Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Posts tagged ‘values’

Movie Magic? hmmm…

We don’t watch a lot of TV. In fact, as far as regularly scheduled viewing goes, we watch none at all. What we watch is a few favourite series, and movies. We do watch a lot of those. In fairness, most of the movie watching happens after the kids go to bed, and we use it to keep us awake. The background noise, interspersed with moments of humour or action, works well to fight off the yawns at 11PM, when deadlines are looming and sleep seems so very appealing – and so very taboo.

In general, watching movies makes us more productive, if you measure productivity by the number of hours you spend working each day. Which we don’t. However, there are some things that just can’t be done when a movie is on. Movies use up my “Words Brain”, so that I can focus my “Pictures Brain” on creating websites. But when the work I need to do is strategy or writing work, movies are no jolly help at all. In fact, at those times it’s easy to believe that movies are designed to enslave us and squash both creativity and productivity.

With time, I have developed such a strong association between late night working and late night watching that it’s hard to do one without the other. This impacts both our family time, which typically sees me enslaved in thoughts, conversations and executions of work, and my work time, which tends to be randomly focused and easily distracted. In fact, I recently wrote an entire article without actually knowing what I was saying. (I really shouldn’t advertise that fact, and the article actually turned out really well, reinforcing my suspicion that the words I write have very little to do with me: I’m just some kind of business-wired conduit for content. I’m not sure whether or not this is a good thing).

Movies are a very affordable solution  to date night on a shoestring: we simply cook (or order curry – yummm), and cuddle up on the couch for a night of box office bliss. It’s cosy, safer than braving the streets at night, cheaper (and better for my paranoia) than hiring a babysitter, and of course the risk of allergic reaction to restaurant food is significantly reduced. But is it really connecting? I wonder.

We use movies and TV series as part of our school curriculum, too. When we were studying Arthur and Merlin, the BBC TV series Merlin gave us some great insight into both the story itself and life in those times. The White Queen, too violent and X-rated for my kids, nonetheless gave me some valuable background insights into how the 1400s in England may have been, and made it easier to convey that during our reading and discussion on the subject. There are many more examples I could give, but suffice it to say that movies make up a large part of our family time together. With our diverse learning styles and processing challenges, we seem to have found common ground huddled around a little box.

Having said that, I find my own creativity and productivity seem to be hampered by over exposure to television and movies. I write less, and what I write has less value. I hardly draw at all, and I create nothing but websites: no dolls, clothes, crafts or works of art. Not even a little garden. I have been known to stay up after I’ve finished my work, to see what happens next in whatever I was watching to try and stay awake in the first place. As someone who is already reaping the health rewards of being chronically sleep-deprived, this is a luxury I really can’t afford.

So the question is, is there value to be had in obsessive consumption of visual entertainment? And the answer is, yes – perhaps. In moderation. To see the full benefit of corporate viewing, we should always watch what our kids are watching – and watch it with them – to make sure their heads aren’t being stuffed with fluff, and to answer their questions as they arise. It’s important to get enough exercise in between all the couch-potatoing, and of course, focus on healthy snacks and balanced meals so as not to exacerbate a potential health-threatening situation. Finally, don’t sit in silence. Discuss what you’re watching, and what you’ve watched. Use it to spark interesting conversations and lively debates. Never allow values and morals to be presented without question. Whether you agree with the sentiment expressed, or fundamentally oppose it, never let it go unchallenged. Encourage discussion and critical thinking, while always teaching sound values and imparting a firm moral compass. This will go a long way towards solving many of the purported evils of too much television. Done correctly, this approach could even reverse the negatives altogether by the teaching of a reasoned response to opposing views.

Do you watch too much TV? Or too little? Do you just absorb what’s coming at you like a sponge, or do you prefer to challenge yourself, to question the logic and even use the premise of a move as an opportunity to grow? I’d love to know.


Unschooling questions (and some answers)

As we expand our unschool experiment, we find that there are more questions than answers. And that’s okay: that’s how we learn. Unschooling really doesn’t come with any kind of hand book, and every family does what is right for their situation, interests, personalities, and a thousand other variables, unique to each situation.

