Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Tech Savvy

10 Months Post Harvey: Early Summer 2018

Well, spring has well and truly faded into summer. Even though the official start of Summer isn’t until July, in Texas, we all know that summer actually starts in late May. At a certain point, everything gets all melty, and that’s how you know that it’s actual summer, and that there will be no relief for the unbearable heat anytime within the next several months. When you live in Texas, you just have to learn to accept this as fact and move on. It means no more hikes; no more outside anything, really, unless you count the walk between the air conditioned ‘indoors’ to the air conditioned car or any time spent at the pool.

When last I posted, we found our intrepid heroes wrapping up homeschool co-op for the year, going to prom, and (as seems to be, forever) working on repairing our house post-Hurricane Harvey. That was back in April, so I have a couple of months to cover before you’re back up to speed, dear reader.

As ever, we’ve been busy, though not really with a lot of schoolwork of late. We took some time off because I was out of town, and there were a couple of weeks when Loverly Husband was also off work, so house-work became to priority. Although it doesn’t look it, we’ve gotten quite a lot accomplished; most of it is just behind the scenes. We’re about to start on the kitchen, completion of which will put us on the downhill slope towards being totally repaired. All that will be left post-kitchen is the master bedroom, bath and the office. Then we’ll tackle some outside projects, but that’s so not the focus right now. We did remove a wall; our house was built in the 1960’s, when open floor plans weren’t a thing. Our living room was an odd rectangle, but with a door on every wall, making furniture placement frustrating and entertaining impossible. We took the wall between the living room and kitchen out, making the whole center of the house one big room. I’m excited to see it finished. We have finished with texturing and painting, but still have the ceiling fan and vent covers to put back on, and trim work. We’re planning to do the living room and kitchen trim all at once. In any case, it’s definitely coming along.

School-wise, I found that trying to pretend like things were ‘normal’ when we really still aren’t solidly living a normal life in our house was not working. Despite trying to keep up and on a regular schedule, it was really hard to keep the kids on task and myself organized to help them. I have long been an advocate of ‘trying something new’ when whatever you’re currently doing isn’t working out, so I decided to enroll the boys in an online school. We’re using Acellus for the time being. I don’t know if this is permanent yet or not, but it’s going well for now, and lends a little more freedom to me and organization to them, plus they both have said that they like it (for now) and I am very grateful for that. Because our school year for 2017-2018 was so very interrupted, our schedule has been sketchy. In the Spring, we took a few weeks off to accommodate travel, illness, Loverly Husband’s vacation time and other productivity issues, but have been solidly in-session for the last couple of weeks now, and I feel like they’re making good progress.

That said, let’s recap! My last post was in April, so picking up where I left off…
Our homeschool group hosted an outdoor survival class at a local park. One of our families has an older daughter who lives in CA and works as a ranger-type for Girl Scouts or CampFire, I don’t remember which. She’s all about teaching though, and volunteered to take our students for a hike with an outdoor lesson. We had a great turnout, and the kids enjoyed having someone closer to their own age doing the teaching.

Afterwards, we spent some time with family. Spring is crawfish season in the South, and we’re nothing if not slaves to tradition. Unfortunately, my sister and I are allergic to shellfish, including crawfish, so our crawfish boils look a bit different than most people’s. The potatoes and corn and Zummo’s all go into the seasoned water first, then into a cooler once cooked, then the mudbugs go in all alone. My kids are, however, not allergic, and ate their fill. As per the usual, any time we get the kids together, we try to make them all stand still for 5 seconds to get a photo of them. This time, we even got my dad in the mix.




We’ve also logged a couple of teen socials with our homeschool group… the kids are a little older now, so I don’t always get pictures of them, but I do usually get a shot with our little mom’s group. We’ve hit the pool, a couple of local coffee shops with regularity, and our local froyo bar, OrangeLeaf, is another popular spot. We also hit up a burger joint for lunch one day instead of just coffee. They have an area that could generously be called an ‘arcade’, where many shenanigans were enjoyed.


We visited the Houston Health Museum in May, complete with Lab time for the kids. We’ve done this before, and it’s always fun. This time, the main exhibit was a series of kinetic sound machines/experiments/tech called BioRhythm… really interesting stuff. There was also a really weird film that was a trio of really bizarre looking people who had musical instruments borg-ed into their flesh. There were 3 separate videos that started off individually but eventually synced to make a ‘band’ of sorts… or st least a cohesive rhythmic noise. It was weird, but probably the thing that’s stuck with me the longest. True art, I’d say… something that someone creates that you just can’t forget about, and really creepy, which I totally dig. It was called BioMen, and was created by Chaja Hertog from the Netherlands. I think the videos are even on YouTube now.

It’s not been all work and no play; Loverly Husband and I slipped away to Houston with some friends for a weekend away. We went to the Death By Natural Causes exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science without the kids, and had dinner at an amazing steakhouse called Fogo de Chao, then stayed at a downtown Houston hotel for the evening. It was a lovely little mini-break!


