Friday, July 12, 2013

The Sweetest Diagrams

I had typed all this out on the page of our intended 2013-2014 curriculum, but it became way to long for that list. It deserved its own post. So here it is:

At the homeschool convention this spring, I attended this great workshop by Elizabeth O'Brian. She started the workshop by showing a slide displaying the following sentence...

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

And she asked each person attending the workshop to take a minute or two to paraphrase that sentence to explain what the sentence was about, what it was saying. Easy, right?

Apparently, wrong! She told a story of a college professor who gave his class of students the same assignment, and then she put up a few slides of the answers these students gave. I was dumbfounded. I wish I could remember them, but they were so far off base, so completely whacked, that now I couldn't even begin to accurately share them.

Anyway, I went to the workshop to check out a grammar program for Toa of Boy. I thought my little architect-to-be would like looking at the blueprints of sentences and seeing how sentences were constructed.

I walked out having had such a great time diagramming sentences (yes, I am that much of a nerd), that I thought Sweetling would really dig this too.

So, once a week, Sweetling is going to pick a sentence, any sentence she wants from any source, and the two of us are going to diagram it.

I also signed up for Elizabeth's free newsletter. Every two weeks she sends out a grammar 'challenge'. A couple of weeks ago the question was...Do you know when to use every day versus everyday? I sat and thought about it, and realized I wasn't sure. I read her article about it, and then I went to ask Sweetling (and impress her with my awesome grammar knowledge.) I asked Sweetling if she knew what the difference was between everyday as one word and every day as two words. Then I waited for her to ponder and be perplexed, so that I could jump in with my awesome new grammar knowledge. Instead Sweetling very matter-of-factly stated, "I think 'everyday' as one word is an adjective, but 'every day' as two words is an adverb phrase or something."

Or something indeed.

Sweetling isn't lacking in the grammar department.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Sweetling's Portfolio 2012-2013

This was Sweetling's first year taking all high-school level courses in co-op. Because of the number of advanced courses she was taking in co-op and the advanced history course she undertook with her father, we decided to split some of her other courses into two years, taking half a semester over the summer of 2012 and during the winter co-op break, and then finishing the course in the summer of 2013. So, for the first three courses in her portfolio, we completed half of the course and will be completing the second half of the course from July to September of this year.

Algebra 2 (Semester 1)

We used Houghton Mifflin's Algebra and Trigonometry Structure and Method Book 2.  The first chapter started with a basic review of algebraic concepts.

We worked through inequalities, linear equations and linear inequalities in two variables, functions, products and factors of polynomials, rational expressions, fractional coefficients, fractional equations, and triangle trigonometry.








One Year Adventure Novel (Semester 1)

This was an amazing curriculum and Sweetling poured lots of time and effort into it each day, spending hours writing and fleshing out ideas, characters, and themes for her own adventure novel. The curriculum itself was broken into two semesters. During the first semester, the part we accomplished this year, the young writer learned how themes and types of conflicts and dilemmas both moves the plot of a good adventure novel along and gives the story as a whole meaning for the reader. This involved a lot of reading of other quality novels and the viewing of some great movies.

All the actual writing in this first semester was "preliminary" writing, but it does demonstrate thought process and story construction.

From the beginning of the process:

1.    The Way Things Are- The heroes of the story are from the 21st century American suburban town of Northbrook, Ohio. Throughout the course of the story, they travel from Northbrook and another world known as Pantheos.
2.    The Hero- Our hero is Victor, an athletic, fearless 16 year old boy. The story also focuses on his best friend, Tristan, a shy, short, pudgy, intelligent 10 year old boy.
3.    The Story Goal- Victor’s girlfriend, Alyson, has fallen in to a trance and is completely unaware of the outside world, and only brushes her hair and sings. He must gather worthy bearers of the Components of the Pantheon, which consists of the four physical elements- earth, water, air, and fire- and the four elements of the abstract- suffering, love, competition, and harmony- to free her.
4.    The Villain- Standing in Victor’s way is the ghost of the evil sorcerer Askari, who put the trance on Alyson, and his servants, the necromancer Muti, the puppetmaster Zamira, the shadow mage Basit, and, new to the group, none other than Tristan’s brother Paul.
And two samples from later in the writing process. Says Sweetling, "I couldn't pick my favorite, so I picked both"--

 Pick one of the three techniques for creating suspense and write a short scene about your hero using that technique:

“Look sharp, Tristan.” Victor warned the young boy standing beside him.

