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Unschooling, TV And Trust

Unschooling, TV And Trust

While clearing out some old files on google docs, I came across this and thought it would be helpful to share it. It was written by the very wise Pam Sorooshian, who helped me when I began unschooling more than she probably realises.

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 supported that interest.

I did that by enthusiastically watching with them, playing tv-show base games online or as videogames, 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 really 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, 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 SpongeBob is a real marine biologist?” Or, “I wonder why he didn’t make SpongeBob 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 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 VERY 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 and honesty and confidence in their own 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 and confidence and support of their interests.

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4 Responses to “Unschooling, TV And Trust”

  1. Joanne says:

    Nasus….one of the best ways you interest your child in exercise and fitness is by being a good role model and doing it yourself. Get some of those big bouncy ball things, a pogo stock, a hula hoop and roller blades and have some fun with your kids!!

    And yes, I think unschooling parents are close enough to their kids to know when their depressed so that goes without saying.

  2. Brigitte says:

    I somewhat agree that watching tv shows should not be restricted, but I do think that as parents we need to steer them in the right direction. I do not have tv, but we do watch shows/movies online and on netflix. My kids are 9 and 11, and I am not ok with many of the shows they are interested in, mainly the Nick or Disney tween shows. My problem with them is that they do not accurately reflect real life situations and while we may watch and “get it” as adults, the kids don’t see a lot of the irony or comedy for what it really is. We see kids, reading scripts written by adults having adult problems and I don’t want my kids to grow thinking that is what the real world is like out there. I prefer them watching real documentaries or for entertainment something like Dr. Who, fun adventures while thinking outside the box is so much more refreshing than fart jokes or love triangles for tweens.

  3. nasus says:

    I support this principle, however, I do want to caution that kids need to be active and get exercise and care should be taken that they are getting some regular exercise/movement into their lives because a sedentary life can lead to weight issues. ..and yes, that may mean turning off the tv and exploring a more live action sequence! Also, check if child is having any emotional issues, such as depression, which can cause a child to watch tv as a way of escaping. But if the child is alert and healthy and active- then I say go for it!!

  4. Ani says:

    What a great post. TV isn’t inherently evil & trusting our kids’ instintual interest in what it has to offer is a wonderful way to respond the the TV dilemma. One of my favorite shows, Battlestar Galactica, deals with issues of religion, sentience, science & spacetime. Not to mention the sociological/anthropological aspect. Restricting your kids isn’t always the answer & TV has some learning gems too!


  1. Sharing Sunday #1 « Free Your Parenting - [...] Unschooling, TV and trust: A completely different look at the TV issue from An Unschooling LifeĀ - not sure I’d ...

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