“Unschool your kids,” they said. “It’s so fun,” they said. “You just follow their interests, it’s easy. My kid learned about 12th-century blacksmithing! My friend’s kid taught himself differential calculus so he could figure out the optimal size fuel tank for his homebuilt airplane! I heard of a 6-year-old who got so interested in Navajo culture that she taught herself to speak the language and then composed raps in Navajo about the problems of the reservation system.” Blah blah blah.
What does my sort-of unschooled kid choose to fixate on, to build his whole self-guided curriculum around?
Oh, you know.
The Pokemons. Gotta catch ’em all.
I’m trying to stay positive about this. I am. It is hard.
“Hey Silas, want to do your Star Wars writing book?”
“No thanks, Mom, it’s boring.”
But then he creates this, copying words from his exhaustive Pokemon reference book:
And yes, he can read every word of that. But if I ask him to read me Go Dog Go? It’s too hard, how dare I even ask such a thing? Riiiiight.
He’s learning to read and compare three- and four-digit numbers, especially when I’m disciplined about refusing to answer him when he asks me to read the numbers for him. Instead, we go through the whole rigmarole about “How many are in the hundreds place?” etc. Silas can sort his 500+ Pokemon cards by the HP of the characters. I taught him to alphabetize them yesterday, and showed him how to make a bar graph of how many he has for each letter. He can do some basic multiplication because in the Pokemon game, some of them take double damage from particular attacks or something.
He’s learning strategy by playing the card game.
We’re even getting some science in. One day, he said, “Why are electric types weak against ground types but strong against water types?” and then we had a long talk about that.
Pokemon is good for learning word roots! All the names of the Pokemon are puns, and some of them rely on knowing the Latin word for an animal, so we’ve been covering those as they come up. Now that Silas knows they have these roots, he’s excited to learn more of them, so he always asks about that, which is fun.
JC lets him play some kind of gameboy game about Pokemon, but he refuses to read any of it for him. Right now, it’s pretty frustrating, but we think he’ll figure it out soon.
He also lets him play Pokemon Go, which is teaching him about reading maps.
He only gets about 20 minutes per day of Gameboy/phone time, so he makes slow progress on those, but he enjoys them.
I also love that Pokemon does include some female leads, although a lot of them are pretty stereotypically girly.
So…that’s me making lemonade out of an obsession I’m totally over. Maybe his next big thing will be less of a stretch toward making it feel like “school,” which really is just about my own insecurities.
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