Independent Learning Homeschool Curriculum – School of Dad

Being a Dad is great, I had wanted to be a dad since I was very little and seeing my dad have kids early made me want to have kid at a younger age. I had my firstborn at around age 20 when my peers were not even considering kids unless it was by “accident”. Now that I am a father and am able to share things with my kids I find myself without enough knowledge to share at times. The things I was interested in as a child are not the same things that my kids are going to be involved in or they are already far advanced in. My desires over the last few years have shifted and I find myself being drawn to a lot of different hobbies. Photography, graphic design, gardening, auto mechanics, and art are all hobbies that I have taken up in one form or another.

Background

Jennifer does most of the homeschooling for the kids. She picks out the curriculum and has the day to day responsibility of teaching the children the basics. Math, language arts, science, history, and Bible etc. I at times feel as though I’m an outsider when it comes to the education of my children. I think many dads feel this way at one time or another.

School of Dad

Our response has been to add a class to the kids calendar on Homeschool Planet. We named this course the “School of Dad.” In this module I can add tasks for the children to complete, approved videos for them to watch, chores that they should be doing, and/or whatever else I think they might need to supplement their basic curriculum. One day I discovered the Draw with Jazza, a YouTuber who has some great videos on art, animation, and drawing. I added the task of simply watching a certain video which the children really enjoyed. Now Jazza is one of their favorite YouTubers and the renewed interest in drawing has inspired me to get them a Wacom drawing tablet.

Jennifer: One of the most valuable attributes that my husband brings to the table with regards to teaching our children is his willingness to seek out and try things that interest him. He’s never afraid to try something new even if he’s not sure he will be successful. I’m so glad to see our kids follow him in this trend. There’s something so reassuring about seeing our son trying to create something or use a new tool without trepidation or fear of judgment.

Letting Go

Our oldest is a sponge when it comes to learning. But their are some questions that you don’t want to answer because I might have it wrong. As parents we need to recognize that we are not the authority on knowledge. To combat this Jennifer was able to find a used complete encyclopedia set that a school was selling to get an updated version. The set came and show almost no signs of use. Now if he has a question he can look it up in the encyclopedia set before trying to find the answer on google. I have also found that he will just sit and read the encyclopedia for fun or when he sees an interesting topic related to something he has looked up.

Jennifer: World Book puts out a fancy new expensive set every year with a few changes and updates from the previous version. I compromised and selected a two-year old version and bought it from a used book seller on Amazon. This enabled me to buy a $1500 book set for around a $200 investment. Bonus, it’s more reliable than your average Wikipedia page and safer than a google search for our kids.

Providing Resources

One of the foundational parenting styles that Jennifer and I share is that if our children want to try something, if they want to learn something, we will do our best to make sure they have the materials to accomplish it. My oldest wanted to make foam rubber armor like he saw on another YouTube channel, Punished Props. We had the materials on hand and let him go for it. He spent the next two weeks getting up early to work on the costume. The end result was a great looking handmade costume that he was proud of and he learned new skills in the process.

Even Coding?

We have recently learned that our kids have an interest in coding. It started out as a simple Arduino hardware kit my oldest was working on. Next we found a free resource that MIT developed called Scratch. A few online books later and they were both on their way to learning coding. Now we use coding as a “skill course” in their curriculum but they do much more of it in their free time.

If you are looking for ideas in this realm of learning I suggest watching some YouTube channels to get some ideas. There are plenty of scratch tutorials and other beginning software for coding.

Jennifer: OK so I was totally intimidated by the whole coding idea. I tried learning HTML in my younger days and failed miserably. Ultimately I just had to remember that my kids are different than me and that they will not necessarily share my limitations in life. Like with any “curriculum” it can be a risk to make a purchase but, for us, this one paid off big time. I didn’t have to learn anything about coding. Our kids just took off with it. My role as a teacher (as with most subjects) simply involves setting up parameters, asking them questions about what they learned and challenging them to find ways to improve their designs. If our kids hadn’t enjoyed coding or been successful at it we would have simply moved on to a different subject and tried that. Not all kids need to know coding nor will they be adept at it and that’s OK.

Additional Resources

If you are wanting to know about hardware check out raspberry pi. I just saw a video where a kid made and programed a mirror to be a smart mirror using raspberry pi and other downloadable software. Also if you have old and obsolete devices or computers sit down with your children one day and take them apart. I learned a great deal about how a computer is made by simply pulling one apart. If you don’t have an old computer lying around watch a disassembly tutorial or get a cheap computer part from goodwill or your local thrift stores.

