when I grow up I want to be a video game designer

I have two school-aged boys who were born in the YouTube and Minecraft generation, when everybody who wants to be anybody wants to follow in the footsteps of Dan TDM or Notch (creator of Minecraft). When the opportunity knocked for us to review an ebook with the title, “When I grow up I want to be… A Video Game Designer” of course I had to say ‘Yes!’

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WannaBe™-When I Grow Up I Want to be a Video Game Designer is part of the WannaBe series from The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. This ebook peeks into the lives of computer programmers who either makes video games for a living, or who dabbles in video game design as an interest or hobby.

In the ebook, five professionals tell stories about their lives as video game designers–each sharing how they started in video game design, and what their typical work day looks like. Some parts of the ebook emphasized character traits and attitudes necessary to attain success in this line of work. Others described the many steps involved in video game development. There were a number of technical terms scattered throughout the ebook, such as names of computer games, programming languages, and other programming-related terminologies. Thankfully, there were footnotes containing word definitions and links to related websites, which came in very handy, especially for readers who are not well versed in such terms.

After the personal anecdotes of the video game designers, there were worksheets, quizzes, writing prompts and word puzzles, most of which we never really got to use as they were more suited for older children. Instead, I made cursive handwriting worksheets for some of the new vocabulary words we learned from the text.

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We read the ebook aloud for one week, tackling one ‘day in the life’ story each day. My boys always say that they want to be ‘gamers’ when they grow up, but nobody in the family (given that we don’t have a technology background) really knew how to make an actual living out of video games, much less explain these stuff to 8- and 9-year old boys. Hearing the stories of real-life video game designers was the perfect entry point for digging up more information about computer programming, in general, and video games in particular.

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Before we started reading the ebook, we watched the video Computer Science is Changing Everything to emphasize the practical uses for computers and computer programming in everyday life. When we read the stories, we also encountered different models of personal computers from as early as 1970s. The boys decided to do more Internet research about this topic, and ended up creating a Timeline of Personal Computers.

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It also helped that they were attending a special class on Robotics. They were familiar with some of the computer programming lingo, having dabbled on some bits of programming here and there using Arduino. They even made a funny video about this, Teaching Spiderman How to Code, using stop-motion animation.

I would say that reading the stories from the ebook made them appreciate the kind of work put in by programmers in each video game. They now have a clearer picture of what ‘gamers’ do in real life, apart from playing video games, of course. They also drew what their future workspace would look like once they’ve become ‘pro’.

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At the end of each ‘day in the life’ story, they get to do an Hour of Code–these are hands-on tutorials for introducing the basics of computer programming to children of any age. The site contains game-based programming activities in Minecraft, Star Wars, Flappy Bird, etc., which according to Ari and Uri, makes learning to code fun!

I like how the book highlighted the real, everyday stories of regular people doing their jobs (which just happened to be all about video games!). It clearly showed that working in something as fun as video games also requires a great deal of hard work. They both learned this from the book, and also experienced this when they did some of the coding themselves. Personally, I appreciated the emphasis given on the values and character traits needed to become a successful video game designer. I am not a computer programmer, and while I know that traits such as good communication, attention to detail, or strong work ethic is important, I would not be able to explain these things within the context of video game design and development, in a way as it was done in the book.

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When I asked the boys what they liked about the ebook, Ari said he enjoyed the stories the most. He admired how the people in the stories were able to find ways to learn more about computers and start doing programming stuff all by themselves. He felt inspired that he could do it too. Uri was especially amused by stories of the programmers when they were younger. He got a kick out of the video games they played, and the computers they used since way back. What he didn’t like about the book is that it did not have a lot of pictures, a natural remark from this visual learner.

If you have children interested in computers and gaming, and want to give them a realistic perspective of what goes on in this line of work, this is a good book to read aloud to them. WannaBe™-When I Grow Up I Want to be a Video Game Designer is an engaging introduction to the world of video game programming. It’s no idiot guide, though, so don’t expect that whoever reads the book comes up with his own video game in an instant. As I’ve said, the book is a great introduction, piques readers’ interest, but is not a complete reference in itself. BUT, with a little spark and a gentle nudge, you might just find in your household, tiny computer geeks all hunched up and writing code for their very first video game!

P.S. This review is for the Schoolhouse Review Crew.

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partnering with local crafters

appreciating all things handmade…

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As an artisan producer myself, I have deep appreciation for all things handmade. I have mentioned before that I am not very artistic myself, so knowing ladies who are artists in their own right is a privilege.

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The lady behind Banonay (@banonaystore) is Turo’s childhood friend. She makes beautifully handcrafted jewelry and accessories with gemstones, beads and charms. I’ve ordered a couple of necklaces from her before. This time, I asked her to make customized brand tags for The Garden Kitchen, which I can give away to loyal clients. The end product… these hand stamped charms! They’re really nice up close and truly one-of-a-kind. They add so much oomph to my own products.

