Respecting Our Children’s Boundaries

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 (they both reviewed and consented 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.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Gaming Addiction

I’ve been participating in discussion groups with Unschoolers for many years.  One of the most popular topics and areas of concern for those new to Radical Unschooling is visual media, specifically gaming.  A common objection to gaming is the potential for addiction.

Clinically speaking, addiction is defined as

a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Do I believe that someone can become addicted to video games?  Absolutely.  Just as someone can become addicted to food, exercise, books, or sex ~ all of which also play a meaningful part in our lives.  For nearly 40 years, since the Rat Park studies of the late 70’s, researchers and medical professionals have repeatedly found that addictions often disappeared when the environment of the addicted was positively changed.  The drugs, alcohol, and video games are a means to producing a euphoric effect combating a perceived miserable situation.  The solution to or prevention of addiction is not to forbid or limit your child from video games (or food, or exercise, or books), it is to facilitate an environment and foster a relationship they don’t feel the need to try to escape from.

Often parents will then share the “signs of addiction” they note in their children.

She gets cranky and rude!  

He throws a fit when I ask him to stop!

That’s all he does all day!

Let’s take each of these statements and find possible solutions that are respectful to our children’s interest in gaming.

She gets cranky and rude!  Is your child hungry?  Bringing snacks to a gamer can help eliminate blood sugar drops and other hunger symptoms that manifest in a short temper. Monkey Platters are a fun and easy way to keep energy up.  Is your child simply venting their frustration at a particularly difficult level?  Sometimes parents will be upset because their child is grumbling about a lost life or a failed task.  A child verbally processing the game play isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  This could be an opportunity for you to ask questions and better understand what they are doing.  You could offer to help them look up a walk-through on YouTube or take a moment to grab a drink of water before sitting back down and trying again.  Have you interrupted their play?  That leads to…

He throws a fit when I ask him to stop!  If I’m in the middle of reading a book and someone interrupts me – I generally ask them to give me a moment to finish the sentence/section/chapter.  I apply the same principle to our gaming children, “I’d like to talk to you about something, when you find a stopping point can we chat?”.  Or setting up the expectation that we have commitments later in the day.  When our son started getting into games like League of Legends where a match could last thirty minutes or more – I made an effort to let him know if we have appointments so that he doesn’t begin something that he can’t finish.  Some servers penalize users for leaving matches/games/rounds early.  Equate it to sports.  Can you imagine if your child was playing football and you walked onto the field in the middle of the 3rd quarter and said, “We’re leaving.  Now.”  It’s frustrating to not only the individual player, but the “team” as a whole.  Work on identifying what led up to their frustration and brainstorm solutions that are respectful to both of you.

That’s all he does all day!  This can have roots in several places.  If you’ve limited gaming (or Television, or food, or pretty much anything) – you’ve likely created scarcity.  Then, when children are given the opportunity they will “hoard”, trying to get in as much as they can in fear that it will be taken away again.  When the restrictions are removed and our children are secure in the fact that gaming is available at any time – they are emotionally free to explore other things.  Though, for some children, gaming IS their passion.  Which means that it isn’t a matter of scarcity, but of interest and they will continue to spend significant amounts of time on it.     Many folks complain that kids can’t “stay on task” or “focus more than a few minutes” – but when a child spends hours/days/weeks immersed in something, parents will complain about how much time is spent on it.  Even if your child wants to spend “all day” gaming, that’s OK too.  It is as valuable an experience as reading, writing, talking, and researching.  If you really pause and watch, you will see that they are doing all of those things as part of gaming.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

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 MinecraftSteamOriginRobloxSkypeFacebookTwitterInstagramSnapchatYouTubeSchool of DragonsLeague of LegendsKhan AcademyCoursera, 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 DLCNPCFPS, 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.  


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

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

Tips for Planning a Group Trip

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

Our family has enjoyed trips, events, and classes organized by others.  In the last few years we’ve coordinated campouts, field trips, seminars, and classes within the homeschool community.  We’ve been blessed with the wisdom that others have passed down and learned a few lessons ourselves.

