by Alison Hendricks
When I find myself confronted with an education or curriculum question, I often find myself asking, What would Charlotte say? As my children grow and develop and care more about their peers and the outer world in general, the discussion of media and technology is forefront in their minds, especially my boys. You are unlikely to find the latest child-centered gadget or gizmo in our home. The television is seldom on while children are awake. Our children’s DVD selection is slim. I am happy this way…and I’m also a hypocrite. I have an iPhone full of apps, I am typing away on my Mac, I read Charlotte on a Kindle, my husband and I love watching the History Channel together and I use the internet to do nearly ALL of our non-grocery shopping. Why the discrepancy? I fear that if I let my children satisfy all of their technology cravings, they will grow up to be introverted, overweight and unable to develop a desire to do more than find the easiest way to instant gratification. Or worse, that they will become prey for the Enemy. The lightning-fast pace of technology development means that although pre-mommyhood I was a technology curriculum specialist for my local school district, I often feel woefully behind the times. Our current society revolves with technology and it is the defining item of our age. While it may not be entirely our zeitgeist, it makes up a great portion or has a great influence on our zeitgeist. (Leslie Laurio says that this word “zeitgeist comes from two words that translate spirit and time; zeitgeist means the general spirit or feeling of the current age we live in.”). So, where our children are concerned, it begs the question: What would Charlotte say?
We entirely agree that no one can escape the influence of this Zeitgeist, and that the Zeitgeist is, in fact, one of the most powerful of the occult educational influences, and one which parents and all who have the training of children will do well to reckon with in the adjustment of their work. Nature, family, social intercourse, this Zeitgeist, the Church and the State, thus Professor Rein, as interpreting Herbart, sums up the schoolmasters under whose influences every child grows up; a suggestive enumeration we should do well to consider. Vol. 3, pg. 94
And when speaking of her own theory of education she says:
Such a theory of education, which need not be careful to call itself a system of psychology, must be in harmony with the thought movements of the age; must regard education, not as a shut off compartment, but as being as much a part of life as birth or growth, marriage or work; and it must leave the pupil attached to the world at many points of contact. Preface to the Home Education Series
While I don’t necessarily live in harmony with our zeitgeist-influencer of technology, I do believe that we should at least have an awareness that regards current thought and reacts or conforms or reclaims as necessary. What would Ms. Mason think of modern technology? I think she would not expect us to hide our heads in the sand, or cut our young image-bearers off from the current thought of our age, but to learn it, use it and encourage the reclaiming of this arena for Christ! But will my technology and media illiterate children be able to accomplish this task? Of course not. Therefore, I have a responsibility to ensure that this domain becomes a part of our great feast of ideas. Here is the moment that I begin to cower, cringe and procrastinate.
There is just SO much bathwater with this baby that it is often easier to throw it all out than muck through finding the best of the best. Therefore, I sat down to write this blog series as a way to make myself accountable for including the best technology/media into my children’s feast. Hopefully, in the process, it will help some others wade through the torrential flood and find some real gems that lend themselves beautifully to a Mason-based curriculum.
I’m going to lay down a few ground rules for myself. First, screen time (defined as any time in front of any screen) is not good for children under the age of two, period. So, I will not be reviewing anything for that age group. Second, I have found little intrinsic value in video games. Call me biased, call me old-fashioned but I believe they are a poor (I’ll not say cheap because they’re not!) substitute for actual play, exploration and discovery. I believe Charlotte would have said, “Go outside and play!” The current Wii-type gaming systems may be a step in the right direction, but I still believe they can never replace actual fresh air and sunshine. Even the so-called learning games are so abstract in nature that the benefit that is gleaned from them is fleeting in these concrete young brains. So, I won’t be reviewing video games or gaming systems. However, I know that many will not agree with me on this and likely have lovely examples of exceptions to my blanket statements. Perhaps one of those folks can write an article on the subject. Third, I believe Scripture is very clear when it says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV) and, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” Ephesians 2:2 (KJV). If we allow our children to let the prince of the power of the air take all their thoughts captive, we are setting them up for failure in the Christian life and opening them up to be prey of the Enemy. So, I will be careful where technology is concerned to err on the side of caution. I will pay close attention to the effects of it on my children’s spirits, characters and dispositions and be quick to end a “relationship” with a device in favor of real Relationship with their Lord, family and friends.
Coming soon: Part II- Book Media