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I also recently learned that my friend’s sister, Lovely Grace (@jaded_jade_things) has been doing calligraphy and watercolor painting. Calligraphy is so “in” these days that I wanted to get in on the bandwagon myself. Besides I also find them really pretty. So I asked her to make product labels for The Garden Kitchen. And voila!

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She wrote the product names using brush lettering, and painted the product ingredients in watercolor. It’s so inspiring to see the different herbs and vegetables that I use in my own products as works of art. These are produce that we grow and harvest and cook with, and being portrayed in such a creative way, even in something as simple as a product label, just makes my heart skip a beat.

hydroponic setup in Hotel Kimberly

this weekend, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics…

Long-time readers of this blog would know that we started our farming venture using a hydroponics system. Turo trained in the SNAP Hydroponics technology from the Institute of Plant Breeding in UP Los Banos. SNAP stands for Simple Nutrient Addition Program, and is a low-cost, low-maintenance, non-circulating hydroponics system. Our first commercial venture into growing lettuce and herbs used this system, was successful at first, but encountered so many problems once we tried to scale up.

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Fast forward to the present, we are now implementing organic production practices for growing vegetables. We have fully replaced our hydroponic setup and converted into an organic farm. While more labor-intensive, organic farming requires less inputs, produces better quality vegetables, and is more adaptive to weather and seasonal changes.

Just this weekend, however, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics.

We were in Tagaytay for the weekend to celebrate my father’s 56th We stayed overnight in Hotel Kimberly, a nice hotel quite secluded from the busy Tagaytay restaurant scene. We, and the kids especially, enjoyed our short, sweet stay here. In the morning we were eating breakfast at the buffet, and noticed that part of the buffet spread was a tray of leafy greens, stems on, roots intact, held together by a tiny bottlecap-sized plug. This looked all too familiar to us, we knew these were hydroponically grown.

After breakfast, we asked around in the kitchen where they get the lettuce plants being served at the buffet. This was Tagaytay, and we knew many farms growing these types abound in the area. To our surprise, the source of the lettuce plugs was a mini-hydroponic facility housed in the hotel itself!

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The hotel staff was kind enough to take us on a tour of their organic farm. Apparently, the organic farm is part of the hotel’s attractions. There were farm animals that guests can feed, ponies that kids could ride. We, of course, headed straight for the greenhouse once we saw it. It was tiny, about 50 sq.m. And it grew ALL the salad greens and herbs the hotel uses for its daily buffet! Now that is sustainable.

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The farm staff told us they were using SNAP, the very same hydroponic system we used before, but failed. But here, in this tiny greenhouse, the SNAP system seemed to work really well. The difference, we soon found out, is aeration. With the addition of an aquarium-type pump circulating the SNAP nutrient solution through the system, nutrient absorption increased. Consequently, well-nourished plants are healthy, disease-free and had a very good eating quality.

To be honest, were very impressed (almost envious) with the hotel’s hydroponic facility. They grew lettuces, rocket arugula, microgreens, and various herbs like basil, parsley and even rosemary.

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It felt serendipitous, actually, to be there, see a very efficient hydroponic system in place, providing fresh greens to a hotel kitchen, nonetheless. That tiny organic farm tour in a quaint hotel tucked away in Tagaytay roused our sleeping hydroponic bones in a totally unexpected way. It looks like Hydroponics 2.0 is going to be part of our present scheme of things.

when homeschoolers go to “school”

for the first time, the boys are spending a significant amount of time in “school” 

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This year, I (as de facto principal of our bahaySKUL) decided that the kids should have more time interacting with other children of their age in a school setting. Because this school year we have been on top of our school work more than we’ve ever been since we started homeschooling four years ago. Continue reading when homeschoolers go to “school”

creating and creativity in our bahaySKUL

it’s been a struggle finding ways to inspire artistry and foster creativity in our homeschool

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I would hardly ever consider myself a creative person. So as a teacher to my children, it’s been a struggle finding ways to inspire artistry and foster creativity in our homeschool. Especially when many homeschooling families we know are really passionate about the arts and music, in their various forms. Continue reading creating and creativity in our bahaySKUL

supplies for our bahaySKUL

Because we homeschool, we do have at home a lot of the stuff the kids need to do school. We don’t have blackboards or lockers, but we do have versions of those stuff in our homeschool. Here’s a peek into the supplies and materials we need for bahaySKUL.

Workbox. Each child has his own workbox where he stores and retrieves everyday school stuff. They also have plastic file boxes where we store curriculum modules and books they are not currently working on or have completed.

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the kids’  workboxes

Continue reading supplies for our bahaySKUL

gardening with kids

when they touch the soil and witness something growing from it, they learn how much they are part of this earth..

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Farm and garden work are very much part of our every day life. For one, we are running an organic agriculture enterprise. At the same time, we are growing as much food as we can in our own backyard because we want to eat fresh and healthy all the time. This has rubbed off on our kids, and in fact, they now play a bigger role in tending to our backyard garden.

You might wonder, what kind of gardening work can young children actually do? Pretty much everything, I would say. Continue reading gardening with kids