Yes, I know. I told you I'd try not to let homeschooling posts take over my health and nutrition blog. And once school is underway this year, I'll probably taper back on these posts again. If this topic really doesn't interest you, I hope you'll grab my RSS feed or sign up for email post updates. That way you can just skim the titles and come back next time if a homeschooling post doesn't grab you. But since many of you do seem interested, and there does seem to be such a crossover between the Real Foodie world and the homeschooling world, I'm going to go ahead and write what's on my mind. And this one's a doozie.
Now before I tell you more about what's got my wheels turning, keep in mind as you read that I've never been one to change what I think about things willy nilly all of the time. I've got an open mind, yes, but I've always said that I don't want to be so open minded that my brains fall out. So when I first hear something, it's usually a looooong time and a lot of research before I'll take it to heart.
I've heard bits and pieces about unschooling from some of you since I first began this homeschooling journey. It never really sounded like it was for us (I'm a ‘routine' kind of gal, and if it's not a plan set in stone, it likely isn't going to happen around here), but incorporating pieces and parts of it might not be so bad. Also, something inside of me wonders if I'll look back and wish I had ‘gotten it' sooner about unschooling, the way I wish I had ‘gotten it' sooner about homeschooling. I don't want one more thing to add to my pile of parenting regrets. The problem is, I don't really understand what unschooling is, or how you could do this type of schooling through high school and still give them a chance at getting into a college, IF they desire to go, that is.
Then something a friend said the other day related to unschooling really got me thinking…
Unlimited Screen Time?!
They went to a homeschooling conference recently and heard Sandra Dodd speak on unschooling — they were profoundly moved. And here's what really rocked my world, Sandra Dodd said that if you have a kid who wants to play video games or watch TV all day, let them. Just give them free reign to do whatever really interests them.
Of course my first response to that was, “WHAT?! Are you KIDDING me?! That's all our 13 year old would ever DO!” But then Ann Marie told me the next thing they heard:
“Whatever it is that we can freely have, we don't want as much anymore.”
WOW. This is a truth I've known and recognized about human nature my whole life. (My friend Amy and I would joke around in high school about how we couldn't act like we liked a boy too much, or they wouldn't like us back.) So according to this theory, you let your kids do whatever it is they think they want to do as much as they want to, and eventually they won't want it as much anymore. The main reason this struck a chord is because all summer I've been the big bad regulator, limiting TV and video game time, as all good Moms do, and it has only made me feel like a nag and made the kids beg to do it even more.
Here's where you come in.
I haven't had time to research this and the books I've requested from the library aren't here yet, so I need your help. Is this crazy? Or will my kids miraculously start to actually want to read on their own or become creative in other ways if I stop limiting their screen time? If I stop making it their ‘forbidden fruit'?! Our 10 year old daughter has wanted to watch a lot of Barefoot Contessa shows on the iPad this summer and I wondered if I should be limiting that more. But guess what? She made dinner the other day, completely on her own – I literally never set food in the kitchen to help with that meal!
But what about the studies that say too much screen time is bad for their brain? And for their eyes? Not to mention the electro-magnetic field issues! Once we start school in a couple weeks, I was thrilled with my plan to allow NO screen time until after dinner each weekday so my days of policing all of it would be over for a while. Should I stick with that or no?
- Here's a book I want to read: Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling
- My complete index of homeschooling posts
I’m a previous homeschool parent. So, i have nothing at all against homeschooling.
We have friends who still homeschool, but all what their child does is literally play video games (Grand Theft Auto to be exact). They do zero bookwork. Zero. The child is a very angry child who will bang their head against things when not getting what they want. The child even talks about killing their friends. They are just 11. The child also verbalizes wishing to hang out with more kids too. The parents admit to spoiling the child and are even afraid to confront the child when it is time to leave a friends house… they are scared of their own child and their reaction. It seems to me, that the parents don’t want to be anything but their child’s “Friend” and not actual parents. I’m truly afraid of what kind of violence this child may do in the future. They also encourage bully-like behavior in the child by encouraging them to say “burns”. A parent will say something mean to the child and encourage the child to have a an even meaner comeback to what the parent said. This is on purpose… the child and the parent think it’s a game because they practice saying burns to each other and think it’s hilarious. The child doesn’t read or write well either. The parents even pass off the child to others to keep for multiple nights in a row and even “joke” about wanting others to keep the child if others will keep the child for so much money each month. And hope the child is married off sooner than later so someone else can have the child.
Anyway, I’m afraid for this child’s future and for them potentially harming other children. What to do??? I do like the parents as friends, but don’t like how, what I perceive as being neglect, to the child.
Wow, that’s just sad… and scary.
My kids are only 4 and 5 but I have been researching and learning about unschooling the last 2.5 years. It is our plan to unschool our kids. In regards to unschooling TV and video games, I think it’s important to point out that we are part of it. We are checking in with our kids during their shows and games. Sitting with them to learn what shows they are interested and why. Talking about it afterwards. Watching them play some of their games and asking questions about how to play and even playing with them or taking turns. That way we are learning about what interests them and staying connected. It is a hard thing to get over that TV and games aren’t bad!
Trixie F says
Ok, it’s 11:30 at night and no, I did not read all of these comments. I read Ann Marie’s post and I agree with her 100%.
That being said, Kelly, you know your own children better than anybody else on the planet ever will. You know their likes, dislikes, habits, annoyances, passions – EVERYTHING. Only you can decided what kind of guidance is going to work with your children.
I have a strong-willed, excessively determined, teenaged daughter. I fought her for years trying to get her to conform to my expectations of what a child should do/be. One day, I just got TIRED of fighting it and I threw up my hands and let it go. Turns out, she’s a free-spirit and she has thrived since then. I, on the other hand, was trying to turn her into a regimented perfectionist like myself. :/ Parenting ain’t for sissies and you know as well as anybody, that there are going to be a million people judging you for your decisions no matter what you decide.
My philosophy for the past 4 or so years has been to let HER lead, and I have learned so much from my beautiful, funny, smart, witty daughter. I am so grateful to God for finally getting me to the end of me so she could be who He wanted her to be.
I wish you and your family the best and if un-schooling is what it is, then I wish you nothing but success.
My four older children seem to manage their time on the computer effectively between completing work assignments and play. They all get high grades.
I recently had to start teaching my first grader how to make the computer a ‘lower priority’ though. I used St. Paul’s teaching in the bible where he says he has lived in humble circumstances and has also lived in abundant circumstances.
I told my son that he has to think this way about the computer because he likes if so much. If he is not allowed on it because he has work to do…he can not be upset. When we live in abundant circumstances we have what we want. Therefore, he can not always have what he wants…like the computer. So he still has to be happy when he does not get what he wants…to go on the computer and live humbly.
If he shows any remorse when he is unable to be on the computer, he is punished without it for a week. This is just by showing he is upset that he can not be on it. If he is upset, it means he is spoiled. If he is happy when he does his work and other responsibilities while being off the computer, he is showing that he is more mature and can live in humble circumstances. (I know we are not going hungry but it is the same concept.) To his little mind, sometimes giving up something he enjoys is very difficult.
The rule is that he has to be happy when I tell him he can not go on yet. He has learned that morning is the best time to do our work and prayers first so he can play later and he never gets upset anymore. He is showing great progress. He knows that if he gets upset because he is not allowed on the computer, it will be taken away from him for a week. It has happened in the past and I’ve been consistent. Therefore, we are making great strides. There are times where we tell him to play outside instead of going on the computer and he happily obliges now.
I don’t think labeling something unschooling is that important. As long as you put God first.
Karen Olayo says
I realize this is an old post, but I just wanted to say one thing. I was homeschooled in the home of a family friend, together with her children. (I now have my own and homeschool them). The family whose home we were in almost never allowed their children to watch TV or movies. I don’t believe they even had a game system of any kind. They were spell-bound when the TV ever was on and they were allowed to watch it. YOu literally could not get their attention what-so-ever. We however, were not so drastically denied the TV or movies or even game-systems and honestly we would watch (with restrictions of course) but it never really consumed our thinking or our time. This other family was really into computers and they were on them as much as was humanly possible or allowed by their parents. That seemed to be all they thought about!
The Bible says that “the strength of sin, is the law”. I think that can in some ways be applied to what you heard from this lady, and where you also see this same concept at work in your life. Although I do know that we are to direct our children to seek more of the things that are eternal too. Just my thoughts. THinking of giving my own children a little more freedom than I have, actually after reading this! Thanks.
This is a tough subject for sure, I wish there were easy answers!
Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Kel p.s. How neat that a family friend homeschooled you, what a gift from them.
Please see my blog, “Organic Mothering” at dancingmommio.blogspot.com. I have been trying to work out this question of unschooling for myself in the past couple of weeks. The posts start with a call for unschooling authors to contribute, but no one has taken me up on it! To add something a bit different to the discussion, my husband teaches college English. He is very frustrated with students texting on their cell phones and falling asleep in class. He says that because they are so plugged in, they have a serious deficiency in interpersonal skills. They do not know how to communicate effectively due to the disconnect inherent to so much plugged in time. Which leads me to television. We do not have it in our home, but we do watch videos. I don’t generally allow more than one movie a day, but I would say my daughter only watches 3 or 4 a week. Television is addictive, is linked to depression and obesity, and exposes children to morally dangerous material. I like the idea of no tv until after dinner, and then maybe only an hour each evening at most. And make sure you know what the kids are watching! Be well, Dancingmommio
Patricia in Denver says
We sent our 2 children to an unschool, school. They didn’t even learn to read until they wanted to. For the older child, that was 7th grade. Today he is a dean at a prestigious university in our city, and the other child is director of I T infrastructure for a large multinational company. With guidance, children learn any and everything when they are ready.
If it were true that the child could guide themselves, then what if the child guides himself in matters of faith. Who knows what kind of faith they would end up with.
My children after years, know that television is a treat and not to be expected.
When my first child was going to be homeschooled (she never went to school), she just didn’t like the structure. She learned on the fly. We went everywhere and did everything we wanted to do. She learned reading, writing, etc. All without proper school books. But in the second grade, she started to not learn so much and started to play a lot more. That was it for me, she needed to do lessons. So we started with a curriculum which was very difficult. The writing was immense and she flipped out over it. Many tears were shed.
Then we found Catholic Heritage Curricula. Slow and easy wins the race. So much better for both of us and no tears.
After many years, that child is not almost 16. She’s taught herself piano, she sings in the gregorian chant choir for latin Mass, she adapted a book to a play and directed it. She is on her second book adaptation. She found what she loves and she does it every chance she gets.
I don’t think it would have happened with no direction or guidance.
Children need parents. We do have some flexibility. She started taking Algebra 2 in 9th grade. It was tough. So we decided to make it a two year course. She thought she was in heaven. Still tough but doable. We did the same thing for Advanced Math. It will be over two years.
She made a 25 on her ACT in her sophomore year. I’m pleased. There was plenty that she hadn’t seen in her education yet. She took one practice test online through the website and that was it. She hadn’t taken a test like that since she was in the 3rd grade.
Flexible yes, completely unschooled no.j If a child can keep their desire for learning, then I may not have started with a set curriculum. She seemed to have lost that desire so we started with a curriculum.
The 2nd started actual homeschooling in the 3rd grade and not before. The 3rd child started in the 2nd grade. The last is only 4 and she’s happy to play school and just play. I watched each one and decided what to do for that child.
