November 29, 2007

On Commitments

So, I've been saying yes more. I've been honoring Jerry's feelings and interests and that's all fine and good, but a pattern is emerging that I'm not exactly happy with. He's bailing out on his classes at the last minute. It's not that he wants to stop taking the classes. He insists he wants to take them. But there have been more than a few days in the last couple months when Jerry has made a commitment to attend a class and just before we leave, or the teacher arrives, or we're about to walk in the door he doesn't feel like going.

Ever since the "chess incident", whenever he's said he doesn't want to go to a class I've said okay--well, mostly. The other day he didn't want to go to trombone and I said he had to, but he went along without a fuss. He's bailing out a lot lately, though.

Remember the circus class I mentioned I've been going to? Well, he finally said he wanted to join, I signed him up, and then TWICE (not once) on the morning of class--after I'd committed to paying for his lesson--he didn't want to go. Both times I let him stay home. He did finally join me this week but only after a discussion on the importance of honoring his commitments and not taking advantage of people (me) who are paying for classes because he says he wants to take them.

Just this morning his drawing teacher was due to arrive and suddenly he didn't want to have drawing class. At first I said I would take the class instead because we'd have to pay for it whether she taught him or not but then I realized I needed to drop my car off at the mechanic's, so I said he'd have to have the lesson whether he wanted it or not.

So, basically, I'm struggling with the boundary between letting Jerry make his own choices and requiring that he honor his commitments. I'm definitely against wasting time on something just because you started it. If a book, a movie, or a class I'm taking is bad I drop it. Life is too precious to be wasted on bad art and boring teachers. And I did let Jerry drop an expensive series of classes recently because he didn't like it (and there were no refunds!). So I'm not coming at this from an "honor your commitments even if they make you want to gouge your eyes out" point of view. But when we pay for Jerry to take drawing or trombone or go to circus class because he says he wants to do those things it's not so easy for me to let it slide when he wants to stay home instead.

I'm not really sure what the solution is. This morning after drawing his teacher asked if we wanted to meet next week or the following week and I left it up to Jerry completely. At least that way there is no question about who made the commitment. Maybe part of the solution, then, is to make sure he recognizes that he is the one in control. He's making the choice to schedule the lesson, therefore he is the one in charge of honoring that commitment.

I don't know. I still don't know exactly how to balance out letting Jerry make his own choices and making sure I'm not wasting a lot of money on classes he doesn't attend.

Hmmm.....I'm not too sure about this one.

Now I have to mention something completely unrelated to this post. My cat, Charlie (the black and white one) got in the shower with me today! Yes, he actually stood on the floor of the shower and let the water run down his back. He kept his head under the shower liner so it wouldn't get wet but the rest of him was soaked by the time he finally jumped out. Isn't that funny?!

November 28, 2007

Coming Over To The Dark Side (Or, I Heart Video Games)

I'm almost finished reading Don't Bother Me Mom--I'm Learning by Marc Prensky. After reading that book I've done a complete 180 in terms of my feelings about video and computer games. I'm so glad I made the effort to read it. A year ago I wouldn't even have entertained the idea that playing video games might be a worthwhile endeavor, let alone waste my time reading a book by some nut job claiming they were educational. I would have assumed he'd been hired by the video game industry and viewed it as pure propaganda without ever bothering to read the dust jacket. Well, I'm singing a different tune today!

Marc Prensky's book is level-headed, sincere, informative, and, most importantly, convincing. It's all about bridging the gap between 21st century kids and their antiquated parents. I'm more excited about technology now than I've ever been before. I even bought my first Nintendo DS game--in fact, I was very grateful to Jerry for letting me use his DS for most of the weekend while I was sick in bed. It was an excellent way to pass the time. Okay, so the game I bought and played was a New York Times crossword puzzle game--but still, I was gaming! Woo hoo!

Naturally, now that I'm all comfy with Jerry's video game and computer use he's been spending most of his time on the couch watching television. I'm constantly amazed at how children are able to perceive the precise moment when their parents accept a new activity or behavior and start pushing the envelope just a little further, or in another direction altogether. It forces us, as parents, to continually evaluate and adapt. It's a good thing though--keeps us on our toes. There's no room for boredom or complacency, that's for sure.

