|Copyright 2005 Julie Shepherd Knapp
The Homeschool Diner's
Watching Others Play Video Games...
How does a homeschool mom tell the difference between a huge waste of time and a valuable
educational experience? Sometimes it takes the wisdom of an experienced homeschool parent to help
us see the light.
by Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2008
Whenever I overhear homeschool moms complaining about their kids spending time on the computer
I'm reminded of a chat I had with Sandra Dodd, the famous unschooling guru
(http://sandradodd.com/articles), after she gave the keynote speech at our state homeschool
conference. My son (then 12) had become engrossed with watching *other people* play video games
on YouTube... which seemed to me to be the *ultimate" waste of time.
As eclectic homeschoolers we've unschooled in many subject areas over the years -- where I allow my
child to discover and explore, to his heart's content, topics that interest him. I have faith in this
approach for any subject area that he finds innately interesting, and I have seen very good results
from letting him decide which topics to skim, and which to delve into at length.
In general, I have tried to give value to my child's interests (whether or not *I* find them interesting ;-)...
and I remind myself to step back, allowing him to explore, in his own fashion, the things he finds
relevant and meaningful to his life. I had, long ago, come to grips with the playing of video games, for
example, as one of these areas. I had re-assured myself that video and computer games were a valid
interest -- one that might even lead to a career in the industry or related computer field. I reminded
myself that I wouldn't be so annoyed at his intensity if he were showing, say, all-consuming interest in
medicine, or architecture, or repairing cars. How could I know that his passions were any less
valuable, or would be any less "profitable" in the future?
But I just wasn't comfortable accommodating this latest activity -- watching other people play video
games -- quite so easily. He would scroll thru his YouTube subscriptions every morning, watching all
the new videos that each person had posted. (This is something he and I both do in the mornings --
catch up on our e-mail, etc, while sipping our beverage of choice). Though harmless enough, in
general, I just wasn't sure it was a good way for him to be spending his time.
Well, getting back to the homeschool conference, I found that I had the opportunity to ask Sandra
Dodd what she would do. I told her that I was trying to find value in his choice of activities, but that I
had internal conflict on the matter. Did she have any advice?
She thought for a few seconds, then asked, "Do you cook?". "Yes... ", I replied, wondering about her
choice of analogies. "Do you watch cooking shows on TV?" she continued. I nodded... "Why?" she
I continued nodding, then, but knowingly, now. What a great analogy -- it made it clear to me! I watch
those shows to learn more... about something I enjoy doing! I watch to find out new approaches and
new techniques, and to learn about new foods. (In this analogy, that would translate into new games ;-)
So, I came to grips with the idea of him watching others playing video games. And, guess what? My
son was so inspired by what he saw, that he started recording video games and posting them on
YouTube -- no easy feat, mind you! It took several trips to Best Buy to "pick the brains" of guys in the
Geek Squad, finding and investigating several free and commercial software options, finding
appropriate forums and asking his questions there, and trial and error -- lots of trial and error! I
couldn't have come up with such an engaging and educational "assignment" for him if I had tried.
So, along with a confirmation that unschooling still has merit in our homeschool, I have learned, once
again, to trust my child's ability to teach himself things that are relevant to his modern life. I still teach
him (as opposed to unschooling him) in those subject areas that have, historically, been important in
the lives of educated people -- advanced math, grammar, the classics, etc.
Only time will tell if the things *I've* chosen for him to learn will hold any relevance by the time he's an
adult. But, I am confident that, given the chance, the things he finds valuable enough to learn about
are things that will lead him to his career -- whatever that may be -- in the modern world he will be
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|Every new medium has,
within a short time of its introduction,
as a threat to young people.
Pulp novels would destroy their morals,
TV would wreck their eyesight,
video games would make them violent.
-- Hanna Rosin