Computer Programming for Kids

I recently heard from a homeschooling friend about this site called Code, which encourages people of all ages to learn computer science by completing an “Hour of Code.”

Learn the basic concepts of Computer Science with drag and drop programming. This is a game-like, self-directed tutorial starring video lectures by Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Angry Birds and Plants vs. Zombies. Learn repeat-loops, conditionals, and basic algorithms.

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After a busy day of art and parkour classes, jumping on the trampoline, Minecraft, playing and more, my husband Jody and the kids sprawled out in the middle of the living room this evening and started working on it.

Ava was reluctant to start at first, but once she started, she loved it. She’s already completed 352 lines of code! After seeing some of her coding in action Ava declared it, “Epic!” She said her favorite part was the drawing.

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Julian did about 50 lines of code as well, but wasn’t as interested in it at this point as Ava and that’s OK. That’s the beauty of unschooling. He might want to do it now or later or never at all. He can decide.

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I think it’s awesome that this free program exists and gives kids as young as six and adults the opportunity to learn how to code. Both of my children are interested in creating mods on Minecraft (their favorite game) and this gives them an idea of what it might be like to do that someday.

If you or your kiddos want to get started learning how to code, check out Learn an Hour of Code: Tutorials for Beginners. I’m excited to get started on it myself as well!

Related posts from around the ‘net:

A Day In The Life: The Taste Test Challenge

Hey friends! I decided to start a new series on my blog to give you an idea of some of the things the kids and I do in our unschooling/life learning journey. It’s called “A Day In The Life” and this will be the first installment.

Yesterday Ava was watching YouTube (one of our favorite resources) videos from a group of girls who do different “challenges.” One of them was a “taste test” challenge, where one girl is blindfolded and the other gives her a variety of foods to eat and hopefully figure out what they are by taste alone.

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Ava asked me to set up some foods for her to try, so I arranged several different things on a plate — a banana slice, carrot, piece of a hot dog, a pinto bean, pickle, a Cheerio, ketchup, a frozen blueberry, seaweed, a pistachio, barbecue sauce, mini chocolate chips, and some nutritional yeast.

Then I blindfolded her and then challenge began! I fed her them one by one and she figured out all 13 without a problem, although she made some faces for some of them and asked for a bowl to spit out the ketchup and barbecue sauce. Hehe.

Julian was next and he missed just two of them, but Ava had fun feeding them to him. Unlike Ava, Julian ate them all happily.


I’ll need to think of some interesting/challenging foods to add to the mix for the next time, because I’m fairly certain the kids would happily play that game again. And again. And again.

Some other things the kids did that day include: playing Minecraft (which is pretty much a daily activity in this house) while talking with friends over Skype, playing with our week-old chicks (Peep! Peep!), rediscovering their old magnetic chore charts and set them back up with daily chores they want to complete, examining things with their new magnifying glasses, playing with make-up, smashing rocks in the yard, practicing parkour, and playing with Littlest Pet Shops. Although we never left the house other than to go into the backyard, it was a very full day.
More Day In The Life posts sharing our activities and adventures will come in the weeks ahead.

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Longmont carjacking/abduction prompts question: Is it safe to leave kids in the car?

This morning a car was stolen from a Longmont, Colo. gas station with 4-year-old Allen Chavarria-Rodriquez inside. An Amber Alert was issued and thankfully the boy was safely recovered later as the suspect ditched the car and jacked two others until he was apprehended in Parker. This event prompts the question: Is it ever safe to leave kids in the car?


A recent Mothering article written by Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, titled Okay to Leave Kids in the Car While Popping into a Store? made me think about my own practices when it comes to running into the store days before the carjacking/kidnapping occured so close to home.

According to Mothering, it is against the law in 19 states to leave a child unattended in a car.

The laws differ in their particulars, but basically they state that a child under age 6, 7 or, in Utah, 9, cannot be left alone in the car for more than five or 10 minutes. In Nebraska, having your 6-year-old wait in the car is an offense in the same category as allowing the child to be “deprived of necessary food” or “sexually exploited.” In Louisiana, a second kid-in-car infraction carries a sentence of not less than one year in prison, “with or without hard labor.”

