Unschooling with the TV in the house

This exchange was so powerful that other than editing out some peripheral chit-chat, I've left it whole and in the order it unfolded. I know at least one of the authors changed her mind and practices later, and that one's noted. Others might have as well. I hope you enjoy it! —Sandra Dodd, 4/04

By Sue Murphy on Saturday, August 4, 2001 - 04:48 pm:

Hi, I'm Sue from NC. I have 6 kids ages 3,6,9,12,15,18. This will be our 5th year homeschooling. We have done everything from unit studies, lots of structure (the kind that makes mom feel like we are in control and getting "it" all accomplished!) boxed curriculum etc.

Last year we were all a little frustrated and everyone wanted to just finish so they could go out and play (learn). I want to just trust my heart and let them all lead their own interest-lead learning.

My 18 year old graduated from our homeschool last year and homeschooling was so great for him. Because he was a more hands-on learner I let him spend lots of time pondering, puttering and tinkering in the garage. He learned all the things he needed and wanted to know. He is happily working full time now in his area of interest.

I want to put all the workbooks away unless they want to use them and trust the kids and myself. It is just hard to get that are they learning all the necessary 'stuff' mentality out of my head. Back to the TV problem- they do seem to gravitate to it when they get bored. Some days I would love to unplug it because they move onto better things without it. Any thoughts?


By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Saturday, August 4, 2001 - 06:34 pm:

Well, since you asked...

You've defined it as a problem, and you've stated that other things are better.

There's a lot to be learned on TV and from watching TV. If your trust stops short of the TV, it's not much trust yet.

Trusting your heart and trusting your kids and trusting how learning works will all enlarge the range of things you see as learning situations, until the time when you don't see things except in terms of what can be learned.

Then TV won't be a problem.

Those are my thoughts.


By Angela Nordstrom (Noschoolathome) on Saturday, August 4, 2001 - 10:11 pm:

So, Sandra, are you saying it's OK for them to watch a lot of TV?

My Mitchell (5) would watch it all day if I didn't say that's enough...get outside and play, now.

He says just about every show is his favorite show.

He watches about 3-4 hours a day right now (mostly because we live in Florida and it's just so hot out in the summer that I'd rather have them in).

Should I not worry about it so much?

By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Saturday, August 4, 2001 - 11:56 pm:

It is my long considered opinion, my eventual conviction, that trying to control TV based on the mother's judgment of what the child seems to be learning is

1) saying more about the mom than the TV or the child

2) putting a value on TV that treating it like any other book or toy or piece of furniture can never create

3) betraying the claim to believe learning is everywhere

4) usually indicative of the parent's NOT watching TV with the child.

I have watched Ninja Turtles cartoons, and movies. I have watched Power Rangers, and analyzed plots and characters with kids.

Power Rangers would not have been my first choice.

Being with my kids and seeing the world from their viewpoint and trying to help them figure it out was my first choice.

Had I said "Power Rangers is stupid; turn it off" I would have harmed the relationship between us. By being WITH them, I strengthened it.

You say Mitchell would watch it all day if you didn't say "enough." If you've always said "enough," you don't know what you're talking about. You're making an assumption based on... what? Lack of faith in him? Acknoweldgement that he's getting something out of TV but you don't know what it is and so you're jealously separating them?

"My favorite show" means he sees value in that show, he doesn't think you should turn it off, it's fascinating him. If you don't know WHY he likes that show, and what he's thinking while he's watching it and later, you're missing a huge opportunity for learning and interaction.

For a while we watched Blossom, and discussed the situations. It has been in different seasons The Simpsons, Animaniacs, Friends. The Karate Kid movies. Spartacus. Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Romeo and Juliet.

If you and your children trust one another to openly consider what the other is intrigued by, you can go easily from Arthur to Pirates of Penzance.

If you say "Your show is dumb," you give them the modelled permission to think YOUR show is dumb in a month or a year. If you say "If you think it's interesting, it must be!" they will trust you when you say, "You want to watch Ben Hur? It's cool!"

No child will watch TV all day unless the rest of his life is stressful or frightening or otherwise something he needs to escape from, or if TV has been made valuable by being limited and the limits have just been removed. When other interesting things are available, lots of shows will be less interesting. But there is a lot to be learned on TV, or from kids' videos.

There are other threads about this elsewhere, too.


By Jfetteroll (Jfetteroll) on Sunday, August 5, 2001 - 07:36 am:

No child will watch TV all day unless the rest of his life is stressful or frightening or otherwise something he needs to escape from

To expand on that a bit, if his choices are finding something other than TV to do, doing something you feel is worth his time or watching TV, then perhaps TV is his best option.

Kids are pretty good at following their own interests. But our part is to make sure they have access to new interests and connections to the greater world — that appeal to *them.* If I leave out a "good" science book that doesn't grab my daughter's attention, it doesn't then become her duty to pick it up just because I supposedly did my part. My part is to make sure she has things that will engage her, not just access to things I think are worthwhile. And sometimes the things that engage her happen to be TV.

Saying that every show is his favorite show could mean that he's learned that unless he says that you'll turn it off. It could also mean that, even if it isn't his favorite as an adult would use that word, it might mean "I'm really engaged in this show and I want to see what's going to happen next."


