Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child

This post comes from an original article by Jerry Mintz at the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) website: The Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child. Published here with permission from AERO. Click over to the article for more of Jerry’s thoughts on alternative education models, and find out if the AERO Conference might be something for you and your family.

1. Does your child say he or she hates school?

If so, something is probably wrong with the school. Children are natural learners, and when they’re young, you can hardly stop them from learning. If your child says they hate school, listen to them.

2. Does your child find it difficult to look an adult in the eye, or to interact with older or younger children?

If so, your child may have become “socialized” to interact only with peers within their own age group—a very common practice in most schools—and may be losing the ability to communicate with a broader group of children and adults.

3. Does your child seem fixated on designer labels and trendy clothes for school?

This is a symptom of an approach that emphasizes external rather than internal values, causing children to rely on shallower means of comparison and acceptance, rather than deeper values.

4. Does your child come from school tired and cranky?

While a student can have a hard day in any school, consistent exhaustion and irritability are sure signs that their educational experiences are not energizing, but actually debilitating.

5. Does your child come home complaining about conflicts that they’ve had in school, or unfair situations that they have been exposed to?

This may mean that the school does not have a student-centered approach to conflict resolution and communication. Many schools rely on swift, adult-issued problem solving, depriving children of their ability to emotionally process and thoughtfully discuss the situation at hand.

6. Has your child lost interest in creative expression through art, music, and dance?

Within the traditional system, these creative outlets are often considered secondary to “academic” areas, and are not as widely encouraged. In some cases, courses in these areas are not even offered any more. This neglect often devalues, or extinguishes, these natural talents and abilities in children.

7. Has your child stopped reading or writing—or pursuing a special interest—just for fun? Are they investing the bare minimum in homework?

This is often a sign that spontaneous activities and student independence are not being valued in their school. Children have a natural inclination to direct their own learning; however, an emphasis on meeting standardized test requirements limits the abilities of teachers to nurture and encourage this inclination. The result can be an increasing apathy toward subjects that were once exciting, and a loss of creativity.

8. Does your child procrastinate until the last minute to do homework?

This is a sign that the homework is not really meeting his or her needs—perhaps it’s “busy work” or rote memorization—and may be stifling to their natural curiosity.

9. Does your child come home talking about anything exciting that happened in school that day?

If not, maybe nothing in school is exciting for your child. Why shouldn’t school—and education—be a fun, vibrant, and engaging place?

10. Did the school nurse or guidance counselor suggest that your child may have a “disease,” like ADHD, and should be given Ritalin or another behavior regulating drug?

Be wary of these diagnoses and keep in mind that much of the traditional school curriculum these days is behavior control. If test requirements limit a teacher’s ability to engage students, if students are discouraged from following their own passions and expected to sit for five or six hours a day with limited personal attention and interaction, I suggest it’s the school that has the disease, EDD—Educational Deficit Disorder—and it might be time to get your child out of that situation!

Discuss this post at the Alternative Living & Learning forums here.

Original AERO article by Jerry Mintz here. Definitely worth a read.

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The Traveling Unschooler, by Liza Rumery

Luna and Trailer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you have decided not to send your child to school — not because of illness or trouble or family obligation or whatever. Rather, you decided not to send your child to school, because you wanted to do something else instead of it. You wanted to realize what might happen if your child grew and learned in a free environment, in his or her own unique way, on his or her own time. You actually turn your back on school — the system of education — and walk away with your child’s hand in yours and go forth into a completely open realm of endless possibilities of learning, because you can, and you want to see it come to fruition, understanding that it will. You decide that faith and trust and love and respect are enough ingredients for the process to work. You let go of the reins and move out of the way, exhaling all the while as the socially-created pressures of conformity, regiment and expectation melt away from you, making space for a different kind of relationship between you and your child, your child and the family, and the relationship that the child has with the Self.

That is unschooling.

