I would not describe our family as an unplugged family. However, by today’s standards we are certainly not totally plugged-in. We tend to use technology more for work and less for play. By choice, we are behind when it comes to the latest and greatest technology gadgets. Our children do watch television but in limited amounts. We have one family television which we all share.
MacGyver has a Wii that he actually won in a raffle at church. But again, he only plays it on occasion. MacGyver saved-up for his own laptop and he uses this mostly for homeschool (and yes some Minecraft.) As parents, we have totally resisted buying our children hand held gaming devices. We’ve made these unplugged decisions for several reasons:
- We want our children to engage in active physical exercise.
- We want our children to be engaged with nature.
- We want our children to play, imagine, think, create, invent, problem solve and build.
- We want our children to communicate and build relationships with other children and adults.
- We want our children to negotiate life with other human beings rather than a thing.
But all good things must come to an end. Or do they? MacGyver began talking about the gaming devices other children play. We see them EVERYWHERE . . . at the store, dinning out, at family gatherings, at church . . . . We’ve discussed why our family chooses not to spend our money on such toys. He agreed with our reasoning and didn’t pursue it. But I was a kid once and I know what it is like to be the kid without. (Not that, that is always a bad thing!)
Here is our dilemma as parents . . . we don’t want to raise brain-dead robots but we also don’t want to raise our children in the Stone Age. After some research, I thought a Kindel might be our answer. MacGyver likes to read and is constantly researching facts about science, robots, animals, insects and reptiles.
I invited MacGyver to research the Kindel a bit with me. After his research, he decided he would save for his own Kindel. (Typically, we do not buy our children stuff. They save birthday money and chore money and make their own purchases.)
During the school year our days are quite full and technology time isn’t much of an issue. When the kiddos finish their homeschool day, they head out the back door to play and explore in our big back yard. They play outside EVERY day and can spend hours occupying themselves. MacGyver has a little DIY pond and a Backyard Science Center where they catch and observe creepy critters. In other words, they have very little need for the computer, Wii or the Kindel.
This summer was a different story. The sweltering 103 degree weather made it hard for the kiddos to spend their days playing outside. Suddenly, I was hearing, “Can I play on my Kindel? Can I play the Wii? Can I play Minecraft?” I felt like the Kindel games were becoming an obsession. And I was randomly giving my permission, “Yes, NO, maybe so.” I wasn’t tracking the tech time, I was simply granting my permission based on a gut feeling. NOT a good plan for a Mother!
Trading Reading Time for Technology Time
Then I had a brainstorm . . . MacGyver likes to play, create, invent, build and read; however, he was not choosing these activities because he was becoming addicted to technology. We sat down and had a little discussion about why his brain and body needed to be engaged in a variety of activities. (Activities he likes!) He agreed to a trading system: For every minute he read he earned one minute of technology time.
Trading Reading Time for Technology Time has been a HUGE Success!
Upon our discussion, MacGyver began reading. He read and read and read and read!
- He usually sets the timer for 20 – 30 minutes and reads.
- Most often he continues reading after the timer goes off. After all, he needs to read to the end of the chapter to find out what happens!
- Later in the day he lets me know he has 30 minutes of technology time and ask permission to use his Kindel or play Minecraft, etc.
- In the summer when it is VERY hot he reads several times a day.
But My Child Doesn’t Like to Read!
First, I would like to suggest The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease. I am paraphrasing here . . . As parents we make children do all kinds of things they don’t like. We make them eat their veggies, brush their teeth and clean their rooms. We make them do things that we know are good for them whether they like it or not.
But if I MAKE my child read, he won’t like reading!
Here is an ah-ha moment . . . Children who don’t read, don’t get better at reading. If they don’t get better at reading they will never like reading. Children who don’t like reading, are already NOT reading and I’m sure they won’t ever begin reading. So what is it hurting to make them read?
- Once upon a time, MacGyver struggled with learning to read!
- I suggest beginning by reading aloud to your child. (Yes, count this as reading time for technology time!)
- Move to partner reading. You read a page and then he reads a page.
- Slowly transition into independent reading time.
More Organization Details
How do you select what he reads?
- MacGyver makes all of his own reading selections.
- He reads chapter books and loads of nonfiction.
But my child will pick books that are too easy!
- A trip to the library and an introduction to a wide selection of books will be helpful.
- I Introduce books through book talks. I Sell them! I Make them sound fun and entertaining!
- Find books on a topic in which your child is interested.
- I also teach children how to make good book choices.
- At the beginning let your child make easy choices. 10 easy books in 20 minutes is better than NO reading!
How do you track his reading time?
- Straight up, MacGyver is a very honest kid! He CANNOT tell a lie.
- He sets the timer and tracks his own time.
- He also sets the timer when using technology and stops when the timer goes off.
- Mommy and Daddy reading aloud to him does not count.
My child cannot track his own time!
- In this case, I would set the timer and I would right down the time earned.
- When the screen time is used, I would set the timer and simply cross the time off the list.
- I like to keep things simple!
Life with Jeannine
Does your family limit screen time?
What strategies or systems to you use?
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