“Are- are you suggesting that there’s something here?” Tristan asked, hoping the answer would be “no”.

“There’s always something at the end of a dark corridor, Tristan.” Victor answered with confidence.

“Fair point.”

The two of them walked out into the dimly lit room that the dark corridor let out to.

The walls were made of perfectly chiseled granite, and they were lined with torches.  A desk with tools on it suggested that this room belonged to a woodworker.  A large chest sat right beside it.

Standing in the middle of the room was Zamira, the puppetmaster who worked under Askari. She pushed a lock of hair off her face and giggled- which, if it were any other girl, would be cute, but knowing that she was about to kill them, was quite creepy.

Victor gritted his teeth.  “Zamira.” He said disapprovingly.

“I see you’ve made it in one piece, Victor. Quite impressive…” She said, backing him against a wall.

“…but don’t let it happen again.”

“What do you want, Zamira?”

“Oh, nothing…”

The chest by the desk started to rattle, and eventually the rusty hinges gave. Out of it crawled six marionettes, each one holding a knife and smiling cheerfully as they marched towards Victor and Tristan.

“…but mostly to watch you die as Askari marches towards glory.”

Victor’s eyes widened.

“Knives.” He said, mostly deadpan but with a hint of fear.

“Yes, what about them?”  Zamira replied.

“They’ve got knives.”

“Ooooo! Victor, you’re not scared, are you?” she taunted.

“I- no…”

“Here you are, the great and mighty Victor Compton, scared by silverware.

“…No. I’m not that kind of… not that kind of coward…” he said uneasily, sounding as if he hoped that saying those words would make them true.

“I think you are!”


“You know what I think? I think you’re doubting yourself.  Here you are, confronted by one of the few things you fear, but you won’t admit it! You won’t admit it to anyone else, and you won’t admit it to yourself!”

As she was talking, the marionettes surrounded Tristan.

“Victor, help me!” he cried.

“Tristan!” Victor screamed, running towards him.

Suddenly, two marionettes grabbed Victor’s arms and pinned him against a wall before he could react.

“What are you doing to him? Let us go! I’m not going to fail him!” Victor screamed at her.

“Look at that! Still clinging onto hope at your darkest hour! It’s the only thing that’s kept you going this long! It’s what makes you you! But without it, where will you be? Going…”

A marionette grabbed Tristan.


Another one menacingly raised its knife right above Tristan’s chest, as Zamira grabbed a knife of her own.



Write an exchange of dialog between your Hero and your villain in which each reveals the inner motives of the other:

Victor ran into the inner sanctum of the Temple Of Fire. As he got down on his knees to catch his breath, he heard a voice say to him:

“Ah, Victor, so nice of you to finally meet me in person.”

He looked up and saw a ghost sitting on one of Muti’s medium glyphs. Victor thought he recognized the ghost from the drawings that Victor and Tristan found near the portal to Pantheos. The man that looked like this was identified as Askari by the writing… Could it be? …

“Though I can’t exactly say this counts as ‘in person’, but it’s the best I can do right now.” He held out a hand and, as if he was actively trying to confirm one of Victor’s worst fears, he said “I’m Askari, by the way. Nice to meet you.”

Victor got up, reluctantly moved to “shake” Askari’s hand, but drew back at the last second. “You know why I’m here, Askari, so don’t even try to pretend that you just want to make friends.”

“Why would I offer such a foolish pretense? I only want to establish common ground.”

“Such as?”

“You and your Bearers are going to die, I’m going to resurrect my beloved, and together we’re going to take over the world and I’m going to rule it as its rightful Caliph. That must be what you’re thinking, isn’t it?”

“…Possibly. I mean we’ve only found three of the Bearers so far, and you’ve got all three of them. Plus I lost Tristan.”

“And yet you came here all on your own. You must be so dedicated.” Askari said.

