All posts by Rachel Miller

Why are they watching YouTube all day?

This is a pretty common question, not only among Unschoolers, but parents in general.  There are a lot of reasons our children watch YouTube or Twitch.  For something like watching other kids play with toys, unboxing, or game play ~ it’s often about better understanding the product. Sometimes that doesn’t directly translate to the same product in your home, but they still “file away” that information for later.

I kind of equate it to something like Pinterest. I may “pin” or save ideas or pictures.  Am I going to turn my under-the-stairs-closet into a home library/reading nook? Probably not. However it spurred ideas about creating a nesting spot elsewhere in my house. OR I love what someone did and I can appreciate the aesthetic while simultaneously acknowledging that I’m never going to spend $50K on a “she shed”.

Our kids have been regularly perusing YouTube for 10 years now. Especially when they were younger ~ I sat down with them. I’d ask them, “Why are you watching this?” Not in a judgy way, but to learn what *they* were getting out of it. “What do you think about this product?”  “Why do you like this reviewer?” Sometimes they were seeing something completely different than I was. We talk a lot about marketing, commercials, paid endorsements, etc. Both kids (15yo & 16yo at the time of this post) are actually fairly savvy consumers, thoroughly check ratings/reviews, shop the best deals, etc.

Also, even if a YouTuber or a product don’t interest me ~ I appreciate it for *their* interest. Sort of like how I watch Tennis or Football or Car Shows with my husband. Are those things that I’d prioritize to watch on my own? No. But I love him so I enjoy getting to know the things he loves better.

Now that they are older and I’m not always right by their side, it’s interesting to see the amazing things they discover merely browsing on YouTube.  Just the other day our son (16yo) brought up an art restorer he’s been following.  So we, along with his sister, spent an hour watching Baumgartner Restoration.

We had a lot of great conversations about art, history, colors, chemicals, and patience.  (Because WOW, does restoration require a lot of patience and meticulous detail work.)

Any time you don’t see the value in something that your children spend a lot of their time engaged in, I encourage you to find a way to truly observe what it brings to their life.

-Rachel

Meet Rachel & our other contributors here. 

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Texas Bubblers at TexUns2020

We’re excited to announced that Texas Bubblers will be a featured performer at the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference.

The Texas Bubblers love to make the world smile with something so simple as a bubble.  Bubbles do something good to the heart of every person who sees them. For the very young, they are in awe and it is pure enjoyment and excitement. For the young at heart, it is a moment of a sweet childhood memory, and many adults become child-like again and start playing with bubbles.

Join Texas Bubblers for Giant Magical Bubble Play.  Giant Bubbles created by Shelly & Bubba McBubbles using their wands that are between 4-10 feet long to create jellyfish bubbles, giant bubbles, monster bubbles, the crowd favorite the bubble cloud, and Texas “snow”.

Texas Bubblers on Facebook
Videos of Texas Bubblers 

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Receive Art Via Text from SFMOMA

Text 572-51 with the words “send me” followed by a keyword, a color, or even an emoji and you’ll receive a related artwork image and caption via text message from the SFMOMA San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Image is of two pieces of art received when I texted, “send me Texas”.
Alec Soth, ‘Del Río, Texas’, 2011
Steven Holl, ‘Edge of a City: Spiroid Sectors, Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas’, 1991

More info can be found on SFMOMA’s website:
https://www.sfmoma.org/read/send-me-sfmoma/

Meet Rachel & our other contributors here. 

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Class Dismissed & Self-Taught are coming to TexUns2020

We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be screening TWO documentaries about life outside of classrooms at the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference.

Class Dismissed: Frustrated with the traditional school system, a family in L.A. pulls their two kids out of school and takes their education into their own hands. Class Dismissed takes a fresh look at what it means to be educated in the 21st century and explores the rapidly growing movement of parents providing an education outside a classroom setting.
View Trailer for Class Dismissed
Class Dismissed Website

Self-Taught: Through the stories of six extraordinary individuals, Self-Taught explores what self-directed education means to them and the impact it has had on their lives, ambitions, work, and beliefs.
Whether Artist, Scientist, or Entrepreneur, they all have one thing in common: their belief that true education is the capacity to author your own life instead of merely accepting the one you’ve been handed.
View Trailer for Self-Taught
Self-Taught Website

Click here for more information or to register for the 2020 Texans Unschooling Conference.

