Impressions of Our Last Month in Europe

During our last month in Europe, Simon has been flirting with pure math again, trying to find possible answers to complex questions. Doodling during our bedtime reading, he drew a graph and jotted down some trigonometric equations on the side, explaining he was trying to find the average of all positive numbers. Later, when falling asleep, he told me he realized that problem required integral calculus and that it was probably time he came back to learning integral calculus anyway.

A couple days earlier, he had programmed a coin tossing game and was coming up with optimal strategies to play it. He used Bayesian inference and plotted a graph in Geogebra when he noticed something paradoxical: mathematically, he got different predictions depending on whether he knew the order of tosses or not – seemingly irrelevant information. This reminded him of the famous boy-girl paradox, a problem in which seemingly irrelevant data about whether a child was born on a Tuesday helped estimate the child’s sex more correctly. The coin tossing paradox held Simon’s mind hostage for a few days.

It’s also fun to observe Simon think mathematically and in a non-linear way in everything in processing everything he sees and hears, such as daily conversations (in which he can get pretty annoyed with me being “vague”) or the current events. I don’t know how far Simon will eventually go in studying math and how much math he will be using in his daily work, but he has definitely already trained his brain to look at life through a beautiful multidimensional lens, so important in learning how not to be wrong, as Jordan Ellenberg has taught us.

Neva also stuns me with razor-sharp analysis and logic that she currently mainly applies to analyzing human behavior, story plot twists and game mechanics. She has been spending most of her time binge reading endless pages on the details of Alex Hirsch’s series Gravity Falls, her current obsession, and engaging in prolonged discussions with her friends, most of whom she has met in the game Sky: Children of the Light. She is also back to teaching herself play music (also in the Sky environment). The debates she has been having with her friends and acquaintances have prompted her to explore multiple ethical, social and cultural biases, as she has clashed opinions with those displaying hierarchical and stereotypical world views on many occasions. It puzzles her why some young people she knows do question tradition and others don’t, and why the latter avoid having a well argued, comprehensive discussion about issues like xenophobia, homophobia and ageism.

Below are some scraps of impressions of our last month in Europe, getting ready to hop over the pond.

Should you be interested in a longer read about why we’re leaving Europe, I have been honored to write the closing chapter to Marta Obiols Llistar’s beautiful book coming out this May, #vidasincole (“Life without School”). You can read my chapter, Carta de mi amiga (“Letter from My Friend”) in English on my website. The “letter” briefly tells our family’s story and explains why we’re leaving Europe.

Simon doodling space-filling curves: Hilbert Curve
Simon doodling space-filling curves: Peano Curve
Unraveling the coin tossing paradox
Working on a new Logic Gates game
Comparison chart for the games Baba is You and Patrick’s Parabox
Simon playing one of the many Wordle variations he is fond of.
He has also started helping me with making an anti-war Russian version of Wordle, but hasn’t completed it
Neva playing the melody she has been learning (Megalovania) on her new instrument (electric guitar) in Sky
A discussion at the table in an out of bound area in Sky
Flying together
Last meetups with teachers
Teachers who have become dear friends
Saying good-bye to our old friends
And to our new Ukrainian friends
See on the other side of the pond!

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