But it isn’t about school anyway, it’s about the child and family first. It is a new road, a new approach. So what would you do if the hours were yours for the unpacking? How would you lead your life? What would your days look like? What might be the things of interest to your child that would last until he or she feels full? What would you like to expose your child to seeing or doing now that your calendar is free? Would you and your child stay home, make play dates, go to museums, go fishing, knit, mold clay, bake cookies, play tennis, draw, watch movies, read, build something, learn a language, learn to weld or, perhaps, do “nothing?” Just hang and be? Relax? Tune out? Sleep in? All of the above? It is fun to consider for sure, being immersed in the things that bring you and your child joy, maybe even finding out something completely unexpected.

That is also unschooling.

Our daughter has never been to school, so essentially she always has been an unschooler, going with the flow of what comes naturally to a child — play, learning and discovery. As she grew up, we did things in our hometown and surrounding areas, occasionally going out of town for a bigger scene. We looked for people and groups that do what we do, but we weren’t always successful. Often, Midwest winter weather created hinderances to gathering, and our rural setting created distance. Eventually, we yearned for more as a family. We wanted to go out in the world.

Now, at the wonderful age of seven, our daughter is a full time traveler. For us, this is unschooling.

Liza Trailer Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the years before having her, my husband and I traveled often, able to pack a small carry-on and fly off somewhere at a moment’s notice. We traveled to Spain and Mexico, Hawaii and Las Vegas. We’d meet friends or family wherever, whenever. But after we had our daughter, we traveled rarely. When we did, the small carry-on became a suitcase full of baby stuff, then kid stuff, and it wasn’t as much fun. In fact, is was work. Like most parents, I was exhausted. Furthermore, having a home and stuff kept us tied to one place, limiting our ability to travel. We missed traveling for pleasure, we missed traveling as lifestyle, and we no longer wanted to be obligated to our things. We wanted to honor experiences, so we decided to do something about it — this time, with kid in tow.

We sold all of our stuff, bought a travel trailer and decided to meander this giant country that is the United States until we’ve had our fill, and then we will head abroad. Because we work for ourselves and we are an unschooling family, we can travel freely, where time and the road are ours and being together is a priority.

Most of the unschoolers/homeschoolers we know stay in once place, because they are tied to job or committed to their communities. It is wonderful to feel rooted and part of something, and we like to meet folks like us in various places across the country living in this way. It’s a great way to become familiar with a region and see how other families live out their lives of doing things more naturally. But we feel that, given the opportunity, traveling as an unschooling family creates amazing bonding experiences and a world view unlike anything we have ever known. Freedom and experience make for a heart-pounding elixir.

Through travel, our daughter has an open mind about the next adventure — the next playground, the next zoo, the next hike, new people. She used to lament that she didn’t want to leave this or that campground or playground, but now she knows that we will find something new and/or unique somewhere else. Amazingly, she doesn’t want to go back to where we have been; she wants to continue going forward. She lives in the moment, which is a such a great aspect of unschooling, and is reinforced through travel.

We have experienced more intellectual conversations with our daughter since we have traveled; she is more mature and aware of the world. Although she sees other kids at campgrounds, she integrates on her time, because she enjoys hanging out with people of various ages or with us or by herself. She ponders what she wants to do, because she can. She is starting to be more self-serving regarding her activities, taking initiatives on creative projects, because she knows there are no time constraints. Her schedule is open. So much of this is true for unschooling families in community settings in a brick-and-mortar home. In fact, it is likely the way of life for most unschoolers. But traveling adds a few more layers to the experiences of the unschooling family, and we continue to witness it firsthand.

Liza and family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no doubt that unschooling found us and it is a path that we chose. It is also something that we strongly advocate now. Add the layer of travel and the unschooling world opens up to you that much more. If you are able to travel as a family, do it. Do it often. It is a wonderful, exciting, grounding, freeing experience to see the world with an unschooling lens. We know that this family is invested indefinitely. Hopefully, we’ll see you on the road!