Conclusion

So, while I can’t take the credit for my children creativity or desire I think that much of the interest in these endeavors has come from the ability to have the materials and the flexibility to let them learn on their own. Jennifer never had to teach them to code, I never had to show them how to draw or what to draw. We just allowed them the freedom, gave them the tools provided safe boundaries and let them explore while being present to witness and encourage their growth.

Comment below if you have advice for homeschool dads or other fun projects that you would like to share. Be sure to check back to the Blog soon as we are ramping up the writing to bring you more valuable content.

Restless Leg Relief While You Sleep

Restless Leg Blanket
Darren’s Weighted Blanket

Disclaimer

I’m not a doctor so this is just my own personal opinion. I have also never been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Background

What I can tell you is that for the majority of my adult life I have had very active legs during sleep. At times during the day my legs hurt for no apparent reason. Long flights and car rides are basically a form of torture. I’m not sure the reason but I suspect that it has something to do with my time in the military. I don’t think a person can do three tours overseas and not be changed by it. That being said, I have always been a very active sleeper, tossing and turning all thorough the night. My relief has come in an unlikely place… a spontaneous Christmas gift from my wife.

Let’s Back Up

A couple years ago I got a Christmas gift from my wife. It was a medium size box that was comically heavy. I had no idea what it was. Certainly it was nothing close to the things I had asked for, if I had asked for anything. I open the box and its a piece of flannel looking material at the top. I’m thinking at that moment that she bought my some flannel shirts and weighed them down with rocks to completely throw me off the actual present. Turns out it wasn’t a prank as I had imagined but an incredible weighted blanket. To top it off I learned she had actually made it herself.

Jennifer: “I was actually on Facebook following a friend who did a post about helping traumatized children and kids with Autism sleep better. It peaked my interest because someone in our life has Autism. What I didn’t expect was to read about how weighted blankets can help people with PTSD sleep better at night. As soon as I read that I knew it’s what I needed to do for Darren.”

The Blanket

The blanket itself is long enough for a 6 foot tall person. It is probably throw blanket dimensions but I’ll measure it or ask Jennifer the true dimension when I get a chance. The unique feature of the blanket is that in between the fabric layers are weighted beads that she had to sew in. It has a quilted look because the beads are a certain size. She made mine out of shirt flannel but I’m sure if you have a blanket material of choice it is interchangeable.

The Benefits

The benefits of using the blanket have been night and day. I try and use the blanket most nights but it does not always stay on the bed. Because of its weight it is hard for Jennifer to move around and she likes to make the bed in the mornings. So normally when I get out of bed I put the blanket in a metal bin that I keep on my side of the bedroom. Some nights when I’m having a hard time sleeping and Jennifer recognizes that I don’t have the blanket on the bed she’ll put it over me. I sleep so much better with it that it is sometimes difficult for me to get to sleep without it.

Jennifer says: “He definitely sleeps better. I notice he doesn’t toss and turn or talk out in his sleep as much. But I won’t lie, it  can be a pain to sleep in a bed with what feels like a rock barrier between me and my guy. It’s worth it though to know he’s getting better sleep at night and I really believe it makes his life better as a whole.”

The Drawbacks

The blanket is not without a few drawbacks. For one, because of the design it is extremely heavy. I personally like to sleep that way but some people might find it constricting. My blanket is sized for me so if you are married it might be a good idea to make a full bed sized one with only half the blanket weighted. It would be even heavier but would make the blankets uniform rather than one person being under different blankets than the other. Another drawback is, as I understand it, it was difficult to make. From what I was able to glean from Jennifer’s explanation you have to place the beads, sew around them, and then place more beads to sew around. This means that you are constantly moving the entire (heavy) blanket around as you are sewing and having to move it in all different directions. Also our sewing machine was not up to the task so Jennifer had to borrow her mom’s sewing machine.

Jennifer: “It is really heavy but it only has to be 18-20% of the users body weight. It was really hard to make. I actually broke my machine and tried my moms, but ultimately I used my aunts Husqvarna machine that is so tough it can sew through brick walls. It also took me and my mom to man-handle the blanket for each pass.”

Conclusion

If you are like me and have trouble sleeping due to hurting body parts, or you have been diagnosed with restless leg syndrome then this project might be for you. I’m not 100% sure but it seems to me that this would also be something that you could find to purchase although I have no idea. If I can get her to do it, or if there is a bunch of interest in the comments maybe I can get Jennifer to make a how to tutorial of this project, stay tuned.

