Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal

School-Family Partnership Series: Tackling Technology

This is the second in a series on school-family partnership. We’re seeking responses to the following question: “How can families support and continue the life-giving education their children receive daily at Clapham?” Clapham mother Sarah Cornwell responds to an interview question regarding tech-wise parenting in partnership with Clapham.

A common parental justification for allowing children more screen time than planned is that it offers a convenient reprieve amid the demands of everyday life.  You’re a mother with 7 children from ages 1 to 9. How have you managed to partner with Clapham by taking a mindful approach to screen use?

In navigating the world as a parent, I am a firm believer in Ecclesiastes 1:9: “There is nothing new under the sun.” One of the things that I love about Classical Education is that it takes the long view of history. Since Adam and Eve there have been parents, many of whom have raised 7 (or 8, or 9, or even 15) children without, what we would call, the modern conveniences. For much of human history, there wasn’t indoor plumbing and electricity, let alone smartphones, two-day shipping, and Disney+. It stands to reason, then, that as there have always been parents, there have always been children and, further, that children have always behaved like children. That is, they have always been imaginative, rambunctious, accident-prone, demanding, lovely little heathens. It is, therefore, not new that, from time to time, parents have needed to get the children “out of their hair” in order to effectively run the household. If there is anything new here, it is believing that we need screens to do that while maintaining our sanity. If that were the case, the human race would have lost its ever-loving mind millennia ago.

“Migrant Mother” by Dorthea Lange “Destitute pea pickers in California. Mother of seven children. Age thirty-two.”

I once read a book written by a daughter reflecting on her early twentieth-century childhood in Maine. Her mother used to put her and her siblings on the top shelf of the baker’s rack with books and a rope across their laps so Mother could do the daily baking. “Mischief managed,” as J.K. Rowling might put it. Did the children sometimes fuss? Probably. Did Mother ignore it? Probably. Did she still get her work done? She most certainly did.

Like most households, we don’t put our kids on shelves, but we do rope them in—so to speak—when it comes to technology. Ours is a looser rope than some households, tighter than others.

cornwell blog 23-2-1

We have particular things they are allowed to do, in particular places, for a particular amount of time. Our family owns a lot of timers. And outside of those scheduled instances, those devices stay in their places, inert. The kids don’t ask to watch or play them because it’s not the right time or place. We, as the parents, cut the rope to a particular length to both reign our kids in as well as provide a guideline that they can follow through to adulthood. That is our privilege as parents. The environment at Clapham is a natural extension of the home. It is a place with limits that allows the full shape of things to come into focus without distraction. It is a place with purpose that transcends the tyranny of the moment and sees itself on a continuum of all human history in a world that starts and ends with God.

For everything there is a season, as I remind myself during those days that can feel like years. I don’t feel like I am putting up with any more than the countless mothers who have come before me. In fact, with my modern appliances, access to medicine, delivered groceries, and a house with heat and clean running water, any other era would have assumed I’m the Queen of England or something pretty darn close. We have so many technological tools at our disposal and that can be a blessing when they are used as such. My dishwasher, laundry machine, vacuum cleaner, and indoor plumbing all have a particular role and function. And when that function is not needed, the tool is left in its place, inert. The same can be said for screens.

           As life-long learners and lovers of truth, we have the ability to orient ourselves within a long timeline of human existence. With that in mind, I do not believe we are living in a uniquely difficult time as parents. We are attempting to do what our foremothers and forefathers have done before us, which is to raise virtuous children who love and serve the Lord. The only difference is that we are doing this in an age when we have an abundance of time and energy, now that we no longer have to chop firewood to heat our homes, haul water, and live with an average life expectancy that is nearly half of what it is today. I am reminded of this when I help my children with their history narrations (how great is to not be living through The Black Death?!), or when we read good books like Little House in the Big Woods. Partnering with Clapham means believing in Veritas Pro Vita, and a truth I am continually reminded of is that though the world of the moment may say otherwise, I know I really don’t need a convenient reprieve from a life that is supremely blessed.

Cornwell Family

Sarah Cornwell is married to James and together they have seven children, the two eldest of which are at Clapham. Jamie, age 9, is in Class 4, and Thomas, age 8, is in Class 3. The others are at home with Mom who enjoys getting a few things done amid the chaos.

Sign up

Recent Posts