Would you like to discuss travel and unschooling? Visit our forums here to discuss this post.

Liza Rumary Bio Pic

 

Liza likes to do a lot of things. Currently, she really likes to travel, write, read, swim, practice yoga and meditation and cook. She dreams of Spain and quiet places. She loves spending so much time with her family. And she believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Deepening the Parent Child Relationship

Child-Adult-HandsWe all crave human connection. The parent/child connection is one of the strongest of all.

But how do we really connect with our kids? Let’s explore a few ways we might tighten the bond.

Be In The Here and Now

How many times have you found yourself thinking about your kid’s future? If you’re like most parents, it’s pretty often. Will they be successful? Get a good job? Be in a good marriage? Develop the skills to maneuver through life’s challenges?

Many of us react to these thoughts, attempting to shape children into who we believe they should become and many times don’t even notice who they are – right now, in the present.

What if, for just a moment, we could let go of what their future might look like and be present with them right now? What kind of world could we create if we confronted our own fears and inadequacies and didn’t bequeath them to our children?

Being present with our children means being mindful of what is, today. Resisting the fact that he doesn’t like math for instance doesn’t make him better at math. Insisting that she dry those tears when she’s sad doesn’t magically make her happy. When we notice the “should” and “should not’s” that invade our thinking, we realize that our thoughts have hijacked this unique moment with our child. Perhaps instead of reacting we can ask, “If there were no tomorrow, how would I be with my child right now in this situation?”

What if our kids come with their own blueprint? Could our love and confidence in them be all they need to flourish in life? Can we have faith that what makes them tick now will lead them to the perfect tomorrow? If we challenge their every move and make demands on them because we’re caught up in their future, we lose something very precious; this moment in time, being with them just as they are. Meeting our kids today becomes an opportunity to know them and accept them here and now. It gives us a chance to embrace gratitude and discover gifts in the present. It puts laser focus on what is good today.

When we sincerely see our kids and value this day as it is, they know it. Only when we unconditionally accept them now – their thought processes, their interests, and their dislikes – are we making real connection with them. Connection builds trust. Trust establishes authentic relationship. We all want genuine relationships with our kids. And what’s more, they want it with us. Relationship now equals a future that will take care of itself.

REALIZE YOUR KIDS ARE NOT A REPRESENTATION OF YOU

Every human being is born unique, with distinct thoughts, ideas, creativity, gifts and fears. We may know this, however; many of us unconsciously view our kids as extensions of ourselves.

If we disapprove of their ideas, actions or lack thereof, we are embarrassed or ashamed. We might think, “Where did I go wrong?”

If we’re proud of their ideas or actions, we tend to take a bit of credit for raising them right. “I did good raising that one!”

Why do we do this? Why do we put so much of the focus on ourselves? In our society we tend to view our children as representations of “our” values, beliefs and goals. If our kids project the “appropriate” values, beliefs and goals, we feel we’ve done our job as a parent. If they don’t, we tend to feel that something is wrong with them or that we’ve somehow failed in our parental duties.

But what if our children were born with distinct ways of moving in the world? What if left alone with love and acceptance from us, our kids’ ideas could morph into concepts that change the world for the better? Is it possible that we’re focused on who our kids should be, rather than who they are, in an attempt to appear favorable in the eyes of society, family members or friends?

When we attempt to shape, form and yes, even force our children into certain behaviors or ways of thinking, they tend to shut down. They either comply with our ideals out of fear or the need for our approval or they rebel against them with anger and confusion. We all know that fear and confusion are not the ideal emotions in which to operate our lives. And yet so many children grow up sacrificing their own unique gifts and ideas for the sake of their parents, their peers and their society. Their voice is lost to a confused world.

Our kids are not a reflection of us. It’s okay to let them explore the world and come up with their own unique style, values and goals. Our relationship grows stronger when we accept them just as they are, relieving them of the duty to project a good image of us.

