The Summer My Parents Turned Off the Computer

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29a)

Long-awaited summer had finally arrived!

My brothers and I, ages 9, 11, and 13, were thrilled to be finished with another year of homeschooling. The main thrill was that, instead of having only half an hour of computer time scheduled around our school assignments, we now had lots more free time—and we planned to spend most of it playing games on the computer!

Boy playing computer gameBefore that year, we’d played very few computer games. Since moving to a new house and setting up our first desktop computer for family use, we’d started playing more games, and we were quickly becoming addicted to the “Civil War Generals” battlefield game.

Joseph and I each spent half an hour practicing music each day, and we would often alternate that with our computer time (he would practice while I was on the computer, and then we would trade places). My computer time always seemed to go by much faster than my violin practicing!

Anyway, we were done with school and enjoying our new-found freedom. I probably mowed the lawn or worked in the garden that morning, but I spent the whole afternoon on the computer.

The same thing happened the next day. And the next…And the next…

Pretty soon, we started to resent working outside. I would do my chores quickly, but my only goal was to get back to the computer and continue my Civil War Generals campaign. I’m ashamed to say that anything (or anyone) that kept me away from my computer games started to make me irritated and crabby.

My parents finally decided that something needed to change, or we’d spend the rest of our summer (and maybe the rest of our lives) holed up in the dark closet glued to the computer screen.

They brought us all together in the living room. They said the computer was becoming too important and taking too much of our time, and that for at least several weeks, we would not be using the computer at all.

This news was a severe blow to our plans for the summer, leaving us sprawled on the couch in a state of withdrawal and disbelief.

Later on, Mama walked by and suggested we go outside. We couldn’t think of anything else to do, so we did.

It didn’t take long away from the computer for our creativity to start flowing again. Before that day was over, we were gathering wood, pipe, and bicycle parts to build a Civil War cannon. By the end of the summer, we’d recruited our friends, sewn our own uniforms, built our own gun replicas, and reenacted several Civil War battles in our field.

The cannon we made from scrap wood, pipe, and bicycle partsWe discovered a creek at the back edge of our property and built an entire civilization of miniature mud huts and tree houses around it. We built forts out of scrap wood. We helped Daddy dig and transplant trees all around the property (they’re all too big to move now!). We also learned to work much more cheerfully around the house again.

I am thankful, looking back on that summer, that my parents had the courage and the wisdom to say “no” to the computer and to channel our energy towards something more active and creative. Without their guidance, I probably would have wasted most of my summer.

Use Your Summer Wisely

We use computers for lots more things now than we did 14 years ago, but unplugging it for a while still might not be a bad idea, especially if you have little ones. This might make more time to do fun things together as a family— things like growing a garden, reading books together, taking a picnic to a park for an evening, or going on a family trip together.

Next week, I’ll share more ideas for encouraging your children’s creativity and handling computers and TV wisely. If you have an idea to share, please comment below. Let’s learn from each other!

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