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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Has Television Robbed Your Kids of Free Time?

For the past few weeks, I've been babysitting my neighbor's children when they're not in school. One of the most striking differences I've noticed between public school students and homeschoolers, is the children's lack of free time.

Children who attend public schools are committed to an outside schedule from the hours of 8:15 to 3:45. After that, they have homework, special projects, sports practices, games and church activities. Weekends are filled with birthday parties and other outside commitments. The children have very little time to" just be".

On the other hand, some would likely say my children have too much free time. Formal lessons for my kindergartner and second grader take 1-2 hours per day, and scheduled activities outside of our home consume less than 5 hours per week. If there's one thing we have enough of, it's free time. I'll admit that I often feel pressure to fill that time with "something productive".

We're beginning our 4th day without television, and now that TV and video games are not an option, learning fills up the free space in my children's day. Instead of watching TV, asking me if they can watch TV, and wondering when they'll be able to watch again, my children are filling that space with productive activities.

The science and history books on our shelves are being read and enjoyed. Games are being played. Art is being created, and the piano is being practiced. Only my 2-year-old has shown signs of missing the television. Yesterday he grabbed my hand, walked me to the family room, pointed at the TV cabinet and gave me a look that asked, "What happened to that thing?"

This week, I realized that despite my commitment to leave unscheduled space in my children's day, I let TV and video games rob them of the time they needed to "just be". Because I now realize the value of that time, I'll be all the more vigilant about protecting it.

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Brenda said...

Oh your poor 2 year old! That's really funny that he noticed something being very different. Whenever my children walk into my parent's house, if the TV is NOT on (a rare event)--they look around like something is wrong. It just doesn't sound like Grandma and Grandpa's house without the constant noise of the TV on.

And that's why I love my TV cabinet from Wal-Mart, with doors that close. Out of sight, out of mind!

~*~The Family~*~ said...

We do really good with the t.v. watching, it is the video games that suck up a lot of my sons time. It is hard in the winter though when it is dark by 4:30 and so cold you think your lungs might freeze if your out too long. Now in the summer we will dial it way back and can easily be so busy there may be several days in a row that the t.v. isn't hardly watched. I say hardly because I have to feed my addiction to news shows.

New and Used Curriculum said...

Whether it is video games or TV, it is a problem that has to be addressed in a family with children, or by default it will get out of hand. It is easiest to start out with strict limits so that the children never get accustomed to a lot of on screen entertainment. I have had success with only allowing video games as a reward for getting everything done in homeschool and completing chores. The reward is 30 minutes of games. The children must sign in on a clipboard to "legally" receive their reward. They then set the timer for 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, they then sign out on the clipboard sheet. The clipboard system helps keep them from stopping the timer for an interruption and then forgetting to restart it, and then playing much longer that 30 minutes. The sign-in time confirms the overage when needed. It is sad that this kind of accountability is needed.

Well, good luck with your curtaining TV endeavors!

Carletta said...

That's a really good idea. Thank you for sharing!