Just a little precursor update: Our little CM study group working its way through Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study guide of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles has been so well received that I’m about to launch a second group today. Hooray! I’m so glad to see such an interest in CM’s methods in my area. I was so sad this past spring when the AO Texas convention passed me by because I had no one with which to carpool (it would have been a 7-hour drive). I sort of vowed to myself then that I would FIND SOME LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE, though I didn’t how that was going to work out. The CM study group just sort of landed in my lap, and by opening it up to folks in my area on social media, I have met several CM minded moms and built a little nature-loving, handicraft-making, classics-reading, folk song-singing group of friends. That is exciting to me! Maybe there’s a road trip in our future.
Okay, so now. On to The Hard Truth. Are you ready for this?
Television / Netflix / YouTube / tablets / Video Games / Video Game Walk-Thrus / will ruin your CM homeschool.
There. I said it. I’m sorry if that statement just destroyed your life. And, lest you think we are perfect here at my house, just know that we have a TV and a Netflix account and a YouTube login and FOUR Kindles and an iPad and two smart phones and a WiiU … and my oldest son was, what I would describe as, addicted to watching video game walk-thrus. So, yes, we have done it all, and we have backed away from much of it because I came to realize that was all too much. For our house, at our kids’ current ages (4, 6, & 9), these parameters have worked best:
- No screens until after 4pm. Exception for Math U See videos and J4’s occasional Starfall.com (20 min)
- All screens off when Dad gets home at 6pm (unless we opt for a family movie)
- No YouTube except for very specific and parent-guided educational purposes
- No screens in a vehicle – only books, audiobooks, or music
- No video game walk-thrus. Period. Too addicting at this stage.
- No using screens to silence our children in public places (There is a lot of outside pressure to do this.)
- Minions Movie only once a day. Seriously, this rule was necessary.
I’m sure these parameters will change through the years, but we have settled on these because they keep screens from directly interfering with playtime, school time, and free reading time.
In the preface to Volume 6, Charlotte Mason wrote:
When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child-environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.
I ask you, what is more of an artificial environment than the on-screen environment? Mason, of course, was not specifically referring to electronic screens, an invention she likely could not have imagined. She was addressing the temptation to put children in an artificial environment in order to teach them when really the best environment for learning is the natural (family) environment.
Side Note: In Charlotte’s day and culture, children often stayed home with a governess until they went away to boarding school around age 9. Charlotte’s school in Ambleside, England, was a teacher’s school training those governesses, so it makes sense that she would address the future governesses (as well as parents) about how best to educate a young child under age 9.
The Monster We Invite into Our Home
Many of us have read the CM principles that address “education is an atmosphere” and have decided to homeschool rather than send our children to an artificial school environment. We are proud to see sibling teamwork, reverence for parents, and other family values instilled in our children as a direct result of keeping them home and keeping the family together. We encourage our children to learn something new every day when we hang our artist prints, display our bookcases, and keep paints, pastels, and Ticonderoga pencils (because they are the best!) close at hand for our nature journaling. But, are we also inviting a monster into our homes? One that gobbles up time for creativity, discovery, making connections, and other skills that result from masterly inactivity? (Masterly inactivity, by the way, is the hands-off – but eyes on from a distance – approach to parenting that allows children to enjoy freedom with boundaries.)
Here is the hard truth. The more screen time in which your young kids indulge, the less time they have for true, self-guided learning to take place. I’m convinced real education happens right after you hear the words, “I’m bored.”
I’m not saying my kids don’t get screen time, but I am saying screen time is not necessary, and there may be seasons in your family’s life when screens should be put away completely. I know that’s hard. We have a small house enjoy an affordable mortgage. On very hot or very cold or very wet days, this house seems to shrink. We have extra kids over here all of the time because my extrovert NEEDS them and because we are on very friendly terms with a neighborhood child who is also homeschooled and is functionally an only child (according to the Birth Order Book by Dr. Kevin Leman).
Some days you justwantthehousetostaycleanforfiveminutes! Or, you want to cook dinner in peace. Maybe you’re pregnant and exhausted or severely low on iron and vitamin D. Maybe you work a part time job that keeps you up late at night. Maybe you have a child with a disability that requires most of your energy. These are legitimate needs. I completely understand and have personally experienced each of them. Screen time can seem like an obvious and socially acceptable crutch to get you by, but I want to challenge you to find another, less addictive, crutch.
Some days you just want to snuggle up with a classy, kid-friendly movie and your kids and a bowl of popcorn (and then, of course, you have to vacuum up the popcorn). Screens can be a nice instrument for passing time safely and family bonding. But, screens are addicting, and that is the characteristic of screens I want to emphasize. ADDICTION
Are You Addicted To Your Kids Having Screen Time?
The kids can be detoxed. You can hide the remotes and the charging cords from them, and after significant whining they will go do something else to amuse themselves. What I want to address here is whether YOU, the homeschool parent, are addicted to your child sitting still, not making a mess, and not interacting with anyone or anything. Sounds a little scary, right?
I’m not here to throw a stone from my own glass house. I simply want to make us all aware of this threat because our culture is not going to do it. Screens are very socially acceptable and readily available, and the false sense of safety we parents feel when our child is plugged-in is very addicting. It’s the opposite of an educational atmosphere. Even in classical and CM forums, I have seen parents (including myself) ask how much screen time is too much. What kinds of entertainment are other homeschoolers allowed to use? How much computer- or app-based learning is too much? Instinctively we know it’s a threat, and we are looking for an answer. But, there isn’t a right answer to the question of “how much?” And, I’m not going to give you an answer to that question. What I want to do is re-frame this entire argument so that we all understand it is the parent who is the driving force behind screen time. We are the addicted ones.
I hope that wasn’t too harsh. If you need help with this addiction, please reach out to a supportive, non-enabling adult for help. I’m here for you. We can do hard things!
Until next Friday (or so).
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audio book – not finding the time to listen)
- The Innocence of Father Brown by G.K. Chesterton – love these encapsulated chapters!
- The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (haven’t actually begun this one yet)
- Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (for my book club – not my favorite)
Moderately challenging books:
- Personal Reflections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
- Mind to Mind: An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education by Karen Glass
- For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in conjunction with Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study (for my CM study group)
- Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen
- Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson with Sally Clarkson
- The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws – this is a very inspiring book!