Thursday, 12 February 2015

6 reasons to parent without television

6 Reasons to Parent Without Television 

A few years ago I wrote my very first post about parenting in the absence of television. Those very first days of removing the tv for any significant length of time were torture! Our children did not know what to do with themselves.

They experienced tv-withdrawal, insisting on forcing themselves to take naps at odd times, hoping that they would wake to their television plugged back in and safely where it belonged. And finally, their (then, schooling) friends did not want to visit because we had a 'boring' house with nothing to do but stare at blank walls apparently!

It was then that I realised we had a problem. Surely staring at walls when a tv wasn't on, wasn't normal was it?

So we pursued the idea of very limited television for our children and teenagers and here are a few reasons why I think life would be a heck of a lot better if we could start a movement and all try it - just for a week! or a month! or until Easter!

I guarantee it will change your life!

1) You get your time back 

Recent studies indicate that most people spend between 2 - 6 hours per day sitting in front of a television or computer. That is 14 - 46 hours per week, or between one to 3.5 full days just watching stuff!  How many times have you been half -way through a Saturday morning, still sitting in your pyjama's on the couch and wondering where the last 4 hours went? and what the heck you had been watching all morning?!

 Over the course of a year, according to current statistics, you could have easily have spent between two and six full months just sitting in front of a television or another electronic device!

 In university there were a few lecturers who described amazing, adventurous, creative lives full of so many things that I was prompted to ask "how the heck do you get all of the time to do this stuff? I never seem to have time for anything" and the answer was "I don't own a television".

Imagine what you could do with an extra 1 - 3 days a week! Or an extra couple of free months in the year! It is mind-boggling. 

2) Children have a chance to be bored

My experience is that my children never bore of technology.

They just don't.

Research has shown that (freedom and autonomy or not) boredom is beneficial for children. When children are not artificially mentally stimulated, they have time and mental space that is their own. Space that is not filled by other people's stories and characters that do not exist beyond television. And space to think about what they would like to do with their own time (beyond being bored). When children are bored they have the greatest potential for mental growth and development because they actually have to think about what they would like to do with their time. And then go about doing it!

3) It brings your family together

 Internet, televisions and computers hold the key to (figuratively) the entire universe inside them and everything the world has to offer

 But simultaneously, nothing that the world has to offer.

 Children are constantly over-stimulated and involved in watching something though not physically doing anything. Internet technology gives children (and adults) a portal into a world where they can essentially be sitting next to a person but living a life that is entirely without that person in it. The people they talk to, the world they inhabit, is a singular world without their parents or siblings inside it. And similarly watching television and computer games for many hours every days offers the illusion that fictional characters are living and breathing people, that tv worlds are part of the real world, and that you are somehow a part of that.

Even temporarily switching off those portals and television shows gives you the opportunity to look at the world around you, talk to the people who are next to you, find things that you like to do together (and have the time to do them more often). Turning off the television allows your children and adolescents to reconnect with your family as not only people that they live with, but people who are an essential and meaningful part of their life. In this age of technology, bonding and meaningful engagement with family is not as effortless as it once was, and requires purpose and intent, work and measures to make it happen! And not having unlimited access to television makes that process easier and more effective. 

4) It makes life more interesting

My brother said to me just the other day that some of the best times that we had together were after a cyclone had hit! Crazy huh?! Times when we were sweltering together without a fan or air conditioning to keep us comfortable, reading, talking or playing games by candle-light and listening to the same music. Being without electricity, television or the comforts that we usually had, forced us to interact with each other as a family, get out of our house and talk to neighbours, visit friends (without any notice - the phones were down too!) and do things together as a family, neighbourhood and community. Living without the television on all of the time mimics that sense of discomfort and connectedness. 

When you are without constant entertainment, you find something to entertain yourself. When your children are staring at a blank wall, mourning the loss of fictitious tv friends they are more likely to be excited by the prospect of going out the beach, or checking out a market up the road, or playing football at the park. There are more opportunities for early-morning adventures, in a time that might have easily been taken up with catching up on episodes of your favourite shows, or becoming engrossed in watching music video clips for hours. After dinner your kids might want to learn how to play chess (and finally break it open after 3 years of it sitting unused on the shelf). You may have time for conversations that you never had before, or teaching your children guitar (which you always intended to do but never had time for). 

