Technology

Yes, we’ve allowed our 13yr old to watch rated-R movies and adult television shows for years, and here’s why.

I’m angry. Why?! BECAUSE OUR KIDS ARE GETTING HURT AND ARE DYING! They’re killing themselves, killing each other, getting pregnant, getting raped and overdosing on drugs and alcohol! Sheltering them from the bad, instead of showing it, and it’s consequences, will not save them.

After hearing about a bill in the Virginia Senate earlier this week, I decided to explain why we let B watch some rated-R movies. I’ve received looks and comments from parents who disagree, disapprove, or were just plain shocked into silence, but the horrified look on their face told me exactly how they felt. I get it. There are plenty of things other parents allow/disallow their children to do that I don’t agree with and you have a right to disagree with me, as well. However, we feel we have damn good reasons. And since I don’t feel the need to get into a debate, nor defend myself, to the person who just stares in horror at me, I do have a platform right here.

First, let’s start with what inspired me to write this post. There is a bill, already passed by the Virginia State Senate and now waiting to be voted upon in the House, requiring “…K-to-12 teachers to notify parents of classroom materials with “sexually explicit content.” Parents could then “opt out” their children and request that the teacher provide an alternative assignment.” You can read the details, and find out how this bill came to be, in this Washington Post article. That got me thinking, again, about how some parents disapprove that the hubs and I do not shelter our son and sensor what he’s exposed to as much as they do. Then I found out this week that the 14 yr old daughter of an acquaintance killed herself and a 17 yr old OD’d on heroin.

If our children are blessed to live long, healthy lives, we will only have them under our roof and under our influence for the first quarter of that time. Our job is to ensure our son has the education and tools to take care of and protect himself when he leaves home. One of my personal goals has always been to make sure B won’t become a college freshmen brain-damaged or dead from alcohol poisoning. My son will know his mother was raped, will know all the different  scenarios of rape and will be taught to intervene on behalf of ladies who are not giving, or cannot give, consent.  The storytelling in movies can be great tools for learning about life. If we waited until B was the legal age to watch rated-R movies, 17, we’d have less a year to utilize these particular tools.

We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that by not allowing B to watch or read certain things, and only letting him visit the homes of friends who aren’t allow to watch or read certain things, that he would never be exposed to them. He’s bombarded by them all the time, in (phone/computer) and out (friends and strangers) of our house. I don’t want other kids “educating” our son based on something they saw, overhead, misinterpreted or made up to impress their friends.

Here’s a scenario that won’t happen in our home. B is forbidden to watch rated-R movies. While hanging with a friend, the friend tells B that last Saturday he couldn’t sleep, snuck down to the basement TV and watched a late-night, “soft-porn” show on cable. Or maybe this friend was searching the web for something harmless and a typo led him to something completely inappropriate and he told be, in detail, what he saw. Something that the friend described was confusing to B or he didn’t understand what a word meant, but he doesn’t want to look stupid to his friend, so he doesn’t ask questions. But he has questions. If he’s forbidden to see such things, and the friend hasn’t told his parents what he saw for a reason, what’s the likelihood that B’s going to come home and feel safe bringing his concerns to us? He doesn’t want to get in trouble. He doesn’t want me to tell his friend’s parents and get him in trouble, either. And he probably believes he’d get the standard answer of, “That’s not an appropriate discussion to have at your age.”

We talk, we discuss, we share real-life examples from our own experiences, we read biographies and we show him with TV and movies.

Movies are rated-R for several different reasons. Language – I’m a cusser. B has been raised hearing cuss words so they have no shock-and-awe value to him. I don’t take the Lord’s name in vain and neither does my son. But kids he hangs out with cuss. Kids your kid hangs out with cuss. And your and my kids cuss when they are not around us. My son knows what cuss and slang words mean and their context. He knows which ones are degrading and insults and are not to be used in joking conversations with friends nor talking about others. Now, do I wish my son didn’t cuss at all? Sure. But you need to know that your child is hearing and using bad language when he or she is not around you. Don’t you want your child educated on what those words actually mean? Don’t you think they’d be horrified to find out they or a friend was using a word casually to describe another person? It’s happened with my son. The difference is that my son feels safe and comfortable coming to his father and me to ask questions and ask for clarity. Does yours?

