Category: Games

A Day in the Life 19

My neck is out and my back aches. Sigh. We got a big snow and I shoveled even though my neck was twinging so my dad could get in the driveway. I only shoveled a little but it was too much and now. Sigh. I am off to spend several hours flat on my back playing Harvest Moon because I can’t sit up for long. Before I go I want to share a couple things:

This morning my “teaching himself to read” child called me over to the table where he sat eating animal crackers.

“Look Mom, this says low fat!”

“Did you read that yourself?”

“Yup.” He grinned and went on eating.

As I said he has been having me “read” a hymn book to him. He likes to help me read the words, which are divided into syllables so he can easily sound them out. He then helps me sing the songs. It is very sweet. (It had never occurred to me that all the old hymn books I collect from yard sales would make such great easy readers.)

My little boy has taught himself to read!

Also, all three kids are very into Edubuntu and are spending lots of time playing GCompris and and several other great educational games. The other cool thing about Edubuntu is that you can go to the Edubuntu site, download the isntaller and burn the image to a cd–which will allow you to run the whole thing off the cd without installing over your copy of Windows. We have two copies running though one of the machines still has Windows on it. It is amazing to see what they are learning from this wonderful program.

A Day inthe Life 17: Edubuntu update and other random stuff

So, we installed Edubuntu–which is a HUGE hit I may add. It took our poor little old computer, which could barely cope with Windows XP and made it into a speed machine. Also, the kids have spent the evening and morning trying out all the educational software that came bundled with it. In fact, Rachel, much to my husband and mom’s utter joy, is engrossed in KTurtle (the LOGO/Turtle like software I mentioned yesterday.) My husband is thrilled because she has an analytical mind and he has wanted to teach her programming, because, well, he is a programmer by nature and by job. My mom is thrilled because way back when I was small she used to teach LOGO in Catholic school. Rachel is thrilled because she discovered the handbook and is having no small measure of success making things appear on the screen.

Esther has been exploring the installed games and other software–finding Kstar–an astronomy program which lets you look at the stars and constellations at any time and any place with other bonus features. She also discovered a chemistry program (it lets you explore all the elements on the periodic table, showing the actual element, plus the atom and other features. (If I had had this program I would have passed that portion of chemistry). She also found Mine–a Gnome version of Minesweeper. This was a wonderful introduction to logic for my least logical child.

Especially exciting is that Shamus is taking a real interest in all these programs and helping them make the best of them. He has been wanting something he could work with them with and this is perfect, not to mention introducing them to some of the things I am not so good at. 🙂

I was up half the night with “I feel like I am getting sick and can’t sleep” insomnia and am thus a little less useful than usual (I am just proud that I vacuumed.) I intend to do a sketch today, I really do. We’ll see if it happens. In the meantime I am off to join the kids who discovered that I got my new Special Edition Pride and Prejudice (which was only $15!!!! and which came with a “making of ” book and a beautiful folio.) They started watching without me so I am off to join them. Of course I am a bit thrilled because my 6, 8, and 10 year old want to watch a 5 hour long rendition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice! Okay,. the 6 year old will wander off and is currently crashing cars while keeping one eye on the movie but he isn’t complaining about it. 🙂

Edubuntu, too?

So, we downloaded and made a Live CD of Ubuntu. We got it running on the kids’ computer which is awesome because we could test it before installing it. For those who don’t know a Live CD is one where you can run your system off the cd instead of installing the OS over your old OS.


This is good when you want to test several flavors or are not sure it will work with your hardware.
The kids were thrilled with it and were ready for me to go ahead and install it. However, I had also found Edubuntu which is Ubuntu designed to be used in educational classrooms and specifically with kids in mind. It has all sorts of neat kids programs and educational stuff already installed. So I made them wait while I downloaded and made a Live CD of Edubuntu so they could try that out as well.

As much as they loved Ubuntu plain vanilla they loved the marble chocolate swirl of Edubuntu.

Already they have tried out KDETurtle (a take off of the old Logo program my mom used to use to teach her computer class in Catholic school–Turtle and LOGO are a very basic program where you write a mini program and see it work right on the screen.) My husband the programmer is THRILLED!!!!! Esther spent half an hour trying out the little programs and changing colors and whatnot. They have also spent some time working with Gimp, an old favorite of mine–if you need a high quality photo editing/drawing program and have no money The Gimp is for you.

