Can you successfully unschool without unrestricted access to technology?
by Beverley Paine, Mar 2014
This interesting question is asked quite frequently on Unschool Australia (Facebook group).
My answer will depend upon the definition of technology. I'm going to assume you mean 'screen technology', that is, anything interactive with a computer chip and a screen.
When my children were young this question was posed as 'can you homeschool without a TV'. Some - many of us - battled with the whole addicted to TV thing. (I actually remember my mum complaining about me having my 'head in a book all the time' when I was a kid so it seems that the issue is much deeper than 'technology').
Of course you can unschool without the use of these technologies. Personal computers didn't exist (in Australi) when my daughter was born, arriving soon after. The expense of them meant she didn't use one until she was about 8. By then many of her peers were well and truly immersed in playing hand held games like Space Invaders and Tetris. A few owned computers. We got one soon after but because we only had solar generated power it could only be used an hour a day. It wasn't until she was in her teens that she had access for more than an hour a day to a computer.
Not having unfettered access to using information technology devices as children didn't translate into not being able to use them effectively as adults.
For the same power constraint reasons my children didn't enjoy unrestricted access to the television, video and DVD players.
I'm saying all this because the question asked if it was possible to unschool without unrestricted access to technology and the answer is definitely yes. It is possible, it can happen, and in our case, it did happen.
But that's not the issue. The issue that we all need to work through for ourselves, individually, and for our families, is do we value this technology, do we think integrating it in a small way right through to almost every aspect of our lives is important, okay, healthy, desirable? What our are fears? I think the only way to successfully answer this question is to expose our fears and work through them logically and rationally, drawing on evidence if we can, and then working out what will work to meet our individual and family needs.
Bottom line for me is if it is in the house and we as adults are using it, then our children need to use it too. They will want to. They are driven by a powerful need to learn how to be autonomous and independent and to copy what we do. My tiny granddaughter would rather play with the TV remote and the car keys than the replica colourful toys we've bought to amuse her. There's an important reason why: we play with the real keys and remotes, not toys.
If you don't want your children to want to use 'screen technology' don't use it yourself. If you value it for yourself - for whatever reason - assume that your children will value it too and want to learn how to use and use it for the same kind of reasons you do: as a tool for communication and for entertainment.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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