By doto on Sunday, August 5, 2001 - 08:35 am:

Sometimes you have to consider the parent's routine too. Does mom or dad sit and watch TV. Often? Even if the kids are in bed? Not that it is wrong, but what kind of message are they trying to give their kids? that it is not okay for you to watch TV. but mom and dad can? [with the secret hopes that they will grow up differently than mom and dad and find more interesting things to do]

I really believe example is better than "just do it because I am your parent" and giving them any ideas that television should be banned will only spark their curiosity even more. So sit with them while they watch television or do something else with them—either way you can't fail, by being with them.:)

By Nerida Nada (Nerinada) on Sunday, August 5, 2001 - 09:45 am:

We lived for many years without TV, basically because I grew up with a lot of anti-TV judgment.

Now we have one and it's great!

I see it as a window to the world, a fun, informative, learning tool.
Humanity is enjoying a learning curve because of it.
Humans are very visual learners, monkey see, monkey do.
Television opens up their world with one flick of a switch, and as children NEED to understand as much as they can about their world (it's an instinctual thing, understanding your reality is crucial to comfortable survival), TV is too tempting.

I am more impressed with tele every day and just tonight, enjoyed a beautiful close time with my 7yo daughter, snuggling up together and watching "Stepmom."

Nothing is outside God's loving light! including television!

By julieintx on Sunday, August 5, 2001 - 01:05 pm:

We took the plunge and took the limits off the TV this summer. I too had been convinced that the kids would do "better" without too much TV (whatever that is). We had been limiting it since my oldest was a baby. Initially, the kids went nuts with it. Then they went through a fussing period where they just couldn't seem to get comfortable with themselves or each other. Currently, they don't watch television much more than they did before we lifted the limits. I have noticed that they watch more television when I am preoccupied with "my stuff" and not as involved as I should be with "their stuff."


By Kelly (Free2b) on Sunday, August 5, 2001 - 09:57 pm:

We are an unschooling TV viewing family. My 10 year old daughter and I have had years of watching our favorite shows together. We started when she was about four-with Barney the dinosaur, and now have a great time with Nickelodeon. We watch the Brady Bunch (as I am a single mom and my daughter is an only child I think the Brady Bunch is fascinating to her), we watch Gilligan's Island, Leave it to Beaver. We watch I Love Lucy and Full House, and Pokemon.

My daughter is very imaginative and I have seen her favorite shows inspire her to build Gilligan's boat out of poster board, make paper dolls of the characters, write stories about them and act out many of the scenes.

Many of the homeschoolers we know do not allow television, do not even have television. I don't feel like TV has cost us time from learning. My daughter may just grow up to work at Nickelodeon studios and develop her own cartoons. She is learning something she needs from this.

I just wonder how to respond when a group of homeschooling parents talk about how they don't allow TV. I see their point, but also they do miss some great learning opportunities from not only kid's shows, but the learning channel or the discovery channel.

Kelly~whose home will most likely always have a least one TV. 🙂

By T.M. on Sunday, August 5, 2001 - 10:30 pm:

We lived for three years with no TV, then later we started a fourteen-year run with only 2 or 3 channels. We've never had cable but I'd like to sometimes, the kids were entranced at my parents' house where they get Cartoon Network and the Discover Channel. Now we're back to 3 channels and it's still okay. My kids could easily get hooked on TV but we have so much fun watching shows together, laughing, and discussing so many things that come up in the programs that I would hate to give it up. I admit I'm afraid of cable though — so many choices. There are only four of us now but still, four people with many different interests... would the thing EVER be off?

One of the boys tried to plan his day around the TV, just a couple of shows, but he avoided going places so he could be home to see them. I finally reminded him that we DO have a VCR — problem's gone now. 🙂

By ren on Monday, August 6, 2001 - 03:15 am:

I'm probably one of the only other people here that do believe it's ok to limit TV when necessary. I find my one son getting very lazy and not interested in other activities for DAYS on end if I don't say anything. If I say "ok, enough TV for today" and suggest that we do something, he is usually glad for it. If he's in the middle of something he really wants to watch I just say "ok, when that's over do you think we could go do something?" and he always is fine with that.

I have relaxed a lot over the whole issue but I think there are some kids that are more addictive and affected by it than others. I just disagree with total self regulation on that topic....sorry. I do believe it is best to be relaxed over it and I'm glad that self-regulation works for all of you.

Ren changed her mind about this later. Read about her change of heart here.

Addition of related links later:

The danger of "lazy" and other thoughts

Self-Regulation (not a useful term or concept, for unschooling)

By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Monday, August 6, 2001 - 09:48 am:

I find my one son getting very lazy and not interested in other activities.

But anything sufficiently interesting will keep one from being interested in other activities. And "lazy" is a very negative picture from the outside. You don't see him moving, but you don't see him learning. I'm guessing (possibly wrongly!) that you aren't looking for learning very hard because you've already decided it's lazy, and the absence of other (better) activities.