These laws seem extreme and the examples Skenazy provides of them being carried out are a little maddening. Moms separated from their children and hauled to the police station? The intention behind the laws is in the spirit of protecting the children, of course, but there is a big difference between leaving a child in a car in 90 degree heat and running into a store where you can see them to grab a gallon of milk.

Martha Rodriguez, the mother of the boy in the Longmont carjacking, will not face charges for leaving her child in a running vehicle said Longmont Police Department spokesperson Jeffrey Satur, “as law enforcement did not feel she had been negligent in regards to her child.

“’It is not like she left her kid in the car for hours on end,’ Satur said. ‘She just parked outside the business and walked in and the guy jumped in the car. So, we’re talking maybe 15 or 20 feet.’”

I have been known to leave my kids (7 and 9) in the car on occasion while I run into a store to grab a few things. I always lock the car and take my keys with me. I often leave my phone with the kids as well. I feel OK doing this or I wouldn’t do it. Would I leave my sleeping 6-month-old in the car while I ran into the store? Probably not. That just doesn’t feel OK to me.

I don’t like to live my life in fear of the what-ifs. Statistically speaking, the risk is still very small that a child will be abducted by a stranger. You can read more about crime statistics on the Free Range Kids page.

I think common sense is key.

Always lock your car doors. Always take your keys with you. If you don’t feel safe doing it, DON’T.

What do you think? Is it ever OK to leave kids in the car unattended? Do you do it?


Photo used with permission.

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In his own time

One of the many things I enjoy about unschooling is that my kids get to work on a skill when they are ready, not at an arbitrary time when someone says they should.

Up until last summer, my son (who was six at the time) had shown no interest in drawing. This was in stark contrast to my daughter who has loved to draw since she was very young. I wasn’t really concerned about it, but one day when I was at the store I decided to pick up a few pads of drawing paper, crayons and markers to bring home and strew*, if you will.

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After arriving home with the supplies, I announced to the kids what I had bought and set the supplies out on the table. I honestly thought my daughter would dive right in, while my son Julian would shrug and go off to play Legos or Minecraft.

However, Julian came right up to the table, opened up the fresh new pad of paper and markers and immediately started drawing. And drawing. And drawing. He literally sat at the table for a good hour or two, filling each page with a new creation. And getting progressively better at his drawing.

He ended up filling the entire drawing pad with pictures that day, even turning much of it into a story which, when asked about it, he narrated aloud. He later said to me, “When I started this book, I wasn’t very good at drawing, but I got better and better.” And it’s true. He improved a lot that day. The beauty of it was that it was all at his own pace and in his own time. He was never asked to draw against his will before he was ready, therefore was never turned off to drawing.

I loved that he could see his improvement and that he took pride in his work.

Unschooling isn’t always easy — it involves so much trust — but it’s moments like this that reaffirm my decision to do it. I believe my kids will learn what they need to learn in their own time. It’s my job to trust them and help them along the way.

“All I am saying … can be summed up in two words: Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” — John Holt

*Strew: to place objects in the path of kids without any expectation, coercion, or force of use.

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Play Matters


We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. – George Bernard Shaw

It’s 11:41 p.m. on a Thursday as I lie in my bed listening to the murmur of my kids from the next room. They are very involved in their play — something that often occurs in the late hours of the night when one might typically expect children to be sleeping. But they play so well together in these late-night moments, creating elaborate stories, developing characters (tonight it’s a city of talking Matchbox cars), working through conflict, working on their communication skills, developing dialogue, and more. Who am I to interrupt them just because the clock says it’s nearly midnight?


Play is the work of the child. – Maria Montessori

According to Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and acclaimed author:

Human children, who have the most to learn, play far more than any other primates when they are allowed to do so. Play is the natural means by which children and other young mammals educate themselves. The most important skills that children everywhere must learn in order to live happy, productive, moral lives are skills that cannot be taught in school. Such skills cannot be taught at all. They are learned and practiced by children in play. These include the abilities to think creatively, to get along with other people and cooperate effectively, and to control their own impulses and emotions.

