Shared Experiences are Important

Maybe you should spend some time watching WITH him
so you have more shared experience and things to talk about.

If watching TV is his thing and complaining about TV is your thing,
you spoiled a chance to have a shared thing.

Ren Allen, responding to me/Sandra:

This is worthy of repeating.

Read this over and over until you believe the truth here!
This was the very best advice that Mary and Anne and Sandra and Pam gave me when I had my knickers in a twist over the tv issue. Instead of being the enemy, we began building common ground where television was concerned. I started really loving Japanese anime, thanks to my kids, and now we have several shows we discuss regularly.

The other day I was singing a jingle to one of their shows while several neighbor kids were over. Hunter says "You know an awful lot about kids shows for a grown up."

Yeah, that's right sweetie, I do. :)

It took me a while, but I finally got it. TV is a non-issue now. It's something we use for entertainment/learning/connection time. It holds no more power than a book, or music or anything else in our lives. I gave it power by being all worked up about how much they were watching. Once you let go and truly trust, it loses its power.

Your child is fascinated because he's doing exactly what all human beings do when something had been forbidden and is suddenly available (the old forbidden fruit thing), he's gorging.

Gorging doesn't last forever, though it may take longer than you think (my kids took about a year) and he will do a lot of other cool things in spite of his long hours in front of the tv. Contrary to myth, it does not dull imagination. Some of our best movie producers and artists spent many hours watching tv, apparently they're still very creative individuals.

Ren Allen

This is a puzzle, or a game, created by Joyce Fetteroll in 2014. Click it for more details.

Karen Aye Angstadt wrote:
I was thinking about the phrase "glued to the screen" and thinking about my own fears around television. Looking back at when my kids were very young, and I was just beginning to deschool, I can see that, in some ways, I was jealous of the television. It attracted and held their attention in a way that was very different from other things at the time. And so I worried about what that difference meant, and held this fear tighter each time a new headline said TV was "bad."

But after posting on an unschooling discussion, I was told something like, "Of course kids like TV. It is full of colors and songs, movement and fun. What are YOU doing to be as fun as the TV?" And that was a game-changer for me. I hadn't been doing anything to be as "sparkly" as television. And I hadn't even been joining in the fun of watching along. So I started watching Dora, Diego, and everything else that was fun and I discovered (and invented) games to play that were like the adventures of the characters we had seen. And TV helped me learn to be a more fun and involved mom, and to appreciate the fun in what my children enjoy.

Just yesterday, my oldest (now 12) asked me to watch a Transformers movie marathon with her. It was fantastic! I'm still not adept at identifying the mechanical characters (which is disappointing to her) so we reviewed them together after each movie using our phones. We also paused the movies, here and there, to discuss social questions, civic issues, and other topics that might not come up in casual conversation. Lots of learning, for both of us.

original, in the Radical Unschooling Discussion group April 2017
"glued to the screen"

Joy (GSmith8995) wrote:

Hi Sandra,

I'm enjoying your TV page. I sat here and cried reading the statement:

If watching TV is his thing and complaining about TV is your thing, you spoiled a chance to have a shared thing.
I have a 6 year old son (autistic). He has very little speech and watching video tapes is what he chooses to do with his time, most of it. But he doesn't just watch the video from the beginning to the end, he takes segments of it and watches it over and over and over. I can't tell you how many VCR's we've gone through. He may even just view the previews at the beginning.

But it (his obsessive video watching) has been my chief complaint. In the "special needs" world this is probably a huge no-no but I believe in unschooling. If this is how he chooses to spend his time, I have to respect that.

I will admit that it is going to take some effort on my part to sit through 15 segments of Linus and Lucy walking out of their house, Linus picking up an apple biting into it and then throwing it into the garbage can (from "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown") but I'm going to do it.

Thanks for your website and all your links; they are an encouragement to me.

Joy (GSmith8995)

Kiersen, on Unschooling Basics list, July 2006:

Exploring TV

Someone posted about not wanting to watch the TV shows with her kids because she dislikes TV. While I understand the sentiment, I think it is important to know what your kids are watching and what they like about it, especially if you are trying to strew things around for them to enjoy.

My son has been loving Pokemon for months. At first, I used the show time as a way to get things done. Eventually I started to watch with him and learn the characters and get the jokes. I was amazed at the details he noticed. Then I looked for books and movies at the library/book store that he might enjoy. We explored the internet and found a Pokedex (which got him reading by first letters and sorting them by type, he was mesmerized) I got him a few plastic toys which he played with and held imaginary "Pokemon Battles". I began to battle him (verbally, you give commands) and his sister joined in. Not much fun for me as his Pokemon always won!

Lately, we have made up card games with Pokemon themes to give me a fighting chance :) I printed out pictures of the characters and made 40 playing cards out of recycled cereal boxes. (glue picture in middle, add values 1-10 in corners) We started out with "WAR", but it wasn't challenging enough for them. I did get to see that my son knows what numbers are bigger than others, though. And that he knows all the Pokemon names without needing to read them. And that Emma knows most of them though she rarely watches. We made it more interesting by adding coins into the mix. You get as many coins as the number on your card (now called Hit Points) and throw down. Highest number of "heads" wins. Both kids can count out the coins, count the heads, and verbally "battle" at the same time. They are starting to make up their own rules for games, like 3 on 3 battles, etc.

I found a site online that has great resources for TV images and theme stuff. I printed off her BINGO "call sheets" for the cards I made. We have also made the Kid's TV BINGO game which has images form Nick Jr. and PBS.

She also has dominos and coloring pages and crafts to make for seasonal or TV themes.


Perhaps for the mom dreading TV, she could offer some related games, imaginary play, dress up, computer games, etc. that involve similar characters or themes that her kids will enjoy.

Here, we are into making games because the kids like to play when they get to decide on the rules and when it is something interesting for them. My son actually plays WHOLE games of the ones we create, whereas he dislikes most "packaged" games because he doesn't like the rules or they are boring. It is also hard to find "battle games" at a level for a 4 year old.

Our first game was a kid D&D game we created with cards laid out face down in a path. You roll a die and move along, picking up the card you land on. There are cards to cast spells in battle, move forward or back, gain defense with shields and cloaks, gain offensive power with swords or axes, gain or lose HP's by eating poisoned mushrooms or drinking magic potions, and of course many BATTLE cards. "Battle" consists of dice rolling to determine if the hero (the player) beats the current monster (drawn from a card pile) We use bubble dots on the hero and monster cards to show HP's and cross them off when "hit". The goal is for the hero to make it to the castle at the end of the path without losing all his hitpoints. The game is always different and it can be played cooperatively or competively. It can also be expanded at any time. This evolved from stumbling upon my husband's dice collection from his D&D days. The kids loved all the different shaped dice! Jacob tries to play D&D with his dad on the computer, but it is a bit too tricky for him, so this was a perfect fit for us. He loves coming up with new monsters or treasures, etc. It makes it "his" game.

Maybe some of this will offer up some options for expanding on TV (or video games for that matter)

mom to Jacob 4 1/2 and Emma 3

More on television and unschoolers Parenting issues for unschoolers

For examples of sharing that the harshest critics would appreciate, see the Shakespeare stories at

Strewing Shakespeare
Bringing Shakespeare Home.
Both discuss TV and video. The second one has an account of Marty Dodd watching Othello, and what followed on that.

Debate on TV use in which Ren, years back, defended limiting TV.