Friday, June 25, 2010

To Facebook or not to Facebook?

Anyone who knows me, knows that this question surely couldn't be about me, as I have heartily embraced Facebook and espouse it's benefits regularly. No, this question applies to my daughter, and others in the "under 13" set.

Facebook's policies state that no one under the age of 13 is permitted to have an account on their site. Many parents do allow their children to have an account at a younger age, but in order to do that, they must lie about their date of birth. We actually allowed Big Sister to have an account a year or so ago because many of her friends around the country (and out of the country) already had accounts, and it's a convenient way to keep in touch with everyone all from one place.

Still, the whole thing didn't sit right with me. We live in an age where cyber-stalking and cyber-bullying have become more common place, and where we tell teens not to misrepresent themselves as being older because it can get them into trouble. I felt that we were sending our daughter a mixed message about internet safety at a time in her life when we need to be clear about our expectations for her behavior. Why should it be okay to lie about your age to deceive Facebook when you're 10 years old, but not okay in other situations? What it boiled down to was that I didn't want to condone lying on the internet in order to access places where my child doesn't belong.

Yes, I know we can adjust all her privacy settings and restrict who has access to her information. I am aware how fabulous Facebook is as a tool for kids to keep in touch with friends and relatives who are otherwise more difficult to be in contact with. I see how kids can be wonderfully articulate in writing their status updates. All of these benefits don't outweigh for me the blurring of the rules I feel we should set for our kids as they start exploring and making a place for themselves on the internet. I don't feel that it's unreasonable to require our kids to follow the policies and terms of use of an internet site, and I certainly don't want to set a precedent that sometimes lying is okay if it gets you into a place you don't belong.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Like clockwork

I knew we were coming into the end of May because I started re-evaluating all of our homeschooling materials and methods. I do this every year at this time! It's, not that I do it intentionally - I don't have "Have a Homeschooling Life Crisis" marked on the calendar, but it seems to happen to me every year around this time. I find myself noticing everything that my kids do NOT know, and trying to figure out how to cram in everything from ancient chinese history to sentence diagramming to how to re-build small motors. The world is a complicated place, with a long past and an even more complicated future - my kids need to be ready for that! Right? The weight of my children's futures on my shoulders.

There are a lot of cool programs, resources, curriculum, etc. out there on the market, with vendors ready to prey upon my insecurities as a homeschooling mom. I know that I could spend $600-1000 today, and still find myself hyperventilating next May. Thank goodness I know that about myself now (you should see the pile of oh-I-can't-get-rid-of-that-because-we-still-might-use-it-someday homeschool "stuff"). I think it's important that homeschooling parents aren't complacent, and I believe re-evaluating things from time to time is worthwhile. Revisiting your homeschooling goals, and knowing what you want out of your homeschooling is a good way to stay focused.

I have two primary goals in our homeschooling:
1. To help my children learn the skills required to teach themselves anything they should want to know.
2. To help my children to become effective at verbal and written communication.

And I have a whole laundry list of secondary goals...
1. That my kids will have plenty of time for unstructured play, to get down to the business of being kids.
2. That my son and daughter will be more than siblings - they will see each other as friends, and learn that friendships aren't restricted to same-age peers.
3. That my children will be properly socialized. That is to say that they will learn how to behave appropriately with people of all ages, particularly adults (given that they will spend most of their lives as adults).
4. That they will discover their passions, and have the opportunity to explore those before going off to college and wasting thousands of dollars trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives.
5. That my kids will see that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, and not to be afraid of the road less travelled.

So after this most recent evaluation of our homeschooling, I am doing some minor tweaking. Nothing earth shattering. I'm mostly trying to get refocused, and also pulling Big Sister into this process more (or attempting to). I'd like to introduce the concept of goal-setting for each of my kids because I think they are failing to see the value in working towards an end result. Rarely are goals "magically" achieved. I know that I enjoy the hardwork of pushing past an obstacle to obtain an end result, and especially the feeling of achievement when I get there. The hard part is when the goal is not something you've set for yourself, but one that someone else sets for you, and right now it seems that my goals are not necessarily their goals. It's revelations like this that make me feel for classroom teachers who are trying to sell a goal to a room full of uninterested students. At least I only have a room of two semi-interested kids of my own!