5) It forces you to become an active participant in life

Television and the internet can become like a drug with over-use. A substitute for difficult relationships (there is always someone online to talk to), an injection of drama and misery when you are feeling that the world is dramatic and miserable and a way to back up negative beliefs about the world around us and our position as passive watchers of life. The news is a certain example of this. Stop watching the news for a month and see how much more positive you are about life!

We know that consistently watching difficult or traumatic events that we have no control over makes us feel unsafe, threatened and can lead to post-traumatic stress - this was highlighted after September 11 when psychologists urged parents to turn off the television for the mental health for children. And in the same way, ceasing to be a passive observer of the traumatic events of the world, takes you out of this role - forcing you to actively participate in your life. And your children to actively participate in theirs. 

6) Movie Nights Become a Big Event!

If you are not watching television often, and you break out the tv for movie night, it can feel like all of your Christmases have come at once! And watching television for a few hours once a week or once a fortnight as a family can become as big an event as going out to the cinemas.

If it is all a bit scary and confronting for you, maybe do a week's trial and see how you go?

I promise you it will be an enlightening experience!

Repost: Homeschooling 101 - our first weeks of homeschooling

Hi there! If you are new here, welcome! We have just opened this little blog carried over from our family blog here – and are reposting some of our old favourite blogs. Feel free to have a look around! Life has changed a lot since these early homeschool days!

"Being so very new to home schooling, we still haven't perfected the art of keeping the kids from falling asleep whilst getting through the structured, 'academic' part of our day (at the moment there is still very much an academic part of our day, however I am definitely intrigued by the concept of natural learning - however terrifying that may be!).

So the last few days have been about finding extra-curricular activities that are both fun and challenging (something that I hope will be easier as we go along!). 

Yesterday we devised a challenge, originating from the famous $25 challenge, but stretched it to $100. The challenge was to create an itinerary of everything in our cupboard/ fridge/ freezer, think up creative meals around them, research relatively inexpensive ingredients and devise a shopping list for $100 worth of food to last our household a week! As there is quite a few of us, this was just a little bit of fun, and I thought that it might help the girls develop their budgeting skills and get in a little bit of mathematics, however our girls took to the challenge with gusto, and took it to a whole other level!

Fast forward two hours and both girls had a full week of menu plans (which were researched using a variety of international recipe books from the library, along with websites for simple food recipes!)

- the menu included gluten-free options and specific items to make baby food!

- they had created a real-life online shopping account on a food chain website 

- completed two separate delivery orders for a week's worth of food shopping

- most of the shopping was fruit, vegetables and grains (!!!)

and if that was not impressive enough, they were both a good $30 short of their target total for the week


So I did what any good Mumma would do - processed the delivery order and let the girls go wild with organising the family's food for the next two weeks!

These are pics of my brood organising their orders into food categories, bagging ingredients according to  recipes and days of the week, and creating a menu schedule to post on the fridge

...and Sam swimming in food

 It is amazing what kids can do when you give them a little time, freedom and imagination

repost: Our unschooling beginning

In the few months since our little miracle, Layla-Rae was born, almost a whole 10 years after her big brother and sisters, I have been in awe of our other three children and how they were once little babies and are now closer to adulthood than they are to infancy.

Whereas we once had a house full of three little barefooted hippy children running around in tie-dyed cloth nappies, painting the walls with their mummy's water colours and attempting to make pakcake mix on the hardwood floor (while I was in a coma-like sleep after caring for three under-fours all day!) our weekends are now full of first dates, sleep overs, and violin rehearsals.

Whereas we once had a lounge full of toys strewn all over the floor, finger paintings so copious that they had crept from being only on the fridge to decorating all of our walls, and furniture that sagged close to the floor from one too many 'monkey's jumping on the bed', our lounge was now littered with musical instruments, dirty football boots and school bags stuffed with homework and school newsletters. 

