Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Community, TV, unschooling

How many homes have you been to where the furniture in the living room is arranged so that everyone has the best view of the television?

I remember a time when living rooms were arranged so that people could actually look at each other and talk together. (yes, I am that old.)

As I was growing up, we had pretty strict limits on watching the TV. We only had four channels, and there wasn't a whole lot on anyway. We never watched it after school - we always shined our shoes, did our homework and went outside to play in the bush or at the creek or riding our bikes. During school holidays, we sometimes watched the 'midday movie' if we were at home, our favourites were the musicals which we would then sing all afternoon, and even longer. I still remember the silly song (which became a family favourite) from "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" with Bing Crosby ..."I'm busy doing nothing working the whole day through...trying to find lots of things not to do...I'm busy going nowhere, isn't it such a crime...I'd like to be unhappy but.........I never do have the time....la la la la....". On the weekends, we maybe watched a couple of shows or a movie, but TV wasn't really a big part of our lives.

As we got older, we watched a little more, but not much. We always preferred swimming or playing snooker or cards or games  or going for a bushwalk or to the beach...you get the idea.

Human beings were not designed to live alone. But so many have turned to the TV for a sense of community. We feel like we belong to the Hannah Montana tribe and the Survivor tribe and the True Blood tribe (etc) and, for brief periods, we get to live in another world, we get caught up in their dramas, we take on the way these people speak and act. The 'stars' of these shows are treated like little gods, paid enormous amounts of money and people spend hours dreaming about them, and try to dress like them and we lose our own individuality.

When one show ends, we skip over to another tribe. How many years of a persons life is used up just randomly skipping around, looking for something to satisfy, complaining that there is "nothing on", but not able to just turn it off and DO something that might satisfy that need for connection with self and other real live people?

I am talking about myself here too. I have not always had a community around me where my kids could feel a part of, people that they could spend hours playing and exploring and working with, and that I have used that big box as a babysitter. It does not feel 'right' to me. A lot of the 'kids' shows show behaviours that I know are not natural to my own children, but they imitate anyway. They disrupt the harmony in our home.

We live what a lot of people would call 'unschooling' in that we do not follow a strict curriculum.  I prefer to call it 'living', or if you need a label - natural learning, life learning, self-designed living.  A lot of unschoolers have no limits on media, food, and pretty much everything their children do.  And I understand why they do that and the incredible Trust that allows them to do that.  However, I don't think it works for everyone. 

We have one main TV and another small one that is only connected to the playstation.  We have two computers. And five people.  We aim to consider everyone's needs, so we can't all have unlimited time on the computer or with the TV. 

I like a couple of shows on TV, like "Glee" and "Doctor Who".  Also, shows about travel, nature and science.  I like hanging out and watching a movie or two, especially if it's raining outside.  I just don't like the TV on all day.  It disrupts MY harmony and I'm a valued member of this family as much as anyone else so I deserve to have my needs taken into account also.

When I met Cary, I was surprised at how much TV he watched.  It was rather foreign to the way I'd lived.  I chose to accept that about him.  It's kind of funny that  he doesn't really like watching it much at all now.  He appreciates spending time with the family connecting, playing, chatting, doing things together, and spending time pursuing other interests he has.

I understand that 'Radical Unschoolers' would state that they see the value in everything their child wants to do, even if that is watching TV every waking moment for days, weeks or months.  If that works for them, that's great.  I'm not trying to RU.  My priority is creating a home, a life, where we all have our needs considered, even if they do not get met right away.  Where the focus is on connection and harmony and Joy and living OUR lives, deeply and fully.

There's so much more to life than being 'programmed' by others...that is why they call them 'programs' isn't it? My goal is to leave the box turned off much more than it has been, to live more in our own reality show, one that is unedited and absolutely authentic.


Anonymous said...

I love your insight on things --I wonder how many pattern their behavior and reactions on what they see on the big screen or TV and if they believe that is the "real" world.

Sara McGrath (UnschoolingLifestyle.com) said...

My family is definitely in the RU camp. However, we have only one TV in a bedroom upstairs with no TV service. We use it to watch some Dr. Who in the evenings and an occasional movie.

I, too, grew up with very little TV. We didn't have limits. The one fuzzy channel on the 10-inch screen just wasn't much of a draw.

I'm really not a big fan of TV in general. I get what you're saying about people turning to the TV instead of seeking something much more fulfilling.

~Tara said...

I'd consider ourselves in the whole life unschooling camp, where as you said, all family members needs are valid and considered and met.

I really think the biggest issue with "limiting" is the potential to create strife in a family. But that makes the strife, not the "limits" the problem.

Eli said...

TV. I grew up as an only child in rural Alabama. The TV was my buddy. Later on I lived in the Caribbean and for 10 yrs only had a TV for watching rented movies, then 5 years in an RV with no TV. Paul hates to have the TV on before 5:00 pm. I love morning tv talk shows when I'm away on travel (but not at home) and Adrian could watch TV 24/7. At night time we watch a lot of tv reality. The Deadliest Catch, Top Chef, Ice Road Truckers and a lot of Classical movies. I like to unplug too. A whole night with out electronics. We all go into withdrawals, then we realize,we can do this!

Blanche and Guy said...

glad to find your lovely blog. just read a bunch of your posts out loud to my husband who is sitting here reading a book on gentle horsemanship (Monty Roberts if you maybe have heard of him) ... glad to know there are more and more people out there in this wonderful world who are more interested in living authentic lives instead of just going with the majority .. have a great day! Blanche and Guy in Israel :)