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Tips for Dealing with Criticism, Taming Gaming (Pt. 2), Uncle Lester's Word Game

By Heather Idoni

Added Monday, July 02, 2007

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 8 No 52 July 2, 2007
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2007 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- Taming the Gaming 'Monster'
Helpful Tips
-- Dealing with Criticism
Resource Review
-- Uncle Lester's Word Game
Reader Question
-- Would You Do it Over Again?
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

The second part of our short time-out to look at 'Taming
the Gaming Monster' includes answers to a question
from a member of our HomeschoolingBOYS.com email group.
Laura asks if we had the opportunity to do it all over
again, would we have 'done' the video games, etc.?

Answers to Laura's question appear below in our reader
question/answer segment.

Thanks for everyone who contributed to the topic -- it
was quite interesting to read everyone's wide and varied


Do you have comments to share? Please do!

Send your emails to: heather @ familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

Dealing with Criticism about Homeschooling


"We have had some very lively discussions with family and friends
when they first found out we were going to homeschool. I remember
that my husband's stepfather was especially upset. (He was an award-
winning public elementary school principal.) Everyone was worried
about our decision except us.

The main things we did:

1. We educated ourselves about homeschooling. I also learned a lot
about all different types and styles of education because I wasn't
completely sold on it myself. (My husband was sold before we ever
had children. He had been a newspaper reporter who did some human
interest stories on a neat homeschooling family. He always wanted
to homeschool our future children after that.)

2. We tried to educate our friends and family, always with love and
kindness. We tried to point them to materials that we thought might
help, but mostly we just had discussions. We took their concerns
seriously and did our best to answer them and to acknowledge when we
didn't know something. But ultimately, we had to be clear in our
demeanour that these are our children to raise, and that we plan to
do everything possible to do it well -- even if it's unpopular.

3. We let the results speak for themselves. Since our firstborn
learned to read very early, it became easy to say things like,
'Wouldn't it be silly to send him to Kindergarten, since he can
read at this level already?' They had to agree that it didn't make
sense academically. Then when he didn't begin to write until age 7.5
or so, we pointed out how nice it is that with homeschooling he can
progress at his own developmental pace, etc., etc. Nobody has even
said a word about our youngest son, who hasn't even begun to learn
his letters yet at age 4. It's been a process of family and friends
learning and adapting themselves along the way, too.

4. As for the 'socialization' question, there are lots of good
resources to help you answer that one. People always think they have
you when they ask about socialization. Sometimes you may waiver in
your commitment to homeschool because of this, too. I always liked
the argument that I want my children to be around people of all ages,
backgrounds, races, etc.--not be stuck in a classroom all day with 30
kids from the same neighborhood who are the same age, becoming
socialized in a negative manner on the playground. When my children
show they are comfortable interacting with adults and children, show
good manners (sometimes!) when eating in restaurants, and such, even
strangers compliment them and us about it. That has pretty much
extinguished what was left of the 'your-kids-will-be-freaks-if-they-
don't-go-to-school' argument.

I get a healthy dose of what's 'normal' just by observing the other
children in our neighborhood. They're good kids and, as a rule, do
just as well with other kids their age as mine do. Still, our
children shine when they interact with people who aren't their age
or in different surroundings. I think they will be better adapted
to life in the real world than I was.

5. Don't expect perfection. Sometimes we want to show our critics
our decision to homeschool is best by having our kids outperform
others in every way. I don't think it's a fair thing to do to our
children. I take every opportunity to point out to family and
friends my individual children's unique strengths and personalities,
anything that shows their specialness. I'm clear we are more con-
cerned with overall development of our children as human beings than
I am with academic achievement that won't help them later in life.
(I was an 'A' student who can first-hand attest to the fact that it
doesn't mean diddly after one gets out of school.) We focus on
relationships with each other, with members of our community, and
with these beloved friends and relatives who seem critical -- but
who actually are just especially concerned, as we are, about our
children's well-being because they love them so much.

