It’s fall on the farm, which means the stack of wood is high enough to get us through the whole winter. My husband brings back chopped wood from our forest, and before he stacks it neatly into the pile, the kids build a fort. Or a kitten cage. Or a jumping pile for them and the dogs.

I saw the boys playing last week, and I ran out to take pictures. I wanted to show everyone how great homeschooling is. And how great farm life is. And that I am making good decisions for my family.

But you know what? The kids played outside all day. They didn’t come inside for raincoats, but they did come inside for food, which they ate, rain-drenched, in their fort. They got hurt more than a few times, including when the dog knocked my youngest onto a rusty nail that had me struggling to remember his last tetnaus shot.

So the day was obsessive, single-minded, a little risky in the health department, and full of violence (after all, what do you do in a fort except fight?)

I ask myself: Why am I so happy to publish photos of the boys in their fort, but if they build a fort online, with Minecraft, I don’t take a picture. I don’t tell the world that my kids ate lunch on the keyboard so many times that I had to pay Apple to clean out cookie crumbs.

It’s hard for me to feel good about letting the kids play video games all day. I have to remind myself over and over again that it’s learning, it’s self-directed, it’s social.

I make video game-math problems to sooth myself: Each day typical school kids spend an hour on the bus, and hour walking from class to class, and an hour in the school computer lab. So my kids are not missing out on anything if they play computer games for three hours a day.

I do career coaching for a lot of people in their twenties. And so much of what I help them with is getting the voice out of their head that tells them to do what’s right for someone else. “You should be a lawyer,” or “you should not quit before a year,” or “you should earn more money.” The shoulds are endless. I teach young people how to think more independently so they have a better ability to recognize what’s actually right for them.

I’m good at that with careers: I turned down graduate school in history to play professional beach volleyball, and I turned down a book contract with a major publisher so I could focus on blogging. I am great at seeing what’s right for me instead of doing what is conventional.

But with my kids I’m still learning. Right now I count the hours that my kids are at the computer, and I practice how to defend the choice and be strong for my kids. On most days, I have the courage to let them play video games as long as they want.

5 replies
  1. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    As a kid, thankfully there were no computers to monopolize my time or online addictions to overcome. I went to school and hit the books but I also spent a lot of time outdoors playing sports with other kids in the neighborhood, fishing, hunting, etc.
    It’s really easy to let time spent at a computer become a time suck. So what I’ve tried to do with some limited success is make my time computing more deliberate with specific goals … and I’m still working on that. It really comes down to time management – to set aside time to do achieve things with and away from electronic gadgets and time spent to socialize with other people. There was a good post recently by Tony Schwartz along these lines – . Also I’d like to see some Minecraft photos at some point.

  2. CJ
    CJ says:

    Just yesterday I had a younger mother/acquaintance ask me how I stay calm and confident in my choices as a mother (unschooling, minecraft, wilderness time with kids, child directed activities, etc.), as she feels neurotic and out of sorts and second guessing herself often. Maybe it is being a little older and more experienced, and some of it is my own nature, and some of it is that I learned long ago that I like who I am and what I do- and I told her it isnt that I never worry (i am a mother and am human), its that I trust what i have learned and my best advice is to stop “shoulding” and to remember that old saying, “if you keep ‘shoulding’, instead of ‘doing’ (what you are good at), all you end up with is should all over yourself!” LOL

    Shoulding is one thing that wastes sooooooooooo much time and brain juice!

  3. karelys
    karelys says:

    Someone asked me yesterday how long I’d planned on staying home with my baby (for some people that translates to never earning money or having a job or something. Apparently you can’t work from home?).

    “until he goes to school?” she asked. I didn’t even want to mention that I want to unschool because people already think we are crazy. But on the drive home I had to defend my choices to myself and then stop doing that.

    Sometimes I feel the need that my baby needs to be dazzling for all the naysayers to shut up about how we are crazy and giving us so much crap. But I refuse to put this burden on my kid. So what if he’s average or below average? I am sure that homeschool is still the right choice for us. For many reasons not just academic performance…if there’s such a thing for real.

    Even though he’s still 1 month old I gotta work on making sure I am confident enough to not let those thing run me over like a bulldozer. I refuse to engage in that game.

    I had a homebirth and yes, to “show them” I want to say it was a blissful experience and it was great and yadayada. Truth is, it was hard work and my confidence failed toward the end. But you know what? I don’t care, I still stand by my choice because I believe it was the right choice. Maybe an epidural would’ve made it so much easier to deal with but it wasn’t the right choice for us.

    In an effort to be honest and not lose myself to deceit I have to tell my story as it was. I can’t photoshop it and make it appear as a completely easy and blissful experience. I refuse to do that and I refuse to that with the story of our marriage and eventually, with the story of parenting and homeschooling.

  4. Elizabeth Kane
    Elizabeth Kane says:

    In school we’re taught to measure everything we do. Math ability, reading comprehension – exam and testing scores stand right beside our names in a classroom. But creativity…how do you measure that? We can see creative people, and sometimes we can see what they’ve done with their creativity, but quantitatively measuring it is difficult.

    What you get from creative play is to practice thinking outside the box, play around with different ideas, and come up with new solutions to a challenge. Which is why every child and adult should be playing more video games if you ask me.


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