Category: Movies

“Screen Time”

We get the “my kids are doing nothing but play video games/watch tv/look at a screen and I can’t stand it, what should I do?” question about once every week or so on our  (now huge) Christian unschooling Facebook group. It has become the norm. We are all kind of tired of it. Really. For many reasons. Mostly because we hear the fear, we know the paradigm shift hasn’t occurred yet, and  we know it will be a fight to get there, and that part is exhausting. The following is a recent response that I wrote while super-short on sleep 😀 but which ended up covering all the basics in one place.

Esther playing Sims.
Esther playing Sims.

To pull from something my dear friend Pam often points out; how much time is “nothing other than game on their PC/ds/Wii”. Do they get up to get a drink? Go to the bathroom? Eat something? Sleep? If they are doing those things then clarify. They are doing something other than just playing games. They are probably getting up. They may even jump around, do other things. They may spend a few minutes getting something, look something up, they may even go play with something else for a while, go outside, play together beside the tv, they are very likely doing something else too. We need to see those things and recognize that no, the child is not spending “all their time”, they are spending more time than we feel comfortable with.  When we start out with a generalization, it is really hard to get from the viewpoint of seeing it in a negative light to seeing “screens” as many different types of learning and internal things going on and the screen itself as just the media they are getting those things.

Rachel watching anime.
Rachel watching anime.

My husband spends the majority of his day in front of a screen. Working, playing, socializing. He does many different things and yes, he has always preferred doing things in front of a computer screen to elsewhere- there are just so many more things to do, it is a vast world full of many, many types of media in one place- no huge mess to clean up when he wants to play a game, he can write quickly and efficiently, read quickly and move between many different things to read, watch a movie, change the movie, and so on.  It is an amazing, miraculous thing that allows us to communicate with our friends across the world (he collaborates with people all across the US weekly on huge projects), work anywhere (he works with people from all across the globe) and so on. It is amazing that this technology is available in our lifetimes and our children get to learn the language of it now, easily, without fear.  Our kids are going to live in a world where much of their time is going to be in front of the computer. Some people won’t, but the vast majority will. They will use it for work, for play, for socialization, and as unschoolers we have the freedom to let them learn it right now, first hand, and be proficient at it. This is a huge boon compared to kids who are stuck in a classroom unable to look things up as they are interested. Our kids will be well prepared for the future, right now.

 “Technology is here to stay. So why would I choose to keep my kids illiterate in the language that they may need for the future? A half an hour a day does not give kids time to explore the land scape.” ~Aza Donnelly

That said, if you are still really uncomfortable with how much time they are spending, then you get off the computer (you are here, reading this, communicating with others, online) and do really cool things out where they will see. Things that they will love. You make things available that go with what they love on their games (you will probably have to get online to research those things). You find things that associate with what they are doing so there is a connection- if they are into a game that has an associated tv show or other media then there are probably lots of  products out there related to it- pick up a book connected with it, or some figurines, or whatever. If there is a website that has info about the game they are playing (hints, a walkthrough, a wiki- my kids learned to navigate the internet and read because they loved looking up info for their games) put it on your screen and show it to them. If the fact that they would be reading it on a screen bothers you, then you can often buy  a gamers guide but they do get expensive. Offer to help them create a database of the characters and their skills, or print up ones you find online for quick reference. Pick up a gaming magazine for kids, or a book about the collectibles or whatever. Find ways you can connect with the kids where they are, ask them about the games, the shows, whatever. Bring them healthy finger foods if you are worried about what they are eating or that they aren’t eating enough. Ask them about the game, what they are playing, the plot, the people in the games. Let them know you are thinking about them  and want to encourage their interests. Find some aspect you can understand and join them where they are.

Issac playing online with a friend.
Issac playing online with a friend.

This will help you connect with them and really get a feel for what they are getting out of all the things they do on that form of media, and maybe even why. And as they feel you are really trying and aren’t going to “take it away” and that you aren’t frowning about it at them, they will loosen their hold on it a bit and gradually they will start joining you in the cool things you are doing (not all), they will start looking at the books, playing with the associated toys or crafts, and so on. (Many of us have minecraft posters on the wall, or Pokemon, or Skylanders, or Terraria, and books, and action figures, stuffies, houses full of geek references.) Meeting them where they are will help you feel connection with them again (which is usually where the parents panic when they start feeling the kids are doing “nothing but screen things”.) It takes time for both sides, but it is like learning another language and our kids get to do it first-hand and be prepared for this changing world where screens are an everyday all the time part of our lives.

 

I’m that Mom

Joining in on an awesome, impromptu blog carnival over here.

