Screen-free unschooling - is it possible? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 15 Old 04-21-2012, 08:42 AM - Thread Starter
 
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ETA:  Please don't take this as a judgey thread!  I am genuinely curious about how different families do their schooling and what has worked for people.

 

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I'm not really interested in the unschooling route but I have been browsing this forum for a while just for pure interest.  One thing I notice is the recurring theme that parents are worried or whatever about their children getting too much screen time.  Has anyone  tried allowing the kids to choose their own activities but not allowing them to do the computer game, video game, TV thing?

 

I am the wife of a computer gaming addict.  When he is deprived of his game he goes through heavy withdrawal, but in the end he gets creative.  He does art projects, he gets out in nature, he does things around the house, etc.  The boredom motivates him to do things.  But when the games are there, he just kind of gets stuck.  (I also get stuck in front of the Internet sometimes.)  You could argue that he is interacting with others online or "learning" math or strategies or whatever... but it's still "just" non-stop gaming.  When you have a screen you typically don't get to the "bored" part - there's always something new to discover.

 

Of course, the Internet also HELPS people learn, too.  Yesterday I was reading a chapter in Stuart Little to my kids and during the course of it we paused a few times to look up Youtube vids about how a piano works and what Ping Pong is.  We're constantly looking things up online and learning.  We learn about everything from traditional dances to how different animals camoflauge themselves and all that.  But at the same time I am also wary of how media can suck you in, and I wouldn't want that to siphon away my kids' time during childhood. 

 

Is it possible to unschool while seriously limiting or putting boundaries on the media factor?  To provide them with other learning opportunities (books, crafts, the outdoors, etc.) or are screens essential?

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#2 of 15 Old 04-21-2012, 09:18 AM
 
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It's totally possible to limit screen time and unschool. Radical unschooling applies unschooling freedom to all areas of family life, but if you're not going the RU route you can feel free to impose all the rules and limits you want in areas of lifestyle. 

 

I know a number of families who have no TV and extremely limited or no computer and unschool their kids very happily. I know a number of families who have stringent limits on both and also do a great job of unschooling. I will say that in your family's case this might prove difficult, because you have an adult in the household (your dh) modelling a very different lifestyle. It will be hard for you parents to maintain credibility as your kids get older when you say "no, you cannot be on the computer playing games because that is unhealthy" if one of you is clearly making 'unhealthy' choices. The easiest way to limit computer-screen-time in a family is to impose limits in an environment of natural scarcity (limit the hardware so that everyone has to share time and bandwidth) and ensure that even the adults in the family play by the same strict rules.

 

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#3 of 15 Old 04-21-2012, 07:25 PM
 
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We do have limits on TV time (videos, not TV) and the girls are still young enough that they don't really think of getting on the computer yet, though when we watch Maru videos on YouTube they like to operate the mouse.  And, yes, I do count us as being unschoolers.  

 

Like Miranda said, though, we have the same limits for everyone.  Screens are off after about 8:30 or 9:30 in the morning.  I hop on for a few minutes at while DH reads bedtime stories.  It wouldn't work for us otherwise.  


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#4 of 15 Old 04-22-2012, 07:52 AM
 
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If I were to want to do a screen free childhood for my child, I'd not own a tv. And I'd limit adult computer use to a minimum. I can't quite wrap my head around not having a computer at all, lol. I arrange so much of our homeschool plans over the internet. But I could probably make do with a smart phone. Personally, I wouldn't be able to pull off limiting a child's use if adults in the house had heavier use. The kids in our family (ds and his cousins) just don't buy the concept of adults having more rights than kids. They aren't easy going and have a very strong sense of justice. 

 

I think it would be relatively easy to do with younger kids and it would get more difficult as they got older and started spending more time at friends' houses. 


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#5 of 15 Old 04-22-2012, 08:19 AM
 
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Life without Schooling, the quiet revolution by Victoria Robinson and her girls was a good read if you are wanting to see how particular families have unschooled. If I remember correctly they did not have a tv or if they did it was not used very often. Her girls were really involved in music, writing, knitting, gardening, etc...(This is the momma that was featured on Extraordinary Breastfeeding)

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#6 of 15 Old 04-22-2012, 10:20 AM
 
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Originally Posted by tiqa View Post

Is it possible to unschool while seriously limiting or putting boundaries on the media factor?

 

Yes!  Sure, and of course!  We each create our unschooling lives, defined by each of us in our own worlds that we create.

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#7 of 15 Old 04-22-2012, 01:24 PM
 
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Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

If I were to want to do a screen free childhood for my child, I'd not own a tv. And I'd limit adult computer use to a minimum. I can't quite wrap my head around not having a computer at all, lol. I arrange so much of our homeschool plans over the internet. But I could probably make do with a smart phone. Personally, I wouldn't be able to pull off limiting a child's use if adults in the house had heavier use. The kids in our family (ds and his cousins) just don't buy the concept of adults having more rights than kids. They aren't easy going and have a very strong sense of justice. 