“Why wouldn’t I be? I’m trying to save Alyson- and Tom now, too!”

“But at what cost? Your precious Alyson is the entire reason that I have Thomas and that Tristan was taken by the authorities! Not to mention what you’ve put yourself through!”

He turned to Muti, who was instructing Basit, Zamira, and Paul in how to draw the medium glyph they needed to complete the resurrection.

And in the middle of that glyph lay Alyson, unconscious.

“Progress?” Askari yelled at Muti.

“The glyph is almost complete.” Muti said, not one hint of emotion betraying his face. He turned towards the teenage girl that was currently brandishing a knife. “Zamira, I require the golden vase.”

“Yes, sir!” Zamira replied. She got up and walked over to Victor. “You’re cute. Can I have some of your hair when you’re dead?”

“I… hope that opportunity never comes up.”

She skipped over to a supply room.

“What’s all this about a golden vase, then?” Victor asked.

“Oh? Don’t you know?”

Victor shook his head.

“Well, resurrecting a human without its soul is easy. Muti does that all the time.”

“And that’s how a zombie’s made.” Victor reasoned.

Muti nodded in confirmation.

“But, to bring back their soul… that requires a little something… extra.

“Such as?”

It was Muti’s turn to speak this time. “One of their most prized possessions, one of their creations, whether artistic or practical in nature, a visual representation of them, a piece of writing in their own language, preferably from the one who is being resurrected, a representation of their favorite memory, and an object treasured by their most beloved person,” he recited from rote.

“Those objects all act as tethers to connect the soul in question to the physical world,” Askari continued. “I gave her the golden vase, which was once full of perfume, as a gift. That satisfies the ‘object from their most beloved person’ requirement.”

You gave her the vase?! Was this some cold, tactical move to get her to fall in love with you?!” Victor asked.

“Contrary to what you may believe, I am capable of emotional attachment to someone.”

“But if she didn’t have weird demi-god magic that could conquer and/or destroy the world, would you still be trying to resurrect your ‘beloved’?”

“You have put you and your so-called ‘friends’ in life threatening danger over and over and over again, all for a girl! She’s clearly the most important thing in the world to you, but you need to ask yourself- is she worth it?

“I— she’s—”

“In this very room sit three sorcerers who are all more powerful than an army of Victor Comptons would be! There’s nothing you can do to stop the resurrection now, and, once it is inevitably finished, attempt to keep Alyson alive will only lead to the continued existence of the harbinger of destruction! The question you need to ask is: are you still going to try to save YOUR beloved?”

Basit, the shadowmage, shouted out in a booming voice: “Enough! Is! ENOUGH!”

Suddenly, from behind Victor a hand made of shadows that was as big as Victor’s torso pulled him down to the floor. Victor squirmed and struggled, but the hand kept its grip on him.

“I despise these futile remarks and displays of sentimentality! Let the bloodshed commence!”

An evil grin crossed Askari’s face. “I thought you’d never ask.”

He turned to Muti. “Progress?”

Muti drew the last line and then nodded.

“Then let the bloodshed commence.”

Muti put his hands on the glyph and started to mutter a spell. As the spell continued, the ground started to shake and the glyph turned into fire.

Zamira knelt down in front of Victor.

“Remember when I was attacking you with marionettes when we were in the inner sanctum of another temple, and I called it your darkest hour?”

She put her face right up against Victor’s.

“I take that back.”

American Literature (Semester 1)

In keeping with her extensive study of the early history of America, Sweetling read several classic works of literature from 1630 to shortly after the Civil War. Novels and pieces read were Winthrop's A Model of Charity, excerpts from Mather's Essays to Do Good, Whitefield's A Method of Grace, Longfellow's Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, and excerpts from The Song of Hiawatha. Also read were The Sign of the Beaver, by E.G. Speare, Johnny Tremain by E. Forbes, The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, and An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott.
For each literary work, Sweetling answered several reflective questions for each chapter. This was Sweetlings first real foray into academic response writing, and her written responses show a lot of growth.

