He said that growing up in a small town, Ruidoso, New Mexico, he remembers that “the snow days were the best days.”
The reason for this is that, as frequently happened early on when they lived in Ruidoso, in the winter time when there would be a snow day, often the electricity to the town would also be cut off. This meant that, even through most everyone had four wheel drive vehicles and could have (if they had really wanted to) still driven to school or to work, usually people didn’t. They stayed at home, gathered around the fire, went outside and built snowmen together, and generally had “low tech” fellowship together.
I am convinced that in my own life, and probably in the lives of others in this hectic, ridiculously busy and rushed 21st century world in which we live, I need a snow day with my family more often. Even if snow is not involved, here is what I think declaring “a personal snow day” entails:
– Staying at home or at least away from work or school all day
– Not watching TV, using a computer, or really anything that involves electronics, technology, or even electricity except cooking or using the home heater, air conditioner, and hot water heater
– Spending time alone and with family members in unstructured, unplanned activities. These may include playing games, reading, going on a walk, going to the park, going for a bike ride, sitting in the backyard drinking some lemonade or tea, playing with the dogs, building a snowman or going sledding (if there actually is snow present on this declared “snow day,”) gathering around the family fireplace, sitting on the front porch and watching the kids play, etc.
I like using the language of “taking a personal snow day” or “taking a family snow day” for this concept. I have heard and read others mention the need to “unplug” periodically as a healthy and needed activity in two different places recently:
– During the satellite conference I participated in last week, in comments made by Dr Richard Swenson (author of one of my favorite books, Margin: Restoring Balance to Overloaded Lives
– In a wonderful and thought provoking report released in December 2004 by the Alliance for Childhood , entitled “Tech Tonic: Towards A New Literacy Of Technology” (PDF file).
In the “Tech Tonic” report on page 12 of the PDF file (which in total is over 100 pages long), the contributors to the report “call on parents, educators, and policymakers to make seven key reforms to foster a new approach to technology literacy.” Among these, number five is to “Declare one day a week an electronic entertainment-free zone.”
Declaring a personal/family “snow day” as I have defined it above would certainly be in the spirit of this Alliance for Childhood report recommendation. I think one of the reasons I and the other members of my family enjoy going on camping trips so much relates directly to our human need to “unplug” and experience the simple joys that come from “snow days.”
In his book on “Margin” as well as in the recent teleconference I attended, Dr Richard Swenson encourages each one of us to unplug (literally) from the electronic devices to which we often enslave ourselves (cell phones and beepers are definitely included, as is even the land-land telephone) to reconnect with ourselves, each other, and our Creator. In his book, Dr Swenson talks about taking an evening each week with the family and “playing like we are living in the 1870s,” at least as far as most technologies go. I don’t think that needs to go so far as to not using indoor plumbing, he is not advocating (nor am I) an extremist move to an entirely Amish lifestyle– although their worldview certainly does provide good food for thought along these same lines. We can take small steps, however, which can be significant and impactful, to intentionally disconnect at times from the electronic/technological tethers which too often control and direct our lives, for the benefit of our mental and spiritual health.
Too often I think we fail to be intentional about the way we use cell phones and other electronic devices, so they end up controlling us. Technology devices should be tools that serve our priorities, not new masters to whom we consciously or unconsciously become slaves to. That is the essence of “the tail wagging the dog” when it comes to personal technology use.
The ten principles and seven recommendations of the Tech Tonic report are worth everyone’s thoughtful consideration, so I will quote them verbatim here (from the above linked PDF file on pages 11-12):
“Ten principles for developing a new and more socially conscious technology literacy:
1. Slow down: honor the developmental needs of children.
2. With adolescents, teach technology as social ethics in action, with technical skills in a supporting role.
3. Relationships with the real world come first.
4. Technology is not destiny; its design and use flow from human choices.
5. Choice implies limits?and the option to say ?no.?
6. Those affected by technological choices deserve a voice in making them.
7. Use tools and technologies with mindfulness.
8. To teach technology literacy, become technologically literate.
9. Honor the precautionary principle: When uncertain, err on the side of caution.
10. Respect the sacredness of life in all its diversity.
Seven key reforms to foster a new approach to technology literacy:
1. Make human relationships and a commitment to strong communities a top priority at home and at school.
2. Color childhood green to refocus education on children?s relationships with the rest of the living world.
3. Foster creativity every day, with time for the arts and play.
4. Put community-based research and action at the heart of the science and technology curriculum.
5. Declare one day a week an electronic entertainment?free zone.
6. End marketing aimed at children.
7. Shift spending from unproven high-tech products in the classroom to children?s unmet basic needs. “
So, when are you going to declare a personal/family snow day? 🙂
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