worried all the time

(53 Posts)
cowbelle Thu 09-Jan-14 14:50:48

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.

ChilliQueen Thu 09-Jan-14 15:07:47

You say you've been home educating for 3 years... what happened before that? What do they do all day (apart from computers...), what are they going to do in the future... especially if they decide not to take their GCSE's... I'm a bit organised and do things by the book (i.e. school!), but understand different things work for different people - I'd be rubbish at home educating - wouldn't know where to start... Gosh, I've no idea... am sure someone else will though.

EauRouge Thu 09-Jan-14 15:08:20

It's hard for anyone to judge the whole situation from one post. It sounds like you don't feel like the autonomous approach is working- your eldest at least sounds old enough to chat about it. Maybe you could give them the option of limiting screen time with the condition that if they don't, you will.

They won't meet anyone they like if they don't go out! Is there nothing at all your DSs like doing apart from computer games? Is there a computer club they can join?

morethanpotatoprints Thu 09-Jan-14 15:21:56

Hello cowbelle

I agree it is difficult to tell from one post, but will try and help.
The completely autonomous approach didn't work for us either and now We try and provide structure for the subjects we feel our important that our dd wouldn't do otherwise. Things that aren't so important or won't matter we tend to leave up to her.
You should be able to talk to your 15 year old about what type of job she would like to do and what type of quals she thinks she would need.
Maybe get her to do some research on courses for college or igcse's.
The younger ones perhaps ask them what they would like to try themselves and maybe not try to encourage different things, letting them decide for themselves.
I am sure they are learning a lot from minecraft and similar games.
There was somebody on here once who gave a full account linking to the nc all the skills their dc had gained through games, I will try and find it for you.
It is normal to worry, I think. We seem to go from really good/perfect days to wondering why we ever started H.ed, so I know where you are coming from. When its good its brilliant grin

cowbelle Thu 09-Jan-14 15:48:09

Thanks for the replies, I think what I am asking and I know this is difficult for others to decide, is how much longer to carry on with the autonomous

If I wait a year will dd and boys be more mature and more focused or will I have just wasted more time. At what point do you force them to do igcse's?

I don't want to force them, I believe intrinsic motivation is the best way but if they aren't motivated to do anything then what do you do?

I think they are happy not meeting others, they like their unit of 4, they follow the path of least resistance, before home schooling we did spend 2 years abroad and that was hard for them, they had to learn a new language and went to the local, school and they only had each other.

cowbelle Thu 09-Jan-14 16:10:00

morethanpotatoprints if you could find that link that would make me feel a bit better, thanks.

ILoveMyCaravan Thu 09-Jan-14 18:35:25

OP I could have written your post! I have two DS, HE'd for nearly 4 years now. They are 13 and 10. We have also stuck to an autonomous approach. We seemed to de-school for ages and it's been hard trying to get them to sit down and do any formal work since. They both hate writing with a passion.

If we let them, they would spend all day on Minecraft and other games. They are both very PC literate though, particularly DS13 who is very confident and will teach himself anything he wants to know on a computer.

We let them on Minecraft first thing in the morning until mid-morning, and then again between 4pm-6pm. The know that's their set time but it's a battle to stop them sneaking back on in between these times. During the day they will read quite a bit or watch TV (hopefully something educational). I have signed them up for an online maths website which they will do under pressure from me but I do have my doubts about what information they are retaining as they really don't want to do it.

We do try and go out a fair bit, but they feel the same as yours about most other home-ed kids they meet. My youngest has friends at his football club and I think he misses the friendships at school (even though he was bullied by most of them when he was there).

DH is more bothered about the lack of formal work, but I'm a bit more laid back as we have lots of discussions during the day about lots of different subjects so I feel they are learning and picking up things in a natural way, as it's usually them who are asking the questions of their own free will.

I too am getting worried about the future now DS is 13, and I would also be very interested in the link to how Minecraft links in with the NC.

They both seem very happy and cringe when we go out and see groups of schoolchildren being herded around.

morethanpotatoprints Thu 09-Jan-14 21:13:16

Hello again cowbelle

I have been out quite a bit today but did have a look before, I'm sure its a H.ed thread from last year, I'll keep looking and if anybody else can help as well. There were quite a few at the time as it seemed to be a common thing.
My dd doesn't game really so I didn't pay too much attention, but was really surprised at all the connections to nc there were and what skills were gained.
Off the top of my head.

communication - if they are playing online with other people (friends)
problem solving - within the game itself.
Links to lots more though, will try and find grin

cowbelle Fri 10-Jan-14 09:59:11

Thanks morethan, that's really kind of you. I will have a look through as well.

cowbelle Fri 10-Jan-14 11:41:39

ILoveMyCaravan, I found this thread.


