I’m sorry for the silence. Last school year was, basically, a horrid failure for our kids. The move in and of itself was a hard adjustment, the change from regular school attendance to using an online school (and one with little to no assistance from their end) complete with setting their own schedule and being responsible for everything was too much for our kids all at once. So when issues began in this new school year, they needed swift and full attention and assistance. I have been consumed by parenting in these past weeks. Some of it has been more hands-on than I’ve ever needed to do before in regards to overseeing schooling. My friends who homeschool will scoff; but it was new to me. We have also encountered that odd and fully modern parental issue, the internet. Our kids have always had limits to technology. TV watching was always minimal, sadly for our children we did not own a video game console until the Wii (I liked the idea of them moving, not just sitting in front of the screen – the fact that you can cheat and simply wave the remote around was not initially apparent), we’ve researched and always used some form of parental controls for web browsing.
And then, last year, in preparation for our move, each kid got their own laptop. They are all doing school online, so it was more necessity than anything else. And then, as a going away surprise gift, our home church blessed them each with an iPod touch. Suddenly our kids had more access to the internet than they’d ever had before. We’ve taught them well, and have really not had concerns about them stumbling onto inappropriate stuff. But also with our move the dynamics of their friendships changed, and they were using Facetime and Skype to show off their new rooms, or simply to hang out with friends and see each other still. They are texting from their iPods to their friends’ phones, for free. Yeah, that one is pretty cool. In short, they are using the many social connection means at our disposal these days, but much more often than in the past. While also making up for missing a lot of schooling last year. Yeah, it did not make a great combination. We’ve had to really look at how much time all of us, as a family, are spending online. Sure, we’re lonely, we miss friends. But is it a wise use of our time to spend hours on Facebook, waiting for someone to comment on our post so we can feel, for a few minutes at least, connected? We’ve had to make, again, new media rules for our house. (Yes, again, we’re horrible at starting something strong, then petering out. Working on that. ;-)) And after many various attempts at helping one family member better handle school online, we had to use those controls we’ve always had but have so infrequently needed to exercise, and block all websites except for school. We hated to take that step, especially for any of our kids, as they so miss their friends, and it felt like putting them into solitary confinement or something. But despite the tears and initial drama, it actually worked really well, and relatively quickly. It was a wake up call. School is important. Mom and Dad meant what they said. Stuff like that. We’ve left many websites blocked, but the connection to friends was able to be opened back up in just a few days. But yeah, all of this has been consuming, and exhausting, really. We’ve done a lot of praying. I’ve spent lots of hours re-reading some favorite parenting books, and searching for advice online. I know each family is unique, and no simple answer can work for each family. But I really wished I had been able to find something about internet use and kids living overseas. I searched missionary websites, and expat communities. I found very little.
Because while I was dealing with all these issues, I came back over and over to the fact that for our kids, being able to text their friends, to Skype with them, that is their only lifeline in many cases. It’s not as simple as taking away the iPod or the cell phone until the grades improve, as has happened to many of my kids’ friends periodically. Those kids still go to school and see their friends each day, or can hop the fence and talk face to face. And we can’t cut out all internet except for weekends or something, they have to get school done. So our option is the time consuming one of blocking individual websites, or allowing only certain websites. And grounding our kids is totally out too, they don’t go anywhere! What little time they are spending with other kids needs to be encouraged right now, not taken away. So basically, we’ve been struggling in this deep end of teen parenting in a situation where all the rules we’ve known have changed. But, our struggling student is improving. Attitudes are improving about the new ‘No Internet Mornings’. And I’ve been praying for our kids more often, something that is never a bad thing.
Hope to share more, and more often, in the coming days and weeks. Stuff is happening. But that is for another blog.