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#1 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 03:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As potentially the newest member here, I'll give a bit of background before I ask my questions. (This is a duplicate post, the other one at the Parenting Preteens and Teens section.)

We are an unschooling family, with 2 teenage boys, ages 13 (E) and 17 (C). Both boys have been unschooled all their lives. I lean heavily toward child-led learning and as a result my kids do pretty much what they want to do all day long every day of the year. I have always tried to let life happen naturally without forcing things on them as though I know better for them than they do. With only a few exceptions, I firmly believe that they know what's right for themselves and I try to remind myself of that fact, sometimes every day!

Right now, however, I am getting twinges of doubt. My main areas of concern are:
- While the boys get along remarkably well much of the time, they also fight a fair amount -- this includes name calling and sometimes physically overpowering or injuring (or trying to injure?) each other.
- Neither boy is too thrilled by exercise and as a result C is somewhat overweight, but E is extremely overweight and I don't know what to do! I guess I feel that I should do something.
- Their main and favorite activity for quite some time now (years!) has been video games. They would play non-stop all day if they could, and since they can, they often do. This includes staying up all night long (C) and sleeping much of the day. That said, there actually are various other activities, like watching movies, playing piano/composing music (E), reading, current events research (C), etc.
- As unschoolers in a small community, we are quite isolated and I often wonder/worry about their not being part of a group or having many friends. They have online friends, but I'm admittedly prejudiced and believe that friends are flesh and blood people and not merely faceless messages from a computer.
- We don't "do" math, we don't "do" writing, we don't "do" curriculum of any sort. We don't have grade levels or required chores. I keep hearing about all these high-excelling homeschoolers who are now in this college or that one, kids who, all on their own, started businesses, or wrote a book, or built a house, or play 3 instruments, or are learning several languages, or whatever. Kids who would probably have been valdictorian if they'd have gone to public school. I'm not big on comparing myself/ourselves to other people, but sometimes a comparison is impossible to avoid. What if the anti-unschooling crowd is right and my kids aren't learning what they "need" to know and by choosing an unschooling lifestyle I've done them a crippling disservice?

I acknowledge that I am tackling some huge issues here. But, as my dad always used to say, Go big or stay home.

My disclaimer: It doesn't sound like it, but for the most part I feel confident in everything we have done and are doing. It's just that as we seem to be so out of step with the status quo I've let myself get sidetracked by doubt from time to time. When I bump up against public schoolers or pay too much attention to daily news 'stuff' I start questioning the big picture. Sigh.

If anyone has words of wisdom or advice or suggestions or help, I'd love to listen. Thank you thank you!
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#2 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 03:58 PM
 
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What are their goals for the future? What are their plans to transition to adulthood? Do they have the skills they need to accomplish their goals? If so, then no worries. If not, then there is work to be done. As parents and homeschoolers, we've taken on the responsibility of preparing our children for the rest of their lives, and I don't think any one of us wants to set them up to be at a disadvantage.

As for the weight... This won't be popular with the radical unschoolers, but I know there are others here who limit screen time..Anyway, I'd ditch the video games. Time sitting on their butts playing with screens is time that they aren't being active and exploring their world.
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#3 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 04:34 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi MaWhit,

Thanks for your response! You say, "What are their goals for the future? What are their plans to transition to adulthood? Do they have the skills they need to accomplish their goals?" Uh, goals? I'm pretty sure their current goal is to get to the next level of whatever video game they are currently playing. I might be wrong, but....

For the record, I didn't have goals at their ages, either. Actually, I went all the way through public school, a college degree, and straight into a job without having any specific goal. I did those things because I thought that was what was expected of me, what I SHOULD do, not because I wanted to do it. I often wonder what life would have been like for me if I hadn't conformed so fully or been such a pleaser. I wasn't a happy person until I was about 30. Even now, at 49, I continually reevaluate. But maybe that's what everyone does. I've got no idea.

"As parents and homeschoolers, we've taken on the responsibility of preparing our children for the rest of their lives..." I think my perception of my 'job' as parent differs from this in some respects. Yes, I think it's my responsibility to prepare my kids for the rest of their lives, but that's exactly the point where people diverge, yes? I think instilling in them a sense of confidence and trust in themselves as problem solvers is the preparation they need. With that, everything else should follow. That's the idea, anyway.

"As for the weight... This won't be popular with the radical unschoolers, but I know there are others here who limit screen time..Anyway, I'd ditch the video games. Time sitting on their butts playing with screens is time that they aren't being active and exploring their world." Yes, I truly see the logic in this. At the same time, though, who am I to decide for them how they spend their time? if they suddenly decided I couldn't work on my website anymore since I 'should' be learning to play "Gears of War," I wouldn't stand for it and really, neither should they. I'm fully capable of finding my own interests without outside 'help' and, again, I'm sure they are, too.