from her first reading/writing assignment--
The Gift of the Magi
2.    Christmas is a time of joy and happiness as we celebrate the savior’s birth. Though gifts, strictly speaking, are better than the alternative, some people manage to have Christmas without presents.
3.    Self-sacrifice to help people in need is a good thing. Self-sacrifice for no reason is not.
4.    Della and Jim’s gifts were ultimately rendered useless, but they still cared enough about each other to give up their most precious possession to complement the other’s.
5.    The title is explained at the end of the story, where he explains that the magi started the tradition of Christmas gifts, and they were wise, and the characters’ gifts to each other were wise.

from a later response of her choosing--

 Call Of The Wild: Chapter 2
1.    “The law of club and fang” represents the fact that, in uncivilized circumstances, being the best fighter is ideal because it means you get to keep living.
2.    Buck may have naturally feared being trapped in the snow as opposed to only fearing it because of his forthcoming feral nature, as the first description of him being scared of being trapped comes before he undergoes the most noticeable (so far) transformation from housepet to wild dog, but the book explicitly sates that his fear was “a token that he was harking back through his own life to the lives of his forebearers.”
3.    Moral nature is not a “vain thing” or a “handicap” as the author describes it because, although it does limit what we are allowed to do, it also holds people accountable for their actions against others and protects us.

Survey of Ancient Rome

Sweetling read Famous Men of Ancient Rome, completed a timeline of the Ancient Roman world, watched a History Channel mini-series on the Rise and Fall of Rome, read the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and supplemented the study with several library books on various aspect of Roman history, culture, art, and life.

Foundations in Romans

As an extension of our study of Rome and the Gospels, Sweetling worked through an exhaustive line by line, verse by verse study of the book of Romans. She read other commentaries about each chapter and looked up words according to their original Greek usage. She broke each section down in an outline. This is a sample from the middle of the course (it looses it's formatting on the blog, so sorry)--
Romans 3:21-26
1.    Main idea: we are saved, not by the law, but by Jesus
2.    Contrast:
2.1.    Key contrast word v 21—BUT
2.2.    Contrast—Up until now, Paul has been discussing the law. Now Paul begins explaining God’s righteousness *apart from* the Law.
3.    Repeated word: Justify (Strong’s Concordance: G1344)
3.1.    “to render righteous or such he ought to be
3.2.     to show, exhibit, evince, one to be righteous, such as he is and wishes himself to be considered
3.3.     to declare, pronounce, one to be just, righteous, or such as he ought to be”
4.    Repeated word: Faith (Strong’s Concordance: G4102)
4.1.    “conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
4.2.      relating to God-- the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
4.3.    relating to Christ-- a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
4.4.     the religious beliefs of Christians
4.5.      belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
4.6.        fidelity, faithfulness
4.7.        the character of one who can be relied on”
5.    Repeated word: grace v 24, (Strong’s Concordance: G5485)
5.1.    “that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
5.2.    good will, loving-kindness, favour
5.3.        of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
5.4.    what is due to grace
5.5.     the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
5.6.       the token or proof of grace, benefit
5.7.       a gift of grace
5.8.       benefit, bounty
5.9.    thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward”
6.    Unknown word: propitiation v 25 (King James Version), (Strong’s Concordance: G2435)
6.1.    “relating to an appeasing or expiating (atoning), having placating or expiating force, expiatory; a means of appeasing or expiating, a propitiation
6.2.        used of the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies, which was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated); hence the lid of expiation, the propitiatory
6.3.        an expiatory sacrifice
6.4.        a expiatory victim”
7.    Narration: God has provided righteousness apart from the Law, which the Law and the Prophets give witness to. The righteousness comes through faith in Jesus. Both Jew and Gentile alike have sinned and both are justified by the grace given by Jesus. God gave us Christ as a sacrifice of atonement. Jesus bled and died to save all who have faith in Him. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness and in doing this He left the sins of those who were faithful before the death of Jesus unpunished. He did this to demonstrate His righteousness to justify those who have faith in Him.

Traditional Logic 1

Together, Sweetling and I worked through the first year of Traditional Logic from Memoria Press, with Sweetling acting much more as the teacher than I was capable of. (I wrote a brutally honest blog post about this here.) Most of the exercises were true/false, workbook style answers that don't lend themselves to portfolio samples. But, some of the exercises required writing her own logic statements. Here are some samples of Sweetling's logic statements.

