account (he's using Blogger). It was quite an adventure, let me tell you! Alright, I think I will. :o)

He's been talking about a blog for a while now, a couple of months at least. Yesterday when we were at his ultrasound (still no results yet), he told me he'd come up with a name for his blog: The Blog of Ideas. Because that's what he wanted to do, write down all of his ideas. Now THAT is a good idea, don't you think?

I looked around on the internet for any blog services specializing in kids and found It's kind of a neat site, free, and pretty easy to get going with. It's a good idea--set up in a way for an adult to monitor and support blogs for multiple kids (it's set up for classroom teachers, but parents/homeschoolers can sign up, too). However, it wasn't going to be customizable enough I didn't think, so Brendan and I discussed letting Ryan have a gmail account.

It's weird, this decision to let your kid get real-live internet access. The paranoid parent inside me began to wonder about all of the Bad Guys, and privacy concerns. But the more we thought about it, we couldn't think of a good reason not to let him have email and a blog on Blogger. Neither of us were comfortable letting him go crazy all over the internets right away--even if he had a clue how to do that (which he doesn't). But given he'd need so much help here at the beginning, we figured we'd keep things close while he's learning what to do, and then ease up on the reins a bit after time.

So I set him up with email and set up his account to forward everything he gets and sends to me. (Though the forwarding of sent mail doesn't seem to be working, I'll have to figure out how to fix that.) I turned off the chat functions, ads, and other extraneous stuff he doesn't really need at this point (or ever, in the case of Google Buzz, IMO). I added our family to his contacts and showed him how to write them email. He wrote to Daddy, Nonnie, and Gramma & Grampa. They all wrote back promptly, very excited that he has email. He was so proud!

Then we set up his blog, and it's currently semi-private, meaning you have to have an invitation to be able to read it. When I asked him if he'd like to have a private just-for-him blog, a semi-private, or a public blog, he immediately declared "Public! I want EVERYONE to read about my ideas so I can be rich." (I think he means that everyone will like his ideas so much they'll hire him to make them into reality, or possibly just hire him to think up more ideas.) For now while he's learning the ropes, I think Brendan and I are more comfortable with only people we know pretty well having access to the blog. It's not that I'm really worried about Bad Guys--I know they're out there, of course, but I'm not too worried about them. I'm mostly not wanting to have to deal with lots of questions and explanations should he get comments from people we don't know. Not now, while he's getting used to the process. I'm sure we'll open it up at some point, especially if he really sticks with it, because as I mentioned, he wants to be rich and famous.

So he wrote several emails today, and one blog post. The blog post is three sentences long and it took him an hour to write! I went into this project knowing I'd have to help him with spelling and grammar (this does count as homeschool after all!). And naturally I was aware that he'd never taken typing at all, but somehow I didn't realize how much it was going to drive me FREAKING INSANE watching him hunt-and-peck. So I'm now on the lookout for a fun learn-to-type game for kids (for the Mac), preferably one that involves lots and lots of battles, heh.

What was interesting to experience was his motivation. This was HIS idea and he was determined to see it through. He did some whining here and there, especially at the beginning when he'd type something in wrong and not know how to move the cursor or delete his mistake. But we worked through it, and he was really trying to do a good bit of independent spelling, too. After the second time he wanted me to spell 'who' he said, "You know what? I think I'm going to write down all of the words you tell me on a piece of paper, and then I won't have to keep asking you the same ones." I played it cool. "Sure! Sounds like a good idea. Here's a notebook." But inside I was jumping up and down, shouting HOORAY HOORAY HOORAY!!!! I just counted his list: 36 words. How cool is that? The kid created his own vocab/spelling list all on his own for his own purposes.

So yeah, his first post took an hour of hunt-and-peck, and some spelling assistance. When he was finished, he was eager to post it right away, but wanted me to make sure it looked just perfect. So I helped him locate the beginnings and ends of the sentences and put periods after them. And I helped him capitalize the first word of each sentence. I taught him about blog labels and how useful they'll be once he's filled up his blog with all of his ideas. And then he published!

I wish I'd taken a picture; he was so proud.

Now Morgan wants her blog and email, too. Her typing skills are as non-existent as Ryan's, but I think she's a better speller. So that might be my project for tomorrow.

So I'm curious--at what ages did your kids first get email? Did they get something "real" like gmail or did they get something through school or another service for kids only? What kinds of ways do you monitor your kids on the internet and what are some privacy pitfalls that might be useful to avoid?

I feel like this is a Big Step--not as big as first reading or shaving--but still pretty big. He is taking his first (somewhat) independent steps into the grownup world of the internet. I think I'm almost as excited as he is!


Hanah said...

This is great! I read your post and then asked my DH at what age our kids should get their own e-mail accounts. He answered, "I got my first e-mail account when I was 20." Hah!

Anonymous said...

There are some online games like Typer Shark that are pretty fun to play, I think Ryan would enjoy hunting for treasure and blasting sharks and pirahnas. :)


Katrina said...

Cute! Your blog is great in general and a pleasure to read even for someone who doesn't like kids. I know it's silly and nitpicky, but anyway "disinterested" means impartial whereas "uninterested" means not interested (2nd paragraph I think.) Ordinarily I try to resist being bratty about this stuff because I know grammar and vocabulary are not the point of your blog, but this word in particular just grates on me. Also since you homeschool, now hopefully there will be 3 less people in the world mixing up those words.

Oh and if I haven't said it before, I'm so impressed with your dedication to rational parenting. Your kids are incredibly lucky!

Susie said...

I've just discovered your blog (through PD which I joined last week) just thought I'd let you know that my daughter has a gmail account with email and a blog since before she was born - hahaha it's more of a scrapbook of fun times so family who live far away or overseas can stay connected.

"She" even sends them emails and sometimes to her Daddy while he's at work etc.

I hope someday to hand over the baton like you've done with Ryan so she can keep it going herself if she wants to.