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Top Fan Contest

Want to win a $50 credit toward the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference?  Join our Facebook Top Fan contest.

Become a Texas Unschoolers Top Fan by liking our page, liking posts, commenting on posts, and sharing our content.

At the end of the month, we’ll randomly select a top fan to win a gift certificate worth $50/off registration fees.

Rules:

  • Must be 18 years or older to win.
  • Gift certificate is only good toward conference registration fees for the 2020 Texas Unschoolers Conference.
  • Gift certificate can not be exchanged for cash.
  • Gift certificate can not be applied to future conferences
  • Gift certificate can not be used as payment to Jellystone in any way including, but not limited to: lodging, day pass, food, or activity fees.
  • By entering you acknowledge this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.
  • By entering you consent to a complete release of Facebook for any responsibility in this promotion.
  • Winner will be announced no later than Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 at noon.


Please note:
While we want you to share content with your friends you know will enjoy it, tagging them in posts/comments/shares doesn’t increase your status as a top fan.  So only do it if you think they’ll truly be interested.

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Respecting Our Children’s Boundaries

Lately, here’s what pictures of our daughter’s activities have looked like:

When I took the next picture, I commented that she and the dog looked so cute together and asked if I could I post it.  She asked to see it and returned the “edited” version to me:

It’s understood by our family and friends that there will be seasons where they will not see pictures of one or both of our children on social media.  That’s because we have always asked our children if we can post their pictures.  I show them the pictures that I have taken and they have the opportunity to select their preferred pictures, if they approve any at all.  They also approve any conversations we post that they participated in (and they’ll both review and consent to the contents of this post). 

A conversation between our kids a few years ago (using their ages at the time):

11yo: Why don’t you want mom to post pictures of you to Facebook?

9yo: Because I said no.

11yo: I’m trying to understand *why* you said no.  It doesn’t matter, you can say no for any reason and people have to listen to that – I was just wondering why.

This made my heart so happy.  Not only that our children knew that their “no” will be respected, also that they don’t have to justify their “no” and that they aren’t entitled to demand others explain themselves.    Seeking their permission in posting to social media is just a small part of how we protect their autonomy – physically & emotionally.

Respect your children, their feelings, and their boundaries so they will know how wrong it is when someone else doesn’t.  We have done this to the best of our ability since they were born.  In ways that seem to be “no big deal” like choosing their own clothes, a favorite toy, and what activities they want to participate in.  As well as backing their right to refuse affection and declining to stay with someone or somewhere they aren’t comfortable with.  This may seem inconvenient at times but pays off in both the solid parent/child connection as well has how your children treats and expects to be treated by others.

Meet Rachel & our other contributors here. 

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Everyday Conversations: Rice At Weddings

One of the biggest lessons for me, as an Unschooling parent, is learning to say “my understanding is…” You’ll see our family with our phones out A LOT. Because with almost every discussion comes the desire to look things up for clarification or more information.

This weekend, some friends of ours got married. Our daughter is an artist and often creates cards as part of our gifts to family and friends on special occasions. I asked her if she’d like to make a wedding card.

14yo: I don’t even know what would go on a wedding card.
Me: I’ve seen a lot of bows and birds.
14yo: Birds?
Me: I think they’re a sign of fertility.
14yo: Fertility?
Me: Short definition? Ability to get pregnant and have children. For some religions/societies/people marriage & children go hand in hand. Some people see it as a positive thing to have lots of babies & quickly. So I think the birds thing is like a “blessing” or “support” of that. Like throwing rice. Or maybe the rice is fertility and the birds are something else. I can’t remember as it’s been 20 years since Daddy & I were married. All I remember was not throwing rice because it would make the bird’s stomachs explode.
<<14yo is horrified>>
Me: That may not even be true anymore, let’s look it up.

Spoiler alert: Birds are generally happiness & love (different birds can specify different things). Rice is fertility. Birds like rice and it doesn’t hurt them.

https://curiosity.com/topics/the-origin-of-throwing-rice-at-weddings/

The 14yo opted not to make a card and we just ordered off the Amazon wishlist. She would also like people to throw candy at all future nuptials.

(This convo was originally posted to our Facebook page.)

-Rachel

Meet Rachel & our other contributors here. 

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Everyday Conversations: The Dentist & War

Our son (16yo) and I were waiting at the dentist’s office and he says, “Hey, I know you love reading military stuff and I thought you’d like this new game I’m playing.”

