Brennan met his goal and completed his NaNoWriMo challenge (National Novel Writing Month). He's worked almost every day this month to finish 3,000 words on his Beaker the Penguin series and meet the goal he set for himself. As a result, he will receive several bound and professionally produced copies of his book. Over the next week, we'll be posting excerpts of his writing on Gypsyschoolhouse. Though he can type and write pretty well, these stories were dictated to Dad (after some plot planning) and edited over the month of November. If you or your kids write, this is a fun way to challenge yourself and keep up with other writing buddies as you progress. Congratulations, Brennan!


Skyrim and the Sandbox Revolution

Skyrim came out this week. It has been arguably one of the most anticipated events of the year for Rich and myself.

Well, whoopdy freakin' doo, you say. What the heck is Skyrim?

Skyrim is the 5th in a series of video games that started back in the mid-90's. I can't tell you how to play the game because there are really no rules to playing it. You don't actually play the game, you play a character. Most people who buy it this week (LOTS - $450 million in sales so far) will grab a sword or bow and arrow and run around exploring dungeons, killing monsters, and collecting treasures. They'll also try to follow the main story line which assigns you various tasks to complete to move the story forward.

Rich and I will probably do none of those things. When the last installment came out in 2006, Rich was 6. He came home every day asking to play Oblivion (Elder Scrolls IV). He played it on weekends, and even tried to squeeze it in before school some mornings. In the game, he concentrated on scavenging treasure that he could sell in order to buy a horse, and later, a house. He could then decorate the house. He could go fishing, hunting, start a business, join the Imperial Watch or help protect the king as a member of the Blade bodyguards. The game is designed for adults, but he was OBSESSED with it. He even listed it as number 1 on his list of "things I like to do with Dad" that year.

The great thing about this game is that you can do whatever you want in it, and Skyrim has taken that to a new level. You can hunt, then use the cured leather to make your own clothes. You can make and maintain weapons. You can work at a lumber mill. You can get married and buy a farm (not Rich's first priority). Run a business out of your home. Become an assassin, a thief, a hero, or a wizard. Sure, there's violence and bloodshed, but it's not gratuitous, and that drawback is far outstripped by the benefits. The freedom to virtually do things he'll never be able to do in real life, to try things his way and see if the game accommodates it, or finding a way of tricking the game. But he's in charge of learning how to do it and make it work. And that's the win.

Yes, he actually stands up most of the time he's playing. In this
picture, he's just started and is trying to decide if he should
help kill a dragon, or run off into the woods leaving the village
to their fiery fate. He did a little of both. 

There was an incredible article on video games at Camp Creek blog a few weeks ago. Lori says it so much better than I can, in fact, I'd recommend skipping the rest of this post and go read hers. It's the best piece I've ever read on kids and video games, and everything she says rings true in our home:

"You're never going to convince an adult gamer that video games are bad for kids - not because he's clinging stubbornly to his addiction, but because he's amassed enough anecdotal evidence to know you're wrong. Kids who play video games read (sometimes they learnt o read so they can play the games), they problem-solve, they have raucously good fun with their family and friends. Trying to explain that it's all bad, bad, bad, just makes you sound like the Luddite codger you are."

(You MUST read this article in full at one of the best education blogs on the net:
http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2011/11/7/why-i-dont-worry-about-my-kids-screen-time-part-1.html )

His obsession won't last forever - he'll eventually move on to other things. We've been having a similar experience with Wizard 101 (which Brennan also loves), but for the foreseeable future, Skyrim is king around here. As a matter of fact, I'm cutting this post short to go play it myself. I have a mammoth herd to round up, some gems that need appraising, and I'm expected at a meeting of the Thieve's Guild in a bit. Cheers!



We kind of stretch it into two days since there's usually several nights of festivities no matter where we happen to be.

Christie started out with some breakfast eyeballs, Frankenstein pancakes, and fresh blood.

Rich is having second thoughts about the bloody eyeballs

Then the boys decorated rice crispy treats with icing, chocolate chips, and M&M's. I'm gong to call it the unschooling version of art class.

Then Trick or Treating at two different churches on two different nights, plus hit a few houses around Gramsy and Pop's house. 

Rich climbed this thing three times. Twice in costume.

Brennan and cousin Bekah

Mini-mouse princess

Brennan, Emily, Rich, and Bekah after
the hard work of taking candy from strangers

Brennan taking stock of his booty