BE STILL AND LISTEN

Parents have more life experience than their children; this is true. But do we know all there is to know about life? Can we be sure that we know what is right for another human being?

We have our perspectives to go on but the buck stops there. When we assume that we know more than our children, that we know what our children should be doing, feeling or pursuing, we cut off communication. If we know, we don’t listen. We shut ourselves off from further query.

Living in the question of life is magical. It sends the signal into the world that we are open to new perspectives, new ideas and unique problem solving techniques. When we listen to our kids, really listen, we are open. Open to the possibility that they know something about their own lives. We shut them down when we already know how or what they should be, act or pursue in life. If we open up to the possibility that they just might know more about their lives than we do, we connect with them on a deep level. We inspire them to look within rather than chase approval or direction from the outer world.

Can our kids teach us if we let them? Perhaps if we find ourselves judging our kids, we can pause and listen. Maybe instead of responding with our own knowledge we can ask open-ended questions. “What excites you about that video game, Johnny? I’d like to learn more.” or “I see that you’re angry, Sara. I’m listening.”  And then listen fully without trying to change what they are doing or what they are saying. If we choose to be present and listen – put the focus on how we can assist rather than change – our child feels heard. He feels as though he has a voice and his most intimate partner, you, is listening. Open dialogue is established and the child feels empowered rather than managed and judged.

Our kids don’t need fixing. They need experienced partners in life who believe in them and value their wants, needs and desires. They need calm human beings who can empower them to find answers within. If we can’t listen honestly and openly, we negate any chance of connecting with them on that deeper level.

Many of us believe we have our children’s best interests at heart. We don’t want them to be hurt, fail or look stupid. We want them to thrive. But sometimes hurt and failures are the springboards to living a life filled with meaning. If we focus on the possibility that our children might be hurt or fail and we stop them from what they are feeling or doing, we rob them of learning how to navigate their own lives. We cut the cord of relationship in favor of fear.

Be present; envision that children are here with their own gifts to present to the world. Listen to what they have to say. True connection will be born and thrive in the parent child relationship if we only dare to let go and trust that all is well. Right here. . . Right now.

Would you like to discuss this blog post? If so, please join us to discuss this in our Living and Learning Forums here.

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EDUCATION: NEXT GENERATION

This is a free online conference scheduled for May 23-27, 2016. Sign up for the conference on their website at www.ednextgen.com. They will be interviewing 25 experts discussing social emotional learning and mindfulness.

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Is Unschooling an Experiment?

Most of us grew up in the public school system, and so naturally our frame of reference may be limited to this particular model of education. It’s easy to conclude that since we did it this way, and most everyone around us does it this way, then it must be the best way.

From such a limited viewpoint many people may see unschooling (natural, child-led learning) as a radical experiment: something new, unproven, maybe even a little crazy. But when we take a broader view of history and look at how humans have lived and learned and thrived over many centuries, we can see that compulsory public schooling is actually the “new” experiment—an experiment whose results are rightly being called into question by many people today.

In 2008 Peter Gray*, research professor of psychology at Boston College, published an instructive article titled “A Brief History of Education” where he lays out how public schools came about, how we got to where we are today, and some of the motivations behind the expansion of the public school system. (Hint: the motivations were rarely about the healthy development and well-being of children.)

Dr Gray’s article is really good, I encourage you to read it. Here are a few excerpts:

If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history. Schooling, as it exists today, only makes sense if we view it from a historical perspective.

In the beginning, for hundreds of thousands of years, children educated themselves through self-directed play and exploration.

For various reasons, some religious and some secular, the idea of universal, compulsory education arose and gradually spread. Education was understood as inculcation. […] The only known method of inculcation, then as well as now, is forced repetition and testing for memory of what was repeated.

Employers in industry saw schooling as a way to create better workers. To them, the most crucial lessons were punctuality, following directions, tolerance for long hours of tedious work, and a minimal ability to read and write.