On another note, I received a nice surprise today! JJ from Cocking a Snook! nominated me for Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Award! Thanks JJ! That was so nice of you. :)

November 26, 2007

Honeymoon Phase

We're back from Sacramento, where we were visiting family for Thanksgiving. We had a really nice time but all three of us ended up getting sick. Jerry had a bad cold, I ended up with bronchitis and now Warren is laid up in bed with a sore throat! So...I won't be writing much.

I really just wanted to tell you how pleasant life is now that I am accepting Jerry's interests instead of fighting against them. It's amazing how that one little switch in thinking has made such a difference. I hadn't realized before how much of the parenting angst I've felt since Jerry was born was a result of all the "shoulds" that were floating around in my subconscious (and conscious) mind. As these notions float away, I find I'm left with nothing but the notion of living a joyful life.

I think unschooling and I have entered our honeymoon phase. Getting to know each other wasn't easy, but I'm feeling all giddy about our relationship now. The only drawback is that I can't help wondering what happens when the honeymoon ends. I mean, all honeymoons end eventually, right? But, unschooling (to me, at this point, anyway) really does seem like a never-ending honeymoon. I mean, if it's all about following your passion and living joyfully how could it ever get old?

November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

I probably won't post anything here until after Thanksgiving so I just wanted to wish you all a happy day and tell you that I'm so very grateful to all of you who read my blog, and leave your comments. You've become an important support system for me on this journey and I really appreciate you! I hope we get to meet in person some day.

I'm going to leave you with another Mary Oliver poem.


It is possible, I suppose, that sometime
we will learn everything
there is to learn: what the world is, for example,
and what it means. I think this as I am crossing
from one field to another, in summer, and the
mockingbird is mocking me, as one who either
knows enough already or knows enough to be
perfectly content not knowing. Song being born
of quest he knows this: he must turn silent
were he suddenly assaulted with answers. Instead

oh hear his wild, caustic, tender warbling ceaselessly
unanswered. At my feet the white-petaled daisies display
the small suns of their center-piece, their - if you don't
mind my saying so - their hearts. Of course
I could be wrong, perhaps their hearts are pale and
narrow and hidden in the roots. What do I know.
But this: it is heaven itself to take what is given,
to see what is plain; what the sun
lights up willingly; for example - I think this
as I reach down, not to pick but merely to touch -
the suitability of the field for the daisies, and the
daisies for the field.

November 19, 2007

The Happiness Question

Today I was thinking about how my own happiness, lately, kind of hinges on whether or not I like Jerry's chosen activities. Not completely, I mean, I'm not getting freaked out about video games or computer use anymore and I'm finding lots of joy in my own activities and interests now that I'm giving Jerry more freedom to make his own choices. But I had the realization today that I feel better when Jerry chooses to do something that pleases me.

For example, we're reading the Edith Grossman translation of Don Quixote right now as our bedtime story. It was Jerry's choice. I had read him the windmill scene a few years ago and he said he wanted to read the whole book together. This makes me very happy. Why? Because it's a classic. Because it's not your typical kid lit. And because it sounds good. When someone asks what we're doing for homeschooling I can ramble off a few highlights (like the cool science projects or the volcano research) and then throw in "Oh, and we're reading Don Quixote." I can't help it. I get a thrill out of it, but I'm thinking it would be better if I didn't.

I mean, is it really safe to let another person's choice of how he spends his time determine whether or not I'm happy on a particular day? I'm thinking no. But I'm wondering if I'll ever be able to remove myself completely (emotionally, I mean) from Jerry's choices. Somehow, I don't think so. And would I want to? Do I need to? Is there a certain emotional distance involved in not judging how another person spends his time? I don't know.

What do you think?

November 18, 2007

Rule Two

I narrowly avoided causing another "incident" on Friday. Yes, it could have been the "chess incident" all over again but, I'm happy to say, sometimes I do learn from my mistakes.

