The Screen-Free Quarantine – Day 21: The Day I Unplugged My Kid’s Education

The Screen-Free Quarantine - Day 21: The Day I Unplugged My Kid's Education

Today is the day I know things have really changed.

I know this because today is the day that I notified the Superintendent of Schools that I intend to pull my two children out of public school and homeschool them until school is back in session and there are real, in-person educators for them to learn from.

I’ve decided this for a variety of reasons, but primarily, on-screen learning is not THE BEST option for my children.  The light that computer screens emit is bad for their brains, and not only can it overstimulate their developing nervous systems, but it can also cause a delay in the development of their prefrontal cortex.

Extended screen time (our school says the online learning can be done in four hours, which in my opinion, is excessive for 10 and 11-year olds) can damage a child’s brain and delay neurological development.

Let that sink in a little bit.

I was going to quote sources that relay this, but I’ve mentioned the book Reset your Child’s Brain by Dr. Victora L. Dunckley before. It has an extensive reference section. Also, consider Assassination Generation by LT. Col. Dave Grossman. Both books make a more compelling argument against screen time for children than I ever can or will.

But what I do know (from my own personal experience in addition to these books) is that screen time can induce symptoms that mimic children who are perpetually in “survival mode.” This means that as a result of increasing levels of screen exposure, children can experience:

  • Blood flow shifts to more primitive (fight or flight) brain areas
  • Elevated Cortisol (stress hormone) Levels
  • Oxidative Stress (inflammation)
  • Disturbed Sleep
  • Cognitive Dysfunction: difficulty learning, poor memory, inattention
  • Poor Sense of time: children live in a here and now mentality, no sense of urgency
  • Impaired Social Interactions
  • Mood Dysregulation: irritability, tearfulness, depression, anger, mood swings

Does this sound like your home now that screen-based learning has been in effect for two weeks? I see it in my friends who are complaining of crying, overwhelmed, agitated and emotional kids.

I experienced most of these issues when my youngest son, Daniel, reacted negatively to screen exposure four years ago. We were spending hundreds of dollars a month in counseling trying to get to the bottom of his violent tantrums when we thought that it might be a great idea to remove his screens. This decision changed our lives. And at that time, I swore I would never look back.

We’ve worked so hard to structure our lives around healthy use of our time. Books. Physical activity. Family time. Art. Building. Games. Gardening. The list is extensive. Four years of investment in a lifestyle that increased my middle child’s reading scores by more than 1.2 grade levels in less than 6 months. Changes that harnessed my son’s turbulent emotions into little storms he could control on his own.  Changes that transformed our family into one that I want to be around, instead of one that I want to escape from. All while family members who didn’t make the same choice saw teens descending into depression, anxiety, and violence.

Because of that, I can never go back. As much as I love my school district. As much as I believe in the fact that the teachers and administrators are doing the best they can. As much as I worry that the education I will offer them will be substandard to what the experienced educators can give.

I cannot let them sit in front of a screen for most of the day, for two long months. Because I fear the children that will walk out of my house after this quarantine. And you should, too.

If not all children — but some children – are negatively affected by excessive screen exposure, and I know this to be true, what will your child’s in-person classroom look like next year? Will there be 5 more children in the classroom who can’t focus? Will there be 6 more kids on the playground with hair-trigger violent streaks? How many teens will be addicted to their cell phones after this crisis, who will then assault their mothers when they realize the source of the problem and try to take them away?

I am not imagining a future that is not already here. I can promise you, this is already happening in other people's homes, other people's schools…or maybe it is happening to you. It was happening to me.

So, what happens when ALL of the kids are exposed to these screens for the purpose of education? And then after school is over, as a reward, they are allowed to watch a movie, play a video game or chat online with friends? What happens when four hours balloons to six hours of screen exposure or more? What happens when the ones who are prone to the negative effects…the ones with ADHD, or Autism, or other underlying neurological disorders that were otherwise lying dormant, begin showing symptoms? What do we do then? Because I can tell you that it is a long road of deprivation and discipline to get to a place where you feel like your life is back to normal. And still, my affected son is more impulsive and emotional than my other two children. I have to monitor my own screens when he is around. I must keep even old, broken screens in the home hidden from him because if given the opportunity, he will find them, fix them and sneak them — all hours of the night. I must work to keep him engaged and entertained. Keep his mind working. And hope that as his brain develops, it will heal itself from the damage I caused by not knowing. Damage done by my own ignorance.

I worry about the schools that we are going to have when this is over. And I worry about the teachers that I love. What will our government do with the statistics that they’ve gained after two months of teaching our kids with simultaneously sedating and arousing effect of blue screens? With “success” data ready and waiting at their fingertips?

Will they reduce the number of educators, in favor of larger classrooms filled with kids gazing at screens? Maybe pay a monitor an hourly wage to ensure everyone does their assignments and plugs in the correct multiple-choice answers?

Teachers are expensive. Teachers salaries and benefits weigh heavy on the state’s annual budget. Imagine a world where they aren’t necessary. Imagine a school where monitors and supervisors act to manage the information, and the computers do all the teaching?

Am I going all Ray Bradbury on myself? I don’t think so. There aren’t that many things that stand between a completely online education and our kids. Except for us.

We are the parents, and we decide what is best for our kids. And I am here to tell you that a month or two in front of a screen, clicking buttons and learn-gaming themselves into a screen addiction is not what is best for them.

No thank you.

If you want to know how to Create a Mailchimp Newsletter, or Install a Battery on a 2012 Ford Focus, definitely go to YouTube. But don’t turn to videos to educate the most important investment of your lifetime.

I am a mother. My kids are my legacy. And I have TIME to teach them now. I’m home with them all day, every day. Why NOT teach them?

So, I hit send on the letter to the Superintendent of Schools and I shivered. Will they take us back when the school reopens? Will we want to go back?

These are the questions I ask myself.

I never wanted to be a homeschool mom. I am not an educator.

But I am a Mother. And I know what’s best for the kids I’ve been given. It doesn’t lie behind a screen and plug into a wall.  It has a binding, and hundreds of pages and can be shared over a table or bed or hammock outside. It can be expressed with a pencil on paper or shared through the spoken word. It can be memorized, recited and it’s best when served with a healthy dose of critical thinking.

It is education. And at least in my home, it is not dying.

 

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