ILoveMyCaravan Fri 10-Jan-14 17:19:00

Thank you cowbelle that's a very interesting thread! Have you taken a look at the home ed facebook page which is mentioned? Might have a look over there myself later.

aaabbbccc Sun 12-Jan-14 13:23:27

Minecrafthomeschool.com is brilliant, my DD is so keen...it's about $10 for 5 weeks if study i. Which you can get graded for. It's mainly US kids in there, but my UK girl loves it.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 13-Jan-14 21:49:55


I'm so sorry, have looked through the threads and can't find it.
I am gutted as it was so good.
I don't even remember what the title was, although it was something about children not learning or moreover, the parent questioning what their child would be learning.
Sorry again.
You never know, hopefully the person who wrote it will find this and do a link or tell us all again.
Please keep posting though, there are lots of people who can help.

morethanpotatoprints Mon 13-Jan-14 21:52:29

Ha, just seen the link above, if it wasn't this one it was very similar.

cowbelle Tue 14-Jan-14 15:51:10

Thanks morethan.

I will have a look at minecrafthomeschool.

cowbelle Mon 20-Jan-14 11:51:30

OK, just thought I'd post again, still finding things difficult.

I am wondering if my attitude is just wrong! When we started home educating we really believed in the autonomous idea, my dh even went to a lecture in London by Sandra Dodd and Alan Thomas. He was really inspired.

Now after 3 years he seems to be rejecting the idea and I have my doubts. So there were obviously some expectations that we had about our children's achievements that haven't been met. Is that our problem.

It hasn't worked in our arbitrary time scale we are re thinking the whole idea.

Now autonomous education seems almost like a religion to me. I had faith but I am losing it, do I need to keep the faith for it to work! aaagh.

My dh is worried, he says "when are they going to do something, I can't support them into their 20's, you can't all live off me forever."

If they were studying for exams, he would feel better. The children say everything is boring except computer games, of course.

I have told the children that it is their life to make of what they will, but I am not sure they understand how hard it is in this climate.

Are they all destined to be loser drop outs, who never fulfill their true potential? Going back to school is not an option. I just want some spark of enthusiasm from them for something other than a computer. Am I wrong to want this. I blame myself too, maybe I am not inspiring enough, passionate enough, or maybe I am just worrying too much and putting pressure on them to do something that is valid in my opinion.

They are great kids by the way, it isn't all bad.

Anyway, any insights would be welcome, thanks.

EauRouge Mon 20-Jan-14 12:37:26

Could you organise some work experience for them maybe? Not boring office stuff where they'll just be photocopying, something where they might actually learn something and maybe be inspired to work towards a goal.

EauRouge Mon 20-Jan-14 12:37:44

Sorry that this is stressing you out so much thanks

cowbelle Mon 20-Jan-14 15:01:27

Thanks EauRouge

ommmward Mon 20-Jan-14 17:21:28

I think a lot of us think "ah yes, autonomous education, splendid", and we are persuaded by the logic of it, but in our heart of hearts, we want and expect our children to do something that looks like academic work.

I can't really answer with knowledge for teenagers. Certainly, with younger children, I get astonished at the speed with which the computer games get abandoned when I myself start doing something active that genuinely interests me, whether that's cooking or gardening or hammering nails or sewing something. I just don't know whether that works with teens. It certainly rarely works if I say "I'm going to do X, do you want to join in?"

With a 15 year old, can you start having discussions about how she'd like to support herself in future, and whether there are things you can help her with to get herself in a position to make that possible? I mean, if your Dh is beginning to want to put a time limit on supporting the family, talk with the children about that time limit, and whether it's reasonable, and what they might want to do in order to grow towards independence within that time frame?

flowerlights Tue 21-Jan-14 15:04:10

Thanks ommmward

I think you are right, I will find some activities I like doing and act casual!
I think any attempt to talk or suggest new things is met with an instant shutdown by them. I am getting desperate and they can smell the fear!
I suppose that I am undermining their confidence because they know I am worried. I am showing lack of faith in them.