Jerry had said he wanted to take a survival class through our homeschool group, so we signed up for two classes, the first of which took place last Friday. I was really looking forward to this class. We were going to learn about edible plants in the wilderness and I thought it would be really cool. Jerry had had a stomach flu the previous day but seemed fine that morning so we drove to the class. Once we got there and the other students started to arrive Jerry leaned on me and said he was sorry but he didn't feel good and he wanted to go home.

Now, I was helped out by the fact that he'd been sick the day before. If he'd been well I might have fallen into the old habit of insisting we stay because, after all, I drove all that way and I paid for it. But since Jerry had been sick I really had to consider his feelings seriously.

I took some deep breaths (being especially conscious not to turn them into heavy sighs) then told the woman who had organized the class that Jerry wasn't feeling well and we were going to leave but we'd see her at the next class. We got into the car and drove toward home.

So far so good, right? Well, what I should have done was just say "I understand" and drop it. But, I'm a beginner. I had to talk. "Blah, blah, blah blah. You know, if you want to make friends you need to put yourself out there. Blah, blah. You've got to talk to people. Blah. These classes are such a great way to make new friends but if you never want to stay.....". You get the picture.

Even as I was speaking I knew I should shut up. Eventually I did (I came to my senses after just a few minutes.) and asked if he'd like to stop for a bagel. So, we went to the bagel place where we used to go when he was in kindergarten and before we walked in the door Jerry hugged me and said "I love you, Mom. I know you really wanted to take that class and I'm sorry. But thanks for leaving."

Isn't that sweet? It made me think back to "Chess Incident" (you can read it for an example of one of my less than stellar parenting days). I was really struck by the different outcomes of the two similar situations. The chess incident started out much the same way the survival class did: I signed him up, paid for the class, drove 30 miles to get him there and then he told me he was too tired for chess and wanted to leave. But it ended with anger, hurt feelings, sadness, and the literal shoveling of shit--I sent him out back to pick up dog poop when we got home. (So sad! I feel really bad about that now.)

This time, though, I told myself that his needs were real. I knew I could sign up for an edible plant class some other time. It was not a big deal to leave. What was more important was to show Jerry that I took his needs seriously. So I did. I wasn't perfect (I had to talk!). But I didn't get mad. Instead of ending the scene with two people feeling awful, we ended up sharing a bagel and drinks, having a nice conversation, and appreciating each other's company. What a difference!

But wait! There's more! Learning this lesson has helped in other ways, too. I signed up to take a circus class with the homeschoolers because I thought Jerry would really like it, but he didn't want to join. He just wanted to watch to see if he would like the class. So, I took the class on my own. Now, Jerry had said he'd watch the class, but instead he played in another room with one of the other kids. I wondered if I should suggest that he stop playing and come watch (the whole point of me taking it was so he would join in eventually) but I didn't. The next week he didn't even feel like watching so I went to the class without him--no fuss or fight. I just said okay and I really was okay with it. (I love that class and there was no way I was going to miss it!) Now this week he says he wants to join! Yippee!

So, after two months I have finally discovered my second rule of unschooling. I'll write it out in caps again like I did the first rule:


Good things happen when you do.

November 15, 2007

Fun With Science (Ice Bulb)

I've been meaning to share some photos of our super cool science project with you. Since Jerry's been sick all day, and we were up most of the night, I thought this would be an excellent day for a photo essay.

The Ice Bulb

These are the supplies we used.

Jerry stripped the end of two electrical wires then attached them to an LED.

We don't have a photo of me sticking the little wired LED into a balloon, filling it with water, then tying the balloon in a knot. Luckily, there's no record of the words I used while knotting the balloon with those stupid wires sticking out the end either.

Here it is in the freezer.

A few hours later we stripped off the balloon, attached the wires to a couple batteries and...Voila!
It turns green, too. Learn to make your own Ice Bulb by clicking here. According to the video, you just need to touch the wires to the ends of two batteries to make the bulb light up, but we ended up needing to use a battery pack thing (a plastic device with slots for two AA batteries) from an electricity set we happened to have. If anyone knows why it wouldn't work with just the batteries will you let me know? And if you know the real name for a battery pack thing I'd be doubly grateful!