Everyone assumed that to make children learn in school the children’s willfulness would have to be beaten out of them. Punishments of all sorts were understood as intrinsic to the educational process. In some schools children were permitted certain periods of play (recess), to allow them to let off steam; but play was not considered to be a vehicle of learning. In the classroom, play was the enemy of learning.

Read the full article here:
www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200808/brief-history-education

Discuss this post in our Alternative Living & Learning Forums here.


* Peter Gray, PhD researches and publishes on how children learn, with a specific focus on the role of play in the learning and development process. He spoke at the 2015 Texas Unschoolers conference. A video of that talk, called The Biology of Education, can be seen below.

Peter Gray: The Biology of Education

TEDx video: The Decline of Play, by Peter Gray

Peter Gray’s 2014 talk at TEDxNavesink

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Caring for the Introverted Child

introvert

I love this visual about Introverts. Since I have a son that is a true blue introvert, I have learned to interact with him in all of the above ways.

Introverts are such special and gifted people. They usually think long and hard before acting. They can figure just about anything out, given the time and space to do it. When they find someone that is their true friend, they will honor that friendship like no other. They usually don’t like crowds. When they DO speak, they like to be really heard, so pretending to listen doesn’t work with them. THEY DO notice when you’re not really present.

They NEED alone time, much more than an extrovert does. They NEED quiet. They really do need to be given lots of transition time from one activity to the next. When they are rushed they are stressed, more so than the rest of us.

Introverts DISLIKE labels. Don’t label them. Empower them to be exactly as they are.

Honor your introverted child  by respecting his need for solitude and quiet spaces. Honor him/ her by being ultra respectful of his/her needs. If you do, you will have a confident, loyal and thoughtful person in your life. One who might change the world with his introspective nature.

Want to discuss Introverts more fully? Join us at the Alternative Living and Learning community here.

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Learning Data Collection and Graphing by Playing Games

Pile of gamesMy son came up with a great idea! With my help, we’re going to collected data as we play every board and card game that we own. Over the next 17 days, we will play one game per day and then fill in our data chart with information about our gaming preferences. What we like about the game. What we don’t. What our favorites are.

Then we will collect our data and make a pie chart (or two).

 

 

Here’s our Game Plan: (no pun intended!)

1. Gather up all of our board and card games.

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2.  Make a chart where we can collect data about what we like, what we don’t like and how we rate the game.

Game Data Spreadsheet

3. When our game challenge is done, we will enter our data into a free pie chart creator to display our results. The Pie Chart will look something like this at the end of our study.

Example Pie Chart
Pie Chart Creator

Besides learning how to collect data and formulate that into a study, we will be working through numbers, reading, strategizing and thinking skills as we play. We will be expanding our minds and having fun at the same time.

Won’t you join us in the game challenge? Pull out those dusty games and have fun. Record your results and then jump over to the discussion forums to share your data.

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What My Kids Are Learning While Playing Minecraft

Forward to this article: I wrote this article on my personal blog back in 2012. It has by far been the most popular blog post on my personal site. I thought it might be beneficial to some to share it here. I’ve learned since I wrote this article that everything in this post can be applied to just about every video game, tv show, movie, pop culture and everything in between. It just requires for the parent or guardian to step out of what they’ve been told about visual media and watch what is actually going on with the individual child.

~ Michelle Conaway

What My Kids Are Learning While Playing Minecraft 

by Michelle Conaway (Originally published on July 17, 2012)

Who would have ever thought I would have been okay with my kids making a full time job out of playing a video game? I sure never thought I would get there. But I have. My boys spend most of their waking hours on a computer game called Minecraft.

Over the years, after I decided to homeschool, I found myself migrating more towards a philosophy of life called Unschooling. Yes, we pulled out the text books and “educational” websites at the beginning of our homeschooling journey, but my kids got bored with it. I saw them resisting the work I was providing for them and not retaining much of what I was teaching. They would even pretend to be sleeping in the mornings, trying to avoid my “school” work.

