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#1 of 19 Old 05-14-2008, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son is almost 13. We have been unschooling for 2 years now and I keep waiting and waiting for him to take an interest in things other than playing video games and reading comic books .... it's not happening.

Last year he took a brief interest in geology and cooking but it didn't last and for the last year he has done almost nothing but playing video games (gameboy, Wii & Everquest), playing with his birds and reading comics.

I get him involved in the household, he does chores, meal plans with me, goes to the farmers market and the grocery store with me but there is no interest behind it. I've tried arranging field trips and he will go but I think he's just trying to make me happy.

This is okay, right?

I've done lots of "strewing". We have 2 bookshelves full of board games, books, art supplies and curricula but he's just not interested.

Help?
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#2 of 19 Old 05-14-2008, 12:49 PM
 
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Try making a list of the skills he's learning through comics and various video games. Comic books are a legitimate form of literature- I'm sure he's picking up numerous language skill, learning about culture, etc, through reading them. I'm not as familiar with the video games- but each individual game is going to have its own set of skills. Anything complex enough to hold his interest must be complex enough to be challenging.

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#3 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 03:02 AM
 
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I think it takes time to find one's passions and in the meantime you just hang. When I was 13 I had what you might think should be quite enough options to choose from, but when I had a choice about what to do with my time, it was The Love Boat and listening to popular music and daydreaming and writing notes to my friends. Nobody worried because I was doing academic stuff at the same time, but it was useless to me, which meant that in reality I was in no different a situation than your son, except that he isn't being made to bide his time doing things that he doesn't care about and that are of no use to him. Consider that possibly your expectations of "normal" are based in an illusion, something that isn't common in real life. It only looks that way.

And consider also that there's a whole world inside him that you're not privy to. There are connections being made in his head about all kinds of things; he's hearing and thinking, and the only reason you would know it would be if he had a reason to perform, which he doesn't.

I think if he has plenty of opportunities to interact with the world he'll be just fine and the interests will come when he is ready for them. He may not find his unique niche, really, until he is out on his own and really developing his own identity apart from his family's.
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#4 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 08:18 AM
 
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Sounds normal to me. Video games and comic books are what many boys his age (and mine, who is 6 1/2) are interested in. I can see my ds learns plenty from video games. I'm sure it is more obvious because he is younger. He is learning about things your ds already knows, but your ds is undoubtedly learning and strategizing at a much deeper level.

The thing is, people aren't going to necessarily choose to spend their time is different ways until they see a need. That's how I learn new things. I really want a gate at the entrance to my backyard so I'm going to have to figure out how to do that since I don't have money to throw at the problem (can't just hire someone). I have learned a little plumbing and electrical work the same way.

Not everyone is going to just decide to learn about something unrelated to their life. So I don't think it is unusual that a 12 yo would spend his days playing video games and reading comic books. Many 25 yos do the same. Part of unschooling, imo, is that it is ok to do things simply because you enjoy them. Your ds isn't withdrawing from the world and going down a path of being unable to care for himself. He's learning what he needs to know, how to shop and cook. Eventually, he'll want things that cost big money and be motivated to think about a career.

Video games could actually be a good foundation for many careers. Many types of technical and surgical equipment operate in similar ways. It has been demonstrated surgeons who play video games perform surgery better. And I'm sure that is just the tip of the iceberg of practical applications of video game expertise.

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#5 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 08:59 AM
 
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I think "fourlittlebirds" nailed it.

I'd just keep supporting his interests. Is there a comic book museum near you? (google "comic book museum" if you can't actually go, there are loads of hits that he might find interesting.) Would he want to go to a comic book convention? What about drawing his own comics? An art class (irl or online) that focuses on graphic art? Our library has tons of graphic art novels as well as historical fiction done in graphic art. Maybe he'd be interested in "older" comics and the social/political issues they reflected--like the very early super hero stuff.

Does "Playing with his birds" include taking care of them? Birds need a lot of attention don't they? And pretty careful, precise care, no? Lots to be learning there. Would he want to talk to other bird enthusiasts on a message board or something like that? Any interest in working with birds--animal rescue or something like that? Would he want to take a bird-watching class or walk? Does he, or would he want to, train them to do things?