Jennifer: “Um, no, I won’t be making another one of these any time soon. Just watch the video below. I will say that I used these plastic pellets from this company. They were absolutely great and had the best prices I could find. They are just a wonderful Christian mom and pop company and I hope you give them a try.”

Want to Just Buy One?

Here are some resources for you to purchase a blanket if you don’t have the time or would rather just get one a bit quicker.

Mosaic Weighted Blankets – Mosaic has resources for purchasing blankets, Do It Yourself (DIY) blankets, and a bunch of resource for other uses of the weighted blanket. I had no idea that it is also a good idea for certain types of autism and sensory disorders. I recommend checking them out if you are wanting some more information on the health benefits.

SensoryGoods.com – A website built around meeting the needs of people with developmental disorders. Products designed for autism, sensory integration, and other needs.

For Further Reading

There are a bunch of articles on Weighted Blankets but I’ve complied a few here for your convince.

dyingandgrief.com – A website that supports family and caregivers

MedicineNet.com – A question/answer forum answering the question “What method did you find most effective in treating your restless leg syndrome?

Here is a nice well made tutorial for how to make your own weighted blanket.

Running Away from Blisters A Tale of Two Shoes

Background

Okay, so I’m not a runner lets get that out of the way from the start.

I run away from scary things, but I have never enjoyed running as a sport or leisure activity.  The main reason is that it would always hurt when I ran.  As a child running my ribs would hurt and send shooting pains during the run.  As an adult I would get shin splints and blisters on bottom of feet from running, nearly each and every time I ran.

Now, I’m not a person that hates activity, quiet the opposite, I love sports and I was always interested in running short distances. If I was running my preferred method is doing sprints and I have even enjoyed the occasional Indian run (running in a single file line of people with the back guy sprinting to the front of the line over a select distance).  I played baseball, football and basketball regularly as a kid and even a little bit of schoolyard soccer in grade school.  So, to say that I was, or am out of shape is not accurate.

When I first started community college I worked out with a buddy of mine who loved to run and would take me on short 1-2 mile runs on campus.  I didn’t mind this as I was staying in shape and he liked to sprint between light-posts and rest/job between every other.  From there I went in the military and was required to run, like a lot of running.  Every year I had to complete a fitness evaluation which included a timed run and as well my units also like to do regular company runs.  So running, all-be-it grudgingly, has been a regular part of my life.

A Blistered Past

Another part of my running life that has followed me has been getting blisters on the bottoms of my feet when I  run.  Prior to about 3 years ago, petty much any run I went on over 3/4 of a mile I would end in blisters.  The longer the run the worst the blistering.  I tried many things to get rid of the blisters, everything from new running shoes and moleskin bandages to padded insoles.  Nothing worked until I was recommended to try a shoe store that strictly sold running shoes and running apparel.

A Solution is Found

It was just a small store with a couple employees and the owner.  The owner is onsite most of the time and is very passionate about running shoes and teaches his employee how to correctly size a person for a running shoe.  I have really flat feet and in the past I wore the wrong shoe. My problem was that my preconceived idea was that I had to compensate for my flat feet with arch supports and running shoes with high arches.  This could not have been further from the actual truth.  I was sized into a very flat shoe that had  a cushion based on what material I would be running on.  Concrete, running tracks, sand, asphalt and treadmills all behave differently and need different soles if you plan on running them regularly.  So I got a shoe that was primarily for running outside on hard-pack pavement or concrete.  I also got some running socks and a little roll on material in a container that looked like a deodorant stick.  I didn’t use that very long because I found out that the change in shoes and socks was enough to free me of blisters.

And Now

I have stuck with the same shoe brand and type of shoe for about 3 years.  Every once in a while the company changes the color but the fit is usually about the same.  For a while I didn’t like the color change so I got on Amazon and was able to find the older model in the color I liked.  Now, I’m still a average runner and I still hate to run but at least I can run without pain and without blisters.

If you found this blog helpful please comment below. I’d like to hear your shoe success/failure stories.

Shoe Recommendations

Not every shoe brand is going to work for every person. I have complied a list of my favorite shoe resources for you to consider.

