Tag Archives: television

Unschool Life

When someone walks into our house, they see a home well lived in. Some people may see the paint on the floor, or the million-and-one pom-poms scattered from wall to wall. But others race in, unaware of the clutter. Instead they find one station or another and begin working.


At the dinning table we have crafts of one sort or another. Right now we have popsicle sticks, pom-poms, paint, feathers, and the glue-gun. We’re all working on a structure of sorts. We hope anyone who comes to visit will help build it. Though so far no one’s really shown that much interest in the crafts.

We have crafts supplies in various places around the house. We believe availability will increase the girl’s desire to create, as well as their ability to express. Right now the girls enjoy working at the kitchen table. It’s close to where I spend the majority of my day. There’s also easy access to food, music, and shows.

Over the past few months we’ve seen our girls blossom in their ability to create masterpieces using the materials available to them.

We try to keep snacks available at all times.

Beyond the stuff we strew around for the girls to use, they also find other items to play with, and new uses for old toys. Here are the scissors and Ariel wig Ella first used to practice hair cutting on.




We’ve moved bean-bags to the living room so the girls have a comfortable place to sit while watching shows or playing Wii. They also provide a place for the girls to climb and jump. Otherwise they climb on our recliners – I really don’t want our recliners broken, and I don’t want someone hurt by them flipping over the back. Now there’s a place for their BIG activities right there in the heart of the home.




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Father’s Day

Father’s Day, a day to remind ourselves of the wonderful things fathers do for their wives and children. Here is a wonderful post I read recently and thought I’d share with you.

I’m happy to report that my husband is fully ‘awake’ according to this dad. About the only thing Ryan doesn’t do from this list, is wake the girls up while they’re sleeping – maybe in a few years, but not now. Well, unless you count vacations, when we have places to go etc.

When home, Ryan gets up in the morning with the girls, and lets me sleep. He’s even, once or twice, gotten up at night with them when they’ve woken and needed something.

He does occasionally do something fun for himself, but more often than not, he’s home with us when he’s not working.

He changes diapers, and helps with pottying.

He plays with dolls, has let the girls paint his toes, and even told anyone who said anything about it to bugger off. Pink toenails and little girls that know their daddy loves them were more important that whatever his brothers thought.

I’m sure he does things he doesn’t want to do, but he’s pretty good at hiding it, so I don’t think the girls notice.

When he’s home he’ll watch all three girls while I go for a walk with my sister. Or grocery shopping, or clothes shopping, or to the fabric store. And once upon a time, before we had a baby needing to eat every two to three hours, he’d watch the girls while I wrote, or went to work.

I really hope he’ll figure out how to clean the bathrooms or wash the floors, but for now I’m happy with him folding laundry and doing the dishes. That’s thirty minutes or more a couple times a week where I can re-charge for the week ahead.

He gives the girls hugs and kisses and tells them he loves them. He tickles them, chases them, reads to them and generally spends a lot of quality time with them.

Today, we’re sitting down together and watching “Gnomeo & Juliet” together as a family. Fishing over the side of the second floor railing (catching dollies on the first floor), watching the third day of rain pour down outside our window. And loving life.

I am truly blessed to have found a man that loves his family enough to play with his children and to help his wife. I couldn’t ask for more.

Yesterday was our seventh Anniversary. Each year I’ve grown to love my husband more than the year before. Each year I’ve enjoyed with Ryan more than any other time. From what I can see this next year will continue that trend. Life gets better all the time.





Filed under Relationships

Ready or Not – Here I Come

There are many things I love about our new home. It’s almost double the size of our old home, and already provides many opportunities to bond with the girls.

Right now the computer and the television are in the same room, the family room, which is open to the kitchen. This means that if the girls watch shows and I’m busy in the kitchen we can still talk and spend time together. It also means that the amount of time available to use the computer is significantly less than it was a month ago. The girls are always on hand, needing attention. The laundry room is upstairs, as is the playroom. While I’m busy doing laundry the girls run in and out of the room and bring toys or books over to me for us to spend more time together. But the best part of our new house. The number one thing that draws us closer together is the size. That and the closets.

When playing hide and seek we actually have to look for the girls. Well, when they aren’t hiding in the middle of the hallway with a blanket thrown over top of themselves, giggling uncontrollably. But, they fit in every closet, as well as behind most of the furniture.

When we hide the girls call out “Marco” and follow the sound of our voices as we respond with “Polo”. It might be a swimming game, but it works just as well on land.

Tonight we played for almost an hour with the girls running around laughing as they tried to find everyone. We paused briefly when the muffins were ready to eat, then we played for a few more minutes before bed.

