It’s (Unlimited Screen)Time in our Homeschool Unschool!

“All eyes up!” I said to little heads deep in pads and phones this morning. Six eyes stared back at me. They had passed the test. I was going to let them feel the full force of this win.

There seems to be a common thread in the unschool-homeschool community lately – screen time. How much is enough? Should it be limited, unlimited? I have tiptoed around this issue of technology in our homeschool many a time, even flirting with the idea of unlimited screen time for my children.

Well, the time has come. Did I hear you gasp? No, that was me. And maybe not just in my thoughts.

As I have said elsewhere in my blog,

If you have a well-developed conviction about avoiding technology and you’re the sort of person who doesn’t use it yourself, trust me, I totally get it. I have friends like you who would rather live in the countryside and be perfectly happy churning their own butter, raising hens and never seeing a computer screen again. But I’m not one of them. Recreating the past without my modern conveniences does not appeal to me and I don’t have any reason to think either is better or worse.

I have thought long and hard about it and it’s happening, people. I’m no longer toying with the idea. It’s becoming a reality as we speak. With the help of K9 parental controls – which I have heard nothing but good things about – I am actually going to let my children have all the screen time they want. The caveat, of course, is that their chores and their “sit down school” must be done. They are to eat their meals with no electronics at the table and interact with us. Beyond that, it’s going to be an electronic jungle.

My daughter already has a virtual pet cat. So it begins.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

Learning History – Three Things I Want to Teach My Kids

I have recently developed a fascination, no, that is much too tame a word. I would have to say I have grown an obsession with history.

I suppose it is a natural and necessary outgrowth of liking the memoir genre. Because what is memoir but history on the minutest scale anyway?

But I have lately been enjoying history on the grand scale as well – world history, American history – the broad sweep of civilizations, cultures and people, lapping up timelines that fill walls, innumerable books from the library, even the hopelessly biased shows on the History Channel – America: The Story of Us, The Men Who Built America and The Story of Mankind.

When I was in school, I found history unappealing.

It was either full of dates and wars that meant nothing to me or it seemed hopelessly disjointed and nothing that mattered personally, on a daily, moral or intellectual level. I mean, yeah, it was cool that so-and-so king built all these temples and the architecture was interesting to gaze at, but ultimately, what was my reason to know this – outside of test scores?

No matter how many facts I learned, I didn’t see why I needed to know them.

Which leads to my wondering how to teach it to my children. What is it that I want them to see, to know, to remember? How will what they know inform their lives, their worldviews?

In the world of easily accessible information, they don’t need to memorize dates and wars. I refuse to make history about test scores and I definitely don’t want to teach history out of a text book that gives them the state-centric view – whether nationalist or revisionist.

No matter what, I find historical accounts, however dry, however “objective,” hopelessly biased and yet endlessly fascinating.

Appropriately then, the one time I did find history interesting was when we studied the Indian Independence struggle. The textbook was heavily nationalistic and yet one that sought to appease the myriad faiths and philosophical leanings of fiercely Indian parents who sent their Indian but English speaking children to a school established under the British system of education. In the midst of that struggle, history acquired a new meaning for me, I think.

Even as a fifteen year old, I understood something about living in the in between, about divided allegiances. I understood, on some level, however murky, that people were imperfect and deeply flawed.

Seen this way, what’s the point of history anyway, I seem to have decided. There are no clear cut boundaries, no winners and losers – it only seems that way until the next battle, the next war. And let’s not even get started on how it is constantly revised and rewritten, even to protests of that’s not how it happened! 

So I gave up history for the pleasures of literature, of no clarity and tons of speculation. Fact was stranger than fiction and I preferred the solace of stolid stories.

But then, I came back. When I came to Christ, suddenly history became important. There was an objective truth somewhere in the narrative, I realized, and it was important – the most important thing was not about how individuals perceived things, life was more than a tale told by an idiot. There was more to sound and the fury than more sound and more fury.

And so, as I stumble along, no, tear along, learning things I never before found interesting, here are three things I want my children to learn from history:

The story of history is the story of God’s love for his people

People often mean things for evil, but God uses them for the good of those called by Him. The battles, the wars, are important to know, but they have to be remembered as only a backdrop. God’s redemption is often the main plot against the background of man’s sinfulness. I would hate for us to miss this as we study.

God’s Word truly does endure forever

Empires rise and fall and the grand sense of Ozymandian waste we feel should be balanced by the grand sense of grandeur God offers by showing us how he has always cared for His own from the beginning of time. The story of God’s redemption does not begin with Christ’s birth as is often erroneously noted but with the promise of His birth to His people and the response of faith by those called by Him.

It’s ALL important and we cannot know how it all fits just yet

For all my complaining about how I left history behind for the promise literature offered, I soon realized that literature had its own flaws and similar ones at that. Not everything can be tied up with a bow, some things are just there, not understood, not deciphered but that does not mean they are lost. Nothing is lost in God’s economy but we cannot always know this side of eternity how it all fits.

History is fascinating, full of kings, queens, monsters, and ordinary people.

It offers lessons to our souls beyond what living in the present has to offer, but ultimately, for all the adventure, for all the inventions, for all the discoveries, the reason we are attracted to it, I think, is that we find ourselves in it.

And we find, more than anything else, a great and faithful God.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!

How Long Do You Homeschool?

“Just two hours a day? Is that enough?” my father asks me.

His seventy-five year old voice is still firm halfway across the world. I have just told him how our homeschooling is going and he’s curious, a little doubtful but more skeptical than anything else.

Just two hours, I reply, thinking, This will never make sense to him.

I went to private school, beginning at age 3 and I loved it. I excelled at it.

I’m not sure if I liked it because I was good or the other way around but school was like my second home. I certainly spent most of my day there. Beginning in first grade I left my house at 7:30 a.m. and didn’t return until 4 in the afternoon.

Some of that was just commuting to school and back. Then there was recess and lunch break and time for down time even during classes, but I understood what my dad was asking – Is it enough?

Look, I get it. Frankly, I struggle with this question, too. And I don’t think I’ll ever be done struggling because school is part of life.

And it is a question life throws at everyone – is it enough? Did I do enough? Did I earn enough? Did I get enough sleep? Enough protein? Did I read enough? Have I done enough work today that I can be content within myself to rest now? Is it enough?

I remember when I quit my real estate work-at-home job to be a full time mom. My daughter had just turned two and my middle son was eight months old. I remember asking myself if it was enough to say enough – that I was working as much as I could and was beginning to get overwhelmed. It was okay to step back and admit I was human, limited, finite.

But more time in school does not always equal better education.

All I include into our homeschool attendance records is what I can document and test. But a good education encompasses so much more.

A good education does not necessarily break down into subjects, compartmentalized, organized, tested, completed.

Add to that the fact that I have no idea what skills the children will need in the future. Sure, there are the usual reading, writing and arithmetic – our heaviest emphasis at present – and I would never want to divorce wisdom from the fear and knowledge of God as revealed in the Bible.

But beyond these two givens, I think of their education as something organic and eclectic.

And for that, our two hours of seated work for a six and five year old are plenty of time.

Like this post? Share it with your friends!