Do you play video games with him? Would he want to enter or go to a tournament? Is he interested in gaming development/programing? (howstuffworks.com has an interesting piece on how the games are made--I'm sure there are loads of other sites as well.)

And I don't think that "brief interests" are a bad thing. He now knows a little more about geology and cooking than he did before. He'll maybe come back to those things at a later date, or maybe he's just discovered two things that he's definately NOT interested in.

Since you think he goes on field trips and things that you plan just to make you happy, I'd focus on what makes him happy--instead of trying to get him to branch out, help him to delve deeper into the things he's interested in.

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#6 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 10:27 AM
 
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I think part of the problem is that when people try to sell the idea of unschooling, they frequently do it by pointing to kids who have done very unusual things (such as starting their own business and becoming a millionaire by age 14, or becoming the ambassador to Tahiti). We therefore get the idea that if we unschool, our kids will do all sorts of unusual things.

When we are faced with the reality of our kids doing usual things, it can 1) be a bit of a let-down and 2) make us wonder what we're doing wrong or what our kid is doing wrong.

I limit tv/computer time in my home. I am not a radical unschooler, and I don't honestly believe that massive amounts of screen time is good for developing brains.

However, I know that others feel differently, and I think that if we unschool so that our kids can find their passions, we have to be ok with those passions being rather unremarkable.

I also know that my restrictions on tv/computers will relax as my kids get older. Indeed, my 13 year old (who is not homeschooled) gets more of each than my little kids (who are academically unschooled) do.

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#7 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 10:46 AM
 
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When my 15 yr old was 13, she wanted to take an animation class at an art school, so she did. She enjoyed it a lot and that opened up some pieces of her artist's head that she hadn't quite been sure about. Now she is sure she hates Manga. lol
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#8 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 11:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
Try making a list of the skills he's learning through comics and various video games. ... Anything complex enough to hold his interest must be complex enough to be challenging.
Thanks. I know that's true but it's hard to watch him play Pokemon for the 500th day in a row.

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Originally Posted by fourlittlebirds View Post
And consider also that there's a whole world inside him that you're not privy to. There are connections being made in his head about all kinds of things; he's hearing and thinking, and the only reason you would know it would be if he had a reason to perform, which he doesn't.
So true! Every now and then he will tell me something that I had no idea he knew.

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Video games could actually be a good foundation for many careers.
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Any interest in working with birds--animal rescue or something like that?

Do you play video games with him? Would he want to enter or go to a tournament? Is he interested in gaming development/programing?
He is interested in video game design and animation but we've run into a roadblock there. He's taken 3 courses on animation and design and really enjoyed them but the software he needs to get started is $550 and we just can't find a way to afford that. I feel like he NEEDS this software but we just don't have the money to buy it.

He wanted to volunteer at the parrot refuge but they turned him down because he isn't 16. I offered to go with him but they still said no. He does care for his birds and taught one of them to play soccer.

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I think part of the problem is that when people try to sell the idea of unschooling, they frequently do it by pointing to kids who have done very unusual things (such as starting their own business and becoming a millionaire by age 14, or becoming the ambassador to Tahiti). We therefore get the idea that if we unschool, our kids will do all sorts of unusual things.
YES YES YES! People keep telling me about kids they know who have mastered particle physics at age 9 or have started businesses and love math. I know a 10 year old who competes in international juggling competitions and another child who started performing in the opera at age 5. Then I see my son sleeping until 11:00 every morning and then slouching around in his robe until 1:00 and I feel ... not disappointed but ... ? I don't know.

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When my 15 yr old was 13, she wanted to take an animation class at an art school, so she did. She enjoyed it a lot and that opened up some pieces of her artist's head that she hadn't quite been sure about. Now she is sure she hates Manga. lol
Funny! Luke took a painting course he was really interested in about 2 years ago and quit half way through.

