Where Do Your Homeschooled Kids Learn?

Where Do Your Homeschooled Kids Learn?

After a beautiful day looking for marine fossils led by our favorite naturalist, I came home to these words in a book I am reading:

“To keep students in school and engaged as productive learners through to graduation, schools must provide many experiences in which all students do some of their learning outside school.”

“Most young people find school hard to use. Indeed, many young people find school a negative learning environment. Not only do schools fail to help students become competent in important life skills, they provide a warped image of learning as something that takes place only in schools, segregated from the real world, organized by disciplines and school bells, and assessed by multiple-choice, paper-and-pencil tests. Schools have scores of written and unwritten rules that stifle young people’s innate drive for learning and restrict their choices about at what they want to excel, when to practice, from whom to learn, and how to learn. It is no wonder that so many creative and entrepreneurial youth disengage from productive learning.”–Charles Mojkowski in Living to Learn: How Out-of-School Learning Increases Engagement and Reduces Dropout Rates

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I am thrilled, as homeschoolers, we have so many different opportunities to learn in such a wide variety of environments. My favorite learning takes place in the great outdoors! Additionally,  as educational facilitators, we can pick the best teachers for our kids. They are not confined to one teacher in the same classroom for an entire year. With our naturalist, for instance, we have one of the premier teachers available to learn about nature and ecological responsibility.  I love the tremendous diversity in learning opportunities we engage in together with our friends.

Homeschoolers, let’s make sure we are not squandering our wonderful freedoms and benefits in homeschooling to simply stay at home all day recreating school. Yes, do your math, reading, writing or whatever academic subjects you feel are critical.

Ditch what “school work” does not seem to add value in exchange for real edification out in the world. Learn from people who are passionate and want to share that with your kids! By giving your children such tremendous exposure, they will have a greater ability to understand what they are passionate about in addition to a fine education. In my experience, we are a much more joyful family when we are out learning together and not sitting at home all day doing school work.

Enjoy your journey and carpe diem!

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You may also be interested in:

Do Parents Need More Patience for Public School or Homeschool?

How to Build Your Homeschool Tribe

Homeschoolers Choose Free Market Over One-Size-Fits All Classroom Education

Open Letter to U.S. Education Secretary King Who Says Homeschoolers Would Be Better Off in Public Schools

Homeschoolers Make High Profile Entries into Top Universities

Homeschooling is the Smartest Way to Teach Kids in the 21st Century According to Business Insider

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Is Screen Time Like Digital Heroin?

Earlier this week, a provocative article came out in the NY Post titled It’s Digital Heroin: How Screens Turn Kids into Psychotic Junkies. The author, Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, presented brain imaging research showing screens impact the frontal cortex the same way that cocaine does. Additionally, he described kids becoming “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.” Similar results have been described in many research papers and articles.

He described kids becoming “bored, apathetic, uninteresting and uninterested when not plugged in.

Over the past several years, I have taken a keen interest in this topic and have learned a lot through research, listening to parents discuss their experiences, and observing kids who spend a lot of time on screens and kids who don’t.

both kids on screens

As their brains become more consumed by their virtual worlds, they are less interested in the types of activities that are so important for physical, intellectual and social development.

The biggest problem I have seen with kids who spend great quantities of time on screens  is just what Dr. Kardaras states in the article. These kids get bored easily when they do not have their screens. The world becomes less interesting to them.  As their brains become more consumed by their virtual worlds, they are less interested in the types of activities that are so important for physical, intellectual and social development including playing outside, participating in sports, building Legos, drawing, scouting, and so forth. Concentration levels decrease making even reading a book challenging.  WebMD found “grades began to decline steadily after just 45 minutes of screen time and dropped even more significantly after 2 hours. More screen time led to greater sleeping problems, too.”

On the other hand, the kids I have seen who engage in little or no screen time are some of the most creative, well-mannered, and happy children around. I don’t hear “I’m bored” come out of their mouths often or if ever. Instead, they find many interesting things to do at home and when they are out with friends and family. They aren’t thinking about a screen because it is not part of their routine or a big part of their day.

smile fort
Kids are more likely to be creative and social at home when they can’t jump on a computer whenever they want.

