In 2005 I created An Unschooling Life, a blog detailing our unschooling experience after adopting our three children. Over time, An Unschooling Life became a hub for unschooling support and advice. The blog has been featured in print and digital media and was home to the popular Unschooling Carnival. I’m in the process of updating and moving all the posts to this blog where they will be housed under the An Unschooling Life section. This post was originally published on June 16,2011.
Unschooling Ideas | TV And Trust
While clearing out some old files on google docs, I came across something Pam Sorooshian wrote about TV and trusting your child. Pam helped me when I began unschooling, more than she probably realizes. I’m sharing this post here because I know its an area of concern for unschooling parents, and parents in general. As always, Pam’s unschooling ideas give great food for thought. If you’re unschooling and struggle with this, I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
Instead of putting our focus on whether or not the kids are watching too much TV, we can put our focus on supporting their interests and offering them lots and lots of possible experiences. If their interests include TV-watching, then far from restricting them, instead, I support that interest.
I did that by enthusiastically watching with them, playing tv-show base games online or as video games, getting tv-based hands-on games and toys and puzzles, noticing when there might be a “special” on tv they’d want to watch, noticing which shows they really liked and finding all kinds of tie-ins (use Google to look for all kinds of things related to their favorite tv shows), bring up things happening in their favorite shows when you’re having conversations about other things, dress up like the tv show characters for Halloween or just for fun anytime, get books and coloring books and activity books that are related, BUYING whole seasons of their favorite shows, getting cd’s of the music from their shows, getting books based on the shows or on which the shows are based, AND finding creative ways of extending some of the inevitable connections that every show brings up.
Maybe sometimes people just can’t imagine how to respond to TV in a way more consistent with showing the deep underlying trust in our children on which unschooling is based.
For those restricting TV, maybe just try this as an experiment. Next time you have the urge to make them turn it off, instead, look for a way to support their interest and enrich their lives. A simple and obvious way is to go cuddle up with them and enjoy watching together. Ask questions, and get involved. Maybe join them with a cup of cocoa and some cookies. Or get online and look for connections to offer. Choose your time – don’t interrupt, but in between shows you can say, “Oh, look, I found these Sponge Bob coloring pages for you and I brought you some crayons if you’re interested.” And, talk about the show, “Did you know that the guy who made up Sponge Bob is a real marine biologist?” Or, “I wonder why he didn’t make Sponge Bob look more like a real sea sponge? I mean, he looks like a kitchen sponge.” (You can buy a piece of sea sponge at a craft store or in the paint dept of Home Depot – get some and have fun sponge painting with it.)
Decide to take that moment to SHOW you honor and support their choices. I wish I could get across to parents of younger children how wonderful it will be for you when your kids are teens if you have created that atmosphere of real trust. Don’t you want to end up with teens who live up to that confidence you’ve shown in them? You undermine it every time you show your lack of trust – every time you arbitrarily restrict tv you are telling them, “I don’t trust you to know what’s good for you.”
Instead, start from the beginning saying, “I trust your choices and will support them.” This is not trivial; this is building the relationship you will have in a few years and during a time of life when most parents lose that closeness, honesty, and confidence in their teens. If you restrict TV now, will you try to restrict them from the things they want when they are teens, too?
It won’t work and everyone knows it, but parents don’t know what else to do. They act like they can control their teenagers, but that is so obviously not true, teens whose parents are restrictive will often put themselves in much more risky situations than otherwise.
Start trusting them now if that is the relationship you hope to have when they are teens. You can’t just manufacture it later, it is built on years of showing trust, confidence, and support of their interests.