game boy

February 19, 2015

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Desire is a powerful engine. As a homeschooling parent I harness it shamelessly. If my boy delighted in turning learning into games, I was game. Through T’s eyes, the Periodic Table was a glorious alternative Pokédex, each element a character with distinctive powers and potential to unleash chaos on other elements. Other areas of science, too, were grand battlefields of characters with varying strengths; he drew Pokémon-esque cards for the Solar System, for minerals, for spiders. He planned a videogame based on Norse myths—Don’t fall into Ginnungagap or you’ll die! —and character cards for his favorite Greek heroes: Ajax’s special power: Really Strong. Achilles’ special power: Invalnerable. (Just one letter off from invulnerable. Just one small spot on the heel.)

 I didn’t think much about what these fascinations revealed about T’s underlying talents, or his future. He was seven, eight, nine. He liked Pokémon cards and videogames. He was no different from a million other boys.

Except he was different. He couldn’t kick a soccer ball in the backyard without making some new game of it. “Let’s say hands are allowed if the ball bounces. Let’s say that you can only touch the ball once before you kick it. Let’s say that if the ball hits the path three times, you have to start over.” To which his dad would say, exasperated, “Let’s just kick the darn soccer ball!”

This is an excerpt from my latest column for home/school/life, in the Winter 2015 edition. It’s an exploration of my youngest’s lifelong love of games, and how that love has played out in his homeschooling. I’ve always known that games have been an continued interest of T’s, but it wasn’t until I started writing this piece, and looking back through my homeschooling notes and T’s project files that I saw how far-reaching and enduring this passion has been. It sort of blew my mind, and I’ve been right beside him all along. The notion that my kid has shaped his education around games, and in large part videogames, is a knotty topic, and it’s what I explore in the piece.

Did you happen to read the column? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts. One downside to magazine writing is that there’s not much immediate feedback–if there’s feedback at all. You’ve spoiled me so in this space: I hit publish here and you write back to me, and start up conversations! Come chat with me about this piece if you’ve read it, won’t you? Writing here alone at my desk, and then never talking about it is a lonely business.

(Here’s another piece of mine, for the bored without home/school/life subscriptions: a mini-essay from a couple of years back, on my oldest going back to college, posted on Medium. I love how the work looks so clean on Medium; I’m less sure about Medium as a forum for finding an audience. But I’m trying it out, and if you want to chat about the piece, or about Medium itself, or about what you’re cooking for dinner tonight, I am obviously sitting here at my computer, waiting for someone, anyone, to show up and pull out a chair.)



January 21, 2015
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Our two New York kids were home for Christmas. H went back a few weeks ago; Lulu is here for a few more days. It was pretty much the best thing ever, having all three kids home at once. It was also loud. My family is loud. Some of the family noise is good, don’t […]

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reasons not to blog

December 16, 2014
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It’s been a month since you last wrote, and two months since you wrote a real post that was more than a link to writing you’ve done elsewhere. How to catch up? Do you need to catch up? What are the blogging rules? It’s December, which makes you feel that you should comment on the […]

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pleased to meet me *

November 10, 2014
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The family in 1998, a few months after we started homeschooling. Homeschooling requires such faith. For most of us, it means striking out on terrain that is unfamiliar, that requires new tools. We want to believe that we’ll get where we want to go, that the journey will be good for our kids, but how […]

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required + reading

October 8, 2014
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“Reading time! Grab your book!” This is what I call out to Mr. T, who is in the backyard, walking circles around the trampoline, lost in thought. He gives me his usual just-a-minute and eventually comes in, pulls Hunter from the book basket and sprawls himself in every direction across the leather chair like an […]

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it’s a homeschooling magazine giveaway!

September 12, 2014
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photo by Shelli Bond Pabis I know that I keep bringing up home/school/life, the magazine I’m writing a column for, again and again. I’m just so impressed with what editor Amy Sharony is pulling together with a staff that could fit around a dining room table—and I mean one without the extra leaf installed. Her team […]

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the hardest part

September 2, 2014
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Coming home to the empty bedroom is the hardest part. She took all the things she loved, and cleaned up the rest. Filled bags with old Vans and ballet flats to donate. Now her room looks like a fake teenage bedroom in a suburban housing tract model home. The week before she left, she brought […]

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