In other news, our homeschool group organized a Marshmallow gun challenge using PVC pipes. We set up an obstacle course for them, then sent them off to play battle games while we watched. It’s gotten so hot out that I’m amazed they had as much energy as they did.

A couple of our lovely homeschool friends contributed to a local art show, which we absolutely couldn’t miss. The theme was floral related, and the art work was amazing. There’s a tendency to say that our town is ‘boring’, but there is so much to do and see, especially within the art community lately, if you just look for it. It’s always been that way, but more so in the last few years. The city launched a beautification project recently that invites local artists to paint traffic control boxes around town. I have several friends who’ve painted boxes, and a couple more in the works. The city has also opened up some park benches to get the same treatment, and we’re talking about having our homeschool group do one as a group project.

Our Mom’s Night out events are always fun; we’ve been joining a local mothering group for their Hoops & Wine nights lately. It’s been a lot of fun, with a little bonus exercise tossed in for good measure as well. It’s really nice to get to chat with some of the moms in our homeschool group without kids; we have a pretty diverse group of moms in our group, and I always really enjoy spending time with them in a grown-up environment.

For my BFF’s birthday, she wanted to take a road trip, so we did! It was really spur of the moment, and such a great time. I’m not usually a spontaneous person, but I’ve been giving being more laid back a try, and it was really relaxing. We drove through Texas to Colorado, and stayed in Air B’nBs, so we spent 3 nights and 4 days really inexpensively. Last time we made this drive, it was nighttime, and we missed a lot of the scenery across west Texas. This time, it was still light, and we passed Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo. I have seen this online before, but thought it was in Arizona or something; I had no idea it was in Texas! We stopped and got pictures. It was wet and muddy, and there was a ton of trash, but it was still pretty cool.


PeaGreen shares his birthday day with his BFF, TabasocBoi, so they had a joint pool party to celebrate. PeaGreen is officially 15 now, and TB is 16. They donned Birthday Dictator hats for the duration, and bossed everyone around. They seem to have enjoyed themselves, but this demonstration reminds me that it’s maybe a good thing that my kid doesn’t have any real power (because he might be a terrible person {wink}).

Somewhere in February, back when RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars 3 was still on, my friend Michelle found out that Trixie Mattel was going to be coming to Houston, and tickets were pretty cheap, so we snagged a quad pack. Fast forward to the end of June, and Trixie had won All Stars 3, and was still coming to Houston, but now with a crown. We took a weekend trip, and had a great time, complete with breakfast crepes al fresco at CoCo’s in Midtown.

4th of July has always been a ton of fun for us, since PeaGreen’s birthday is the 5th. Since we’re still not finished with our house, we spent the evening with friends. Once it got dark, the kids took to the streets with Roman Candles and Harry Potter spells, or at least we tried to convince them to use HP spells… they were less enthusiastic about it, but did a couple just to make the moms happy (and we love them for that).

Loverly Husband was on call the week of PG’s actual birthday (and we like to make the celebration last…), so we took PG out for a birthday Dinner at a local Italian eatery. PG is all into pasta these days… making, cooking and eating, and requested that we each get a different pasta dish and share. LBB opted out, but we still ended up with 3 different pasta dishes and more than enough food to bring home.

‘ice cream for breakfast while we have the car serviced’ selfies.

This past weekend, we finally broke ground on the kitchen; we are moving our refrigerator to a recessed closet off to the side so that we have access to our back door again. Our kitchen was TINY, and when we bought our kitchen table set a few years ago, we realized too late that the table was a bit bigger than we’d thought. The configuration of the kitchen meant that the only place to put the refrigerator was in front of the back door, so we blocked it off and the fridge has been there ever since. When we took the wall out between the living room and kitchen post-Harvey, it opened up more possibilities, so we’re taking advantage of that now (and I’ll have a back porch accessible through the kitchen again – yay!). We have the closet framed and sheetrocked; next up is to built in the cabinet overhead, then we can start on pulling the ceiling tiles so we can insulate and do the new lighting, then sheetrock. It’s just the beginning stages of a massive project – probably THE main project since we’ve been doing recovery work, but we’re finally on it and I am so glad!


We also saw our friends perform in their summer workshop play with Orange Community Players in Heroes & Villains Too! The Quest for Shmeep.

In other news, July is Camp NaNoWrimo, and I am at 15.8K of 25K words, so I am pleased with myself. I’ve never been this close to hitting a target word-count within the time frame, so I am feeling confident that I will win (for the first time!). If you’re a writer-type, Camp (10K word count) is a good way to get your feet wet in prep for November, which is the big project: 50K words. I have no idea what I am going to write about in November, but I hope it works out as well as this month is going.

That’s pretty much everything for the last couple of months! Just trying to keep up so that I don’t fall completely off the face of the earth between posts.

How’s things with you?

13 Reasons Controversy

It’s been a while since I’ve come across something in the homeschool world that makes me sit up and take notice, but this is one of those things that compelled me to write about it. There’s a new series on Netflix that you may have seen. It’s called 13 Reasons Why, and it’s based on a YA novel of the same name by Jay Asher. It’s about a high school girl who commits suicide, but leaves behind a series of audiotapes intended to be passed around to the people she holds responsible for her death.