Thanks ladies, every 4 months or so I get into a "he's not learning anything" panic. Usually I wind up spending $100 or so on curriculum and worksheets which sit unused on our shelves but then I always calm down.
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#9 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 02:18 PM
 
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I think part of the problem is that when people try to sell the idea of unschooling, they frequently do it by pointing to kids who have done very unusual things (such as starting their own business and becoming a millionaire by age 14, or becoming the ambassador to Tahiti). We therefore get the idea that if we unschool, our kids will do all sorts of unusual things.

When we are faced with the reality of our kids doing usual things, it can 1) be a bit of a let-down and 2) make us wonder what we're doing wrong or what our kid is doing wrong. [...] I think that if we unschool so that our kids can find their passions, we have to be ok with those passions being rather unremarkable.
Yes. And what has helped me has been to find my way to being okay with my own passions being "unremarkable". To my parents, I haven't done anything worthy of bragging to their friends. But I am satisfied. I am pleased with what I've chosen. I have all along had within me that which would lead me to it. I see it in my kids -- when I leave them alone (i.e. no expectations of popular perceptions of "excellence") they are happy. Out of everything in the world that they have access to, they know exactly what they need to do to make their own lives what they want them to be.

Right now, a good portion of that is play. Well hell, what makes my life good is play. A large part of deschooling myself has been in coming to realize how important it is that as many as possible of the choices I make are based on joy. When I was a kid, a lot of that would have involved playing for hours on end with barbies. Well yes, it wouldn't be a good thing if I was 30 and still playing pretend with barbies several hours a day. But that didn't happen, and it wasn't because I was forced out of it -- it was developmental. As my body and soul grew, they demanded something different from simply playing pretend, but you know what? I still like dolls. I like to collect them, I like to make them. That could be my life's work if I wanted it to be. Why not?

You mentioned strewing board games and books. What makes them better than video games and comics? All the same stuff can be involved or not, whether valuable or not: logic, repetition, rewards, story-telling, imagining, learning, escapism, etc. The fact that something is hardbound and only text doesn't inherently make it not trash, and the fact that something is softbound and has pictures doesn't inherently make it thoughtless and artless. But regardless of whether or not it's hardbound or softbound, with pictures or not, most children are drawn to the simple storytelling, the simple games, that which we as parents look down our noses at because we are so far beyond it. But it's appropriate for them, for their ages. It's okay that they focus on something appropriate to their ages.
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#10 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 02:31 PM
 
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I am bookmarking this thread to read in two years when I'm in the same situation!! What great advice there is here.
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#11 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 03:10 PM
 
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Yes. And what has helped me has been to find my way to being okay with my own passions being "unremarkable". To my parents, I haven't done anything worthy of bragging to their friends. But I am satisfied. I am pleased with what I've chosen. I have all along had within me that which would lead me to it. I see it in my kids -- when I leave them alone (i.e. no expectations of popular perceptions of "excellence") they are happy. Out of everything in the world that they have access to, they know exactly what they need to do to make their own lives what they want them to be.

Right now, a good portion of that is play. Well hell, what makes my life good is play. A large part of deschooling myself has been in coming to realize how important it is that as many as possible of the choices I make are based on joy.



Life doesn't have to revolve around "shoulds"!!! How we live life can be determined from somewhere inside of us, where joy lives. I call it :intrinsic living:.

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#12 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 03:46 PM
 
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firstly a little background: I am a professional software developer (8 years in the field so far), an avid comic reader, and an avid/obsessive gamer (almost all "me time" goes toward gaming at the moment, and has since I was around 4 years old)

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Thanks. I know that's true but it's hard to watch him play Pokemon for the 500th day in a row.
Pokemon is an exercise in statistical analysis. That is why it doesn't get boring... because it is a constantly changing math equation, like chess with an infinite number of pieces, and an infinite number of "squares"


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He is interested in video game design and animation but we've run into a roadblock there. He's taken 3 courses on animation and design and really enjoyed them but the software he needs to get started is $550 and we just can't find a way to afford that. I feel like he NEEDS this software but we just don't have the money to buy it.
No, he does not NEED Maya (I am assuming you are talking about Maya?) to start on animation. http://sourceforge.net is an online community of developers who publish free and open source projects. For instance there is a photoshop competitor with all of the graphic design tools you need called "The GIMP".

