Check…Check…Is this thing on?

Hello?  Hello?  Can you hear me?

Sorry, I just have to wipe off some of the cobwebs here,   The cleaning people haven’t been in for awhile.  Let’s see, where did we leave off?  We had just moved from the mid-Atlantic to the frozen tundra, and the boy really wanted to go back to traditional schooling.

Well, the public school experiment was a bust.  The first part of the year was dealing with a non-stop bully, tears and despite wonderful administrators and teachers, a lot of frustration.

The new year began with a transition to a new classroom to get away from the noxious little punk (I know, I should be more understanding, he probably has a horrible home life, but my papa bear emerges when my son is hurt).  At first, things started well, and then the tears again.  He couldn’t focus, he couldn’t get his work done, he was overwhelmed.  Now he wanted to quit band and karate, two of his favorite things!  There were breakdowns and we were once again in the position of not knowing what was causing our generally happy child to be miserable.

The three of us had long talks, and we all came to the agreement that we would return to home schooling.  It would be a different beast here.   Lovely wife works from home and I am now employed, albeit with a very flexible schedule.  We don’t know the community yet.  So while we are not starting from zero, we are all having to learn again.  We are all having to learn how to learn.

Taran electronics1

First week of home schooling 2.0 Learning about electronic circuitry

Taran electronics2



The Human Body

This is the final in a four part series from The Boy.  This prompt was to explain the workings of the human body as if speaking to an Alien.  The research is all his own.

While we only see the skin, nails, hair, and other features, there is much more inside than we think there is. This essay will help you learn more about the human body.

1. The circulatory system.

This is the blood, veins, and heart. You might think blood is always red. This is false. The red is from the oxygen we inhale which goes into the lungs (I’ll explain that later). Blood looks red when we bleed because of the oxygen in the air. When blood has no oxygen, it looks purple/blue, which is what we see in our veins. Those come to retrieve oxygen. Arteries, on the other hand, carry oxygenated blood.

The heart is very complex, having four chambers; two for oxygenated blood, two for oxygen-less blood, and always pumping blood. The heart is oddly shaped, not looking like your normal love heart. There is the left valve, right valve, left atrium, and right atrium. You cannot stop the heart from beating; it always pumps blood

While we mainly see our veins, we have 2 more tubes inside us that carry blood, arteries and capillaries. As I explained before, our veins carry deoxygenated blood and our veins carry oxygenated blood. What about our capillaries? Our capillaries are around our lungs, delivering oxygen to the red blood cells. They are very tiny, the shortest being as thin as a hair. Yet the cells are so flexible, they can squeeze through them! All these items are essential for our body. Without them, we could not breath, walk, talk, or see.

2. The digestive system
The digestive system includes the stomach, intestines, and esophagus.

A trip through the digestive system. A pea has entered the mouth. It gets crushed by the canines and molars. After the tongue pushes the food from the mouth, it takes a slide through a tube known as the esophagus. After about a minute, it drops down into a cave known as the stomach. It could stay in there for 1-5 hours while its nutrients are absorbed.
After it is finished with the nutrient absorbed, it goes through a test which I forgot the name of. After it passes the test, it enters the intestines. The small intestines retrieve any nutrients the stomach may have missed, and the large intestines turn it into a brown pile called poop. After about 20 hours in the digestive system, mouth to intestines, it exits us through our rectum, or butt.

3. Diseases and vaccinations
The same way our bodies defend against diseases, there are times when our immune systems fail. Here are a few well known and little known diseases. First, an explanation on vaccinations
Ever wonder how vaccine shots work? Maybe magic, maybe extra white blood cells, but no! It’s actually dead or weak cells of that disease. It sounds deadly, but when the white blood cells attack it, if you really do get that disease, the guard cells (white blood cells) will remember attacking the weak/dead cells and do the same thing!

Now I will explain some diseases.

Tuberculosis (TB)
Tuberculosis is one of the most common diseases in the world. Over 1/3 of the entire population of earth has TB. Every second, 1 person picks this up. You might have TB and not even know it! Many people have this disease and do not become sick from it.

Cancer is another common disease. This happens when a cell continually grows but does not destroy itself. Usually when a cell grows rapidly, it destroys itself. This can happen to the brain, bone, blood, and skin cells.
Alzheimer’s disease
This disease affects the brain only. People forget things more easily like how to do a push up, walk, talk properly, and kick a ball. If not treated properly, this could lead to forgetting how to breathe! Half of all Americans know someone with Alzheimer’s.

