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Fear of the TV Beast
Unschooling - Freedom, Trust and Letting Go
By Julie Persons

Fear of the TV Beast: Freedom, Trust and Letting Go

My husband Trevor and I have always wanted our children to make as many of their own choices as they possibly can.

We have encouraged them to choose their foods and eating times so that they will learn to listen to their bodies and know what they need. They both weaned when they were ready and we have always made sure their options are varied and accessible.

We have always let them decide who they want to play with (or not), so they will be in touch with how they really feel about others. We have always let them decide when they are tired and where they will sleep and how much. This has helped them to be happy, rested children who know when they need to have quiet time and sleep. They sleep through the night, holding on to one of us and sleeping the safe and warm sleep they need.

We have always encouraged them to dress themselves, regardless of the style, color co-ordination or season. This way, they are learning what is comfortable and warm or too cold and what truly suits them.

We have supported them liking the toys they like, whether we approve of them or not.

“He became somewhat greedy about television and, as a forbidden fruit, it became more and more tempting by the month.”

Some of these freedoms have been more challenging for Trevor and me than others. But we have watched our children thrive in this environment and have gained confidence in their ability to know what they want/need; they trust themselves as we are learning to trust in them.

But we have had one issue that has been challenging, and that’s television. Trevor and I didn’t want our children to watch television when they were little and our son, Jesse, never watched any until he was two-and-a-half. After that, he watched some but only one show at a time and he always had to ask permission. This didn’t work; he became somewhat greedy about television and, as a forbidden fruit, it became more and more tempting by the month. When he was allowed to watch he would beg and beg and beg for more and I would feel so guilty when I allowed him to do this. It was not working.

About two-and-a-half years ago, Trevor and I began discussing this. My heart told me that we should let Jesse decide how much TV he wanted to watch and when (although we would limit channels to screen out violent and other inappropriate choices.) However, even though Trevor and I discussed this frequently and at length, we couldn’t bring ourselves to act.

What if he watched it all day long? What if he made the (gasp) wrong choice? What if he loved it more than anything in the world and became a professional TV watcher, growing sluggish and pale at the screen, vacant and soft? So we decided we just could not let him watch as much as he wanted.

“He has learned that the thing is not as exciting as the wanting; the power struggle we had over the TV made it so much more tempting than it needed to be.”
But Jesse begged and begged and it bothered me deep in my heart; why was I trusting him to make so many other choices in his life and he was doing wonderfully and yet I was afraid of this thing, this TV beast?!

About a year ago we finally decided to let go of this. We told Jesse it was up to him, he could make the choice. And he chose TV – truckloads of it, initially. He embraced it and memorized listings and characters and wanted to tell everyone about his deep adoration for the tube. People on the street would ask him about “homeschooling” and he would say, “Oh, it rocks; I watch TV and tons of it,” and I would blush. Trevor would groan when he saw it on all day long and try to figure out ways to draw Jesse away from it. This did not work, so Jesse watched it a great deal for about six months.

Then, just when we were beginning to wonder if this was a permanent commitment, I decided to embrace it. I sat with him and we talked about what he loved to watch; when he went to bed and wanted to discuss dialogue or characters, I would talk about it with him. At first, I know he thought my embracing it was strange but after a time he got used to it and stopped giving me odd looks at I sat with him. I began to realize that it is alright for him to like what he likes; I love him all the same.

Then his desire to watch TV began to fade. About two to three months ago, he began his days by not turning it on. Some days he would even go all day without even thinking about it. His desire for it waned and he began looking for other things we could do together and talk about.

Now, he only watches it here and there and not for long. He has learned that the thing is not as exciting as the wanting; the power struggle we had over the TV made it so much more tempting than it needed to be. And he knows he is loved, either way, so he is free to make the choice he desires.

I have learned something too: Letting go is the hardest part but the rewards are worth it.

Julie Persons lives on a farm in rural Maine with her children, husband, and various pets. Her interests include unschooling, painting, photography, gardening, reading, knitting, and playing outside.

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