In January, Leslie’s parents were told she probably would not finish the first-grade reading program by June. Now she is an avid reader and there is no doubt she will complete the reading requirements.
What made such a dramatic change in Leslie’s ability in less than three months? Her parents attribute it to bringing a needed balance to her day.
First of all, they met with the first-grade teacher and together they mapped out a reading program for home which would support the instruction at school. They set aside time each day to practice phonics, sight words, and comprehension.
But Leslie’s mother felt the greatest contribution to her daughter’s new enthusiasm for books was eliminating excessive TV viewing from her daily schedule. They moved the TV from the family room to the basement where it is relatively inconvenient to switch on. Then they developed a few thoughtful, consistent rules for TV viewing. “Now we all read more and watch TV half as much,” her mother says. Not only has Leslie benefited by her parents’ action, but also her two-year-old sister is being guided toward a more balanced day.
Much of a parent’s effort in raising children is spent in trying to provide the best balance of activities. For example, parents often adjust home activities in order to improve school performance. However, there is no special schedule a family can follow which guarantees an ideal day, since each child is unique and continually changing.
Identifying a child’s needs, as Leslie’s parents did, is one way to know what activities would bring better balance to the day. Another way is to listen to children and to take note of their comments, such as, “I’m bored!” How often do we brush aside such a complaint with a quick, “Find something to do.”
Instead, for example, we might ask ourselves: When was the last time we took an inventory of toys, extracted the out-grown ones and added a few new ones which correspond to their current interest and ability? Rotating the toys brings variety and new interest to playtime.
Also, are there plenty of materials available which promote a creative expression, such as paints, paper, clay, blocks, etc. – and are we giving the encouragement to use them? Is it time to invite some playmates over to balance the long periods of independent play? Have we spent enough time ourselves with the children?
These are the types of questions which probe into what activities may be lacking (like reading or associations with other children) and need to be increased. Likewise, these questions might reveal some activities like TV watching which are excessive and need to be decreased. The net result of this better balanced day should be a richer growing experience for the child.