Friday, November 30, 2012

Breaking it Down- Pre-reading

There are many things you can do to get a child ready to read. You have, of course heard that if the parents are readers the child will be also, and that if you read to your child daily he will be a reader. 

There is another step that I believe is proving to be even more important. Let’s practice it:
  1. Stretch out your hand. 
  2. Extend you thumb. 
  3. Now move your thumb up and down; one, two, one, two. 
That’s it. Now you are ready for the real thing. Pick up the remote to your television. Hold it out. Now push the on/off button until the picture disappears. There that wasn’t so hard was it?

TV is a passive activity. It requires no thought, no “brain muscles” to use. TV is to learning what an I.V. is to eating.

How many hours a day do you and your children watch TV? I used to say my oldest daughter and I didn’t watch that much until I sat down and counted the hours, yes, I said HOURS, per day that all those Sesame Streets, Barneys, and Mister Rogers added up to. I discovered we were watching as much as five to eight hours per day! 

I realized that that had to stop. The first morning I refused to turn the “boob tube” on my little girl hardly knew how to handle herself. She (three or four years old) was bored and confused. 

But within two weeks, her vocabulary had increased by at least twenty-five percent, and she was beginning to imagine the most interesting things. You know, PLAY (I have noticed that few children today really know how to play. They just sit around waiting for someone to entertain them. So sad). 

Even today if I let my children watch videos for awhile, (usually because they are sick) I can see a big difference in their behavior. They get bored with their toys easier, argue more, and complain and whine in general more often. When I remove the TV, within a week, they are playing together like best friends again, entertaining themselves and are quite active.

There is also the problem of what they would be doing if the TV was off. 100 years ago, children and parents didn’t have the electronic babysitter. Childhood meant a time to play outside, build tree houses, pretend, help work around the house, read, talk and think. These skills are fast disappearing from our society. We are letting Hollywood do them for us.

The TV is basically a selfish, lazy form of entertainment, almost drug like. No, very drug like. It is even addictive. You don’t have to think, talk to humans, or engage those brain muscles. We have become isolated in our own homes, among our own families.

In addition, even though the Bible declares many times that children are a blessing from God, our society has relegated them to nothing more than expensive pets at best. Think about it. What would be looked on as weirder and more irresponsible in most parts of our country, five 100 pound Great Danes, or five children?

Most children today are raised glued to “the Box” (Even in the car now!) and are never taught how to work around the house. Mom begins to feel like a slave doing most or all of the work while everyone else is entertained continually. 

The reason TV-less societies always have and still do think children are blessings is because thy are expected to help the family function, not just take from, but give to the household also. 

Rev. Pearl (To Train Up a Child) says “A child costs a family in work more than he gives during the first six years, should give as much as he takes during the next six, and should be an out and out blessing for the last six.” 

My thirteen year old cleans the bathrooms, helps clean the kitchen and dinning room, cares for her part of the girls room and puts up her own clothes. 
My ten year old cleans the yard, fixes lunch, takes out the trash, picks up the computer room, puts up his own clothes and cares for a third of the boy’s room. 
My seven year old rotates the laundry, picks up the living room, cares for his own clothes, and cares for a third of the boy’s room. 
My six year old gathers the dirty laundry, picks up the coat closet and hall way, puts up his own clothes, and cleans a third of the boy’s room. 
Even my four year old gathers the trash, picks up the kitchen floor, and puts up her own clothes (not always in the right place and certainly not folded, but close enough).

We all work together to clean the kitchen after every meal. My almost two year old surprised me the other day by perfectly folding the wash clothes!

These children are a blessing in my home, feel grown up and worth while, and are learning survival skills they have to learn eventually anyway. They know they are productive members of society already.

Do you think I would have been able to teach them in this kind of work ethic if I had had to compete with the TV? 

No, not likely. It is not selfish to expect your family to help do the work, it is the way God intended it. 

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from itProverbs 22:6 speaks not only of the spiritual and moral but also of the work ethic and cleanliness a civilized society expects. 

