Thursday, December 13, 2012

Time Well Spent

pie chart guilt
Saturday has traditionally been the one day a week the boys have unlimited computer time.  On days we are schooling, they can't use the computers for games or watch videos that I haven't assigned, until after their school work is finished.  They rarely finish school work before 5pm.  When you add in the time we spend eating supper, potential away from home evenings, and bed time prep beginning no later than 9:30pm, they really aren't racking up that many hours most days.

But then comes the weekend.

My children are two very different individuals.  EM has generally been up with the sun most of his life.  JT will sleep until I drag him out of bed.  But on Saturdays, they share a mission.  EM sets his alarm and, with JT's permission, wakes him up so they can squeeze as many hours of computer gaming as possible into one day. 

I sleep in and am happy to let them interact with glowing screens.

Saturday evening, around 8pm, we were having a discussion about the number of hours they had wasted (my word) on screens that day.  They were trying to argue that they hadn't spent most of the day in front of their computers.  I started drawing a pie chart to prove them wrong.  The green sections in the picture represent time spent either playing computer games, using the Wii, or watching videos.  We don't have television service in our home, so it's only what we own that they can watch.  But they weren't watching documentaries on Saturday.  They were watching the Three Stooges.  So they can't even try to argue that was educational.  When they saw the percentage of time they had spent on computers was nearly double the time they had spent on other activities that day, they made the wise decision to spend their last waking hour playing with LEGOs.  They also planned to wake up early Sunday, before we needed to get ready for church, so they could spend more time playing together with the LEGOs...not on computers.

Ah, the clarity that cold, hard data can give. 

But...computers also played an important role in creativity this week.  It all started when JT got in trouble for picking on his brother and lost his computer privileges for the day.  During the desperation of withdrawal, he had to come up with a way to be allowed to touch his computer...even if it meant in an educational sort of way.  When they lose privileges as punishment, we do allow them to continue to use computers for schooling.  Otherwise, they might not regret the loss quite so much.  Playing the system, JT knew if he told us he needed to work on a project, he might be able to fill his need for computer interaction.

ready for battle
LEGO armies are a familiar sight in my home.  Both boys must have rooms with tardis-like capabilities, otherwise the volume of LEGOs they own could not possibly fit in a small bedroom.  Usually, there is at least one battle going on in the middle of someone's floor.  Conquering armies travel from one room to the other.  When I'm not feeling especially prone to tidiness, they even end up in other rooms.  The games they create are elaborate, with point systems and more rules than any normal human can keep straight.  They are also big fans of Pokemon and have regularly played the card game together.  They haven't branched out into other collectible card games yet, thankfully for my credit card bill, but they love the concept of these types of games.  This week JT decided to make his own game using his LEGOs for inspiration.

rough draft
JT created a few different characters from his LEGOs.  Then he employed EM, the photographer of the two, to take a few pictures for him.  JT then asked if he could use the computer to make his template for the cards.  Up until now, whenever he came up with an idea for a card game, he always wanted to draw them by hand.  I'd suggest making templates to simplify the process, but he didn't want to invest the time learning to use PaintShop Pro.  Having to choose between using computers to design his cards and having no computer time made him suddenly see the light.  He asked for a little help from his dad getting the pictures into the program.  From there he quickly created a sheet of cards for a test run on the game.  A couple days later he had a full deck ready.  They have played the game several times and it seems to work well.  Soon he will make a few grammar corrections on the cards and reprint them on card stock instead of regular printer paper.

The battle is about to begin.
It always amazes me how the boys work so much harder on a project that they have designed on their own.  I know that's the way it's supposed to work, but my traditional school thinking wants them to be just as committed to writing an essay that I assigned as they are to creating some incredible bit of work from their own imaginations.  If I can just push those voices screaming, "They'll never make it to college if you let them spend all their time playing games," to the back of my mind a little more often, maybe they'd manage to get a valuable education.

Plus, it won't hurt if they keep losing their computer privileges from time to time.

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