Hide and seek let the girls know how much we love them, it provided us all an opportunity to hug, laugh, and play together. It didn’t matter who was hiding or seeking everyone enjoyed the dynamics of the game because as the game changed a new opportunity to spend time with someone else in the family arose.

There is nothing better than seeing a huge smile on our little girls, hearing them laughing, as they throw their arms around us and say “I love you.”

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But That’s Cheating

cheat (cht)

v. cheat·ed, cheat·ing, cheats


1. To deceive by trickery; swindle: cheated customers by overcharging them for purchases.
2. To deprive by trickery; defraud: cheated them of their land.
3. To mislead; fool: illusions that cheat the eye.
4. To elude; escape: cheat death.


1. To act dishonestly; practice fraud.
2. To violate rules deliberately, as in a game: was accused of cheating at cards.

Our children don’t have a bedtime. They don’t have to sit down with us for meals. We don’t make them get dressed, wear certain clothes when we go out, or brush their hair. There are a lot of reasons why we don’t force them to do these, and other, things. Whatever our reasons, we’ve been accused of cheating.

We’ve been told we’re taking the easy way out. That we’re bigger, stronger, that we’re the boss and should make sure our children know it.

I’ve thought about this a lot over the past year or so. It started out as a decision to practice attachment parenting. With an infant it was easy. Cuddle up with a sweet smelling little bundle all night long, wake up and attach baby to front of back of mom or dad and get on with your day. Easy. No crying, no fussing and everyone’s needs were met. As our children got older things weren’t so easy. They wanted to walk! And run. And climb. They didn’t stop moving. They didn’t stop learning.

We were suddenly faced with a dilemma. Ella, then just shy of three, knew her letters, numbers, colours, full name and her relationship to extended family members. She could point out England, Canada, and the US on a map. She already showed interest in addition and subtraction. She loved to learn.The problem wasn’t that she loved to learn. The problem was that she was already learning things that the headstart program only briefly touched upon. She was already learning things the kindergarten class was meant to teach.

I was at a loss. At first I was worried. How would I keep up with her learning? Weren’t children supposed to be in school when they started learning these things? Wasn’t someone else supposed to teach them the next step? We quickly learned that a class able to support her didn’t exist. We also quickly learned that she doesn’t like being forced to practice stuff she already knows. She refuses and tries to move on. We were told that wouldn’t be allowed. She’d have to demonstrate that she could count before she’d be allowed to tackle addition.

A small thought of homeschooling grew into a bigger idea. We began our research. We liked what we found. However I knew there was no way I could ever sit at a table and do workbooks. I knew I didn’t want to sit and ‘teach’ at every opportunity. So I looked deeper. We discovered unschooling.

Unschooling has many different definitions. To us it means we follow our children’s lead. Ella loves animals. So we enrolled her in horseback ridding lessons. We go to the zoo. We talk to people we meet about the animals they own. We watch Diego on TV. We read books about particular animals that interest her. She plays Pet Pad on her Leapster Explorer.

For us, unschooling goes a bit deeper than just school subjects. We whole life unschool (or at least that’s our goal). Whole life unschooling, radical unschooling, whole life learning or what ever term you choose to use means that the entire family lives in a consensual relationship. Children have as much voice as the parents do as far as how the family operates. We believe they know themselves and their needs better than we do. They know when their hungry and what their body needs. They know when to sleep.

And that is why the girls are not ordered to bed at a certain time. Though when they appear tired we suggest they go to bed, we offer them an environment conducive to sleep. But if they resist or insist they need to stay up, we don’t push the issue. They get up, run around, play, eat. In general they do what they need to do.

This doesn’t mean they have free reign to do as they please. It does mean we don’t say, “No, because I said so.” If we say no to something we have a reason. We give them our reason, and they’re allowed to voice their thoughts on our reasoning. Tonight Ella wanted to watch shows after dinner. Ryan said, “No.” Ella calmly told us she was upset that we told her no, when it was something she really wanted to do. The reason Ryan said no was because he thought it was an hour later than it actually was. In other words, he didn’t have a good reason to say no. So Ella watched shows while Agatha and Daddy played a game and read some books. I happily enjoyed a nice long soak in the tub, without a single interruption. : )

But we’ve been told this method of parenting is cheating. That we ‘give in’ too much, that real parents make the rules and enforce them consistently. No discussions.

Looking at the definitions of cheating I think the other parents have it wrong. We’re not the cheaters, they are. We do not deceive our children. We don’t tell them something will be fun, when we know it won’t be. We don’t make promises we don’t intend, or are unable to, keep. We clearly tell them our reasoning, and commiserate with them when it isn’t what they want. We don’t deprive our children of ‘privledges’ to make them do as we want. We do not mislead or fool them into doing what we want. We offer honesty and respect.