And as I have nursed Layla and watched my big babies growing up before my very eyes, something has shifted inside of me. 

Whereas my days pre-Layla had been filled with working and studying 18 hours a day to create 'a better life' for our children and their future, as an 'older' (non-teenage) mother I appreciate how fleeting childhood is, and desperately want for time to slow down just a little. Even though I have just finished my degree and everybody keeps asking me "when I will be returning back to work" my first priority is taking this time to be with all of my four children.

...just so that we can have time to talk a little more

...appreciate each other a little more 

..have a few more days filled with giggles and paint on the walls, trampling sand all through the house and dribbling ice cream on the kitchen floor 

...and a few less days filled with work and study, traffic lights and homework

At the moment I am not so concerned with routines, schedules, baby milestones or weekly weigh-ins. But I am absolutely obsessed with afternoons on the beach, and whole days spent at the park.

... swimming until sundown

... kidnapping my children from school for long weekends when they should be doing 'more important' things such as studying or finishing a chemistry assignment

I dream of running away to an island, home-schooling our children, and spending 90% of our day kayaking near the reef or writing messages in the sand.

Because I know that one day Layla's days will be filled with classrooms, homework, first dates and dirty football boots, and there is plenty of time for that...

but that time is not today...

On a side note - it has been three years since I wrote this post and every dream expressed in our pre-unschooling days has come to fruition. We essentially packed up our whole lives, moved across the state and ran away to a beautiful coastal town where our days are often spent swimming, reading poetry or novels, surfing or kayaking. There are no chemistry assignments and plenty of messages have been left in the sand...

Hardening up for the real world - Homeschooling and Unschooling questions

Hi all, if you are new to this blog, take a look around and welcome. I am re-publishing this from its original post over here at our family blog as it has been our most read and shared post to date (over 35,000 Google shares when it was originally published!). I have also added a little more - I hope this resonates with you.

Something that I have heard more than a few times in our homeschooling/ unschooling journey is that as parents we need to prepare our children for the REAL WORLD. 

 That somehow taking children out of the school system will disadvantage them in hardening them up to the realities of life, and that once they are out in the REAL WORLD they will not know how to cope with people

with hard situations

with abusive bosses or bullies

That life will be difficult and perilous for them, once they become adults, so it is important to keep them in school

so that they learn to deal with difficult people 

and learn that life is not all happiness and sunshine

I am not sure quite how to react to this mindset, that life is difficult and the world is difficult, and that real life is all about suffering and hardship, and hardening up! 

Where do these ideas come from? 

Maybe that is what happens to us when we grow up from a very young age in institutions? from spending most of our waking day in places where you are not loved by the people around you, and where you are actively prevented from acting lovingly in your daily life? (just look up all the news articles about children not being allowed to hold hands, or kiss or hug at school - and policies that enforce a rule that children need to be 20cm away from each other!). 

Maybe this is what happens when we grow up with many of our primary care-givers (the teachers, or before and after school supervisors who are with you for 6- 12 hours out of your waking day) being the dictators of our every thought, word and action.

 When you cannot think and act joyfully when you are joyful 

When you are not free to move around when you feel like moving

Or  eat when you are hungry

Talk when you are bursting with ideas and words! (yes, this would be me!!!)

Draw or paint when you are feeling wonderfully creative

or tend to your own personal needs whenever they arise...

 Or maybe it is what has happened to most of us, moving straight from the oppressive environment of school, to the oppressive environment (in many cases) of being a young (and older) employee in a workplace, where your time is not your own, and your thoughts and actions and life belongs to somebody else. As an adult, we are still chained by the requirement to be in a certain place, at a certain time. To act a certain way and perform certain duties, and have fun, or be free, at set, pre-determined times throughout the year.

And maybe this is not everybody's experience - but do you think that this is where these ideas come from? 

that life is hard is a hardship

...we need to harden up 

It is hard to think original thoughts when you are supposed to be, and act and think like everyone else. And it is hard to be your unique, shining, wonderful self when you are constantly assessed by your peers , your teachers, your parents and bosses against the standards of others.  It is hard to feel ok with being you and being happy as YOU when you have been scrutinised for a lifetime, both for your external appearance, your capabilities to achieve the exact things that people your age are supposed to be achieving, and your willingness to do as you are told, when you are told to do it.