B knows how babies are made. However, we don’t show him movies that have people having sex in them. If we come upon a sex scene by surprise, we skip the scene. If B asks why, we calmly, nonchalantly tell him he doesn’t need to see that and continue on with the movie. We don’t freak out, turn off the TV, eject the DVD and get it back to the store ASAP. He’s involved in the storyline! We all want to know what happens next, how it ends. Skip the scene and move on and he’s so engrossed in the story and quickly forgets the skipped scene.

It’s easy to send the wrong message when labeling something “inappropriate” and I don’t want my child to feel he is inappropriate for thinking about/being curious about things. Sex is not inappropriate. God created our bodies to have sex, to receive pleasure from sex and to create life. My 13 yr old watching a couple having sex, or he himself having sex, is inappropriate. Alcohol is not inappropriate. Cooking with it and having a couple of drinks at the end of a hard day or with Christmas dinner is not inappropriate. A teenager getting drunk at a sleepover or an adult drinking and driving is inappropriate. Taking my prescription properly for a condition or disease is not inappropriate. My son taking my prescription and selling it on the playground, is. These are important distinctions that needs to be made to our children.

My son will not learn what he needs to know about alcohol if his only exposure to it is adults having a glass or two of wine with dinner. His first view of, or experience with, a drunk person or a party full of drunk people cannot be when he’s hundreds or thousands of miles away from us in college, because he won’t just run back to his dorm room, lock the door and call home or open his Bible. He needs to know what drunk looks like, acts like. And although there are movies that can scare him with the worse case scenarios, that still won’t empower him to deal with college. Why not start out with something a little lighter, a comedy movie about college, sororities, or fraternities. Just like we do with all movies we watch (because we’re homeschoolers) the remote would be in my hand to PAUSE the movie and ask him questions about what’s going on in this scene. What’s his take? How does he feel about it? Any characters acting how he would? Any characters acting how he would not? Why, or why not?  Lectures telling him alcohol is bad, illegal at his age, tastes terrible and will make him feel like shit the next day won’t mean a thing to him when he walks into a college party with underage drinkers who certainly look like their having a lot of fun.

And then there are the rated-R movies that are just plain enjoyable to watch and we’re OK with B watching them with us. The Wedding Ringer, Spy, The Heat, MI-5, Kingsmen, to name a few. Friends, family and complete strangers always compliment us on B’s behavior, maturity and inclusivity. He doesn’t go around cussing, making crude gestures nor hiding things from us. He has not been corrupted, ruined nor driven towards drugs, sex and alcohol merely by watching movies with his parents and having open, non-judgemental discussion about them.

The world is a big, scary place, people, if you aren’t completely informed about it. I was sheltered as a child and inexperienced & unprepared for college life. I was told and talked to about the bad things in this world. But I was never shown. The words used to describe the evils and pitfalls of this world were not enough to help me recognize them in person. Telling me what and who was bad did nothing to teach me what to do when I encountered them. I learned, the hard way, about the bad things that can go on at colleges and I suffered for years because of it.

My son will enter battle fully trained and fully armed. Will yours?

I wanted a sign.

5:25am  As instructed, the hubs got me up before leaving for work.  (Last night, while we were cleaning up after Bible circle, I said to the hubs, “Don’t forget to wake me up before you go to work tomorrow.”  He replied, “You mean…wake you up before I…go-go?”  “Yes,” I laughed. “Wake me up before you go-go!”)

5:34am  I sit down at the computer, pull up a particular site and have a credit card at the ready.  Registration for the Fall semester of amazing homeschool classes begins at 6:00am.  One of my friends described it so accurately yesterday: a shark feeding frenzy.  You have to be up and hope you are quick enough to get your kids into the classes they want.  Why?  Although there are a good number of companies and individuals who are catering to homeschoolers now, the majority of them offer core subjects (Math, Language Arts, Science), gym and tend to cater to the younger students (up to 3rd grade).

