worried all the time(53 Posts)
This will be long but I hope someone can help.
I have been home educating my 4 children for 3 years.
My DH and I have tried to follow an autonomous approach, I have suggested and tried lots of different activities with the kids hoping that something would stick,from drama to martial arts. Only my dd plays a sport and an instrument, my boys do nothing outside the home.
I took them to the local home ed meet ups for 2 years and they haven't made any friends, everyone is an idiot apparently, and now they wont go at all.
My DD is the eldest at 15 and I am trying to encourage academic study, at one point she was keen now she says she doesn't want to do GCSE's at all
They do seem mostly happy though. They play a lot of minecraft and play games over the internet with a few other homeschoolers, I think my dd would like more friends but doesn't seem to meet anyone that she has a real affinity with.
They seem to lack passion for anything besides computer games and don't want to go out, and I am finding it difficult to inspire them.
Do I need to restrict computer time completely, or do I just go with it and hope that the autonomous approach will work, I am really worried about the future.
Are you on any of the Facebook pages? There's a good Unschooling one where you could talk to people following the same path as you. We are largely autonomous but do impose some boundaries, including with computer games, but our DDs are 9 and 10 so I have no experience of teenagers.
If I was OP I would say, 'we have tried the autonomous approach for 3 years and it has failed. You have until Easter to make it work, or we do it my way'. That way it is in their hands, their choice and they take the natural consequences.
While you are putting it down to 'de schooling' they are getting entirely their own way. This is why I think that regular checks should be made. Every child should be getting an education and if they are playing computer games to the detriment of everything else, it is not an education.
It is also so simple. It has an off switch- use it. They may moan, throw tantrums etc but eventually they will do something. Put it back in small doses once they are doing other things. It is an addiction, and not healthy.
Not all kids are the same re motivation and I agree with Curlew about the distracting possibilities of computer games. They are so distracting and addictive, and yes you can learn things at the same time of course - but all too easily they can displace finding and trying out new things - they can displace things we already know we'd like to do, and displace the constructive boredom that leads to us finding entirely new things to do.
This is true for adults, schooled children, unschooled children, anyone. Just because playing lots of computer games has been freely chosen in an unschooling environment doesn't mean a child will be glad, looking back, that that's how they spent a lot of their time.
I think unschooling is probably great for some kids and not others. It would never have worked for me in an environment with computer games (or the web, or 7/24/365 on demand TV!). It might have worked in an environment without them, or if I had a parent setting limits (that would have been my ideal actually as I do think games are brilliant in lots of ways).
I'm sure there are kids who will immerse themselves in games and come out the other side educated and able to steer themselves towards jobs in that area if they want, or able just to move on from them when they need to, but I'm pretty sure there are others who could easily spend years, decades even using computer games to procrastinate.
It might be worth having a good look at your children's ability to set goals and carry out plans in other areas, to help you decide what to do.
Do they seem organised and focused in their Minecraft playing or do they do a lot of starting things and not finishing them, so they seem quite 'drifty'?
Do they have goals, hopes, dreams related to Minecraft and are they slowly realizing some of them?
Do they do marathon coding and building sessions because they're utterly absorbed in something they're creating, or do they do marathon sessions on servers where they're just playing the same games over and over again against other people and might as well be playing Angry Birds?
Driftiness and an apparent lack of focus and activity don't automatically mean that someone is just getting into the right frame of mind for a big self-motivated inspired burst of learning. Sometimes it can just mean they are drifting, and will regret it! I think that an environment with unlimited access to computer games, the web and so on is a pretty risky one in which to let that drifting happen, regardless of what ideally should happen in autonomous home ed.
I home Ed and we are pretty much unstructured, DD has done reding eggs for 20 in a morning since christmas.
But we are out 3 or 4 days a week.
I think it must be very different if your children have been in school, depending on any damage you could be looking at years of deschooling.
We didn't have that problem, we had always gone out a lot to meet up with others so we just continued to do so.
I think I would be e mailing Sandra Dodd or Dana martine, they have a lot of experience with the radical approach.
My favourite saying is 'you will thank me when you are older'. As an adult I would be furious with my parents if they had wetly let me waste all that time- they were the adults in the relationship- not my best friends!
I would just give an ultimatum- 'you chose Home Education so you either start applying yourself or you go to school'. The choice is theirs and computer games are a spare time activity- not an education.
I live the way people fall over backwards to justify hours and hours of computer games!
It is simple- as the adult switch it off! Announce computer free days for the whole family.
Or simply make them earn time by doing other things first.
Saracen, I do understand that children learn better when they are interested and motivated, but what happens if they don't find their own motivation to learn?
The problem is that they have no focus, no goals and will be unemployable if changes aren't made. The 15 year old is not a child, but a young adult without any aspirations.
By the OPs own admission they play games on the computer - they aren't learning anything.
Why can't they go to school? I really do understand why some families home school and I am considering for DS2. In this case I think they would be better in an environment where there is some structure.
