Teen boy advice... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-01-2012, 09:02 AM - Thread Starter
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So my DS1 is 15 1/2 and back to full-time unschooling recently. He has been through catholic school, public school, private tutor (thru the public school), theraputic school (aka bad kid school), a Free/democratic school and deschool/unschooling. I like unschooling (life learning as i prefer to call it), but i am concerned with him. He likes to stay up all night til somewhere around 3-6am then sleep most of the day maybe wake up 2-4p range. He spends  most of his waking hours online (youtube, minecraft, facebook, etc) and a little biking, skate boarding, and occasionally building things with wood (such as a table for next to his bed for his laptop). He is very smart and can do many things, but chooses to not. I've tried to get him to think about what he may have interests in..things he may like to do..he also can have a very negative attitude esp. with me. i do ask him to help out with chores such as laundry, dishes, take the dogs out, etc.. he will also sometimes help dp fix the car or something. But dp and others are thinking i'm just letting him be a "bum". He says how will he learn responsibility and stuff. He thinks he won't make something of himself if i don't push him to do something. Plus i'm thinking how healthy it is to stay up all night and sleep most of the day on a regular basis? Some advice would be appreciated.....thanx:)

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#2 of 6 Old 02-01-2012, 09:24 AM
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The upside-down sleep pattern wouldn't worry me ... except to whatever extent that it disconnects him socially from family life. You say he is back to full-time unschooling "recently." Is this just a deschooling pattern you're seeing? I'm not clear on whether he's been in school recently, or has come through a deschooling period since leaving school.


The thing I would consider first off is whether he is meaningfully involved in the real world outside your home in any ongoing way. Does he have volunteer work or any scheduled outside sports or arts or other activities? Does he work part-time, have any mentorships he's involved in? If not, then I think that would be worth addressing first. I have a 15-year-old ds. What he needs is to feel useful and valued for his contributions in the world beyond family. It's many ways it's really tough to be a teenager because you have this almost-adult mind and body, but none of the respect, legal independence and capacity for self-determination that is afforded adults. My ds is now volunteering with a guy who runs a computer club for children, configuring machines, installing hardware, setting up the network, hauling equipment. He's also got some music and social justice stuff on the go which he's become very committed to. A year ago he wasn't contributing nearly this much to the wider world and now he's much less aimless and lazy as a result of the shift. I can almost point to the day things changed: it was the day the computer-club guy said to me, in my ds's presence "Just so you know, I'm not keeping him around to give him experience ... I need his help: he's awesome at this stuff and I couldn't do it without him." External validation is worth so much to teens: they want to see that there's a place for them in the wider world. I would suggest doing what you can to create possibilities for this sort of validation for your ds.



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#3 of 6 Old 02-01-2012, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Thank you so much Miranda, for your thoughful reply!

 We unschooled/deschooled for 4th and 5th grade then he went to a free/democratic school for almost a year then some tutoring and 8 months of a theraputic school, then another year and a half about..unschool/deschool then decided he wanted to join the high school part-time ( that was in febuary of last year, so he went for four months then went from this school year til december) and took the Culinary academy and wood shop and gym. He wanted to go, but a girlfriend and some required written work as well as dealing with some kids not really wanting to be there i think turned him off to culinary, plus he says i think i prefer to eat more then cook lol think he started thinking it was more work than fun i guess. Then gym he didn't like having to change out, which he thought was pointless as he was only in the school for 3 periods and the school had said it was because of sweating then going to other classes. In wood shop he did very well, was ahead of the other students, but things like a student stealing his work and others doing things that constituting punishing the rest of the class..i think also turned him off. He said besides he wasn't just going to go to school for one class...he thought it wasn't worth it is what i gather. Maybe he also got bored since he was ahead. So we're trying to provide him with more wood and i am trying to get ahold of whatever tools he may need as well. We started volunteering for an animal rescue a few about 6+ months ago and at first he liked it and would go on his own, then he said he got bored and doesn't go much anymore. I wonder where else he could volunteer that he might enjoy..i'll look into that. He also enjoys playing the electric guitar...which he seems to be pretty good at. Its just he has a short attention span for most things (with the exception of the computer apparently lol) and gets bored easy. Just before he did ask if we could go out and do something. I told him i plan to go to the pet store and the animal rescue tommorrow if he'd like to join he said yes. Happy about that:)

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#4 of 6 Old 02-01-2012, 07:28 PM
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I really don't think it would be the end of the world to set some expectations is your case, as in, "you will find/do some meaningful volunteer work. You will pursue some sort of hobby/class outside of the computer. You will be awake during the day and sleep at night". I know that doesn't sound very unschooly, but sometimes kids will need something to strive for and sometimes that expectation has to come from outside of themselves.

