Hey, Fancy Pants! an Asian boy called out .. wearing a smile, early one morning this week .. happy ring in his voice .. hurrying toward his classroom (I assumed).
Hey! the Bug responded with a waive .. as I locked his bike at school. The boy was obviously older.
What'd he call you? I asked.
That's my nickname, dad, he said.
They call me 'Fancy Pants' here. That boy there started it.
Hey, Fancy! another kid called out, half-running in the same direction. Also older.
While we walked toward the place where the Bug assembles with his class, I heard someone say »
Hey, Mister Fancy Pants! But I didn't see who said it, cuz there were so many kids everywhere. But it was a boy's voice.
Seems the school has a computer lab .. where kids learn basic computer skills. The Bug said »
Fancy Pants is way harder than the stuff we do there. They also have some high-end gaming PCs at an after-school daycare there, along with a Nintendo Wii (.. or was it an Xbox?).
» Mr. Fancy Pants Himself
One of the girls who works there later told me (about the Bug, aka Mr. Fancy Pants) »
Yeah, he taught all the kids how to play.
Does he play Fancy Pants, too? I asked the Bug about the Asian boy.
Is he good? I asked.
He's okay. But sometimes I have to help him.
He loves that game. The neighbors can hear his cries of laughter & delight.
Hey, dad, he called out.
Watch me rock his butt! =)
» Video Games in the Classroom
Speaking of 'games' .. perhaps you've heard about the experiment being conducted at a noncharter public school in New York City (.. in Manhattan, near Gramercy Park).
The NY Times published a series of articles recently on the use of video games in the classroom, as a tool to help kids learn.
Watch the video & hear for yourself the kids (& parents) saying how much better they enjoy school now. See here » Learning by Playing.
Not learning with games, but rather problem-based learning, in which kids practice skills as they solve problems. Today our schools focus on facts and information, but not problem solving. Thus, many students cannot solve problems, even when they can pass tests on facts and information.
and this one:
••• today's entry continues here below •••
Nearly every aspect of life at Quest-to-Learn is designed to be gamelike, even when it doesn't involve using a computer. Students don't receive grades but rather achieve levels of expertise, denoted on their report cards as "pre-novice," "novice," "apprentice," "senior" and "master."
They are enlisted to do things like defeat villains and lend a hand to struggling aliens, mostly by working in groups to overcome multifaceted challenges, all created by a collection of behind-the-scenes game designers.
I played that video for the Bug. Of course, he said,
I wanna go there.
Most of the games he plays (not all) are challenging enough that we've had to consult a walk-thru (.. which tells/shows you how to solve the various levels). My point is .. you're constantly devising & deploying strategies & tactics.
A good example of this is » Bob Came in Pieces ($10). Unfortunarely my 5-year old laptop struggles to play it smoothly.
Some strategies work. Some don't. So you have to re-evaluate and try something different. More than once I've been impressed by a suggestion the Bug offered. Dad, how about if we tried this...
Being a hacker is lots of fun, but it's a kind of fun that takes lots of effort. The effort takes motivation. Successful athletes get their motivation from a kind of physical delight in making their bodies perform, in pushing themselves past their own physical limits. Similarly, to be a hacker you have to get a basic thrill from solving problems, sharpening your skills, and exercising your intelligence.
I know what ESR is talking about. The mental act of grappling with a problem that seems to offer no approach .. engages far more of your brain than merely memorizing facts & figures & dates .. especially when
Why do I need to know this? is a constant question .. when you can't see how you'll ever need or use this fact.
When I went to school (grew up in Connecticut), I was bored out of my mind. It actually felt like my brains were being sucked out of my skull .. as teachers taught dry material to the lowest common denominator (.. going over the same stuff, over & over).
Not always, but most of the time .. definitely up 'til 5th grade or so. Wasn't until the Navy turned on their academic firehose and said, "Have a drink of this, sonny," .. that I began to feel challenged. But there I was mostly challenged by the sheer volume, not the concepts themselves.
So no, I don't want him to be bored with school.
» Surprisingly Handsome
At 5 years old, the Bug is getting rather handsome. Of course, all parents feel their children are gorgeous (.. as they should). And I am no exception.
Tho I always thought his toddler cutes would wear off. But has has actually gotten more handsome as he's gotten older.