Additionally, counseling psychologist Gayatri Ayyer says,

Research shows that playing is paramount to our physical, intellectual and socio-emotional development. The play I’m talking about here is the unstructured, spontaneous and imaginative escapades that we had in our childhoods; not the structured and organized sports of today. The benefits of playing are immense. They learn different academic concepts, the rules of behaviour with peers, manners, friendship, decision-making, conflict resolution, cooperation and competition.

Eventually I may ask them to wrap up their game for the night, but for now I am grateful that tomorrow (like most days) we have nowhere we must be in the morning. For now I will enjoy the sweet sound of my children getting along, the sound of imagination, the sound of play.

Play matters.

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Essential Oils Safety and FAQ

essential oils

Essential oils safety info:

Keep Out of Reach of Children. Treat essential oils the same as medicine. Oils can be painful or harmful if used in the eyes or if large quantities of the wrong oil are ingested.

NEVER put essential oils in the eyes, nose or ears. Essential oils are too strong for the delicate tissues in the ear drum and canal. If you have an earache or ear infection, it is best to apply around the ears or drop the essential oil on a cotton ball and put that in the ear.
After application, be attentive to things like rubbing the eyes, areas around the eye, eyelids, handling contact lenses, or touching the interior of one’s nose. The skin is most sensitive and prone to irritation around the genitals and mucous membranes.

Irritation. If you experience any irritation with an oil, DO NOT wash it off with water. USE a carrier oil (any vegetable oil) to dilute the oil. Water will drive the EO in deeper, while a carrier oil will dilute it.

“HOT” oils. There are certain oils that are considered HOT oils and can/will cause skin irritation if not diluted. Oregano should ALWAYS be diluted heavily and even then, only applied on the soles of feet. Some other hot oils include: cinnamon, cassia and marjoram. For children: Protective Blend and/or Peppermint may feel hot as well. Peppermint is actually cooling, but it may feel uncomfortable for kids unless diluted.

Some Essential Oils Are Photosensitive. Some oils are photosensitive meaning they react to radiant energy or light such as natural sunlight, sunlamps, or other sources of UV rays. An adverse response appears within minutes, hours, or days after first application and exposure. These oils are primarily citrus oils and include angelica, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Wild Orange, and Tangerine. The result is a dark pigmentation or a rash on the skin. Bergamot contains bergaptene, a dominant photosensitizer, and can cause severe reactions. When using photosensitizing oil, wait a minimum of six hours before exposing skin to UV rays. The stronger and more lengthy the UV ray, the longer the wait should be.

Use care when applying oils to infants and children. After application the child should be supervised and areas where oils were applied should be clothed until the oils have been sufficiently absorbed to protect from cross contamination. A baby might easily grab their foot after oils were applied and then rub his or her eyes.

Pregnancy. Aromatherapists generally agree that no oils topically (externally) applied at ordinary amounts have ever proven harmful to a developing fetus. However, pregnant women might want to consult a physician or licensed aromatherapist prior to using essential oils. If there are specific oils that pregnant women should be concerned about, it will be noted on the oil bottle from most reputable suppliers.

**Much of the information above was taken from Everything Essential.**

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Should essential oils be diluted?
I think it is wise to always dilute essential oils when applying topically. There are certainly times when I don’t, but most of the time I add a carrier oil and think it is best to do so! I really like the fractionated coconut oil because it doesn’t leave my skin greasy. EOs are volatile, which means they evaporate quickly, so when you don’t use a carrier oil, you will lose a lot to evaporation. The carrier oil holds the essential oil to your skin so you can absorb it, like a slow release tab, if you will. Using a carrier oil also helps to avoid reactions from the intensity of the essential oil or sensitization from over exposure. EOs are really potent and little bit goes a long way!

What is considered a dose in essential oils?
1-3 drops is a dose for adults. Less than a drop (a finger swipe over the bottle) is often sufficient for children. With essential oils, less (more frequently) is more than a large dose one time.