Contradictory proposition-
No whales are space whales. Some whales are space whales.
 Contrary propositions
All self-destruct buttons are necessary. No self-destruct buttons are necessary.
Subcontrary propositions
Some vegetables are leeks. Some vegetables are not leeks.
Subalternate propositions
 All pigtails are teal pigtails. Some pigtails are teal pigtails.

Vocabulary from Classical Roots

  We completed book D in the great series Vocabulary from Classical Roots. A blog post about how our vocabulary lessons typically go can be found here. Or, here is a random sample from Sweetling's workbook.

America: The Building of a Nation

This course was put together and directed by my husband. He conducted it very much like a college course in both style and content. Every week, Sweetling had a hefty reading assignment from America: The Last Best Hope by William J. Bennett. Sweetling also read Common Sense by Thomas Payne, the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and selections of writings from various founding fathers. One evening a week was set aside as history discussion time, where her father would ask her quesitons about the origins of the nation, the events in history, the reasoning and motivations behind different actions. Sweetling would be expected to give a reasoned answer with support from her readings. On a separate evening each, they would watch selected history documentaries and discuss those.

 The following courses were taken through the Learning Tree Co-op--

Spanish 3

 Sweetling's first semester grades were reported to me as follows:
Homework 93%; Oral grade 99%; Quiz Grade: 95%; Test Grades 92%; Semester Exam 95%
Her second semester grades were:
Homework 97%; Quiz grade: 94%; Test Grades 95%; Semester Exam 96%;
Final Grade: 96%

American Sign Language 2

I haven't yet received grades from the instructor. I do have a written report Sweetling did as one of her homework assignments. For space sake, I'm just posting the first two paragraphs here, but there is more to the report.

The syntax of ASL is not influenced by FSL (French Sign Language) as some might think, as ASL existed in its earliest form at least a century before FSL was brought to America in 1817. However, the vocabulary of ASL is influenced by FSL- 60% of its vocabulary is from FSL.

ASL is also not influenced by English; it is a visual language suited for Deaf people. English is heavily structural, ASL is more vivid. English is strictly a string of phonemes arranged in a specific order; ASL utilizes visual cues to expand the meaning. English uses a MSVO word order (modifier-subject-verb-object), but ASL is more flexible; the emphasis on a word, not its role in the sentence, determines where it goes.  ASL uses directional verbs, inflections that are not used in English (and vice versa), and classifiers. Facial expression has a grammatical function; it marks questions and negatives.

Drawing 1

Included drawing from still lifes as well as reference photos. Included a variety of techniques and mediums.

My favorite piece:

General Science

The class completed Apologia's Exploring Creation with General Science and did the accompanying lab work. For all the classwork, lab write ups, tests, and homework, Susan received 385.5 out of 382 possible points.

Shakespeare and Elizabethan Theater

The class learned about William Shakespeare, the culture he lived in, the globe theater, and what performances were like in Shakespeare's day. They read adaptations of and excerpts from The Tempest, Twelfth Night, and Midsummer Night's Dream. At the end of the co-op year, they memorized, made costumes for, and put on a performance of an abridged Midsummer Night's Dream. Sweetling performed as the love-sick Helena.

Additional and independent learning-- 

Sweetling continues to pursue a multitude of interests and independent projects outside of her formal curriculum and education. There are far too many of these for me to post them all here, and some of them I am only vaguely aware of.  But I want to include a few for our own remembrance.


Sweetling received a Manga style cookbook as a Christmas present from her most fabulous aunt.  She's enjoyed making several recipes from the new cookbook and has also learned how to make sushi (a birthday present from the same most fabulous aunt).

Korean Alphabet: 

This is from a Facebook post that my husband made--
Another example of why we homeschool... My wife and Sweetling went to a homeschool convention today and stopped at a Korean restaurant. When they got their menus, Sweetling covered up the English side and then proceeded to sound out the Korean side. My wife was blown away by this so Susan explained to her dumbfounded mother that she had taught herself the Korean alphabet in her spare leisure time. She then wrote out a thank you note to the restaurant staff in Korean. To be clear again, she's never had instruction in this language. 