The second one is a boy and was having trouble with multiplication facts in the 4th grade so we made that math go for 2 years. Without any studying in the summer, he was more than ready when the next year came around and he had to do mulitiplication facts. It was just an age thing. His brain was not ready for that concept so we waited and it worked.
I feel like I was rambling. Hopefully it made sense.
Jen O says
My oldest son (6.5yrs) has been in awe of TV from his first days of life. Even at just a few weeks old, he’d sit on my lap when I was burping him and get that trans over him….. and this was just the news or Weather Channel. I knew then that I had to turn the TV off completely. So we limited all TV. He didn’t get regular screen time at all until closer to 18mos. I had hoped to hold out to 2yrs, but he broke his leg and was immobile. We limited, he would sneak. We limited more, he would sneak it more. And then it wasn’t just the TV, it was phones, and computers, etc. Whatever he could get his hands on.
And then some friends shared this same unschooling insight with me. They seemed to believe full-heartedly that a child left to his own, would come around and revel in moderation…… I was intrigued……. I was exhausted with a toddler and a 3 yr old who was constantly turning that thing on, despite the fact that I was on him like a hawk. The limits were clear. He just chose to cross them over and over again.
So I gave in. For 21 days, I shut my mouth. I made no comment. I let him go. He’d sneak into the basement and watch at first. And then after a week, he realized I was saying nothing. He moved right into the living room and there he stayed for 21 days. The only time he moved away from that screen was when we left the house, for meals or to sleep. He’d been potty trained for over a year. He peed his pants sitting there on the couch. Day 21 broke me. The results in my mind disprove the theories. At least for my kid. He could not give up the screen under his own will.
I believe our children need a firm routine and guidelines, esp when they have such a strong interest in something that keeps them from reaching their potential.
Every family is different. Every kid is different. You will need to come into your own in this journey. Pray!
I have four kids – all being homeschooled. From my 11+ years of homeschooling experience, I can tell you that whether or not unlimited screen time works is entirely dependent on the child. Let me use my two oldest (both boys) as examples.
My oldest son, Ryan, is 100% unschooled and we give him no required schoolwork and no limits on screen time (or any other limits, really). However, he has that freedom because he has excellent self-discipline and makes good choices. For instance, he CHOOSES to continue with his math and science education – asking for new curriculum and even studying when we’re on vacation! – without any input from myself or other adults in his life. This year, he is doing both speech and debate, again a choice he made without any suggestions from us (in fact, he kept having to nag ME to get it on our calendar!). In his spare time, he CHOOSES to do a variety of things. He has taught himself to play guitar, piano (classical AND improv), ukulele, and violin (and is now saving earnestly for an electric bass guitar). He took Food Renegade’s Real Food & Nutrition course (at his request, for a grade even!) and started a blog for his homework assignments. Now, several years later, he maintains several blogs on different topics and recently began doing a podcast as well. He has made friends with the marketing director for Adventures In Odyssey (at Focus on the Family – technically the job Ryan hopes to have someday) and now does writing projects for him. On any given day, you are just as likely to find him poring over trigonometry or writing character descriptions for a new book as you are to find him playing a video game or watching TV. He makes good use of his time every single day, and has many goals in life that he diligently chases after every day. On top of all that, he is helpful around the house – notices things that need to be done and does them without my having to ask him – and other places as well. He chooses to spend part of every Sunday working in the 3-year-old class, goes to church high school events early to help set up and stays late to help clean up. He babysits his younger siblings without complaint (even offers many weekends to allow his father and I date time) and cooks nutritious meals and cleans up afterward. He is wise way beyond his 15 years and makes excellent choices with his life; showing us that is what has allowed him the freedom to choose what to learn and how to spend his time.
Now, his younger brother, Aaron, is another story altogether. Any schoolwork I assign is met with rolling eyes and complaints. Any chores I ask him to do barely get done, and usually only after I’ve had to bring it up many times. I had to finally “bribe” him to learn to read, by telling him that he would not be allowed to watch the Harry Potter movies until he had read the books (though because he is an auditory learner, I finally allowed him to “read along” with the unabridged audio books, as long as he would read parts aloud to me from time to time so I could check that he actually COULD read them). Aaron has no ambition…except for video games. Given free reign (which happens occasionally during breaks), he chooses to sit in front of the TV or computer playing video games all day every day. Not learning games, either. He would play Legend of Zelda until he grew into the chair, if I let him! About 5 years ago, I grew very concerned about his single-minded pursuit of video gaming, and came across Neil Postman’s, Technopoly. In it, he describes the “1-in-4” children who are actually ADDICTED to video games and TV. For them, it gives the same “high” as a drug and over time can take over their life. That is how screen time affects my Aaron. A little bit just makes him crave more. A little bit more leads to a lot more. The longer he uses it, the harder it is for him to stop and the more difficult he is to deal with. He quickly goes from upset that he has to stop, to frustrated and annoyed, to surly and downright mean. However, when put into an environment without screens, he quickly becomes creative and enjoyable to be around. We recently spent a week at my parents’ house, 1500 miles from home. They don’t have a TV and the only computer in the house is off-limits to my kids. By day two, Aaron had created a pulley system to help his sisters get into a great climbing tree. By the end of the week, he’d built a fort out of scrap wood and explored most of my parents’ 10 acre lot. But the minute we walked back in the door here, he was begging to play a video game (and we literally got home at 2am!)
So all that to say, unlimited screen time CAN be fine and work well with children who have self-discipline and internal drive to pursue their dreams. For kids with that “addictive” type personality, unlimited screen time can be detrimental. THOSE are the kids who need extrinsic motivation (from parents or environments) to get off the screens and to FIND a dream worth following, then they need encouragement to pursue the dream.
A great read to suggest would be Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death”…it’s an oldie but a goodie…prophetic in many ways. I’d love to see you read this book and give a blog post :).
I assisted my daughter in her un-homeschooling from age 12 until she was accepted to college without a high school diploma. She did take the SATs and got 99% score on her GED. She is now 24, has a BS in music, a BA in liberal art, has taught herself 4 languages, traveled and lived in Europe for 2 years, was accepted with a full ride to 3 top universities for grad school. She starts grad school at NYU in two weeks. She graduated from 2 colleges in 4 years sigma cum laude. She was made for unschooling and it was easy for her to excel at learning in an unstructured way since she was naturally a disciplined being. She wanted a musical instrument and practiced every day without anyone asking her to or requiring her to. (my son, not the same story!) She took to college like a duck to water. It was a wonderful experience raising her in a home environment. If the college environment had be scaled down and adjusted to a 7 or 8 year old, my daughter would have loved that kind of school! My son started home schooling at age 7 at the same time my daughter did at age 12 but then he stopped homeschooling after one year and choose to return to elementary school. His needs were so completely different than that of his sister. So I had two unique kids with different learning styles and experienced parenting in parallel experiences of educating and raising my children.
Our homeschooling experience started 13 years ago and so it’s not current with today’s standard level of technology equipped households or family lifestyles. In comparison it seems like what I would have called “the olden times” as a kid. Since now the three of us all have our own laptops, a cell phone or smart phone and my daughter and I both use iPads. Texting between us is not excessive but useful. I don’t want to think or talk about how my family now connects on facebook. Except that we do.
In their growing up years I did limit the TV time, in that it couldn’t be on until schoolwork was completed and never for more than an hour. Reading books had to happen first and there was a book to read out loud at bedtime for my son’s set time for rest and a different bedtime set for my daughter until she was 14 and from then on regulated it herself. I would growl at her if I found her up past midnight. No one could hog the computer since we all shared one computer which I also used for my work, my daughter used it for her school work and research projects. My son was 7 when the homeschool plan came about and there wasn’t much for him to do on it since we didn’t keep any games loaded on the computer and he was just learning to write stories and type. So when there was open time he would get time on it with my overview. He was fond of the idea but would rather use a pad of paper and felt pens. We also didn’t subscribe to cable TV or have a nintendo or xbox either. I wouldn’t buy computer games to load on the computer. (because we had a mac many games weren’t compatible) At that time I claimed the games would interfere and mess with my graphic design programs which I used for my work to pay the bills and rent so it was a non issue. And of course we shared one computer for three of us as a family from 1997 until I was able to get a laptop in 04. I owned a cell phone, but it wasn’t till my daughter went to college that she was given one. My son didn’t get one till he was 15. (and that is backwards these days but 11 short years ago it was like walking 5 miles in the snow without a cell phone for each child to text on. 🙂
I wouldn’t trade the homeschool years for anything. But I had the flexibility to work from home and be my own boss and set and fix my own hours so I could be there for my kids and take them on field trips and be the driver and chaperone. I would work late at night in order to give time for my kids and this also gave me quiet uninterrupted time to focus and complete my own work.
Good luck in your journey of homeschooling. May it be as successful for you as it was for one of my children. <3
My Boys' Teacher says
Meg Logan’s comment was well put and I totally agree. Sugar came to my mind as well. I have heard some people advocate the “no limits” approach to junk food as well. I don’t think kids will self-regulate when the thing in question is addictive (as I believe T.V. and video games are, particularly for boys). A couple books I liked about raising boys that address the T.V./video games issue were: “Boys Adrift” and “The Trouble with Boys.” Good luck!
Jill P. says
Kelly, I have only recently been reading your posts and I hesitate to offer you advice, however I have been where you are now and I have the advantage of hindsight. If I remember your decision to homeschool was begun with prayer and if you are feeling torn right now and confused I would suggest you sit quietly and listen to what your heart knows is right for the upbringing of your children.Rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the graces of the sacrament of Marriage that provide you with everything you need to raise Godly children. Prudence is a gift of the Holy Spirit that allows you to know and choose the right course of action.You have to know what your ultimate goals are for your children and remind yourself that they have been entrusted to you by God, how do you think He would want them to spend their time? Eventually we will give an account to Him of how we used the time and talent and treasure that He entrusted to us. I am always amazed at how difficult we make things for ourselves usually as a result of listening to every new idea and not trusting in the unchanging wisdom of God and in our own common sense which is a gift from Him.Once you have made a decision and know your destination it is important to stay on course and not get sidetracked by all of the other options.Periodically you may have to make adjustments if you find you have gone off in the wrong direction, but it’s all part of the journey.You just make it easier for yourself if you don’t let everything that comes along pull you off your original course.God bless.
I am printing this and putting it in my calendar book, thanks!
I know a few (only a few) hs kids who are wholly unschooled. To put it charitably, I can’t see how they will transition successfully into the real world without a lot of painful change.
A better and workable theory is the Montessori one. Sometimes people confuse this with unschooling but the difference is in their options. With this theory, kids have choices and manage their own time, but their choices are only those that inspire learning, stimulate the imagination and are a thing of beauty. Think of creating an educational Garden of Eden. A child might choose between cooking a meal, weaving a rug or building math skills working with bead bars (or helping a younger child with things they have mastered themselves already.) So, video games wouldn’t even qualify as a choice – I’d leave it for only after dinner as you said. Classify it with the sometimes trans fatty treats. I think this approach is much better for teaching the kids self regulation for the future. I don’t think teaching them to overindulge is how we would want our kids to handle limiting wasting their time . . . if this idea worked, then wouldn’t more adults at some point permanently turn of their TV and go do something else?
Love your comment, IC!
