I wrote this article around 2012. My children were 9 and 6. We were living in India at the time. I feel like re-sharing this article today as I dwell upon Raghu’s passionate immersion in the world of video games for over 8 years.
At 15, Raghu, is still an avid video gamer and is active in several groups online. He adores his gamer friends and their shared humor, experiences, team challenges, support and much more. He thrives on the many connections between popular culture, music, politics, history, etc that come up in their conversations. And of course he loves the story-line, the graphics, the creative aspect of games, the sheer challenge of figuring things out and much more.
This article is still relevant today.
Shining with Video Games
I was trapped by the good-mommy-status I had conferred on myself when Raghu was little… timed sessions of TV and Videos, timed sessions with electronic things in general, only whole-grain food, no candy, no refined sugar, etc. I was coming from the perspective that these things sucked children of their imagination, education, nutrition, health, etc. I was doing what I thought was best for my little one.
One day, when Raghu was about 4, and we were already home-schooling, I was inspired by Sandra Dodd’s web page on Media and realized something crucial:
When I was 8, I was an avid book reader and would often find quiet nooks around the house or garden to read. However my parents would tell me to stop reading so much and instead go out and ‘play’. When I was 16 and in 10th grade and would watch TV detective shows, they told me to stop watching so much TV and read books (what happened to playing outside?) Now here I was trying to tell my son not to watch Magic School Bus videos or Little Bear on TV and go out and play or read a book. Where and when did the cycle end?
I learned then that I was controlling Raghu’s growth. Why was I so controlling? Fear? Of what? I had to dig within to go to the root of my fears. Ultimately the control was eroding Raghu’s Shine, his natural inclinations. His beautiful sense of self was being messed with. Raghu was not exposed to video games till he was almost 5. He took to it like a fish to water. Upon being gifted his first DS he would not give up on a game till he cracked it. I stopped fighting what was obviously to him a real fascination and to my surprise a real learning/education. I was just beginning to understand what ‘learning’ or an education truly meant.
Now when we consider what true learning is, what true education is… why do we not equate everything in the world…. biology, astrophysics, painting, dancing, video gaming, cooking, plumbing, carpentry, tasting foods etc.? Give everything the same value? We value an engineering degree to an apprenticeship in plumbing. Why? A lot, I found, was rooted in our understanding of the word ‘success’ or a ‘real education’.
Coming Back to my fears and thoughts – It took time to accept that Raghu was ‘learning’ through video games. He was engaged, focused, absorbed, intent… completely immersed in video games. He wanted to know when they were invented, why, how did the games come about, which characters, and what games did I play when I was little. He began to notice the music in different games, developed a love for Queen, Rock bands, and Pink Floyd (thanks to his Dad’s love for classic rock). Today he researches cheat codes, talks about cultural differences, languages, maps, directions, different genres of music like Blues, Jazz, scenes, characters and their development, life, death, real, unreal, philosophy, math, history, etc. to name a few. All kinds of learning are happening constantly – As long as I do not get in the way with my criticism or negative energy.
My role is to be the partner he can talk with, converse and discuss with and make connections with. He will often talk to me… starting with some random character in the game and end up talking about film making. Everything in the world is connected. He uses math skills, logic, reasoning, advanced language vocabulary etc. sometimes all in a span of an hour. He even learned all about guns simply through an Ipad App. He started to identify, classify and even talk about cartridge types etc. He eventually went to a rifle range and loved it. He was a good shot.
Trusting that my children gravitate towards what makes them shine/learn/happy etc. brings peace to all of us. This is important. It is important to honor our own needs and those of our children. Our family communicates, talks, figures out things together. And we do not undermine what we each love.
If I had a passion I wanted to pursue I would simply pursue it. I want to give my children that freedom. These days Raghu is talking about being a game tester, gaming critic and advocate for letting children play video games. He also wants to be a food critic… for someone who can identify many ingredients simply by tasting and is quite a gourmand, this is a real possibility. He also wants to pursue his rock climbing passion. I no longer view video games as bad or good. I only look to Raghu. He directs me towards what he needs. Or he finds it himself. What if I combined food, gaming and rock climbing and a couple of grenades thrown in… Well he might be the next online whiz who creates a gaming version of Masterchef and throws in a level where you ride a horse and hunt animals for the meals you plan… and then you climb a virtual rock-wall to get to the kitchen. Or maybe a giant video gaming relay race. I don’t know… does it really matter?
I embrace Raghu’s gaming and will help him just as I would have if he was asking to play tennis or asking for a class. It is all the same.
Now for those who want resources, research, articles, essays on the beauty of video gaming in unschooling families, please do look up the links I will be posting on this site. Various family dynamics, issues, choices, violence in games, connections, types of games, online gaming groups for unschoolers, future plans, careers etc. related to this topic are all being discussed and have been discussed endlessly. The material exists freely on the web, thanks to many, many committed moms and dads and grown unschoolers and people like John Holt.
Welcome to a world where we can let our children shine with their own inner light. Welcome to ‘Whole Being Learning’ and its possibilities.