I know you like the idea of unschooling, but you are concerned, and I do think that is justified. It seems like your issue is one that pops up over and over again with unschooling teenage boys...how can they all have the same "passion" and how can we see that as legitimate? My own 16 yo would be doing the same thing as yours if I let him, and he has no deschooling to do.

So although my boys (and girl) are for the most part unrestricted in their computer/gaming access, it is tempered by a large dose of expectations. If 16 yo ds is sleeping too late, I wake him up. Simple as that.

Disclaimer: We are no longer an unschooling family, but we used to be, and I am very familiar the pitfalls of unlimited screen time.
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#5 of 6 Old 02-02-2012, 05:33 PM
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My oldest son needs goals.  He needs help setting the goals, he needs accountability from us and from himself, and he needs to know there are consequences to his actions (good and bad).  I know this doesn't sound like unschooling and it isn't.  We stopped unschooling him at his request when he was eight years old.  


DH and I sit down with him every few months and go over his goals; long term and short term.  Then we discuss what he needs to do to reach his goals and what he needs from us to help achieve those goals.  For example; long term goal is to obtain his driver's license and buy a car.


He needs to take driver's education class in two years.  So he has research the cost and how home schooled kids in our state take driver's education.  He set up a bank account to save money for the class and to buy the car.  He decided how much money he needs to put away each week and how to earn the money (mucking stalls and stable work for his friend's mom).  When he wanted a new snow board, he asked me to help him figure out how far it would set him back in his car fund.


However, some goals aren't obvious to an almost 15 year old boy.  Like why he needs to learn higher forms of math or why being to be able to look people in the eye when you apply for a job is important, especially since on of his goals is to work at Apple.  Don't even get me started on personal hygiene and laundry.


He would be happy to sit around in dirty boxer shorts and bath monthly, but since the rest of us have to live with him, we ask that he baths and changes his clothes regularly.  He would like to sleep until 2pm and stay up until 4am on the lap top.  But, the lap top is in the living room and he can't monopolize since we all use it.  He can't sleep until 2pm, because sometimes I need him to watch his little sister while I take the younger kids to swimming.  He is part of the family, and like the rest of us, he has certain expectations and responsibilities.   

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#6 of 6 Old 02-05-2012, 06:43 PM
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I can only tell you my experience.


My son was heavily into gaming from 12-14.  It was an intense, long phase - but it was a phase.  He still games but with much more moderation.


A few things that helped keep the addiction in check:


1.  We only have one computer.  He had to share.

2.  He had to earn money to pay for the games.  I was not financially supporting his gaming pursuit (and before purists cry, I do not financially support my middle daughter make-up collection, which is almost as pricey).  In our case both of my older kids can make money watching their youngest sibling, but housework can work as well (so can a part time job should one be available).

3.  We had regular discussions on priorities.  Bathing, eating, and important relationships come before gaming.  For some, school work and/or chores might as well.


I am uncomfortable placing limits on screens with a 15 1/2 year old unless they have asked for help in that department.  They are fairly close to being an adult, and I believe they should experiment safely with making their own decisions.  Safety issues might be an exception, but screens aren't.  I do think my son learned quite a bit through his intense screening, and way more than whether a Mage was better than a Paladin.  



I do think 12-14 is a better time frame to go through this than 15.5, though, mostly for college related concerns.


Does he want to go to college or keep the option open?  Does he want to go at the same time as his age mates?  Does he care if he has to take remedial math or writing in college  (and keep in mind this has some financial implications as well).  If the answer to these questions is yes, then it might be a good idea to devote some time to academic pursuits in addition to gaming.


I think helping him find a passion where others rely on him being there for the event to go forward would be very valuable (sport, theatre, music).  It is easy to drop out of  an art class or gym if you have a bad day, a game beckons, etc -  as no one will really care.  It is  much harder to drop out of a play where you have a part it making it happen.









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