Well I believe screen time comes after other things: their daily assigned chore, homework, piano practice, and their daily 30minutes of reading. No screens after 7. There isn’t too much time left for them to overdo it and I don’t have to limit. Oh and in the summer all movies have to be watched in Spanish. I find this all naturally limits screen time without me having to police it.
Sue E. says
I have been homeschooling for 8 years (with a traditional school break for two years in between). When I picked out my curriculum, one of the things that drew me to Laura Berquist’s curriculum (Mother of Divine Grace), besides being Catholic, is that it is classical. The reason classical curriculum resonates with me is that it seeks to form the body, soul, and mind with that which is beautiful. This means surrounding onesself with beauty: art, music, conversation, people (interiorly), nature; essentially, God. While it is OK to at times watch TV or play video games for entertainment, the majority of our time should be spent with those things that lift our hearts and minds to God: beauty. How can we hear His voice in our lives when there is constant noise? The world wants to pull us away from God. How better to do it than to suck us in to media. There is so much crud on TV. Commercials are bad enough, but the content in most shows is inappropriate for forming young minds and hearts, especially if you are forming them to strive for things that are of heaven, and not of earth.
I so agree with Amanda, Nicole Rice, and Carrie above who said that children won’t understand self regulation and setting limits unless we teach them. We have a responsibility as our children’s first teachers to teach them how to grow up as mature and responsible adults. Letting them do whatever, whenever, does not teach self control, one of the fruits of the spirit. It is RELATIVISM at its best, which says there is no absolute TRUTH.
I hope this helps you, Kelly, and anyone else who is on the fence about whether or not we should be letting our children have as much media screen time as they wish. It does not make for healthy children, well-adjusted adults, nor a responsible society in the future. (Already I mourn for the future when I see groups of teens hanging together, when essentially, they are on their phones or IPODS texting either each other or other friends. Will we lose our sense of the human interaction face-to-face altogether? Lord, help us!)
I would encourage you to check out Charlotte Mason and related curricula. It incorporates self-directed learning (nature walks, reading living books, studying topics that pique the students interests) with daily attention to the necessary subjects (the three Rs, character building, etc.). Children need direction and guidance but many do not learn well in the traditional classroom setting.
As for unlimited screen time, I think it a very poor idea, even if you were careful to allow only the best material for viewing. We didn’t have a TV when I was a kid until I was 14; I think I would’ve missed out on a lot of great books if we did.
In our house right now we have the rules of no movies (we don’t watch TV as a rule; the Olympics were an exception), unless its dark out, and we don’t watch any two days in a row. Usually it ends up being 1-2 a week in the winter. Since we live in Alaska its always light during waking hours from April-August so no movies during the summer! ……..lol. An exception might be when a child isn’t feeling well and I really don’t want him running around too much so I set him down in front of veggietales or something for awhile. Of course you have to make your own rules and figure out what works in your household.
My kids actually THANK me when I “make” them turn off the TV (we’re really into 50’s musicals right now, lol, but you can even get too much “good” TV). They don’t like how it makes them feel but can’t turn it off on their own, KWIM? I’m the same way… so I should “make” myself get off of the computer now, eh? 🙂
A middle ground may be Montessori… there is an online yahoo group for home Catholic Montessori schoolers. You follow the child’s interests and set up a prepared environment with a lot of freedom but definite parameters as well.
There is a lot of territory between NO screen time and UNLIMITED screen time. As with most things in life, the key lies somewhere in the middle.
We do not unschool – I like structure too much 🙂
My boys love their computer/game systems. They are not allowed any screen time until school work is completed for that day. So far, that has worked well for us (boys are ages 16 and 12).
Screens/technology is here to stay, and our kids need to be adept at computer usage, and not fall behind the times in that regard.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
Aww… these comments make me sad… I guess because 90% or more of the people commenting have never read Sandra Dodd and/or have never heard her speak.
And you know what, I probably would have written comments like the ones above before I heard Sandra Dodd speak and before I started reading her book.
The thing is, sometimes when something is very different from what we’re used to and from what we understand, most people will reject it out of hand before they even take the time to look into it. Kind of like how people reject a high fat diet out of hand (or a high-carb diet for that matter), or how people reject another person’s religious or political beliefs.
Kelly, I hope you will read her book and delve into her website and then I hope you will write another post about it.
Here are some good quotes on Sandra Dodd’s website about screen time:
“Have you considered putting limits on paper time? Cloth time? Other-human time?”
“… ‘screen time’… is a pseudoscientific phrase whose function is to disguise a vague and ill-considered hostility towards anything which is experienced through a screen. And this is incompatible with a healthy, respectful relationship with a child (or anyone else) who enjoys spending time watching TV, playing video games or using a computer.”
“Years back in a chatroom discussion, someone who was adamantly anti-TV said kids watch it like zombies, without moving. I said my kids didn’t. Mine were up and singing and dancing, and rewinding to the good parts and watching the best songs again, as they had been the night before when “The Sound of Music” was on. In a great act of embarrassing circular reasoning, she said snootily that at HER house that would be unacceptable. At HER house, children were expected to sit quietly and not interrupt the program. She wasn’t smart enough to see what she had just said. Her kids were zombies because if they weren’t they got in trouble or were sent out.”
Read more here: https://sandradodd.com/screentime
Interestingly, I just saw this interview posted with Sandra Dodd today: https://www.mommy-labs.com/inspiring-interviews/homeschooling-inspiring-interviews/interview-with-sandra-dodd-unschooling-homeschooling-india/
In the interview, she says her son Kirby has a job at an online gaming company:
Quote from Sandra: “Kirby has worked for Blizzard Entertainment for five years. It’s the company that owns and runs World of Warcraft, and other international online games. They moved him to Austin, Texas, to work there. When he first took that job, at the age of nearly-21, he already had seven years of experience on his resume, having been asked to work at a games store when he turned 14. He had also taught karate as a teen.”
I got to see Kirby speak on a panel discussion of “grown-up homeschoolers” at the homeschooling conference 2 weeks ago. He was talking about how much he LOVED computers and how he used to play on computers all the time when he was growing up. And now that is what he gets to do for a living. He said the only thing he loved as much as computers is karate and that’s what he does as his hobby.
I asked the other panelists what they were really passionate about. They all practically jumped out of their seats to go on and on and on about all the things they were passionate about. They rattled off tons of things — martial arts, reading, sign language, landscape design, television, video games. They seemed so happy, so confident, so alive. They weren’t sitting there going, “Yeah, I hate my job, I’m bored, life sucks, can’t wait for the weekend!”
And you know what was neat? They had no shame about loving video games and television. They wanted to shout from the rooftops that they loved these things!
You know the only ADULTS I’ve ever met who act that way about TV and video games? People I’ve met who work in those industries.
Ask my husband, who has won two Emmy awards and is a member of the TV Academy (they vote on the Emmys) how he feels about TV. Or the people I know who write on The Simpsons. Or another friend of mine who has written on a number of TV shows.
Or friends of mine (lots of them) who work with computers. They LOVE computers and they’re on them ALL the time!
Yeah, I LOVE TV and computers. I majored in Radio/TV/Film in school and ever since I graduated from college, this is what I’ve done to make a living. It’s what I LOVE! My husband, too, makes a living doing what he loves.
I’d never restrict my kids screen time. Why limit their passion? Why make them feel bad about something they love to do?
And who says TV and games are “bad” anyway?
Guess I need to write a post about this…
TV and video games are “bad” in much the same way that sugar is “bad”. They have unhealthy physical effects on your body and brain, just as surely as junk food does. TV can be physically addictive, as can video games. This isn’t just people talking–it’s research that was first done decades ago and has been duplicated repeatedly since. Here’s one summary: https://www.brainsturbator.com/articles/more_dirt_on_the_demon_box_tv_science/
A search for “TV physical effects” will net lots more.
And, of course, at the very least, a child who is in front of a screen is not outside getting exercise and vitamin D. This would be enough to cause me to place limits on screen time, even if the even more disturbing psychological effects were not present.
No, I haven’t read Sandra Dodd. I have read Gatto, Holt, AS Neill, Montessori, and plenty else on unschooling over the past 2 decades.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
Even Sally Fallon Morell doesn’t say sugar is “bad”. She says in Nourishing Traditions that all traditional cultures ate sweets. She just recommends wholesome natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup.
As far as “disturbing psychological effects” that’s just ridiculous. I imagine people said the same thing about William Shakespeare plays in his time.
Not so much, Ann Marie. You know how to do research, so do it. Here’s another couple of links to get you started: https://www.brainsturbator.com/articles/more_dirt_on_the_demon_box_tv_science/ https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/08/30/is-your-tv-killing-you.aspx https://suite101.com/article/tv-addiction-and-the-effects-of-watching-television-a304355 TV has physiological effects on the brain that are not good.
And, of course, no one advocates unlimited HFCS–which is what most TV is. Wholesome, natural sugars in _small_ amounts are okay. The equivalent would be _small_ amounts of carefully chosen TV. Now, does Sandra Dodd advocate letting your kids eat crap till they’re sick of it, too? Are you likely let Kate do that?
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
I do know how to research but I don’t have time to read 2 long articles. Yes, it is a Saturday and I’m working.
Please pick out the salient points from your articles and post them (as I did for you with Sandra Dodd — see above). Then I can respond.
I will say that the article saying that TV is addictive is absurd. Lots of things are addictive. Food, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, carbs, work… does that mean we should cut them out? No.
Sandra Dodd’s recommending that we trust our kids to know when to stop. If you don’t make a huge deal about sugar or TV or games or whatever, they most likely won’t crave it.
As far as Mercola’s article on TV and exercise, sure exercise is good for you — in moderation. Too much would be bad. Too much TV would be bad, too, like anything.
Yes, most sugar is HFCS but that doesn’t mean that ALL sugar is bad for you. Nor does it mean that all TV is bad for you.
Sandra Dodd says to let kids do what they want WITHIN YOUR LIMITS. I don’t keep crap in the house, so Kate doesn’t typically have access to it. But she does eat junky stuff now and again.
What I don’t want is to raise a kid who hordes junk food and who is afraid to tell me that she had a soda when she was at a friend’s house.
We have different views on parenting, different opinions about TV and computers. That’s cool. We can agree to disagree.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
Meant to write hoards not hordes.
Actually, we pretty much agree here. The long and the short of the links that I posted above is that TV is that TV watching has, indeed, been shown to do things to your brain. TV watching puts your brain into a LESS active state than sleep does. It can cause attention problems in kids. Even the mainstream doctor-type orgs recommend NO screen time for the under-2 set, and very limited for pre-schoolers on up–and they have research showing actual harm just as sure as that caused by sugar or trans-fats to back themselves up. Allowing kids free screen time _within your limits_ is exactly what I and most everyone else here do. We all just have differing limits.
