Meet the ‘Bitcoin Family’

The Redman’s lives revolve around a highly volatile digital currency.

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Aug 26 2015, 1:10pm

Image: Jamie Redman

When Jamie Redman's six-year-old son Joshua loses a tooth, he wakes up to a paper QR code linking to a Bitcoin wallet stuffed under his pillow.

It's just one of the many peculiarities of life for the Redman family, who "[revolve] their lives" around the cryptocurrency, according to a recent blog post Jamie wrote, titled, "We Are a Bitcoin Family." In it, he outlines how Bitcoin permeates nearly every facet of home life for him, his wife Liza, and his two young sons—Joshua, and two-year-old Franklin; from paying bills, to his kids' homeschooling.

Yes, Jamie, a former construction worker who transitioned into a Bitcoin meme-maker and blogger (he gets paid in Bitcoin), homeschools his sons and teaches them the ways of the coin.

"Bitcoin is 24 hours a day. For me, it's like a never-ending blockchain, it just keeps going and going and going. In my family, it's very heavy"

That might seem a bit wild, but while most adults still struggle to string together a coherent sentence describing what the hell Bitcoin actually is, Joshua—who's six, remember—describes it like this, according to Jamie's post: "Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. It's a kind of computerized money you use online… Like numbers being traded."

Well, fuck me. That's not bad.

To find out what it's like to live as part of a family whose lives are now tied to the fate of an infamously volatile digital currency, I called Jamie on Skype and spoke to him as he sat on the porch of his family's Boston home.

Jamie's son Joshua holding a hardware Bitcoin wallet. Image: Jamie Redman. Cropped.

Motherboard: So, how did you convince your family to go along with this?
Jamie Redman: I've been into Bitcoin since 2011. I wasn't as passionate about it as I am now until about 2012. I convinced my wife to get a few as an investment, for speculation purposes only, and then I really started studying it on my own, without my family at first. And then I—I'm so into it that I started talking about it all the time, and making my graphics. Everything that I could think of, you know?

Your wife was the first one to buy Bitcoin—is she as into this as you are?
At first she was not as into it as me, but yes, she sees the true potential of Bitcoin right now. She understands it. At first, she wasn't able to explain it to her friends and such, but now it's a different story. As I said in my write up, I took my boy to the ATM—we're lucky to have four Bitcoin ATMs in Boston—and the one by MIT is really close to me. At first, he didn't understand it, as he's just four years old. He was expecting real coins to come out of the ATM.

How do people usually react to your lifestyle?
My family and friends—at first, when they ask, "What do you do?" and I say, "I write about Bitcoin every day." The first thing they say is, "Do you get paid for this?" Yes, I get paid in Bitcoin. That's the kind of thing I get when I'm first approached, and I have to explain it. I use financial tech and stuff with your phone to get the message across to people now. Financial tech is a huge industry now, and I just tell people how they pay bills and bank with their phone already—ease into it. You have the internet on your side at all times now, stuff like that.

One of Jamie's graphics. Image: Crypto-graphics.com

When your friends invite you out to eat, does that cause problems if the restaurant doesn't accept Bitcoin?
Not necessarily. When it comes to bill paying, there's definitely times we have to convert to fiat, so we use BitPay for that. And we use BillPay to pay certain bills, like our cell phones. If I was going out to eat with someone, I wouldn't deny them a place that doesn't accept Bitcoin. We have a few places here in Boston that accept it.

How many of your day-to-day purchases are done in Bitcoin?
It's now an everyday conversation. When we go grocery shopping, once a week, we buy Gyft cards that are accepted at Whole Foods Market. Gyft cards is one of the best ways to go, you can sometimes get a five to 15 percent discount using Gyft cards and stuff. The G-y-f-t cards, you know what I'm talking about?

Yes.
It's accepted at Best Buy, certain places like that. There's all kinds of methods we use. We're phasing out slowly, it's not 100 percent. Up in Canada I know you guys have Bylls and stuff, but here we only have one [bill paying service]. We use BitPay a lot.

Watch more from Motherboard: Life Inside a Chinese Bitcoin Mine

How much of your kids' homeschooling is about Bitcoin?
I would say Bitcoin is a lot, just because it's talked about with the family every day. When me and my son do our graphics together, we talk about it all the time. And like I said, I write about it every day, so we're always talking about the stories I'm writing, and the people I'm talking to all over the globe. Bitcoin is 24 hours a day. For me, it's like a never-ending blockchain, it just keeps going and going and going. In my family, it's very heavy. Not a day goes by that we don't talk about it.

Do you teach your sons just about the coins, or the blockchain as well?
More about the coin. How it's numbers, how it can't be duplicated, more scalability—stuff that he can understand.

You mention in your post how you watch Bitcoin price charts with your kids. I'm a grown ass man, and when I watch that stuff, it makes me crazy. They like it?
Yeah. Just like the graphs, they always ask what the green and red candles mean on the candlestick charts. They're always interested. For some reason, that chart really boggles their mind. I don't know. They dig it.

"I can read the charts and stuff, but I can't predict what's going to happen next year"

How much of your family's money would you say is tied up in Bitcoin versus fiat money?
I would say half and half right now. We're moving in about six months, and our plan is to go 100 percent, as much as we can. Like I said, we wouldn't tell people at restaurants that we wouldn't do this or that, but we're trying to get to that point. It's going pretty good. It's mostly because everything that I get paid in from freelance writing is in Bitcoin. And that's what I prefer.

Has the volatility in Bitcoin's price—and decline—affected you at all?
We definitely have to watch the back and forth. We have more purchasing power at certain times. It's definitely dropped a bit, too. I wouldn't say it's affected me, because I get paid in US dollars and they convert it to Bitcoin and send it to me. So, I'm getting what it's worth, and typically the money doesn't last long for a family of four.

Jamie's son Joshua. Image: Jamie Redman

How much of your family's financial future would you say is tied to Bitcoin?
A whole lot. it's a giant investment. We're taking a huge jump into an ocean. I can read the charts and stuff, but I can't predict what's going to happen next year. I can only believe what the abilities Bitcoin can give to the people as far as remittances and things of this nature.

Does it worry you?
Does it worry me? No.

Why not?
I have a lot of faith in it. I see a lot of innovators around me that are just as passionate as I am. I see the things they're building, and I see a lot of decentralization happening with Uber and those things. I just think it's a no-brainer for money right now. A lot of people will disagree with me, but people carry the internet on their belts right now, and you didn't think of that a few years ago.