Unschooling is not unparenting

We have not abdicated our roles in any way. Quite the contrary, unschooling actually forces us to be more involved than ever. We have to be aware of everything, sensitive to everything, to make sure that we never miss an opportunity to educate. Every moment is a learning moment – and that takes initiative, insight, imagination, involvement and energy.  We have to be aware and connected for as much of the day as possible.

Unschooling makes you honest

Because we learn every second that we breathe, we need to be very real, very transparent, and very honest. Learning happens by seeing, experiencing, “percolating” and discussing. It does not happen in a vacuum. We need to share what we learn, and let our children share what they’ve learned. This implies that we need to be learning, all the time. If something troubles us, we need to be honest about that. We also need to examine that. Why does a messy space trouble me? Am I being reasonable? Is the mess a logical and even necessary part of development? Is leaving the mess harmful in any way, or is that in itself a valuable education? These questions surround thousands of decisions every day, with the net result being that we are more connected, more “ourselves”, and more relaxed. I’m not really sure I can articulate why that is true, yet. But it is true, nonetheless.

Unschooling challenges beliefs

There are some unschoolers who don’t set limits on their children. Everything in life becomes a collaborative learning journey, with children setting their own limits as they work out what works for them. For instance, if the child prefers to stay up late, that is the child’s choice. She must then deal with the consequences of loneliness, being up when everyone else is asleep, and grumpiness the next day when she’s over tired, or ever oversleeps and misses an outing with the rest of the family. This way, she learns that an earlier bed time has its benefits. Well, fair enough. But not for us. In my opinion that’s a form of child abuse, frankly. I believe that children lack the ability to make certain decisions and cognitive leaps, and that’s why they have parents. Otherwise we’d all just grow up together in something like a giant, collaborative orphanage with common sense and consensus determining the way we live. I’ve read Lord of the Flies. I don’t think we’d do well left to our own devices.

Here are some of the beliefs I’m examining at the moment, as we delve deeper into this adventure:

  • Children need boundaries. They need to know when an action is acceptable and when it isn’t. And sometimes words are not adequate to convey this.
  • Children need direction. They may well be curious beasts with a passion for knowledge. But they also need a little guidance. If Papa Bear had never introduced me to the internet, I may never have developed an interest in it, and then I’d be doing something else for a living now. If we don’t know there are things out there to be discovered, we won’t discover them. We need to allow our children the opportunity to develop an interest in what’s out there by letting them know what’s out there.
  • Not everything is fun and interesting, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant or superfluous. Just because I don’t enjoy doing a thing, or don’t feel like doing a thing, doesn’t mean I don’t need to do it. Yes, I prefer dancing to running, and running to soccer. So perhaps I’ll dance more often than I’ll chase a ball. But I need to exercise, and if the only option I have is a game of soccer, I need to accept that and get on with it. I may even find it fun. Possibly. Few people fascinatedly pursue a regimen of dental hygiene, but that doesn’t mean we can just get away with not cleaning our teeth two or three times a day. And so on. So while I am letting the girls not clean their room for a while, I am probably, at some stage, going to insist that it gets done, and that beds get made religiously. Because some things just need to be done.
  • We all need to do our share. So maybe we don’t say the word “chores” anymore, and maybe (just maybe), pocket money and housework are no longer linked. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t all pitch in with dishes, dog food and domestic goddessery in general.
  • Work has worth, and earning a living is a life skill. I haven’t made up my mind about pocket money. I believe it is necessary, and very educational. The girls have learnt maths, the value of money, and the value of things, all through pocket money. They’ve also learned that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. So to speak. (Of course they eat, but a messy room means no pocket money, and that means no buying toys at the market – their lifeblood, you’d think!). So while I am experimenting with not insisting on a tidy room (for now), I don’t think they’ll start getting money for nothing. That can simply be a consequence of not cleaning up.
  • There’s nothing wrong with being organised. Being spontaneous does not exclude being organised, and vice versa. If I work better in a structure, that could be a good thing.
  • Sometimes, children need chastening. It may take various forms, but a polite and respectful “No, darling. That’s not how we behave.” simply doesn’t cut it sometimes. In those cases we need a clear, communicated and consistent way of communicating unacceptable behaviour.

At the end of the day, these children will one day be adults, and they need to be ready for that. That goes a lot further than simple fact knowledge. It’s about being equipped to deal with other people well, and being practised in making smart choices. Schools don’t teach that, families do. And must.

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