Select a trip.  This might sound rather easy, but not all places are suited to the “field trip” mentality.  Many don’t offer any discount of their regular prices for groups or are not very homeschool friendly.  Some require a group so large and the trip is so specific that you’ll have a difficult time achieving the enrollment needed for decreased rates.  Visit these places, just don’t cause more work for yourself and your friends by “coordinating”.

Choose a place YOU want to go to.  Sounds silly, but nothing causes more stress than planning a trip your family isn’t all that excited about attending.  When you start coordinating trips, people will come to you with numerous places they’ve always wanted to go to.  If it’s an activity you think you would enjoy ~ fabulous, make it happen.  However, don’t hesitate to protect your “time budget” for trips that you prefer.  If someone really wants the other, they’ll make it happen.

Know your audience.  Be very clear in your description to others what the target age group is.  Ask the venue lots of questions about any minimum ages, availability of wheelchair & stroller access, bathrooms (I was surprised once to learn a park locked the bathrooms during the week!), etc.

Prepare to invest.  Yes, with a group rate you are often saving a significant amount of money (our last trip saved us $45 over list prices!) ~ but keep in mind that there is work involved in communicating with the venue and all your attendees.  Consider whether the savings is worth the “sweat equity” you’re going to put in.

Set Deadlines…and stick to them!  When does the venue require all the information from you?  Set deadlines a few days before then.  This gives you time to organize all the information.  Additionally, this is life – stuff happens.  If you only allow yourself a few hours to process registrations & submit them, you’re increasing the likelihood of mistakes or missing your deadline.  Use your judgement about allowing registrations after the deadline.  It’s OK to be firm to protect your time and sanity.

Require Deposits or Payment in Advance.  Unfortunately, there will be families that will sign up for free events and then fail to respect the time & effort by both the host organization and the volunteers coordinating.  For our homeschool group, we require a check be made out to the group for $15 before any registration is made.  If the family no-shows or cancels without finding a replacement, the amount is donated to the organization that is hosting us.   If the event has a cost, require all participants pay by the registration deadline or lose their spot.  This is especially important when receiving group discounts.  We had the unfortunate experience of showing up to an event which had barely enough to meet the minimum registered.  One family did not show and we ALL lost the discount, causing a significant increase to our per person cost.

Communicate.  I probably lean on the side of giving too much information, but it’s helpful to have everything gathered in one place.  Communicate by e-mail so that you have a record of what you have sent and what others have asked.  This is especially helpful for noticing trends of requested information or issues that commonly arise.  Which brings us to…

Learn from your past.  Each group comes with it’s own personalities.  Make notes of what went well and what you wish you could change.  Feel free to tweak processes and policies to better suit your needs and those of your group.

For more ideas on making your excursion enjoyable, see How To Have A Great Family Trip. Wondering Why Take Field Trips?


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

How to Have a Great Family Trip

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

At the time of this post, our family has been traveling, camping, and enjoying field trips with our children for over 12 years.  We’ve found two things significantly contribute to the “success” of a trip.

1. Being Prepared

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff & just enjoy the adventure.

Be Prepared

Know all you can about the event/location.  Where is it?  When is it?  Where is the parking?  Is there a cost or time limit for parking?  Are there bathrooms?  What is the target audience?  Is there a place inside or nearby to picnic?

Can they accommodate any special needs you have?  Can you bring outside food?  Is it appropriate for strollers or wheelchairs?  Is there an area for diaper changing or nursing?

Prepare your children for the event.  I’m not talking about “schooly pre-test” here.  Just have conversations with the children about the plans for the day.  It’s an excellent idea to cover proper etiquette for the venue.  Practice your “museum voice” together.  Discuss any family rules about distance from the parent (holding hands, arms reach, line of sight, etc.)  Plan where they should go or who they should talk to if you’re separated.  If applicable, let them know of any specific times for presentations, snacks/lunch, exploring or at least the order of events.     If it’s a family-led tour – sit down together & discuss what they’re most interested in seeing.  If there will be “extra costs” once inside that you’ve decided to skip (like the midway games at the fair), be clear with your children that it isn’t in the budget this time around.  Oh, and our kids’ favorite, “How long is the drive?”

