Monday, December 3, 2012

TV...from lazy to learning

TV you say? ...what's that about kids learning to be lazy? Huh. 


We have gone through many fads when in comes to TV. Once upon a time, we saw tv as a good educational tool..you know, for abc's and the like. After all, Baby Einsteins is pretty thought provoking..isn't it? From Pooh Bear, to Astro Boy...and Star wars to Spongebob...we've seen it all. And please don't forget the greed teaching commercials that brainwash children and adults alike to spend hard earned dollars on meaningless gadgets that end up in the next garage sale. 

 Without limits and direction, TV quickly became a nightmare. Everything from kids running to their father frantic to show him a toy that they just *had* to have, to peer disputes that are ironically similar to the last episode of Jimmy neutron. Sigh. The kids seem to know nothing other than how to grab the best seat in front of the tube..and what time iCarly comes on.

Thankfully, I grabbed a grip on myself and realized that fresh air, and some structure was desperately needed. When we decided to Homeschool, I made that radical move towards.. *gasp* ..TV TURNAROUND. My first step was to limit..yes limit screen time (this includes the computer). 1 hour..per child..per day. Period. Add stuck to it. 

Next up was to banish the world of commercials..which is amazingly easy with the use of Netflix..so we turned off the satellite and turned on Netflix. It took the boys awhile to get used to their limit of one hour. A lot was said about being bored, and having nothing to do and the so on...but they lived. 

What was the real shocker was when I expected them to pay for tv time..yes. I said that correctly. They earn "merits" for doing well in school, passing tests, household chores and the like. 1 hour of tv? 3 merits please :) 

I started my anti TV conspiracy back in the summer months....it is now Early December and my boys have well adapted to their new norm. Instead of watching random infomercials and wasting afternoons on cartoons, the boys (ages 9 & 10) have moved towards a fad in Youtube (we have since disconnected even the netflix) They often watch short clips of LEGO movies...sometimes amature, others are brilliant. They also find interesting games to play, or dust off the xbox for a good old hunting game. I don't mind these things. They at least are a product of what interests my boys have...rather than a tv listing of peer influences that I don't so much agree with. There is something about having to type in a search word of your own, from scratch, that gets ones brain into "individuality mode". Requiring them to actually think of something that they want to watch..rather than picking from a parade of choices.

Now that the boys are happy with their screen experience, I have gone into the next phase: Student led learning aka un-schooling...better known as: a life of learning..or better yet, "teach yourself" screen hour. Before this, the boys had 6 days of tv time where they could watch..well, anything..with some discretion. On Sundays, they had a free day where they had no time limit and did not have to pay. Now, Both Saturday and Sunday are free days (most the time we are not home), but as a toss up, the week day screen time can now be used *only* for learning. Additionally, rather than each boy having an hour, they now have one hour total...they are to learn together.

Talking about and enjoying in common interests has shown to be a dynamic learning tool. Children will retain information more readily as a group than if they are alone. I have shown them how to use Google to search for items of interest. Carters first choice was to find out more about Dinosaurs. So they chose a short film about the history of the beastly animals. You see, there is compelling research that if children are given access to information, and have the drive to learn, that they can and will succeed at teaching themselves whatever it is that they want to learn about. TV is not all bad..it's just the garbage that is offered as eye candy that turns such a great tool into rubbish. 

As we turn this new leaf, I see two enthusiastic kids...ready to learn, who love the technology of screens. I can not deny that screen time is becoming increasingly popular among teens and adults alike. Nor the fact that my kids are drawn to it like magnets. From social media, to texting. Video games and ipods, e-readers ect ect..My children are growing up in a world where they will need the skills to use these tools in a productive and responsible way. To cross off the use of technology entirely is to introduce a disadvantage to my kids. We embrace. We learn, from lazy to learning.