15 Minutes of Fame is our look at World of Warcraft players of all shapes and sizes – both the renowned and the relatively anonymous. Know an interesting player you'd like to see profiled? E-mail us your tips.
What would happen if you let your child stay out of school to explore whatever she is most interested in doing, for as long as she wanted to do it? Would she end up playing World of Warcraft all day long? This week, meet a mom who not only lets her kids play WoW whenever they want to – but many days, she's the first one to log in. For the members of The Venture Co. server's <Horde of Unschoolers>, it's a lifestyle and educational approach that's not as outlandish as it might sound. It's called "unschooling," and thousands of families find it just the ticket to a creative, individualized education.
Meet <Horde of Unschoolers> matriarch Takulah, mom to two WoW-playing unschoolers and a WoW enthusiast in her own right, after the break.
Before we talk to Takulah, a little background on unschooling. Also known as "child-led," "interest-led" or "inquiry-based" learning, unschooling is a style of home educating that follows a child's individual and developmental passions. "Interest-initiated learning works well for children with a deep, abiding interest or hobby, as well as for students with clearly delineated goals," writes Karen Taylor in the California Home School Network's The California Home School Guide. On the flip side, she admits, "Some say that unschooling results in educational gaps, holes in a student's knowledge."
Gaps? Many unschoolers worry about those later, rather than sooner. Unschooling is more a whole-family lifestyle than an educational approach or curriculum. Unschooling parents strive to deluge their families in a rich stream of educational opportunities and "real life" experiences. The aim is to give kids not only the space to discover their own interests but also the tools to dive in when they're ready to "fill the gaps" with gusto.
If that sounds like a full-time proposition for parents - it is, and it should be, asserts Dr. Mike Sacken, a professor of education at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas. "Boy, you can't be casual about this!" he exclaims. "If someone wants to be able to do this, they need to be available full time, guiding the child's inquiry-based learning. It's not like you can leave a child alone most of the time and at the end of the day, you can do reflection with them and they'll have discovered physics. You have to be with them all the time."
Are unschoolers actually succeeding in college and later in life? According to Sarah Spooner, senior admission counselor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, they most assuredly are. "These students are really well motivated, have done their homework and done their research," she affirms. "They're the type of students who excel when they get on a college campus because they can keep themselves in check and make sure they're doing well and succeeding."
Doing well and succeeding in their own right are The Venture Co.'s <Horde of Unschoolers>, a guild of unschoolers and parents. We visited with Takulah, 68 hunter and mom to two unschooling kids, ages 13 and 9, to see how she makes it all work.
A horde of unschoolers
15 Minutes of Fame: So here's a question I'm sure you get a lot -- what exactly is unschooling?
Takulah, <Horde of Unschoolers>: Freedom to learn and grow, to explore questions and passions. My job is to help, chauffeur, provide opportunities, share interesting things (goes both ways between kids and parents). The answer to this question is considerable. For lots of information, try SandraDodd.com or JoyfullyRejoycing.com, or Google "unschooling."
How long has your family been unschooling? What got you started?
We've been unschooling just shy of six years now. My 13-year-old got me started when school didn't work for her and a curriculum in a box caused tears and frustration rather than fascination, enjoyment, curiosity.
And so here you are in World of Warcraft. Tell us about the Horde of Unschoolers. What inspired you to start the guild?
An unschooling dad started the guild as a way for kids and parents (most of whom know each other from unschooling conferences) who enjoyed the game to play together.
Are all HoU members unschoolers, or do you allow other members as well?
As far as I know, we're all unschoolers in the guild. It's a place where unschoolers who know each other from conferences or online can play, so there are some parameters.
How old are most guild members?
All ages. There's a group of kids ages 6 to 11 who play almost daily, a few teens who play often and parents who play regularly.
I understand you all use Skype to communicate in game. Is that something you use for other things, too? Have you tried out the in-game chat system?
We use Skype to communicate mostly in WoW, but (also for) other internet things also. Haven't tried the in-game chat system yet.
Does Horde of Unschoolers raid or PvP as a guild, or does everyone follow their own interests?
We don't really have enough high-level characters for a raid ... I did hear of one raid early on that ended in "Run away!" We do a fair amount to dungeons together and help each other level. Some of the kids go to a farm in Durotar or other place and roleplay.
Do your kids have time limits or restrictions on when or how much they can play WoW?
My kids don't have a time limit to play WoW -- and since it is not put on the "Pedestal of Scarcity," it is played freely, like all the other things they do.
Do you consider WoW part of your kids' educational experience?
Everything is educational; learning happens all the time. Anything one does or doesn't do adds information to her body of knowledge, no? For us, WoW has led to many interesting conversations and research. For instance, one time my son and I played with a couple of guys from Brazil. One of the guys only typed in Portuguese; the other guy would translate. We got to learn a few Portuguese words, look up Brazil, check time zones. We got to make a connection with stories from my husband about the time he was in Brazil (seeing shanty towns and eating the most tantalizing coconut pudding).
What's a typical day for your family? How does WoW fit in?
Our typical days are easy going days filled with eating, cooking, playing, questioning, reading, exploring, caring for pets, watching, concentrating, drawing, building, relaxing, pondering, writing, experimenting, researching. WoW is played intermittently through out the day, when I have some time. My son plays for considerable chunks of time with several kids.
Tell us about your family -- ages, WoW main characters, things each character enjoys in game.
I have two kids ages 13 and 9. They both play WoW.
My favorite faction is Horde, and I like ranged attackers -- it is easier to see what is going on around me in the game. My main is a level 68 female troll hunter, Takulah. She's been the pioneer of the game for me, seeing new zones, learning the ropes. I also have a level 49 female blood elf priest (Talukah) who I'm playing in battlegrounds right now, trying to learn to be a better player at PvP. And lastly I have a level 40 male troll mage (Zeb), who is just downright fun. It is so satisfying to throw a Pyroblast and see a nice chunk of health eliminated from my target! Heh, heh. I'm also getting into roleplaying a bit. There's a lot to learn in that aspect. So far, I have basic personalities for my characters and can sort of speak like a troll.
What other games do you play? What about your kids?
WoW is the only online game I like right now. My kids also play Puzzle Pirates, Second Life Teen, Warcraft 3 and Sims.
What does your family enjoy doing when you're not playing WoW?
Scootering, roller skating, knitting, reading, watching movies, swimming, caring for pets, cooking, drawing, building things.
Let's hear it from the rest of the family: what do you enjoy most about playing WoW with Horde of Unschoolers?
Luke, age 9: I don't know ... I just like, love it, I guess! ... questing, dungeon running, roleplaying, stuff like that. (Takulah adds, "Really, I think he is too busy in his life to stop and answer questions; I do see him having lots of fun on the game with his friends.")
Addi, age 13: I'm always excited to gain a new level. I spend my talent points right away. I'm good at organizing groups, I like dueling and I like *cough* killing Alliance *cough*.
Thanks for sharing a look inside your lifestyles and WoWstyles. Best of luck, and happy learning and gaming!
Know an interesting player you'd like to see profiled? E-mail us your tips.