Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Managing Screen Time When You Homeschool

managing screen time in homeschool

I'll be honest. Screens including the TV, computer and gadgets have often been my babysitter and sanity saver. I could defend why I use them until the cow's come home but the truth is, at times, I'm just lazy. I've become dependent on screens to give me a break, provide distraction for the kids and keep them engaged while I complete important (or not so important) tasks. The problem? I've become increasingly uncomfortable with what my kids watch on TV and the addictive nature of gadgets like ipads. I've learnt to recognise that when I begin to feel uncomfortable or uneasy about something it is often the still, small voice of God trying to get my attention.

So when I heard about the screen free week challenge it seemed the answer I was looking for. It would offer us a chance to disconnect from technology and give us time to re-connect with each other. I felt it would also be an opportunity to re-assess our use of screens and to seek God for help in what changes we could make to how we use screens in our family and homeschool.

I talked about the ways that we swapped TV for other activities at MUMmedia which included swapping morning TV for activity boxes and afternoon TV for music.

Why consider the use of screens when you homeschool?
 creative homeschool

1. Screens limit creativity

One thing I have loved about homeschooling is seeing how amazingly creative my children are when they are given the time and space to explore their own thoughts. This creativity is hampered when the TV is on. The two cannot work together.

And although many things we do on the computer are educational, playing a maths game with one dimensional images does not stimulate little brains in the same way that sitting down looking at concrete examples and manipulatives does. Computer learning such as skwirk or studyladder are great as long as they compliment other homeschool methods.

2. Screens are addictive

Most of us know that the TV is addictive but it is nowhere near as addictive as gadgets and computer games. My kids would often watch TV but drift off and do something else. However, with gadgets they are transfixed and immovable and when it's time to get off - tantrums erupt!

3. What we see on screens often opposes our values

This is the biggest one for us. I have always been careful with what the kids watch but as they've gotten older and outgrown the mostly harmless shows on ABC2 I've had difficult finding shows that I think are appropriate. I've observed shows that I don't want the kids watching but felt stuck. It was either tell them to watch preschool shows, pop a DVD on or just turn it off and listen to the whining and nagging.

What we learnt from going screen free...

managing screen time homeschool
  •  We are better without TV

It warmed my heart getting up in the morning to see my early risers lounging on the couch reading a book instead of blobbing in front of the the TV. As a homeschooler, our whole day is about opportunities for learning and too much TV time opposes what I'm trying to create at home for my kids.

It also minimised noise! Our afternoons seemed much calmer without the added stimulation of the TV blaring!

  • Screens have become too important to us

Although I loved a week away from the computer for myself it made me realise that I waste a lot of time stuck in computer land. I often have up to 10 windows open at a time and I can be writing a blog, preparing a report for work, checking facebook, doing online banking, getting homeschool ideas on pinterest and shopping on ebay....all at the same time. When the kids would come and ask me to do something I would become stressed with all the things I had to do before I could get off the computer. During my computer free week I found that I could do my online banking quickly on my phone if I needed to and could do without the distraction of multiple windows open. I turned off alerts on my phone though so I don't feel tempted to check it a hundred times a day when it beeps at me!

Time with my kids is the most important thing in the world and I needed a wake up call that I don't NEED the computer and online world as much as I think I do.

  •  It's time to make changes

We had a 'family meeting' where we discussed how our screen free week was going. I told my kids I thought they watched too much TV and they told me I spent too much time on the computer so we decided I wouldn't use the computer (except for work or briefly) during the day and our home would become TV free during the week. In the mornings I put out a box of toys or activity for them and in the afternoon we either go to the park or play some music and I've been surprised at how quickly we got used to this new way of life. I honestly thought I wouldn't be able to survive....but we are not just surviving we are thriving with our new limited screen time!

I have a feeling God has more to say to me on this subject after I read this article the other day but for now, we are making small changes to screen time for the benefit of our family and homeschool!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Against The Flow - Christian Homeschooling

homeschooling in Australia

Part of the reason we chose to homeschool after spending time in a local state school was because we wanted to teach our kids Christian values. We had the opportunity to experience education and socialisation in a secular environment which helped us realise how important it is that not only our home life be centered about the person of Jesus but also our children's education.

I have mentioned numerous times about homeschooling being a socially unpopular choice. It is also a counter-cultural choice. But what many people don't realise is that we often face opposition from other Christians and Christian leaders. Homeschoolers really are going against the flow!

Even in church communities we are taught that it's best to go with the flow - just follow the majority and we should be right. The problem? We end up using imperfect people to guide our decisions rather than look to the word of God. We stop following God and start following church culture and church leaders instead. Sadly, often times church culture is not so different to the culture of the world and we find ourselves going with the flow rather than listening to what God might be saying to us.

"Do not conform to the patterns of the world but instead be transformed in the renewing of your mind. For then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will."
Romans 12:2

Understanding why Christians feel so convicted about homeschooling really requires a change of thinking - a renewing of the mind. We have all been raised to think a certain way about education. If we grew up in a home that believed state education was the way to go then we probably believe this to be right or true. If we went to an elite private school then we may believe this education to be superior to other options. To understand the value and mission of Christian homeschoolers we have to address WHY we think a certain method of education is best. This then explains why we may (incorrectly) believe that the alternatives to our own beliefs surrounding education must be inferior, or even wrong.

God did not create us to all be the SAME - We are unique, one of a kind!

I know that after attending a rather elitist private school I had to wrestle with my own prejudice against non-University educated people. Yes, really. I was immersed in a school culture that believed high achievement was the key to success and a University education made me superior. It was a slow process as God changed my thinking. God does not value achievement, vocation or a worldly definition of success - he values our heart, our character and our obedience.

We are wise to find our true worth and value in HIM and not in the values of the world.

For this reason, homeschooling can be an isolating experience. My lifestyle and values are just so vastly different to those around me. It's hard when you know that whenever you mention homeschooling that people are making judgements and assumptions about your family. It can even be people you love and trust the most who hold on to their strong opinions and prejudices. 

It's lucky that we are not here on earth to gain everyone's approval! We are only called to be obedient to our heavenly father and he is the ONLY person that we need to give account to. e.g I'm not answerable to the lady down the road who looks at me disapprovingly when I take my kids for a bike ride when they "should be at school". 

The longer I homeschool the more I feel convicted that homeschooling is right for our family. As I seek God and his word, I'm also beginning to learn more about God's design for families and raising children. I'm amazed at how God is continually 'renewing my mind' to see things differently and changing my own attitudes, prejudices and wrong thinking.

Sometimes I get discouraged when I look at our churches and how far removed our lifestyle and cultures are from the word of God. It's just so easy to be worldly and to forget that God has set us apart and called us to be different. We are not called to be the same but we are called to go against the flow and even though sometimes it's hard to step out, God will always honour our obedience with blessing.