The place I am talking about definitely offers core subjects, but also electives in languages, art, music, cooking, computers, architecture, making this planet a better place, and so much more!  There is hands-on and interactive learning and live performances of historical characters by professions actors who work in museums.  These are not classes doing “school” at home; this is HOMEschool!  These are classes we’d want to create for our kids if we were subject matter experts and had the resources.  These are classes our kids beg to take, are so excited to get to and you know what?  There are no tests!  It is purely for the love of learning and advancing themselves in a topic they are passionate about!

5:56am  Had to refresh the registration page, just in case it went live early.  Classes are only once a week, but they happen to fall on a day that has other obligations for us, so it can be a hectic day.  Especially for this mama, who is an introvert and does not enjoy being around people.

5:59am  Be back soon…

6:00am  DAMMIT!  So many people trying to register, I can’t get on!

6:06am  I got to the registration page and managed to enter one class to my cart, but the other one won’t.  I’m just getting this swirly thing, telling me the computer is thinking…

6:12am  Still can’t get the 2nd class in my cart.  I’ve tried checking out with the one class so it is secured before it fills up, but I can’t get to my cart.  Their site is so overwhelmed with parents trying to register.  I’m messaging with a friend who is also trying.  She almost made me pee my pants with laughter when she references the “swirls of death”, taunting us, leaving us in limbo, wondering if we’ll ever get our kids in these classes!

6:33am  FINALLY got second class added to cart!  Trying to get into the cart to checkout now…

6:43am  CHECKED OUT, PAID AND CONFIRMATION EMAIL RECEIVED!!!!!!  If B wasn’t still asleep, I’d be whooping, doing a happy dance and singing the Hallelujah chorus!  I don’t know how people can work on the stock exchange floor day in and day out; this was so stressful!

You know, as I was hitting refresh, refresh, refresh, and getting the message, “error in connecting to server” over and over and over again, I kept wondering if maybe not getting into these classes was for the best.  I hate Wednesdays, mostly because of these classes. I started to hope that he didn’t get into the classes.  But as soon as that thought took seed, the website worked for me and I got both classes into my cart and was able to check out.  So I did.

Near the end of our Wednesday night Bible circle, before we break out dessert, we take turns telling our prayer requests and thanksgivings.  Last night, my thanksgiving was that yesterday was the last day of these classes I shlep B to every Wednesday, then rush home for flag football practices/games and then Bible circle.  I was thankful that this was the first Wednesday all school year that I did not think about drinking (or actually pour a drink) as soon as we got home!  The relief I felt that it was over!  Then the hubs mentioned that I had to be up at the crack of dawn this morning for Fall registration and one of the men in our circle asked me, “Then why do you do this?!  If it’s so stressful and it makes you want to drink, why?”

It was a very valid question with a very simple answer: for my son.  It’s not his fault that his mom is an introvert who wants to hermit all day.  I refuse to let my anxieties cripple his life and his opportunities.  There are certain subjects that I can’t teach him and I won’t hold back this child who loves the classes, the teachers and the other students there with him.

But I did put my foot down for this coming Fall.  We won’t be there all day.  He can’t take whatever classes he wants – one starting at 9am, another at 2pm and he’ll take some other classes in between or just play with the other kids.  I really wanted to be out of there by 2pm, but I would push it back to 3pm if it was an important class.  I was firm on that.  So, the last class I just registered him for ends at 3:30pm.  ;o)  He really wants to concentrate on his acting, so he’s taking back-to-back acting classes.  I’m OK with that.  We’ll only be there for 2.5 hours and I don’t have to pack lunch.  I have two friends there that I can talk to when I want to and who don’t mind if I go off by myself (I could have more friends, if I wanted to, but I choose not to socialize.)

7:47am  The registration website is down, due to “unprecedented traffic”.  I’m glad I got in when I did.  It was a sign.  :o)

Movie Wednesday

Last year, I told you about our Language Arts curriculum, Brave Writer’s The Arrow.  Today is Movie Wednesday, but we didn’t watch a movie.  We watched a show that aired on ABC last night – Countdown to the Oscars: 15 Movies That Changed American Cinema.  I saw the show on the guide several minutes after 10pm, turned on the TV and hit record.  When we watched it this morning, it only captured #14 through #1.  I’ve searched the internet and cannot find what #15 was, so if you saw the show, please let me know!  Anywho, watching this 54 minute show provided lessons in not only Language Arts, but also History (of our country and the movie industry), Civil Rights and Cinematography.  B wants to make movies when he grows up.  He really enjoys doing it now and this show gave great, historical insight.  In the future, we will watch almost all of these movies for the content and ingenuity they will lend to B’s education.

