I've been lurking for a few weeks (well, ok, since May, LOL) and I am
enjoying all of the discussions.

I have three children. Katherine is 16, recently took her HS
equivalency test and is starting community college full-time next week.
She is studying Japanese, has bought herself 2 GameCubes (one for the
family, one for her room), has a part time pet sitting gig going, and
people mistake us for twins (ego-boost to this almost 40 yr old mom, I
can tell ya!)! Christopher is 13, ADHD, profoundly gifted and 13 (LOL).
He loves demolition and is taking trombone lessons. Aaron is 5, he
loves his Whirly Wheels, games, snuggling with Mom, Futurama and
SpongeBob. All three love Nintendo and the computer (and I could tell
100 stories of things they've learned from them!). We're also active in
the SCA. We're homeschooled for about 5 years, sort of a flexible
eclectic bordering on unschooling, all along, we just didn't know
unschooling had a name (we just thought we were weird, as we started
HS'ing in Colorado, where everyone we met that HS'd did it for
religious reasons or was into extreme AP)!

The food thread has really caught my attention. My brother and his wife
do the control thing with their kids, and not just with food, tho the
food is the most obvious aspect. They will tell their children when
they are hungry, fill their plates for them (close to adult-sized
portions), refuse to let them get up until the plate is empty (the
children have cried, vomited from forced eating, etc., and are scolded
for it), and then if they DO finish their meal, are allowed 3 chips or
a small piece of cornbread as a dessert. My brother and Mom actually
got into an argument once over corn chips (*siiiiigh*). Two of the four
children have medical digestive issues (big shock there ;). They would
do the sugar-hoarding bit, but they are never let out of my SIL's sight
unless they are at a home with similar eating philosophies (they aren't
allowed to be in my house without one of their parents, I am way too
radical for them). They have extreme ideas on a lot of things, not just
food, and we don't get long well (my children can't stand their
cousins, sad, but what can we do). Fortunately, they live in a
different state and we have recently managed to have other plans when
they visit ... ;).

Now my question. I don't have the playdate problem, but I do run into
issues with other children. I am the children's officer for our local
SCA branch (Barony of Gyldenholt, in the Kingdom of Caid, for those who
know the SCA). Most (probably all) of the children are in public school
or daycare. I run my activities much like unschooling - the stuff is
there, sometimes with game rules, or a sample craft, but except for
safety reasons, I don't care what the kids do. If they use the chessmen
as people on a block tower, good for them! The craft stuff is there to
be used, but not in any particular manner, tho sometimes we'll have a
class in weaving or something (which is, of course, not compulsory). My
only rules (principles?) are we don't hurt other people, and we don't
destroy things that belongs to someone else (without their consent ;).
One problem I have is that some children take advantage of this and
hoard - materials, prizes, whatever. We'll have a game where all
participants get a token and they'll pretend they lost it to get
another. On one hand, I don't mind this (if they really need a second
plastic ring, it's just not that huge of a deal), but on the other, I
don't have unlimited supplies to just give away. Plus the other (public
schooled) children protest, they ALL want a second one, etc. Any
thoughts here? My other problem is that they have the public school
mentality, as far as creativity, being given directions, etc. As an
example, one time we made rag dolls from fabric scraps and yarn. Now,
my way to teach this sort of thing is to sit on the ground, and have a
sample, and help the kids when they ask, or maybe just pick up the
supplies and make one myself, and wait for the kids to come see it and
ask about it. Sometimes I just put the stuff out and if they find the
sample and want to copy it, ok. I will demonstrate how to make it, or
help tie a knot or whatever, depending on the child, what they want,
etc. The younger kids (6 and under) are SO fun, they are so creative
and have no set idea of how things must be. The older kids, tho ...
will compare supplies, he got a better color, her yarn is longer, etc.
Wait until told exactly what to do (you may start now ... ). Have to be
shown how to draw a face. Will only draw it EXACTLY the way I show them
(or like the sample). Make rude comments to a 3 yr old who happily
draws 14 eyes and 2 noses and no mouth (to which, I usually go
overboard praising the unusual and creative doll ... any other ways to
handle this?). Someone had a piñata once - not my idea - and the older
kids bashed it before the small kids had a chance (the knights all
laughed, which just encouraged the kids more ... ), and then they were
like wild dogs scrounging for the candy (my boys, OTOH, watched from a
distance, walked up and took the 3-4 pieces they really wanted, then
left, LOL - and I ended up tossing out even that, I think they ate one
piece each). Any ideas on either how to get these kids to loosen up a
bit, or for me to stop worrying about it? :) It's starting to be a
problem since it is mostly the same few children that exhibit this
behavior, and I see them a lot. It's not like a playdate where I can
refuse to allow them in my house. I don't feel like quitting the job is
the answer, since there are SOME people who LOVE what I do, I mostly
enjoy it, and my replacement could be more school-y and then my own
kids wouldn't want to participate. And don't get me started on 7 yr
olds who already rhino-hide, grr, we're working on that too (Sandra?
Help! :).

Thanks in advance for any insights on this.

Cheryl Norton (but I prefer to use carelia)