**general spoiler warning** If you haven’t read the book or watched the series and don’t want details, you should probably stop reading this post until after you’re read/watched it. 

Also, to clarify, I am not advocating either watching or avoiding the series for its own sake. If your child is talking about it; if their friends are watching it, then I absolutely advocate watching it, because chances are your child will see it one way or another.

Apparently, there are a lot of feelings about this series; A LOT of feelings. From the outset, I’ll say unequivocally that material that sparks discussion about mental health, depression, bullying and other issues that teens (and young adults) face has a place in the public eye, period. Even more-so if it engages teens, who tend to be most at-risk for suicide. Whether you agree, disagree, like it, hate it – whatever: discussion about topics that we, as a culture, tend to file under ‘taboo conversational topics: Do Not Engage!’ is a good thing. It’s a necessary thing. And it’s about damn time.

Full disclosure, I’ve watched the series; I have not read the book. My children (13.5 and 15 at the time of this writing) have neither read the book or watched the series*, but both said that they ‘might’. I’ve told them that it’s fine if they do; to let me know if/when they do so we can talk about it. I also gave them a synopsis of what it’s about, gave a warning about graphic rape scenes and drug/alcohol use, and mentioned that there are things that Hannah (the main character) says, thinks and does as a result of disenfranchisement/bullying/potentially undiagnosed and untreated depression that aren’t ‘reality’; and that we need to talk about it during and after they watch it. We don’t generally censor what our kids watch; I’d rather know what they’re watching so we can decide if we need to intervene or talk about it than have them sneak around watching things behind our back. We’ve set standards for them that have gotten more permissive as they’ve gotten older; I don’t think we let them consume anything that isn’t age-appropriate. You may disagree, which is why if my kids come to your house, they’d have to follow your rules (or the lead set by your kids, which may be very different from your ‘rules’… but I digress). And before you lose your mind over that, we a) have developed trust with our kids based on communication and experience and will continue to base our decisions and permissions on that trust; and b) can still monitor when we feel the need to, because parental controls and history/system checks on media are a thing that exists and we reserve the right to record and check as needed. Also, to clarify, I am not advocating either watching or avoiding the series for its own sake. If your child is talking about it; if their friends are watching it, then I absolutely advocate watching it, because chances are your child will see it one way or another.

In any case, my point is that we talk about mental health issues fairly often in our house. I was diagnosed with clinical depression (major depressive disorder) in 2006, and with severe generalized anxiety disorder in 2011. I take medications, supplements, use tools like apps, meditation practice, journaling and a focus on self-care as part of my management plan. They’ve seen me manage my own mental health issues and heard me talking about it with others a lot. Along with some of the other moms in our homeschool group, I went to a teen mental health first aid course and got certified as a ‘teen mental heath first aid practitioner’, and our teens are participating in a semester-long mental health course through our homeschool co-op, using curricula and resources from and other similar sources. I say all of that to tell you this very scary fact: seeing and knowing and doing all that doesn’t make my kids suicide-proof. That’s hard to read; it’s hard to admit. But it’s the truth. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

The reason I started writing this post is because, like many homeschooling parents, I’m in quite a few internet support groups that focus on homeschooling. It’s generally helpful, and sometimes I learn new things there, or find tidbits of new information that I want to use in our school career. other times, I come across things like this:


Okay, fine. You don’t want to watch it, then fine. But let me tell you this: if your kids want to watch it, and their peers are watching it, then even if you think it’s ‘poison’, then you should damn well be watching it, too. If for no other reason than because you should be informed of what’s going on in and around your child’s world. Changes are, if your kids’ peers are recommending it, then your child is going to figure out how to watch it, with or without your approval.

And hear this: if your opinion is so strongly negatively stated, do you think that your kid is going to come to you to talk about what they saw if they watched it without your permission (or in spite of being explicitly told not to watch it)? Nope. So your precious snowflake is going to be left alone to figure it out, or have only the influence of his or her peers to guide how they process the show. Not only that, but as a parent, you’ll miss out on being able to clarify the points that need to be made throughout the series about how Hannah could have made different choices, or how her friends could have, or what your child’s options are in different scenarios.

And then there’s this, which makes my eyes want to roll right out of my head.

ARE YOU FRIKKIN’ KIDDING ME?? Also, it’s extremely bad form to tell a parent who literally has experience with this situation that it’s not reality when it is very much their reality. I can’t even imagine how awful it would be to have your child survive a suicide attempt. I can imagine it would be harrowing, and that you’d be on red-alert all the time. To have your child attempt it again? I can’t even imagine that kind of pain and stress and anger and hopelessness.

To their credit, the moderators of that group very quickly deleted that comment thread. The post itself is still up, with decent discussion both for and against allowing/encouraging/discouraging (and some outright forbidding) students to watch, and decent discussion about whether the series addresses teen suicide and bullying appropriately or not. The discussion was relatively civil and productive, with good points on all sides.

