Sorting Things Out- Limiting Screen Time

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This is a sight you will frequently see at my house. My husband and kids are tech junkies. I’m not necessarily saying it’s a bad thing. Technology is the way of the world today, and it’s here to stay, so being knowledgeable in this area is certainly an asset. Having said that, it brings up certain issues regarding boundaries. Specifically the dilemma of limiting screen time.

Now, when I say “screen time,” it can mean anything, well…with a screen- TV, computers, tablets, etc. I know TV is a problem for many people, so the same discussion can be applied to that, but our main issue is gaming. My kids (and husband) love it.

I’ve read literature supporting both sides of the issue, and, to further complicate things, there are arguments that I agree with on both sides. (I find that I’m always complicating things for myself. It’s in my nature.) So I’m going to work through these arguments and see if I can come to some sort of conclusion.

I guess I’ll start with the unlimited screen time point of view. First of all, there is much to be learned from any of the applications these mediums can be used for. The internet is great for researching, reading, and connecting with friends. Who needs encyclopedias when we’ve got Wikipedia, right? And while many people outright loathe gaming, there are so many things to be learned from it.

For example, in Minecraft, geometry and logic, at the very least, are used to build structures- elaborate structures. There’s math. You can make maps. That’s geography. You have to learn what substances to mix with what in order to make things, such as glass (fire and sand). You can also use flowers to make different types of dye. Science. And there’s also an abundance of vocabulary words shown. When you hover over an object with your mouse, it will tell you what the object is. It can be as easy as “wood” or as difficult as “iron ingot.” Language Arts. That’s coming from my limited understanding of the game; I’m sure I’m missing a lot, but, hopefully, I’ve made my point.

Another game popular with my family is World of Warcraft. Again, I wasn’t too thrilled when my husband went out and got the WOW accounts- until I actually took the time to watch this game for a few minutes. There is so much strategic planning and so much going on at once that my head would be spinning, but my kids are great at it. They’re better able to focus on more things at once while still noticing little details in the background. And mapping? Let me tell you, because of this game, my kids’ map skills blow me out of the water. If we ever get lost and have only a road map to help us, guess who’s going to be navigating, and it’s not going to be me!

Pretty cut and dry, right? My kids are enjoying themselves while learning so many things, so what’s the problem? Well, that’s what I’m getting to.

The use of electronics, especially gaming, can be extremely addicting. And I know that I’ve said before how it’s great when my kids can immerse themselves in their interests, so what’s the difference? Well, it’s a fine line for me. First off, kids need exercise. They need to get out and breathe fresh air. I also happen to know that there are so many things that my kids truly enjoy that will get neglected if I don’t step in. Devin enjoys reading and art and Sherlock. Dillon loves origami and drawing and science experiments. These aren’t interests that I’m forcing on them; these are passions of theirs that they, unintentionally, start to neglect because of being unable to self-regulate. Devin has always been the type of girl who will easily read 3-4 books a week. She used to sit and read for hours and hours everyday. Just recently, however, she asked me to remind her to read because she forgets when she’s on her computer. Okay, that’s a big mayday. Devin never needed to be reminded to read before, and she recognizes that there’s a problem, so she’s asked me to intervene. Not good.

Right now I do have a period of time everyday that the TV goes off and all electronics are to be turned off. You would think I was pulling their teeth at the looks on their faces. And then come the excuses.
“Mom, can I look up science experiments on YouTube?”
“Can I go online and look up Mongolian Death Worms?” (Yes, Dillon actually did research them the other day.)
“Can I watch a makeup tutorial? I want to know how to make my own eye shadow.”
“Can I go on Minecraft and build a donjon instead of drawing one?”

And now I’ve gotten to the heart of the problem. I truly do think that there has to be a limit on electronics, but the harsh reality is, even if these are excuses, they’re still supporting the exploration of other interests- and that’s what I’m trying to promote in the first place! I just can’t win! Am I actually hindering them with this rule by removing the best tool there is for researching? It’s so exasperating!

