Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Reading Obsession

I was thinking the other day about a lot of the common complaints made about video games and tv, reasons given for why they are "bad for you," and how many of them also apply to (...drum roll...) reading, an  activity that almost everyone agrees is Very Good For You. And so I started writing a tongue-in-cheek pearl-clutching post about it in my head. Something along the lines of...

You know, we really should be more concerned with the connection between reading books and childhood obesity. Reading is so SEDENTARY. You just SIT and read. You can't do anything else. Some kids sit and read for HOURS at a time, hardly moving for anything other than shifting their position so their leg doesn't fall asleep. How can that be good for them??

And it's so SOLITARY and ISOLATIONIST. These kids who spend hours reading, they don't talk to anyone else that whole time! They are off in their own dream world, away from the REAL world they need to learn from. How can they develop any social skills if they just read about made-up stuff all the time? I mean, at least when kids are watching TV or playing a game it's usually with other people...

And kids can really become OBSESSIVE about these books. It's like authors are purposefully trying to make the books as interesting and addictive as possible. I've known people who would stay up ALL NIGHT just to finish a book! They won't stop to eat or sleep, because they are so engrossed in the book! That CAN'T be healthy... It's even happened to me, when I get really into a good book I almost can't stop thinking about it, all I want to do is spend all my free time reading till I finish it.

...sounds silly, right? And yes, I am a confessed bookworm and love reading and books, and certainly don't think any of this stuff. But it helps put the complaints about "screens" a little differently, right? We forgive these things because we accept that reading is a fun and good activity. Why can't we see or say the same about playing video games?


Monday, May 25, 2015

weekend clashings

We have been struggling with our weekends off and on the past several months. Zach works long hours during the week, so often he only sees the boys for a few minutes in the morning, if at all, and gets home after they're already asleep. So weekends are his only time with the boys, and they with him. They're usually fairly excited about getting to have dad home. However, when Zach tries to get them to go to a park or do something outdoors with him, they sometimes drag their feet. This causes conflict, as the boys just want to be able to do what they want to do (often just play at home), and Zach (understandably) takes it as a personal insult that they don't want to spend time with him or do what he enjoys doing.

To add to this, we also have some conflict over video games. At least some of the time when the boys want to just stay home, it's because they want to play video games, which Zach is critical of. He has a harder time shaking off the idea of video games as a waste of time, or seeing the potential benefits of them. So when the boys reject his plans for the sake of games, it's like adding insult to injury.

I understand both of their points of view-- I see how my kids enjoy and get a lot out of playing games or watching tv, how they like having control over how they spend their time, and that sometimes they do just want to chill out at home instead of going out somewhere. I also see how much my boys get from playing video games (from just plain "they're fun" to problem-solving and practice with managing frustration, to opportunities and incentive for reading and math while, say, trying to figure out how many coins you need for your next upgrade). I also empathize with Zach, who doesn't get much time to be with the boys or be outside, and wants to do both not just to "kill two birds with one stone" so to speak, but also because he wants to instill in the boys a love of being outdoors, and is frustrated by seeing them push back.

I'm trying to figure out how to handle these conflicts in a way that respects everyone's needs and wants. I do want my kids to have plenty of free time where they choose what they want to do-- including play games. I also want them to spend time with their dad, and to be able to put aside what they may want for a moment for the sake of honoring someone else's wishes.

I love this concept of the sliver, but we're having a bit of a hard time figuring out how to put it into practice. Or I guess the bigger problem, really, is working out the timing. I mean, this past week the boys actually spent little time playing video games because we were busy with so many other things-- going to park days, gymnastics, painting miniatures, setting up blocks and minifigures and legos, etc. It just so happened that all these things happened during the week, and on the weekend when Zach is available and wanting to go do things was when they wanted to fit in their game time, instead (particularly since D found a new logic game on a math website and spent a lot of Saturday on that, then this morning got a new racing game on the ipad).

I think one solution may be for me to keep better track of what we do during the week, which I find useful for looking back on (when I do manage to do it), and also may help Zach see what we do during the week. It may also be important for Zach to plan time for him to outdoorsy things on his own, for his benefit, even if the boys aren't into it. Perhaps if they are invited vs ordered to go they will feel differently about it. Or maybe this is one of those roadblocks that will just resolve itself with time and patience.... we'll see.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Unschooling Life podcasts

I was recently pointed to The Unschooling Life podcasts. I've only listened to a couple of the episodes so far (they're around 15-20 mins each), but it feels like these will be a great resource for examining, self-reflecting, and re-energizing our unschooling approach.

The first episode I listened to is on "gaps" and being "behind" which is of course a common worry among many of us unschoolers. And there was some really great stuff here. One story was told my a mom who herself was a math teacher, but whose child wasn't very into math. She spoke of the difficulty of letting go of that expectation of wanting your kids to be "good at math," and her own realization that while it's great to study things like algebra and geometry, they're not really necessary for everyone. That most people will rarely use the specific skills learned in those classes, in their everyday life, and that more than anything those practices are more about training the mind to think logically which can also be done in other ways.

There was also a quote by another mom and I can't remember it exactly but she was speaking about the gaps in her own traditional schooling education, and said something about how she hadn't become aware of just how many gaps she had in her own knowledge until she started unschooling her kids. Which is something I have felt as well-- that it is in this process that I am becoming aware of how many things I don't know, and how great it is to get to explore those topics now (at least the ones that I *do* want to learn more about). I realized that, as we've been watching a few cool documentaries on space, that my 7yo probably knows more about the universe and our solar system than I have through most of my life.

The podcast episode on Siblings also had some insights that struck a chord and have me reflecting on the way my kids interact with each other, and me with each of them.

So yeah, seems like there's a lot of good stuff here. I'm looking forward to listening to more of them.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cool Things This Week


  • We got a bunny rabbit! His name is Pippin. It's fun getting to know a new animal. Their body language and preferences are fairly different from cats, so that's all kinda fascinating.
  • Branching out from the rabbit, the pots of parsley we planted weeks ago will now be much more useful as Pippin is a big fan. I'm working on a whole little herb garden in our kitchen of plants we can feed our new pet. 
  • We're most of the way through Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban audiobook in the car. I love how into it D is getting. In his own classic style, each time we get out of the car he tells me how whatever we just listened to, would be different in his own version of the story. I'm biting my tongue whenever he talks about how they should save Buckbeak and maybe Buckbeak will be the one to get Sirius Black. ;) 
  • We've been spending 2-3 afternoons per week, on average, out at parks lately, which feels good. They're having fun with friends and getting lots of outdoor time running on the grass and playing with sticks and in streams, etc. I'm glad I can help provide that for them.