6. There are a few people who may feel you are judging them and their
choices because you are homeschooling. We still get this, especially
with folks who are new to us. I try to avoid any criticism or 'sug-
gestions' with them and just say that we have looked at all the
options, that we still reconsider our decision to homeschool every
so often, and that we think it's what is best for our particular
children and family at this time. This tends to release their defen-
siveness. If they want to know more, they will ask. Otherwise, I
have let them off the hook for not joining me on this different path.

-- Gayla in Oregon

Adapted from a discussion on our Homeschooling Boys email group


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas @ familyclassroom.net

Resource Review

Uncle Lester’s Word Game

For more information or to order: http://www.hovdagame.com

'Uncle Lester's Word Game' has quickly become a favorite at my house!
In fact, after we played it the first night, my kids made it their
choice the next three times we had family game night. This game is
incredibly easy to play, with simple rules and lots of interesting
categories. It can be played by children as young as 8 and enjoyed by
adults as well. There are three versions available for purchase -
Student, Family and Bible.

We were given the Student Edition to review and after playing it
several times, we can't wait to check out the other editions. This
is a word game based on dictionary definitions. The game board has
a circular pattern that the playing pieces travel on. Each player
chooses a place to start and then rolls the 2 dice. One die deter-
mines how many spaces the player will travel; the other die determines
the difficulty level and the number of points that will be awarded
for a correct response. There are 11 different categories of defi-
nitions including Art, Music, Social Studies, Math, Science, Foreign
Language, Language Arts and more. Each category has its own color
space on the board that is coordinated with the definition cards.
There are several suggestions given in the rules for accommodating
younger players, making the game more challenging, etc. The first
player to get 20 points wins the game. It usually takes our family
of four about 45 minutes to play the game. Although we really enjoy
the game, we do get frustrated occasionally by the wording of the
definitions. We also found the music, art and foreign language
definitions to be a stretch for our sons, but we realize that they
are gaining new knowledge every time they play the game. You might
think that since this is the student edition it would really be too
easy for adults to play, but you'd be wrong! :-) The first time we
played the game our youngest son won. Of course, many of the Level
One definitions are quite easy for adults, but other levels are
definitely a challenge, especially if you don't have much knowledge
in the specific category. You will definitely want to have a dic-
tionary on hand!

I love a good story, and the story of 'Uncle Lester's Word Game' just
adds to the charm of this game. (You can read about how this game
got started at the website listed above.) At our house we believe
that learning happens all the time, and games are an important part
of the learning process. Uncle Lester's Word Game will help build
your children's vocabulary and thinking skills - but don't tell the
kids - they'll just think they're having fun! :-)

-- Cindy Prechtel, http://www.HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com

Last Issue's Reader Question

"For those parents who have older children... if you could do it again
would still introduced video games into you childrens lives based on
what you have experienced thus far? Is there any benefit other than
using them as a 'reward' system? Would you agree that most kids could
not 'self-limit' game playing? My son is 6 and I am looking for advice.
WE have always thought we would not introduce this into our child's life
because of my husband's brother (started playing at 9 and is now 20,
obese and flunked out of college... still playing), but it is so popu-
lar, I don't want him to feel like an outcast. He is quite responsible
and unusually self disciplined. Does anyone have any real POSITIVE
experiences with these games?" -- Laura

Our Readers' Responses

"Mother of a 13 year old boys here. If I had it to do again, I would
probably limit games more than I have. But sometimes I have found that
the more you tell a child they can't have something the more they
actually desire it. I think the saying 'all things in moderation' fits
nicely here. I have seen many parents be incredibly adamant that their
children not be allowed to have video games (and other things) and it
just seems that although they comply, they still long for those things.
Video gaming is not evil by any stretch of the imagination. It's the
games that can be so bad. Just choose wisely and your son should be
fine. He'll probably time himself out on them himself."
-- Sherri - www.sherrijohnsonministries.com


"Well, I have three adult sons, got divorced, remarried and now have
an almost 11 yo son. So in a sense, I did get a 'do over'. And this
time around I was adamant there be none of those in the house. I have
seen and experienced too much over the years, both with my older sons
and my friend's kids, as to the adverse effects of video games.

