I remember having one friend who didn't let her kids watch TV shows (Joanne - and her kids are amazing, by the way). I honestly thought they were missing out. I thought of all the educational shows that were available and I thought it was too bad that her kids didn't get some of the good benefits of TV.
When we moved to Utah and I started homeschooling, I decided that TV wouldn't be an option during the weekdays. The older kids were home and I wanted them to learn to work instead of keeping them entertained while I did the work. At first, work was pretty minimal for them, and I still had stuff to do once "school time" was over and they went out to play, but I found that even the younger kids could do quite a bit and were benefiting a lot from helping out. I realized that I should have been having the kids work with me all along instead of putting them in front of an educational show. The character building that takes place when a child learns to contribute and do hard things is so so so much more important than learning the ABCs from Sesame Street.
As I've cut out more of the wrong "headgates" in our home like the electronic or scripted toys, the computer games, too much "friend" time, etc. I have seen some things taking place that I hadn't expected.
We are left with toys that one needs an imagination in order to play with, so I see some pretty elaborate imaginative play. They are not used to the fast paced images on the TV or in video games so they are able to focus on the slower pace of beautiful music and language. They read, they practice piano, they write, they sing, they listen - because they choose to. They feel the intrinsic value of these activities, they are not so dulled by constant stimulation that they think these things are boring.
I've been thinking about this ever since we went to the Church History Museum last Friday. When we walked in, the sweet ladies invited us upstairs to the "children's exhibit". We told them we'd work our way up there, but that we wanted to see the other things first. The children were so involved in the things that they saw. They would read the captions and would excitedly tell me about them. Even Bazinks was facinated by what everyone was saying. We had visited the museum over a year ago, but the children got bored after a while and I found myself trying to read as much as I could, as fast as I could before they started getting into mischief. Not this time. The Sisters that were there were so happy to have such a captive audiance that they would occasionally come up to us and tell us some interesting facts about the displays. The kids paid close attention to everything they said. A couple of the ladies told us how impressed they were with the children.
We liked the children's display at the end of our visit, but they all were much more enthralled by the real things they saw downstairs (except maybe Bazinks, he liked fishing off Nephi's boat and building the Bountiful Temple at the children's display).
We watched a musical production the other day. Everyone paid attention the entire time (except the baby, of course, but he did like the music). Yesterday, they watched the entire "I have a dream" speech on Rock's iphone and they were glued to it like it was the most interesting thing to them. Only Bazinks asked how much longer it was, but he still watched the whole thing. They can sit through a Shakespeare play. They can notice the subtle beauty in the world around them. They delight in the way a certain violin plays a certain part in a symphony. They enjoy the way words create images, "Ooh, that's a cool way to say that," they'll point out. They are aware.
I was hoping that simplifying our lives and getting rid of distracting things would help them want to learn things, but I didn't know the extent of sensibility that they were capable of. Heavenly Father endowed them with a keen sense of beauty. They are capable of truly seeing things if we don't dull their senses with entertainment and stimulation.
People have expressed to me the concern (one I'm sure every homeschooler has heard) that if I shelter my children too much that they won't be able to function in the "real" world. I would say that my children are learning to actually see and understand the "real" world and will recognize the counterfeit when they see it. I think too many children are living in a warped sense of reality and will eventually have to have a jolt into the "real" world. Unfortunately, it won't always be too pleasant. Especially if the jolt comes late in life, or even more so, if it comes in the next life.
I am sure glad children are resilient. It has taken me longer to start noticing and being sensitive to the beauty and reality around me, but they are helping me along. I started this experiment for the sake of their education. I didn't realize the effect it would have on their character, their vision, their feelings and their whole being. If I were to put my older kids back in school now, I would be sure to guard those precious hours they have at home with a simple, plain environment where they could think and ponder their own thoughts, learn to see true beauty, find who they are, and see the world as it really is. Their childhood is so short. It is a shame to waste it.
Here are some pictures of the children's display at the Church History Museum. I didn't think to get my camera out earlier.