Language Arts

The Brave Writer Lifestyle teaches us the importance of word selection in stories, whether they are told in books or movies.  When you read a great line in a book, the delivery is yours, in your head.  The tone of a book B reads may come across completely differently when I read it.  With movies, you hear an actor in character saying an iconic line; see the expression and emotion on their face as it’s delivered.  How many lines from movies stick with us, do we use in our daily lives?  Lines from movies decades old, movies we’ve seen years ago, still stick with us and we want to make that impression on others when we write (or act). Every movie on last night’s show had lines like that.  This show also reminded us when it’s fitting to not use “proper” English; when the local and/or historical way of speaking should be used. See if you can tell from which movie these lines came:

  1. “Whuzzah happenin’, hot stuff?”
  2. “I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
  3. “STELLA!”
  4. “Well, when I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better.”
  5. “I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies!”

History

Ever movie is on this list because it made cinematic history.  The Production Codes were created in the 1930s to censor future movies after I’m No Angel was released.  The multi-plane camera was invented in order to bring the first, full-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, to the screen. Easy Rider was the 1st indy film that became a blockbuster.  2001: A Space Odyssey birthed the Sci-Fi genre.  Jaws showed us that the score of a movie can make a villain.

So many times during this show, we paused to discuss not only the what and why of a storyline, but also the filming.  The shower scene in Psycho was a great topic!

B: [Janet Leigh’s character] was ridiculous in the shower!  She just stood there and kept letting out short screams while the bad guy took forever to raise his knife.  She should have attacked him or knocked him over and run.
Me: She didn’t scream that long.  She gave one scream, and the director chose to play it over and over again, at different angles, to prepare the audience for what was about to happen.  Otherwise, the scene may have gone by before the audience could absorb it and they might have missed it.  (I hit play again and B listened to commentators on the show describe how Alfred Hitchcock reinvented fear in this movie.  Audiences had not seen anything like this before and it was so horrifying without even being gory.)
B: I get it!  No one was expecting a murderer.  No one was expecting that character.  The director had to give the audience a second to get what was about to happen so that they could get and be afraid of it as it happened.  Cool!

But these movies also taught us about our History.  In clips from The Birth of a Nation, B learned that KKK members not only dressed in white but also covered their horses.  Although Hattie McDaniel was nominated for, and won, an Oscar for Gone with the Wind, she was not allowed to sit at the same table with her cast mates.  She was segregated to her own table in the back.  We discussed the significance of a black man cast as the main character of a motion picture (Lillies of the Field) in 1962 and Sidney Poitier winning an oscar.  B watched Halle Berry’s emotional acceptance speech in 2001 with shock that a woman of color had not won best actress until the 21st century.  Easy Rider was created by, for and about the 60s generation.

Oh my goodness, I can go on and on about this show and the wonderful lessons we got from it today, but I have to stop and make dinner now.  I can’t wait to watch one of these films next Wednesday!

Using the App "Heads Up" by Ellen Degeneres in Our Homeschool Lessons

Ellen DeGeneres created this wonderful, free application called Heads Up!  It’s a guessing game you download onto iTunes or an Android.  You hold your device, i.e. iPad, facing away form you, and words or phrases will appear on the screen.  Your partner is looking at the screen and they have to get you to guess what’s there.  When you guess correctly, you tilt the screen forward to go to the next card; when you can’t get it or your partner can’t describe it, you tilt the screen back to pass.  You have a minute to guess as many as you can and the app keeps track of your score for you.

It’s like Charades and $100,000 Pyramid for the digital age (so dating myself!).  There are a number of categories called “decks” from which to choose – some are free and some are a one time fee of $0.99 – and there are decks for most ages.  It is so much fun!  We took it with us on our Thanksgiving trip to Boston and introduced it to my parents and my brother.  We were laughing so hard and yelling out our guesses so loud, we thought for sure the guests in the neighboring hotel rooms would call the front desk on us.