I believe excessive screen time and physical inactivity are responsible for many kids’, though certainly not all,  ADD and ADHD diagnoses. Children as young as kindergarten and 1st grade are now being prescribed psychotropic drugs like Ritalin so they can sit still in class and not be disruptive. Before I put my children on any type of mind-altering drug, I would do some heavy-duty research about long-term consequences and other side effects. Furthermore, I would go cold turkey on screens and spend copious amounts of time out in nature before even considering those drugs. I would also look at educational alternatives such as homeschool before my kids began ingesting them.

I am not anti-screens with my kids. Though, I admit, I always cringe a little when I see they are playing a computer game. They earn their screen time just like a person earns a paycheck. For a full load of school work and chores, they earn 25 minutes per day. If they have less work then their earned screen time decreases. I don’t ban it altogether. Sometimes things become even more desirable when they are entirely forbidden.

I do not buy the argument that video games  are good because they help you to understand technology. On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I welcome teaching kids how to use technology to make them more productive and professional.

I do not buy the argument that video games  are good because they help you to understand technology. I agree there is excellent technology to enhance work and learning. I embrace that. However, sitting around playing video games is not an effective tool in teaching one to use effective technology.

On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I’m teaching a blogging and 21st-century skills class at our homeschool co-op in the fall. We will incorporate some strategic uses of technology including creating and delivering Power Point presentations, developing blogs, conducting research and graphing it with Google Sheets and much more. I welcome teaching kids how to use technology to make them more productive and professional. This is a smart use of technology in my opinion.

I am not a doctor. I am  sharing my opinion for your consideration. I believe this information is important with all my heart. I urge you to do your own research on this topic and draw your own conclusions. If your screen-addicted kid’s behavior is not satisfactory by your standards or is not interested in too much beyond his tablet, consider setting limits or getting rid of it altogether. I think 30-45 minutes per day is more than enough. You may try going cold turkey for 3 months. I bet you’d be surprised how your child started to find the world and other people interesting again after getting over the initial shock of losing screen time.

In the article, Dr. Kardaras states, “The key is to prevent your 4-, 5- or 8-year-old from getting hooked on screens to begin with. That means Lego instead of Minecraft; books instead of iPads; nature and sports instead of TV.”

Kate smiling

One of the most important and impactful parenting books I have ever read is The Last Child in the Woods:Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. I wish all parents would read it. You can buy it on Amazon through this link here or perhaps get it at your library.

http://amzn.to/2bWTx5Y

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There are so many book excerpts I’d love to include here from Last Child in the Woods. Here are a few:

TV in the Car?

Constructively Bored Mind Versus a Negatively Numbed Mind

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Benefits of Incorporating More Wilderness Into Your Homeschool

This can easily be incorporated into your homeschooling! You have the freedom to make it happen!

“The wilderness rescued me. I have been shaped by my experiences in the great outdoors. Feeling comfortable in the wild gave me the confidence to be who I am, not who others want me to be. There is a natural simplicity to nature; it is far more tactile and tangible than the classroom. It’s a leveller; it strengthened my character and set me back on track.”

arrived at creek

“And evidence shows connecting with nature really works. Free play in the outdoors is good for social and emotional development, improves self-awareness, and makes children more co-operative. A study by the American Medical Association in 2005 concluded that: “Children will be smarter, better able to get along with others, healthier and happier when they have regular opportunities for free and unstructured play in the out-of-doors.” There is also scientific evidence that the wilderness can reduce hyperactivity and has a soothing effect on children, especially those suffering from attention deficit disorder.”

https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2015/dec/17/we-need-fewer-exams-and-more-wilderness-in-education?CMP=share_btn_fb

How Dirt Makes You Happy

Let your kids play in the dirt! Time to get off those screens and get their hands dirty!

“Prozac may not be the only way to get rid of your serious blues. Soil microbes have been found to have similar effects on the brain and are without side effects and chemical dependency potential.” 

Read more at Gardening Know How: Antidepressant Microbes In Soil: How Dirt Makes You Happy http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm

 

TV in the Car?