My personal experience, so take from it what you will: I grew up in a household where TV was on much of the time, and always from after school to bedtime. We didn’t have cable, but did live where an unusually large number of broadcast channels were available–kind of in the “sweet spot” where 2 cities’ broadcast area overlapped. My family watched a lot of TV, but I could always take it or leave it, and I think a big part of the reason was that I couldn’t really watch TV at the age when the habit is formed. I needed glasses as a kid, and it just happened that the need wasn’t caught till I was in 3rd grade (not neglect–both my parents wear glasses and I was checked as much as kids were back then), and my world had been blurry for I don’t know how long by then. I do know glasses were a HUGE change! But by the time I got them and could see the TV well, I had reached the point where I never formed it as a habit. My husband can take or leave it, as well, and we’ve both gone without TV for years on end. More often, we’ve just done VHS or DVD’s (depending on what was the usual tech at the time). Now, we do DVD’s and Roku streaming video, so we have plenty of TV, but almost no commercials, and we don’t ban it, but we do make sure our kids don’t get into the habit of sitting in front of it for hours–and try to teach them some discernment as to what is decent to watch and what is total brain rot. I try to make TV one of a variety of things they can do. Right now, my 5 year-old and my 3 1/2 year-old have been watching very little TV, but blowing through tons of paper, as they’ve decided to learn to write and draw and are spending hours a day at it. When they do want TV, I’ll usually play one show each, and then they are done for the day (They’re big Thomas fans, so each show runs about 45 minutes) My kids are 5, 3 1/2, and 1.
Ann Marie @ CHEESESLAVE says
I watched HOURS and HOURS of “brain-rotting” TV shows as a kid. And I think I turned out pretty good!
I rarely watch TV these days since I work so much. I do like cooking shows, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and various other shows when I do get around to watching. Haven’t watched Downtown Abbey yet but heard it’s supposed to be great.
I don’t believe that TV or games cause attention or behavioral problems — there’s too much research out there showing the opposite.
Check out this video:
He says that computer games have made us smarter (see the part about the Flynn Effect)
My daughter loves TV and video games, but she also spends a lot of time each day drawing, listening to music, playing with her dolls and toys, and playing outside. I don’t limit what she does — I just let her decide how she wants to spend her time.
I think what many have said here makes sense, that much of this really depends on the kid; but also, I think it’s SO good that you’ve learned early on to keep the whole screen time issue at your house low-key. Because Kate is still so young, and you already *haven’t* made screen time a “forbidden fruit” kind of thing, then she may self-regulate just fine. But after all these years of limiting it around here, to go back and just let our kids have free reign probably won’t work for us. (I could probably chill out a little though…)
Also, I watched that YouTube video and was fascinated. It makes me a little *less* concerned about our kids loving to play video games. However, I’m not willing to give up the dream that they will eventually love curling up with a good book like Kent & I do! Even if the book ends up being on a Kindle or iPad. 🙂
I don’t think anyone is dissing Sandra Dodd, it’s great that she carved out a method of homeschooling that worked for her family and her kids. It’s great to have people like her to help when we’re beginning, to give us ideas and a starting point until we tailor things that work best for our own family style.
I think what many commenters are saying is that their experience has shown them that the unlimited access idea hasn’t worked for them. For whatever reason, the kids they’ve known haven’t self-regulated their time. And as you say, too much of anything isn’t good.
I think for every person who says they wish they had a job in a field they love, there is a person who would say they wished their parent “made” them try X or they had learned to do Y. We don’t know how our kids will look back at their childhood, they may have regrets that we never could have perceived. I think a wide range of experiences helps them find things that they love and can help them to be more content and competitive in their would-be careers. There is a reason we value the “Renaissance Man.”
My son (like most 12 year old boys I know) would love to work for Valve/XBox group/Nintendo, they are all local here and when our friends who work there are off, they do very little gaming. They like gaming but they also like a lot of other things. They are mostly outside hiking, biking, camping with their families. So, while I’ll help my son develop computer skills by signing him up for a programming class, he’ll also get creative writing and a movie making class. (We are lucky in our state to have homeschool only public schools with great free class offerings. He’ll even get a camera to use for the year.) If he didn’t have an acting class a few years ago (and he NEVER would have chosen this for himself) he wouldn’t have discovered he loves Shakespeare.
So why do so many bristle at too much screen time? I guess we want the best for our kids, there is so much to do and live and feel and in a way, the computer and TV takes our family members and friends “away” from us a bit. They’re only sort of there while using the TV or computer. I don’t think limiting time makes kids feel bad about enjoying it, but shows them that there are other things to do.
Having said all this, I also think it’s hard to mess up homeschooling. We need our kids to grow up strong, assertive, smart and able to think outside the box. I’m sure it will become increasingly difficult to be non-mainstream but the homeschool kid already is, and that is a great advantage in so many ways for them in adulthood. The young adults I know who were homeschooled are all fantastic people!
That’s exactly right! In my earlier comment I was trying to share how unlimited screen time worked for one child in my family, but the other two really suffered for it. They don’t self-regulate as easily and they had trouble balancing screen time with other things. One is already grown and is pretty angry about the lack that was there. I know I would have wished the adults would turn the TV off and spend more time with me on other things when I was growing up. There are still adults in my family who have a really hard time turning their computers, TVs and iphones off and just relating to people. We miss them so much. Its hard to imagine them without their nose stuck in front of a screen. It is not just “their passion”. Its so sad, but TV, video games, computers and even iphones can be a legitimate addiction that robs you of other things.
With all due respect Anne Marie, I have indeed heard of Sandra Dodd, read at least one of her books and articles on her website, and was also involved in NonCoercive parenting for a long time. I have also read many books on TV and video games and interviewed experts (on both sides of the issue) for my podcast and blog.
I’m also going on 14 years of experience parenting 7 children. I would like to think I have learned a thing or two about kids in that time. 😉
No, the responses aren’t sad, just b/c people aren’t on the same bandwagon you are right now. We don’t all have to agree and hopefully we aren’t all lemmings following another off the edge. Let’s respect that not everyone has the same view you have. Many of us have been parenting for quite a few years.
Heather Anderson says
I have read a lot about many of the different styles of schooling. I personally come from the perspective that biblical principles need to guide our choices. Proverbs is very clear about working diligently, not “following your hear,” guarding your hearts and minds, etc. Unschooling sounds good in many ways, but the reality is that if the Bible is true (and I believe it is) then our hearts are “desperately wicked” and need guidance and discipline. That being said, I think that it is great to encourage study in areas that are of particular interest, and also learn to apply every subject to that study. Greg Harris, a pioneer in the home school movement, called this methodology Delight Directed Studies. There are so many choices when home schooling that it can be confusing. As a veteran home schooler of 16 years, one thing I can tell you is to work within your own personality. If you need routine, then you will need at least a certain amount of routine in your schooling. That old saying, “When Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy,” is especially true when educating at home. You are the hub and have to find a place of peace for your kids to have peace. Blessings!
stick with the no screen time… very little good is on tv and what there is they won’t miss! kids need our boundaries. i can’t imagine they would start self regulating if they were totally left on their own. i do agree to follow their passions though in terms of the unschooling. we are doing a mix of a much more unstructured delight directed homeschooling. love it and so do the kids.
No, no, no, a thousand times NO! We let our son who is now 23, play games and do whatever on the computer (with a lock on it to block out nasty stuff) and it was the biggest, hugest mistake of my homeschooling experience. And we were homeschooling back in the early 80’s when homeschooling was not even heard of.
Sorry, but she is WAY off base with this one.
Also, if you didn’t have video games, they would never miss it. I grew up without a tv and never missed it!
Karen Ferguson says
I have no suggestions, just a little experience in teaching…trying to teach in a “Waldorf” kind of way in the system plus many years, many venues, different learners.
First off, only sometimes is there “black and white”…in the face of danger, like holding hands and walking across the street.
* caveat: some kids operate better w/ more structure
* you’re the head of the household: you get to decide what works for YOU
* I got to decide what works with 58 college students
* some days are better than others
* and that’s okay
* bottom line, my students knew I cared. Your kids know you love them.
* if too much on the computer is unnerving for you…then nix some of that time.
* there’s nothing wrong w/ a personal, educated opinion re: how time is spent.
texting is distracting in the classroom..out it went in my classroom. I didn’t get bent out of shape or take it personal: it’s the culture now.
However, I too would have to say that 10 hours playing computer games etc is too much. But I don’t agree with Ms. Dodd’s logic. My experience: it doesn’t apply across the board to all kids/people, in general. There are always extenuating circumstances.
There are some kids that simply have to have boundaries imposed in order to learn boundaries.
For example: My students took a consensus and said “moderation” in drinking. So, I posed a question. How much is moderation??
They were appalled at some of their classmates responses: they ranged from a case of beer for one student on a Friday night, to a bottle of wine per/female, to 4 rum and cokes for another and many in-between-answers.
Hence, my statement that there is no ‘blanket’ rule. There are many avenues and plenty of data that supports the premise that, for many, structure alleviates stress. I find that to be true, but then I have to assign a grade to each student and that student is trying to get into a college of their choice. I don’t mess around with their lives: they know exactly what it takes to get an A, B, C etc. and I never change the rules.
It’s hard enough to be in the age range of 19-25, working full-time, often having kids and attempting to learn & get good enough grades in order to transfer and finish college. Of course, I got trashed by my Dean for having open book tests, but that was okay: there was no way I could have done it any differently. Not all my students spoke English as a first language: I was trying to level the field in order to be fairness. They learned more too. Not everyone is good at memorizing or test-taking.
Teaching is not easy: those that are home-schooling know it. Those that teach know it but then that’s only one reason it’s sooo rewarding.
Hang in there, trust your gut. The rest works itself out.
Karen in CA
So I understand what Sandra Dodd is trying to say, but I think she swings too far the other way. What about self-control, a fruit of the Spirit? We need to teach our children how to take care of themselves and how to be healthy. However, there are always times for celebration. I would never let my child binge on sugar everyday just because that is what they want, but I would let them do it on their birthday (and hope they get sick and never want to do it again!)? Yes. We teach our children about what is right and wrong and why, and then we give them SOME freedom to experiment. I just don’t see how unschooling teaches your child self-discipline. When they get a job and when they have a family, they will not be able to do whatever they want all the time. That is not how the world works, so why should school be like that?
I’m definitely against letting kids play video games as often and for how ever long they would like. I totally disagree with the “forbidden fruit” mentality as kids do not know what’s best for them and will choose the option that “feels” good. Many adults are the same way. I am all for structure and limits. It is our duty as parents to provide boundaries for our kids. If we are to prepare our children for adulthood, and hopefully furthering their education (college, etc…) if it’s in their path, we have to instill discipline and putting off the “fun” things in life in order to accomplish our responsibilities. They will not be able to show up to work at any time they please, but will need to be punctual. It is our job to model responsibility, maturity and a good work ethic for our children. We don’t want them living at home when they are adults. 😉 They will need to grow up and move out on their own. It’s our job to properly prepare them.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist says
You’re kidding, right? If your kids want to play video games all day then let them?? This can’t be a serious question anymore than if your kids want to eat pixie sticks all day then let them.
Brittany @ The Pistachio Project says
I’m not an unschooler. I prefer actual homeschooling. I do however see that unschooling can work. To some extent we do incorporate unschooling into my kids’ learning (home ec., health, p.e., art… the elective type of stuff) However, like you I would worry about having my kids up to par with kids who did normal school come graduation. I’m not saying unschoolers can’t be up to par..I’d just worry that my kids weren’t.
As for screen time, I can attest that as a kid, if I was given free range on t.v I would use it. There are some kids that have the will power sense to not be a couch potato all day but there are others who do not. My kids would sack out and watch tv or play video games all day.
