By Katherine Horvath
About a month ago, I did something which shocked my husband and dismayed my children: I unplugged the television and told them that I didn't want it on anymore. I was tired of the non-stop stream of commercial advertisements seeping into my family's heads, tired of hearing my four-year old son pad down the steps in the morning only to proclaim, "I want to watch something, put a program on for me". But most of all, I wanted to begin teaching my son to read and write, and I had read that the best way to do so was by creating an atmosphere conducive to learning and literacy. Turn off the television, surround yourselves with all sorts of books, forget about the housework, and focus on the kids. This may sound deceptively simple, but when you have a husband who works sixty hours per week and have no family closer than a seven hour drive and are somehow supposed to manage the household, raise the kids, and take care of yourself in the meantime, the television becomes a necessary commodity. This was going to be a challenge.
I dug my heels in and braced myself for a battle of screaming, pleading, and begging- but rather than flat out forbidding the television I attempted to use diversion. Whenever George would ask to watch something, I would say, "Okay, but have you seen this book yet?" and then we would all snuggle up on the couch and read together, my twenty month old son planting himself in my lap and George next to me wrapping my one free arm around him. One book would lead to two and then ten, and by the time I finished reading both of the boys were in better moods and they didn't mind it when I had to get up to start the laundry or the dishes. They would sit on the floor and play happily with their toys, toys that had gone unnoticed for months had a new appeal now that the television was off.
As the days passed, I noticed a new sense of creativity in them, and found that they were pretending more. George's dinosaurs would all go to the movies together and Teddy would growl around the house like a lion. They seemed happier, and so was I. I was glad to have that noisy intruder gone and the kids were happy to have more of my attention. The dishes still managed to get cleaned and the laundry washed, dinner and personal showers are still a challenge, but turning off the television can't solve all of life's challenges.
Katherine Horvath is the mother of two boys, ages four and almost two. She recently began home schooling her oldest son, introducing him to letters and numbers, classical music and art. With one of her main goals being to teach him to read and write, she made the decision to turn off the television. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she has made thus far in her journey through motherhood.