In the interest of full disclosure, I thought I'd post about my family's radical unschooling journey with television.
I, personally, am not a tv watcher, though I do enjoy a couple of shows, Survivor being one I will admit. I was tv-free for ten years before we made the decision, together with our children, to bring cable into our home back in 2003.
When Em was little, we did restrict her "screen time" to under an hour a day or one movie, though she was so engaged, she didn't think much of it. When Sam came along, and I had three wee ones, all still in diapers, my mother-in-law purchased us a small tv/vcr combo for the living room that I will admit was an absolute godsend! She also single-handedly furnished our entire video library because she clearly (and good-naturedly) felt that her grandchildren were being seriously deprived of television culture.
So, the kids had many videos to choose from, ranging from Dora to Blues Clues to Bear in the Big Blue House. As I began later that year exploring homeschooling in earnest and discovering the wonder of unschooling, which seemed to fit our attachment lifestyle so beautifully, I simply began saying "yes" when the kids would ask to watch something, which still wasn't very often. We moved pretty seamlessly from limited screen time to the kids' free access to their video collection without them ever really noticing the transition.
When we decided to get cable, in large part for high-speed internet access, we simply continued that trajectory—saying yes when asked and transitioning seamlessly once again into unlimited television access. While we enjoyed having television and it enriched our lives in so many ways, I still somewhat resented the $40 extra it cost each month, and we began to look into ways to cut that price tag back, including exploring Verizon DSL over cable, ultimately deciding that we weren't ready to eliminate cable from our lives. Shortly after that, we moved and have continued to enjoy cable for the past year and a half in our new home.
This year, however, in a personal effort to simplify and trim expenditures where ever possible, I broached the subject of exchanging cable for Netflix again. To my surprise, this time my youngest child was completely on board, literally campaigning for the extra $40 a month! Jim, too, was on board with it (my boys are so motivated by their wallets!). The girls, however, were not as sure, and they took a few weeks to consider the option.
We are now officially cable free (though we do receive basic channels, which include PBS and the SciFi channel—how cool!) and very satisfied Netflix customers. The girls finally decided that they'd be willing to give a cable-free/Netflix-enriched life a try. As with everything, we all agreed that none of this was set in stone, that we could revisit and rework whenever.
The thing is, we're loving having more free time and being able to watch such a variety of movies and shows. Part of what spurred the kids' willingness to try this was the fact that we'd missed the whole first season of Avatar because they never really watched Nickelodeon. So, we purchased the first season on dvd as it was released and fell in love with the show. When we switched to watching season 2 on tv, the kids were irritated by the commercials. Then, when it switched from the first two hour-long intro shows to the half-hour show, OMG! all hell broke loose! The kids were devastated and infuriated all at once that their favorite show had just ended after only 20 minutes!
Now, with Netflix, although we're a season behind television and not all shows are available, there are loads of series' available, and the kids are loving being able to watch the whole season. More than that, they love the anticipation of movies on our queue and getting mail—mail is a really big thing.
So far, everyone is thrilled with our decision, thrilled that we have nearly $40 extra each month and thrilled with the selection of available dvds. We may change our minds, and we do really miss Dirty Jobs and Myth Busters, so there are are some downsides as with anything in life. But, for now, we're enjoying our Netflix romance and broadening our interests and activities.