For the last couple of years, I’ve let go of doing anything that looked schoolish. Of course, if they want to do worksheets, they are welcome to explore that, but gone are the days that I force them to sit and do anything. Instead, I’ve started asking them what they would like to do and let them do it. What I’ve observed as they play video games, watch cartoons, make their own cartoons on Zimmertwins and read Garfield books is a huge improvement in their reading, math, vocabulary and social skills. In essence, I’ve fully embraced the unschooling philosophy that everyone learns differently and learns best when given the opportunity to pursue things that they enjoy doing. I know I always have. Why would that be different for my kids?

In March we were introduced to the computer game called Minecraft. My boys took to it like nobody’s business! This game is so much fun and the fun and depth with which they play never ends. You can create worlds from scratch, build your own towns, tools, weapons and avatars. You can play on multi servers where you plan communities with other people playing the game. I have observed my kids developing many new skills playing Minecraft and wanted to write about them here.


Problem Solving Skills

When you spawn in Minecraft you are in the middle of nowhere with only trees, caves and animals roaming around. If you are playing in survival mode, you will also see creepers, skeletons, zombies, spiders or enderman that will attack you starting at sundown. You must try to survive by cutting down trees and building yourself some type of primitive shelter to protect yourself from the monsters that come out at night. You also have a hunger bar and if you don’t find food, you will die.

Sounds easy, but trust me it’s not. You must come up with a statagy for surviving that first night and be quick about it lest you die at the hands of the monsters in the dark or a hungry belly. I have seen the kids come up with elaborate plans for surviving that first night. They’ve learned to hunt for food, build shelter, mine coal for torches and make tools from natural resources all within the span of a 10 minute Minecraft “day”.

After that, they have to think quickly about how to continue to survive and build up a world in which they can live more easily. They plan gardens, set up farms with pigs, cows and chickens, build crafting tables and furnaces. They figure out how deep they must mine in a cave to find diamonds, gold and other precious metals. They must learn which weapons or tools work best for hunting, defending themselves against monsters and mining. The stakes get higher the more you survive. If you die you are at risk of losing all of the accumulated materials you have collected in your inventory.

Minecraft provides a continuous arena in which to flex those problem solving muscles and continue down the path to further development in the game.

Research Skills

The boys have learned how to research by playing Minecraft. When they want to learn a new trick or how to build an intricate lighting system for a mansion they have built they head to WikiHow, Youtube and other internet sources. There they find tutorials on how to build elaborate systems for their cities- how to run recessed lighting, how to build irrigation systems, how to plant and maintain gardens and how to build extravagant things like showers for the bathrooms or fireplaces for the living rooms. They have learned to bookmark their favorite tutorial sites, share them with friends, and even explain to others how to do certain things. They are even considering doing their own tutorial videos for youtube.

Communication Skills

The boys have learned to communicate very well playing Minecraft. They have met friends through our Shine with Unschooling group and also through the Unschooling Gamers Yahoo Group and Facebook Group. Through these groups they have learned to set up and use Skype. It’s not uncommon to have several kids from all over the world playing Minecraft on our family server while skyping with each other.

They are learning to work together to gather food for the community, build stores to sell armor, weapons and food, build amusement parks and engineer new cities. They are learning to maneuver through different personality types and problem solve disputes between the players. They are learning to respect the wishes of others and communicate their own wishes and come to agreements on what is going to happen within the world.

If they don’t learn to communicate well on Minecraft, the game doesn’t go as well. Working with others on the Multiplayer servers is key to building and maintaining a world that works for everyone. Kind of like real life, huh?

Typing Skills

With no keyboard or formal typing lessons, the boys have become very fast keyboarders. There is a chat section on Minecraft which has motivated them to learn to type faster and more accurately.

