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Secret Confessions of a Home School Dad

News flash: It is August.  And I’ll confess that I’m one of those calendar-challenged individuals, who expects something mystical to happen when a calendar is flipped upwards and a new month arrives.  So when I awaken on the first of the month and discover that the birds are still chirping the same song as yesterday, I kind of forget.  I personally believe this is hereditary, as my five-year old son still thinks he is four, as being five feels no different from four.  It’s a brilliant strategy, in my opinion.  I could utilize this strategy and remain in denial of my fast arriving birthday in three weeks, thus spinning my age into a new frightening number that ends in zero.  But I digress.


Chuck’s kicks ALWAYS connect…

My typical confusion over dates is further complicated in that I spend some measure of time daydreaming about time travel and the butterfly effect.  What if Chuck Norris traveled back to the time of Genesis and tried to roundhouse kick Snake Satan in the choppers?  Would the kick connect, or miss and knock over the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?  The whole concept makes my head spin.  So anyhow, I digress again.  Stay on target…. Squirrel!  To say “Hey it’s August” really doesn’t hold a lot of sway for me.  But if you were to say “Hey homeschool is starting up soon” well that is a different matter altogether.

Subtle Signs and Symptoms of August

For starters, there has been a lot less money in the bank and a whole lot more heavy boxes arriving in the mail.  To save tedious check writing, I may just as well turn over my entire paycheck to Amazon and the Home School Resource Center.  Another not so subtle sign is that Pooky has been sleeping less and fretting more over strange words like “omnibus” which, to me, sounds like a cool Transformers robot.  I had no idea she was so into cool stuff like that, I assume it transforms from a textbook into a fretful spouse.  The kids are showing strange symptoms as well – instead of reading Harry Potter, Narnia, or Percy Jackson books for the forty-second time, my daughter can be found reading Frankenstein, Pride and Prejudice, and the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

It’s the first flutter of contractions, soon we’ll give birth to insanity.

GreedoI’m not a fancy man by any stretch of the imagination.  Sure, some things have to be just right.  For example, an off tune guitar string on a G Major strum sets my teeth on edge.  Don’t ever tell me Greedo shot first.  And you can’t be an Orc Mage Paladin, you can only be a Mage OR a Paladin.  You know, the kind of stuff that really matters in life.  So in a few weeks, when a boxed macaroni and cheese dinner comes out on paper plates at 7:00 PM, I won’t throw it against the wall.  And when I curl up in bed alone while Pooky sits downstairs at the dining room table, grading unnatural math problems that contain letters AND numbers (preposterous), I won’t stomp my feet.  You know why?

Parenting Is Hard Work

We made a decision some years ago that homeschool was the best choice for our school-aged daughter.  There were a ton of reasons why, and now, twenty seven kids later (it seems like it, anyway – they never stay still long enough to do a proper count) we’re still going strong.  This year, our five year old enters the fray, and call it a hunch but I think he’ll do just fine.  There is no cookie cutter approach, you find what works for each kid on each particular day.  Therein lies the value in homeschooling for us, and that is worth a thousand boxed macaroni and cheese dinners.

Computer Stuff to Make Your Brain Hurt

OK, so I promised I’d give you a groundwork in computer networking before I wind up at the beefier topics of content filtering.  So here goes.


An electronic device for storing and processing data, typically in binary form, according to instructions given to it in a variable program.

By this very loose definition, your Dell Tower is obviously a computer.  Your Macbook Air is also a computer.  Your iPod and Zune are computers.  The Samsung Galaxy and iPhone are computers.  Your smart television that stores your Netflix Password and plays back episodes of the Office?  That’s right, a computer.

And what about this?  Chances are, you have something like this hanging on your ‘fridge.  Is this a computer?



That’s right, it is a computer.  Look closely at the green base where you stick the letters – do you see the input buttons?


Think of that like the mouse or keyboard – it’s the user interface where you enter commands.  Our little green friend (Star Wars reference, sorry) just hangs out on the fridge, waiting expectantly for us to provide it with input so it can provide us with its pre-programmed output.

Now look at the letters – notice they have little notches that coincide with specific buttons on the base?


Each letter has a combination of notches that, when pressed into the base, issue a specific command to the computer.  The computer then regurgitates the coinciding stored data, based on the input.  Now I’ll nerd out on you and tell you that I once documented all the binary combinations for each letter that came with this Leap Frog Fridge Letter Kit.  Impressed?  More likely, you’re wondering “sweet mother of Abraham Lincoln, this guy needs help”.  You’re not too far off.   So anyway, computers are everywhere, and they communicate based on one’s and zero’s – a language called Binary or Base 2.  It’s either on (one) or off (zero).  By comparison, our numeration system utilizes the numbers 0 through 9, called decimal or Base 10.  Here is the binary equivalent for the letter C on our fridge toy:


Think of Binary as a row of light switches.  If the switch is up, it’s on and counts.  If it’s down, it’s off and does not count.  Binary reads from right to left, and each “switch” or bit doubles each potential value for each button, as follows: 32-16-8-4-2-1.  Since we only have six notches or buttons, we’ll stop the math there.  To get the Binary equivalent, you just add up the numbers that are in the on position (or taking the light switch analogy, are up) to get the total.  So if you add the on positions in the letter C above from right to left, you get 32+16+0+0+2+0=50.  This plastic C calls out “50” which the computer then interprets and responds “C SAYS KUH.  C SAYS KUH.  EVERY LETTER MAKES A SOUND, C SAYS KUH.”  So now you have a basic understanding of Binary, though I imagine it’s about as clear as a cup of mud.  Have you ever seen the nerdy t-shirt for sale on ThinkGeek (best online store ever) that says this?

Now does it make sense?  Do the Binary conversion from right to left for the on bits – 10 equals 0+2 = 2.  If it were 11, we’d do the math as follows – both bits are on so you add 1+2=3.  Get it?  And free advice for my wife and kids – my birthday is coming up in a few weeks.  Any gift from Thinkgeek is an instant epic win.

So now we know the world around us is full of computers, and they communicate in a language of one’s and zero’s called Binary.  Ultimately all computers take an input and regurgitate something based on that input, as determined by the programmer who set it up.  Now that we’ve covered that, I’m sure your brain hurts.  My throat is sore from explaining it, and I’m not even talking.  Shall I stop here?  Because the next step is studying how computers communicate with each other:  Networking.