Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Unplugged Schoolhouse

During the month of March, my homeschooled son and I have decided that our "one small change" will be to pull the plug on all electrical use during at least one school day per week.

For a while, my family has celebrated--albeit inconsistently--a weekly powerdown evening where (after the meal is prepared) we spend the rest of the evening together without using electricity. We light the table with beeswax candles, spend time together reading aloud and playing recorder trios and just talking, and go up to bed on the early side. I hope we will get back in the habit this month.

For our unplugged schoolhouse, however, the challenge will be a bit different. My son and I plan to turn off any lights as well as the laptop by 8:3O or 9 am, depending on when we wake up. Everything will stay off until 3:30 or 4. Although these are traditional school times for many children, most of that time is not actually "school" for us. Instead, it is time for music practice, free reading, yoga or running around outside, and other pursuits such as knitting or drawing or folding paper airplanes. (My son would add that his chore of taking out the compost also falls during this time.)

We're honestly fairly removed from a lot of plugged-in entertainment compared to many families, I guess.  We don't own a TV or some game system or anything like that. But significant amounts of our days disappear to the hungry soul of this laptop. We've fallen into the habit of using it as a teacher sometimes--especially enjoying things like Thinkwell and the free Hippocampus. My son loves to watch old Pink Panther cartoons and Buster Keaton movies--as well as Myth Busters--on Netflix instant-watch.  Not that these things are bad; they certainly aren't occasionally.  But too much always seems to leave us further removed from any real-life connection than I think either of us wants.

A powered-down homeschool day also forces us to get out the solar oven and cook in the sun at least one lunch a week.  On days that are very cloudy, we'll have cold sandwiches.

By not starting the day until 8:30, I can make a pot of tea for myself and encase it in my homemade recycled-sweater tea cozy to keep it warm for a while.  Cheating?  Maybe.  But a hot beverage seems to be the only way I can stand freezing our buns off this season.

We're allowing ourselves the liberty of deciding which day to celebrate the unplugged schoolhouse.  Mondays are our free day.  When we are home, it will be ideal.  But we do sometimes go on adventures in downtown DC on Mondays and would therefore be mooching off a museum's electrical supply.  On Tuesdays, my son has a piano lesson at home.  The room with our piano is one of the darker rooms in our house--and our deal is that if it is a cloudy day, it will be perfectly acceptable for my son and his piano teacher to turn on the light in that room during the lesson.  This Tuesday was our first day and although it was cloudy, neither bothered to turn on the lights when they walked in the room.  (The teacher has no idea about this game, by the way.)

Just like last month's small change of not eating out, this day of powerdown is not something I imagine keeping rigidly for the rest of our lives.  Instead, I hope that this month will get us in the habit of relying on ourselves rather than our devices--and making us more conscious of the role of electricity in our lives all the time.

Anyone want to join us?


Amy said...

A lovely idea. I really do want to join you in that I'd like to have a day or two away from the computer per week. I'm going to try to start with the weekends, or at least one of the weekend days and see how that goes.

Hip Mountain Mama said...

I love this and how creative you are with your changes! Sounds like such a peaceful life you live! :)
Feel free to stop by any time this month and let us know how it is going!

Hip Mountain Mama said...

Hey Mama! I hope you are having an awesome March so far!

Make sure to stop by the One Small Change blog to enter into our latest giveaway and see what the community is up to!

We also started a face book fan page which can be accessed from the blog! :)


kyce said...

Partly inspired by you, we've been doing an eco-shabbat lights out evening once a week, and it's been amazing. I try to limit computer time during the day, but think I'll join you anyways. Wouldn't it be amazing to take an unplugged week, or summer? Kyce


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