My husband has started making wooden stuff. A bench that comes apart, big enough for three adults, with a back. A folding screen for Holly's room. When he's working in the garage he's not interested in other stuff at all. He's no help to me with the kids. He's not interested in going out, he's not interested in anything else.

Kirby and Marty have a new game called Munchkin. They get involved in that and become deaf, and they don't know how much time is passing.

Concentration and involvement are usually considered to be a good thing, but people who are afraid of television see concentration and involvement as Very Bad when a TV or video is involved.


By Joanna on Monday, August 6, 2001 - 11:41 am:

I find my one son getting very lazy and not interested in other activities for DAYS on end if I don't say anything. If I say "ok, enough tv for today" and suggest that we do something, he is usually glad for it.

Why don't you just suggest the something else, without the reference to how much TV has been going on?

Even if you can't get the negativity about TV out of your mind, maybe gettting it out of your words would be a good step in not making it a taboo, "forbidden fruit" thing, to your son.

By julieintx on Monday, August 6, 2001 - 01:16 pm:

Just a thought...

My 11yo niece who lives several states away came to stay a week with us for the first time recently. Her very controlling mother told me to limit the child to two hours of television a day because the kid becomes so engrossed and refuses to participate in other activities. I had no intention of following that rule and simply told the mom that TV isn't usually a big problem at our house. Now the child did spend about eight hours that week watching television...all in the last evening and morning she was at our home.

She was interested in our animals, playing with the babies, going to water parks, spending hours with Adriane upstairs listening to music and drawing, playing board games, etc. The girl told me that all her mom wants to do is go to the mall or go to the movies, activities the girl isn't interested in.

I posted earlier that my kids tend to watch more television (particularly repeats over and over) when I am more absorbed in my stuff. I think that possibly kids do get into a rut of watching television if there aren't more interesting things to do. (I know that sounded judgmental about television and I am working on that LOL.) But I do the same thing.

We spent a week with my mother in law (MIL) here, doing touristy things. Drove to Arkansas and spent a week there with relatives doing touristy things. Drove home with MIL and niece for a week visit. Two year old got into MIL's heart medicine and spent a couple of days in ICU (perfectly fine now).....after that I spent about four days barely moving...all my free time was television and I didn't care what was on...I just wanted to relax. I think kids get the same way.


By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Monday, August 6, 2001 - 01:48 pm:

I think some of our collective TV angst has to do with homework, maybe.

When we (most of us?) were kids, TV was MAYBE for 'after homework,' but all the decent kid-stuff was right after school. So some kids lied about homework to get to watch some down-time, after-school TV (laughter is REALLY good for people who are stressed) or they rushed through homework and did a crummy job in hopes that they could get to the TV privilege before there was nothing but news and cop shows. But having done homework FOR the privilege of watching, I know kids who would have watched ANYTHING just to earn the payoff [to spend their earned TV credits, no matter how bad the show].

So TV was treated like a reward for some of us, and what we watched was not NEARLY as good as some of what is on now. (Those of you born in 1975 and after, this might not apply to you .)

Without homework to earn TV with, I think, some parents out of the corner of their brain think the kids have no reason to watch TV. They didn't do their homework.

If unschooling "homework" is all things, all the time (EXCEPT TV) then when and how will unschoolers ever earn the right to watch TV in peace?

I think some parents have not clearly looked at TV with new, objective, hopeful eyes.

Others have, and most of their kids are off doing something else.

Our house, this moment: Five kids. Six TVs. No TVs turned on.

I'm sure if I said "Why don't you all go and watch TV?" every one of them would say they didn't want to, they were doing this... or I need to be somewhere soon, or whatever.

I think, at noonish on a weekday, if I offered them $2 an hour to go watch TV I would get zero takers. I think it would take about $7 an hour to get them to sit for an hour and watch TV right now, and they would be arguing with me about it. "WHY SHOULD I WATCH THIS? IT'S STUPID!"

In our house TV is neither dinner nor dessert. It's just one of a thousand things. (None of the foods are dinner or dessert either, though...)


By Angela Nordstrom (Noschoolathome) on Monday, August 6, 2001 - 02:20 pm:

OK, I'm really seeing the whole TV issue in a new light.

Mitchell asked if we could watch a western this morning. So, we all got comfy on the couch and floor and watched "The River of No Return." Not only did we have a nice, relaxing time together, but I realized that Marilyn Monroe was actually a good actress!

After the movie, we all went our separate ways. Mitch is acting out the movie, Abby is preparing seeds for next years garden, and Noah and I are painting. (OK, Noah is driving his Matchbox cars in the paint and I'm admiring it while I type.)

Anyway, thanks for everybody sharing here. I feel much better, and so do the kids.

By Jessica on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 09:46 am:

What a great thread on TV watching, a great reinforcement for my recently changed attitude toward it! The issue at our house now, "Can I have a TV in my room?" Not sure what led to that question, maybe the fact that all neighbors and cousins have one - I noticed Sandra has six! Any opinions on this one ?!

thanks - Jessica

By Steph on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 09:57 am:

I think some parents have not clearly looked at TV with new, objective, hopeful eyes.