There is a free open source Maya equivalent called Blender Their website is amazing, and has many tutorials, demos, etc

Everything on sourceforge is free and it is very methodically scanned for viruses and scams. If there is an expensive product that you need to do something game/software related, there is likely a free open-source alternative available.


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YES YES YES! People keep telling me about kids they know who have mastered particle physics at age 9 or have started businesses and love math. I know a 10 year old who competes in international juggling competitions and another child who started performing in the opera at age 5. Then I see my son sleeping until 11:00 every morning and then slouching around in his robe until 1:00 and I feel ... not disappointed but ... ? I don't know.
The hours people keep are not really indicitive of anything. He is a master of probabilities and statistics (if he plays pokemon and MMORPGs like Everquest). He is probably getting so much more than you realize.
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#13 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 04:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks everyone, this is just what I needed... the virtual smack upside my head.

ShaggyDaddy - All the courses he has taken have used Flash software which is really expensive. i never really thought about having him learn to do the same stuff with different software, I'll have to look into that some more. Thanks for the ideas.

We play Everquest together 2-3 hours a day, we both love it.
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#14 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 04:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by fourlittlebirds View Post
You mentioned strewing board games and books. What makes them better than video games and comics? All the same stuff can be involved or not, whether valuable or not: logic, repetition, rewards, story-telling, imagining, learning, escapism, etc. The fact that something is hardbound and only text doesn't inherently make it not trash, and the fact that something is softbound and has pictures doesn't inherently make it thoughtless and artless. But regardless of whether or not it's hardbound or softbound, with pictures or not, most children are drawn to the simple storytelling, the simple games, that which we as parents look down our noses at because we are so far beyond it. But it's appropriate for them, for their ages. It's okay that they focus on something appropriate to their ages.
Last year we played a lot of "educational" board games (10 days in Asia, Ungame, Carcassonne and the like). Luke really enjoyed them and learned a TON about geography in particular from the 10 Days games. My issue is that I got invested in the idea of playing these games with him, spent a bunch of money and then was hurt when he lost interest. I do recognize that this is MY issue but it's sill frustrating at times.

He is an amazing kid. he's smart, compassionate, funny and just ... awesome.
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#15 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 05:20 PM
 
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Ah, well if it is flash he wants to do, there is no real way around it... but you don't have to pay the full price unless you plan on using it for commercial use... educational use is heavily discounted!

homeschoolers are eligible to buy Adobe Flash Creative Studio 3 for $239.99
Gradware seems to have a decent reputatuion

Also if you have a friend of the family that goes to a university, these types of products are often available for half price or less at the campus bookstore.
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#16 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 06:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Ah, well if it is flash he wants to do, there is no real way around it... but you don't have to pay the full price unless you plan on using it for commercial use... educational use is heavily discounted!

homeschoolers are eligible to buy Adobe Flash Creative Studio 3 for $239.99
Gradware seems to have a decent reputatuion

Also if you have a friend of the family that goes to a university, these types of products are often available for half price or less at the campus bookstore.
Bummer. Gradware won't ship to Canada.

My BIL has Flash, I wonder if it is possible to buy a second license for his ... hmmmmm.
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#17 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 07:58 PM
 
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Maybe if you've bought alot of curriculum that you now arent using, or "educational" type games that you now arent playing....you could sell that stuff and buy what your son wants??

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#18 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 08:49 PM
 
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I heard a talk a few months ago from a teacher whose children were unschooled until into high school and he said his son went through a similar phase. What made the difference for his son was to hook him up with some mentors who could help support his passions without the weight of "you aren't learning anything" hanging over his head.

Just a thought
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#19 of 19 Old 05-16-2008, 08:59 PM
 
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I don't U/S but I'm currently going through this with my 13 y old. He is not as in to the video games as he is with the Lego online site. It's a site where he can build things and he loves it. He gets so in to it that he gets on all throughout the day and night. I worry sometimes and then remember that as long as he is doing the school work I want him to do that it should be fine. I worry mainly that he is spending too much time staring at a screen all day. I don't want him to develop eye or back/neck trouble later.

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