asking questions

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Everything is Awesome!

If your kids are like mine, you’ve heard this phrase sung in your house no less than 50 times in the last month. With a son who owns no less than 60-70 Lego sets, I guess it was inevitable The Lego Movie would become a favorite at our house.

Not that it’s not a cute movie. It is. And, I’ll admit, the theme song has a pretty catchy tune as well.

But….. Have you really ever listened to some of the lyrics?

Side by side, you and I gonna win forever, let’s party forever

( And my personal favorite) Everything you see, or think or say is awesome

You know that moment when you go from brainlessly singing the lyrics of a song to actually thinking about them? Yeah. That happened with me a few weeks ago.

As I started to listen to the lyrics the kids were singing, I started to feel uncomfortable. At first I thought that was silly. It’s just a cute kids song, right? Why should it make me feel like something’s wrong?

It gradually came to me, linking together with something else that has been bothering me the past few months.

See, I believe in the core philosophies of unschooling- which is to say that I believe that if learning is not connected to a child’s life in a meaningful and purposeful way than that learning is not ever going to be deep, lasting, or have any impact on their lives.

And I wholeheartedly still believe in that.

But some assumptions, discussions and writings I’ve read or heard discussed regarding unschooling have been bothering me. Specifically the two ideas that everything a child does or enjoys carries the same level of learning weight, and that time spent say watching favorite TV shows is just as impactful or valuable as say learning how to write better.

I just can’t buy those ideas anymore.

I will not argue that you cannot learn valuable things on TV, even “fun” TV shows like Lego Chima or My Little Pony. I still believe that. But I don’t believe now that all things are equal.

If everything is “awesome,” just what does awesome mean anymore? If every kid is handed out a #1 trophy at their gymnastics showcase (something that happened to my kids this past winter), what value is placed on excellence and working hard?

In the end, I don’t think kids are fooled by that. When my son first saw his #1 trophy he was so excited- and then his face dropped when he looked over at the kids next to him and saw they all had #1 trophies instead.

“Why did they say I was a first place winner,” he asked me “when that wasn’t true, Mom?”

I’m all for rewarding kids for putting in hard work and effort. That alone deserves recognition. But why couldn’t those trophies simply have been blank? Why do so many adults seem to think kids need labels like #1, winner, or amazing on everything they do?

Also, is it just as valuable to spend 20 hours watching your favorite TV show or playing games on as it is to learn how to write better or read better or get better at learning how to create and follow a budget? Is is just as “awesome” to say you watched 3 seasons in a row of a TV series as it is to say you created your own video that you posted on YouTube?

These are questions I’ve been deeply considering lately. I’m not coming to you today with answers, but rather with bits and pieces of ideas to question, too.

 Before moving on a few disclaimers:

 I’m not saying that I disapprove of watching TV or playing video games. If you’ve read my posts long enough, especially my monthly learning wrap-ups, you can see that my kids spent a fair share of their time doing those things. And I agree that there are valuable lessons to learn through those medium, too.

And, before it’s brought up, I also think there are special circumstance where it’s valuable for people to spend long periods of time in more passive forms of activities. Sometimes it’s necessary for emotional reasons.

Now back to our discussion 🙂

What I’m struggling with lately is the imbalance of time spent in activities that have our kids consuming rather than producing.

And not just producing any old thing either. I’m talking about producing something of great value. But how is that something of value determined? Is it the same for everyone? I’m coming to believe that it’s not.

I think there are some universal similarities. For example, I think if you are providing something that enriches the lives of others there’s usually great value in that.

But isn’t someone who plays golf 20 hours a week because he is a professional golfer going to gain more value in producing a perfect swing than is spending 20 hours a week perfecting the perfect cake batter when he doesn’t  really like to bake?

Isn’t a child who wants to become an author going to gain more value from spending 30 hours a month working on writing a novel instead of spending 30 hours conducting chemistry experiments they have no interest in?

What you spend time producing is highly individualist. What you produce and create is going to be unique to you. To require people, especially children, to create or produce the same output as other children diminishes their uniqueness.

Yes, I do believe there is a certain set of skills most every child will need to be a successful adult regardless of what they choose to specialize in or contribute to the world, but the way they learn those things, how they do those things, and the time and place they do those things are also highly individualistic.

So back to my discomfort in a child who watches TV for 20 hours instead of producing or creating something of value – and value as defined as something that is unique and meaningful to that child- something that showcases their unique set of interests, talents and abilities.

What becomes of a person who spends far more time consuming than producing? When they come to the end of their lives, who will be more content, someone who has consumed many things, or someone who has contributed much to the world?

One of the lyrics in The Lego Movie is : Everything is awesome when we’re living our dream.

 Is that always true?

I don’t think so. I think there is often times of great discouragement when we’re living our dreams. We want to give up because it’s hard to create something of excellence. It’s not always a fun and easy path to follow.

It’s a great disservice to tell our kids that everything will be awesome when they follow their dreams because when things get hard and it’s no longer fun, they will start to question whether dreams are even worth following.

The video games, endless texting and social media will look really good when they have to learn how to grow and strengthen their creativity muscles.

 These are a few ideas and questions I’ve been wrestling with lately. How do you feel about these ideas?


Photo Credit from Flicker by  Bill Toenjes 




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