November 14, 2007

The Benefits of Virtual Worlds Online

As you may know I've been opening my mind to the possibility that video games and computer use are beneficial to children. In my previous life, as Waldorf school parent, I never would have even considered the possibility that they might be anything more than an energy-sucking nuisance. But, when I decided to unschool I committed to taking Jerry's interests seriously. And boy is he interested in computer use and video games! So, I've been reading up on their benefits and it turns out there are many.

This evening I went to a panel discussion at USC called "What are Kids Learning in Virtual Worlds? The Wonders and the Worries." There were five panelists, all of them very techno-savvy and convinced of the educational value of virtual worlds and video games. The opening remarks were given by the Vice President of the MacArthur Foundation. When I got home and checked the foundation's website, I discovered that many of her remarks came from the following editorial. All of a sudden virtual worlds are sounding pretty good to me!

An excerpt from "New Generations, New Media Challenges," an opinion-editorial by Jonathan Fanton that ran in the June 19, 2007, edition of the St. Louis Post Dispatch
Research, some of it funded by the MacArthur Foundation, is just beginning to fathom how deeply our children have absorbed new technology: the role it plays in their lives and how it affects their learning, play and socialization. What this research suggests is that today's digital youth are in the process of creating a new kind of literacy; this evolving skill extends beyond the traditions of reading and writing into a community of expression and problem-solving that not only is changing their world but ours, too. . .Henry Jenkins, director of the media studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calls this a new "participatory culture," one that presents low barriers to artistic expression and social engagement that suggests that a richer environment for learning may lie outside the classroom.

Online and after school, youths in this new participatory culture are assimilating new languages and rules, vast troves of research and perspectives on the nature of order and community that vault across traditional boundaries of race or creed or culture.

In meta-games such as Civilization III and SimCity, participants develop and manipulate dynamic models of real life; they teach and legislate, create and share, connect and collaborate, reflecting the value of team-building and consensus over autonomous solutions.

Moreover, through virtual characters and identities — even some that disturb parents — teens can experiment through trial and error, make poor moral choices or learn the downside of risk-taking without jeopardizing actual careers or lives. They learn to value challenge and appreciate complexity, even as they assimilate facts and assess developments at breathtaking speed.

The downside may be that in the sunset of the old information culture, we are not understanding this new media literacy soon enough. Those who have no opportunity or desire to be part of these revolutionary digital communities may be deprived of vital virtual skills that would prepare them for full participation in the real world of tomorrow.

In this new media age, the ability to negotiate and evaluate information online, to recognize manipulation and propaganda and to assimilate ethical values is becoming as basic to education as reading and writing. The children who truly will be left behind in the evolving digital culture are those who fail to bridge this participation gap.

Here are a few links to some really cool virtual worlds:

Club Penguin
Gaia Online
Teen Second Life

By the way, one of the points made in the discussion was that many of these sites make money by offering advertising in the form of product placement. For example, Donna Karan clothes, or a Toyota Scion can be "purchased" and used by your child's avatar with points. All of the panelists felt children would benefit from an open discussion about consumerism, advertising, sales tactics, etc.

One last thing...I found an excellent resource today on Sandra Dodd's website. She has an entire page with links to articles about video games and their benefits. You'll find it here.

I'm still feeling good. :)

November 13, 2007

Deschooling At Last (Or, Living A Joyful Life)

The last time I had a revelation on my blog I sprinkled photos of our cats throughout the entry (even though they had nothing to do with anything!). I've had what I think is another good revelation so, in keeping with tradition, I'm posting some photos of Ravenpaw and Charlie--just for fun.

Whenever I post something about how far I've come, or how it's been smooth sailing lately, the very next day I find myself writing about how everything is falling apart. (Usually because of something I did.) Knock on wood, please, because I'm about to jinx myself. I've felt a definite shift these last few days. I've really come a long way!

