The boys haven't been old enough for me to declare this before, but now that their strong interests are starting to emerge, it's become obvious. I attribute this partly to the fact that I am a geek (and Christie, by proxy), but we have largely avoided sheltering them from non-geeky things. They know about Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network. They've tried most of the popular video games that kids love too. But given a choice, they always seem to gravitate towards stuff that's off the beaten path or more obscure, whether anyone else knows about it or not. In fact, sometimes they seem to kind of like the fact that they've discovered some hidden thing that few know about.
Of course, they've been exposed to this stuff way more than the average kid - I assume most Dads didn't write an obituary for Firefly when it was cancelled by Fox. Neither do they own Star Wars military manuals detailing the missions of back-ops Clone Troop forces prior to the infamous Order 66. Neither do they keep a leather bound copy of the Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy on hand for those times when the universe just makes no sense and you need to know that that's okay. (See? If you're a geek as well, you're still with me).
Still, that's me, and I've tried very hard not to force them into liking things that I like - we try to make sure they are aware of and have access to the same cultural touchstones as their peers. It's weird enough that they're homeschoolers, we can't have them running around not knowing who Sponge Bob is or thinking the Naked Brothers Band are actually, well, naked. But they much prefer Avatar and The Barenaked Ladies. I know it doesn't help that Mom can also be found leveling up her Wood Elf character on The Elder Scrolls IV into the wee hours either (she doesn't want to be a geek, but it's contagious).
Here are some other things I've noticed:
* We own a PS2, XBox 360, and a Wii. We have bought many used games for these units but they never get played. They both prefer PC games. They like the feel of a keyboard and mouse, and many of the PC titles they like aren't available on consoles.
*The reason they aren't available is simply because they're not kid's games. Rich prefers real-time tactical games like Age of Empires or Company of Heroes. Brennan enjoys MMO's like Wizard101. Some of the games they enjoy are HARD to win. But they enjoy the mechanics of the games and figuring out how to beat the computer. Still, given a choice, they'd rather play chess. Geeks.
*Despite watching many episodes of Sponge Bob, they don't know the character's names. They don't pay attention. They value fart jokes just as much as any other 6 and 10 year old, but they only have so much mileage. However, ask them what they're going to do today and Rich will reply with a cryptic, "Same thing we do every night. Try to take over the world."
*That is to say, they enjoy meta-humor. They like the joke behind the joke, or the snarky deflation of the punchline. To that end, they are bigger fans of Statler and Waldorf (and especially the Swedish Chef) than of Kermit and Fozzie.
*Their heroes are guys like Tim Schafer and Jim Benton. Tim because he created their favorite game (Psychonauts - yeah, I know you've never heard of it). Tim is one of the greatest comedic minds of our times, and playing his games have elevated the boy's sense of humor beyond most of the dumb one-liners in kid's shows on the Cartoon Network. Jim Benton's books appeal the mad scientist in Rich, and Brennan loves Frannie K's bizarre menagerie of mutant animals.
*Last year Rich went trick-or-treating as Hannibal Smith from the A-Team. This year they both want to be characters from Tiny Toon Adventures - and not recognizable ones (Sneezy and Gogo Dodo). When I informed Brennan that everyone was going to think he was Jerry (from Tom and Jerry) he said, "I'll know it's Sneezy." Geek.
*Despite constant exposure to Disney music and other kid-pop bands through friends and our year long fling with cable TV, Rich remains a staunch fan of Queen, Rush, and Dream Theater. Brennan is more of a pop fan and wants Michael Jackson, Van Halen, and Winger. Know any 6 year old Winger fans? Now you do. They dig Maroon 5 too, which is about as mainstream as it gets around here.
*Rich's big goal for school this week is to learn how to take apart our desktop computer and put it back together (though he's more enthused about the former than the latter).
*Brennan's big goal for this school year is to make his own computer game. How you teach a 6 year old to make a computer game is beyond me. We've started him with the Magic Pen and Fantastic Contraption as a lead-in to starting basic coding, but I'm a little overwhelmed as all my game design has been with pre-built (and rather user-unfriendly) game engines. Most homeschool parents are scrambling to find good math curriculum. I'm trying to find a freaking C++ for 1st graders manual. (This is not to say he's conquered math already, or has the developmental capacity for C++, just that when able to choose anything for a school-year goal, this is what he picked).
*We have serious debates about the differences between dwarves and elves, and on-going Morrowind vs. Oblivion debates (for further reference, see The Elder Scrolls link above).
*They prefer classic Transformers to Transformers Animated (don't get us started). Avengers isn't on their radar quite yet but they know that Dad has Very High Expectations for a certain Joss Whedon and there will be consequences if he screws this up. Oh yes, there will be consequences.
*They do however know the difference between Iron Man's Mach I, II, III, and IV suits and can tell you all about them IN GRAPHIC AND LENGTHY DETAIL.
*When Kree-O, rather than Lego, got the Transformers contract, they started building their own Transformers that actually work. This was partly because they were impatient for official Transformers, and partly out of protest that Lego lost the contract (they've since given in and purchased the Kree-O versions, but Rich has expressed the feeling that he has betrayed the Lego corporation - talk about brand loyalty).
I could go on. Point is, I've quit trying to expose them to "mainstream" stuff because they're largely un-interested at this point. I figure they'll get enough of that from peers, and they don't automatically shun things that are popular (they love Phineas & Ferb, Yu-Gi-Oh, and Legos). I like that they're discerning and actually think about why they do or don't like certain things. I like that they're able to articulate it. Hopefully they don't turn into cultural snobs like me, but it's fascinating to see their individual tastes develop as they explore new things.