Originally Posted by Dar
These words seem really loaded to me. Youtube videos and Minecraft are "indulgences" or "whims" - even if they are also passions.
I do understand it could be interpreted this way. But for me the difference is often the articulation of what is important or valuable about the pursuit or the continuation of the pursuit or the depth to which he explores it. Minecraft I would call a passion for him. Youtube is often a means to an end. He uses it to research as well as to entertain himself, and I have no problem with him watching. But sometimes he watches the same thing over and over because he is bored and lonely, and I do feel obligated to call him out and involve him in some other activity. This is different from my daughter who will watch all the Go Diego Go episodes back to back nonstop because she is interested in the animals. I don't know how to describe it exactly. It's kind of like, when I am in a funk, I will check facebook dozens of times, knowing full well there's nothing new there because I want to make a connection I feel I am lacking. I see this kind of activity in my son and I am trying to help him out of a dark place. Whim is a term for a passing or casual interest, nothing wrong with that at all. It is not a judgement on the quality of the activity. I was just differentiating between the level of interest he exhibits. To rephrase: When he has had substantial time for things that he wants to do, be they deeply important to him or just a short term pursuit, to the point where he actually seems burnt out, I will say, "hey do you want to ______?" or "Could you do something with me, I'd like to spend some time with you?" That doesn't feel like imposing to me.
Would you interrupt a kid who had been spending hours immersed in, say, Plato's Republic?
After 12 straight hours, 3 days in a row, I wouldn't feel it was a great imposition to ask him to take out the trash, or clean up the dishes he's left around his space, or talk to another human being. Again, I am talking about requesting that he join me for something after many many hours of indulging a particular passion, when he is at what feels like a good stopping point for him, if there is one. And I like the word indulge. It feels good to indulge. It is a luxury and a joy to be able to follow our desires in this world. I don't even like to ask if he's in the middle of a project, like designing a map in Minecraft or figuring out a difficult level in a video game. I indulge in long sewing sessions, and I see it as valuable work, both.
Although it also sounds like activities such as reading or science experiments are qualitatively different, in your mind, than youtube videos. I have a hard time with that, from an unschooling perspective.
Only because he knows I enjoy doing those activities with him and because they are things specific to his goals for the future. They are things he wants to do but doesn't know how to get started. They are the areas where his interests and mine happen to overlap, and comics and board games are in that list, too. I also like painting, crafting, cooking, and sewing, but he does not. I don't dig video games, though I do take an interest and listen when he talks about them. He also spends a lot of time building legos and just playing with his sister or friends, and I find immense value in all those things. I'm not de-valuing his gaming interest, only addressing that it sometimes takes on a quality that seems unhealthy to me and I try to keep the lines of communication open to address that if it feels problematic.( I see any activity taken to the degree where it prompts moodiness and hostility and inability to care for oneself to be problematic.)
My daughter has spent many, many hours watching movies, for years. I never considered this an "academic" pursuit, but it was clearly something she enjoyed, and I supported her in it by buying her DVDs and Netflix and stuff like that. I was actually a little surprised when she took a class in cinematography - it clearly is an academic subject in some sense, and at her university it's actually part of the lit department. I read a paper she wrote for the same class and it was just fascinating, the way she could make connections between certain things the filmmaker had chosen to do with lighting and camera angles in order to invoke other historical acts. I knew that the hours and hours Rain spent reading literature - her choice - would come in handy in college, and it has - she looked through her lit classes' syllabi and had read (and owned) more than half of the books on it. I hadn't expected movies - or "films" - to be the same way. If I had been judging her interests when she was, say, 12, I would have put movies squarely in the indulgence category... To clarify, it is my son who is concerned with academics. And I only have a problem with an activity when it is blotting out all other things in life, including basic self-care like eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom. My daughter watches plenty of tv, but she does other things as well.
He has expressed the idea that he is stupid or that the work or practice of something is stupid when he is afraid of not being good enough or not getting better. That's not a sign to me that I need to back off. Is that what other unschoolers think when they hear their kids say similar things?
To me, that might be a sign that my kid had somehow gotten the idea that her accomplishments should be judged by some external rubric, rather than by her own developmental schedule. I guess it depends on the situation, though. When my kid was worried about being stupid, it was generally after talking with kids her age who knew things that she didn't, and often after they had made it clear that they thought she *should* know it. So we'd talk about how the others kids had learned it, and what things she knew instead, and whether it was something that might come naturally as she got older... and went from there. I remember a bunch of kids telling her she was stupid when she was 7 because she didn't know any "multiplication facts", so we talked a little about multiplication and when the words the kids were using meant, and she worked out a few facts... and it happened a few years later with spelling, and I shared my beliefs that reading and spelling tended to be linked and that she'd become a better speller naturally without working much at it because she read so much... which is indeed what happened...
Talking openly about why they feel stupid and what can help them feel better is exactly what I would advocate. In my son's case, he worries he won't be good enough to do what he wants to do in the future. And we'd acknowledged the progress he'd made and the things he'd learned and accomplished, but he still felt he wasn't doing enough, so we made some ch-ch-changes. I do agree that "I'm stupid," is often more about other people's perceptions and judgements and it's important to ensure that kids aren't basing their self-worth off of what others want or expect, including me.