(I am deliberately not reading everyone else’s until I have finished writing mine, except for the 2 I saw that made me realize that this is a cool thing that I actually want to join in on because I suspect a lot of us overlap and I want to share who I am without worrying about that it may be a “YEAH, ME TOO.”)

I am that mom who, when the kids ask if we can please go visit our friends 5 hours away tomorrow, says yes, starts packing, and goes.
Rachel and Kayla

I am that mom who upon finding out the the oldest’s best friend (who lives 2 days away) might be able to come stay for a week says YES.

I am that mom who on 4th of July goes fireworks chasing with the kids, driving all over tarnation looking at everyone’s awesome displays,  instead of taking them to sit in a huge crowd and watching one display.

Fireworks

I am that mom who would rather take the kids to the pond to swim or sit and watch hours upon hours of anime, Dr. Who, favorite movies, or As Time Goes By with the crazy, wonderful kids than worry about what the neighbors think of her children’s nearly dead flower/veggie garden and too tall grass.
I am that mom who when the kids decide to build a tent/tree house/whatever in the back yard says nothing or helps them find the needed materials, knowing that again the neighbors will wonder about the people next door ruining the view from their perfect yards.

I am that mom who runs outside with the kids in the pouring rain to look for rainbows.
rainbow


I am that mom who, when the kids find their long lost roller blades and ask if they can go somewhere to roller blade, suggests they roller blade in the house on our fake hard wood floors and allow them to continue to wear them for everything for the next week.


I am that mom who lets her kids turn her entire kitchen into a restaurant for days at a time and play with their food.
Larry the Cucumber

I am that mom who, when her son asks to take all the blankets from all over the house and use them to jump on, says yes.

I am that mom who takes a camera wherever her kids go and takes pictures of all the awesome things they do.


Super straw

I am that mom who, when her kids want to mow the grass says yes and then says nothing about the stripes of extra tall grass left behind and the odd, rather like a maze, style of cutting grass her oldest prefers.

I am that mom who, when a kid says “come see this cool thing” stops what she is doing to go see (and it always IS really cool!)

green

I am that mom who realizes that her middle child loves the stage and when she asks signs her up and takes her to a performing arts camp the very next week.

I am that mom who still loses her cool, who still gets frustrated when the kids have totally trashed the place (not a problem) and then don’t clean it up (a problem), who has bad days and does not cope so well when the kids are fighting, again.
Issac room

I am that mom who still has a long way to go but loves where her kids are exactly where they are regardless of the stage they are in, loves being with them, and thinks they are totally awesome and fun.
Alameda Park 2010
Yes, this is an extended version, I got started and kept going (which anyone who knows me in person knows this is VERY typical.)

Unschooling Snapshots: Random

Obviously (if you read my Tweets) things are rather busy around here. The kids have each been taking turns going for the day with Pappap to help at the cottage and work on the treehouse–lots of hammering going on.

Tree house coming along.

Shamus has just finished a big project that has he has been obsessing over just for fun, and the kids have been obsessed with it as well.

Esther watching Daddy's program.


And if you are at all interested in that sort of thing you can read about how he devveloped it here.

Unschooling Notes

Issac learning to use a basic paint program on Ubuntu.
Issac learning to use a basic paint program on Ubuntu.

Issac discovered GNU Paint on Ubuntu and spent the afternoon happily learning the basics of a paint program.

Esther doing Wii Fit
Esther doing Wii Fit

The kids have been doing a ton of Wii Fit (so have hubby and I–it is a great low impact workout for me and hubby has lost about 7 lbs because of the daily workout.)  It has really helped Rach with her balance issues as well as helping her recognize her eating habits and develop better ones (so has The Lord’s Table for Children which she has been working through.  It has really helped her attitude towards food.)

Rachel learning Gimp
Rachel learning Gimp

Rach is working on a new website, working from the bottom up.  She started by installing WordPress and now is learning Gimp and CSS so she can design it from scratch.  Today she spent several hours learning to use Gimp and brainstorming blog names.  She came up with a super cute one–cute enough to inspire a painting for the header (I had intended to let her design it completely but she was tickled when I offered to paint it for her.  You can see a sneak preview here.

Issac got this for Christmas and has working at building it since then.  He finished it yesterday.
Issac got this Bionicle for Christmas and has working at building it since then. He finished it yesterday.

