8 May 2011

unschool monday :: control (part two), boundaries


Well what a big week of breakthroughs in our nest! I've posted several times before about big owlet and her love of the screen. How recently we removed all restrictions and let her go for it. Let her have a go at self regulating. The only restriction was that she didn't use the computer when others needed it. Well it worked in the sense that it removed responsibility from our shoulders... But it still wasn't doing her any favours. It seemed that her idea of what was an appropriate amount of time to spend in front of a screen varied drastically to ours. The fighting started to creep back in. Little owlet started missing her again. She became physical and aggressive when she wasn't watching. Time to try again. Take a different approach. One last try to win her back without coming over all authoritarian and killing the unschooling spirit behind what we do...


We talked to her about science. About reports and blog posts we'd been reading on kids and screen time. We talked about slowed metabolism and brain cells. We drew pictures of neurons and connecting brain patterns and talked about the screen's role in those at such a young age. She got it. We presented the science and a visual and finally we were speaking her language. She was able to describe how watching made her feel. We told her we thought she might need some help to set some healthy boundaries. She agreed. She told us what she thought was a fair amount of time to watch. Then we wrote it down. We agreed to an hour each day (she said every second day, but we thought it might be ambitious), and a family movie on the weekend. She was happy. So were we.


Next we talked about responsibility. We talked about our expectations for what the owlets do as part of the family. We asked them what they thought they should be responsible for. Then we wrote it down. What has happened since then has been a transformation. Harmony with owlets working towards a happier household, along with us. No more nagging. Or reminding or asking nicely... Just people contributing on their own terms. Responsible for their own stuff and happy to be. I'm stunned. The other morning we woke to owlets happily, harmoniously playing chess rather grunting at us from behind a screen... weird.


So often this unschooling journey astonishes me. We take leaps of faith with it, but always when we place our trust in our owlets hands, we are amazed. Rather than setting boundaries for them, we involve them in the process. Hear their voice and listen rather than muffling it. Support them in setting their own healthy boundaries. Not seeking to control them doesn't lead to chaos or lack of boundaries, or them doing their own thing at our expense, but rather harmony and respect. It's simple, really. And always leaves me smiling when I think "If only I'd approached this like I would with another adult...". So simple.


  1. Hi Lauren, thanks for sharing once again. I love reading about your approach to life, family and education. I don't have kids yet but have worked in the education setting and have been thinking a lot about alternatives to the mainstream.

    I've been wondering how the journey with big owlet would progress re: screen time and it has been so wonderful to be able to hear about it along the way, learn from what you are doing and also identify what rings true with me too.

    Thanks for keeping us posted. Enjoy this part of the journey!


  2. I also notice that when my oldest (almost 6 yrs) has been having a lot of screen time he becomes more aggressive than usual.

    I do love how the unschooling approach to life leads us as a family into learning, solving problems, and taking responsibility for our own lives :)

    It's always nice to hear about other family's journeys. Thanks for sharing :)

  3. I haven't found my perfect harmony with the whole screen thing, yet. I've just recently gone back to asking them to wait until after lunch to play video games. I feel like when they're active and physical in the morning they do better. Mostly I just try to get them out of the house though, so the screen's not such a temptation!

  4. Lauren, your stories of unschooling are always SO inspiring. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  5. Yes, yes, yes!! My daughter is exactly the same and we had to go through the same exact thing. Turns out, her passion, her love, her fascination, is not really the screen, but all about stories, characters, and well, imagination in general. Our challenge was to find a greater variety of ways to feed her passions, without the screen being the primary way. More reading, more audiostories, more pretend play, more dressup, drama classes, and more theatre plays, to name a few. She still loves her movies, and she chooses one every day as her screen time. Then she goes off with joy and delight of all the characters she just discovered :).
    I am new to your site, so happy to have found it. I would love to join you on Unschool Mondays, and I will try to post one today :).

  6. Lauren, I love the journey you take so mindfully with your children, and all together as a family. I love that you express yourself, your fears and hopes and dreams, to your family and listen when they express theirs. I love that you are so open. Everything you write here is everything I believe! And that makes me smile so BIG.

    I love this two-part series (or rather, this series in infinite parts, because we are always learning, always growing in our understanding, aren't we?). Thank you for your words, as always :)

  7. I love your approach to this problem! Brilliant!
    Also, some fun pictures with this post :)


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