Nearly two years after TV limits removed

It has been nearly two years since I stopped limiting TV.

I have to share what happened tonight. It isn't the first time it happened either. I was so tired after dinner that *I* suggested we watch a movie. (Usually it is someone else suggesting that.) My 8 year old said please can't we play a game instead! This is a child who can watch TV whenever she wishes. When the entire family is home, she is much more likely to vote for playing a game than watching TV.

So we played yahtzee. When one child got a yahtzee, the other joined her in dancing for joy. Everyone was cheering when someone had a good turn and saying "oh too bad" but in a nice way when the roles weren't so great. And I won! I can't remember the last time I won at Yahtzee.

Mary Ellen
unschoolingdiscussion list

[P.S.] I didn't mean to suggest that playing a game is always better than watching TV. I just wanted to put this out for those who are new to the idea of not limiting TV. It is one more example of a kid who does not have TV limits and does choose to do other things besides watch TV.

Everything I really need to know I learned from video games and cheesy cartoons.

OK, not really. But I have made a transformation over the past few years. I used to think that TV was bad in general (books always better!), and at the very least, children's exposure to TV should be limited.

We are now going into our 3rd year of removing all limits from TV. It started when Pat back-doored a new large screen TV into the house. This coincided with the winter Olympics, so we hooked up to cable after a couple of years without it. We got the expanded cable, since that offered many more stations that appealed to us.

The girls and I did a *unit study* on the Olympics. I use the term loosely, because I didn't sit down and plan units or require reports on what they learned. Basically, we watched and watched and watched Olympics coverage, bought the official program in order to follow events more easily, got library books about Michelle Kwan and other Olympic stars present and past, and recorded some of our favorite events for repeat viewing. We even got the Olympic soundtrack CD. While watching, all sorts of tidbits came up for discussion. Where our favorite athletes were from had us frequently grabbing the globe or an atlas. How were events scored, why did some countries have many participants and others only a few, what is a sport, sportsmanship, and much more. Some nice unplanned things occurred at the same time. Pat was working with some people from Spain, and a couple of them came to visit. They came to dinner at our house and spent the evening watching and discussing Olympics with us. This was the night that Ice Dancing was on, and we had a spirited discussion on whether this should qualify as a sport, or not. It was exciting for all of us to have a foreign person associated with the international sports industry spend time with us. That it happened during the world's most popular sports competition was really cool.

Some friends went to Austria that winter and brought the girls hats like the ones worn by some of the Austrian cross country skiers. The hats are gray with a tuft of bright colored fluff at the top, so it looks a bit as if you are wearing a headband with bright hair sticking out the top. These hats came about because some performance enhancing drugs used by some of the skiers caused their hair to turn gray. The skiers would dye their hair bright colors to mask it. This presented an opportunity to talk about drugs and their possible effects on one's health and career.

Since that time, TV viewing has waxed and waned. Sometimes it is on way too much for my taste. Other times the girls go days without watching. Nobody would disagree that some TV programs are *educational* and well worth watching. But my kids have also learned so much from what I would have once called "stupid cartoons". Last night, Lisa was watching a cartoon - The Proud Family. The episode involved a girl going back in time to the 1950s and covered many of the realities of segregation. She even quoted part of MLK's famous I Have a Dream speech. I have a children's picture book about that. I need to dig it out and read it while it's fresh in our minds. Besides, his holiday is coming up on Monday.

The Simpsons, although not always *polite* are very funny and are always making references to things that many people would consider education material. Watching an episode with my children always brings up many interesting topics to discuss. Besides, we laugh a lot.

Up to now, we have never had any video games in our house. It wasn't that I purposely avoided them, it was just something we'd never done and the girls had never asked for. I had a vague idea in my head that they were negative along the lines of TV and other electronic media. Generally, when video games make the news it is not positive. I had never before questioned these ideas. Lisa had mentioned playing a race car game at her friend's house. We decided to give the girls a Nintendo64 for Christmas. This morning I played Crusin World with Lisa. The game is full of famous landmarks. It is not totally realistic, but does match many real aspects of the countries you race through. While cruising Germany, I mentioned the autobahn. I don't know too much about it, except that people drive really fast there. This led us to consider mph vs. kph, which led to the metric vs. US system of measurement. I told Lisa that I had bought some stuff to help learn the metric system because I wanted to understand it better. She said, "We can learn it together".

It never ceases to amaze me how doing one thing can lead to learning about something else.

If we do get around to learning more about metrics, I wonder how much she'll absorb. I studied this in school, but I never internalized it. I mean, I can look up the formulas and use them to figure out conversions, but hearing a metric measurement still doesn't mean much to me. I wonder if she will learn it more easily, because she will not be pressured to learn it for a test. If she learns it, it will be because she wants to. Due to Pat's recent trip to Asia, however, I now know that 20 C is close to 68 F. I learned this because I went on-line to check the weather where he was staying. It was in Celsius, so I googled a site to convert that to Fahrenheit. Lisa's comment to all that? "Wow, Daddy's in warm weather and I'm in the snow!"

Mary Ellen

originally appeared on the Always Learning list

Television and unschoolers parenting issues for unschoolers