From the message thread, the article lists these reasons why ‘not’ to watch (edited for clarity):

  1. This show was overly graphic. …  These rapes are gritty, horrifying and not something your children need to actually witness just in case they need to deal with something like this. They did a good job of showing Hannah (the girl who committed suicide) and how she felt during the rape, but watching her body writhe with each “thrust” was completely unnecessary and not something we needed to watch in order to understand the gravity of the situation.

  2. The suicide toward the end of the series might as well have been a handy dandy how-to graphic for how to kill yourself.

  3. The other big problem I had with the suicide was the build up, the entire series lead up to Hannah killing herself. Which isn’t different than in the books, but for some reason, they made it feel like a big reveal, an event that you were waiting on. Something exciting. Suicide should never EVER be exciting. And I was disappointed that they depicted it as such.

  4. They glamorized Hannah, the girl who killed herself. They made her out to be this big amazing person that everyone remembered and was heartbroken about after she left. ….  the series made this about her, like she left some sort of legacy only a dead girl could leave behind. Why would you want kids to think their lives will only have meaning after they die?

So, obvious warnings are obvious; Netflix rates the show as TV-MA, and included content warnings on the episodes that have the most graphic content. The author of that post’s child is in 6th grade… so, not 17… but she may be mature enough to handle watching the series with her mother nearby; that’s a decision that each parent needs to make. I don’t necessarily disagree with the author’s assertions in the context of her particular child. But to give all parents a ruler by which to measure their own children is ridiculous.

But to take this one point at a time… first, I don’t think it was overly graphic for the audience intended. As mentioned previously, the rating is TV-MA. It’s more subject matter than content that garners the warning. There’s no nudity; they do a damn fine job of conveying the horror of one girl (Jessica) being raped while under the influence of alcohol, and of (Hannah) witnessing it but being unable to say or do anything to prevent it due to her own trauma without being, in my opinion, overly graphic. They didn’t rush through it; they didn’t gloss over it; they didn’t give you an out as a witness to what was happening, either visually or audibly. You, as the viewer, endured it with them. Not only that, but you were flashed back to it at different points – just moments or glimpses – but the trauma is revisited over and over again, unpredictably…. just like in real life. That, to me, is one of the biggest arguments FOR watching it – exactly because of how well-done this particular aspect of it was. Not only that, but in the production commentary (the last episode of the series), they specifically talk about how Hannah never said the words ‘no’, or ‘stop’ or anything, really, when she was raped. It was clear that she did not want to have sex, but she never said no. That makes a conversation about ‘victim blaming’ necessary. Talking about it is one thing. Seeing how it happens is another. Was it rape if she didn’t say no? After seeing it, it’s painfully obvious that she was, in fact, raped. In some religions, because she didn’t scream, or say no, she is considered guilty of fornication. That scene puts an entirely different face on that circumstance, and is fucking *necessary* if you’re a young woman growing up in a religion that teaches that.

Secondly, you don’t need to give kids a ‘how to’ guide to commit suicide. If it’s on their minds, then they’ve already thought of it or imagined it or planned how they’d do it. I was about 12 the first time I ever thought about killing myself, and by 14 I had a concrete plan. I was raised in a pretty strict household as far as what we were allowed to watch – nothing rated R, no horror movies, nothing overly sexual or violent. I never needed anyone else to tell me what to do. I never got as far as an actual attempt, but  I didn’t need to be ‘influenced’ by outside sources. All those thoughts and ideas came from right inside my own head. Showing it isn’t going to ‘give them ideas’ or convince them to ‘give it a try’. That’s a huge myth, and yet it persists because people – parents – don’t ever want to face the reality that kids have very real pressures in their life and may lack the tools to deal effectively with them. A further truth is that some teens have mental health issues that are undiagnosed.

Today’s kids, younger and younger every year, are under an enormous amount of pressure. Their brains do not work the same way that adult brains do; they process information and experiences differently than we do, and they lack both life experience and time to understand that what they feel today isn’t going to last forever. As an adult with depression, I can tell you that in the depths of a depressive episode, even with life experience and the clear understanding that those dark feelings don’t last forever, sometimes forget it. That’s why depression is an illness – because it messes with your brain. Not talking about suicide because you ‘don’t want to put ideas in their head’ is stupid and reckless. By the time I was 18, one classmate and 1 friend had committed suicide, with several others hospitalized after suicide attempts…. and this was back in the 90’s.  Now, there are things like cutting and other forms of self-harm. It’s a real thing. Real kids do it. Your kids might do it. My kid might do it. We might not necessarily know about it. Again – there’s that scary place to think about – that our child might be in pain and in harm’s way. But avoiding it doesn’t make it go away; it makes it more dangerous.