Others have, and most of their kids are off doing something else

And sometimes "too much TV" goes on at transition times, or at least that is what I find. Right now our house is half empty, with most of our tapes, books, and many toys, at the house we were set to move into a few weeks ago.

The kids have been watching "too much TV" for what I like to have the house feel like. They just don't know what to do with themselves, and it has been raining like mad.

I think that many unschoolers/homeschoolers, etc. still make too clear a distinction between weekend and weekday. Years and years of training don't just go away instantly, y'know. Whereas most kids don't spend their weekends watching too much TV, the weekdays are often, maybe even not totally consciously, treated so differently that TV fills a vacuum.

Just a theory.


By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 10:00 am:

The issue at our house now, "Can I have a TV in my room?" Not sure what led to that question, maybe the fact that all neighbors and cousins have one - I noticed Sandra has six! Any opinions on this one ?!

Half of them were given to us. One my husband bought when he was working in Minneapolis for six months (that turned into 3.5 years or so). That one is in our bedroom now. My husband watches movies he likes—sci fi or war stuff—that he's not sure kids would like. It's not on much. Videos and news, husband-stuff.

Holly has one in her room just lately. She watched it a lot the first week. Lately it hasn't been on. I got her a remote control so she could turn it off when she got sleepy, but she likes to go to sleep with dark and quiet. She didn't get that from me—I like to read myself to sleep and turn the light off the first time I wake up. That one used to belong to our neighbor, who died in a nursing home earlier this year, and Holly inherited it.

Marty has one in his room, given to us for Keith helping a guy move. Nothing fancy, no VCR. His Playstation is hooked up to it. It's a pretty big screen, though. Marty has the most sinful viewing habits of all: he puts on a music video channel and although he has a timer, he usually forgets to set it and the music and lights stay on all night. But he sleeps like a log and it doesn't seem to bother him. So other than the slight waste of electricity and the noise pollution (he plays it really low) which irk me slightly, it's a minor sin as sins of pubescent boys go. And it keeps him from getting spooked at night. His room is the only one to hear noises from the front of the house, and sometimes he gets a little scared.

In the sewing room is a big old-timey one I use for background noise while I'm sewing, and something to look at during boring parts. It's very rarely on. It was given to us.

In the den is the real TV. It was bought used from a friend moving away. It's a console with a VCR and two video games hooked up to it.

Kirby has a little TV/VCR in his room. It's mostly a Nintendo 64 monitor.

We never meant to have so many, it just gradually happened. None of them seem to be axe-murdering TVs and the advantage of extras is no fighting. The disadvantage is less social gathering, but there definitely still is a fair amount of watching movies together in the den or in our bedroom, or of someone saying "COME LOOK!" about something exciting, and the nearest couple of people go and share.

My TV-free zone is the library and the kitchen and dining room next to there.

I have an iMac that will play DVD's... that might be considered 6.5 TVs to some people, then. All we have are musicals and one South Park DVD. Later Note: 2004, we have lots of DVDs, fewer TVs because two died normal old-TV death, and Marty got a new one for Christmas because his had developed a stripe that inhibited video game play.

UPDATE fourteen years later, 2015:

There was a TV in the library to play Game Cube (Donkey Konga, largely) for a while, and though it stayed up there later, it wasn't used unless someone was up there doing an art project, or sewing, and needed sound input. We used the library as a guest room quite a bit, and the TV was one of the things we thought guests might want (with tissue, water, flashlights).

With the advent of iPads and laptops, the kitchen and dining room gradually became regular video-sharing places.

When televisions were bulky and videos weren't available without them, things were different.

The world, and TV, keep changing!

—Sandra Dodd
November 2015

By Joanna on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 12:05 pm:

"Can I have a TV in my room?" Not sure what led to that question, maybe the fact that all neighbors and cousins have one - I noticed Sandra has six! Any opinions on this one ?! thanks - Jessica

I'm perfectly happy with just having a TV room.
I like the idea of the compromises it brings with it. It also, probably forces some viewing that would otherwise be bypassed, and that's not a bad thing either. Helps with common interests, or good discussions between us.

My kids are still pretty young, and I'm not comfortable with what can be viewed on TV today, especially after 8 o clock. I would want to be right there to explain or answer questions.

I like the dynamics of our household right now, and am not having to deal with pressure to get a TV for any of my kids rooms. My 11yo has mentioned it a few times, and I have said no. But that's as far as it went. If I was getting real pressure, I would review the whole thing more closely and probably come away with a different attitude.


By julieintx on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 12:58 pm:

I agree with Jo. We actually have two televisions, one we got as a door prize. The satellite is only hooked up to one. Jerry (dh) sometimes watches sports on the other one, usually when the poor compulsive thing has had way too much of the rest of us LOL.

I like the fact that the kids discuss what they want to watch and why with each other. I like the taking turns and sharing. I like that the shows become a shared activity.


By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 01:10 pm:

When the kids were little and we had one TV, a very small one, there were advantages to that too. There were advantages to a bigger TV. In our old house, the kids used to eat in front of the TV, and do art, because that's the only place we had room for a table.

