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Learning in Freedom

Welcome to Learning in Freedom, a blog all about the learning adventures (and mishaps) of the Allen family. My four children are unschooled, following their interests and passions every day and living the lives of their choosing. The purpose of this blog is to share our every day lives (and my not-so-humble opinons) with anyone interested in stopping by. We hope this will give a glimpse of how natural learning unfolds from day to day......

Monday, April 27, 2009

Turn off tv week...

A couple of years ago I wrote about "turn off school week" as my rant about the whole idea of "turn off tv week". This time? I'll share a post from one of my local lists, where there has been a discussion about this topic for a few days. The parts I quote are from other participants in the discussion so I'll leave them anonymous as they may not wish to be a part of this blog post.:)


~~ Reading engages your brain, television does not.~~

REALLY? Your brain is engaged if your alive, even when
you're asleep. Tell my kids their brains aren't "engaged"
while they're fascinated with some new bit of
information they just picked up from something
we watched and discuss it ad nauseam. Or decide to
research if further. Or laugh hysterically because it was
entertaining. Laughing engages the brain in terrific ways.
Very healing too.

If you watch a play, or a dance, is it really engaging the
brain in a completely different way than watching those
same activities on tv? Many activities engage alpha-waves
but are not seen as inherently harmful. Heck, what does
meditation do? Takes the brain BELOW alpha states
into theta a lot of the time. Is that harmful? Of course not.

~~Knitting uses fine motor skills as well as engaging your brain.~~

Knitting on anything other than a small loom frustrates
me and is NOT fun for me. Am I going to receive some
benefit from doing an activity I don't enjoy over
watching what I love and DO enjoy? Am I missing out
on something if I'm bonding with my dh and family...laughing,
taking and enjoying something together? Watching tv
doesn't stop you from using fine motor skills during other
activities. Heck, my kids seem to have other things going
on while they're watching tv many times. It's a very "engaged"
state AND they're using fine and large motor skills.

~~This is not just my opinion, but studies have been done
on brain waves while watching TV and while reading and
the more TV you watch the faster your brain
slips into a receptive alpha wave state.~~

The brain wave patterns are:

Beta; alert and active
Alpha; relaxed/reflecting
Theta; drowsy/ideating
Delta; states of sleep, both dreaming and
deep non-dreaming sleep.

SO, things like freeway driving or running often put a
person into theta waves. It is common to have a flow
of ideas during theta. Reflection and meditation commonly
happen during alpha wave patterns. The brain operates
with all of these brainwaves present in varying amounts
all day long. An Alpha state is not a
negative or unhealthy thing.

~~The next instance is specific to commercial TV and that
is that 75% of commercial TV advertising is paid for by the
100 largest corporations in North America. So you get in a
receptive alpha state and then get bombarded by
commercials to buy stuff.~~

We're intelligent human beings who figured this out and
aren't out buying everything we see. My children are also
intelligent human beings with whom I discuss a lot of this
stuff and are capable of sorting it all out as they grow and learn,
just like I did. Just because a company pays for advertising it does
not automatically equal "bad", once again. We've learned a LOT
from commercials, when we choose to watch them. Mostly, we
like to analyze how effective it is and how creative they were
with their time. Lots of great conversations there.

~~Non commercial TV and movies are at least less
concerned with trying to get you to buy stuff. think
product placement in movies if you don't think they are
trying to sell stuff too.~~

Trying to sell stuff is the job of most any business.
I'm not an automaton that can't choose. Again, we
love to analyze that use of placement.

~~ However, in some families and I am not talking
about anyone on the list, every family member has
their own tv and they spend their time in different
rooms with little or no interaction and since they
aren't even watching the same shows it isn't much
of a chance to bond. ~~

Yes, but I assume the topic of discussion is for the
people on this list, not just the average American family.
A child who is free to choose and connected to
their parents are going to act very different from a
child trying to escape school and/or use tv as an escape route.

Having separate activities at the same time is not usually
viewed as a negative in a family, unless it's about tv. Why?
Why is Mom on the computer and Dad doing some business
and one kid making art and another maybe playing an instrument
perfectly acceptable but as soon as people want to watch
different shows in different rooms it's BAD?

We spend a LOT of our tv time together, but apart
is ok too!! I think families spending a lot of time
together in joy are going to be just fine if they watch
separate tv. The families that aren't spending enough
time together don't need to focus on getting rid of something
(like tv), they need to focus on ADDING some things to their
lives that bring them together. Or use tv as a chance to
connect and bond..yes. But the issue there is relationships
and priorities, not tv. It's just one tool, it's not that powerful.

