If electronics are evil I am going straight to hell, and why my kids will (probably) never graduate

Not too long ago my brother wrote a great blog post called “Sociability” in which he talks about how a real community is one in which you know everyone but maybe don’t always like everything about them, and how that’s ok because to “like” something is overrated and ephemeral.  We ‘like’ things on Facebook.  We ‘unfriend’ people when they say something we don’t ‘like’.    We follow or unfollow someone on Twitter, mostly based on the 140 character blurbs they post.  Post something I disagree with and I just might ‘unfollow’ you.   We surround ourselves, for the most part, with people who share our views – we distance ourselves from any type of controversy or disagreement.  We have a hard time “agreeing to disagree” with someone who we consider a friend.   We take things too personally.

What, you might be asking yourself, does this have to do with the title of this post?

It has everything to do with it, because I am about to vent, and I know this could get me into trouble with some people who read my blog; they will disagree, maybe be insulted, maybe stop reading.  (Or post comments telling me what an awful insensitive person I am.  I hate that.)

So here’s my disclaimer:    NOTHING I AM ABOUT TO WRITE IS MEANT AS A PERSONAL ATTACK.   YOU AND I CAN DISAGREE AND STILL BE FRIENDS, OR ACQUAINTANCES.  WE CAN STILL SEE EACH OTHER AND WAVE, STILL ATTEND EVENTS AND NOT FEEL THE NEED TO AVOID MAKING EYE CONTACT.  WE PROBABLY AGREE ABOUT A LOT OF STUFF, EVEN IF WE DON’T AGREE ABOUT THIS.

So now that we’ve cleared that up…

I enjoy electronics.  My Nook, my laptop, my smartphone, my iPod….and even playing MarioKart on the Wii.    Streaming videos on Amazon?  You bet.  Happily avoiding the cost of hardcover new releases by downloading the ebook?   Absolutely.  Hooking my laptop up to our HD TV in order to watch stuff online through the TV? Best. Thing. Ever.  Don’t believe me?  Streaming Amazon videos of current TV shows have NO COMMERCIALS.  Need I say more?  Oh, and speaking of commercials – we love TIVO.  When we do watch shows on TV, we record them and speed through the commercials.  We pause live TV.  Whoops, looked away and missed the home run?  Back it up and watch it again.

I get so tired of hearing about “screen time”.   As in “Do you regulate your kids’ screen time?”   Hint:  The correct answer is “Of course we do!” followed by a complete rundown of exactly how little time your child is allowed to be online, in front of a TV or on a smartphone.    If you say, “No, not really,” people look shocked and then are quick to tell you that they DO regulate “screen time” followed by a complete rundown of exactly how little time their child is allowed to be online, in front of a TV or on a smartphone.

Abhorrence toward and/or restriction of electronic gadgets is the “it” topic of choice among many in the homeschooling/unschooling community (and probably elsewhere as well).   At the drop of a hat people will lecture you on the evils of Facebook, the mindlessness of Twitter and the fact that too much “screen time” will destroy creativity, health and motivation.  In a delicious ironic twist there are entire websites devoted almost exclusively to how we should all be less ‘plugged in’.

Hey, I love a beach vacation or mountain retreat with no WiFi as much as the next person, but I also enjoy my electronics.   The Nook goes with me wherever I travel.  It’s lighter than hauling around a bunch of paper & ink books.   When I got a smartphone my number one criteria was that it would sync anywhere in the world.  I can’t tell you how cool it is to get off a plane in London  and be able to dial locally & text for the price of a local call.

If electronics are the devil, my entire family has sold their souls to him.   So far none of us have turned into zombies or automatons incapable of creative thought or physical activity.  We have not burned all our books and do not spend all of our time watching crazy cat videos on YouTube.

Just sayin’.

Next up?  What is the deal with homeschool/unschool “graduation” ceremonies?  I don’t get them.  It just seems so counter to everything learning outside of school stands for.  A graduation ceremony in school is the symbol that you got all the right grades, did all the right things and are now being rewarded accordingly with a framed piece of paper while wearing a choir robe and a decidedly unflattering hat with a tassel that you get to move from one side of the cardboard square top to the other.  Oh and then at the end you get to throw it in the air.  Don’t even get me started on graduation ceremonies for grade-schoolers.  Or kindergartners.  Or pre-schoolers.    It’s like giving every kid on the losing team a trophy for “effort”.  It means nothing.

But you do it when you go to school.  Just like a million other little rituals and rites that supposedly add up to a well-rounded “education”.   As unschoolers, I would hope that after raising our kids as if school doesn’t exist (as much as possible), we would not suddenly feel the need to take part in the one ritual that is the pinnacle of school culture.  I mean, what is the point?  To say our kid ‘graduated’.  From what?  17 years of living and learning?  Ummm, I’m hoping that doesn’t end at 17.   Instead of a hollow graduation ceremony,  how about celebrating something that really matters, like your child’s first job, apprenticeship or business; maybe their first original song composition, the first article or book they publish, or even their first trip taken on their own?   For unschoolers, those things often happen long before they reach the age at which their peers graduate from high school.

And if you really need a rite of passage, how about a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?  What, you’re not Jewish?   No problem.  A non-Jewish Bar Mitzvah is no less random than an unschooling graduation ceremony.

So as it stands now, there will be no graduations in our house and lots of electronics.

And even so, you and I can still be friends.

About Amy

Amy Milstein was born and raised on a farm in Indiana, but after 20+ years considers herself a full-fledged New Yorker. She is married with two kids, who do not go to school but are instead life learners. This means they learn by living in the world (real life ) instead of hearing about it and simulating it in a classroom. With her family, Amy loves to travel, read, watch movies, write, sew, knit - the list is endless.
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2 Responses to If electronics are evil I am going straight to hell, and why my kids will (probably) never graduate

  1. Kim S. says:

    I’m particular with my electronics in the sense that I won’t allow them to be destroyed/abused….but I’m not picky about how much they are used. So no, my kids can’t chew on the DVDs , but they can watch them as much as they please. If the kids OD on screentime that’s kinda my sign that we might need a change of scenery so we go do something else fun. No need to demonize the electronics!

    When I graduated I did have the whole cap and gown thing….but only because it was important to my parents. And we were homeschoolers not unschoolers….but with my unschooled kids I don’t see a need for it unless the kids WANT something like that….of course I’d imagine any graduation that an unschooler could come up with would be pretty interesting….*ponders*

  2. miriam brougher says:

    I love electronics too!! Since I am now (semi) retired, I have found these wonderful electronic devices to be challenging and stimulating mentally. And I know none of the four of you have substituted all your electronics for real people time, nor have I. What sadly is missing are the local “watering holes” where we used to congregate. However, I have just returned from a short trip to the SW part of this state; a very small town. Their hang outs still exist. And they use electronics just like here. So at least here, urbanization has discouraged our little diners where we congregated.