 

 

Totally agree with this.  My children have a strong sense of justice, as well.  And frankly, I wouldn't be comfortable claiming all these special privileges for myself.

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#8 of 15 Old 04-23-2012, 07:58 AM
 
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Well, the switch to high-def made our TV irrelevant, and no one has internet access except on the main computer. Computer games (even educational ones) are by assignment only.

 

I'm not a complete unschooler... I would call myself "unschooley." That's because after, um, 24 years at this *blush* my observation is that they pick at each other if not occupied. So they have freedom until I hear conflict, at which point I inquire what they're doing that might reasonably be construed as "scholastic" and get them resources for that. Meanwhile, I continue to 'teach' various topics for anyone who cares to listen. They know that a good pitch will get them opportunity to develop an interest, but I don't wait for a child  to sit up and shout "Meteorology! THAT inspires me!" 

 

No playstation, x-box, game-boy, ever was permitted in the house. I suspect it would have been bad, judging by the impact it as had on every other household I know that has them. I tell the children that resenting their parents' decisions is developmentally important, and that's why people train as therapists. ;)

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#9 of 15 Old 04-23-2012, 04:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

If I were to want to do a screen free childhood for my child, I'd not own a tv. And I'd limit adult computer use to a minimum. I can't quite wrap my head around not having a computer at all, lol. I arrange so much of our homeschool plans over the internet. But I could probably make do with a smart phone. Personally, I wouldn't be able to pull off limiting a child's use if adults in the house had heavier use. The kids in our family (ds and his cousins) just don't buy the concept of adults having more rights than kids. They aren't easy going and have a very strong sense of justice. 

 

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Luckiestgirl View Post

 

 

Totally agree with this.  My children have a strong sense of justice, as well.  And frankly, I wouldn't be comfortable claiming all these special privileges for myself.

 

Same here. We don't watch TV, so that's always been a non-issue. We all like to rent movies and watch them together. And we all use the computer for various things--  games, stop-motion animation, looking up information, photoshop, Mindstorms robotics etc. The grandparents have a PS3, and we play Little Big Planet when we visit... it is fun, but I am very glad it isn't in our house!

 


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#10 of 15 Old 04-23-2012, 09:23 PM
 
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we don't have cable, let alone a TV, it makes life more fun and unpredictable :) I do admit my DD has an iPad, so that helps keep her occupied on our long drives to the beach.


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#11 of 15 Old 05-05-2012, 09:06 AM
 
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We are not really unschoolers, but we don't really find we need to limit screens with the kids. Honestly, I think this is a combination of us not using them much when the kids are awake, and it just being a total faff to set up the tv and even then, being very limited in what we can actually watch: its bought dvds basically, or nothing. 

 

So if you wanted to unschool without limits on screens, I think my advice would be, cut out the adult gaming when the kids are awake and somehow bring about a situation where you had a rubbish set up. Maybe by not replacing it, or as a family spending the money for cable on other cool things?

 

I suppose if we were proper unschoolers we might have to have a discussion about whether we should spend money on a tv license (in the uk you can't watch tv, except bought dvds, without one) or maybe a cable to connect the computer to the tv so we could watch streamed stuff...and a cable to connect the computer up in the bedroom and maybe then another tv and so on...our reality is that we cannot afford that set up, and we cannot afford infinite dvds, so basically the tv is a fairly dull option for my kids. My son does go through phases of using the (rebuilt) computer in his room for programming though, I suppose we treat that as any other solitary fun based activity, do it after your other commitments (not unschoolers!) are done. 

 

I do find that with certain friends they want to watch tv. Not sure why that is. Doesn't bother me, they usually wander away from the tv as soon as the friends have left.

 

I think we'd be pretty much fine without screen round here, but I do appreciate them sometimes. For the information mainly. 


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#12 of 15 Old 05-08-2012, 10:25 AM
 
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We are not 100% pure unschoolers, but that said, my DC have almost no screen time.

 

We have no TV.  My oldest DS watches maybe 2 or 3 documentaries on the computer a year (he just watched "the beautiful truth" over the weekend).  None of my children go on the internet.

 

DH and I usually limit our internet time to when the DC are asleep or otherwise occupied.

 

None of us have smart phone, by choice.  (We actually even had someone give us one, and didn't keep it.)

 

I am just really convinced that there is a time and place for it all, it's not now, when they are young and can be doing so many other things...  But we are also pretty weird, and I know that.  =)

Thankfully, where we live it's pretty normal.

