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Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years

Chaotic Bliss Homeschooling

National Parks Adventures
Category: Misc.
Tags: national parks list of national parks national park pass national park service

The National Park Service turns 100 this summer, and to celebrate, they’ve been running, among other things, the Every Kid in a Park program allowing families to visit various parks, nature centers, natural wonders, and historic sites for free.

Visiting these places has always been one of my favorite pastimes. As a city girl growing up in Brooklyn, I learned to appreciate the outdoors experiences my parents provided through tent camping and day trips we would take during the summer months. Leaving the “asphalt jungle” even for short spurts was like stepping through a magic portal to novel environments and settings. Those trips awakened in me a desire for travel, knowledge and adventure that is with me to this day -- and my husband and I have tried to pass on that sense of wonder to our own children through our camping adventures. (Although, with an RV, it’s more like “glamping” in comparison to what my parents did).

We’ve had a lot of fun in our national parks, and look forward to returning to and visiting more in the future. For homeschoolers, the parks are awesome places for on-site history and science studies, with access to knowledgeable “instructors” and free educational materials, both at the locations, and on websites. Here are some of our favorite places -- and related free resources:

Read these articles describing the interesting science going on at our national parks:



Grand Canyon

Petrified Forest


Why We Are NOT In a Video Game - A Response to Elon Musk
Category: Misc.
Tags: elon musk computer simulation

(This past June, during some downtime at a NJ campground we were visiting, my 11-year-old daughter was perusing my Kindle for something to read, when she came across an article I had read and had been pondering. In it, Elon Musk puts forth the notion that, in all likelihood, our “reality” is actually a very sophisticated computer simulation. My daughter was interested enough in the idea to read through the article, consider it, and formulate her own opinion on the subject. “How about writing down your thoughts?” I suggested. “Okay,” she replied.


So, in the spirit of thought experimentation, my daughter adds her voice to those of others contemplating the nature of our existence. Are we living in a computer simulation? Makes for an interesting writing prompt or topic of discussion or debate -- or to just get you thinking).


by Anna

Elon Musk stated that we might be in a video game. Though he may seem to have some good points, I have some ideas that contradict what he says.

“Rapid advancements in video game technology mean we’ve moved from Pong to augmented reality in a short span of decades. We’ve moved so quickly, and tech has advanced so much, our own reality might not be distinguishable from a simulation. If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then games will become indistinguishable from reality.

Though at first this seems like a valid point, if you look closer into this there is a very obvious flaw in this idea. Though video games have been progressing rapidly during the last few decades, video games could never truly look so realistic that it isn’t distinguishable from reality. The reason of this is because of pixels.

(how digital images work)

Though they can make things look very realistic, they can never make something so complex look real. This is because of atoms. They’re so precise and small, that they keep the entire world together, without being seen with the naked eye. If you look closely at any electronic screen you have, you can actually see each individual pixel. If you try seeing each atom in the real world with no aid for your eye, you can’t. They’re much too small to see. There are more atoms in your pinky finger than pixels on a screen. That means your pinky finger is actually more detailed than anything on a computer. If that’s so, how would something like a video game be so detailed, that it could look like it’s real? It couldn’t, as long as we still use pixels. If we tried improving to the point it would look like reality, it wouldn’t work. Even if we tried to put something like atoms into a video game, it would fail. For instance, instead of square pixels, you would put circles, just like the shape of atoms. That would probably be the only way to improve it to look more realistic. However, circles don’t fit together perfectly as squares do. You would have to keep putting more and more circles between the gaps, which would virtually go on forever. That would mean we will probably never achieve the standards to make it look realistic.


(Click here for more free resources on atoms and elements.)

“Quick. Stop what you’re doing and look around. Everything you see, think and feel is fake. You’re living in a video game coded by intellectually elite robot overlords.”

If what I previously said was true, then the world would be way too precise to just put in a video game. Even if there was some intellectually elite master race, I doubt they would be advanced so much as they would be able to fit atoms to actually create an entire universe, let alone the world. Even if they were advanced enough, it would probably be too much effort only to be put into a video game. Also, why put an entire gigantic world of human beings into a video game? Every human being has their own DNA, their own personality, their own looks. And why put space in this video game? Every star has its own size, color, and temperature. There are billions of very detailed stars in the universe. There are also different planets, galaxies, everything that you can think of has too much detail. This also seems like it would be too much trouble to put in a video game. Thus, the world cannot be a video game. It’s much too detailed even for a master race.

You may also like: 58 Sci-Fi Writing Prompts

Teen Volunteering
Category: Misc.
Tags: youth volunteer community service ideas volunteer programs volunteer ideas volunteer teenagers

Serving Others

The youth choir my two teenage daughters participate in take "tours" around the country, where they sing at various churches, and do volunteer work and community service projects. This year, the group of about 70 kids are in the NJ/NYC area. Through the Elijah's Promise organization, they helped do some clean-out and painting in a building damaged during Hurricane Sandy. They will also be working with the Salvation Army, and will visit a children's home. The youth choir also serves locally, doing things like serving meals at soup kitchens, collecting and delivering donations to children's and women's shelters, and visiting the elderly at nursing homes. These types of experiences not only give teens an opportunity to serve in their communities, but can help them lose the "I - Me - Mine" mentality they so often exhibit (at least for a time), and get them thinking about others.

Developing Interests

Other volunteer opportunities give teens a taste of what a particular job or field of interest is like. Some places my girls have volunteered include: 

  • the local library
  • the Humane Society (cat cuddling)
  • VBS (oh, the drama!)
  • our homeschool co-op (teachers or assistants)
  • local public access station (where my daughter learned video production)

Other opportunities include: local science centers and museums, parks and recreation organizations, genealogical societies, gardening groups -- you can likely find a place to volunteer for any interest your child may have.

New York in June

Of course, there always has to be time made for fun. The kids are also enjoying the sights and sounds of NYC.


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