smee Tue 21-Jan-14 15:10:02

I know nothing about homeschooling, but you do sound like such a lovely mum. I just thought EauRouge's point about getting a part time job for them is interesting. I disagree that it shouldn't be boring though. There's nothing wrong with showing kids the reality of the world of work. I know working as a waitress from 13 made me appreciate that I might need to do some school work if I wasn't going to be stuck as a waitress forever. Part of growing up and finding your way is surely discovering that the world won't just come to you.

morethanpotatoprints Tue 21-Jan-14 15:34:03

This is such a good topic as we too struggled with an autonomous approach, even though it seemed to be the best type of education for our dd.
We thought the lack of structure would allow the freedom for her to pursue her interest and future goals in performing/singing and her music.
I knew that the academic motivation wouldn't be there, because what child would choose to do this if they could do exactly what they loved all day, so we were prepared for this. However, not only did this happen but the discipline she once possessed to be able to get on with constructive practice disappeared almost over night.
I know that it would be beneficial in the long term but can't see how she can progress in the short term, which is what she wants now.
I know where you are coming from, maybe it is different personalities or if somebody could shed some light?

flowerlights Tue 21-Jan-14 15:37:08

Thank you smee.

flowerlights Tue 21-Jan-14 15:39:03

Ooh I have changed names, forgot to change back.

lljkk Sat 25-Jan-14 18:17:11

In the last 3 yrs, since when does it seem like they make no progress and do nothing but online socialising & computer games? Was there ever a time when they seemed to at least have spells of wanting to learn new things?
I know a lot of HErs & none of them are fans of autonomous ed, tbh.

ommmward Sat 25-Jan-14 19:54:37

I know quite a few unschoolers in my local community. It's a really happy way of life, but you have to let go of a lot of assumptions about what education looks like.

My children catch me out all the time - they will just be playing and then (without showing off, just totally naturally) they demonstrate to me some piece of fundamental knowledge that I had no idea they were acquiring. And so much of their learning just happens through them asking questions about stuff and me doing my best to answer, or help them find the answer.

I don't know how the transition works towards independence though - it all happens rather implicitly if a child is on the GCSEs - A Levels - university route - somewhere in that, and quite likely in the middle of the university bit, a person decides what sorts of things they themselves want to fill their days with and earn money with. But because they are safely "in education", no one worries about a 20 year old at university doing just enough work to do ok in the degree, and mostly hanging out with friends and partying and playing computer games. I do know a few young adults who were autonomously home educated, and I think they became gradually more focused on things that would earn them money somewhere around 18. It's going to be different for every one though, isn't it?

Commander6 Sat 25-Jan-14 22:19:43

Oh dear. I tend to leave the Home Ed people to it.

But "communication" and "problem solving" from computer games?

Kids aged 4 manage to communicate and problem solve when at nursery and by playing computer games.

TamerB Sat 25-Jan-14 22:27:43

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.

madmomma Wed 29-Jan-14 10:53:03

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.

lljkk Wed 29-Jan-14 14:25:24

Snurk @ MM.
Sadly DS turns destructive and mean when bored, but we're working on it...

stilllearnin Wed 29-Jan-14 23:32:35

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

stilllearnin Wed 29-Jan-14 23:34:22

Peace of mind sorry it's been a long week!

wellcoveredsparerib Thu 06-Feb-14 15:07:51

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 .

BorcestshireBlue Sun 09-Feb-14 08:29:57

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.

RubySparks Sun 09-Feb-14 08:40:20

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.

ommmward Sun 09-Feb-14 10:22:23

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...

wellcoveredsparerib Sun 09-Feb-14 11:01:34

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.

Saracen Sun 09-Feb-14 11:42:12

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!

wellcoveredsparerib Sun 09-Feb-14 11:53:29

Time is running out for the children though- they are teenagers, not 5 or 6.

Saracen Sun 09-Feb-14 12:10:18

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?

curlew Sun 09-Feb-14 12:16:11

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?

BorcestshireBlue Sun 09-Feb-14 12:19:31

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.

wellcoveredsparerib Sun 09-Feb-14 12:46:27

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?

TamerB Sun 09-Feb-14 17:46:47

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.

TamerB Sun 09-Feb-14 17:47:07

Sorry - love not live.

TamerB Sun 09-Feb-14 17:49:22

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.

TamerB Sun 09-Feb-14 17:58:11

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!

bebanjo Sun 09-Feb-14 20:00:55

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.

zipfork Sun 09-Feb-14 21:49:02

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.

TamerB Sun 09-Feb-14 22:03:36

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.

TamerB Sun 09-Feb-14 22:06:30

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.

catnipkitty Sat 15-Feb-14 21:17:33

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.

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