We are a tech heavy house. I often say that video games are our core curriculum and that’s not far off. YouTube is a daily event. To be fair, I think it’s helps that I’m a web geek and experienced my best auto-didactic learning by building websites as a teen from reading other peoples’ code. I also played a lot of video games and have a good understanding of the enjoyment and value that kids get from gaming.
When we started unschooling, I was influenced primarily by the bourgeois unschooling gurus that touted unlimited everything without question. If I could go back and start over, I probably would take a different path, but I’m here now and my family is happy so really, I have no regrets. From where we are now, though, I think my beliefs have changed enough that I can say publicly that balance is important in our days. I get very anxious if there’s too much of any one activity and I understand how easy it is to get lost in a day of Minecraft (I can play vanilla and mine for hours) or scroll endlessly on Instagram or YouTube. I also think it’s important for my body and my kids’ bodies to experience different inputs during the day. So along with YouTube and video games, we also go to the beach, jump on the trampoline, sometimes we even go for hikes. And I find that these are my happiest moments.
I think I derive so much joy from these moments because it’s free time: it’s free financially but also free from politics, free from capitalist influences, free from colonial culture – as much as one can be I suppose. The more reading and learning I do about how to disconnect from these violent and oppressive systems, the more I feel I’m drawn to the concept of rewilding. As an environmental concept, rewilding is an approach that believes that nature knows best and we can restore ecosystems by leaving them alone. On a cultural level though, I’m drawn to the idea of rewilding that Peter Michael Bauer explains:
“Rewilding means breaking free from captivity and ensuring the mechanisms that created this form of captivity and domestication go away forever… Rewilding is a beacon of hope and reconciliation because it is a roadmap for breaking free from captivity. It is a way through troubling times ahead, but only if it continues to mean breaking free from the ‘zoo’ of civilization, not pandering to it, no matter how ‘challenging’ it may seem to those with little imagination.”
In this sense, rewilding is about rejecting the capitalist prison. It is about finding alternative ways of living that are not destructive and harmful. Much like the environmental definition, it’s the belief that nature knows best and we need to adjust our lives to work alongside her rather than trying to control her. For me, it’s also about finding sources of joy and happiness outside of what are dictated by our culture: shopping, consuming, spending money, etc.
So bringing this back around (thanks for hanging in there), I believe now that helping my kids find sources of happiness outside of tech is an important part of my role as an unschooling parent. It’s part of our journey to decolonize. That balance is important to me, not only because it’s healthy for my children to get outside, but it’s important that they can experience the joy of rewilding; of natural joy. Obviously this doesn’t mean that I drag my kids outside when they’re deep in a game, or make them go on nature hikes (which they both hate). It means that we find ways to unplug that we all enjoy. Campfires. Swimming. Chopping firewood. Foraging for wild blackberries. Discovering waterfalls and caves. And then we try and schedule them in when it makes sense for all of us to enjoy together.
I will always be a big proponent for technology usage as a key ingredient to unschooling, and I don’t believe in restricting screen time. But I also think it’s important that my kids and I both learn ways to derive joy and happiness from the natural world around us as a tool for disconnecting from consumer-based capitalism and colonial culture.