They still get together to watch things sometimes, as it's more fun to comment or be able to ask questions. It's nice not to have to negotiate someone to finish a video game so we can watch a video, though. Video games cause crowds to gather too. We're all following Holly's Harvest Moon life. She has another invisible chicken. Feeds four, gets four eggs, only three show. (She watered it with the sprinkler on purpose, like she did accidentally last time.)

I could argue the advantages of any stage of our TV history. I've been pretty happy with all of it!


By Nerida Nada (Nerinada) on Tuesday, August 7, 2001 - 10:37 pm:

Jarmin (10) had a TV in his room for a while.

Disadvantages; His room is right next to mine, the noise bugged me. Couldn't add input or keep track of what they were watching, I was concerned that the boys (there is 4 of them) would be tempted to watch "too many"(for my comfort) shoot 'em up, glorifying violence type movies.

I had to go into their room to watch with them, something I love to do, we have a great channel, ABC, it has lots of great "educational" and fun kids shows, I like them better than most adult shows!

We just got satellite connected, just today, so cartoon network has been on most of the day, uuuggg, I don't like it, but they do. Jarmin likes nature shows, so do I, so I'm looking forward to some companionable watching with him.

By JoeMonkeyBob on Wednesday, August 8, 2001 - 03:44 am:

I'm perfectly happy with just having a TV room. I like the idea of the compromises it brings with it.

I would go completely insane with this method of viewing. I'm 15 and my little brother and sister are 7 and 8. I am very much into watching the history channel and my country music videos. But they are all over cartoon network and Disney (not stuff I like to watch) when all this started it was a little hectic on who got to watch. My mom did try to set up a system to where we get to watch a few key programs.... that didn't work to well. Eventually we got bored of watching TV so much. So it all worked out and I only watch it maybe an hour a day. And I have a TV in my room, it sorta serves as a stand for my radio. The main point I was shooting for here was the more you restrict your kid the longer it'll take them to get over the new toy which is what the TV is viewed as from a child's eyes (no wonder they can set VCR clocks so easily, it's child's play).


By julieintx on Wednesday, August 8, 2001 - 12:59 pm:

Hey Neri,

My kids also love Cartoon Network. I have found a couple of programs that I enjoy with the kids. Ed, Edd and Eddie is OK but I really enjoy Spongebob Squarepants.

Maybe its because I'm from Texas and do karate, but the episode where Sandy and Spongebob try to keep from doing karate is one of my all time favorites.


By Tammy on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 12:37 am:

I go back and forth on the TV issue. When the kids were toddlers I read The Plug In Drug and Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. The kids mainly watched morning children's shows and some videos but my gut feeling was that it was too much TV. We sold our color TV and VCR and got rid of cable and got a little black and white TV. We watched that for a few months and then decided to do away with that too (there is something pathetic about seeing yourselves huddled around a small black and white TV).

For a few years we went without TV then we inherited another black and white. We watched that for a while and now have replaced it with a small, portable color with a built in VCR.

I am considering lobbying for getting rid of this one and doing without TV again. We don't have cable so the kids rarely watch TV at home. We do rent videos to watch at home and they watch a lot of TV at their grandparents' houses.

My current feeling is that TV itself is irredeemable, not the content (although I could argue that too) but the medium itself. There is a real detachment from reality that happens with TV, so different, I think, from the detachment or escape you get with reading a book or being absorbed in something you enjoy doing. Maybe there is a parallel with trying to reform schools. It will never work. I think I feel the same with TV. All the talk about good programming, etc. I think it misses the point. I think the medium itself is weak, a time stealer and sometimes harmful.

If I could start my children's childhoods over, I wouldn't have a TV at all. I never think back on the TV watching glowingly. I think we could have used the time in much better ways.

I didn't send my kids to public school because I thought there was a better option and that school could be potentially harmful. I'm thinking that TV feels similar to me.


By Mary Ellen Broussard (Lovemary) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 12:51 am:

For the most part I agree Tammy. It's not that there isn't great stuff on there . . . there is. Just like I would imagine that in some schools, there is great stuff. But I still don't want the children going there. I got rid of cable as well, and then the other day, Bryan went and rented a couple of videos. So now Quinton, my two year old knows where the TV is again (we just moved so he didn't really know). Now that he knows, he wants us to put a movie on and sit with him, whereas before he would play in the room where we were working or reading, or whatever, and would ask for a story. I see with him that he becomes so passive and just wants to sit there and nurse while he watches. There may be other issues at play here, but I agree it's the medium itself that renders us passive. And my 12 year old agrees with me on that . . . she doesn't want it back either. Just the two guys (dad and son) :)

Also wanted to add that I understand and agree with a lot of the other points other posters made. . .I guess each family has to make the decision best for them.


By Joy B. on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 06:40 am:

the main point I was shooting for here was the more you restrict your kid the longer it'll take them to get over the new toy which is what the TV is viewed as from a child's eyes

Excellent point Brett. And for me, all the more powerful because it's coming from a teenager, one of the population being discussed/affected.


By Nerida Nada (Nerinada) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 07:44 am:

Isn't TV just another tool to tell a story with?

