An Unschooling Oldie: Family Mealtime, TV and Screen Time

2 03 2008

Something I wrote responding to a pre-Snook unschooling question, back in 2004:
“Do the rest of you guys feel a formal mealtime is important?”

I used to worry about this, until I gradually realized that we do eat together (or at least in close proximity) all the time, and it’s great, though I wouldn’t call it formal.

Or “mealtime” exactly. 🙂

I think the set family dinner may have sprung from the same schoolish context as tv limits.

In a schooling family, especially one with traditionally employed parents, what other regular family time is even possible, much less likely? It takes a major commitment by each family member, maybe sacrifice of other enjoyable plans and choices, to manage formal dinnertime together regularly.

Imo this is similar to the schoolish idea of screen time as an unacceptable interference with homework, or with the tiny remaining slivers of afternoon into which schooled children must shoehorn all outdoor activity and pursuit of individual interests.

But in our unschooling, we’ve found such unnecessary contrivance isn’t, well, necessary!

All the worthwhile goals of formal mealtime — togetherness, parental modeling, companionable conversations and of course sufficient ingesting of varied and nutritious foodstuffs 🙂 — can be achieved by unschoolers *without* the actual mealtime, just as we can achieve the goals of healthy outdoor activity and plenty of time for pursuits of interest without limiting tv.

I remain astonished (after a decade or more, depending on how I count it) at what falls naturally into place, if a family can just break the gravitational pull of “school” and chart its own path through time and space. JJ




2 responses

2 03 2008

A related oldie soon to follow in the same discussion forum was this, which any
unschooler is welcome to use, for explaining to other parents why we
seem to have such good kids:

“I’m grateful because they’re so great, but also I suspect
they’re great because I’m so grateful for them.”

2 03 2008

And while we’re at it, there was this:

Just had a cool unschooling moment —

Driving DD14 [Favorite Daughter when she was younger] to ballet class this afternoon, we had the radio on NPR
as usual, when we heard this young, girlish voice talking about guns —
shooting guns and owning guns and how guns weren’t just for self-defense but lots of fun. Turns out it was the author of a book called “Blown Away!” (DD shuddered — we must’ve missed any explanation there might have been about why this wasn’t as awful a title for a gun book as it sounded)

So now we’re both paying attention to this unexpected topic of girls and guns.

Understand that guns are no part of any real experience she’s had, or any curiosity she’s ever expressed. So this was totally new to her, and quite uncommon territory for me too.

We turn the interview up. The author says authoritatively that 75% of all girls and women over the age of 12 will be a crime victim and a third of those crimes will be violent. So of course we need to know how to protect ourselves, and guns are the ideal way to shift power from men to women so they won’t be victimized (she goes on at some length about this.)

My first thought was that DD needn’t be unduly scared (not of guns but men!) so I commented that as a very tall and strong woman, I had never felt any particular need to arm myself against men. Even as a 12-year-old I was used to being mistaken for an adult, and to looking down on my share of bald spots! So it never occurred to me to look for a way not to be victimized by men.

Then I thought I’d change the subject from defense against crime and the need to take power away from men, maybe by focusing on the math to see if maybe the statistics weren’t as bad as they sounded (I was trying to guessimate it quickly in my own mind, thinking the self-protection need seemed unrealistically high for boring, middle-class, university town dwellers
like us.)

DD hates math almost to the point of being phobic about it. And I wasn’t trying to teach it to her, I promise! But here was something she was riveted by at the moment, even if not exactly in a “good” way.

So, I muse aloud that if all the women over twelve were a whole dollar, then the author’s 75% figure meant that 75 cents of that dollar became crime victims. She nods and looks at me for more (I’m still driving, remember.)

Well, then if one-third of those victims experience “violent” crime and one way of making 75 cents is with three quarters, then one-third of 75 is one of those quarters, right? She looks surprised and smiles, and nods again.

So I say that’s a lot less than three quarters of all women, isn’t it?
Now we can see that three-quarters of all women WON’T ever be a victim of violent crime, right? She is looking much more comfortable — at least as I’m hurtling down the interstate thinking there are all kinds of self-defense and good driving is maybe a lot more important than good shooting to us —
when I have a further thought, spontaneous and maybe ill-advised if my purpose was to make her feel safe, I don’t know.

“Oh! And they say on average, violence tends to happen from people you know, right?” I say. Because that’s who you are with almost all the time, so this makes sense. Strangers don’t figure into girls’ normal lives that much, relative to relatives anyway.

I explain there must be all the kinds of violence against teens —
girls older than 12 but too young for responsible gun ownership at say, 18 — violence that happens in bad home situations with people girls know but wouldn’t have a gun to protect themselves against, like date rape and stepfathers and strange “uncles” or neighbors.

So I wonder if that 12-year-old statistic is a key to this picture, I say. Maybe if they set the crime-counting starting point at 18- or 21-year-old women, the statistics would be quite different? We conclude together that teens could be at least half of those violence victims, and thus maybe only one woman in ten who COULD actually use a gun responsibly for self-protection ever would have cause to do so in her lifetime.
And more importantly to us,
that nine out of ten won’t.

She is thinking along with me now, and about math! And reason.

About something real that matters to her life. And she’s *really* good at the thinking and reasoning part, even with no previous knowledge of guns or violence, and almost none of simple fractions, much less of statistical misrepresentations for effect!

But that’s not the good part in my mind. HERE’s the good part.

Again without knowing what I’m gonna say until it comes out of my mouth, I start to admire her thinking and reasoning ability, and how well we just worked through the issue without being stampeded to a false and possibly dangerous conclusion, and I say *that* is a form of power, too.

A way that girls and women can arm themselves at any age, not only protect to themselves physically but against all manner of victimization, criminal or not, from any source — and it was more important than any other method because I could guarantee there was a 100% chance there’d be cause to use it. Hadn’t we just
needed and used it, in fact?

Laughing now, she called out her own new statistic: Arm
yourselves against stupidity! One-hundred percent of all girls and women will be the victims of attempted stupidity today!

I don’t know what percent of her day was improved by that little
moment, or what value she would place on it, but I can speak for mine.
🙂 🙂 JJ

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