Two months and three days have passed since we started unschooling and we're just now (FINALLY!) ready to start the deschooling process in earnest. It seems wrong to say "in earnest," actually, because earnest implies an intense focus and the shift I'm feeling is more a lack of intense focus. Or maybe it's just that my focus is changing. Instead of focusing on educating my son, or trying to unschool or deschool the "right" way, or fretting over how much screen-time is appropriate, my focus has shifted to living a joyful life.

What has brought about this change? Time. Research. Reading unschooling blogs. Reading the comments on my blog. Reading and posting on unschooling discussion groups. Reading books. Following my own interests. And more time.

Each of those activities has contributed to my growth and I don't think I'd have made it this far without every one of them. There's one book, however, that was especially helpful. It's called Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooling Life by Rue Kream (Thanks Evie!). I'm a little more than 3/4 of the way through it now and I just cannot recommend it enough for someone who is new to unschooling. More than an unschooling handbook, Parenting a Free Child is about respecting children as fellow humans on their own unique journey, living a joyful life and so much more. Everyone should read it!

With all of that said, I must tell you that I'm still far from being comfortable as an unschooler. It's still new. There are still things I'm not ready to change. I'm holding on to some practices that aren't very unschoolish--but I forgive myself for that. I'm learning at my own pace.

For now, my deschooling plan is to focus on one thing and one thing only.Joy. Finding it. Fostering it. And helping my family to do the same.

November 12, 2007

A Day At The Beach

Today Jerry, his best friend Jackson, and I went to Santa Monica. We walked around the pier for a while, then built an awesome sand castle on the beach. Here's a run down on what we did, and what we learned in the process.

The day started at home with Jerry and I at the kitchen table. Jerry played a tetris-like game called Snood on his computer for about an hour and a half while I worked on my blog. As I was searching online for some information about the educational value of Snood I stumbled upon a site called Computing With Kids which had this great article about the game. Here's a brief excerpt:
"Snood is an amazing game, not because of its complexity, but rather its simplicity," said Reginann Rohlfs, a sixth-grade teacher at Forest Edge Elementary School in Fairfax, Va. Rohlfs uses Snood in her classroom because it teaches "logic, geometry and strategy."
So, let me rephrase my earlier description of what we did this morning. I worked on my blog while Jerry studied logic, geometry and strategy. Oh, and the same article said that this game is huge at Princeton and that they've held Snood tournaments on campus. So I think it's fair to say he was preparing for college, too. Hee! Hee!

Then we went to pick up Jackson and stopped at Game Stop so Jerry could buy a used wireless adapter for his friend Anthony so they can play Pokemon together. He learned about giving and smart consumerism.

At the beach we checked out the rides (just looked) and the arcade (again, just looked--they didn't have the game the boys were looking for) then we walked to the end of the pier. The boys watched an artist create a small oil painting of the pier, which Jerry purchased. They learned art and a little Spanish. They had another art lesson from a cartoonist later in the day. At the end of the pier we looked at old photos of the area. (History.)

As we walked, we talked about the Galapagos Islands and how the animals aren't afraid of people there. We laughed about the Blue Footed Booby and vowed to find photos of one online when we got home. (Geography. Biology. Evolution. History.)

We ate a snack. Then we walked down the stairs toward the sand.
It was Veteran's Day and there was a memorial to the soldiers killed in Iraq just north of the pier on the sand. There were crosses representing the dead soldiers, many with handwritten names, and flowers attached to them. We saw photographs of the American soldiers who had died and talked about how each dead soldier meant a family had lost someone they loved. We talked about war and good and evil and if evil is necessary in the world in order to have good. (History. Philosophy. Current Events. International Relations. Social Studies.)

Then we built a sandcastle.

(Architecture. Geology. Joyful Living.)

The Doubting Dad

I ended my last post by asking for suggestions on how to handle a partner who's not exactly on board the unschooling bus, so to speak. I wanted to know how to balance my husband's need to see some Learning going on, with my desire to unschool our son. This topic is so important I figure it deserves its very own post. That way all the helpful suggestions I've been getting won't get passed over.