Here’s something it’s important to understand about suicide: people don’t do it because they’re healthy and thinking clearly. People who commit suicide see death as the only way out. Out of suffering, of being a disappointment or a burden on others (friends and family), out of the confinement of struggling every day just to live. I also think it’s important to understand that unless you also struggle with depression or anxiety or another mental illness, you can’t know what it’s like to reach that point; to get to the point that thinking or feeling like ending your life is the only way to be free. This is probably one of the best images I’ve ever seen that illustrates that feeling – everything is so awful that death looks peaceful in comparison. But, because of the stigma that depression and mental illness carries, it’s incredibly hard to talk about. That’s okay; talk about that, too. Tell your kids that you’re scared for them. They need to know that.

The third point is an idiotic one, imo. You begin the series knowing that the girl killed herself; but one can hardly tell the story without flashbacks. As the viewer, you get multiple insights to the story – Hannah’s perception as she tells it on the tapes; the recollections of her friends and classmates; and a ‘narrator’ view, which features Hannah in a somewhat less than ‘perfect’ view. I disagree that Hanna’s suicide was built up to in order to sensationalize it; I think the flashbacks gave a fairly well-laid out progression of the deterioration of Hannah’s mental state and circumstances that led to her making the decision to kill herself. Starting off with the suicide scene, or downplaying it wouldn’t make sense. I think showing it the way that they did was appropriate; it was graphic and horrific and terrifying and lonely and sad – everything that suicide is. This feeds into the next point – they didn’t glamorize her; quite the opposite. I saw a bunch of people who gave lip service to mourning a girl they barely paid attention to when she was alive. That’s not glamorization; that’s tragedy. Her life didn’t have meaning after she died; her life ended. That’s what death means – you’re dead. No more life to live; no more chapters to your story.

Here’s what I saw, first and foremost: I saw a lot of kids with a LOT of problems, and mostly absent or distracted parents. I saw a lack of communication; a lack of courage (courage to speak up when you see something that you know is wrong, to defend someone else, to start a conversation, to say the thing you want to say, to have a voice at all); a lack of trust and confidence in the adults in the kids’ lives. I saw obvious warning signs (drinking, drug use, heavily tattooed under-aged teens – you don’t get those from hanging out with fine upstanding citizens… because it’s illegal) that no adult acted on. There are SO MANY things to talk with your kids about… for me to talk with my kids about.

I think Hannah is responsible for her own death. She kept things to herself when she could have talked – at any point – to the people around her. If not peers, then adults. She felt like she didn’t have options, and that’s where the adults in her life failed her. But it wasn’t a one-time thing; it was systematic. It was something that went on and on for a long period of time. Her parents were distracted by real problems, but they were distracted nonetheless. Her friends also had real problems, but each person in Hannah’s life that she sent the tapes to also had options. Not necessarily a responsibility towards Hannah, but options for how they handled their own situations that led them to whatever thing they said or did that Hannah ended up blaming them for. Hannah did a terrible thing… several, actually. Playing the ‘blame game’ helps no one; absolves no one; is fair to no one. Suicide is a tragedy, but ultimately, the person who ended their own life is the one responsible for that decision. There’s a discussion on ‘suicide revenge’ that should probably happen as well. This isn’t a new concept; Marilyn Manson’s Coma Black has the line ‘I kill myself to make everybody pay‘. Hannah left tapes to explain/punish those she held responsible, and ultimately let herself off the hook for her decision in both deed and via the tapes. That was a shitty thing to do.

As a parent: TALK TO YOUR KIDS. Tell them that you have issues; that you don’t understand them or their culture, but that you are trying. Let them teach you. Don’t play the disinterested parent-role; don’t let them think that you have all your shit worked out. If you haven’t learned shit-management techniques in your 30+ years on the planet, then you probably didn’t pass any down to your kids, so they’re likely in need of those tools anyway. Let them know that life doesn’t just magically work itself out when you turn 20 or 30 or 40. It’s still a struggle, BUT you learn coping mechanisms on the way that can make it easier. Be an example – take charge of your own issues. If your issues are affecting you kids, then for fuck’s sake, get help, and include them in the process. The other half of this is LISTEN TO YOUR KIDS. Trust them when they tell you that their life is horrible (instead of giving in to the righteous anger that we love to fall back on and list all their privileges and blessings so they’ll see how entitled they’re acting and shape up). Getting angry at them for being ‘ungrateful’ instead of listening to what they’re telling you can lead to a teenager who doesn’t feel like you’re a source of support. Trust that they’re using the best vocabulary that they can, and help them find better words to express what they’re feeling. Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers without giving in to the temptation to be all judgmental or looking for ways to punish them to opening up to you. You can’t have open, honest communication with a teenager and then censor how they talk, or try to shape their expression into your worldview. Listen to see where they are at and meet them there. Then cover new ground together. It’s okay to be lost, or not know what to say. Tell them that; they need to know that we don’t have everything all figured out either, and that it’s okay to learn new things (like how to handle intrusive or overwhelming negative thoughts). It’s also okay to seek outside, professional help. In fact, that’s something your kids should already have – access to suicide hotlines and a network of adults that they can trust to talk to.