 Sweetling made, from scratch, an outfit for a costume contest at a local convention and won the award for her age category. (She is the young Amelia Pond from Doctor Who.)

She is also working on sewing a plush octopus character featured on a series of youtube vidoes. However, this project is not completed yet, and I am told that Tako Luka doesn't want her picture taken until she is finished.

More Art: 

Sweetling continues to draw anime and manga characters in her free time. This is one she made to enter an online contest--


Sweetling has developed an interest in vocaloid technology.  While the software itself is pretty expensive, Sweetling found out about and got permission to download a free trial version that she could use for a few days. In that short time, she figured out how to use the software, wrote her own lyrics and music for several songs, and programmed the voice software to sing her songs. I am not as techno savy as my daughter, and I have no earthly idea how to access the saved mp3 files she made of this experience. (Sweetling to the rescue! I'm told that clicking this link will play the song automatically. The song starts at the 7 second mark, so be patient.)

Tae Kwon Do:

Sweetling earned her black belt in January of 2012 and this school year moved into the advanced belt class. She also competed in a small in-school tournament in February of this year. She placed in her group, but as the prize she brought home was chocolate, which she doesn't care for, she wasn't super-excited about her reward.


Sweetling participated in the teen and adult division of an Awana pine car derby and placed third in a design category for her "Ride from Outer Space".

This summer, Sweetling went on a youth mission trip where her group undertook service projects in rural Pennsylvania. She used some power tools for the first time and helped in the construction of a deck...

painted a trailer home....

and helped build a bird house from the leftover scraps of wood.

Last, as a capstone to our year our family took a three week trip to several important/historical sites in the east. We visited--

  • Colonial Williamsburg
  • The Pentagon
  • The U.S Capital Building
  • Arlington Cemetary
  • The International Spy Museum
  • The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History
  • The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
  • Gettysburg Battlefield and Memorial
  • Independence Hall in Philedelphia
  • Hershey, PA
  • a piece of the Atlantic Boardwalk in Wildwood NJ
  • Shofusu Japanese House and Garden 
There is way too much to sum up here. That trip has its own series of blog posts, which I am still in the process of writing. A friend of ours called it "The Patriot Tour".

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Minecraft Fever

This post could also be titled...

Why our family just spent a four day weekend playing Minecraft for hours on end.


Why my sink is full of dirty dishes.


Why even the ten year old got to stay up past 2 am two nights in a row.

Some background.

We are continually looking for fun family activities, especially games that we can play together. Over the years we've played MarioParty on the Wii and MarioKart on the Wii. We've played Munchkin, and own several versions and expansion packs of the Munchkin game. We've played Fluxx in the original and in variations. We've tried a family Pathfinder game, but that wasn't a favorite of the kids.

Within the past couple of months, Toa of Boy has developed a real interest in Minecraft. So, when he came to me and said, "You know, some families play Minecraft together," I knew we should look into it.

My impression of Minecraft, prior to playing it was that you dug around under a mountain to find certain blocks that you carried to the surface and put together to make other things with. Not really my idea of a good time.

But, we have a rule in our family that it isn't always about you. We have to take turns in choosing activities, movies, vacation destinations, field trips, etc. Even if the activity wasn't the one you wanted, we all try it and we all try to enjoy it...and in this way we support each others interests.

So, the Jedi found a tutorial video for him and I to watch, and we each played through the free demo version.

From that I learned that my initial understanding of Minecraft was way over-simplified.

In Minecraft, you start out in a wilderness setting with no tools and no supplies. You have a certain amount of daylight (10 minutes real time) to gather some basic supplies, find shelter, find coal for a fire, and hole up for the night. Because at night, unless you are playing on 'peaceful' mode, monsters come out. The first few days are all about simply surviving. You have both a health meter and a hunger meter. You need to stay safe, find food, and work towards improving your circumstance. Its a tricky process at first.

The Jedi and I watched the tutorials and played the demo version on Wednesday, July 3rd. Sweetling was away all week on a youth mission trip/service project, so it seemed that this was the perfect time to participate in an activity that Toa wanted us to try.