You can read the complete comments on my last post, but I'm going to paraphrase some of them for you here:

Heather from Embracing the Strange suggested I read Building an Unschooling Nest and Doing Two Things at Once on Sandra Dodd's site. She also recommended I take a look at Deschooling Caleb, a blog written by a mom whose son is about Jerry's age. Among other things, Heather also suggested delving into my own interests and sharing them with Jerry, and getting out of the house more. Oh, and she wondered if I had fully explained the deschooling process to my husband. (He says I have but I think I need to try again.)

Sheri from Matter of Faith suggested that I ease up on myself and allow my husband to take on the subjects that he's most concerned about.

Tara at Heartschooling thought I was on the right track by respecting all parties and trying to find ways to meet everyone's needs. She suggested keeping a log of what we do throughout the day and listing the educational value of each activity.

Nance Confer from Cocking a Snook recommended my husband check out these blogs written by a couple homeschooling dads:
HE&OS and O'Donnell Web. She also suggested the Homeschooling for Dads page on the National Home Education Network site. I found this comment, also from Nance, to be especially helpful:
"And, I hope this doesn't sound mean, but has Warren tried just hanging out and talking with your son. Not in a quizzing, annoying way. But in a nice, friendly, "getting to know you and not measuring you against any arbitrary standard and dang, but aren't you a terrific kid" kind of way.

And then he'd need to do that again. And again. And not demand to see some worksheet or test score or a book that was sufficiently "educational." But just keep on doing that and keep on really trying to appreciate your son.

And then one day, it will all click. He will walk into the kitchen where you are preparing dinner and trying not to listen and he will say, "You know, that boy is really smart. He just told me all about XYZ. And he had some good ideas about ABC. And he's funny!" Or whatever your son is.

And you will smile and agree because, by then, you will already have had the many chances during the day that Dads sometimes miss to see how terrific your son is.

And the more you can continue to deschool -- meaning lay off the school work (even if you think it doesn't look schooly, obviously your son knows what's up) -- the sooner all of this can start happening."

So, it seems like Warren and I need to take some time to talk about unschooling and deschooling. We need to have some philosophical discussions about school and learning and our own educational philosophies. I have a feeling this may take more than a couple conversations! In the meantime we'll both take Nance's advice to hang out with Jerry without placing judgments on how he chooses to spend his time. That should be a good place to start.

November 9, 2007

A Slippery Slope

I'm beginning to notice a pattern here. The day after I publish a post in which I write about how things are going great, how I'm really getting the hang of this unschooling thing, how I'm cruising along giddily close to "euphoria," I end up back at "crap." Thankfully the crap episodes seem to be getting shorter as I catch myself behaving schoolishly, or unreasonably, or being a control freak, or all of the above, faster and faster each time.

Yesterday I decided to have a talk with Jerry. That probably should have sent up a red flag--my "talks" rarely have positive results. But I was determined to discuss tactics for making his dad feel better about our schooling. In other words, his dad would like to see more Learning going on and I wanted to talk about how we might make some happen. So, I asked Jerry what he'd like to learn about.

Jerry was not particularly interested in this conversation, but he said we could try learning some Rapid Math Tricks using a book of the same name. He agreed to a few more things but in truth I don't think he was very interested in any of it. I decided (another red flag should have gone up there!) that we should start today. We tried the first lesson but I wasn't even half way through it before Jerry was sighing heavily and exhibiting the same behavior as he did on that fateful day of the "math incident"--our last day of school-at-home.

I found myself getting angry so I took a deep breath and went into the other room. I busied myself with other things until the math lesson didn't seem so important anymore. Thankfully it didn't take long.

I figure the fact that the episode was over so quickly is a sign of progress, but I do wonder how in the heck I'm supposed to balance my husband's need to see some Learning going on with my (and Jerry's) desire to unschool.

Suggestions anyone?

November 7, 2007

A Happy Jelly Roll

We're having a fun week so far. I've been saying yes more. On Tuesday Jerry asked if we could watch a movie and eat fruit loops. I said "Yes! Let's!" So we did and it was great.