Most parents today seem to think their children should be “free” from responsibilities and restrictions during childhood and then at eighteen or twenty-two suddenly begin to show responsible adult behavior. 

It doesn’t work that way. 

Humans have to be taught how to deny their immediate gratification for their future happiness. They have to be taught how to work and enjoy a clean home. Though to be fair, if my children were in public school all day, plus the two hour bus drive they would have to take, plus two hours of homework per night, I would have a hard time making them do chores also.

By the way, most of what I have just said applies to computers and electronic games also. 

“But they need computer skills in our society!” you say. With today’s Windows and Apple computers, if you can read and follow directions you are computer functional. When they are in high school they can learn a little programming, read a few books on how to run the most common programs (like Word and Power Point) and take a keyboarding (used to be called typing) class. Turning the computer off now and concentrating on reading and direction following are the best things you can do to prepare them for a computerized future.

Update: The above passage was written in 2005 when most computer time a child could possibly do was play or "education" but in such a time wasteful method it wasn't worth it. Today, 2016, things have changed a bit. There are honest to goodness, good quality programs and classes available on the computer, even through smart phones. This makes a parent's job so much harder! And yet easier. 

Today you must decide the most efficient way for each child to learn each thing they need to learn- within your budget- and go with that method. For example, I now use a math curriculum that is entirely contained online; lesson videos, practice, speed drills, and records. This has greatly improved my children's instruction. We also pull up youtube any time there is a skill we need to learn. And Kindle has saved my homeschool budget hundreds of dollars!

But we still need to keep in mind our children's needs for fresh air and sunshine, and the negative affects of too much screen time on eyesight and brain activity.  We need to keep an eye on our kids and make sure we keep things balanced.

You are the parent in your home. Your job is not to make your children “happy” but to prepare them for adulthood. You have the right, even the responsibility to expect them to obey you and help around the house. You can and should turn the electronics off and insist your children do something else (even “go outside and play.”) You don’t have to be a slave to modern culture. You don’t have to live the way the Joneses do. You can control, even forbid it in your home, (o.k. if your spouse disagrees you have to compromise, but during the day when you are the sole authority, you can insist on them being turned off. You will all go through a couple weeks of withdrawals, but take my word for it, it is worth it.

The next most important step to teaching reading is for you to read. 

Read for information, (Good start. You are reading this!), and read for pleasure. If you can, subscribe to the newspaper and/or a magazine or two. Go to the library and check out books on homeschooling, housecleaning, art, music, history, anything that catches YOUR interest. If your children see you reading often they will get the idea that reading is easy, pleasurable, and grownup.

If you find reading difficult and slow, you were probably taught to read with a “see-say” method. I’ll go into more detail on this later, but for now Google phonics programs (many online for free), or buy a book (such as Noah Webster’s Reading Handbook, Phonics Pathways, or Teaching Reading in 101 Easy Lessons)

Sometimes all you need is more practice reading. It is, after all, a learned skill, just like walking. The more you practice any skill the faster and better you get. You can look in the children’s section for something that catches your eye (I like the junior high horse stories and Hank the Cow Dog) and take it home to read. Do this frequently and you will find yourself reading easier and faster.

Next, read to your child. I recommend at least an hour a day. Don’t panic if you have a large family and just saw hours of your time disappear. You can read to all your children at the same time. I have each child pick one story before bedtime, I pick one story, and I keep a Bible (and hymnal) on hand. I read to all seven (now nine) children at the same time (total: about an hour.) 

No, my toddlers don’t understand what I’m reading to the older ones but they stretch their vocabulary while listening and they learn to sit still (not an easy skill sometimes), even though their interests aren’t being directly catered to.

Ideally you start these steps when your child is a newborn. But it is never too late. Tell your teens you are starting a new family tradition and have them pick a book or two to read from each night also. It will help their vocabulary and attention spans and teach them that there is a whole world out there that they haven’t even begun to learn about. Harry Potter might be a good place to start :-)

  • Turn your TV off.
  • Read for your own information and pleasure.
  • Read to your child.

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