In closing, I think people tend to forget that TV and book characters aren’t ‘real’ people; they’re amalgams of multiple people, or archetypes that real people don’t fit into exactly. Real people are so multi-faceted and multi-layered that no book or TV character could ever get it just right. No real person is as one-dimensional as a character; and no situations are quite as simply laid out as real life scenarios are. This book and series, and others like it, create discussion opportunities for parents to guide their teens., and I believe that’s what the series is intended to do. Whether you allow your child to watch it or not, there are some real-world things that today’s kids face. There are real-world situations brought up in that series that I believe it is entirely worthwhile to talk about with your kids. Whether you choose to use the series as a conversation starter, or some other method is up to you – but have the conversations with your kids. Please.


* When I started this post, they had not. After I asked, I guess that brought it to their attention, and LBB (15) decided to watch it. At the time of this post being published, he’s about halfway through the series, and we’ve had multiple discussions about it – big ones, little ones, talks at the dinner table, talks in the car… sometimes just a comment here or there, sometimes more drawn out.


I Allow My Kids to Play Violent Video Games

Hi there. I’m a parent, and I play violent video games. I have never killed anyone,  mugged anyone, maimed or raped anyone, robbed a bank or knocked over any convenience stores, or lived through the Zombie Apocalypse or fought in any Alien Wars. I also allow my kids to play violent video games. 

I consider myself an AP parent, with all of the lovey-dovey concepts that go along with it in full practice.  I also consider myself a  ‘crunchy’ mom (scoring 157 on the crunch scale), and I do not find these lifestyles incompatible with allowing my children to experience and participate in video game violence. I thought that I would start off with that clarification so as to give you, dear reader, an idea of where I stand on this issue. 

This topic comes up quite a bit in my group of homeschool friends. Most of us have gaming kids, and they often play together online. The confession of which games our kids play is almost always admitted with a shy smile, ducked head and almost shameful countenance, like we’re divulging some horrible secret. I grew up watching Bugs Bunny (of sarcastic, cross-dressing fame) and Daffy Duck/Elmer Fudd/Yosemite Sam trick and try to kill each other with horrifying regularity. Then there was Wile E. Coyote, with his unlimited spending account at Acme. Co., try, and fail (often with self-destructive consequence) to off the Roadrunner. Other cartoons, Captain Caveman, Tom & Jerry, Ren & Stimpy, the terminal stupidity of Beavis and Butthead… all had their share of cartoon mayhem and violence. I grew up with video games, like Super Mario Brothers (where the Mario Brothers begin their reign of murder and 8-bit violence on the animal population of Mario World within the very first frame), Contra (where there is nuthin’ but killin’, especially with the ‘up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start’ cheat code, which allowed a wholesale killing spree virtually without consequence). Though the graphics have improved, the violence in video games nowadays is more often in story format now (movie format, even) and in many, you can choose your path to be less or more violent.

Articulating why I allow my children to play such games is often elusive. Being able to pinpoint exactly why I don’t find them as threatening as Media portrays them is very difficult. But I came across this article on The Escapist by Shamus Young called ‘Violent Video Games are Awesome‘ that does a wonderful job explaining what I haven’t been able to. Katie Couric apparently brought this topic into the limelight yet again(with a beautiful critique by Chris Person on Kotaku), and tweeted for the public to respond with the positive side of video game violence, and Mr. Young’s reply was, in part, thus:

“This is a really pernicious way to continue the conversation. Imagine if I argued that nose piercings caused brain cancer. To support my argument, I talk about two people (there’s a robust data set for you) who had pierced noses and who also had cancer. And then I ask everyone if there’s anything positive about nose piercings. Instead of defending my ridiculous and shoddy argument, I’ve put the opposition in a spot where they somehow have to justify the existence of the thing I’m attacking.

It’s hard to give the positive side of lots of things: Celebrity gossip shows, greasy food, rock music about sex and drugs, trashy romance novels, and shallow Bejeweled knockoffs for Facebook. You can’t show the societal benefit of this stuff. That doesn’t matter. In any kind of civilized world, you shouldn’t need to prove that your entertainment benefits society. That’s not why we make or consume entertainment.

The argument is taking the angle of, “since these games [maybe] cause violence, and since they have no redeeming social value…” and then letting the audience take over from there. Couric doesn’t need to dirty her hands arguing that violent games should be banned. She can just construct a narrative where that’s the obvious conclusion and let nature take its course.”

I’ve only quoted a small section of his rebuttal, and I encourage you to read the article in its entirety. His assessment of Ms. Couric’s methods are spot-on, and his reasoning is quite sound. Many of the points that he makes, including that of the regulation and compliance of video game manufacturers to  appropriately label their products being far superior to other warning labels, are points that never seem to get brought up in the ‘great debate’.

Another issue lacking in the ‘great debate’ is parental supervision. Aside from the fact that these are MY KIDS and I am the one who gets to decide what they are able to handle and allowed to do, the push to ban video games wrests this decision from my hands and puts it into the hands of a one-size-fits-all government. It implies that I, as a parent, am incapable of making the decision as to what my child should and shouldn’t be allowed to do.