4. Immune system
The immune system is the system that protects us from diseases. This includes some odd features. I will tell you all of the ones I know.
White blood cells prevent diseases in the blood. However, the other organs include tears, skin, and eyebrows! Tears have a chemical that kills germs. The chemical is called lysozyme, which makes germs burst open. Ear wax helps too, flowing out of your ear slowly, taking germs with it. Skin gives germs shorter life spans, making them live for only 20 minutes while on the skin. The best thing about the body is that is never gives up until the germs have stopped.
This ends my essay about the human body. New discoveries might have been made already! I hope you enjoyed this fact sheet.

At…where with the boy?

In a surprising and slightly disappointing turn of events, The Boy has requested that since we have moved to a new and much smaller town, he would like to go to a “normal school”.  I am shocked, frightened and filled with self-doubt.  Had the year with me been so awful?  Was he not challenged enough?  Maybe too much?  Where did I let him down?

The Boy has two distinct modes: the 11 year old little boy and the mature, soon-to-be-an-adult pre-teen.  In the second mode, he looked at me and said, “I’m in a new town and I want to meet new friends”.

“But buddy,” I reply, didn’t you make more friends when you were home-schooled?” During four years of public and one year of private, the only parties or get together classmates invited him to were those where the whole class was invited.  As a home-schooler, he has had constant get togethers and sleep overs and has made some very close friends.

“Yes, but I could have made more at [public school] if I didn’t have my bad habits.  That’s why they bullied me.”

“Bad habits?” (My hear is breaking a little).

“You know, sucking my thumb, crying in class, eating things off the ground.  And I don’t do those things anymore.”

“You do understand that there will be earlier bedtimes, and you’ll have to get up earlier.”

“I know, that’s okay”

“And there’ll be homework”

“It’ll be hard, but I’m sure I can do it.”

Lovely Wife and I had considered what we would do if he wanted to go back to school.  We had figured it would be something further down the line, but the agreement was, in this new environment, he could choose his form of education.

So I filled out the forms, forgot to send them in repeatedly.  I called the state Home Study contact to verify what would hoops we would need to jump through if public school turned out to be too awful.  I fear what will happen if his “bad habits” were a result of “normal school”. 

But today was his first day, and The Boy seems to love it.  Now daddy just needs to get on board with not being At Home With The Boy, anymore.

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The Jedi and the Sith

(This is the third in a series written by THE BOY.  This writing prompt was of his own choosing, the expanded world of Star Wars)Jedi_vs__Sith_by_Kaelir_of_lorien

The Star Wars galaxy is huge. There are movies, a TV show, books, even comics about it. Here are some facts you might not have known at all.

For over 25,000 years, the Jedi and Sith have been battling for control for the galaxy. Jedi want freedom, peace and justice; the Sith want slaves, passion and a 100% Jedi-Free galaxy. Both sides, light and dark, are trying to get everyone to fight on their own side. The Jedi are the light, hoping for peace, and the Sith are the Dark side, hoping for slaves and power. With more Jedi than Sith, the Dark side needs the power for themselves.

Many people know 3 or 4 different lightsaber colors, but that’s not all. Few know about the lightsaber’s meanings. I’ll only do 7 of the colors. I’ll also mention Jedi and Sith as examples of users for that color of the blade.

#1: Red. Ever wonder why the Sith only use red? The reason is most lightsaber crystals grow on a planet called Illum. Both Jedi and Sith could not harvest the crystals in the same area. Picture a Jedi and a Sith of equal power going to the same place at the same time. Red crystals do not grow naturally. They are synthetic. Red crystals are also compatible with the dark side of the Force; so compatible that there is a chance that their opponent’s lightsaber’s matrix can get overwhelmed! This is a rare event. Users include all the Sith, Adi Gallia (a Jedi using a Sith color?) and Galen Marek.
#2: Yellow. This is the color used by the Jedi Sentinel. These Jedi go undercover, keep a low profile, and destroy traces of the dark side. You can see some in the last of the season 5 Star Wars: the Clone Wars episodes! Users include Plo Koon, Bastilla Shan, and Yarell Poof.
#3: Purple. Jedi with light and dark side relations wield this color. They can use aggressive forms with a lower chance of becoming a dark Jedi. Users include Mace Windu, Mara Jade Skywalker, Jaina Solo, Jaden Korr, and the Dark Woman.
#4: Gold. The gold blade is used by Jedi who use high Light Side abilities. Obviously, this is a rare lightsaber. Only used by Qu Rahn.
#5: Bronze. Once again, a rare color used by only two beings. Jedi who use this color rely mainly on physical strength. The only two who used it were Lowbacca and Freedon Nadd.
#6: White. This color is used by force users who have a narrow (thin) mind on the Force and serve a master. These were honestly common after Episode VI of Star wars. However, they were only used by all the Imperial Knights in the Legacy Series.
#7: Silver. This is the color used by very calm Jedi that rely on the force as a hole. While I do know there were two Jedi who used this blade, I can only remember one of them; Corran Horn.
A Sith destroying a lightsaber is rare, possibly being a 1 in 5 trillion chance of occurring.