But it’s not just fun; there are great educational uses for this game, as well.  Anytime I can make a lesson into a game, I’ve got B’s attention.  With the clock running, B has to focus, read, recognize (do I know what that is or not?), make a decision whether to describe it or pass and figure out what to say or do to get me to guess correctly.  Those are a lot of skills to be working on at the same time!  With most decks, you have to use your words and/or sounds to describe things plus there is one deck where you cannot speak at all.

The only thing I dislike about this app, is that it uses the camera on your device to record video of the person acting out/describing what is on the screen.  You can choose to share this video with The Ellen Degeneres Show, your friends or not.  I am not interested in sharing with anyone and wish that I could turn this feature off.  So, I have covered the cameras on both sides of my device to prevent anything from showing up.  Because I don’t know what happens to those recordings if I don’t share.  Are they deleted?  Saved?  Who might be viewing them?

Although there are learning opportunities in any deck you choose,  I’m going to mention just four of them:

  1. “Animals Gone Wild” – B is an animal lover and huge fan of Wild Kratts.  He loves it when an animal he’s recently learned about shows up in the list.  And when there’s one he doesn’t know, he wants to research it and find out all he can about it.
  2. “Wish You Were Here” – This deck is a great Geography lesson.  It contains landmarks, bodies of waters, fun travel destinations, etc., from The Colosseum, to The Baltic Sea to Disney World.
  3. “Perfect Pairs” – This is a new deck to us and it’s a Language Arts lesson in alliteration.   It contains 2-word phrases that begin with the same letter.  We played it tonight and I could not complete the round after one of B’s clues had me laughing so hard.  He said, “Oh, oh!  This is something we can’t do when friends come over!”  It turns out, the phrase was “double dip”.  LOL
  4. “Build Your Own Deck” – This is the best one!  For $0.99, I just bought this deck tonight (you can buy as many as you want at $0.99/ea), named it “Fun with Homeschool” and started creating cards with things we’ve learned or are learning in homeschool.  Isn’t that AWESOME?!  I’ve added names of famous people, Math & Science terms, historical documents, etc.  I’m throwing it all into one deck because I’m frugal and not very organized, but you can buy and create decks about more specific topics if you want.
We don’t always use this app for lessons; plenty of times we just play for fun.  However, every time we play, we’re learning – about people, places, things and how to communicate with each other.

Why Had I Never Heard of Apple Camp Before?

Did you know that Apple retail stores offered a free movie making camp to kids ages 8 – 12 during the Summer??  Neither did I!  That is, until I saw a post about it in June on one of my favorite mommy blogs, Money Saving Mom.  I immediately clicked on the link in her post and was taken to a detailed description of the camp on Apple’s website.  I knew this was right up B’s alley.  Not only would he enjoy learning how to film, edit and add music to his own movies, it was free.  Something for both B and me.  :o)  I signed him right up for a Monday/Tuesday/Saturday session.

During attendance on day one of Apple Camp, the camp counselors took down shirt sizes and within a few minutes, each child had a free Apple Camp t-shirt.  On the front is a constellation of a clapperboard surrounded by musical note stars.  On the back are the words, “Make movie magic.”  They also received a lanyard and  “pass” with their name on it.  The kids watched an example of what they’ll learn to create in the camp then worked independently at their own station with an iPad and their headphones.  B was able to draw his movie’s storyboard and create his own score using Garage Band.  The counselors were very engaging with the kids and made learning fun.

While the kids learned how to make movies, we parents received our own Apple lesson.  Our counselor navigated us through the Accessibility options in Settings and answered questions/solved problems that we were having with any of our personal Apple products.  I learned a lot, myself.