And here’s where you come in! This is where I need your advice. Have you been through something similar? Do you regulate screen time, especially if you’re unschooling? How can I find a happy medium? I can’t tell you enough how much I’m looking forward to some fresh opinions on this topic. Hopefully, I’ll talk to you soon!

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Every Week Should Be Break Week

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Looks familiar from last week’s post, right? And the week before…and the week before. I’m telling you, I am so sick of snow. I’m ready to pack up everything and move South. Maybe Louisiana…or Texas…or Australia. We’ve gotten so much snow that our city was completely unprepared. They ran out of salt for the streets, and all the stores ran out of rock salt. Of course we didn’t have any, so I told my husband to sprinkle some cat litter for traction. He did more than sprinkle. He poured so much out front and out back that it looked like we were living on a beach. What a mess. He’s got most of it cleaned up now, and he’s got a plan on how he’ll shovel up the rest. Oy vey.

Anyway…on with the week…

This was our first ever break week since we’ve started unschooling. If you’re questioning why we even needed a break, I wrote about it right here. This entire week has had me pleasantly surprised.
I honestly thought that since I would not be limiting screen time that I would have a bunch of Minecrafting zombies, especially considering the fact that we’ve gotten four new laptops this week. I myself have been spending quite a bit of time on mine. Hey, give me a break. I’ve been doing all my online activity, including writing my blog, on my Android! This is new to me, too!
Looking back on the week, though, I’ve noticed something that did not escape Arianna’s attention either…the kids have been doing more this week than since we started unschooling! This has completely validated my theory that children learn best without expectations.
I found it exceedingly funny that on our second day of break, several of the kids spent hours playing school. IMAG5139 (1) And not just your typical ABC’s stuff, either. I walked into the living room, and Caollin was using our solar system model to quiz the kids on the planets. Then, she had them all sit and listen while she played with the interactive tablet that goes with it. Shortly afterward, I heard music. I looked in on the kids and saw that Caollin had “Fifty Nifty United States” playing on her tablet while the kids sang, and she played guitar! I was so happy, I almost couldn’t contain myself, but I managed to play it cool because I didn’t want to ruin the moment.
If you’ve read my blog before, you probably remember that my kids love arts and crafts, so, of course, these activities played a huge role in our week.
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Yes, she's wearing a bathing suit top in the middle of winter. Choose your battles, right?
Yes, she’s wearing a bathing suit top in the middle of winter. Choose your battles, right?

Summer's always a mess, isn't she?
Summer’s always a mess, isn’t she?

It’s taken the older kids some time to get used to Minecraft on the PC since they’ve always played the pocket edition. They’ve really learned a lot, though, and Dillon has been as diligent as ever in researching mods. He was so excited today because he learned how to make a portal using obsidian and a snowman using a pumpkin. (I have no clue.) IMAG5158
Arianna made her own lipstick with Crayola Crayons (she learned it from a makeup tutorial). She said it worked well, but it was really hard to pour it into the little containers.
I was checking my emails today when I heard Caollin using my phone to learn French on Mango Languages. I’ll tell you, out of everyone, Caollin has surprised me the most this week because she’s the one who’s spent the most time doing nothing but petting the cats. As I alluded to earlier, even Arianna has noticed the difference this week. She mentioned to me last night that we should always have break because everyone’s been so much busier…and happier. A very wise observation, I would say.
I bought my first digital camera today (yes, my 14 year old has a DSLR, but I’ve only been using my Android to take pictures). It’s certainly not a DSLR, but, hopefully, today will be the last day I have to post blurry pictures. I’m really excited about it because when you have a lot of kids, you tend to forget to do things for yourself once in a while…so this is my present to me.
Tomorrow we’re planning on finding a pantry for our kitchen because we just don’t have enough cabinet space. Saturday we’ll be having our first family portrait taken in three years. I was so afraid that Brendan, my 20 year old, would have to work, but he’s coming, too! Afterwards, the 13 of us will be taking my mom to Denny’s for her birthday. (Kids eat free! Ahem. They’ll love us.) I’ve already reserved the entire back room. We only take the kids out to a restaurant about once a year, so they’re usually very well-behaved. We shall see…

What’s your week been like?

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