The Jedi and Sith also use Force Powers when battling. Possibly the best known power is Force grip. This allows Jedi and Sith to lift objects ranging from pebbles to houses and maybe even planets! This would be great for rescue missions as it would clear rubble. I believe this is a great power and can come to great use.

Another well known power is force push. The push power can repel anything that can be lifted with grip, depending on the power the user has. It is useful for removing flying rocks out of one’s way, trapping targets, and disarming beings with weapons.

Force lightning. This is mainly a Sith power. Force lightning is when bolts of electricity shoot out from the user’s hand, ranging from rendering the victim unconscious to turning bodies to ash! Someone strong enough could use force storm, causing entire fleets of ships to get wrecked. I do not see any good use for this power, yet some Jedi use it.

Jedi mind trick: my favorite. This one only works on the weak minded, but it can get anyone with a weak mind to do what they want. This should not be used for getting money or having someone doing wrong causes. It should be used to distract, get someone to stop doing things that are unnecessary or to get soldiers who are looking for you to believe you are not yourself.

These lightsaber blade color meaning and Jedi/Sith force powers wrap it all up. I hope you enjoyed my essay on Star Wars.

(Find the information I have written down on Star Wars expertEvanova95’s YouTube channel: huge shout out to him.)


It is 3:47 and I am absolutely NOT watching the clock.

I am helping a friend at a bookstore while The Boy is at the pool, and the clock on the wall is in no ways causing me any stress.  It would be foolish, after all, to be concerned about something which is still 30 minutes away and which I have convinced myself is really 45 minutes away.  It is 3:49 now

The Boy is going to ride his bike from camp to the store, and there is no way that my brain is conjuring all of the worst case scenarios.

It is 3:52.  Why is time moving so slowly?

This morning, I locked The Boy’s bike up at camp.  We had gone over the route many times over the past couple days.  He seemed eager and I gave him a jaunty wave as I left him there, backpack, bike helmet, lunch and that fragile body.


I slowed leaving the parking lot.  He was introducing himself to some kids, they were laughing at a joke and I as always, I wondered if he was laughing as well because he GOT it or because THEY were laughing.

(Did the clock just go backwards?)

The pool closes at 4:00 pm.  If history is any judge, he will be the last person out.  Then he will take forever changing from his bathing suit into his street clothes  So he’ll leave around 4:10 maybe?  In twelve more minutes.

It is an easy one mile from the pool to the store.  I did it a million times when I was his age.  But surely I was more aware, more grown up than he is now?  There weren’t as many cars on the road then, right?  I pick up my phone and press 9-1- ready to put in the last digit if he is not here at 4:30 on the dot!!


My heart is racing.  How do I explain this lack of parenting oversight to my wife?  my parents? the in-laws?


Someone is talking to me, obviously unaware that if I move my eyes from the clock for a second, all will be lost!  Life as I know it will be…

“Hi dad!”

There is the soft clunk of his helmet as he swings it against the door.  It is 4:15.  He is not a stain on the road.  He has not been abducted.  He did not get lost and end up in Canada.

“Hey buddy, how was the ride?”

“Great!”  He is preening with pride, reveling in this longed for freedom.  This boy, who can’t remember a name and had a melt down about gnats is glowing in a new light of independence.

My heart slows and I hug him.

“I’m proud of you buddy!  I knew you could do it!”

After the Successful Ride

After the Successful Ride


It’s a Dog’s Life -ish

As punishment for using all of the data in the world, the boy has been tasked with writing some essays/stories based on writing prompts I have given him.  It is an excuse for me to get him to do something I think he is good at but which he hates.

Today’s prompt:  Write a story about a day in the life of a dog from the dog’s point of view

I am a German Sheppard. This is a day in my life.

