left to their own devices

Here’s a deleted scene (a chapter I cut at the last minute) from my new ebook, Unschooling: The Honest Truth.

Besides the socialization question—and the math and college and what about doctors questions—the one I get the most is probably: If left to their own devices, won’t most kids just play video games 24/7?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: I addressed this in Manifesto, but let me elaborate some more.

Exhibit A:

In the book, Schools on Trial, author Nikhil Goyal talks about Brooklyn Free School, “an independent school with sliding scale tuition and a mission of education for social justice.”

From their website: There is no one way to learn at Brooklyn Free School. Our students are challenged and supported by a community of self-directed learning. At BFS we have no standardized curriculum, no mandatory testing, and no grading. Our teachers work with students to develop curriculum that supports their passions and their growth, and our lessons leap out of the classroom and into our neighborhood, city, and wider world. Our curriculum fosters self-confidence and self-motivation, as students learn that they are equal partners in determining their educational paths.

Louise, a student who started attending Brooklyn Free School as a sophomore in 2012, says she spent her first few weeks nervous, shunning people, trying to figure out what she thought about it all. Students at the school call it “detox” and say you have to get school out of your system, which can take weeks, months, years. “Detox is a confusing period for you. I spent it watching television on my laptop. After a while, it doesn’t feel good to watch television for twelve hours a day. It’s not satisfying.” (147)

Exhibit B:

My friend Erica’s six-year-old unschooled daughter, Marie, is allowed to decide for herself how much screen time she gets. Why?

“We decided a while ago that we didn’t want to regulate Marie’s screen time,” Erica says. “Instead of it being a limited commodity, we want her to learn to self-regulate it. And, while she goes through different periods of more or less watching, she is more likely to get bored with it or put down the screen in favor of music or something else. It’s amazing to watch her learn and grow in that.”

Exhibit C:

A few months ago, Ava was constantly on YouTube on her phone. She had seemingly little desire to do/care about anything else. This went on for days and days. I was a little concerned, but she was struggling with anxiety/depression, and I knew she needed it right then to numb the pain/worry.

One day I heard an alarm go off on her phone in the middle of the day.

“What’s that?” I asked her.

“It’s my alarm to tell me to get off YouTube. I started doing that because I don’t want to spend so much time on it. I don’t feel good when I do.”

She had actually put her phone down long before her alarm went off. Read a chapter of a book. Did some exercises. Wrote in her journal.

I was so proud of her for knowing herself, knowing what was good for her and what wasn’t, and being disciplined to find other, healthier ways to spend her time.

Exhibit Uh-Oh:

Just as this ebook was going to print, I realized I needed to add something if I’m really going to be writing HONEST TRUTH.

My whole entire family (minus me) has been playing this online game called Pub G for the past couple weeks (at various levels of “addiction”).

We’ll see what happens.

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