Over a nice cup of tea – mum conversation.

My friend J came over yesterday with her children. While all the children went off to play we had some mum and a cuppa time. We had a quick chat about starting term and as her oldest child and my youngest are about to begin their Home Education “officially” we talked about how or whether to mark their first day of term.

I have bought a pencil case set for all three of the younger ones so that they will start term with a sort of freshness. As it happens both Heleyna and E are already used to the learning business as it happens organically in a home education setting. It’s what Charlotte Mason describes as “education as an atmosphere.” Even so we want to make the first week special for the girls.

J then went on to tell me how a Sky salesman had come to her door trying to sell her the Package. She declined as they have their phone and internet set up thank you. He asked about her TV package.

“We don’t have TV,” she explained.

He was stumped and seeing she is pregnant asked about children.  He noticed the other three coming into the hallway behind her. He then asked her what she would do with her children without a TV. His parting shot to her as he left was that she would find things hard work.

The upshot of this strange little tale, seems to be that the gentleman from Sky believes that parents must have  TV to put their children in front of or else life will be “hard work.” The definite view that adults should be free to do as they please unencumbered by responsibilities towards their own children.

On the same theme really she noted that many parents are longing for the beginning of term so they can finally have their lives back when their children go back to school. I have come across this attitude a lot over the years and I really don’t get it. I have been there when a mother said how much she didn’t want the summer holidays and how the schools were unfair to expect parents to “entertain” the children for 6 weeks. She said it all in front of her children.

I vaguely remember hearing something about a poll of parents over TV. A shocking number of parents said they thought letting their children sit and watch TV for hours was good for them.  I am afraid I think they meant that leaving their children in front of the TV was good for them-that is for the parents. Let’s face it – they are not fighting (unless it’s over which channel) and they arent making a mess by playing, and sitting on the sofa ticks all the ‘elf’n’safety boxes. A modern dream.

Now, that’s not to say there are not genuinely good things to watch on TV. We have one, in fact we even have Sky (the bog standard, no extra’s package that they have finally given up trying to get me to improve). But it’s not the baby sitter and I am very strict about how long the children watch it and what they watch on it.  I am still horrified by the memory of the 4 and 5 year olds sitting in the hall of the middle class school I worked out and nearly everyone of them said they watched the truly nasty soap Eastenders, which is frankly unsuitable for adults let alone children.

One major advantage of home education is that most of us have a grip on what screen time and content our children have. When they all get together there is no peer pressure or isolation because one child doesn’t watch the trendy, but toxic programmes or play the right console games.

I am not saying the HE community is full of perfect parents with perfect kids. Far from it. But the imperfections and difficulties are not made worse by the culture, because we do tend to shun it. That doesn’t mean (sadly) that all HEd children grow up to be good adults. We have been burned by bad HEers. But overall, we are up against far less pressure and as we are with our children, who are with each other more often, bad influences can be mitigated.

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