Limiting listening to audio books

Deb Lewis, responding in public to the boldfaced comments, August 8, 2011


He has a passion for listening to audio books (and, actually, listening to anyone read to him) and we listen to them tons in the car. I know that if we ever got him a cd player that is all he'd be doing. Period.

I am not any time soon going to be buying him one for just that very reason.

It's the same reason that he and his sister (who is 4) need to shared the little DVD player that we have to watch movies on.

It's the same reason? If you'd rather he not have a CD player because listening to audio books is "all he'd be doing" and he has to share a DVD player -for the same reason- because watching movies is "all he'd be doing" he'd be doing neither of those things all the time, right? One would give way to the other. And there would be some time to eat, go to the bathroom, sleep, visit with mom or dad or sister, right?

Dylan was like that. "Read a book!" was one of the first things he said. :o)

Listening to audio books is a wonderful way for kids to experience great stories beyond what they'd be able to read on their own. (And beyond what their mom's have voice for!) If he'd love to hear more stories and you're deliberately denying him that, you're standing in the way of his learning. Perhaps when he's reading quite well on his own you will refuse to provide him with books as well? What part of your unschooling philosophy is based on denying opportunities for learning? I'm not being snarky or facetious. Please believe me, I am really interested in an explanation for this incomprehensible idea. If you could see into the future and know he would one day be a writer, would it still seem harmless to deny him the opportunity to learn through the writings of others?

Right now, at six, your son might not be thinking too much about why he can only listen in the car to the audio books he loves but one day he'll know he was denied the possibility of more.

One of the beautiful things about unschooling is it gives our kids time to really explore the things they love—to see where they might lead. And if they don't lead to a career or life-long hobby, the love of the thing, in the moment, is still a valuable experience. If you could magically know what would give your child joy, wouldn't you want to provide it? The magic is in trusting our kids to know what they want and in helping them do as much of that as we possibly can. It's not always easy or comfortable, but how do you put a price on learning and joy?

We believe that there are very simple ways to manipulate the environment (not the kid) which encourages them to develops good habits while, at the same time, not inhibiting creativity, self direction or any of the other good stuff that comes along with unschooling.
Your husband could lock you in a small room every night, alone. That would be a very simple way of manipulating your environment. Perhaps he'd like to encourage you to develop good sleep habits but not inhibit your creativity or self direction. Is it possible you could endure this for several years and not feel like your self direction and creativity was inhibited? What might you feel about your husband for making this choice? Would you believe he was not trying to manipulate you?

I think it's easy for parents to delude themselves because children don't yet know to speak out against controlling and oppressive actions, nor do they have the power to defend themselves or change their circumstances. A good measure of whether a parent is over stepping the bounds of decency is to ask if you would do this thing to a cherished and loved adult. Would you deny your mother audio books if she loved to read but was not able to do so? Would it be ok with you if someone who loved you deliberately stood between you and a passion, say, gardening, animal rights activism, reading?

If they want to use the ipod that they purchased or the video game system that they earned with their own money then we will happily let them.
So, the issue then isn't really what might be healthy but what you're willing to pay for. Using an iPod or game system would not be detrimental as long as you didn't have to pay for it? Is that what you meant?

We were kind of struggling financially when Dylan first got interested in gaming. His uncle bought him a Playstation for Christmas when Dylan was seven years old. I made a special point of saving for the next one, and for more games when I saw how much he loved it. He's nineteen now and hasn't been interested in games in many years, but he has such fond memories of playing with his dad, beating bosses and accomplishing so many fun things.

I hope instead of worry or fear you can come to see the joy.


(There were responses. Deb again, below the quote:)

And audio books are awesome. I'd love to be able to listen to them all day, too. But there are other awesome things that happen in our days, too.

Presumably you get to decide what you will do in a day. If you have a day where you feel like listening to audio books you have the power to decide to put aside something else in favor of the listening. If you have a day where volunteering at the animal shelter is what you really want to do, you have the choice to put the audio book away. Part of the pleasure in either of those is in having the choice to do as you like. If you value having the freedom to make those kinds of choices then others probably value it too.

Dylan wasn't reading really strongly at six and I was a stay at home mom so we had lots of time for reading. Sometimes I read until I had no voice. When he was four we read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, long and complex stories for a four year old, and he loved them. I remember very clearly how, when reading a children's book one day, he disgustedly said, "No one talks like this!" and put the book aside forever. He was little but he had such a love for good stories and interesting language. By the time he was six he was rewriting screenplays of movies he liked but thought he could make better. :o) Monster movies, mostly, and he continued to do that for a few years until he started writing his own screenplays and stories. Maybe he won't ever make a living as a writer but the enjoyment of that work is an important part of his life.

We had a lot of wonderful things happening in our days too and some of that was long hours or days at a time of video games or stories, or camping or playing. They are in part so memorable because they were what Dylan wanted to do, not what he was left with after having his first choice hindered. A child can only be six for one year. And sometimes there is a small window of time where a child finds a thing intriguing and wonderful and if it's missed it can never be experienced again in quite the same stirring and magical way.


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