Basically, she banned all computers, MP3 players, video game systems, cell phones, etc etc, for 6 months. And to kickstart the whole experiment, they went several weeks with no electricity at all. She figured that after weeks of old-fashioned living, simply getting electricity back would be excitement enough that not having all the electronic devices wouldn’t seem so bad in comparison.
And they had amazing results. The older kids adapted surprisingly easily, and the family found new time to spend together. The eldest son even found a talent for music which he’s now pursuing professionally. And even the youngest child, who had the hardest time with the experiment (even ‘running away’ to live with her father for a time) still saw a great improvement in her grades.
If you’ve read anything about Last Child in the Woods, or Nature Deficit Disorder, or anything about Waldorf philosophy, then you’re familiar with the whole idea of today’s culture being too ‘plugged in’ and not connected with our environment — both in terms of nature AND of the individuals around us.
Technology has its usefulness, of course. I wouldn’t be posting this right now if it weren’t for the incredible advances the internet has given us, for instance. But it can be too pervasive, too all-consuming. As the author put it, “Her girls had become mere accessories of their own social-networking profile, as if real life were simply a dress rehearsal (or more accurately, a photo op) for the next status update.” Brilliantly observed.
My eldest son is techno-addicted, no question. He’s pretty responsible about obeying the rules, no video games until his work is done, etc. But his free time is filled with video games, his new electronic music recorder, his video-camera, his MP3 player. His Gameboy until I permanently took that away some years ago. This isn’t all bad — he’s learning to make stop-motion movies with his video camera. He’s producing full multi-track original songs with his music recorder.
But he shows a level of obsession that is worrying. He sneaks his camera in bed at night. He makes video recordings of himself playing video games. He watches endless YouTube videos of other kids playing video games. When he engages in creative drawing or writing, it’s all centered around his video games — diagrams of new levels for Mario, inventing new Pokemon characters, designing LineRider tracks… Again, at least he’s being creative and wanting to invent new uses — maybe someday he’ll be a video game designer! — but the exclusion of nearly all other creative offerings is, well, pretty tragic if you ask me.
His Asperger’s likely plays a role in this. AS kids will hyperfocus on particular areas.
But still. Wouldn’t it be great to do what SHE did? Even just for a little while?
I would do a few things differently, of course. First of all, I love the “no electricity” introduction, but we probably would not do that for more than a week. And not COMPLETELY off the grid, either. Our beautiful, fresh, clear water comes from a well operated by an electric pump. With no electricity, we’d have to go to bottled water (or else install a hand pump, which I can’t see happening). Since the object of the exercise is to experience a morenatural living style, that would be a step in the wrong direction. So, the electricity stays on, the water pump stays on. The fridge and deep-freeze would also stay on. Part of our natural-living lifestyle involves lots of home preserving, and much of that is stored in our deep-freeze.
But the stove and the microwave could stay off. We’d live on raw foods, fresh foods, and barbecue (charcoal, of course). Maybe experiment with a solar oven! The TV would stay off, and the computers, obviously. The radio? Oh, that’s a hard one. But just for a week. It will be all the sweeter when the music comes back on, and in the meantime we’ll just make our own.
We’d invest in a wind-up alarm clock or two. Leave all the lights off, all the time. We’d run the vaccuum, though… that’s essential for my dust-allergic hubby. We might consider allowing the electric kettle as well… And our telephones are all electric as well.
And of course, for this to work at all, we would have to do it in the summer. No heat, dark after 5pm… doing it in the winter would just be daft. But in the summer? Quite doable. Just like camping… but at home.
After a week or so of that, we’d turn on the stove again, but leave the computers off. Maybe for another 2 weeks. I guess we’d have to start buying newspapers to keep up with important world events. I’d have to call people instead of emailing them — that’s hard, for an introvert like me!
Another potential obstacle — Many of my son’s school resources are online or on the computer. And yes, we “do school” in the summer, just on a pretty loose schedule. I’d have to print stuff out ahead of time, or just take a break from some of them. Intellego Unit Studies, for instance, ONLY work with an internet connection.
But it would be a most intriguing experiment, one we just might consider doing this summer…