I think that the autonomous or unschooling approach tended to work in the days before computer games were so readily available. If you have something completely enthralling- like Minecraft- waiting for you at the touch of a button, then the main motivations to autonomous education are gone. You never have time to wonder about things, you never have to find yourself entertainment because you are bored, you never serendipitously find out something that leads you on to want to find out other things......because your time is filled by something that is completely enthralling and takes up all your brain-space. I have no answers. But I think that if I was starting out on the home ed route, I would limit computer games. I don't think autonomous should mean do absolutely anything you want with no restrictions, should it? The normal rules about health and family interaction and so on still apply?
If you are used to seeing kids in a classroom 30 hours a week, with exams looming on a certain date and little flexibility in their educational choices, I can see how it would seem that the clock was ticking.
It really is different with home education. Kids learn an astonishing amount in a short time when they are motivated and have access to exactly what they need. And there are no deadlines. Learning will continue throughout their whole lives.
They have plenty of time. The question is, are they happy and if not, what can be done about it?
Time is running out for the children though- they are teenagers, not 5 or 6.
It may be true that the OP needs to change something, wellcovered - that is why she posted here, because she is thinking about that. But it is not nearly so clear-cut as you believe.
I have known other autonomously educated young people to go through a long phase of heavy computer use and come out the other side having learned quite a lot. Their parents also worried about this at the time, and adopted various strategies. Some allowed their kids to have continued unlimited computer use throughout this period and some didn't. I personally have no idea what best approach is, but I suspect that it varies according to the particular child and family: most things do!
The knee-jerk reaction of horror comes from those who have not witnessed this process at all. It might or might not be best for the OP to adjust her current approach, but it is not educational neglect!
I accept your point ommward, and am sure that most home schoolers do a great job that meets their individual child's needs in a way that could not happen in a school setting, but the OP tells us that her teenage children spend their time playing computer games, and this has gone on for years. They are getting no education and don't socialize outside the family. This is in no way preparing them to be healthy well functioning adults. That is neglect in my book.
Please believe me, unschoolers aren't neglecting their children educationally. It's a philosophical difference - a belief that education works best when it is not top down on an adult agenda.
I had a conversation with someone very recently about how they think it is very important for children to read every single day, and they will sit down and make sure that happened. And I said, as an unschooler, "I would never enforce anything like that... But we read a bedtime story (or 10) to each of my children individually every single night because both we and the children like that and it's the family routine."
So... One person is doing the top down Everyone Must Read thing, with children perhaps not actually wanting to at the moment in the day when it's going to be welcomed by the children and with a bit of anxiety mixed in about whether it will be welcomed and whether it will be enough etc etc, and another person has a mutually consenting routine in which stories get read (not exclusively of course) at bed time and the children want and expect that.
That's unschooling. It often often often looks exactly like adult led home education from the outside, with purposive conversation and educational trips and everything; the only difference is a belief that once a parent starts pushing a pArticular activity beyond the comfort zone of the child, however much the child was enjoying it to start with, because they think it will be valuable educationally, then everything goes tits up. And believe me, I have been in enough tits up situations of that nature in the years we've been unschooling to begin to recognise that anxiety and pushiness in myself, and to do everything I can to zen myself past it...
Maybe something like code academy would interest them? So learning about programming. If you want something different than I'd recommend a forest school course for them! Teaches things in a very different way to school and builds self esteem as well as real skills.
I have been considering Home educating for DS2 (6) for some time, as he struggles with the educational side of school.
What I don't understand is how you can keep your children at home for 3 years under the guise of home educating and teach them nothing. What do they aspire to be? What do you want them to achieve in life?
I do think being more flexible with DS would be very beneficial for him, but there had to be some aims and outcomes, or I would say that I had failed him as a parent.
Have you taken any action yet OP?
What you have described is not home education, it is neglect.
You are failing your children if you let the situation continue .
Peace of mind sorry it's been a long week!
Just a thought- have you looked at programming. There was a weekend paper review of units like the pi (that didn't come out so good). I haven't tried autonomous approach. But I wonder if you need to stick to it if it's bothering you. You are not married to a whole educational philosophy are you? I can see part of the approach is about trusting it and your child but I wonder if you could compromise on your approach everso slightly and retain the best features. Can you tweak things a bit as its important for your piece of mind. Good luck
Snurk @ MM.
Sadly DS turns destructive and mean when bored, but we're working on it...
I am just astounded at this thread. I've been hanging out in home ed because I am considering it for my youngest children, who are 2 and 3. Asking a few questions but mainly lurking for inspiration.
I just cannot believe that anyone in their right mind would think letting children or teenagers play minecraft all day constitutes an acceptable education. My mind is truly boggled.
You could just announce computer free days and they would have to find something else to do. Boredom is great for using the imagination. The whole family would have to keep off. Just say three days a week are going to be without the computer.
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