Since time immemorial humans have learnt through stories, our great teachers taught us valuable social and spiritual lesson through stories. I feel that a lot of the fear people have about TV is because it is a relatively new invention.

I have lived for most of my life without a tele and although I don't regret our life without one for so long, I no longer have the negative judgment that I grew up with.

Discernment and balance is the key to quality living with TV, also appreciating what a miraculous and enjoyable invention it is. My mother has been very judgmental and restrictive about tele and, as I can see, it has caused resentment and paranoia, and I and my siblings have had/are having trouble developing social/communication skills, something that could have been alleviated with input gleaned from watching people relate on TV.

By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 10:08 am:

There is a real detachment from reality that happens with TV, so different, I think, from the detachment or escape you get with reading a book or being absorbed in something you enjoy doing. ....I think it misses the point. I think the medium itself is weak, a time stealer and sometimes harmful.

What's the difference between TV and unschooling.com?

TV has better music, very artistic camera work, some great plays and speeches performed by professionals, moving pictures of African animals I'll never see outside a zoo or on video, photographs and film footage of things happening in other countries TODAY... If that's so evil this thing you're sitting in front of right now which isn't even singing to you must be equally bad but less redeeming.

I think they're both pretty wonderful.

I disagree that kids are passive when they're watching TV. They're thinking, and you can't see that and you can't measure that and you can't buy it or produce it, but you can look for and appreciate it. Not physically moving doesn't indicate not doing or learning.

Nerinada made good points above.

The two anti-TV books people always refer too are two of the most irritating and false things I've ever seen. One I read through, and the other I just glanced through. I believe the authors are hugely wrong. When I taught, there were a few kids with older parents who lived way up in the mountains (Truchas and suchlike) and didn't have TV, never went to movies, didn't have any contact with people besides their own neighbors. They were thought-stunted, and idea-bereft many times. I felt really bad for them. The kids whose lives were full of input were also full of thoughts about that, and judgments about which of it was useful and which was noise. They were contrasting and comparing things they had read, heard, seen, thought, and that's probably another basis for my confidence in unschooling—the more exposure kids in school had to information in varied forms, the easier it seemed to be for them to catch on to something, because they had other information to hook it onto.

If my kids watched TV for hours each day, I might not be a good person to listen to about this, but I'll say it again: Unlimited access to TV and to food in my house has produced kids who only watch TV when they want to, and who only eat what they want to eat which is NOT a bunch of candy.

Holly asked for broccoli Tuesday. I bought some and cooked it before I knew she had gone to her friend's for an overnighter (she got the invite and left while I was shopping). So yesterday she asked about it, I reheated it and brought it to her at the TV where she was playing a game, waiting for the Simpsons to come on. She finished that bowl of broccoli, salt and butter, and asked for more with less butter.

I cooked the rest of it, and she ate most of it.

When The Simpsons ended she was done with the TV.

This isn't theoretical broccoli or TV, it was yesterday.

We saw a family we know with three younger children, going down a TOTALLY candy-filled aisle at the store with all three begging for candy and the mom just saying "NO, no, no, I said no."

Holly looked at me sadly, her eyes got bigger, and she shrugged sadly.


By Mary on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 10:29 am:

There is a real detachment from reality that happens with TV, so different, I think, from the detachment or escape you get with reading a book or being absorbed in something you enjoy doing.

I agree there's a difference when watching TV, but I don't know if I consider it worse than reading a book or other enjoyable activities. When I'm absorbed in a good book, I can't interact with my kids at all. In fact, I sort of need a quiet environment to read, so it helps if they're otherwise occupied. Unless it's a book on tape, or I'm reading aloud to them, it's not an activity we can share. However, we can sit down and watch TV together. And we can talk or fool around or snuggle or draw or sew...at the same time.

I see with him that he becomes so passive and just wants to sit there and nurse while he watches.

I'm not trying to push TV viewing or anything, but this just seems like a sweet, intimate picture of mom/son time.

I never think back on the TV watching glowingly.

I wouldn't say I look back glowingly necessarily, but I do have some fond memories. When I look at my growing-so-fast 12 year old man-child, it's a sweet memory to recall those times we spent in front of Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers. And remembering how my now 7-year-old daughter used to sing along with Barney or Big Comfy Couch is a definite warm, fuzzy memory.

Of course I have many of these memories from all of the other activities we did, as well. Snuggling up with a book, rolling down the hills in summer, making crafts, playing in the mud...I just don't separate out the TV viewing times as "bad" memories while the others are "good."

I do agree with Sandra that TV is best done with the kids. I haven't been doing that enough lately and they seem to escape to it rather that share it with me. I'd better get up to speed on Dragonball-Z and Gundam Wing so I can see what my son finds so fascinating. :o)

Life is good.

By Bess on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 10:32 am:

It was the kids who asked us to get rid of the TV. They just didn't like it and felt like we could use the money we spent on cable for other things. Dh and I went through TV withdrawals, but the house seems so much more peaceful now that I wouldn't want to go back to TV. I don't think that we are going to be stunted in any way because we don't watch TV. There are so many things to do, and we are happier without the TV.

I do know that the kids felt the need to get rid of the TV completely instead of just not watching. It was like the very presence of the TV in the house bothered them for some reason. I don't know why.