(full disclosure: I read a LOT of military *romance* 😂 but I do read military non-fiction too)

Anyway… he begins telling me about his game. Set in WWII. About troop movements. Boundary disputes. Political implications. We bust out our cell phones and start comparing maps and he shows me which countries didn’t even exist in the war. He’s using his finger to redraw lines and pointing out how countries are born and how others die. Telling me the differences between what he can do in his game and what actually happened. Why some countries can only be invaded by sea because other countries have to be circumvented. We talk about Communism, Socialism, and Fascism.

And then the hygienist calls us back.

It’s OK that it was “only” 15 minutes. It was awesome on so many levels. A chance to connect over shared interests. A chance to see what he’s learning. Because I know he’s learning. Because he knows I love hearing about his gaming. More importantly, I know it will happen again. 💗

UPDATE: So many people have asked… the game was Hearts of Iron IV on Steam by Paradox Interactive
https://store.steampowered.com/app/394360/Hearts_of_Iron_IV/

Image Credit: By Gdr at the English language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 

-Rachel
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MY Link Gives All Texas Residents a Library Card

Did you know that any adult who is a resident of Texas can get a My Link card through the Houston Public Library?

This card gives you access to more than six million books, e-books, DVDs, magazines and research materials that make up the HPL collection. It also provides access to more than 130 electronic resources which include streaming music, videos, images, audiobooks, and countless other subject-based websites and databases.


You can use your card to borrow via OverDrive for LibrariesHoopla Digital, RB Digital, Comics Plus, and more.

Even if your local library supports access to these digit lending programs the titles available through Houston Public Library may be different.  Harris County Public Library has a pretty extensive collection and after a few minutes I found several things through MY Link/HPL that HCPL doesn’t have.

The Overdrive app lets you load more than one library in. So you can switch between cards.

You do not have to physically visit the library to get your card. I wanted to be sure how it worked. So I tried two methods: I reactivated an old HPL card I had from when we lived within Houston city limits and I signed my husband up for a brand new card. I did it all online with our Driver’s License numbers as proof of residency. (note: The new card was available for immediate use. Reactivating my old card required a response from the library. They responded the next day.)

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Online Driver’s Ed

You wouldn’t hand your 16-year-old the keys to your car one day and they immediately hit the freeway at 70mph.

They’ve watched you drive since they were born.  Toddlers start to connect that a key is required to start the engine, that you move a stick on the steering column for turn signals, and that the pedals at your feet are amazing sources of power.  You talk about things that you see or bother you or are difficult as you’re driving.  You mention people speeding, cutting you off, or tailgating.  You involve them in vehicle maintenance: pumping gas, checking tire pressure, changing the oil, etc.  Then they start sitting in the passenger seat and paying more attention, asking questions.  They get a learner’s permit and spend more time driving while you ride along observing and offering suggestions.  You take them to the farm or a parking lot or wherever and they get to drive around a bit and park.  Then you try calm side streets, then busier streets. They hopefully have opportunities to drive in the sun, rain, snow, etc. (granted snow is harder to come by in parts of Texas).  Eventually, they go up on the highway and potentially work their way up to rush hour.  

As you’re navigating the online world with your kids, consider starting their “Driver’s Ed” early so that you have plenty of opportunities to work through the various scenarios, concerns, issues, and problems that may come up.  

And it begins…

Our children see that phones, tablets, computers, and gaming systems are incredible sources of information, communication, and enjoyment.  Even very young children can use apps, make phone calls, and play games.  When we play with them and foster their curiosity we’re not only helping them build skills but we’ve established another connection point that strengthens the relationship.  Just as a young child rides in a car seat for extra protection ~ you may initially have preset apps or websites that they explore.  As they better understand how to use various devices, I would encourage you to reduce restrictions.   

Talk it out…

Verbalizing why we’re making the decisions that we’re making helps our children understand our choices.  It also expands their personal options and helps provide potential solutions that are respectful of others.  

I’m downloading apps/movies in case there isn’t WiFi available (or it isn’t very good).

I’m bringing headphones along so I can listen without disturbing anyone else.  

Give me a moment to finish this level so that I can stop and really hear what you’re saying.

I’m going to check another source to see if that’s accurate.

Maybe there’s another app that better suits my needs.  