The thing is, I know all sorts of things NOT to do, but not enough what TO do. I'm trying to find a way to be more accepting, both as a parent and as a human being. I'm trying to let my kids make their choices without letting those choices be a reflection on me. If they fail or succeed, doesn't it have more to do with what they've done rather than what I have or have not done as a parent?
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#4 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 05:47 PM
 
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When I ask about goals, I mainly mean the 17-year-old. What does he want to do? Does he want to go to trade school, community college, college, travel, get a job, what? I assume he won't stay at home playing video games forever, right? I'm just wondering where he wants to go from here, and if he has the skills to do so then he'll be just fine.
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#5 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 07:27 PM
 
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Agree with MaWhit. That's where I would start -- with their goals for the future. Try to identify what those are, and facilitate them getting there. Seventeen is mathematically 94% of the way to legal adulthood, at least where I live. I would hope that he would be well on his way to wanting to contribute to the world and to support his own needs. How does he envision doing that? Does he have a job? Does he do work around the house, cooking meals, doing laundry, fixing stuff, yard work and so on? How does he see himself living in 5 years? Has he got plans to move out and support himself?

I believe in pretty much letting kids do what they want, but I think one of our jobs as parents is to help them learn that long-term wants (like financial solvency and competence with independent living) sometimes need to outweigh in-the-moment wants (like levelling up in a first-person shooter game). Framing it that way with kids helps make it clear that you're on their side -- you want to help them get what they want in the bigger picture, rather than just making them do what they don't want to do.

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#6 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 08:21 PM
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My boys are leading similar lives, minus the not-getting-along and the weight issues. My kids bicker from time to time, but I can literally count on one hand the number of times it's ever escalated into pushing or name-calling, and it's been years even since that. They're both skinny even though they play a lot of video games.

DS1 is really smart. I say he has a Rainman brain and a Weird Al personality. However, he really has no goals at the moment and isn't interested in college. He has a job (despite the high unemployment rate in our state)....full-time, benefits available when he needs them. He works in a factory that produces boxes. Not his dream, obviously, but I told him that he has to work or move out...I can't afford to support him and child support ends at 18.5-19yo in RI. He's done quite well assimilating to the world of the walking dead.

DS2 cannot wait to get a job, but there's virtually nothing here for 15yo kids. At 16 he can maybe work at Dunkin' Donuts. He's been wanting a job since he was 11. He is involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and likes to cook.

Their dad is active duty military and they have school and tuition opportunities through Uncle Sam if and when they want them. Dunno when that'll be. One day at a time.
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#7 of 16 Old 10-14-2010, 09:05 PM
 
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Based only on what I've seen of teenagers, particularly males, in the past, I think all your concerns would be addressed by more physical activity. Movement begets action. Maybe offer to get them martial arts classes? Like judo where they can actually throw each other around?
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#8 of 16 Old 10-15-2010, 11:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I appreciate everyone's comments and agree that bumping up the physical activity will be the best move. Just figuring out how/where to start with that. Thanks so much!
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#9 of 16 Old 10-15-2010, 11:56 AM
 
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Is the 17 yo interested in getting a job so he can buy more video games or something? How does he get what he wants? I'd expect at a certain age, most kids wants would outgrow their allowances and that can give them some motivation and food for thought towards earning a living...

My own ds (as are his parents, to be fair) is slightly overweight so that's a concern here. I make sure he has the information about nutrition that he needs. I let him know what foods are high glycemic index, like pretzels. Those cause you to be hungry more frequently and eat more. Ds is funny about food and was always a picky eater. He does go for easy food because he doesn't want to bother with food until he is too hungry. That means his first option would tend to be candy and chips. Having other easy to eat foods prepped gives him more options. I don't limit food but I remind him of what he has eaten so far and make suggestions about what would balance out the day's food. Mostly, I work on getting him to eat fruit and vegetables.

He doesn't like walking and isn't as interested in bike riding as he used to be. But he'll go on a family walk and have a nice chat with dh. Of course he is only 9 and doesn't like staying home alone, either. And he's young enough to be interested in going to a weekly parkday and a weekly playdate, both of which involve running around, though he doesn't care for sports. I know that 13 yo is an awkward age for that. I'm hoping that we'll just keep going when my ds hits that age. I'm working hard to give him the opportunity to make real life friends now because I suspect it's harder to do in the teen years.

I got a really nice recumbent exercise bike for dh that we use while watching movies. Ds is still a little short to use it, but it'll be an option when he's a little bigger and the weather isn't nice. I know a lot of times overweight people start to avoid exercise because it becomes more uncomfortable to do and they sweat more easily. And some become self conscious. A piece of exercise equipment can be helpful in that situation, though expensive. And they do require internal motivation...

Anything that involves standing instead of sitting is helpful. People burn significantly more calories standing. My ds actually plays computer games standing up much of the time. Staying home a lot tends to mean sitting for many people. Just getting out of the house without any plans of exercise will likely mean more exercise (assuming it isn't just for a car ride, lol). Is there anyplace your sons want to go? I know some of my ds's gaming is a default activity, something he does when he doesn't have other appealing options, so I do try to make sure he has other options.