It isn’t always easy. We don’t always manage to parent as well as we’d like, but we try. In exchange the girls also offer us honesty and respect. Tonight there was no tantrum when Ella was told no. Instead she articulated clearly that she didn’t like our answer and wanted us to rethink it (her words  were closer to: “I get angry when you tell me I can’t do what I want. I want to watch shows.”) No raised voice, no hitting, kicking, just a clear statement we could address.

We don’t need to cheat; we’ve already won.


Filed under unschooling

Here We Go, Go, Go On An Adventure

There’s a lot of controversy over children and television viewing. The vast majority of studies show links between screen time and ADHD, higher BMI, poorer school performance, and decreased social skills. Most professionals seem to agree: Don’t let children younger than two watch any television, and only one to two hours of television for children older than two.

There is a part of me that agrees, but there is a much larger part of me that questions the results of these studies.

The majority of the studies look at screen time alone. Some look at screen time and content. One looked at background television and the possible effect on development. But there are very few that look at family interaction as well as screen time.

When a study points out that the vast majority of parents using ‘educational’ DVDs or programs do so with the intent to spend time away from the children, I question which is actually the cause of developmental concerns. Babies as young as three months are put in a swing or seat and stationed in front of the TV for half an hour or longer so mom can do the dishes or have a cup of coffee. As the children age, the amount of screen time increases so mom can have more time to herself. Personally I suspect that has more of an impact than actual television.

Babies need interaction. In order to learn language they need to be talked to – and listened to. In order to learn to stand and walk a baby needs a caregiver to hold him up and let him bounce, let him try walking. A baby spending time on the floor with nothing but toys typically won’t crawl as quickly as a baby on the floor with another human close by. Babies, humans in general, need interaction to survive.

It might be possible for some babies to reach developmental milestones despite being placed into a jumper for the majority of the day, despite never having someone try to talk WITH her, despite being placed in front of the television for entertainment, but I suspect those babies are very rare individuals.

In our home we don’t limit TV. Of course the majority of the time spent with the TV on is spent together. We talk about the shows, ask the girls what they thought happened, if they’ve had something similar happen to them. Some shows spark such a huge interest that the next several weeks are spent focusing on the topic and learning as much as possible.

Ella carefully chiseling out her dinosaur bones.

Ella spent a huge portion of time digging up her dinosaur bones from the garden last spring. She then chiseled, washed, and brushed the chalk away until her bones were clean. Her interest in dinosaurs in waning now, but watching television brought the subject to life enough that she wanted to learn more. She wanted to be a paleontologist.

Right now our girls, Ella in particular, are spending large amounts of time in front of screens of one type or another. To some extent I feel guilty. I know less time would be spent in front of a device if I were able to participate in their interests more. But for now all I can offer are my own capabilities. The two are not the same. However, my guilt is overshadowed by watching my little girls blossom before me.

Even though we aren’t getting out much right now, we aren’t seeing other children, the girls are practicing social interactions. They watch shows and see how the characters act, what they say. Then while they play they use the same words, behaviours to try them out. Sometimes we react as expected, sometimes we pretend that we don’t want to share, or say hello etc. The girls take a concept from the show, they expand it, they learn from it. All the while we’re there beside them.

Today the girls watched an episode of “The Cat in The Hat Knows A Lot About That” about bees and honey. The information had been presented before, but the show brought it alive. Agatha (2.5) excitedly came up to me, “Mommy, bees make honey with their spit.” So tomorrow we’ll watch the same show again, and after we’ll pretend to be bees. We’ll build the comb, we’ll find our flowers, the girls will get their chance to spit to their hearts content – and after we’ll have some bread and honey.

If we wanted we could expand on the information. Youtube has videos of bees working, building, making that we could watch. Once the weather warms up the nature center has a beehive enclosed in plastiglas so it’s possible to see the bees working on the hive.

When spring arrives if the interest is still there we could plant different flowers and see which attracts bees more. Or go to the river valley and see what we find there.

I don’t believe the problem is television. I believe the problem is more the limitations parents set on television. It is so much more than a babysitter, it’s a stepping stone. Take what you see, what your children see and expand on it.

Your little boy loves “Thomas”? Go to a trail yard. A Rail museum. Build your own railroad in the backyard. Not a table top one, but give him a  nice size hammer and some boards, then have something available for tracks. Let him build. Tell him about John Henry. See where that story takes you. You’d be surprised what the smallest children pick up on. Tell them the truth. What you don’t know, look up together.

Use your imagination, join your children in their interests and see how fast they blossom.


Filed under Parenting