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Motivating Teens, Education and Unschooling

by Beverley Paine

On the Unschool Australia online group the issue of children, especially boys, especially young teen boys, playing computer games obsessively comes up frequently. Some parents answered by offering reasons why computer games are educational and to relax because it's okay; others pointed out that it's a phase, especially if the young person is deschooling; and some offered links to reassuring articles. We worry so much about the activities our children chose to do, especially if they do them obsessively. Of course, if our young sons were playing chess obsessively we wouldn't worry as much!

What worked for me - to calm my anxiety and expectations - was to think about what I wanted and needed long term to feel okay about being a parent, helping to grow up this young person. To question my assumptions about education and to closely observe what was actually happening each day.

Fourteen year old boys have to live. Seems like a bit of an obvious statement until you pull it apart and consider what is involved in living. Lots of learning embedded in living.

My unschooling teen got up each morning, tidied his bed, made his own breakfast, fed the chooks and pets, chatted to me and then got on with whatever he wanted or needed to do. Sometimes that was being online - either researching something related to his interests (building/modifying computers or troubleshooting problems) or playing games.

After getting his own lunch he'd go back to that, but often would chat with me, perhaps helping me do whatever it was I was doing. As the afternoon drew to a close he'd complete his self-assigned chores: get the washing in, chop firewood, feed the animals, light the fire, then help cook dinner.

If we had a house cleaning day he'd help. If we were burning off or cutting the grass (we have four acres) he'd help. If I was running a home education conference he'd help.

From an outsider's perspective it might look like my son played computer games (or LEGO) all day. Some days it looked like that to me! However he was an integral element to the smooth running of the home and family life, being personally responsible and taking care of his well-being.

I understood that when he purchased a new computer game he'd be playing obsessively for a while and it would be difficult to get his attention. I learned to time some of our activities to match his available time. And to give him appropriate notice that his help was needed.

It is really easy for us to dismiss the everyday knowledge and skills embedded in everyday living. We focus so much on what has been defined for us as education and think we need to apply more of that. We don't.

14 year old boys are like anyone else - they like to do things with other people. What I found worked when I felt my son wasn't engaging with a wide range of activities was doing those things I valued with him. So many parents tell their children to do this or that, expect them to do it on their own, and to be motivated to do it on their own. Young kids through to young teens really appreciate company. Inviting my son to help me with a range of everyday living tasks as well as participating in activities that interested me also helped me feel less paranoid about his education.

I think unschooling starts to work really well when we start thinking about our children as people, rather than as children who need an education.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

"You've been an inspiration to me, I love the way
you really listen to people."

"Whenever I read your writing I always come away
with increased confidence in my ability to provide and
share a wonderful learning journey with my family!"

"Your guidance, understanding, support and words of
wisdom changed our lives. We now offer support and
organise many homeschooling events for others."

"Thank you once again for your prompt and friendly service.
I am convinced that your books are going to add
quality and peace of mind to my journey of teaching my kids
at home! Just from studying your website, until almost
2am in the morning, I 've been encouraged!"

"Thank you for all your many,many reassuring words
over many, many years. You probably don't know exactly how
valuable you are to the Australian Home Education community.
I've been reading your stuff for maybe 8 years or more now.
And I'm very grateful."

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Welcome to the World of Home Education and
Learning without School!

We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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