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#10 of 16 Old 10-15-2010, 03:50 PM
 
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Oooo, there's a thought, can your family swing the cost of a Wii (or other motion sensing game system)? Get that, Wii Fit Plus, and just start playing yourself. It's astounding how addictive those games are (you're dripping with sweat, and out of breath, and going "okay, one more time, I'll get it") and how much watching someone else play makes you want a turn.
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#11 of 16 Old 10-16-2010, 01:14 PM
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I have an unschooled 17 year old as well.... and I've been thinking about this post for a few days.

I guess the important piece of unschooling that seems to me to be missing from your posts is the part about you. What do you and your sons talk about? What is your part in their lives now? You said that you think their current goals for the future are to reach the next level in their video games but it didn't sound like this was something that you'd actually discussed.

In my mind, anyway, allowing kids to do the things they want is only part of unschooling -the other part is giving them information about what these things might be, and access to those resources. Might they be interested in video game design? Programming? How about information about why the games are successful in getting is to keep playing, and the techniques they use? Or how the games strengthen specific thinking skills (read "Everything Bad is Good for You")?

You said that you believe they know what's good for them, but I think this is really only true if they have the necessary information about all of their options and all of the ramifications of the choices they're making. If they do, well, carry on... but if they don't, then I'd start talking.

 
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#12 of 16 Old 10-16-2010, 11:03 PM
 
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I agree with Dar and moominmama.

I also wanted to suggest a "getaway". I don't know if you have read "Hold on to your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld, but in it he mentions taking his teenage daughter off for a 1-week camping trip. It was basically forced upon her, but it took away all the distractions of daily life, fostered many conversations, and brought them closer.

I'm thinking something like this might be good for you and your kids. It would prompt some exercise and getting them outdoors, it would give you all plenty of time to talk about the future, what they want and how you can help them get there, etc. You could even talk about their weight and ask them how they feel about it.

I don't have teens yet so this is the best I can offer. ;-)

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#13 of 16 Old 10-18-2010, 07:44 PM
 
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#14 of 16 Old 11-01-2010, 02:31 AM
 
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For us, unschooling does not mean kids doing only what they want all day long. IMO, real life means sometimes doing things you don't want to do. For my kids, that may be washing the dishes by hand, cleaning up after the dog, cleaning the bathroom and so on. We have several dogs and raise puppies. DD (16) does not like cleaning up after them but we pay her to look after them and she does a reasonable job. She would much rather be on the computer all day long but she has to share that and make time for her other chores around the farm, some of which she loves, like taking care of and working with her horses. Animals and chores are a wonderful way to show children that not everything necessary in life is fun.

She is "in" to rabbits so that is what she primarily studies on the computer, doing research on breeds, being involved with the local, state and national club and several chat forums. We have traveled several hours and spent all day for her to show her rabbits. Boring as all get out for me but thrilling for her. Most of the kids who show rabbits in our state are homeschooled so we run into many of the same people over and over again. For us, it was her finding a love and then us encouraging her to learn about it, get involved with it and us enabling that.

At 17, your ds should have some plans for the near future. If you went to college, you had to have had a plan, even if it went no farther into the future than planning to fill out the application and go to classes the next semester. He does not need to have his life planned out but what is he going to do to support himself at 18 or if you are going to support him, what is he going to be doing to learn to support himself in the near future (i.e. trade school, apprentice, community college)? Part of unschooling is about freedom right? Eventually you are going to have to make it clear that he is free to make his own way in the world - how is he going to do that?

Does he have a drivers license? If he is not working around the house on a daily basis, honestly, I would require some type of part time job to pay for his video games and players, not to mention snack food and other extras.

Did you know that gaming really is addictive? I have read that the pleasure spot that it stimulates in the brain is the same place that drugs stimulate. If your sons are addicted to gaming, they are going to constantly want that chemical rush their body produces. You might do a bit of research and see what other types of activities produce a rush so they are not constantly looking for it on the screen.

http://hubpages.com/hub/IVideo-game-...-Does-it-exist

Don't get me wrong - my kids have a wii, I played as a kid and let mine. But we are careful about it and have a lot of learning games rather than just fast action. For instance, ds right now has a game where he is building another "world" creating characters, will build castles, lay out topography and so on.

You said "I'm trying to let my kids make their choices without letting those choices be a reflection on me. If they fail or succeed, doesn't it have more to do with what they've done rather than what I have or have not done as a parent?" I only agree with this to a certain extent. True, adult children that have been out of the home, make their own choices and if these are bad choices, the parents are not to blame. But, if they are good choices, do you not think that reflects on the parent? So why not the bad choices? The parents are not to blame but people will always wonder who did have a negative influence on that person as a child. Kids that are still at home, living with parents that are able to guide them, instill morals, beliefs, encourage a work ethic, for sure their choices reflect on mom or dad. Does not necessarily mean mom or dad is to blame for bad choices.

Sorry to post such a long reply. It is late, we have all been sick and the more tired I am the more "long-winded" I get in my typing. Hope I don't read this tomorrow and realize my medication is making me sound funny.

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#15 of 16 Old 11-01-2010, 10:21 PM
 
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Well said, Zinnia.
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#16 of 16 Old 11-11-2010, 01:36 AM
 
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Any misspellings or grammatical errors in the above statement are intentional;
they are placed there for the amusement of those who like to point them out.
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