Growing Up Online

My son is 7 years old and home-schooled using a mixture of unschooling and formal schooling. One skill that has been slow to develop is reading. Leapfrog produces a wonderful wee gadget called the LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Alphabet Set that takes refrigerator alphabet magnets to a whole new level. My son received this Leapfrog toy around the same time he was able to walk under his own steam. He used his new-found ability to walk up to the fridge door and play for long periods with the letters. Thanks to all that play he has known his letters for a long time but putting the letters together and reading has taken almost another 6 years.

Thanks mostly to online gaming his desire and ability to read have taken off in the past several months. Yes, my son wants to read so he can play games online and communicate with his online friends. He plays a 3-d immersive game called Free Realms and for right now that is also where he is gaining one of the main talking points of those who fear homeschooling – SOCIALIZATION. This is going to be a contentious subject over the years. The major fear of those who don’t like the idea of homeschooling is how our children will learn to socialize. My son is learning exactly the same lessons children have learned for centuries in a whole new way.

Here is a typical childhood playground scene, all the older kids are having a blast playing a game together and there is one annoying younger kid that wants to play too but doesn’t have the same skills to be on the same level with the rest of the kids. There will be some of the older kids who will take pity and try to include the younger but ultimately it is pretty darn annoying. Right now that is my son. He has enough skills to get around, play the games, communicate awkwardly, and put together a wee house for himself. Right now he wants more furniture for his house and is wandering around asking the other kids for furniture. He is hoping someone will trade but his skills at asking and managing the trade are primitive. Most of the kids exit the scene as fast as they can.

My husband and I are trying to talk to him about how to properly interact. It struck me that this is the same type of conversation most parents end up having with their children. Our kid is only different because he experienced the playground politics online instead of offline. We don’t intend for him to gain all of his socializing online, he participates in other activities offline with other children, but it is interesting that he will gain some of it online. I wonder how this is going to set him up for interactions in the future. Will it put him ahead or behind his peers? As more and more of our life moves online our children need to learn to navigate that world. My child is already learning his life lessons both on and off line. Is this the way of the future?

Home Schooling, Living Online, Parenting

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