7:00 A.M; this is the time I often wake up. My lazy parents are still asleep. I give Mommy a good kiss to remind her it’s time to feed me. I am so glad I did because she wakes up Daddy and we go downstairs for our breakfast.

They tell me they are going out to stay with strangers I don’t know and will be home for dinner. Wait. There’s bacon on the ground? It is my job for it to not go to waste… so I eat it. Then I saw that they left the front door open, and I saw Zeck outside. I burst out of the door saying hi. After we got together, we did activities.

We saw a lot of slow, tasty squirrels in out neighborhood. Only 2 were lucky enough to escape us. The rest we either ate or stored in our stash of food. All of a sudden, we see a toy. We run, grab, and play tug-of-war. This is what our ancestors used to do to settle arguments. We won twice each, and then I tagged Zeck. That signaled a game of tag. Zeck got faster the last time we met, because he caught up to me and tagged me. Luckily, we only had energy for one more tag each, and then I said goodbye to my pal, went home, and napped.

I heard my parents’ car; then I knew what to do. I walked to the door, waited for them to open it, and when they did, I jumped onto Daddy and gave him kisses. I was so happy to see them! They hugged me, but then went to stare at something bright and colorful. I wanted to join in so I leapt onto the couch and started cuddling. Then I see a cat. I have to get it so I run to the window and yell at it. It goes away, but then I feel really sleepy. I walk to bed, lay down, and go to sleep. What a day!


Summer School

The Boy is studying a book, closely examining the words and pictures.  Finally, he turns to me.

“I don’t get it,” I take a look at the book.

A troop of British soldiers is is in a line,  one with eyes very wide.  The caption reads”

“Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775: An unfortunate twist of fate for one young Redcoat. Charles “Bugeyed” Bingham was not knowing that the opposing American general had just uttered the historic command ‘Don’t fine until you see the whites of their eyes'”

We have just moved to New England and one of my great joys is sharing with him my limited knowledge about the Revolutionary War.  So we chat about Col. Prescott (the quote is sometimes attributed to him, sometimes to General Putnam).  The circumstances surrounding The Battle of Bunker Hill, the cause of the revolution, the practicality of the order, and all of this from a Gary Larson cartoon.

The Boy and I frequently find ourselves using odd books to initiate conversation.  Far Side cartoons frequently make obscure or dated references.  He want to laugh at the jokes, but is too honest to laugh unless he “gets” it.

Calvin and Hobbes creates conversations about empathy, imagination and bullies.  In addition, the language the eponymous characters use is very advanced.  A few years ago, when The Boy was only six, he looked at me close to tears, asking why Calvin knows all these words that The Boy does not.  After comforting him that it was not written by a six year old, he focused on improving his vocabulary.

Comics are not our only unusual source of study.  Two years ago, The Boy started taking karate.  A year later, I joined him and we both embraced the martial arts.  Since moving here, we started studying Tae Kwon Doe.  This has lead to talks about Korea, Japan and their relationships, the way traditions transfer and grow and change to fit environment.

Great learning comes from conversation.  My greatest teachers were the ones who were engaging.  It also requires a point of access to ask questions.  And if Bill Watterson or Gary Larson or Herge are these points, I’ll not complain.CalvinandHobbes

The Boy’s Take on The Move

When I thought about it, the moving to VT was horrifying and made me cry because all my friends lived there. I had moved before, but this is my first time I REMEMBER moving, making me used to MD. Before we found a permanent home, I spent 3 days with Dad’s best friend. It was good except 2 problems for me (no offense Bobby, you are awesome). One was two cats (allergies), the second one was 4 kids! Being a single child, I was not used to many kids. They annoyed me like heck because they were talking so much and telling me stuff I already knew, and the second night I puked! I was 100% ready to leave.

Unfortunately, we did not yet find a permanent home, so we stayed at a hotel. The service was great, with only a few things wrong; no food at the entrance, and a bad pool. Other than that, it was good! We also found an affordable home, which was the first one we had our eye on. =)
After only 2 days, we got settled in our new home, which had some neat features which belong to our landlords; a koi pond, hang dryers, a mudroom, and a duck (quack!) farm. Our house is cheap, large, and there are a lot of rooms! Hang drying saves us some money and is great for the environment.

For me, the bad news is internet connection is horrible because its 25 years old. I want fast internet connection so YouTube videos won’t use up data or buffer as much, I can play multiplayer on my games, and so I can Skype my friends. I was not using Wi-Fi so I had to stream my videos and use up data. I didn’t know how much I used until dad said I used $200 worth of data! I felt so stupid! That also meant no electronics unless otherwise noticed. I have to write an essay like this to get my electronics back, iPod first. I was able to hold in my sadness until I talked to mom. I still get tears when I mention it.