His eyes are a little darker as more maturity comes to his face. Summer tan. Blonde hair. Happy, confident. Impressive vocabulary. Fun-loving. [ Most compliments reference his vocabulary. ]
A reader from Sweden (Fredrik) wrote to say:
"Your son is lovely. I have 3 children myself, quite good-looking - so much so that when they were small, total strangers would come up and exclaim how lovely they were. But your son is actually better-looking. Good luck with him. Hope his good looks don't spoil him. He seems too smart for that."
While Oscar from "La piel del Toro" (Spain) says:
"Now I understand a lot of your entries involving parenthood. My God, he does look both cool and bold! Hard to believe he's only 5. I feel much of your spirit in his eyes."
Nigel from New Zealand said:
"He's quite a striking young man."
Could make parenting interesting (.. not that it hasn't been so far). I was feeling a little insecure this week. This parenting stuff is hard enough. Maybe I should say 'complicated' enough. I don't wanna screw it up.
[ I had no sisters, so my advice about dealing with women kinda suks .. speaking of which... ]
When we were leaving school Friday, I heard someone call his name (.. not Fancy Pants, tho). His real name. It was a girl. A girl in a different kindergarten classroom.
Her eyes had that magic sparkle. I swear she was batting her lashes at him. He threw her a little waive and said,
Hey, as we walked away. Very cute. (Remarkable how charming little girls can be .. naturally.)
Who's that, pun'kin? I asked.
That's my new girlfriend.
You *are* the man! I said. =)
Seems both the boys & girls like him .. from what I can see.
» Sperm Donor
An old Jewish lady told me I should place an ad for $perm donor services. "All you have to do," she said, "is let them see your son. They'll all want one. You could make a lot of money." [ I have some funny friends, huh. ]
Actually I did have one offer. What would you call that? A solicitation? From a lady named Kristen Carter (from California, a Valley girl). She said:
"Look, I'm 33. My biological clock is ticking and I want a child. If I don't find Mr. Right in the next year or two .. maybe you'd consider donating your genes.
You're tall. You're intelligent, handsome. You have an easy-going personality. You're sensitive, fun. Great sense of humor. [ My ego loves this stuff. Do please continue. ]
You could be involved as little, or as much as you'd like. Maybe an uncle who comes over for dinner once in a while. I'd be a great mother."
I gave her points for knowing what she wanted. But it's not the first time I've had the impression that women didn't want me .. just my 23 chromosomes. Know what I mean, Vern?
That girl could sing. She used to sing to me, while strolling down the super-wide sidewalks of New Haven .. in the summer at sunset. (I really enjoyed that.) She sang better than most singers I heard on the radio.
I accompanied her to weekend recording sessions, where they set me in a big, cushy chair by the fireplace and brought me one beer after another while she did her thing with the microphone.
She was an old soul with young legs and a yen for Kierkegaard. Very easy to be with. But with relationships, like comedy, timing is everything.
Miss Carter eventually found her man. (I knew she'd have no trouble there.) Her mom later told me:
"She doesn't trust me with the baby. Everything has to be so particular. She forgets I raised a few kids of my own."
Her mom had a job caring for a retired Hollywood movie actress .. from the silent picture era .. in this amazing home up in Burbank (Los Angeles). Huge .. like a museum. Biggest dining room table I've ever seen. Kristen's mom was very cool.
My family liked her. Even Nana, who can spot a bad one a block away (.. and who has never been wrong).
When you're nice, you tend to believe everybody is nice. (Same goes for the unscrupulous.) Nana however, didn't have that problem.
» Wisdom of Confucius
When the Bug was barely a year old, we stopped for lunch at the Tommy Bahamas over by Fashion Island. An elderly Asian man sat there in a booth, looking like Confucius. (.. old, wise & thin, with a wiry chin-beard).
He'll keep you young, he said. (And that was all he said.) His words echoed inside .. enuf that I can still hear them today. Heavy words from the small, quiet man.
In retrospect, I can see he was right. Tho not for the reason I originally thought. I originally thought he meant cuz of the » exercise .. I'd get chasing the Bug around. (No, chasing around a toddler will not keep you young.)
But now I see .. the real reason is cuz » he makes me laugh.
And everybody knows there's something therapeutic about the sound of a child's laughter. Maybe that's why I feel so good when he's happy.