By Pam Hartley (Pamhartley) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 11:36 am:

We love TV. None of us apologize for it, though the three or four families who are our closest homeschooling friends just don't understand. Sometimes literally don't understand, I mean, since a decent portion of our conversation is littered with TV references.

A few months ago, Brit and Mikey memorized the Dexter's Lab opera (operetta?) episode. When's the last time you saw a six and three year old performing an opera? With choreography? It was awesome.

A couple of days ago Brit was watching Cartoon Network and saw their ad for CartoonNetwork.com — the child is a true daughter of the home business and knows what a dot com is. ;) So, she asked to go there.

We found some really great games — my youngest can manage the Ed, Edd and Eddie race track game.

I tried the Powerpuff Girls game and found it too tough for my gaming skills. I (stupidly) told Brit I thought it was too hard. (Brief Brittany tangent: think "The Princess and the Pea" — Brit only does things that are completely and totally comfortable for her in every way. If there is a pea of pain or frustration or irritation, she does not participate)) Brit said to me bracingly (I believe she even patted me on the shoulder), "That's okay, Mommy, if you keep practising you'll get better and better!" And then played it herself until she figured it out.

As others have said, getting lost in TV is no different than getting lost in a book or a computer screen. Or a song! The only two car accidents (fender benders, before kids) I was ever in were when I was singing some fairly complicated song from memory and my attention was distracted. (Now I can sing and drive at the same time, I am so talented).


By Tammy on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 12:35 pm:

As I said, the TV issue is something I go back and forth on. Sandra, your broccoli/Simpson's story is a good one to turn over. Your grocery store stories have been really helpful to me.

If we get rid of our TV I don't think there will be a danger of feeling socially or culturally out of it. The kids watch at their grandparents' and friends' houses.

I just finished C.S. Lewis' Surprised By Joy. I think reading about his childhood added fuel to my fire. Hours and hours of solitude, freedom, devouring books of every kind. I know it was a different era. If he would have had TV access I'm sure he would have had complete freedom there too. Also, he happened to choose books; he could have chosen running in the woods for hours and hours or working in their garden.

I know too that I have an ideal in my head—that my kids should be devouring books, having hours of solitude... I need to stare at this ideal for a while. Ideals can wreak havoc for me.


By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 12:57 pm:

If we get rid of our TV I don't think there will be a danger of feeling socially or culturally out of it. The kids watch at their grandparents' and friends' houses.

Would you have written the same thing about books? The computer? Your dishwasher? (If you have no dishwasher, this is not applicable, but if my kids said they wanted to get rid of any major appliance I owned I would be wholly unamused and uncooperative.)

I don't know all about Lewis's early home life but I'm guessing he didn't grow up in a tenement in Bradford. Maybe even his family HAD books, and perhaps they even had servants. I could be wrong.

2001 without a TV isn't more like 1910, in my opinion. It's just less like 2001.

perhaps making sense to only her own self

By Lise on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 02:25 pm:

I can understand this flip flop thing with the TV. I have a TV, but it's been broken for ten years and only the VCR works. We've all been too busy and no one has really asked but I notice how eager my children are to be around a TV...when we visit family and friends or go to a hotel. Yet, somehow no one has ever said let's get it here. But I am certainly leaning in the direction of getting one if it is requested.

Ten years or even four years ago I would have said no way. Then I thought, not only would I not want someone to deny me the things I enjoy, but what if my children decided the only way they could get TV is to go to the neighbors or a friend's house? I'd rather be here, watching it with them, answering their questions, and available to deal with anything that comes up. In my opinion, it is the lack of interaction and no adult involvement with a powerful medium like TV, video, and video games that creates a problem. So many wonderful and creative things have come out of my children's experience with videos. Why would TV watching be any different as long as I'm there. And it isn't like a church in our den when we watch something together. Questions are asked and the batteries are well used on the remote from excessive pausing.

I haven't completely put my TV bias aside, partly because my son has difficulty viewing something without taking in the experience so vividly that he acts out even violent scenes. He has always been a child that gets hyper stimulated by visual mediums and I feel a need to protect him as though he has a limitation...like a diabetic not being able to eat sugar.

So, lots of conversation with your kiddos and loads of other things available to do and plenty of time spent together watching TV might be a happy compromise and demystify the whole TV thang.


By Tammy on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 02:28 pm:

"Maybe his family HAD books..."

From Surprised By Joy, by C.S. Lewis:

"My father bought all the books he read and never got rid of any of them. There were books in the study, books in the drawing room, books in the cloakroom, books (two deep) in the great bookcase on the landing, books in a bedroom, books piled as high as my shoulder in the cistern attic, books of all kinds reflecting every transient stage of my parents' interest, books readable and unreadable, books suitable for a child and books most emphatically not. Nothing was forbidden me. In the seemingly endless rainy afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass."


By Carol Brown (Cally) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 04:48 pm:

It's one thing to own up to the fact that your kids watch oodles of TV, or swear, or run around naked, or have purple hair, or any of the multitude of 'social sins' that have been owned up to on these boards, but Sandra, have you no shame at all? Admitting in a public forum, that one of your children LIKES BROCCOLI??!!