Stock the car.  Nothing dampens a trip (and everyone’s mood) like having to leave because you ran out of diapers or the 4-year-old spilled his drink & doesn’t have another shirt.  Depending on how much room you have in your vehicle, consider keeping these things on-hand all the time.  If you’re tight on trunk space, prioritize on what is most important (or most likely to be needed) and be sure to bring it along.  We regularly bring: medication, first aid kit, change of clothes (even an extra shirt for Dad & Mom), extra snacks, picnic blanket, rain ponchos, camping chairs, Kleenex, a roll of paper towels, beach towels, and a collapsible wagon.  For longer car trips we also bring books, magnetic games, BrainQuest decks, and Audio Books.

Set a budget.  If you plan several trips a month, this will help you prioritize which trips you want to take and still stay within your means.  On more than one occasion we’ve been sad to have to cancel an event we really wanted to do because we “jumped” at other events in the meantime & spent all our Field Trip money.  Some questions to help you decide: What is the cost of the event for the family?  Do you have to prepay?  Do they accept cash, checks, &/or credit cards?  Are there any additional costs for extra activities/experiences once there?  What are the fuel costs?  Will you be bringing or buying snacks & meals?  How much do you have to spend on souvenirs?   Are the kids allowed to spend their own money?  Consider keeping envelopes for each event & putting the cash needed as well as what it’s for inside.  We have a separate checking account and a running ledger of what the money put aside is for.

Enjoy the Adventure

At some point, decide that you are as prepared as possible and you are just going to enjoy yourselves.  Don’t stress over small hiccups, be flexible, and keep the attitude that everything is a learning experience ~ even if it doesn’t go as planned.

Wondering Why Take Field Trips? or interested in Tips for Planning a Group Trip.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.

Why Take Field Trips?

Note: I originally wrote this in 2012 for my (no longer active) Houston Field Trips blog. -Rachel

No matter how your family approaches homeschooling, Field Trips have a great deal to offer!

As Unschoolers, we don’t have a set “curricula”.  Some of our trips correlate to an interest our children are currently exploring.  However, many provide the impetus to further explore a topic they have yet to engage.

Families utilizing other homeschooling approaches have also found Field Trips will enrich their studies.  A trip to the Civil War Reenactment complements a unit study on Abraham Lincoln.  Visiting a local Pioneer Farm brings Laura Ingalls Wilder books to life and gives literature-based based families hands-on experience.  Spending the day at the local state park is an excellent way for Charlotte Mason families to expand nature study beyond their own back yard.  The Houston Gem & Mineral Show enhances an online Geology class.

Many factories and businesses only offer the “behind the scenes” look to organized tours.  We have been blessed to see ice cream made at Blue Bell Creamery, hot dog buns at Mrs. Baird’s, and grocery store management at H-E-B.  Children (and adults) benefit from learning the ingredients and processes that go into their food.

I have to be honest, it grieves me a little to hear people speak of Field Trips as inferior to classroom or textbook learning.   Particularly, kinesthetic and visual/spatial learners benefit the greatest from time away from a desk (or dining room table).  Even while reading books, our son HAS to be moving in order to grasp the material.  Forcing him to sit still and face forward would be the equivalent of plugging his ears and masking his eyes.

Equally concerning is to “schoolify” a Field Trip with a litany of pre/per/peri/post- worksheets and tests.  It was disconcerting to watch a mom pull her son away from a hands-on demonstration, tap on the boy’s clipboard, and hear her say, “We’re not here  to spend all day at booths, just answer the question on the worksheet and let’s move on.”  He missed the opportunity to watch Civil War Era camp set-up so he could circle “none of the above”.

Have you ever had a huge family event (wedding, birth, vacation, etc.) and years later everyone remembers it differently?  You sit around and talk about what was special to you and what you remember best.  One person can distinctly remembers the music playing, another the food, another architecture, while you remember a special conversation you had.   Does that mean that others experienced it wrong?  No!   It’s wonderful that we each carry a unique impression and we compliment each other so well.  Consider blessing your children with the opportunity to observe, explore, and participate uninhibited.

Ready to get started?  Check out some tips for planning Family or Group trips.


Learn more about Rachel on our Contributors page.