No wonder so many of us feel that life is hard, and that children need to be prepared for this life of hardship.

But life does not have to be like that. 

YES, life can be hard. But what if we lived with purpose, and parented with purpose - the purpose to make life less hard for our children?! (now take a deep breath - this can be confronting). I know that sometimes we can give in to those little voices (the ones that have been trained by those around us for a very long time) that your children should experience the same things that you experienced. That life should not be a free ride. That you learnt discipline, and you learnt how to cope in stressful circumstances, and that your children should too. And maybe you don't consciously think like this - but sometimes, I think that most of us do.

What if our main purpose as parents was to facilitate our children in living joyfully? not just on the weekends, not just on our 5 weeks of annual family holidays, not just after 3pm, or 6pm when they are picked up from school or after school care, but all of the time. Every day?

For some of us, this is exactly how unschooling becomes. Because when you start to back slowly away from the school system - a system that you have always been taught is necessary and essential part of life, and you discover than miraculously - you can thrive without it then you may begin to question other things. If children do not have to go to school 6 hours a day to prepare for an adulthood that is pre-determined (school until 17, university until 22, job, children, mortgage, death) then maybe we do not have to take on work for 8 hours a day that we dread going to! If children are free to live joyfully, then maybe we are free to live joyfully! Maybe there is an alternative to the 9-5, or maybe we can be free to pursue things that we truly love? And if we are free to pursue things that we truly love, then perhaps others around us are worthy of that too. 

And suddenly homeschooling or unschooling doesn't only raise the questions of whether our children need to harden up for the real world, but questions about what the 'real world' is and how much we really are able to control in our lives and the way that we feel inside ourselves. 

If you are already homeschooling or unschooling I would really love to hear what unexpected things have happened in your life since starting this journey. Do you feel more free to pursue your own passions or have your experiences been different? x

Monday, 10 June 2013

Chocolate Nutella Army Cake

(we definitely needed a long title for this one because this cake is apparently the most AWESOME cake ever!) 

This invention is somewhat old - seeing that we baked it for Mr Minecrafter's birthday last year, however we did take cool pictures of it with the intention of sharing our how-to, and here it is in all of it's glory! 500 cakes (well not really, but it felt like it), a whole army scene set, LOADS of really junky, delicious, crumbly, melty chocolate stuff, and one really super massive board to load it all on to - because it definitely could not fit into a cake mould or baking tray! 


(and you are going to want to read this ahead of time, trust me! Don't ignore this warning like you would when you go to jump an electric fence or something, this shiz is real - so listen up!) ** just kidding about the electric fence. If you see a sign 'Do not jump this fence' then don't try to jump it.

Do not make this cake ahead of time! 

I repeat. Do not make this cake ahead of time, unless you have an industrial fridge or something really massive to keep it in. Make no mistake, this cake is BIG and if you need to refrigerate or transport it, you probably need to think about that in advance!


Assemble lots of yummy ingredients! 
  1. one very big chocolate cake,
  2. 12 chocolate muffins
  3. a big jar of Nutella
  4. loads of Maltesers (chocolate balls) 
  5. and family blocks of caramello chocolate.
We also crushed up packets of chocolate Oreo biscuits for 'dirt and ganache (that runny chocolatey, creamy stuff over on the bottom left hand corner). 



Envision a yummy, chocolatey world where little army guys don't actually go to war, but get to run around and jump in puddles of ganache and Nutella! They slosh through melted, delicious piles of caramel, Maltesers and chocolate biscuit... and climb chocolatey crumbly mountains of yumminess.

Then make some little mountains for your chocolate paradise! 


Start adding chocolate melted yumminess - more specifically Nutella and melted ganache. Let one of your little army guys out to play. (You can see by the size of the little person in the background, that this cake is MASSIVE!). 


Pile on the crumbly ingredients to make it look like a rocky landscape - add more excitable little army guys!


congratulate yourself for being totally awesome!!!