Now I do let him have a few computer games, but they are Sim City,
Roman Empire stuff, generally 'games' whereby he's learning and
thinking, and we don't have very many.

There's been lots written about the negative effects on children from
playing these games. So with that, and my personal observations, I
can honestly say I think kids are better off without them. I KNOW my
son is better without them. I don't judge others for having them,
however. Everyone needs to base their decisions about these game
systems on their own situations.

This son is far more creative, reads more, and is less likely to
complain of boredom than my other sons were or his friends who played
those things regularly. He gradually stopped playing with several
friends because they really didn't know how to play outside or be
creative inside. All they wanted to do is sit and play those darn

It was much easier to make this decision when I was pregnant and not
have to deal with it once it became a firmly entrenched habit. It was
easy for me because I had hindsight, and had no doubt whatsoever that
it was the right decision. I've never regretted it or vacillated
about it." -- Cindy


"I never wanted video games in my house and my husband always wanted
to get them for Christmas or birthdays. We did end up getting one
(and then 2, etc.) and I absolutely regret it! Some of it depends on
your child too. My oldest daughter (18) can play on her games and not
be so addicted. My boys, however, tend to be addicted to games. My
younger ones don't play video games, but they will play computer games.
I have to have my computer password protected so they can't get on. It
is unbelievable how bad they get (not behavior, just the amount of time
they would allow themselves to be sucked into it). My 16 year old
daughter seems to feel that kids who spend too much time playing video
games also lack social skills. My oldest son (almost 14) used to be
extremely social and now he tends to lack in it a bit (but some of that
can also be immaturity). My daughter has some friends that play a lot
and they, too, seem to not really know how to engage in conversation
very well. She's convinced that gaming addiction will warp your mind.
It could be that the kind of kids that are drawn to video games to that
degree might already be a little off socially -- who knows. I just
know if I could go back and stick to my guns about not having it in
our home, I would." -- Merri


"I think it's possible to not have it be a horrible thing if you are
really picky about games -- we bought the Wii for the children for
Christmas and we've all had fun (mama, daddy, and the children who are
old enough, which is four of them so far - two are too little). But
we do have it down in the basement which is kind of cold - nobody
hangs out there for fun, so that makes it easier to police!"
-- Stephanie in Canada


"If I had to do it over, I think I either would not have introduced
the game systems at all, or I would have at least waited until they
were older (11 or 12). We have lots of technology at our house;
sometimes that is a good thing and other times, not. Boys are by
nature visual creatures. TV, video games, and computer stuff, will
always have a pull for them. Because we have chosen to be involved
in our church's youth group and our homeschool group, my boys would
have definitely felt out-of-place if they weren't at least somewhat
familiar with video games.

As for the ability to self-limit game playing, I would say that most
boys would struggle to do that. Both of my boys have days when they
are really good in the self-limiting; other days they need to be
reminded. They rarely complain when I limit their time or tell them
it is time to stop (I usually give them a 5-minute window so I don't
frustrate them).

I have friends who waited until their children were around 10 to
allow the game systems and they started off with a limited play-time
arrangement. That is something I wish we had done when our kids
first received their game systems. Every family has a different
approach to video game stuff. My friend who also has boys that love
video games would tell you, 'Don't go over to the dark side!' :-)
As her boys have gotten older, they have become much better in the
area of self-control, but both of us have worked very diligently in
this area. Like any other 'easy' thing, it is easy to let game play-
ing be a good baby-sitter.

Pray and ask God for guidance - He is faithful!"

-- Cindy - HomeschoolingFromTheHeart.com


"My son has Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Hand-held and video
games have been a miracle for him! He has the kind of SID where
there is too much sensory input coming in for him to process it all.
It made him anxious and agitated. He had an especially hard time
with noise. He would run to me and pick his feet up off the floor
holding his ears and screaming when a motorcycle vroomed down the

One day we had to bring him into the church sanctuary with us as
the children's church was not yet built. He was so upset! My
daughter happened to have a hand-held game in her purse. It was
like magic! My son went from squirming and holding his ears and
whining to calm and focused for the entire service! It was only
later that we found out through a friend who's daughter has SID that
this is exactly what doctors recommend for kids with SID! It not
only calms them in the moment but it helps to retrain their brain to
focus on what they are doing and filter out the extraneous noise and
stimulation. Well, huh!