Carol in NZ
(who believes that George Bush's (senior) only redeeming point was his declaration of independence from his mother's broccoli!)

By Sandra Lynn Dodd (Sandradodd) on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 05:16 pm:

Holly is okay. I mean I'm sure she'll grow up and get married and be able to hold a job and all that, but she does have that embarrassing oddity. She loves spinach and broccoli and artichokes. The scariest vegetables do not frighten her.

And here we are, very meat/corn/potatoes and she keeps saying, "Mom! Green stuff!"

She didn't get it from me.

(Actually Keith and I like spinach too, but we hardly have any friends or relatives who will eat it with us except Holly.)


By T.M. on Thursday, August 9, 2001 - 09:00 pm:

My kids all went through periods of loving broccoli and other vegetables, maybe when they need it, they want it. I never liked meat, my boys think I'm insane. Though they all went through a period of refusing meat for a while when they found out meat comes from animals!

TV: When the boys are on the verge of adulthood, this is one of the only forms of contact. We have one teeny little TV in the LR, it's the TV/VCR we used in the motorhome, so we all sit close if we watch something and discuss a lot of issues. I don't like TV much for little kids, there's just so much else to do but the ones who are busy don't like it much anyway in my house.

By marianne on Friday, August 10, 2001 - 12:20 am:

I think the TV *thing* will always be around. There are those who will not have it in the house - and those who have it on 24hrs a day. You love it or hate it (and there are those in between!)

I came here to this forum several times asking for help as my then 11yr old dd did nothing but watch TV.

She then started to go to work with dad quite often. She loved this - TV very rarely went on at all. Now dh has changed his job and dd cant go with him like she used to do. I thought *Oh no. TV all day again* - much to my surprise, dd finds other things to do. She still watches TV, she also plays with the play station and turns on the computer. This week she has started packing the house up as we are moving in two weeks. Everything is packed except for the necessities, and I didn't ask!! AND I haven't done any packing.

So here I am telling you all who do worry that your children are watching too much TV - it does pass! My daughter watched TV for 12 months when she first started unschooling, after six yrs at school. The sad thing is that daughter is talking about going back to school next year. We are going to a small township, where daughter has lots of cousins, who all go to school. She wants to go with them.


By Joy B. on Friday, August 10, 2001 - 06:52 am:

What's the difference between TV and unschooling.com?

You can be found here, not there 🙂

That's reason enough for me to come here rather than watching TV.


By ecsamhill on Friday, August 10, 2001 - 04:30 pm:

"In the seemingly endless RAINY afternoons I took volume after volume from the shelves. I had always the same certainty of finding a book that was new to me as a man who walks into a field has of finding a new blade of grass."

Hmmm. Would anyone here who lives in a sunny climate chose to give up some of that sunshine and experience more rain in the hopes that more rain would lead to more reading?

What's the difference between TV and unschooling.com?

If we added enough filler to unschooling.com that there was enough material to fill 24 hours every day (::::: drooling ::::) the dross to gold ratio would tilt very heavily to dross, I imagine.

After all, how fast can you all spin gold?


By Nerida Nada (Nerinada) on Friday, August 10, 2001 - 07:17 pm:

I didn't have TV, growing up, compensated by reading HEAPS, sure I picked up some valuable skills and was great at English, I've shared my love of books with my kids, used to drop everything to read to them on request, maybe 5-10+ times a day. Now that we have a tele, my time has been freed up a lot (I do like to watch with them though, but now I can fold washing, sew or even do dishes and cut vegetables AND share stories with them) I can keep on top of house chores just a little better.

I like the conversation TV generates and SEEING people do things as opposed to reading about them is valuable too, we (the kids and I) are making a fish/frog/turtle pond at the moment, and I wonder if I'd have the same kind of confidence to make it if I hadn't seen someone make one on TV.

We just got a satellite dish connected for PayTV, watching the man install generated an interesting physics conversation and now it's on we have an interesting time ahead of us.

The younger children are fascinated by the cartoons, me, my oldest and the men of the house want to watch some national geo and discovery channel shows, some negotiating is required.

The novelty of it is huge at the moment, but we are balancing it with gardening and digging our fish pond.

Do I restrict at all?

Or just wait for them to suss all the cartoons and decide which ones they like?

The cartoon network channel scares me a bit as I don't see the "educational" valuable as much as other channels.

Please, feedback would be appreciated.


By ren on Friday, August 10, 2001 - 08:10 pm:

Ok, I know this is a little OT....I noticed my kids will eat oodles of veggies and healthy stuff if I make it as readily available as the junk. The key to junk food is that you open a package and it's ready to eat...if you have healthy stuff as easy to get to, they will eat it just as much as the junk. At least, this is an observance I've made with my own and my nieces/nephews.

I think TV could be like that too.... the more options available, the more they will balance it all.

By zenmomma on Friday, August 10, 2001 - 09:32 pm:

Actually, my kids eat lots more fruit and veggies while they're watching TV. I just cut some up and stick them in front of them while they're watching. They munch away.

Life is good.

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