 

It's not really a boundary thing here- it just isn't something in their lives, yk?  It's not like they ask or anything. 

Even when we go somewhere with TV (like a waiting room) their interest wanes pretty fast.

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#13 of 15 Old 05-11-2012, 04:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tiqa View Post

 

Is it possible to unschool while seriously limiting or putting boundaries on the media factor?  To provide them with other learning opportunities (books, crafts, the outdoors, etc.) or are screens essential?

 

It is possible.
But the experience might not be as wide, vast, intriguing and 'sparkly.'

 

It is not about whether screens are essential -- it is about freedom and connection and examining all of one's fears about everything. It is about offering/providing/facilitating a vast array of opportunities and not getting hung up on which ones will promote 'learning'.

 

If one is afraid of the influence of screens then that can come between the parent and child. The same could be said of any number of influences.

 

IMHO unschooling flourishes in an environment of openness and connection, not rules and restrictions.


But then again I could replace the word 'unschooling' with 'people' or 'families' or 'children'....

 

"_________ flourish in an environment of openness and connection not rules and restrictions."

 

 

We have not always been unschoolers or, certainly, radical unschoolers. We came back to unschooling from a Waldorf homeschooling time. During that time the children had little/no screen exposure.

 

That time was difficult for all of us. They kids were limited and couldn't really follow their interests and passions as they might have liked. I had to be a warden of sorts making sure that 'less-wholesome' influences were kept away. None of us liked it and all the relationships in the family were, hmmmm, not damaged, maybe less genuine and authentic during that time.

 

Once we as parents (gradually) lessened the controls and respected the various interests and passions (and modes of acquiring knowledge and information) it really opened us up as a family. Now they are passionate and sparkly and happy, authentic children who come to us to share their interests and ideas. That wasn't happening before.

 

Simply put: being afraid of screen time limited us, limited our children's imaginations, limited our relationships, limited everyone's potential. Now that they don't have arbitrary screen restrictions (the restrictions we do have are real ones -- 3 children but only one tv and one laptop to share among them sometimes requires arbitration) they spend their time creating and doing and being and enjoying.

 

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#14 of 15 Old 07-20-2012, 09:45 AM
 
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I know this is an older thread, but I thought I'd add my thoughts and ask a question.

 

I completely agree that not having a TV is probably the best way to limit TV time :) They still see it at friends houses and at restaurants (which drives me nuts), but we don't whisk them away lol. We unschool (or plan to... does unschooling need a label if we're just living?), but my boys are only 4 and 22mo so it's not like TV has been a big temptation for them yet. My 4 yo does ask to play a game on the computer during my younger son's nap. It started when my husband started staying home and needed something to occupy him during nap time to keep family sanity :) I appreciate Mary's comment above about the fear of screen time being limiting. That was definitely true for us.

 

We've talked about too much screen time being bad for you, and when he's had too much, we do notice (and will point out) behavior differences in him. He'll usually stop after about 20 minutes or so and say that he's been at the screen long enough... hopefully he keeps that up! Until about age 3, the visual processing system does work differently and has trouble not attending to the screen. It changes the way visual attention develops and expects the world to work. There's another change around age 7 that makes it easier to deal with screens yet again. Screen addiction works differently in different families, and the 'zombie' screen addiction that kids can get is different for different kids too. My husband and oldest son can't NOT look away from a TV if it's on in the area (or a computer or an screen), whereas I just get irritated by the noise but have no trouble not watching. My younger son shows no interest whatsoever. But, knowing that my older son and husband can't choose not to watch somewhat, I don't feel bad by being their screen time enforcer.

 

We're TV free by choice, but we do have a desktop, laptop, smartphones and some tablet that someone gave us (that we should really get rid of come to think of it)... Smartphones are hard for me not to look at when they're around :/ Something I'm working on! We do a lot of our work on our computers, mostly while our boys are in bed, and they're kept out of the main room for now. We're about to move, and that will mean keeping the computer somewhere more accessible due to space.

 

My husband has to have a desktop for his music processing... any suggestions on how to keep it in the main room without it taking over the world or being accessible?? Does anyone use an armoire or cabinet? Any cheap versions?

 

Sarah


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#15 of 15 Old 07-20-2012, 12:13 PM
 
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We don't have TV but do rent movies, and my son is Minecraft mad... and I am a writer and at the computer a lot. We both enjoy computers and are learning a lot online, but I do try to make sure that we all have some balance, time outdoors, physical activity etc. I have to say that I really dislike TV in restaurants... and my son's latest electronics project was building a "TV-B-Gone" gadget that will turn off any TV within 100 feet or so. We haven't actually taken it into a restaurant yet but it is VERY tempting!


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