Friday, June 05, 2009

TV or not TV

That is so often the question.

It was my question, when my kids were younger and I'd watched a few too many "Barney" episodes. I also read a book with lots of articulate information about what TV does to our brains. But very shortly after that, due to an article by Sandra Dodd in a homeschooling magazine, I found myself researching unschooling, reading constantly on the old Unschooling Discussion email list, and I was introduced to a radically different way to view television. It was talked about as being just one more resource in the unschooled child's diverse world of resources. Parents talked about what had been sparked in their children as a result of seeing some TV show - not brain dead zombie behavior but rather a journey of connections that started with the excitement they'd felt while seeing an animal or hearing a song or experiencing humor in a new way.

I decided to trust my kids. They weren't the kids from that anti-TV book's studies who used TV after hours of schooling as a means to check out. I watched shows with them and we often talked about what we saw, whether it be commercials (some of which we loved) or kids being rude to one another.

Over the past decade, I've watched my kids be inspired by what they've seen on TV. Jesse loves to recap a show in its entirety and then give commentary about why it was great, or ridiculous.

Plus, they watch about as much TV as I did growing up. Not so much. I was allowed very limited TV, so watched as much as possible, fighting with my brother (while my mother was at work) over whether we got to watch "The Brady Bunch" or "Hogan's Heroes". Because my kids can watch when they want, they don't have a sense of scarcity about it. There are days when it isn't even turned on (until Nicolas or I turn it on at night :).

I'm writing about this because of my recent relapse into the consideration of no TV. This was provoked by being in a peaceful, always filled with good music, TV-free environment in Montana and by the violent (inner) reaction I was starting to have to the Sponge Bob theme music; my kids' primary choice for what seemed like the past six months.

I included them in the discussion of whether we should take a TV-break (or Cartoon Network break). I proposed different scenarios, most of which they were surprisingly open to trying. We were discussing the possibility of going several months without, with lots of netflix and TV from the computer as an alternative, when suddenly, almost mid-discussion, my show entered the dialogue. Jesse mentioned that while I'd been in Montana, So You Think You Can Dance had restarted.

I'd forgotten.

So You Think You Can Dance?


"Well, how about we just watch one episode of it and see how important it is to us?" I asked.

I watched the shows I'd missed (we love TiVo). They watched with me. Jesse started choreographing dances again in his room. Gillen asked about my old life as a dancer. We got passionately involved with the dancers' auditions. Jesse said that he wanted to try a hip-hop class. The biggest factor - we get break-dancing-in-the-living-room and dancing-on-the-couch intense joy from watching this show!

The decision is definitely to TV. Here's to hoping that our lives continue to be full and interesting as a result of all types of input and exploration, including TV.


kelli said...

Yay! .. phew.. naww.. I knew you'd see the joy that it brings :)

But I do have to say this.. embrace the song, embrace the silliness.. embrace Sponge Bob too! ;)
I used to get so irritated by Sponge Bob, even his voice, but my gosh, Kyra loved him SO much! I've actually grown to love him!

Madeline said...

It's true Kelli. They love him SO much, when they're on a Sponge Bob kick. And when I watch some of it with them, I get it, to a point. Haven't gotten overly-infatuated with him myself, yet.

Sona said...

Mindless TV isn't useful, but today there are so many good things to watch. Take Planet Earth, for example. What an amazing mini series that was.

Discovery, History Channel, TLC - many good shows to explore that are interesting and educational.

laura said...

oh i can just see this!! SYTYCD would be the show to make me go "um, oh yeah, I LIKE TV TOO!!" LOL, this was a great post!!

for me the same dialogue happens occasionally but it's about food. well, it hadn't happened in awhile but yesterday we did talk about some things. i think we've all got our spots that we pick at sometimes. always learning, always evolving, all the time!

Madeline said...

Yep, Laura, food has been a big one for me - periodic tweaking there too. Maybe I'll write about that this week.

Sona, we loved Planet Earth too. Lots of good stuff on sooo many channels.

Danielle said...

I have a love/ hate relationship with tv. Luckily my kids just have a love relationship and show me the way back to love. ;)

Frank said...

David and Schuyler Waynforth's talks at LIFEisGood were fabulous. Get the mp3 when it comes out if you need a booster-shot about tv and food freedom.

Madeline said...

I will. Thanks, Frank.

Kimba said...

I did the tv dance when Taran was younger...I am glad that I have chosen to leave it up to them. Our achilles heel ( Taran became familiar with term thanks to the Tick) would be Dancing with the Stars (we still lament Lil Kim's early removal -- Lucy was almost in tears and we all think Gilles was robbed) - to see Taran mimic the Argentine Tango and Lucy choregraph her own pieces is a delight.

who started watching Sponge Bob when it premiered ;)

Molly said...

love these last two posts - i too struggle with the tv and junk food issues (as you probably know). we don't have tv, yet our computer has become a substitute. i feel good that we're exposed to less live commercials, though ads are always on the sidebar of our favorite websites - and it really was the commercials that bothered me so much about tv. i love a lot of tv shows, and my children do too. many things we've watched together have led to interesting discussions. or we can say, remember when so and so on such and such show did this? as a way to broach a sticky situation.

and about the food - i love how you expressed that the mother shows her love with loads of packaged food. we know many family and friends that do the same. nothing says "i love you" like a bag of rainbow marshmallows.

mindy said...

I should have beat me to the essay I've been composing in my head for, what, years now on the whole tv thing! Except I never had the love/hate relationship...only the love, love love :)
Who wouldn't decide to leave the tv on with SYTYCD????Huh? Come on, doesn't EVERYBODY love the show as much as me????

Madeline said...

Mindy, I love it because of you - the best gift you ever gave us!

Bhu said...

Really inspiring post... you always make me think and see with fresh eyes.