Edubuntu has plenty of other wonderful educational programs bundled with it that the kids are exploring. GCompris , another old favorite is pre-installed which is pretty fun since Rachel vaguely remembers playing it. It also has Hangman and other games designed for older kids including several math programs and a typing tutor. It comes with the whole slew of KDE Games and Gnome games including a ton of basic computer games similar to Tetris, connect 4, etc.

The most exciting thing to me is that it automatically found our internet connection and network. I suspect once I install I will have to fuss with it but the Live CD is working out great. The kids are begging me to do a full install but I want them to mess with it first and see what they can and cannot do.

So far Edubuntu is a winner.

A Day in the Life 2: Getting Geeky and Learning to Play

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Today I set up two computers, with the help of my son. One is missing a sound card and a monitor but otherwise works–the other is all good. Yeah!!! We were suffering without a computer for the kids, and once we get a monitor (getting some through Freecycle–our extra is also on the blink) and I pick up a sound card we will have two computers for three kids, which is much better odds.

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When I realized that the first computer was missing a sound card and why (we had cannibalized it for another computer) I began searching our boxes of old computer stuff–I knew we had an old shrink wrapped Soundblaster card somewhere. I was thrilled when I found it. A brand new Soundblaster sound card–an oldy but goodie. However I was shocked when I checked the specs–Windows 3.1 with floppy disks. Hmmm. Shamus thought it would probably work so I opened it anyway.

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When I looked in the computer I realized we had a bit of a problem. This card was older than we thought–it had an Xt-bus instead of an ISA or PCI like the computer had. For those who have no clue what I am talking about–imagine trying to fit an old floppy disk in a cd rom drive or a European plug into an American outlet–no worky . This thing was OLD–an antique. Anyway from a geek point of view it was cool–awfully tempting to keep just because it was that old–from the late 80’s in fact. Instead I handed it to the kids and let them play with it. Yes, I let my kids play with an old Soundblaster card–they spent an hour pretending it was the map of a city and pretending that there were cars driving on it, etc. What is really funny is that someone is trying to sell one right now on Ebay for $135. It is nearly useless because it is such old technology (it cost nearly $100 new–no we didn’t buy it, it was given to us when a business was going to throw the old stuff out.) The kids had fun with it though and learned quite a bit about how and why it wouldn’t work with this computer.

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Now all I have to do is pick up the monitors from Freecycle, see if the guy with the monitors has any newer old sound cards lying around (all geeky people do–if not I will ask my dad, I know he has a few), and set the second computer up! I had considered making a monitor out of our old dead laptop but think the components to make it work would be too expensive for right now–think I will save that for a cool school project.

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The last leaves standing.

The kids had another geeky thing going on today. Aside from taking walks, playing board games, and reading aloud they made up a new game. It is based on the Zelda game but involved real children playing the characters and trying to sneak by while one child plays the guard. If you have never played a Zelda game this involves one person turning very slowly looking only forward as she turns and the other people trying to sneak around her and stay out of her line of site. I am sure it has some useful application–like if you are every trying to stay out of a searchlight, or um, well something. Anyway they had fun doing it and even made level cards to say what level the players had made it to. 🙂 It was interesting to watch.

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Our yellow fall.

This was especially interesting since Rachel and I had a huge conversation about gaining responsibility, God’s kingdom and His view of maturity, and play. She thought there was some written rule that adults couldn’t play anymore–she got this impression from the way all the girls at Sunday School were sure that it was NOT okay to play with dolls once you reached a certain age.

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After a long conversation she began to understand that play changes as you grow and that children’s play is preparation from growing up–practicing adult behaviors, imagining solutions to various problems, and developing interests. This shocked her so much that she wanted to call all her friends and tell them–“someone has to tell them, Mom!”

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Farm near our house.

After talking a bit more she understood that as adults we still play, it just changes because we are no longer practicing for adult things. The good thing is that suddenly she wasn’t afraid of growing up anymore since she knew that we didn’t mind her playing dolls and such for as long as she liked. The down side is that later in the day she fought with her sister because she was playing “baby games” on the computer and Rachel was offended because she found them boring to watch. Sigh.

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Sheep on the hill.