As their parents, Loverly Husband and I have what we consider reasonable rules about video game violence. For one, our kids are not allowed to play games in which you are killing people. So, no ‘Call of Duty’, no ‘Rainbow Six’ – most realistic ‘war games’ are out. However, killing fictional monsters? A-OK. ‘Halo’,’ Gears of War’, and cartoon video game violence (Mario, Sonic, Ratchet & Clank, and the like are all fine). When they are allowed to play games with a more mature ESRB rating, they do so with language and gore off, so no huge blood spatters and gratuitous swearing. This is far less ‘violent’ than movies like even Harry Potter, where people start getting killed by kids in the first movie, and get tortured by wicked adults more or less throughout the franchise, or Chronicles of Narnia, where a sibling group of children lead a war of men and fantasy creatures alike, or Avatar, where an entire civilization is razed in grand American fashion for land and money, then rises up to kill their oppressors (which is what the Native Americans are still being punished for… and the American government is totally fine with that, even to the point of celebrating and revering the perpetrator of this horrific injustice with a national holiday). I dare say that’s done more to desensitize people to real violence and atrocity than killing off fictional invading aliens in a video game.

Another rule for us is that Loverly Husband usually plays it first. There are definitely games that they are not allowed to play – my personal favorite ‘grown up game’ is the Dead Rising franchise; zombie killin’ sprees all around. Games like  Alan Wake and L.A. Noir are off the table for the kids. Resident Evil, BioShock, DeadSpace, Grand Theft Auto, Saint’s Row… all are off limits to our kids.

I realize that other parents have different rules for their kids, violent video games or not, and that’s fine. That’s as it should be. When my kids go to friends’ homes that have more restrictive rules, they abide by them. When they visit friends who have less restrictive rules, they are required to follow house rules where they’re at (which means that occasionally, they may play video games that we don’t allow, but in the grand scheme of things, that’s okay with us).

One aspect of this argument is woefully ill-addressed. The constant assumption in this debate is that given the opportunity, kids will always choose violent video games just because they’re available, over others. That’s certainly not true in our house. PeaGreen plays Minecraft on creative with no mobs (no killing at all) more than any other game, ever. LBB’s favorite franchise is Halo, but it’s not just limited to the games. He reads the novels, instruction guides, watches videos of game strategy – it’s more than ‘just a game’ for him. Do they get carried away with it sometimes? Absolutely. They’re both focused, intense kids. When the game gets too consuming, we will either cut back of go for a full media ban for a while (which we’re currently doing in prep for summertime). The same could be said of any recreational activity. Balance in all things, right?

The bottom line is that I don’t think that there is a correlation between kids playing video games and being violent. That logic is post hoc ergo propter hoc. Violence is far more likely in children with underlying issues: depression, behavioural problems, un-diagnosed food sensitivities, developmental disorders, family issues and the like. But these issues are almost never brought up as the reason a child exhibits violent behaviour; instead video games are used as a scapegoats because we want something/someone to blame, and a ‘quick fix’ solution, even if it’s entirely mis-directed. We conveniently tend to forget that:

“Violence is (and always has been) a part of the human condition. From war to child abuse, murder to school-yard bullying, violence takes its toll, often with children being the innocent victims (or occasionally the not-so-innocent perpetrators).”

Loverly Husband and I use common sense and knowledge of our kids, and communication with them to determine when something is within their ability to handle, and to help them understand the difference between entertainment/fantasy and reality. They’re not stupid. They understand that what may be acceptable in a video game is not how one would act in real life. They’re old enough to get that what they do and experience in an entertainment format is vastly different than real life, and we have done our best to ensure that with communication and supervision.

Allowing them to play violent video games does not make me an uninvolved or unconcerned parent, nor do I believe that it increases my children’s tendency to act in a violent manner. On the contrary, we are extremely involved in our children’s lives, and have been told to have an enviable relationship with them. Judge me if you will, but make no mistake about our interest in their welfare.

But if you need more ammo in order to cast me in the role of ‘bad mother’, I also let them listen to heavy metal and rock music, never used a trampoline net, allow them to play near a snake-infested pond, shoot guns and own archery equipment, and occasionally buy them a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go teach my kids about evolution and sex.


Mothering Magazine posted a ‘where’s your blog‘ post on Facebook today, so I’ve spent much of this evening (child-free that it is, thanks to my sister graciously taking my heathens for tonight in exchange for my taking hers tomorrow since Fred is on Spring Break this week) browsing some awesome mama-blogs whilst watching television.

Since I’ve been hit by some of them, I thought I’d recommend a few (you know, in case your reader has been looking a little light lately). Not all are homeschooling blogs, but they caught my eye and I’m sure you’ll find them stimulating as well. If you’re a natural/crunchy mama, then the original link above will bring you all kinds of blog-linky goodness for days.

Stay at Home Mayhem‘s definitive posts on self, life and motherhood make for fun reading (pun intended… because she titles her posts with a word, then defines it and expands upon it in the text.) Clevah.