Luckily, Downtown Brattleboro is a bike ride away! There is a pool, a great snack place, some activities, and many biking/walking trails. 12,000 people means less careless people and hopefully less law breakers. I honestly love this place!

Dull Old Dad

This post was originally written about three weeks ago, but due to connectivity issues in our new rural environment, I was not able to publish it.  So don’t worry, you have not stepped into a time warp when you find that other post seem to be following rapidly

I have been teaching the boy the art of boredom recently.  To be fair, he brought this on himself.  He is the one who, despite countless warnings to the contrary, used up almost $300 of mobile data by streaming You Tube videos about Star Wars and Minecraft.  So we are all on a data diet and he is prohibited from using electronics.  He will be earning them back gradually by providing weekly essays, which I will post here.

Still, he has plenty of options for entertainment.  On nice days, we can bike to the pool, or take the dog for a long hike.  He has plenty of books to read and toys to play with.  He can practice his karate and his music and of course, work on those essays.

I came across a fun acronym (of course, all acronyms are fun!):

Be creative

Outside play



Do something nice for someone

He has all the tools he needs to keep himself occupied, but still I hear “There’s nothing to do,”  After he moans that a couple of times, I go over with The Boy (for the thousandth time) all of his options.  But is it wrong that I take pleasure in him staring at the ceiling, thinking?

I remember how my imagination raced on those days when I was bored as a child.  I recall my parents not being able to provide constant entertainment.  I recall coming up with diversions which grew into obsessions.  One winter, my room was strewn with over 100 paper airplanes of a variety of designs.

In this family, we love technology.  I know my son has more “screen time” than many of his peers, and I am okay with that.  But I also like when he is pushed to find his own interests in the real world.  I sometimes think that we, as parents, feel the need to provide a constant source of stimulus.  But sometimes boredom is a powerful tool, and laying back, watching clouds, is the best way to spend a day.

A Bittersweet Goodbye

There is a move on the horizon.  Due to way too many influences to go into in this particular forum, The Boy and I will be moving to my old hometown this summer, with LW and the mutt joining us in the fall.  This has gone over with the boy as well as expected, like an orb of Pb filled with He.  (We’ve been studying the periodic table – educate yourself)

Not surprising was The Boys reaction when we let him know about the move.  Tears, anger, and a full hour when he would not talk to us.  But he recovered.  One of the traits I have always loved most about him is his ability to forgive and return to his natural smiling state.  This does not mean that he is happy about the move.  If the word “Vermont” is mentioned, he tears up, but fights them back.

Of course, the biggest fear of moving, aside from just the trauma of leaving what is known, is parting with friends.  For the past four years, he has been walking distance from his best friend’s house.  And in the last year, through home schooling, he has made a number of close friends.  This will be a hard move for The Boy.  But with the magic of computers and Skype, he will be able to keep in touch with most of them and play online games with them.  And our homeschool friends are always willing to travel.

I know he will grow to love my home state.  There will be new friends made, more freedom to explore and be autonomous.  Autumn hikes, Winter skiing and Summer days spent at the river.

There is something a bit surprising, and I will apply my pop psychology to it.  (I took Intro to psych in college, I think I am qualified to answer any and all questions of the mind).

The Boy has requested to go back to traditional school when we move.  This has left me gobsmacked.  I love being at home with him, the good days and bad days, and I think he enjoys it as well.  But (and here is the psychology I promised) I think I get it.  The move is out of his control.  This is one thing he can exert control over, since we are willing to consider his educational preferences.

In the past year, he has made more friends than he ever had in either public or private school.   Still, he feels it is necessary to “make friends” by going to traditional (boring) school.  I have explained the downsides, earlier bedtimes, earlier wake ups, homework, all of the things we hated.  He remains committed though.  I will wage a soft battle here, introduce him to the HS community in VT, emphasize the benefits of being at home schooled.  But as the time comes, if he remains unswayed, we will let him go to school.  The agreement is that he would have to give it a full month, after that, we would pull him out again if he so wishes.

My fingers are crossed that he will want to.

Things we will miss:

Hanging With Friends

Hanging With Friends

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum

Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum


National Zoo with Mom

National Zoo with Mom

Arlington Cemetary

Arlington Cemetary