I have my very own Club Penguin account now, which is getting boring fast because all the cool stuff is for members only. Now I know why I'm paying $5.95 every month for Jerry's membership.

I started a Circus Class today, which was awesome! It's with the homeschool group and it's mainly for kids but some parents participate. The class was such a great example of why homeschooling is so cool because there was a boy that looked to be about two or three on the young end and then some parents (I won't even try to guess their ages!) on the older end. And we were all having so much fun together--none of this sticking people with their own age group stuff! Jerry just wanted to watch and I didn't freak out and insist he join or any of that nonsense. I didn't even insist he watch. He ended up having a fine time in another room with a girl that was waiting for the next class.

Then we came home and some friends came with us. Yes, it's true. I finally have a homeschooling friend! Yippee! She has a boy around Jerry's age and a daughter a few years younger, so the kids played with the Wii while we talked in the kitchen. It was really nice.

After our friends left, Jerry started making a stop motion movie and I went into the backyard and did some gardening. Normally I would have felt weird about each of us doing our own thing. I guess that's left over from when he was in school. When our time together was limited to evenings and weekends I felt like we should be spending our together time TOGETHER. But today he did his thing and I did mine. And it was fine. It was great, in fact. Except for the fact that Circus Class kicked my ass and then gardening did me in completely. I feel like a jelly roll now. A happy jelly roll.

Oh, I almost forgot! I'd like to pass on the Wonder Woman Award to Heather at Embracing the Strange and Mombot Companion. Heather is brave and funny and honest and she knits the coolest monsters ever. Oh, and she can sing, too!

November 6, 2007

Lots Of Thinking & Many Questions

First off, before I even get around to all the thinking I've been doing, I want to thank Wendy at Playing Hooky for giving me a Wonder Woman Award. I'm so grateful to Wendy for thinking of me, and the award came just when I was in need of a pat on the back, or a hug, or a kind word--you get the picture--and it miraculously, virtually, provided all three. Thanks Wendy! I'll be passing the award on later this week to another deserving blogger.

Every time I try to put my thoughts of the last few days into words I stumble. I've had so many questions and new ideas flying around my head lately I hardly know where to begin. My ideas have really been challenged--mainly by a discussion on the unschooling basics discussion group at Yahoo! (It's the one titled "newbie needing encouragement re: tv.") But also thanks to JJ and Nance (and now Tammy) in the comments section of my post called Unschoolers on Video Games.

Here are some of the questions I've been asking myself, along with the answers I've come up with:

1.) What if I accepted my son's love of video games, and all his interests as valid? Wouldn't that be a wonderful gift?


2.) By creating the video game compromise is Jerry missing out on the opportunity to make his own choices?

Obviously, the answer is yes. Which begs the question:

3.) How do we create an environment where all family members interests and feelings are valued?

I'm still working on the answer to that one but this question is leading me closer to an answer:

4.) Is my goal for Jerry to stop playing video games to suit me and his father? Or is my goal for Jerry to stop playing video games because he has found something else just as compelling?

No, and yes. I don't want him to stop playing because of us. If he chooses not to play video games I'd like for it to be because he's doing something else that he loves just as much. Which leads me to the question:

5.) What exactly are my goals for Jerry? Do they have anything to do with video games?

Actually, they don't. I want Jerry to be curious and happy. I want him to have a sense of wonder about the world around him. I want him to love spending time with me and his dad. Video games (or the lack of them) don't really appear anywhere in my goals. So:

6.) Why am I so fixated on video games?

I haven't figured this one out yet either. Mainly I think it's fear. Also, I feel like when he's playing video games he's kind of in his own world. I feel excluded. Which leads me to:

7.) If I want to be a part of his world why don't I just join him?

Duh! Why didn't I think of this before?! Actually, I did think of it before because many people have suggested it. I'm just kind of dense. I have dabbled in his world of video and computer games--he made an account for me on Adventure Quest (which I've never used), but I've never really taken the plunge. Sounds like I'd better get my suit on!