I think that a certain amount of free-reign on certain subjects is great. There is a whole homeschool style called “Delight Directed”. The kid gets to pick the topic that interests them and the way they’d like to study ~ but they still need to be learning something. They can’t completely tune-out and play all day. Most people who do delight directed still teach their children the basics: math, writing, reading with a set curriculum. But then the child gets to choose if they want to learn about the Revolutionary War with a bunch of books or get hands on and do a bunch of chemistry experiments or whatever.
Regarding TV time. I think it depends on the child! My 9 year old would play a LOT of video games if he had the freedom to do so. Yes, he’d probably eventually stop to do something else. But it would take a LONG time, and I’m not sure he wouldn’t go BACK to video games after a short time doing something else. Also, I’ve noticed that my son gets quite a bad attitude when he’s been staring at a screen for too long. Part of it is training that attitude out of him, but why should I allow him to do something that is going to produce that attitude in the first place?
I once met a homeschooler that let her children have as much video games/tv time as they wanted AFTER the sun went down. If the sun was up, there were plenty of other things to be doing. But they couldn’t stay up all night playing video games / watching TV as they had chores that had to be done in the morning. The kids learned through natural consequence that staying up till all hours of the morning playing and then having to get up and do chores was not the way to do it. 🙂
We’ll be instituting a new screen time rule here ourselves. I am just not sure what it is. It’s gotten out of control in this house! 🙂
Tienne McKenzie says
Know thy child. That’s key. My son is ADHD and has a lazy streak and is obsessive in his interests. Over the summer we went for a month’s vacation and spent it at my in-laws house on the beach in Michigan. My son watched on average, 3 hours of TV per day (the same six episodes of Phineas and Ferb over and over and over again.) He didn’t read once. Yes, he’s an active guy and went kayaking, hiking, to the playground, biking, swimming, etc., but any time he was tired and wanted to be still, he was watching TV.
My husband, on the other hand, is naturally self-motivated and very disciplined and focused. He would have done great things.
Let my son pick his interests? Sure! Allow him freedom to decide how he wants to express himself? Great? Give him unlimited screen time and no direction? Not a good idea.
Cindy Stalnaker says
We have homeschooled for 8 years now. Homeschooling means lots of things to lots of people, and we each have to find our own way. You are doing the right thing to ask questions and educate yourself:)
While our family does have somewhat of a schedule and we do use workbooks and guided lessons, I see some benefits of unschooling. The simple definition of unschooling is self-directed learning. I don’t think this means letting them do whatever they want, especially in regard to screen time. Parents still need to guide and mold, that is our job. We are to instill good behavioral patterns that our children will have forever. I would recommend “Laying Down the Rails” by Sonya Shafer and other books that incorporate the Charlotte Mason Method. This book talks about that the most effort in life is used up in making decisions. But if the rails are laid down to the right destinations, our children will automatically make the right choices and leave the effort for more important and higher brain functions.
Why do WE homeschool? Not because we think we can TEACH better, but because we think we can instill CHARACTER better. I want my children to have Godly world views to make an impact and lead others to Christ. Now if after we learn about self-control, compassion, and forgiveness they are not interested in my lesson on butterflies but want to learn about reptiles, we go to the zoo to the reptile building, check out reptile books and videos from the library, play games about reptiles and draw reptiles. That, to me, is the unschooling method. Happy homeschooling!
We homeschooled for years and while I never unschooled, we definitely did a relaxed version of school. I had an eclectic curriculum loosely based on CM and Waldorf (but Christian in nature). I know LOTS of unschoolers. I think in order to unschool successfully you have to have the belief that children know what is best for themselves. I don’t happen to believe that (foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child). Children have parents and need to be raised for a reason. That reason is because they don’t know what is best for themselves! Plus, as the adult with experience in the world you know much more about what they will need to be literate and support themselves than they do at this point. Some unschoolers we know cannot read even as teenagers, some are innumerate. Some are verly lovely, thoughful and well-spoken, but most are willful and pretty much it is all about them. Most of the unschoolers we know will drop a planned activity on a whim. The sun is shining so they want to go to the beach that day. Without a thought to the person who worked long and hard to organize and plan the activity that they willingly signed up for. They also tend to have a hard time with the constraints of work and society in general. (Just my observations of the unschoolers we know – not a slam to those who unschool).
I think a much better way is to let the child have a lot of input and work in lots of free time where they can explore things they might be interested in, while still required a basic curriculum. One of my children loved the Civil War, so I always tried to work that into our curriculum. Another loved art, so we always included healthy doses of that. You will find your groove after a bit. Don’t give up! Trial and error will work in the end.
Oh, your kids may need to deschool, which is basically doing nothing academic for a while until they are ready. In the meantime, you can plan plenty of field trips and lots of free reading. Good luch on your journey!
Amanda T. says
On another thought. What if we adopted this same philosophy towards diet with our kids, and allowed our kids to choose whatever they wanted to eat? According to this philosophy it would be fine because eventually the kids would come around and get sick of eating all that candy and sugar. Somehow I doubt this. Many children would continue to beg for more. There is something that is just not logically coherent in the unschooling method. Sugar is addictive and we should guide our children to make wise choices, teaching them about why we eat certain things. On the same note, we should be aware that TV watching and video game playing can also be addictive, and we should guide our children to make wise choices, teaching them about why we do or do not watch certain things, and why we only watch TV/play video games for a certain amount of time. Just a thought.
Cindy Stalnaker says
Very good comparison!
I don’t have time for a long post. I just want to recommend two items that have been a blessing to our family. The “Curriculum Advice” audios by Victoria Botkin available at WesternConservatory.org and “Captivated” a documentary about media usage.
I’ve been homeschooling for 26 years, some good years, some bad. I’m against unlimited screen time, and video games. Maybe it will work for some, but why take the chance? I can’t quite agree with the whole unschooling idea either. Its basic philosophy is that if children are left on their own, they would be self driven to learn. Maybe in some things, but there’s going to be gaps in my opinion. Also, it seems to me a humanist concept, where man is inherently good. I believe we have a sinful nature. Proverbs 22:-15 says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of the child. It’s our job as parents to love, guide and direct them. Boundaries are not bad! They can give comfort and security.
On the other hand, lighten up, and and explore text book alternatives. We love reading or watching a movie of historical fiction, then researching it. Then there are games, museums, art shows, State Parks, war reenactments…all kinds of things to spark our interest. Even a grocery store can be educational. Learn together as a family!
I now have a 6th grader, and a 9th grader. We have structured time, and free time. We have a good life, full of love, and they are happy and contented. They know what is expected from them.
Amanda T. says
Wow! Lots of thoughts on this topic. Here’s just an idea: no TV. I mean, no TV in the house. My husband and I decided we didn’t want a TV in the house before we got married, so when we married we didn’t buy one. Not because we think “TV is the devil!” we just don’t think TV has much to offer. For most of history, families didn’t have TVs, and I think kids are the better for it. Our educational philosophy is a combo of Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and classical education.
Tammy R. says
Can’t say I know much about unschooling other than I’ve heard it mentioned quite a lot but I also was told through our christian home educators newsletter that unschooling is not legal in our state of Michigan. So that is something you might want to look into first before you spend a lot of time researching it.
We are in our 4th year of using Sonlight for our core subjects and are really liking it. I am also considering Trail Guide to Learning – another literature based, hands on approach to schooling. I just switched to Teaching Textbooks for our dd’s math this year and she is loving it. First time I ever remember her EAGER to do math! 🙂
Not limiting things is great in theory, but doesn’t work as a straight forward rule with every kid. From what I have seen, if free reign is given on TV, especially with home schooling, the parents need to be VERY intentional about providing a context for the children to explore other things as well (hobbies and such). In my family, the desire for TV varied from child to child. Some of the children were able to put the TV and video games aside and explore other interests in a healthy manner with very little direction. But some of them did not have the personalities inclined to easily pursue other interests on their own or even entertain themselves during their free time. They really did need more adult involvement- not to give them rules or hover over their activities, but to facilitate other activities and to help them explore other interests (even if that meant just having supplies available for their use, not necessarily doing everything with them). The mistake I have seen is that parents assume they can just leave it up to the child without providing other options. It really doesn’t work with some kids to do that. Unfortunately, I have seen kids who needed more direction with free time choose A LOT of TV and video time and suffer for it. It needs to be done with a very clear evaluation of the specific personalities of the children and a constant re-evaluation from the adults as time passes.
I think it is the same with food. Some kids, for whatever reason, are more inclined to load up on sugar than others. We need to provide lots of healthy alternatives if we choose not to limit their sugar intake. Some will need more direction in this than others.
The point is, as a parent, you are helping your child learn to choose healthy things, be that food or what they do with their free time. Self control is learned and comes more easily to some than to others. We provide a safe place for them to acquire it and to mature into healthy adults.
one more thought – video games VS computer – the computer is a tool. Our children will grow up NEEDING computer skills for their jobs, and even every day life. It is important that they are given the opportunity to use it, I think. Video games, on the other hand, are entertainment. They are not self-serve in our house. They are a treat.
amber jackson says
I do not know a lot about unschooling except what I have seen from a few friends that were unschooled, and they turned out fine. Although another child that was home/un-schooled doesn’t know how to read and cannot maintain a conversation, but I blame that on his parent for not engaging him in living. I didn’t actually come to discuss unschooling but rather to make a statement about the need to follow along with how you are as a parent on your most positive/healthful state l, what I mean by this is to remind yourself what it was like when your children were transitioning to real food, did you allow them to continue eating all the crap food until they decided that they needed to eat better, no you strongly “encouraged” them to eat what is best for their body and I think it may turn the same with schooling that you will strongly encourage them in what is best for their mind and spirit-which you will know from listening to your intuition. Hope this makes sense, basically follow your heart/gut/inner/God guidance.
Some of the unschooling principles I have heard about make sense and others are completely out of touch with reality and simply do not align with a Biblical view of children and their raising.
I believe the idea that we “let children do whatever they want” in terms of screen time or anything else completely ignores the fact that children do not know what’s best for them and are without good moral judgement. That is, they are sinners.
The whole point of training a child up in the way they should go and in the fear and admonition of the Lord is that they are not able to make sound judgements as to their own welfare or what is truly good for them (not what FEELS good).
It completely depends on your kids – and YOU know them best! I would say, yes, do require the basics (math, in particular). And pray about this continually – God will direct you to what’s best for your family each and every year.
We unschool. Always have. Unschooling is how adults learn… we choose what we want to learn, how to learn it (based on our learning style), and then we retain the information because we ASKED for it (vs. someone trying to force it on us). This is the only natural way to learn, and kids are great at it…until you put them in school and their natural curiousity gets sucked out of them (this can also happen at home in a “school at home” environment). Trusting that kids will learn what they need to learn is as natural as trusting that a tree with do whatever it need to do to grow. Unschooling doesn’t mean a kid never takes a class. If they WANT to take a class, then let them. The key is the desire. If anyone is trying to force them to learn something, it won’t work. If they take half of a semester of a class and then want to drop the class, fine! They got whatever it was they needed out of what they did do, and won’t get anything out of anything they’re forced to do (except a bad experience that they will then have to heal from later). None of us wants to be a caged animal…freedom is the only place in which true learning flourishes.