“Why do so many Americans say they want their children to watch less TV, yet continue to expand the opportunities for them to watch it? (backseat car TV monitors). More important, why do so many people no longer consider the physical world worth watching? The highway’s edge may not be postcard perfect. But for a century, children’s early understanding of how cities and nature fit together was gained from the backseat: the empty farmhouse at the edge of the subdivision; the variety of architecture, here and there; the woods and fields and water beyond the seamy edges–all that was and is still available to the eye. This was the landscape we watched as children. It was our drive-by movie.”

Some of our best family conversations are while driving.

“Yes,” we’ll say, “it’s true. We actually looked out the car window.” In our useful boredom, we used our fingers to draw pictures on fogged glass as we watched telephone poles tick by. We saw birds on the wires and combines in the fields. We were fascinated with roadkill, and we counted cows and horses and shaving cream signs. We held our little plastic cars against the glass and pretended that they, too, were racing toward some unknown destination. We considered the past and dreamed of the future, and watched it all go by in the blink of an eye.”

“But for a century, children’s early understanding of how cities and nature fit together was gained from the backseat. This was the landscape we watched as children. It was our drive-by movie.”–Richard Louv

Is roadside America really so boring today? In some stretches, yes, but all the others are instructive in their beauty, even in their ugliness.”–From Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

This excerpt does not even mention how we all benefit in communication and relationship building without gadgets in the car.  Some of our best family conversations are while driving. Most of the time everyone is relaxed and either being silly or discussing meaningful topics. I love our family time while driving.

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Constructively Bored Mind vs A Negatively Numbed Mind


“We need to draw an important distinction between a constructively bored mind and a negatively numbed mind. Constructively bored kids eventually turn to a book, or build a fort, or pull out the paints and create, or come home sweaty from a game of neighborhood basketball. There are a few things that parents and other caregivers can do to nurture constructive boredom.”

 

skin
We find all kinds of natural treasures on our nature walks. Here is a rattlesnake skin.

*First: A bored child often needs to spend time with a parent or other positive adult. They need to be there for their kids, to limit the time they play video games or watch TV, to take them to the library or on long walks in nature, to take them fishing–to help them detach from electronics long enough for their imaginations to kick in.

They need to be there for their kids, to limit the time they play video games or watch TV, to take them to the library or on long walks in nature, to take them fishing–to help them detach from electronics long enough for their imaginations to kick in.

*Second: Turn off the TV. Any parent who has punished a child by taking away TV privileges and then watched that child play–slowly at first, then imaginatively, freely–will recognize the connection between time, boredom and creativity. “There’s something about television-maybe that it provides so much in the way of audio and visual stimulation that children don’t have to generate very much on their own.”

*Third: Find a balance between adult direction and child boredom. Too much boredom can lead to trouble; too much supervision can kill constructive boredom–and the creativity that comes with it.”
–From Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

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Why I Limit Screen Time

Based on conversations with many people including those with kids in high school who have spent a lot of times on screens and my own research and observations, there are two big reasons I limit the amount of time:
1) Loss of will to do other things–They become unmotivated to do different activities because they are so entranced by being on the computer. We know one family whose son is in high school and won’t do anything at all but screens. No Scouting, no sports, he can’t concentrate to read, etc. So she has gone cold turkey from screens and is in a Waldorf school with her elementary-aged boys.


2) Psychiatric problems with ADD, ADHD, depression and anxiety. There are so many links here. Also, if someone told me I had a child who needed to be on psychiatric drugs then I would go cold turkey on screens and spend lots of time outdoors with lots of exercise before going this route. I would try this for several months. I have a family member who has been through hell with these drugs. Over the long run, the side effects can be devastating for the person and the family.

Overall, I am happy to let my kids have some screen time per day.They earn it just like a person earns a paycheck. It motivates my son to get his work done while my daughters are not really interested. If you ban something altogether, then they may go the opposite direction when they have the ability to do so.
I do not buy the argument that videos and screen time are good because they help you to understand technology. I agree there is excellent technology to enhance work, learning, etc. Lots of fantastic stuff, and I embrace that. However, sitting around playing video games is not an effective tool in teaching one to use effective technology. On the other hand, strategic use of technology has great benefits. I’m teaching a blogging and 21st-century skills class at our homeschool co-op in the fall. We will incorporate some strategic uses of technology.

Here is one article of many describing effects of screen time on kids’ brains:

This is What Screen Time Really Does to Kids’ Brains