Charlotte Mason warned us parents against the “diluted twaddle that is commonly thrust upon children...” because she, quite rightly, saw it as an insult to their intelligence.
I confess without guilt that I do censor what my children consume, whether it’s food, books, media or clothes. They have neither TV nor computer in their rooms and they don’t have a phone. The 10 and 8 year olds have Kindle’s and I decide what goes on them.
A child centred education means offering what’s best for the child, not merely allowing them to consume whatever they like.
So far this approach hasn’t been a problem. It’s been remarkably easy to keep out the twaddle, let alone the really poisonous stuff aimed at children. But they are young yet and I know from previous experience it can get much harder when they are in their teens.
I think it’s actually a little easier to ensure they get access to good stuff these days than it used to be. Either that, or I am better at finding it. In a strange way I think the internet – that thing most dreaded by so many parents – is a very useful tool for offering information that I would never have had access to when the oldest three were little.
Home educating the children has also made things a lot easier. Home ed kids tend to be more innocent over all, and less worldly. They aren’t usually as steeped in the culture. That’s not to say some aren’t and that we can all let our guard down. While our little home ed world may be safe enough, the culture is still very toxic.
I did think that as I policed what the children had, I would have battles of will with them – like when you try to make a toddler eat something that might be good for them and all they want is crisps and electric green sweets. However this just hasn’t happened (yet). I do have a massive advantage in that their older siblings are good at policing things too. Alex is the video games master; so they have Minecraft and some oldies like Mariocart. Just in case you are saying “Hang on a minute, are you saying that have an x-box?” And then you may be thinking “Well, she’s not as on the ball as she pretends.”
Yes, they have an xbox which is inherited from their older brother. The games they have are also inherited from him. I don’t object to computer or games console games; I merely object to the children having access to media that is bad for them. They all use a computer and sometimes this includes “play time” rather than just educational stuff. This is part of their allotted “free screen” time and they don’t get to play for hours. In fact they get an hour unless there’s something else going on and then they get none. They get plenty of outdoors time and play traditional games like Snakes and Ladders and Chess.
On learning from websites and the studies on computer access and brain development – well, it’s a shambles. I think it’s fair to say that many of the studies done are as bad, if not worse, than those done for ME/Cfs. There’s rarely a separation between long hours on Grand Theft Auto and the watching and playing the lessons on the Khan Academy.
It’s actually pretty easy to make sure they don’t watch “bad” TV or play games they shouldn’t because the media is in the house – in the living room.
I don’t make a big deal of what equipment we use for learning, or entertainment. I simply police it all. The children then (hopefully) get into the habit of using the stuff wisely. I have been interested to see that having a Kindle each has not stopped the older two from reading hardcopy books. Part of this may be because we use hardcopy and computer for lessons.
More and more books are available for children that are well written and free thanks to the public domain resources. That’s not to say that all “old” books are wonderful and new ones are awful. Again, we have a mix and some old books are pretty awful, just as some newer ones.
They love the books from Bethlehem and thanks to forums, blogs and even the dreaded Facebook, I’ve had good tips for books from Amazon or elsewhere.
I try to tread a path between the “hate your siblings” and “parents are stupid” on the one side and the moral sledgehammer, complete with so much sugar I could raid Josh’s insulin stash on the other.
I don’t force books on the children, if they really don’t like them. We have given up on a couple of books because they just didn’t suit the kids. They weren’t bad books and they are obviously well loved by other families but just not mine.
I don’t allow them to ditch a book just because it’s a little bit hard to read. They need to stretch themselves sometimes. This should bare good fruit later when they are willing and able to choose good media for themselves.
It’s been harder with films to keep out the rot. However I think we’ve managed it pretty well. There are some really lovely family films that don’t offer gore, violence or sex and do offer genuine relationships and a good story.