  • Road Runner Sports – If you don’t have a running shoe store this is a good site for finding different running shoes and apparel. Also here is a link to their blog if you are looking for some shoe product reviews.
  • Balega Hidden Comfort– I’ve found that a good pair of running socks really helps reduce the friction while running
  • Saucony – My favorite brand of running shoe
  • Brooks – Another good shoe brand
  • Mizuno – My wife was wearing this brand for a while and liked them
  • Asics – A solid brand and would probably be my second choice to consider
  • New Balance – My first brand of running shoe, probably would have worked for me if I was wearing the right kind of shoe for my feet
  • Adidas – Another good brand to consider
  • Nike – I don’t wear Nike because they tend to run wide on me.
  • Reebok  – A brand I’m not sure about but worth considering
  • Amazon – Once you find your shoe look on Amazon to see if you can save a little

More Reading

Runnersworld.com/blisters

Tips & Tricks – Foot Care (aka Blister Prevention)

Tips for New Runners – Chafing and Blisters

How to Treat (and Prevent) Running Blisters

How to Manage Running Blisters

Blister Prevention and Management

LIFE IS BETTER IN RUNNING SHOES: How to Buy New Running Shoes?

The BEST Running Shoes

Best Running Shoes for Women

Top 10 Best Running Socks Tested

 

 

7 Amazon Prime Features – And no ones talking about them – 2017

7 hidden features you’ll want to know more about

 

Amazon Prime Features

Amazon is an amazing company. With so many prime features it is hard to know about them all. In my research I’ve come across at least 7 Amazon Prime Features that I didn’t know about before. I hope to keep this post updated so let me know in the comments section below if you’ve used any of these prime features and any new features that I haven’t added.

In many of my posts, and in future posts, you will hear me talk about DeWalt, Costco, Canon, Saucony, and Amazon.  It is because I’ve used these brands and I am comfortable telling you about my experiences with these brands.  One brand that I love to use whenever possible is Amazon.  So without further to do…

Let’s talk about some Amazon Prime Features

Amazon is great, possible take-over-the-world great. So here are some prime features you may be missing with your prime membership.

1. Student Discount

I’ll start where I started with Amazon about 5 years ago.  At the time of this blog Amazon is offering 6 months free of Amazon Prime for college students.  Normally you will pay $99 per year for the prime subscription. Students will get it for half that.  All you should need is a .edu email address.  Go to this page for more info.

2.  Wedding Registry / Baby Registry

Did you know that Amazon has prime features for gift registries? They have registries for weddings and babies.  This is really awesome because if you are going to register for your event like a shower you can create a list for almost any product.  If you are receiving an invitation for an event and having a hard time choosing the gift, a person that has registered on Amazon is likely going to appreciate gift cards from Amazon too.

3. Amazon Family

This prime feature is something I wish I would have known about a few months ago.  Basically you register and create child profiles for your children’s ages.  For selective ages you can purchase things like diapers and baby food for up to 20% off.  Also if you complete the baby registry above you can get a 15% registry completion discount.

4. Amazon Household

This product allows you to setup family members that you can share your prime benefits with.  You can have profiles for up to 2 adults (18+), up to 4 teens (13-17), and up to 4 children (under 12).  Shopping is disabled for the child profiles but not the teen profiles.  Sharing certain digital content is restricted between some of the profiles so make sure you know what you can and can’t share before you setup your profiles.

5. Amazon Home Services

Looking for a handyman, a lawn service, or to get your gutters cleaned.  This prime feature includes these and several other home services like carpet cleaning, home theater setup and patio furniture assembly.

6. Prime Photos

This free prime feature includes unlimited digital photo storage and 5 gb of storage for video, document and other digital files.  Need more space for your videos or other files? You can purchase addition storage of 50gb or 1tb.

7. Prime Pantry / AmazonFresh

Some items are cost prohibitively for Amazon to ship for free.  Prime Pantry allows you to purchase some of these items at a flat “delivery fee” per box.  Each item states how much of a box it takes up so you can maximize how much goes into your box. 6 rolls of toilet paper for example was 20% of a box.  As of the writing of this blog the flag delivery fee per box is $5.99.  Also something new that has come out recently is Amazon Fresh which is a 14.99 a month for grocery deliveries.

Bonus

Many people know that Amazon also has a Prime Video service, Music service and you can access Audible (e-books) as well.  Each of these services offers a limited number of free “prime” items that change regularly.  Audible for example rotates 50 e-books that you can read.  Also, if you are into gaming, and have Twitch, check out Twitch Prime.
I hope you found a service or product that you didn’t know about before.

Comment below if there is any other Amazon Prime Features that you know about. Also check out the Amazon Specials in the banners below.

If you liked this and want to know about some more Amazon Prime Features check out this article from Business Insider.