Day one ended with a homework assignment – all kids needed to create approximately 2 – 5 minutes of film to bring into Day 2 of camp, where they would edit down to a movie of no more than 90 seconds.  B was armed with his storyboard and knew just what his movie was going to be about.  “The Epic Battle” was filmed outside later that afternoon, with the help of the boys from next store.  B calls them his, “little brothers from another mother”.  ;o)

Day two got off to a rocky start.  When we arrived, some of the campers form the previous session were still there, working on their projects, so B’s session did not exactly start on time.  Plus, the number of counselors was cut in half, due to customer assistance needs in the store.  There were a lot of kids who didn’t know what they were doing and patience was hard to come by with all that excitement and eagerness to start editing.  But the counselors made sure they instructed each child and the kids helped each other out, as well.  Everyone from B’s session was finished with their movie by the end of day two.

Day three of camp wasn’t until Saturday, “a whole four days away, Mom!” and B just knew it would never come.  Thankfully, he was able to pass some of that time by creating more movies at home.  We arrived at the Apple store Saturday around 8:45am, B wearing his camp shirt and lanyard, and were let in at 9am.  After the kids were seated around the viewing monitors and we parents were standing behind them, one of the counselor gave a short talk.  He said the employees had a great time with the kids and there were definitely some JJ Abrams and George Lucases among the campers.  I was surprised to hear that all the sessions at this Apple location had filled up in two days!  I will start scouring Apple’s website next year for registration info by June 1st to make sure B gets in again.  There is so much to do in iMovie and he was not able to absorb it all.  Another year of this camp will teach him even more.

Then, each kid was called up front to introduce their movie and we all watched.  These kids amazed me with their imaginations and what they were able to film in an afternoon.  After each movie, the creator was presented with a certificate of completion, four apple camp patches and the bracelet shown above which contains a thumb drive with his or her own movie on it!  B has worn it every day since camp and offers to show his movie to everyone who happens to have a device with a USB port on it.  LOL

Free Apple Camp gets an enthusiastic two thumbs up from this mom!

Your Period – Yes, There’s an App for That

A friend of mine and I and our kids spent the day together Monday. We visited a place that was an hour to an hour an a half away, the kids mostly entertained each other in the car and my friend and I got to talk during the ride. As it is with most women, there are no taboo topics and we eventually got on subject of our periods.  My friend told me about the period app she uses.  I had no idea one existed and never thought to go look for one.  Like most apps, she said there was a free version, that provided everything she needed, and a paid version with extra bells and whistles. You can input when it starts, stops, flow levels, pain levels, cravings, etc. And, once you start tracking your period in it, it will predict when your period will arrive for the next 12 months!  I went to the App Store and downloaded it right there in the car so I wouldn’t forget.  Later that night, I sat down with my wall calendar and entered into the app the start dates of my periods this year so far – that is the ones I remembered to mark on my calendar.

According to my calculations, my period was due this past Monday, the 15th; based on the info I’ve entered, however, this app tells me I was due Tuesday the 16th. Pa-tay-toe, pa-ta-doe. So late Tuesday morning, B and I are working on American History and we both here this musical, “TA-DA!” from somewhere in the house. :o/  B asked what it was and I had no idea. “You must have made a new noise on your phone and forgot you did it,” said B with a sigh. Obviously, the child has long suffered with my memory issues and knows better than me. ;o)

So I went looking for my phone and, sure enough, there was a push notification from the new app – “Your period is due today – yeah!”  Um. OK. I have lived with stage IV endometriosis for 30 years that has planted roots in my bladder, uterus and intestines, preventing doctors from removing it, causing excruciating pain during my periods and infertility.  But let’s go with “yeah!”  Twenty-four hours later, my period, strangely, still hadn’t come, so I hadn’t indicated anything within the app. My phone, therefore, emitted another musical sound. I can’t tell if the sound was more “Ta-Da?” Or “Um, hello?”, but it was probably thinking, “This rookie just needs a little reminder to check in with me and we’ll be just fine.”

This morning, that app meant business. Around 11am, the house was blasted with, “Dum, dum, DUUUUUUUUUM!!!”  I find my phone and it says, “Holy shit, you’ re three days late! Do you have ANY idea what this means?! This is NOT funny. If you’ve gotten your period already, for the love of God enter it into the app!!!”  OK, it didn’t really say that, but I felt that’s what it was saying, between the music, the push notification and the exclamation point. I wonder what tomorrow will bring – a big, red dot banging on the front door with a marching band and a pregnancy test?  😛

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