I know Jill prefers messenger to text, so I’m going to contact her that way.  

I’d like to turn off my ringer before we go inside so it won’t disturb anyone.  

I like the survival aspect of Minecraft without the intensity of Five Nights at Freddy’s.  How do I find similar games?    

When they run into a complication, ask if they’d like ideas for possible solutions.  Our son was in a situation where someone he initially enjoyed gaming with began texting him constantly, even if our son had expressed not wanting to play (or play a particular game).  We walked through options.  For example ~ like how our son could be more clear about a length of time.   Instead of saying, “not now”, he would reply, “How about Friday?”.

Learner’s permit…

So many of these online resources rely on e-mail to create a login and to track individual preferences or achievements.  I strongly recommend creating an e-mail address dedicated for each of your children.  Shared family accounts make it difficult, sometimes impossible, to play together.  Since my husband and I already had gmail accounts ~ it was easiest for us to create an e-mail for our children through Google.  (Now, you can just create a single Google account to be used for e-mail, YouTube, Drive, etc.)  In the settings, we chose to have their incoming emails automatically forwarded to ours so that we didn’t have to constantly log-out of our e-mail  to log-in to theirs.  This allowed us to help them process the information/emails they were receiving.  (Our daughter still has no interest in her e-mail and never checks it herself.)  

Most online log-ins will ask how old the person is.  Some people use their children’s actual birthdays under the assumption that it will provide protection for them (especially if they’re under 13).  Unfortunately, we’ve found this actually makes things more difficult and removes our ability to make parental judgements as to whether or not something is appropriate/useful for a particular child.  For instance ~ Skype will not let you create an account if the birth date provided is under 13.  Our entire family sharing one account is a logistical nightmare (especially since we’ve been known to Skype each other within the house).  So, we use the parent’s birthdays and they each get their own account to use.

Get your own accounts too.  My husband and I have accounts on Minecraft, Steam, Origin, Roblox, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, School of Dragons, League of Legends, Khan Academy, Coursera, etc.  Anything that interests them.  This has the dual advantage that we have a better understanding of what & how they are learning because we’re witnessing and experiencing it ourselves and it’s an opportunity to strengthen our relationship.   We don’t know everything about every game or YouTube channel.   We certainly don’t play or watch as much as our children, but when we watch or play with them, we learn the “lingo”.   Gaming terms such as DLC, NPC, FPS, as well as the names of their favorite YouTubers.   Later, when we can’t play with them, but they’re telling us about a new app, game, or YouTube upload (like while I’m cooking dinner) ~ we can fully participate in the conversation because we know what they’re talking about.

Driving on their own…

For our family, keeping the lines of communication open and being positively involved in their online/gaming life has been the best way to help them navigate that realm. Some parents rely on stringent internet blocking software or tight personal controls on their children’s activity.  Unfortunately, this can provide a false sense of security and at worst, can result in children who rebel in secret with no guidance.  There are numerous ways around parental controls and filtering.  Tech savvy kids can circumvent blocks, set up secondary accounts/e-mails, acquire their own devices, and access the internet outside of your home.  By setting up accounts/access early, by asking questions without judgement, by offering gentle information about pitfalls, and by allowing them to make mistakes ~ we have fostered a trusting and supportive environment they don’t feel the need to circumvent.

Don’t forget the insurance…

Accidents happen.  Other drivers are careless.  Sometimes we make a poor decision in an unfamiliar situation.  

Downloading new games and content can be scary.  No one wants to have their computer overrun by malicious programs.  Invest in good anti-virus and anti-malware protection.  Downloading mods for Minecraft and other games is incredibly popular.  Together, you can learn how to research developers, recognize the difference between an ad and the actual download, and how to fully remove unintended downloads.  Consider adding a password requirement to prevent unintentional downloads or in-app purchases on phones & tablets.  It was *me* who inadvertently spent $10 on a special character in a free app that instituted the password requirement.  We don’t use it to block the kids, just as an extra “alert” that we’re about to spend money.  Talk about internet safety like not sharing personal information to strangers and ways to respond to bullying.

If you’d like to talk with other Unschooling families about possible solutions to concerns, learn more about facilitating your children’s interests, or just meet more people on this journey ~ please join us on the Texas Unschoolers Facebook Group.  

~Rachel

Image credit: Me (our son playing Color Symphony on Steam)

Meet Rachel & our other contributors here. 

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