What is a carrier oil?
A carrier oil is any vegetable oil. Olive, coconut, jojoba, almond, etc. Essential oils are not true oils (no fat content), but they mix with oils, not water. I prefer to use fractionated coconut oil which has the fat content removed and stays in liquid form even when it’s cold. It absorbs really well on the skin.

Essential oils aren’t TRUE oils?
No, they aren’t true oils. When they were being classified (a long time ago), they were a lot like oil with their properties, but they contain no fat. They are simply aromatic compounds!

Why are *these essential oils expensive?
This brand of oils does cost more than some brands, and there are several reasons why. It’s a pure product — you use less of a pure product than one that is full of fillers, so there isn’t any savings there from buying less expensive oils. Also, the chances of having a reaction to other brands is a lot higher because of the fillers (including synthetics!) in those brands. That is how they keep costs low; synthetic essential oil is a lot cheaper than the real deal, and they don’t have to put on the label that it contains synthetic ingredients or components! With these oils, you get the assurance of a pure product with amazing customer service, support as you learn how to use the oils as well as truly an amazing product. They wouldn’t be the company they are (the largest EO company in the world) if they weren’t putting out anything else but the best. And there are ways to get the oils discounted and even free, and that certainly helps when on a budget!
*Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer list on my blog the brand name that I use, but I’m happy to share if you contact me or subscribe to my newsletter.

How long do you find the oils last? Not in terms of using them up, but staying fresh? I assume they expire at some point.
There aren’t any impurities in *this brand of oils so they last a REALLY long time (years — like, decades)! The thing to watch for is oxidation, so it’s best if oils are kept out of the sun and with the lids on. Our oils have expiration dates on them to be in compliance with the FDA as they are considered supplements, but that doesn’t mean that they “go bad,” if that makes sense. The citrus oils are cold-pressed so those tend to oxidize the fastest, so you’ll probably want to use the citrus ones within about 2 years.

What is the Modern Essentials book and where can I buy it?
Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils (a third party resource guide) is perfect for anyone looking to know more about essential oils and how they can be used in everyday life. Whether you are a beginner or a long-time essential oil user, this book is designed for you. It covers all of this company’s single oils and blends, as well as many, many medical conditions and the suggested oils, and really is the only book you truly need to use your oils safely and effectively. I get my Modern Essentials book from Aroma Tools:

Where does this company’s oils come from?
They source their essential oils from around the world and believe in sustainability and humanitarian efforts. Just to give you a few examples: Vetiver comes from Haiti, Lemon and Bergamot from Italy, Lavender from France, and Jasmine from Southern India.

What happens to all of the plant leftovers from lemons, etc.?
This company purchases the essential oils from those families that have been growing those citrus fruits for generations, but the families can utilize the other parts of the fruit as well. the farmers can use the rest of the product for other purposes like compost or what have you. For arborvitae, for example, the leftover shavings are used for compost and the water used for the distillation process is reused as well for other purposes (not for distilling more oils). The farmers and our company are really in this to be good stewards and make it possible for oils to be around for ages and ages to come!

What if I have an allergy to a certain plant in an oil. Can I still use them?
I would do a patch test on the inside of your elbow to make sure you don’t have a reaction. A tiny touch (not even a full drop) on the inside bend of the elbow and wait at least 12 hours to make sure you don’t have a reaction. Many people that are allergic to certain plants don’t have reactions to the essential oils because the proteins in the plant are not present in the essential oil, but that doesn’t mean that one should start dousing themselves in an essential oil that they have a known allergy or intolerance to the plant or family of plants without doing a patch test first.

— To read more about essential oils — including why I use them and some of my favorite oils — click here.

— Due to recent FDA-regulations, I can no longer share on my blog what brand of essential oils I love and trust or the many stories of how these oils have benefited my family and friends, BUT I can email that information to you. If you’d like to learn more about the certified pure essential oils that my family uses daily, subscribe to my newsletter below and I’ll fill you in on all the details.

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