(addendum: I do think families
might want to get rid of some school time as that REALLY
takes away from family time)

> TV rots the senses in the head!
> It kills the imagination dead!
> It clogs and clutters up the mind!
> It makes a child so dull and blind.
> He can no longer understand a fantasy,
> A fairyland!
> His brain becomes as soft as cheese!
> His powers of thinking rust and freeze!
> An excerpt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
> By Roald Dahl, 1964

Anyone who really believes the above, should get rid
of their tv all together. It's nonsense though. It's the
authors personal views coming through in his
story. Everyone has a right to their opinion.

But examine that. My children all have tv's in
their rooms. Not one of them thinks it better or
more enticing than any other activity they might
choose. Not one of them is lacking in imagination,
not one of them is "dull", they are bright and interesting
and creative. How is this possible? Because tv doesn't
have that much power unless we give it that power.
Because it's just another thing we enjoy in our lives
and another way we learn.

I keep thinking about that term "engaged" and I think
of all the amazing things we've learned from television.
Not only have we learned/enjoyed many things directly,
but the after effects of "hey Mom, remember that _________,
can you look it up on google?" which could lead to
months of discussion/discovery (or not) and quite often
sparks connections in a million directions I could not have

Just a couple nights ago, we watched this "lost tapes" show
on Animal Planet and were quite skeptical about some of
the information they seemed to be presenting as "facts".
After researching it we discovered it is completely fictional
(they call it "docu-fiction") being presented in a documentary style.
How annoying! But what a great series of conversations we've
had about falseness and checking your information and the
possibility of strange creatures not discovered yet,
etc..... and the learning just continues.

Think about all the issues that television has the ability
to bring to the forefront. I think of all my co-workers who
found out I have bees and excitedly told me about the
Discovery show they watched about bees and how importan
bees are to the environment and our food supply etc...
I would much rather watch a tv show about another country
than just read about it! The sights and sounds of
another culture can be brought to life with television...
in a way other media just can't.

I'm not advocating sitting in front of a tv all day.
We are busy, busy with lots of different things but
"turn off tv"? Nah....we turn it off or on when we
choose, all year, living and learning from everything.


The image is of some school-free kids celebrating a birthday one year ago, sans tv.;)


Blogger Frank said...

Right on, sistah!

See ya at LIFEisGood pretty soon!

12:56 PM  
Blogger Heather's Moving Castle said...

my neighbors church advocated turn off tv week. they bribed them by saying they would get passes to the local amusement park. it was no tv and no computer use for a week. i have done the no tv thing and i can't say i regret it. but my mind is in a different place now than it was then. and my kids are older now. personally we get a lot of out of tv and movies and computer time.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Great post Ren!

I remember your turn off school post, it was awesome too.

I appreciate how you brought others concerns and answered them.

Some people give tv so much power, I just don't get it.

We all have tv's in our rooms too.
It's no big deal if someone goes off to watch their favorite show.

My kids are busy and engaged and imaginative even with the tv on.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Snavleys said...

This is a great post Ren! And ironic that Robin and I were just talking yesterday about how our kids use TV. With Rylee and Calista it usually goes like this: After watching TV for a while....."Rylee, let's pretend that we are___________. You can be the _____ and I will be the_________. You do ________ and I will do___________." Yesterday at Robin's one of the girl's was a maid, the house was a hotel and the other one was a rich woman I guess:) These bits of dramatic play are usually spawned from a TV show that they were watching. I think Tristan could almost be a veterinarian from all that he knows about animals from watching animal planet. I think TV is EXTREMELY valuable in my house and I'm glad we have one........oh, I mean several.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

I personally love the pictures! I don't know how many people can recall Buster Keaton - he was a funny man that predated the Three Stooges and is largely responsible for the antics you see in older cartoons - like Bugs Bunny, Road Runner. They actually used his moves as models for cartoon character actions. He was a gymnast who played in silent films and was always doing CRAZY stunts - falling out of windows, getting chased down mountains with boulders, etc... and really taking a beating. He loved the art of acting and making people roar with laughter and broke many bones along the way. My kids and I watched many of his old silent movies with glee. One of the happy side effects of the movies was that they started to not get so bent out of shape from their own falls and bumps. They would get up and say - Oh, I did a Buster Keaton!! There is so much to learn from life and so many opportunities, TV and films offer us another avenue for life learning.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Sandra Dodd said...

-=-Roald Dahl, 1964-=-

TV wasn't much good in 1964, and he probably wrote that statement before the publication date, too.

To compare early 60's TV to all of television and DVD now is like comparing a typewriter to the internet.

And if school in central to a family's life, TV can be bad because it's fun and interesting, which makes school more dull and boring by comparison. But if learning (rather than school) is central to a family's life, TV is another wonderful source of music, history, stories, geography...

9:39 PM  

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