I think Sandra Dodd has brilliant things to say. Her observations certainly opened my mind. However, she subscribes to a style of unschooling called “Radical Unschooling.” We tried this approach, and found that elements of it did not fit with our core beliefs. We are unschoolers through and through, but the “radical” approach to other areas of parenting did not work for our family. I am grateful to Sandra (and others) who have helped us in our journey.
My favorite primer on this topic is “The Teenage Liberation Handbook” by Grace Llewylln. Don’t let the name fool you. It’s for anyone of any age. It will free your mind. Then read everything written by John Holt. You may want to start with “How Children Fail” and “How Children Learn.” Everything he wrote is different and fantastic.
You’ve gotten a lot of great responses here! I agree with the posters that say it depends on the child. My hubby was one who played video games a lot as a kid. He played Pac Man endlessly until he mastered it, and has never played a video or computer game since. He thought his sons would be the same. They aren’t. If we don’t limit them, that is all they would do. It doesn’t make them nicer people either. I also know many adults (all males) who sacrifice a lot of time and sleep to games. I think the only think that keeps them “in check” is their responsibilities to their families.
We have to do some regulating of screen time here, as there is only one computer and several people (including me!) that want to use it. What I do is let them decide how long they will be on, knowing that there are others waiting to use it. They usually pick something reseasonable like 30 minutes. They get several opportuinities during the day for this – there is almost always someone on the computer.
Please unschool! (haha) It is August, we are spending our days camping, swimming, and seeing friends – but when we are at home my kids are reading their Life of Fred books and writing animal reports that they present orally to the whole family before supper. None of this is lead by me. When we were able to wrap our heads around “learning all the time” and being free to do what we enjoy – surprises, surprise! they discovered they enjoy most things and best of all, there is no fighting or forcing in the name of “learning”. I encourage you to read Homeschooling with Gentleness and The Little Way of Homeschooling, both my Suzie Anders.
Its like having a big cake in the room all the time. the screen is like sugar… pulls you out of balance in an impossible to balance, addictive way. I say: throw the thing out. You wouldn’t expect them not to each much sugar if you had a cake in the middle of the table all the time, would you? I try to eat healthy and I would NOT be able to overcome a cake sitting right at my nose. The “life will balance itself” theory does not apply to video games or cake. 🙂
Adding my voice to the chorus that says that some kids will self regulate, and some won’t.
When I was a teenager I had a couple of friends who were so addicted to video games (and their parents gave them unrestricted access) that they couldn’t hold down a job or lead normal lives because they would stay up ALL NIGHT LONG gaming. They were addicted, and I believe and notice that some kids, especially boys with certain personalities, will exhibit this behavior. These friends of mine looked like pasty faced vampires because they never saw the sun and ate Cheetos and Dr Pepper all night to keep themselves awake for gaming. Then they couldn’t get out of bed all day the next day. So everything suffered – they couldn’t get up for church, for jobs, for anything.
I have gotten sucked into the unschooling and noncoercive parenting movements in the past, and I believe that they share some characteristics with cults. Both have a tendency to inspire guilt in well meaning, sensitive parents who want to do the right thing, and both tend to be very harshly judgmental of people who choose a different path. It took YEARS for me to get noncoercive parenting/ “Taking Children Seriously” propaganda out of my head!
I think when it comes to homeschooling, each parent has to decide what their overarching goal is. What is the most important thing you want your child to learn as a result of their years at home, as a result of their education? Focus on that and don’t get caught up in philosophies.
Philosophies – you can pick and choose what you like about each, and create your own style that doesn’t fit into any label. I hate labels!
We gave our 14 year old son unlimited xbox time this summer, where he plays online with kids he knows (we monitor his friends list). He did not self regulate. He would get up as soon as the sun rose, get on the xbox, not move until 2pm or 3pm, get a snack (his first food of the day), eat as fast as he could, get back on the xbox, and play until midnight. Then he did the same thing the next day, and the next day, and the next day . . . He’s now limited to 1 hour on school days, and 4 hours on non-school days. He doesn’t do this with TV, or the internet (he has his own laptop) – I think there is something especially addicting about video games over other types of screen time.
Wow! I think I’d just get rid of the whole thing. That kid needs to find a new hobby!
Great post for all of us beginning a new school year. Isn’t a big part of homeschooling (and any nonschool day for us) teaching life skills such as time management? At our house we have to “report our plan”. Depending on our activities for the following day, sometimes I have them report their plan the night before. I stress balance and encourage the kids to listen to their bodies. If they are feeling grumpy or sluggish or bored or crazy, it may be time to change up the activity (or to change the environment in which the activity is being done)- this goes for eating habits too- to a point (thanks Kristin 🙂 ). The chores checklist just needs to be done by a time that the adult in charge deems appropriate according to the day’s activities- which always gives me veto power :). I’m not saying the plans never change- and I myself constantly battle spontaneous urges to feed the creativity/organization muscle… so, it kinda keeps me in check too. After all, haven’t we all learned the best way to teach is to model the desired behavior while encouraging awareness of individual styles. What makes me thrive, doesn’t necessarily make my kids thrive. So easy to type the words… so much more difficult to keep the real life balance- while also getting stuff done. Of course, Kelly, your more “Type A” style enables you to show for a whole lot more than mine does (still wonder if you ever sleep 🙂 ), so… grain of salt…
I think kids can learn a lot from video, especially good video. Discern what they watch and let them watch it. Balance learning with doing. Teach them to follow their hearts passions. Video games can enhance problem solving skills. Eventually they will figure out the game and move on to something more difficult. How many 5th graders choose to play with a 2 year old puzzle? They might if they create a new game where they’re racing to see who can do it fastest. I think games and video are just tools to help develop their creativity. Will they watch TV all day if you let them? Not if you offer a more social and “fun” activity. We all have an innate preference for better. Kids want to play, preferably with other “kids”. Use that fact to lead them to unplugging and applying what they’ve seen. Try turning on the closed captioning for the child who is ready to learn reading. Turn the volume down when they’re able to read some words. Now TV time is reading enhancement. Wean your kids off processed foods at whatever pace you feel is most comfortable to them. Change from GMO processed sugar beets to more natural sugars. Gradually add water to REAL maple syrup & honey. Add more fat to blunt the insulin effect. If you want to get them off bread, try Ezekiel low salt bread. Bread tastes like cardboard without salt & sugar. You’re the boss of the kitchen, but leave them some choices, like good or better or best or best. That’s what we do. I have an only and we have good public schools here, so we’re doing that for now which leaves me time to pursue other interests, but we may homeschool in the future if I feel like it’s best for my child’s development. It’s so wonderful to have choices.
Check out this website, Kelly. https://unschoolingcatholics.blogspot.com/ You might find it inspiring — especially scroll down and read the article “Twenty Weeks for Six Years of Math”. I also like thewelltrainedmind.com which is considered a classical approach, but the author of this site relies heavily on child-led interest within the classical structure.
My seven-year-old can watch TV non-stop or picks computer games, but he seems less addicted if we limit access (of course he doesn’t know that) to just movies with no commercials. They have a different pacing and, well, no commercials. But I think he would really rather be doing other things, he just doesn’t think there is other “fun” stuff available to him (my fault). So if I said, “Let’s go to the museum/botanical gardens/zoo/library/etc!” He would definitely pick one and want to stop watching TV.
I also like the “strewing” idea and having the house filled with fun, creative activities available to them whenever they are motivated to use them.
It seems like someone else already said it, but “deschooling” is said to take one month for every year your child has been in school and this seems to have held true for us. I started homeschooling last year with my 10th grader and it took him a long time to relax and not worry about curriculum/teacher structure — to know that he could do it on his own — and he asked to be homeschooled! This year we are going to start homeschooling the 2nd grader and Y5 as well. My husband is not very comfortable with a lack of any curriculum structure and my ability to keep records, so we’re going to use time4learning.com as a way to “keep up”, but to me it’s our supplement — his “school” games, which he is interested in doing and can use according to his interest. But so far, this is all theory for us too. I’m sure we’ll have to figure out what will work for us as we go along through the next year or so. Call me if you want to chat, you have my number ;).
I do believe in incorporating many aspects of unschooling, but I have to disagree with unlimited screen time. I do let my children watch some TV, but their screen time is limited. They are not old enough to really be interested in video games yet, but we will be monitoring that too.
Television and video games are designed to be addictive (anyone ever sat down to play a quick game of something or watch one show and wasted an hour?). Video games give a false sense of accomplishment that has an especially powerful effect on young males but can also affect females. People are designed to seek the rewarding feeling of accomplishment, and it should motivate us to work hard and truly accomplish something. However, when you play video games, you can sit on the couch all day and get that same feeling. To allow our children to become addicted to something that can affect their habits the rest of their lives is neglectful parenting. It can actually de-motivate them and keep them from success.
Our Small Hours says
We unschool when we are busy. The children are always encouraged to read and study what interests them. I plan my own curriculum, and if we get off course because a child wants to follow an interest, so be it.
About screen time–my children have free reign, yes. And they self-regulate nicely. We are also involved in athletic or other activities outside of the home so they have plenty of other things to do. Some days they have little or no screen time because we are out doing other things that they enjoy. They enjoy TV and video games, but they are hardly glued to the screen all day. There just isn’t time for it when the world outside has so much to offer!
Cathy F. says
In all things, children need guidance. This is probably the primary purpose of parents. Entirely left to themselves, children will rarely become all they can be. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can build your curriculum around your child. Public school, on the other hand, forces every child into one government-issue mold.
Unschooling sounds to me more like neglect than guidance…but perhaps I don’t fully understand it. Human nature, if nothing else, tells me that letting a child have his (or her) own reigns is a bad idea…because even if they know where they want to go, they usually don’t know how to get there. And they will always choose the path of least resistance,which usually results in mediocrity.
On the other hand, there are really only three foundations that, if one has, they can get everything else on their own… Strong reading/language skills. Strong math skills. And a knowledge of God. Make sure you give them these and they can springboard, using their unique gifts, anywhere God wants to take them.
That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. Good luck with your decision.
In respect to Dodds advice, I have the following to say: Llest us not forget that we are all made of the flesh and will gravitate towards self interest. Those self interest are not always the healthiest for us. Especially when raising children we must not forget this. We are training them up in the way that they should go. Sure, given the opportunity my kids would not only sit around playing on the computer all the live long day, but they would do it while eating ho ho’s and ding dongs! BTW, so would I, but I would add some coffee to the mix =)
But, fortunately I know better and need to train/teach my children to live life in moderation in all things edifying. YKWIM?!? Take it from me, a momma to 4 active children, homeschooling your children is not always easy, it shouldn’t be! You get what you put into it. Try not to look for the “easy way out” homeschooling/unschooling is work, joyous work if you apply yourself to your children – otherwise you will be fighting against yourself year after year.
Listen to some of the mom’s out there, they are giving you some good advice.
Blessings to you and keep up the good work!
BTW Kelly, there are two really great Catholic unschooling books:
” Homeschooling with Gentleness- A Catholic Discovers Unschooling”
and” A Little Way of Homeschooling” both by Suzie Andres.
It all depends on your child’s personality. I look at it this way; I wouldn’t let my children self-regulate with sugar. They would consume far too much and it wouldn’t be healthy for them. They might eventually get sick of it and get to a stable consumption rate, but what health damage would be done during that time? I feel that it’s my job as their parent to help them make good choices and give them the information they need to make those better choices, while they are too immature to do that on their own. With media the way it is now, even without network or cable tv, there is a lot of screen-sugar out there.