Aside from these things the kids have been baking, learning to help with the house more (since I have been working about 30 hours a week designing several websites for clients.)  Watching tons of educational movies, reading tons of books, acting out Bible stories (they spent two days “playing” Joshua and the fall of Jericho with an old tent in the basement.  We are without car again so we have done a ton of staying home working on projects, like cleaning out bed rooms, getting rid of clothes that no longer fit, rearranging furniture.  Both girls have also been getting a ton of use out of their Eeepc’s and Issac has enjoyed having the other computer all to himself. I also found out that my son has an extraordinary amount of knowledge about volcanoes.  I knew he watched tons of volcano movies over and over but didn’t realize he had been absorbing the information involved.  We were talking at bed time one night recently and he started explaining pyroclastic flow to me.  What a funny thing to hear come out of 7 year old’s mouth.

Another interesting thing is that we, as a family, are reading through the Bible daily together.  We are going chronologically which is very interesting (I have read through multiple times but never chrono.)  The girls have always been very engaged in it but having Shamus involved is really helping Issac get interested.  Today he informed me that we are reading Leviticus which is the law.  It really has been such a blessing.  And since we home-church anyway, it has meshed well–now we pray together and read daily, about 3 chapters, and on Saturday we sing a little as well.  We are really enjoying the dailiness of it all instead of fussing about church on Sunday and it being something we HAVE to get through, this way is an enjoyable family thing that we do together.

On a side note I want to mention the awesome fingerless gloves with pockets for heat packs my dear friend Melissa sent me.  They are making it so I can actually type despite being frozen.  She is awesome!  I will post a photo of them soon.  I would right now except it is dark in here and I am enjoying them too much.

Unschooling at the pond–again

We ended up spending another week at the pond, then staying over a night at Grandma’s due to car troubles.  We have not slept at home since last Monday. Long story short I ended up doing some more painting because I had more to do and Rach asked to stay at her grandma’s over night.  We didn’t take into account the fact that the cold damp weather would mean that the paint would take longer to dry.  Sigh.

However we had many awesome learning opportunities at the pond–talk about interest led learning–it was an awesome experience!  The kids got to help install a hot water tank, explore the old hot water tank and figure out how it worked and what went wrong, build a pirate ship/submarine out of the hot water tank box, watch movies, read numerous books, play card games, play on the paddle boat, see a doe my mom got hunting–her first with her bow which we walked up to see in the dark so they could se eit before it went to the butcher the next morning, star gaze–looking for known constellations and making up our own, as well as…

Learn to golf,

After playing many games of golf on the Wii Essie decided she wanted to take it up for real, with a too big golf club and wearing many layers to fend off the cold.
After playing many games of golf on the Wii Essie decided she wanted to take it up for real, with a too big golf club and wearing many layers to fend off the cold.

Enjoy watching birds, chipmunks, turkeys, and squirrels and all God’s creation,

We got to do all sorts of nature walks watching the leaves change and the animals prepare for winter.
We got to do all sorts of nature walks watching the leaves change and the animals prepare for winter.

Watch movies,

We watched numerous movies (especially since for several days we had very cold rain.)
We watched numerous movies (especially since for several days we had very cold rain.)

Daydream

Issac watching the ducks on the pond--several Mallards were hanging out as well as 9 turkeys, three grey squirrels, one red squirrel, several chip munks, and lots of birds.
Issac watching the ducks on the pond--several Mallards were hanging out as well as 9 turkeys, three grey squirrels, one red squirrel, several chip munks, and lots of birds.
Issac cuddled up watching a movie.
Issac cuddled up watching a movie.

Card games,

I brought along this silly sentance flash card game and all three kids, with little prompting from me, spent hours making silly sentences and telling stories with these cards.  The cards have sentence structure on them so the older two were reviewing noun, adjectives, and verbs, added in their own hand written words to make the sentences more interesting, and took pictures of all their creations, while Issac learned about nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and practiced reading the sentences he made.
I brought along this silly sentence flash card game and all three kids, with little prompting from me, spent hours making silly sentences and telling stories with these cards. The cards have sentence structure on them so the older two were reviewing noun, adjectives, and verbs, added in their own hand written words to make the sentences more interesting, and took pictures of all their creations, while Issac learned about nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and practiced reading the sentences he made.

Ecosystems and building,

The girls discovered a small section of land by the pond full of crickets.  We discussed ecosystems and then the kids decided they wanted to build houses for the crickets out of sticks (Issac made slides and a clothes rack instead).
The girls discovered a small section of land by the pond full of crickets. We discussed ecosystems and then the kids decided they wanted to build houses for the crickets out of sticks (Issac made slides and a clothes rack instead).

Developing family relationships,

Issac playing with Uncle James who is off school due to a teacher's strike.
Issac playing with Uncle James who is off school due to a teacher's strike.

