TV: a Tool or “The Devil”

365:32 - Television

Photo by Sarah Reid

As more of our society has become screen driven, the controversy over children watching television has increased. On one side you have companies specifically marketing television, movies, and all sorts of related products to children. There are companies targeting commercials at children in hopes that those children will then bug their parents enough to buy the products, shaping our society from a young age into a consumerist society, while some parents say they just need a break or how the look forward to family movie night. On the flip side, you have organizations saying television is bad, detracting from time which would be otherwise be spent doing other activities, adding to childhood obesity and other health problems. There are parents crying out that TV is the devil (said jokingly in reference to the mother in Adam Sandler’s movie The Waterboy) and banning all reference of television or movies from their child’s existence. Both of these sides tend to take the topic of television to extremes, when there is a middle ground. We are a middle ground family. We have direct tv . In graduate school, my husband really wanted to watch his beloved Red Wings hockey games. It seemed a minor issue to promise him those games out of grad. school. For a long time, hockey games were pretty much the only thing our television was used for, much to the astonishment of my in-laws who have a television (on) in every room, as I’m not one to sit down and surf channels to find something to watch. Later, when we upgraded to a DVR, I found that we could actually plan to record items to watch later, without it interferring with life (hence, I would actually be able to watch something without trying to remember to turn the television on). Since that time, we have found quite a few wonderful documentaries and shows to record and watch. We have seen things that we would never have otherwise seen (deep sea adventures, historical documentaries, erupting volcanoes, and more). There are also the occassional family movie nights. We are able to use this technology as yet another tool for learning rather than something that rules our lives. Just like anything else, it’s not an all or nothing thing. It’s what you make of it. For families worried that television may take over, keep a few things in mind:

  • Given the opportunity, children are quite good at self-regulation. Something which is currently forbidden now may capture their attention at first, but in every family I know who allows self-regulation, the kids do actually regulate themselves in various life areas, often much better than adults (says the woman who turns to sweets in times of stress while my kids have a heathly relationship with food).
  • Kids would rather spend time with you. If you feel that the tube is on too much, offer an alternative. Go cook together, garden, read books, make a craft, go for a walk, or play a game.
  • Turning on the screen doesn’t mean it can’t be turned off. That’s what the power button is for. Don’t be afraid to use technology as a tool for your family where there is benefit. It’s not permanent and you control how much you let it into your life and how it fits. If it doesn’t fit, that’s fine. Just remember that there can be happy mediums in life. If you choose to watch television, continue to be present with your children to help them navigate those messages presented. Child need your presence in life.

Just as with anything, a tool is what you make of it.

Disclaimer: Links to are not an endorsement for the site or for directtv.

The Unsocialized Homeschooler

You’ve heard about those people who homeschool their children…the ones who keep their children locked up in the basement at all hours of the day, removed from the dangers of other people and radical thoughts. You can tell these kids from the normal ones, the ones who attend public school, be their great lack of social skills, inability to work with people unlike themselves, and long jean skirts. The pale skin from lack of sunlight is another dead give-away.

Photo by Jason Meredith

We are homeschoolers. In fact, we are unschoolers.  Over the years we have met a lot of homeschooling families, and yet, I’ve yet to meet the stereotypical homeschooling family. Even in the Bible Belt, where we are currently located, with the great amount of religious homeschoolers (not to be confused with homeschoolers who are religious), I have yet to meet the stereotypical unsocialized homeschooler. I’m sure there are some out there, somewhere, just as there are many unsocialized public schooled children. I just haven’t met them yet.

And yet, for some reason, this myth continues to crop up. Most recently, it was given as a reason to utilize public school on a local AP board. Some of the parents wanted their children to socialize with others, to be exposed to different ethnicities and beliefs, and to learn how to deal with the world around them. Apparently, their solution is to box a bunch of 5 year olds from their neighborhood, a mostly homogenous make-up of white, middle class, Christian children up in a classroom with a single adult to oversee the scenario.

Public school is a valid option and is what works well for many families, but let’s be honest. If your reason for sending your child to school is so that s/he will experience the real world, you are misguided. The real world has a mix of religious and political beliefs. It has a mix of cultures and ethnicities. It has a mix of ages. No where else in the real world will you find 30 people working in the same room soley because their age and neighborhood dictates it.

My kids, while admittedly pale and freckled due to genetics, live in the real world everyday. They talk to people regardless of age, as age is not a defining factor to them. They have experiences with people of different beliefs and thoughts. They learn from others who have previous experience in various topics. When it comes to learning about how to behave in society, they aren’t learning from 30 other kids who have no more experience than they have.

five-headed dragon…

Mythology is a popular topic at our house. Here is my 7 1/2 year old’s rendition of a five-headed dragon:

Notice the orange things in the ground. Those are worms for the dragon to eat. Apparently the dragon likes to roast them with his firey breath and eat them with barbecue sauce. There was an impromptu poem to go with it which had my son laughing, but unfortunately I don’t remember it.

color pages for mom (or dad, or anyone else)…

I used to be of the belief that coloring pages were stiffling. Everywhere I looked, children were encouraged to color in their coloring books, to stay within the lines, to color things correctly…Coloring pages weren’t encouraging creativity, and neither were the parents, teachers, or caregivers who issued the orders behind the use of them. I never bought my children coloring books, but we have always had a wide assortment of dynamic and static art supplies available for their use. This worked for us. My children loved to get  into the process of creating and I wasn’t stiffling their creativity.

Then one day I read an article on radical unschooling specifically about this view on coloring books that opened my eyes. It hit me like a brick. Of course it wasn’t the coloring books that were stiffling; it was the adults – the ones who said you had to color things appropriate colors, stay within the lines, etc. I thought about this for a long time. I could see the value of coloring books for a child who was wanting to experiment with color alone, so I began looking for some inexpensive coloring books that my children would enjoy. The prices of coloring books have gone up over the years. It wasn’t until last Fall that I found some for $1.

The coloring books are available, along with all of the other art and craft supplies we have out. My children have colored in them some, preferring to make their own creations most of the time. I do see them occassionally using the coloring books when they want to experiment with how certain colors go together.

I’ve also noticed that my husband enjoys using the coloring books with the kids. He can sit down and color with them and just enjoy being with them. I have really wanted to get some geometric coloring books. Dover makes some nice ones, but they are pricier, and so far we have choosen to spend our money on other things. I think these would be great for experimenting with color and geometric design. These are also something I could color with the kids and still enjoy.

I recently found out about Color Pages for Mom, which has free coloring pages (not just for moms, though), including some cool geometric pages. I’ll be printing some of these out to enjoy.

Color Pages for Moms