The best part about homeschooling is that you can do what works for you and your family. We started out with a Classical approach, but like most, we settled into our own groove that is far less rigid and suits my children’s learning styles better. Try lots of things, keep what works and drop what doesn’t.
Having never unschooled (but homeschooling for going on 12 years now), I can’t help but think a thoughtful balance between structured schooling and unschooling would be better for most children than giving them complete free reign in how they spend their time and what they chose to learn. There are a couple of reasons for this:
1. Regarding screen time–the point made previously about the addictive nature of passive media entertainment is of huge importance. Depending on the child, that could lead to a LOT of time spent with the mind disengaged and passively absorbing material that is entertaining (escaping reality) without being challenging or inviting deeper thought, critical analysis, or problem solving. Among the life skills that children need their parents’ help in cultivating are self-discipline and good habits, as well as actively and critically engaging with information that comes our way. Parenting is about guiding and protecting our kids until they have the values instilled and maturity to do it themselves. This is a process that requires outside input. As a balance, too much external structure without room to practice self discipline and evaluation themselves might foster too much dependence on others later (a problem I have observed in a few young adults after completing intense discipleship programs).
2. As far as allowing a child to completely chose what he/she will learn (100% self-guiding)…a person doesn’t know what they don’t know. As an adult, we are aware of things that a child has never been exposed to, so it is our responsibility, our privilege, to expose them to areas of study that they may never know exist otherwise–even to teach them. How silly for a child to miss out on the wisdom and experience of their parents/elders. And as a balance to that, dogmatically requiring a traditional study of every area covered in public school seems pointless. Even that is incredibly limiting, spending time in some areas with little value while taking time away from exploration in other areas that could be especially enriching to a child.
How’s that for a middle-of-the-road response! 🙂
In both of these points, I think the most important thing is for a parent to be a parent–to trust their gut instincts, to lead their child without suffocating him/her under the expectations set by educational dictocrats. Too much structure is limiting, but so is too little. And some children flourish with more freedom, while others need more guidance.
Read “The Plug In Drug” before you let them have unlimited TV. I read that and it totally changed how I think about the television. My son would watch it all day, everyday if I would let him. It is not just the content of TV that could be problematic, it is what happens to our brains while we watch it. There are actual physiological changes that occur. Video games? Same thing. I have found the computer to be an addiction/time suck for me as well and have to set limits for myself. I personally am not an unschooler, I thrive with structure and routine, as does my son.
YES – that book is awesome! Screens change the brain, and there is evidence that this change is NOT a good or healthy thing. Why do we think it’s good to limit kid’s access to junk food and sugar, and to make sure they get enough sleep, and wear their seat belts and brush their teeth and discipline and guide them in other aspects, but it’s not ok to regulate screen time? Makes no sense.
Some people are just really good at manipulating parental guilt and the unschoolers/noncoercive parenting seem to be especially so. Children NEED limits. Without them they are frightened and insecure.
Sorry for the errors, I apparently need to reread my auto corrects before hitting send. Dang phone.
I’d watch out for unlimited fame time. Video games have an addicting element that is actually designed into the games. I have they can trigger the same emotional responses (and release brain chemicals) similar to that of someone getting high. Google video game addiction. It’s scary stuff. I my marriage almost ended because of it. My hubby had unlimited screen time as a kid and he did not learn to self regulate, and he escaped from reality in games. Role playing games create a completely fake social experience for people these days.
I don’t know about tv time though, but my parenting gut says to limit it too. Although like your daughter I taught myself to cook watching food network. It can be a good tool. It my screen time was VERY limited as a kid and I still don’t watch much. I developed other interests. Now that didn’t work where sweets were the case. The those were also very limited and when I got to college I went overboard on sugar intake and am just now 10 yrs later starting to self regulate my sweets.
Unschooling SOUNDS awesome to me but I also think screen time can be addictive. I remember reading a biography of Robbie Williams once and at one point when he was very popular he started playing a video game which he played solid for around 3 months before he got sick of it, he played it every waking hour and all his muso employees were throwing their hands up in the air before he eventually gave it up and went back to his music……..3 MONTHS!!! My twin boys also were a good example. Someone gave us a tv when our twins were 2, one of them would watch a little and just get up and walk away, the other would just sit there motionless for hours if we let him, it was really amazing. So perhaps it comes down to personality.
I have unschooled & for our family, it doesn’t work out so well. Fortunately, my kids are avid readers, so in those reading-related areas, we are good. I have to have a set curriculum, however, hands down, no questions asked for math &the fine points of english/phonics. & it has been my experience that yes, while sometimes we might not want what we can freely have, often, what we freely can have & do have *can* become an addiction. It as also been my experience that video gaming is addictive *for some*. I say, use your best judgement & does what you feel works for your family today, b/c tomorrow, it may change.
Kel, i don’t have much to say about the screen time question but wanted to share a resource tied in with unschooling: “tidal homeschooling”. https://melissawiley.com/blog/2007/11/16/the-tidal-homeschooling-master-list/ High tide is more structured, low tide is less; she also practices “strewing” where she leaves books and materials about for certain children to discover on their own. I’ve been intrigued by the concept for a while.
PS, about 7 weeks to baby time! Here’s praying my adrenals hold out and i can bring my kindergartener home where she belongs for school!
Thanks for this Lenetta!
I had opened that link the other day and just had time to go poking around there – I love it! That is exactly how I see things going for our homeschool, we’re just finding what works for us and going with it, and it will likely be a big ol’ mixed bag.
I loved her post on Tidal homeschooling (https://melissawiley.com/blog/2006/01/11/tidal-homeschooling/) and how she said that her kids enjoy their time with “Cap’n Mom” – I pray this is so for us!
VERY well said, Meg Logan! I agree with you 100%! 🙂
Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama says
We unschool, although my kids are little, and I allow the TV whenever they want. Some days they do just sit in front of it. Most days they find playing outside in the dirt, helping in the kitchen, playing with water, going to a playground, building Legos, pretty much anything more interesting than the TV. There are some kids who really will sit in front of it, mesmerized, as long as it is on. And there are kids for whom it is mostly background, something to do while relaxing, if not feeling well, etc. Mine are in the latter category so I don’t feel the need to police it at all. They still spend a majority of time doing non-TV activities most of the time. They can’t sit still that long; they get bored and start climbing on my furniture or begging to go outside.
Unschooling does not have to mean NO structure. It means the kids and their interests help guide the structure, if that is what they need. You have to work harder because you have to be on top of their interests (which should be much easier since your kids are older and can clearly explain to you what they like) and you have to provide a lot of activities and options for them. Have interesting books lying around, or simply take them to the library and let them pick whatever they want. Maybe they really want to read about business or how to style hair, who knows! They’ll be more likely to read it if they choose themselves. You might also have Legos, K’Nex, special computer programs (there is a good one that allows them to learn programming, I forget, but you can find it mentioned on Raising Arrows blog), and various other hands-on type of stuff. Take advantage of your area and get a membership to some museums — I know there are good ones around you. Some of them have a special program where you can get into museums around the country for free if you are a member there, the museums just have to be more than 90 miles away. It could be an excuse to take a short road trip or two (we have lots of awesome museums that participate in it down here in Columbus, OH!).
I have heard that sometimes children who were public schooled really go through an adjustment period, though, where they feel bored and they do opt to just watch TV or use the computer all day. They do not feel compelled or able to figure out how to just “learn” after so many years of being “taught” and having tests and so on. They have to rediscover a love of learning and a desire to learn for the intrinsic value of doing so. From this angle it may be better to give them a month of no plan, with lots of options available, to see what they do and where they go without direction — give them a break from the pressure of ‘having’ to learn something that makes no sense to them and that they struggle with. Then once you see what they choose you can kind of re-present the troubling subjects wrapped up in a real-life package.
Just as an example, if you have a child who doesn’t do well with math, but is social and interested in business/sales, you might try teaching math as a part of business. They need functional skills that they will use throughout life, not a rigorous academic curriculum that they will forget after the test and which will be irrelevant to their future careers anyway. (That requires a shift in thinking too because we are so heavily into “they need academics, they MUST go to college” now but we don’t believe that. College is where you go if your planned career requires additional education, it’s not just “something to do” after high school.)
I have LOTS of thoughts on this matter, lol. My oldest is only 4.5 so a lot is theoretical right now, but my husband was homeschooled from 3 – 12 and a lot of this is also based on his experience and what we learned from it. I have a few posts on my blog about his experiences and what we are doing too now.
Meg Logan says
Well, there is a certain truth to the concept that we want what we can’t have… but i have to say, in my own life, that isn’t always the rule. For instance, if I crave sugar (which I usually do), I do not crave it less and less when I give myself permission to eat it as much as I want. I have not EVER come to a point where I didn’t want sugar, unless I was very carefully restricting it for a long period of time and then and ONLY then would the craving go away. Also, my own husband notes that even if he can play computer games endlessly without guilt, he never wants to stop… he might stop one game, but then pick up another one just as addicting. So I have to disagree. I don’t think that giving a teen boy free reign over screen time is going to curb his appetite. I think it will feed it. In my own kids, I notice that they crave more and more screen time the more I give it to them.
Scripturally speaking, when we feed the flesh a sin, (not declaring screen time a sin…) we tend to want more and more of that sin, not less and less… The more a man looks at porn, the more he wants it. The more a person eats gluttonously, the more food they can and will eat… So, I don’t think that the concept is actually true. I think scripture is true… that we will feed an appetite and the more we feed it the more we want it… and this goes for positive appetites too…So the more we feed healthy foods to our bodies, the more we want them, the more we feed godly thoughts to our minds, the more we want them and think them and they become a part of us.
One other question I’d ask myself before I gave a kid free reign of any screen… how is this building up their character? How is it edifying them? Does it point them to Jesus or away?
Agreed! I love the last paragraph of your comment, Meg. We are very flexible homeschoolers but I believe that it is my God-given assignment to guide my children (my treasures) with an eternal perspective and to give them boundaries to protect them while they are young and to raise them up showing them and teaching them about God’s lavish love, His grace and His mercy.
Back to screen time. We do let them have more screen time than I would like but their selections are limited since we do not have broadcast TV signals or Netflix. They can play educational computer games (PBS) or The Happy Scientist videos — AFTER they have completed their schoolwork (I make them “earn” their screen time). There are a lot of educational shows that are “fun” but as a parent I still have to make sure that they are beneficial to my children and not feeding them “junk”.
Honestly, Kelly, I do not think that you will regret limiting screen time as long as you are offering them lots of other fun and educational opportunities to exercise their curiosities. Fuel their passions and interests. So glad that you share your concerns here on your blog.
J in VA says
Agreed! I also love the last paragraph of your comment.
We are all fallen (as in Adam) and our true nature is sinful. Our job as parents primarily is to lead them to Jesus. Honestly, ALL our activities should be edifying and we should ask if we would do that thing if Jesus were in the room.
You might spend some time on this guy’s web site. We heard him at a homeschool ceonference and he is on target: Phillip Telfer, a homeschool dad.
The Nourishing Road says
Excellent comment above from Meg Logan.
Discipline is LOVE. We must guide our children. Teach them to be content in all situations. To see the positive side to chores they might detest. To love their siblings and to learn to deny themselves to the glory of God.