Mt. Moe Academy – “Make the Most of Every Day”, aka ‘Mt. Moe’ features posts by all the members of the family – a neat concept that, while not particularly wordy, has great pictures and great ideas. Be sure to check out the awesome pianos in Can You Play?

Pink and Green Mama is a former teacher turned stay at home mom with over 400 crafty activities to make and do. We’re particularly enchanted with the pine cone elves. It’s a Christmas decorating post, but we’re thinking they’ll look great as fairies in our living playhouse once the flowers climb and bloom!

Renegade Mothering has her fair share of sass and apparently the most beautiful baby on the planet. I’m thinking she might be biased because clearly, she hasn’t seen MY babies, but that’s neither here nor there. Her ruminations of the changes that year 9 brings to the mother-child dynamic brought tears to my eyes (so naturally, never one to suffer alone or in silence, I want to make you people cry, too). Go read it and tell me she didn’t hit the nail on the head.

And through her, I found Checking the Electrical Box. I’m adding the directives in Driving Miss Crazy to my living will immediately. Continuing to read requires a coffee-warning: no drinking while reading lest your computer suffer incalculable damage (unless your extended warranty is expiring soon and you need a new one – after all, that’s what ‘accident’ means, right??).

Blog on!



Disclaimer: While I do, in fact, read all of the blogs in my blogroll (located in the sidebar), I need to clarify that I don’t read them all in one day… or even check in as often as I should. I just wanted to let you know that so you don’t think I sit on my butt for hours at a time reading blogs. Because that almost never happens. Really.

Sunday Surf for Oct 2

Since ”Tis the season” for holiday and fall fun, that’s the direction many of today’s links are headed. We’ve been getting costumes planned and executed, crafting and getting ready to decorate this past week, with more of the same to come this week, so I think I have some pretty cool stuff to share!

I found a NY Times article, Expanding the Creative Horizons of Your Printer that gives you a ton of cool ideas and links for stuff that you can make with your lowly printer. We homeschooling moms already know quite a few tricks that the printer can do – this will help you really put that machine through its paces and show it off. (You may have to register to view, but it’s free only about a 2 on the ‘1-3 Annoyance’ scale)

I also found the coolest Jello Shot site ever, My Jello Americans, which has some spooky ‘The Jason Voorhees‘ shots. In addition to those creepy blobs, there are some really pretty ones, made with edible glitter and sparkly stuff. Some of my favorites were the Surrender Dorothy and Castle on a Cloud. I’ve actually never had a Jello Shot, so I’m really interested in making some of these.

In another act of shameless self-promotion, I’m again linking to my SparkPage – not because I particularly want everyone and sundry oogling my weight issues, but to hold myself accountable for following through with what I started. I’m on day 7 – one week in. Gold star for me! If you’re a mama with weight issues and care to share and walk with me on this journey, I’d love for you to contact me there. I used a few years ago very successfully and know that they can help you, too. In a related point, I am planning on running in the Gusher 5K in February, and so am starting the Couch to 5K plan. I found a neat ‘trick yourself’ tip on the glasses you drink from.

Back to Halloween crafting, I am making these little coffin treat boxes for our homeschool group’s party. Super easy and really cute, I think they’ll be a big hit. I also really like these black cats and paper mice for picture frames, steps, baseboards and windows. We might make these awesome paper lanterns, too. I’ve wanted a Halloween Tree for a couple of years now – we may have to make that happen this year. Here’s a really pretty one, with instructions. We’ve talked about doing window-sized decor for a while; I like these, but we may do a different print on them, and make them from orange fabric instead of white. And last but not least, I think these little pumpkin treat pouches are adorable.

To wrap up Banned Books Week, here’s i09’s list of sci-fi books that have been banned for your perusing pleasure. There are other lists on the ALA’s website, but since I’m a sci-fi geek, I prefer that one. {grin} Anyone care to share the ‘banned books’ that grace your personal library’s shelves?

If you’re a fan of taking pictures but not a student of photography, then you’ll LOVE Google’s Picasa 3 photo-editing program. It’s free, automatically imports your picture files and is usable within minutes of downloading, and best of all, you can use it for PC or Mac. The newest version is also linked to another favorite photo-editor, picnik, which has different options and effects and will also allow you to re-size a picture. Another tech-savvy point I’d like to bring up is that IE sucks. If you’re still using it then it’s taking too long to load your pages. I’d recommend anything else, though I am partial to Google Chrome.

I’m not typically big on ‘self help’ type stuff, but I thought that Simon Sinek’s “It’s Not ABout What You Do, but Why You Do It” was pretty neat. There’s a 20 minute video that’s worth watching if you have a good idea but are faltering on the execution.

That’s all for today, I think. I hope you find something worth checking out! If you’re not participating, then as always, please take this as your invitation to share what cool stuff you’ve found on the web this week with your own version of the Sunday Surf. For more Sunday Surfing, visit Enjoy BirthBreastfeeding Moms Unite,Domesticated WomenMaman A DroitHobo Mama andBaby Dust Diaries.