Cameron told me the other day that he is so glad I didn’t force him to do the typing program I tried to get him to do. Through his love of working on the computer he has gotten to be a master typist.

Spelling Skills

Spelling has improved immensely for the boys as they learn to navigate through the internet and chat with friends on Minecraft. It is essential that they are able to communicate with their friends on the chat section of Minecraft or in forums where they are trying to get answers to their questions. This has motivated them to learn to spell well so that they are understood by their friends.

Vocabulary

I have seen the boys vocabulary expand a lot as they learn new words through friends or on the internet in articles they are reading about Minecraft. Many times they use words that me and their Dad are amazed by. Their new vocabulary spills out into their every day conversations. I can’t imagine that my forced vocabulary lists would have yielded boys who use language as well as they do.

Science

Both Cameron and Caleb have asked to go to the library to get books about diamonds, obsidian, gold, silver and other gemstones. They have learned a lot about the layers of the earth. They have learned about all types of stone, wood, gemstones, caves and mining. Their love of Minecraft has peeked their interest in all sorts of geological study.

They have also become interested in Bioms. There are deserts, jungles, forests and oceans on Minecraft. Many different creatures live within the different biomes and the kids have loved learning about them all and often jump over to the internet to explore one biome or another.

Creativity

I have seen a surge of creativity in the boys since they started playing Minecraft. Cameron’s love of drawing has expanded to drawing worlds of Minecraft scenery. Caleb has come up with stories about Minecraft characters. They have learned to invent tools and other things that help them problem solve in their game. Caleb and I even built a real stone pickax out of sticks and stones at the family farm recently.

I see them being more creative about problem solving in real life as well. They are more likely now to work out a problem for themselves, rather than ask me for a solution. They seem to be getting more creative in everything they do.

Math and Spacial Reasoning Skills

In order to build a structure that is functional as well as visually pleasing, you must develop math and spacial reasoning skills. I have seen the boys figure out in their heads how many blocks will be necessary for a foundation – doubling, tripling and even quadrupling that number in their heads and then apply that to a building in Minecraft. I have witnessed them taking an idea in their minds and building complete cities with recessed lighting and fountains and statues and stores using spacial reasoning and math skills. They are figuring it out on their own without any “formal” training in engineering. It really is remarkable to see some of the things they’re building. I also have Minecraft installed on my computer and haven’t had near the success that these kids do. Obviously, spacial reasoning and I don’t get along very well.


If you’re worried that your child is playing too many video games or that they seem to spend a lifetime on Minecraft, just know and trust that they ARE learning. Play the game yourself to get an idea of the difficulties that must be endured just to survive much less build elaborate cities. Talk to your kids and listen to what they are doing and how they are figuring out HOW to do it.

They ARE learning from these games. Many times it’s obvious that they are gaining valuable skills and sometimes it looks just like play. Gaming is truly an amazing way to explore the world if we can just let go of our preconceived ideas about it and let our children (and ourselves) thrive at it.

If you have questions or would like to discuss this post, please visit our forums community here.

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Introducing Alternative Living & Learning Forums

We have recently added something to the Texas Unschoolers website.

The Alternative Living & Learning forums — at texasunschoolers.com/community.

One thing we have found is that when families begin to question the public education system and ultimately find their way to unschooling or another approach, they often begin to question and reevaluate many other institutions and “standard” practices in our society — work, religion, politics, health care, parenting, diet, technology, and more. Our goal with the discussion forums is to provide a place for people to talk about these topics, share their experiences, and learn about possible new paths of their own.

Registration on the forums is free, and you may use your real name or remain anonymous. An email address is required to verify your account and your personal information is kept confidential. There is a Frequently Asked Questions page to help you learn your way around the site, and you can use the Contact Us link at the bottom of each page to get in touch if you have questions.

We hope you will join in the discussions and be part of a growing community of families seeking a better way.

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