This behavior is only found through the holy spirit and a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Obeying God is our first goal…not following an earthly Passion. And therefore discipline is key. And only through this can our kids be truly happy, well rounded people. Not that we be mean…just consistent and leading by example.
Naomi Williams says
Nooooo, don’t do it! Once they get used to the extra hours, it’s almost impossible to scale back.
(I homeschooled both my kids from birth to college, combo of unschooling and set activities. My son is now 24 and totally addicted to his computer monitor for mainly frivolous activities. )
We have “unschooled” to various degrees in the past. It definitely met the needs of some of my children than others. I’ve read Sandra Dodd’s work and have mixed feelings. I have reservations about playing to human nature, since (from my personal worldview) unredeemed human nature is sin nature, and a redeemed spirit will look for more than “forbidden fruit” to be satisfied in life. I do agree that school is an unnatural restraint and that the six-year-old mind does NOT, in most cases, function best under those external restraints.
Sure, if I’d turned my twelve-year-old son loose to play video games all day, we would have had a problem. But having started in a looser environment at a younger age, he had already found activities and hobbies that met his needs better than screen time. And I have personal experience with a child who I thought would “never” learn her times tables. She sure didn’t…until we found something she wanted to learn that required them.
There’s an old saying, “You can’t lead a horse to drink, but you can salt the oats.” A salted oats approach to unschooling worked very well for us.
Dina Siano says
Homeschooling is awesome! So glad you are taking the plunge. This is only our 5th year and I pulled my kids out late in the game too. I am not an expert but my personal opinion is that some kids may be better able to self regulate screen time if this is something they have been doing from early on. I know for sure that given the choice my kids would spend the entire day in front of the various screens. One of the reasons for homeschooling is to break away from the notion that all children are the same, so I respectfully disagree with that statement. Like everything else, we all have different experiences and there are so many variables. The best thing you can do is follow your own instincts. And don’t forget, YOU have to be comfortable and really believe in whichever approach you take. I have wasted a lot of time trying to mold myself and children into what I’ve read and really liked. Now I can finally admit that although something may appeal to me, it may not be a good fit for us. Don’t stress though, there is a lot of room for error. You will find your way.
Dina, I voted your post as the most inspiring and helpful in the matter of screen time and overall homeschooling/unschooling category. Thanks!
As with so many things, I think it depends on what your children are like. To say that ALL children will lose interest in, for example, video games, eventually because they are not forbidden anymore, seems unrealistic to me.
This is what I am thinking (as someone without kids but interacts with enough of them). There are kids who will stare at the screen for hours and have no interest in anything else. You need to know what the kid needs most and their personality traits, which I think is a part of unschooling anyway.
I also personally would include some subjects they might not enjoy, like science. Given the atrocious levels of scientific education and knowledge I would want to do something about it. That, and I was a science geek as a kid and still love it even though it has never been my strongest subject.
There have been a few times where I let my kids have free reign of tv when I had a migraine and absolutely needed quiet. I was surprised when they self regulated, turned the tv off and moved on to other things. This was a while ago and lately it seems as though it has become more addictive. Now when they watch tv or are on the computer they can sit there for hours if no one intervenes. This concerns me because of the actual physiological addiction that occurs and the effects on the endocrine, brain and nervous system. My oldest really enjoys cooking shows as well and is very inspired by Julia Child and could watch her for hours. Yet she`d much rather be actually cooking in the kitchen than watching about it. She`s still too young to have free reign in the kitchen, so it`s up to me to make sure she has the opportunities to do what interests her. If I`m on the ball and have plenty of other interesting things for them to engage in then they could care less about the tv. The tv and computer are just an easy thing to jump in and engage with, and once the`re on they are hooked. While I like the idea of allowing a child to learn to self regulate (in certain situations) and also not making the tv a “forbidden fruit”, excessive screen time is simply not good for the body and brain (especially a developing one) and absolutely can become an addiction. My suggestion if you want to test out taking the regulation of screen time away is to be sure you have a plethora of other engaging activities at their disposal. While they may or may not eventually turn it off (I think personality can be a factor as well), excessive screen time is simply unhealthy. I`m all for many aspects of unschooling, but not when it may compromise health. Do what fits your family best. For us it`s a combo. We need structure in certain areas and in other areas learning happens best without it.
My kids are little yet, just now starting to reach “official” school age. But years ago, the likes of John Holt and John Taylor Gatto and AS Neill are who originally turned me onto homeschooling–definitely via an unschooling route–and caused me to realize that I would get into Trouble as the schoolteacher I was going to college to be and that my own kids, when I had them, would be homeschooled.
Thus far, we’ve been unschooling, and my older 2 kids are both roughly 2 years above age level. My 5 year-old taught herself to read at 3, and my almost 4 year-old is sounding out words. They’ve both asked their way through addition and subtraction, too. They like to do math in the car! 🙂 (We have an old van, and I’m not likely to ever get into in-van TV, anyhow) My plan is to keep unschooling as long as the kids seem to be staying roughly at least at grade level. We will probably do more formal math eventually, likely Life of Fred as my story-centric eldest will really connect with that approach. As the kids’ interests mesh with things for which Khan Academy videos are available, I show them those, too. They usually spend the first minute telling me they don’t want to watch that, and the rest of the video totally absorbed.
We don’t have any “official” limits on screen time. BUT we don’t make it easy to watch the babble box all day, either! Our TV only does DVD’s and Roku channels, primarily streaming Netflix. The wonderful thing about this setup is that, when a show is over, another show requires someone to actually act–nothing just comes on “next”. And we have no intention of teaching the kids how to operate the Roku (I expect they will figure it out for themselves soon enough). I do keep control over what my kids watch, as I have to deal with them after they watch it, but I don’t get all worried if they want 3 or 4 hours of TV one day–chances are they won’t think to ask to watch it the whole rest of the week.
Most families seem to find a comfortable spot somewhere between setting up a classroom in their house and total unschooling–and you will, too. Your kids might benefit from some totally hands-off time to “deschool” and learn to find their own motivations. The most important thing is to not be afraid of dumping something that is not working FOR YOUR FAMILY, no matter how much someone else loves it, even if you spent money on it!
We only do netflix and dvds too. So what is at their disposal is limited as well. I have to say though, it doesn`t stop them from moving on to the next show, but it at least requires them to come back to reality for a moment in between. 😉
Not an unschooler…my then-second grader would never have learned her multiplication tables…she didn’t like to face anything she didn’t know, if that makes sense. Anyway, I’m a pretty relaxed homeschooler. I’m not trying to recreate public school in my own house. I guess you really need to think about what you are trying to accomplish, what educating your children means to you. Are you trying to raise thinkers or memorizers, problems solvers or standardized test takers? Then, you have to work towards that goal. The “shoulds” need to be the result of your own goals. Let’s be real, if you had such tremendous faith in the dictates of modern society, you wouldn’t be on this health and nutrition kick that wound up turning you into a food rebel, now would you?
With respect to video games in particular, I mean no disrespect, but I disagree with Sandra Dodd…I haven’t found the threshhold at which point my 16-year old son will choose something other than video games for his free time and he did forego working on geometry to play video games, much to my disappointment. My daughter, on the other hand, quickly loses interest and moves on to something else. Gender? Probably. Reality? Definitely!
Gender definitely has a play in my experience. During college I saw many friends and acquaintances (all male) fail too many classes and get kicked out of college due to excessive amounts of video gaming. I also saw my brothers’ lives put on hold for many years as they battled video game ‘addiction.’ My older brother still only plays games in his spare time after having unlimited access for more than 15 years. His desire has not diminished at all. Luckily my younger brother found an awesome wife and had motivation to cut back. =) I definitely think parents have to step in and limit video gaming and TV because they are such instant gratification activities.
Lora C. says
I totally agree. Both of my older brothers have a serious video game addictions. Also, my parents never put a time limit on their gaming because they felt they couldn’t because my brothers bought the video game system themselves therefore they thought they had no right to.
Nicole Rice says
I think there are some def. benefits to having an “unschooling” or “relaxed schooling” attitude. I’ve certainly given it a lot of thought and research. For us – we are certainly relaxed, with a Charlotte Mason twist.
A couple concerns about how I see unschooling practiced around me:
1. For me- personal beliefs come into play. My basic belief is that children do NOT primarily know what is best for them. They are led by the flesh to do whatever feels good to them. For some children the natural consequences of life are enough to move them back to a healthy balance (ie being tired when staying up to late, getting sick after junk food, feeling emotionally yucky after sitting in front of the tv for a week). But for others, the desire to feed a certain desire- overrides common sense or the consequences. They need us as parents to guide them. Not rule over or dictate- but to be there as a gentle guide. John Holt (my understanding) does not have the same philosophy. He believes children are inherently good- and therefore can find their own path if we get out of the way.
2. Every child is different in what motivates them, and what empowers them. Some children truly need freedom to be able to see the freedom around them. Some children need structure to be able to engage the freedom that structure gives them.
3. As a grown up- there are times in life I have to do things I don’t want to. I can follow my passion- but even within that are aspects I don’t care for. I.E – I’m a personal Chef. I strongly dislike dishes. But they come along with my passion so I accept them and move on. I believe in raising children in a way that prepares them for life. Start the way you wanna finish. It’s not realistic to tell a child they only have to do what they are interested in. I think MOST of what they do should be a personal passion- but it is character building to push through a part that you don’t care for- to get to your goal.
I think WAY too much pressure is put on children. We try to force children to learn in a way that isn’t truly effective, nor does it set them up for the real world. I am just concerned that true “unschooling” can (dependent on the child and the natural tendencies of the parent) go to an unhealthy extreme and result in self indulgent children. Education should be gentle. It should be (esp when younger) – mostly play. It should not look like a stack of dead boring textbooks!
I mentioned it once before – I HIGHLY recommend this book : https://www.amazon.com/For-Childrens-Sake-Foundations-Education/dp/1433506955/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1345786776&sr=8-1&keywords=for+the+sake+of+the+children – it helps you develop a vision and goal for what you want your approach to be
Also- research Charlotte Mason – although not an unschooler, she was a gentle educator who helped inspire students. She is a kindred spirit of unschooling most certainly
If you get a chance to listen to, or see https://blog.carolejoyseid.com/ – she’s awesome (she actually combines several educator’s for a balanced approach)
Sorry so long- Best of Luck in your journey! SO excited for you 😀
That is very well thought-out and very well said Nicole. I don’t have kids but something about the “let the kids guide themselves and they’ll naturally choose what’s best for them” philosophy just feels wrong. Isn’t guiding them the whole point of parenting? I’m sure that there are great benefits to a little looser approach, but it reminds me of the “if it feels good do it” and “let the light within be your guide” minsets that seem to be so prevalent these days (especially in LA where I live). The belief that people (and children) are by nature “good” and will work it out if left to their own devices is at odds with my own Biblical worldview. Your point #3 is also really good. So true!
This is a helpful comment to me. And I agree wholeheartedly, thanks for the resource links!
Sorry for all the errors. I’m working on my iPhone.
We unschool to a point. What I mean is I require Math,Reading and English to be done with a set curriculum. After those are finished, the rest of the day their time is their’s to do what the want. This includes TV games and computer. I only ask them to take regular breaks to rest their eyes. In high school we went over the required subjects with them and they decided how to accomplish it. You can create your own courses using whatever materials you choose to put on their transcripts.