My son had a hard time with book work, lectures, being read to or
discussion when he was younger. He had to be moving and have his
whole mind, body and soul involved in the learning. Educational
computer games and video games have worked wonders! He has learned
so much. He taught himself to read using a computer game and the
subtitles on the DVDs at the age of four! It has been the best way
for us to school for a number of years now.

He just turned 8 and I am amazed that he is now much more calm,
focused and ready for things like bookwork and discussions.

Side notes:

* We do NOT buy him any games that have violence and we avoid games
that are not educational.

* We allow him computer games, gameboy games, leapster and leapfrog
games, but feel that a Nintendo or xBox would be an additional
electronic device that would take up too much of his non active time."

-- JoJo Tabares - www.ArtofEloquence.com


"I have to admit, we've been pretty strict about 'gaming' here. Our
son loves interaction with people, but there have never been many kids
near his age around us, and even fewer we (or he) were comfortable
with. His friends are mostly in our church, and have been in 'co-ops'
we've been part of here and there - and none of those kids live in our
town. He does love to read - fiction and non-fiction - which I am very
glad of. He did have an older Gameboy, which he constantly wanted to
play and would hide from us. He also chose to borrow games from
friends that he was well aware we didn't approve of, and hide those.
At one point, he figured out my password and was able to get himself
online, and went places where he definitely should not have gone (thank
God for 'history' - or else we wouldn't have known!) Because of all
this, we have found that we still have to set tight boundaries - even
though he is now seventeen - or he will not get his schoolwork or chores
done as he ought to." -- Elaine in NJ


"If we could do it over again, I would allow my son to start playing at
a later age. We let him start at age 4 because he watched his Daddy
and I play games and gameboys. He had so many problems with attention,
focus, and attitudes during the last few years that we have had to
revoke his privileges with the games for many months at a time. Through-
out the last eight years though, we have had a few positive experiences.
Our son read strategy guides and really studied them while he couldn't
play so that when he *could* play, he could get further. He now knows
to make sure his chores and school are done before asking to play. A
few years ago, since he was into Pokemon, I used Pokemon to help him
learn his multiplication tables. The Pokemon are numbered to 150, and
he KNEW them. I made up multiplication tables and worksheets using the
picture of the Pokemon associated with that number. It seemed like a
good way to use something he liked with something that he had a hard
time learning." -- Lynn


"Our two older sons are 16 & 14. Personally, I wish we'd never gotten
any video games, but that is just me. I have seen no benefits from them.
They do have a problem with limiting themselves in playing, although
they do comply to the time restrictions we set. I know grown men who
use video games as an 'out' when they should be spending time with their
families. I pray that our sons will develop the wisdom and self-control
they need in order to be temperate in this area, especially as adults."

Answer our NEW Question

Heidi writes:

"I’m trying to decide whether to continue home educating my daughter
who will start middle school in the fall. We all want to home school
again, but I don’t have much energy. My daughter hasn’t been obedient
lately, and I’m at my wit's end. Every little thing, like playing the
piano for twenty minutes, is a struggle. She’s lost all motivation
to do anything. We are not enjoying each other’s company due to the
strain. At least 'normal' school would hold her accountable for her
actions, and I would not be in the constant struggle during the school
hours. She would sink or swim.

I have never pushed her. She was identified as gifted in public
Kindergarten, and dyslexic and ADHD the year I brought her home. We
are tweaking medications and using the fish oil and supplements and I
finally have curriculum that would fit her perfectly, if only she would
DO it. I’d be happy with a couple of hours of effort a day. I’ve
tried to motivate with sticker charts and prizes, but that doesn’t even
work. I guess she's just too spoiled and doesn’t want anything enough
to work slightly for it.

Although I still love my child more than anything, I don't LIKE her
anymore, and nothing could make me sadder. It drains all my energy."


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