On the morning of the 4th I woke up and the Jedi was carrying a large case through the bedroom into the "server room". I asked what it was and he said it was going to be a new server for a family Minecraft world. (Just so the reader knows, one does NOT need a separate computer or a dedicated server to play the game. We are just, um, crazy in some ways.)

The Jedi found and loaded up this amazing, immense world.
Mostly to humor me, we agreed to set the world to 'peaceful', until we had a decent shelter built and had a steady food source.

We were far to busy to take 'before' screenshots of the little valley we found to start our camp in. We were so busy, in fact, that we were playing from around ten in the morning till 2:30 a.m.

Friday we woke up, walked the dog, got breakfast, and got busy. We turned off the 'peaceful' setting that day.

I can't tell you how cool this game is. From a homeschooling mom standpoint...the game promotes teamwork and co-operation, strategy and planning, creativity and perseverance. But most importantly, its just out and out great fun.

From nothing, and in the face of adversity, here's what we've built....

The front of our stronghold. Toa of Boy found the materials and figured out how to make a moat of fire. Inside there is a staircase that leads to the top crenelation so that you can stand there and look around. The front door is now an iron door that has a button to push to open it from the outside, and presser plate that you step on inside to automatically open it. Again, Toa of Boy made them.
This is from the rooftop looking down at the monster who is so sad that he can't reach me. Tee hee.
Here are some of the inside shots of our house. Currently, we have three levels, plus a basement, and mining tunnels underneath, AND two different rooftop levels. Most of the interior was designed and built by Toa.

Living area...

Restaurant (behind the counter is a chest with stored food supplies and a crafting table for making recipes)...
Disco floor, because every home needs a disco floor...
Indoor floor garden, which Toa made just for me :)

There are several others, but those are my favorites.

Meanwhile, my major undertaking was a wheat farm. Each square of wheat yields one bundle of wheat. Three bundles of wheat yield one loaf of bread. At first, I just planted the wheat next to a nearby pond and dug some irrigation trenches to keep it well watered. But harvesting and replanting the wheat one square at a time was taking up all my daylight, just to keep us fed. I told the Jedi that this wasn't a game, this was a job! I thought there had to be a better way to do this. So I searched online, and I found some youtube videos on automatic wheat harvesters. One in particular had a nice step by step guide on how to build one.

I got to work, and I built three.

I built the fence around them to keep the cows and pigs from wandering in and trampling the wheat. It also helps to keep monsters out at night. (Also, the base of each harvester is a trench filled with water. The soil that the wheat is planted in is immediately above the water filled trench, so the water underneath keeps the wheat irrigated so that it will grow.)

At the top of each terraced row of wheat is a water reservoir. When it's time to harvest the wheat Toa of Boy goes up and breaks the dirt block which act like a plug for the water. The water flows down and sweeps the ripe wheat and the wheat seeds into a trench at the bottom of the row. I stand there and collect the wheat and seeds. Then its a quick mater to replant.

Pretty sweet, right?

The Jedi devoted a great deal of his time to mining and crafting tools, weapons, and armor for us each. When he had us equipped with the best armor and weapons possible, he turned his attention to exploring the world. (He and Toa of Boy walked to the seacoast, built boats, and sailed down the coast to see what else they could find. When they came back home, they came back stocked with all sorts of rare and valuable minerals and supplies.)

The also built a set of stairs up the mountain behind our stronghold.
The stairs are connected to the top level of our roof and lead to a watchtower which the Jedi built on the top of the mountain.

Check out the view from the mountain stairs.

There are some materials you can only get from killing monsters. String (to make bows) can only be gotten from killing a spider. Carrots and potatoes are dropped by zombies (don't ask me why). Once you get one carrot or one potato, you can plant it and grow seeds to make more. Anyway, at night sometimes Toa and the Jedi go out monster hunting for certain supplies. I watch from the castle roof and yell helpful things like, "Behind you!"
During the daylight hours I'm working on making a giant waterslide down the face of the mountain. When it's finished, I'll post screenshots of that. I know you all can't wait for that.

For those of you who had read my recent Facebook updates and wondered what in the world I was talking about, I hope this answers some of your questions.

Now, if we can just talk Sweetling into joining us in this insanity constructive bonding time.