Building lean-to’s/survival training

The kids spent 2 day sbuilding lean-tos in the woods with Uncle James.  They also learned about being in the woods during hunting season (and wearing bright colors so people don't think you are a deer or turkey. :))
The kids spent 2 days building lean-tos in the woods with Uncle James. They also learned about being in the woods during hunting season (and wearing bright colors so people don't think you are a deer or turkey.)

Family time

Did I mention it rained several days and we got to spend lots of time cuddled on the couch watching movies together?
Did I mention it rained several days and we got to spend lots of time cuddled on the couch watching movies together? Not to mention reading aloud together.

I also got a few small paintings nearly finished and the girls got to practice being left alone for short periods of time (Rach longs to be able to stay home alone and letting them practice in a cottage surrounded by family on 13 acres of woods is much safer than at home where we live near a major high way.)  And just when we thought we were going to stay home we visited grandma and the car acted up meanign we stayed over night there  (the lights were dimming too much to drive home at night– known alternator issues okay as long as we drive during the day.)  It has been a week full of God’s blessings and interventions once again, and the learning has been amazing to behold.

Me, Myself, and I

I don’t have a recent photo (I think the last photo I have is from exactly a year ago–my brother in laws wedding which Issac took looking up my nose) since I am ALWAYS behind the camera but I do have this which Rachel took when I gave her my digital camera to play with while waiting for Grandma after dinner last week.  This is her first attempt at using the camera as a video camera and she wanted to capture everything, including her brother sister making shadow puppets in the light, and for some reason, me cleaning up the table a bit before leaving.  Don’t turn the sound up, it is rather random though in the background my grandmother is telling the pizza worker people that the kids always point out that their ceiling looks exactly like a giant candy bar–and it does.

I am posting this in response to Randi’s request that everyone post pictures of themselves.  Not that she reads my blog but several others do and I read hers and occasionally even comment, though not nearly often enough.

And that is QUITE enough posts for today thank you very much–three is definitely my limit.

Birthday and Random stuff

Today is my birthday.  I like birthdays, I keep hoping they mean I am getting wiser and better overall.:)  (I am now officially 34–which is good because I got confused and thought I was 34 LAST year.)

I keep reading everybody’s back to school posts and get tempted to  be jealous or try to convince the kids we need “school” with a schedule and text books. Then I look around and notice all that they are actually doing and learning, without me dictating it all.

For instance I notice that Rachel is writing a book, on her own, and is spelling things right, and commandeered the 8th grade writing curriculum I picked up brand new at the thrift shop for $6–I had no goal for it, just got it just in case as a resource. She is on her second page of her notebook (she is writing a fiction story and is finding out what hard work it is), has learned about story arc, plot, climax and so on, is determined to spell and punctuate it right, and is listening to Lord of the Rings while she writes.

Esther is reading everything she can get her hands on (including her Bible) and got a slew of educational books on animals out of the library, just for fun.  She also got a cook book out and is reading several comic books.  She read a book on hermit crabs that Rach got out and has been telling me all sorts of interesting things and now wants to read about snakes, cats, how things work, and several other things I can’t keep track of.

She is also learning not to respond with violence when she is frustrated–like her mommy she is a biter.  She managed to get through a day without hitting, biting, kicking, or screeching at anyone.  I am impressed.

Issac is still determined to learn to read, and wants to do science experiments constantly, and play with marbles.  He is also learning the basics of cooking, and to not need mama for everything.

He went in the bathroom stall at the movies BY HIMSELF for the first time ever (he doesn’t liike to walk to a water fountain five steps away by himself so this is a BIG deal).  We are working on it.

Also, took the younger two to the movies yesterday as a pre-celebration–we saw Wall-E (Rach can’t go because of her seizures so we got Nim’s Island out at Red Box which was MUCH more her style).  Ran into a friend who works retail and got talking about how crazy the traffic was–people have been driving in a crazy manner.  She mentioned that kids have gotten MUCH worse coming into her store–a lot more thefts and just plain poor behavior.  She thanked me for home schooling because “the kids are so much better behaved and  know how to treat others with respect.”  Really appreciated hearing that from her since she deals with kids constantly in the store she manages.

*The photos are from the last few days.  Yes, I know my son looks like he is starving to death with his rib cage showing–he eats, believe me–my brother was the same way.)

A Day in the Life of this Christian Unschooling Family

This morning I decided today was a good day to do a post like this.  Then things got crazy so I decided to write as I go–which would be great if it weren’t already 3:45pm.  I have been taking pictures as the day goes, well until 1:00 but you will see.  Is this a normal day?  We don’t have a “normal” day, is it typical?  Yes, in that everyday the kids, Shamus, and I all have projects we are doing and interruptions that take on a life of their own.  Word of warning, it was a long day so it follows after the jump.Read More

Day in the Life: Wii edition

Thought I should do a new unschooling life post–it has been a while–mostly because it has been raining, constantly, which means no good photos (I can’t use a flash because of Rachel and we don’t have very good lighting indoors if there is no sun outdoors.)