November 2, 2007

Unschoolers On Video Games

When my son was just a few months old we were visiting the pediatrician and the doctor reached over, laid his hand on top of mine, looked me in the eyes and said, "You're doing a good job." I was so relieved. I knew he probably said that to all the new mothers, but that didn't lighten the impact of his comment at all. I still get teary when I think of it. :)

The following links are the online equivalent to that steady hand and reassuring voice, only they're related to one aspect of parenting--the video game conundrum. To regulate or not to regulate, that is the question. And the answer from many unschoolers is a resounding "No."

I can just imagine many of these seasoned unschoolers shaking their heads at me as I create compromises and schedules for Jerry's video game use. I don't imagine them doing it in a mean or condescending way. I just see a wise, friendly face smiling at me with a look that says "Why are you putting yourself through this? Relax. Love your son. Everything will be okay." To tell you the truth, just imagining that compassionate face, exuding confidence in me and my ability to (eventually) get it right makes me feel better.

So here is a compilation of posts written by people who are much wiser than me. They haven't all taken the same route or come to the same conclusion, but they have examined their choices, kept an open mind, and made decisions that honor their children's interests and their own feelings.

"Sex, Lies & Video Games" was written by Sheri at Be sure to read the comments because both Sheri and her husband responded to a question I left in the comments section and their answers are really helpful.

The Great Video Game Experiment from Swiss Army Wife details what one mother learned from letting her son have thirty days of unlimited video games.

Tammy Takahashi over at Just Enough, and Nothing More is a veritable fountain of wisdom. You can read her take on video games and other all consuming interests in her post entitled "My Kid Will Play Video Games All Day!". While you're at it you should check out Tammy's 5 Deschooling Tips (for Homeschoolers).

This is a post called Is Your Love for Your Kids Controlling? over at Cocking a Snook. The title pretty much says it all. Be sure to check the comments of this posting (the one you're reading now--on my blog) because JJ and Nance from Cocking a Snook had some really helpful things to say.

There are more links that I'd like to include here but I think it's time for me to get off the computer. I'll come back and add them later.

I'd like to end this post with a bit of wisdom from Jerry--something he learned from watching Looney Toons this morning. "Mom, do you know why the roadrunner can run so fast?" he said. "It's because he has no limits. He just believes he can so he does."

Just so you know, I'm adding to this post as I find more information.

Added 11/14/07: Here's something I can't believe I missed before...Sandra Dodd has a whole page with links to articles about video games and their benefits. You'll find it here.

November 1, 2007

An Embarrassing Admission

I don't really want to write this post, but when I started this blog I swore that it would be an honest representation of our attempt to unschool. So, here I go...

I made an appointment to tour a private school yesterday. We would have made the appointment eventually anyway because my husband wants to have a back up in case Jerry wants to go to school next year. I've been putting it off, though. I really want to keep homeschooling--at least for middle school, maybe high school, too, so I haven't been too eager to tour any schools. But these past few days I've been feeling kind of low. Kind of like things aren't working out. So I made the appointment.

It was the chess incident that started it. But then yesterday Jerry yelled at me--I mean, really yelled--for something that wasn't even my fault. Maybe starting to unschool just as your child hits puberty isn't the best idea. Our situation is made more difficult, I think, by the fact that Jerry's an only child and my husband works really long hours. We spend a huge amount of time together. That could be hard on any relationship. I suppose arguments are inevitable.

So, I was really sad yesterday and I made an appointment to tour the school next Thursday. I also decided to try spending three hours during the day on school stuff. I don't mean school as in workbooks and essays, though I'm not entirely opposed to those things, I just want to have some time set aside when we're learning something new. I need it for my own sanity. I'm finding it difficult to follow Jerry's lead on everything. There are some things I want him to know and I just don't have the patience to wait for him to show an interest in them.

There you have it. I'm not feeling like a very good unschooler, but at the same time I'm proud of myself for following my own course. The willingness and ability to break away from the masses and blaze a trail of one's own seem to be key components of unschooling, so hopefully I'm not straying too far from the path we set out on. We'll see.