As you all know by now we went out the other day and got a Wii.  This was a planned for purchase–we have been saving and waiting for one to become available and finally my lovely, sweet step-brother, who works at Gamestop, grabbed one and set it aside for us.  Of course while there I discovered Professor Layton and the Curious Village and now desperately want that for my DS–wonderful anime style graphics, vintage setting, puzzles, talking, happy me (somebody please buy a painting so I can go buy a DS game–please????)

We picked up Wii Play for it as well, since with 3 kids we NEED a 2nd controller at the very least.  Wii play has some dud games but it also has some simple games that are perfect for younger children and which the kids are happily playing as I type.  Shamus and I have barely even gotten near the Wii since the kids are happy playing and we both had migraines yesterday (I am STILL nauseous though the headache is gone).  I am very sore from the short time we did play so am very fine with them playing.

Before I go into the educational aspects of having a Wii I want to mention some of the other learning activities that are going on in our home.

First, the kids are very involved in helping me write the art lessons. They are doing each lesson as my guinea pigs and I am amazed at how much difference it has made.  You will get to see their progress as the lessons go on.  It has also prompted a drawing frenzy–all three kids are going through paper at amazing speeds.  Issac has discovered perspective and the girls are now using joints and proportions in their drawings.

All three kids are reading a lot. Rachel has discovered biographies and is reading for about 2 hours a night.  Esther is into comic books and humorous stories–she just finished Way Side School is Falling Down.  Issac has been reading to me nightly from Hooked on Phonics chapter books.  We also finished reading Howl’s Moving Castle (did I mention how much better it is than the movie?) and are now reading Five Children and It by E. Nesbit.  I didn’t like it when I read it to myself but reading aloud is a whole ‘nother matter.  It is a fun read and the kids are enjoying it.

We also started getting Netflix again–whichh iwas perfect timing since it has rained for 3 weeks straight.  I swear we are going to float away a freezew to death if this continues.  We have been working through the Studio Ghibli animes (which are brilliant), Between the Lions (purportedly for Issac though it is really helping Rachel with her spelling), and old musicals (just watched Camelot whcih is hoaky but has great music not mention that we just read through all the Squires Tales and the kids have been comparing the stories).

Now that we have flour again the girls have been baking–Esther made a huge batch of peanut butter cookies and the two of them just made a slew of pancakes on their own while I napped.  They hav ebeen doubling and tripling the recipes without help from me–very cool.

Finally they have been cleaning the basement–slowly but it is getting done.  They had trashed the school room as well as the rest but now want to be able to have me teach art classes down there–which means it needs to be seriously cleaned.

Now about the educational side of the Wii.  To begin with there is the obvious–they are learning the rules of a variety of sports–Pool, ping pong, tennis, baseball, golf, bowling.  They are also moving while they do it, moving in general in the way that you move to actually play the game. Not exactly and you can fudge it but for the most part, if you do it the proper way, you are more likely to do better.  Since they live in a non-sports family (we don’t play or watch sports though I know how to play most of them having played at one time or another: softball, vollyball, golf, bowling, raquetball, hockey, football, ping pong, and so on) I find that this is a good oportunity for them to at least learn the basics.

Another aspect is eye-hand coordination. If you haven’t played Wii imagine trying to point at your tv screen and move a cursor around on the screen with your remote control–not by hitting buttons but by waving the control itself.  This is pretty much how navigating works as well as a few of the games.  The other games take actual movement similar to playing the games, really.

Also, there are the Mii’s. The kids have spent several hours  creating multiple custom Mii’s.  You only have so many parts that you can use to customize them but you can resize them and repurpose them.  The kids spent some time trying to figure out how to make Calvin and Hobbes,  Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics, multiple Nintendo characters, and themselves.  Not only is it fun but it is a huge problem solving activity.

You can also get the weather, news, edit photos from your SD card, purchase more games for download, and share your Mii’s with others via the Wii channels (if you have Wifi, and we do).  Yesterday while my mom had the kid I lay on the couch with my nasty mind numbing migraine and played with the channels.  If you have cable tv then this is probably not that exciting to you.  It is actually more like surfing the net on your tv (which you can also do if you pay $5 for the channel-which we haven’t done since we just paid more than enough for the Wii itself.)

While they have been occupied with all this stuff I have been working on the art class, making desicions about future projects (quite a few), moving websites between servers, and all sorts of things which make me grateful for the Wii.