"just a minute…I just want to see the good part." How many times have you heard that statement from your kids or something like it when you're trying to get them to do their homework or indeed anything else away from the TV. You did it too, didn't you? I know I did. If not, you're in a minority in the western world! If you don't hear it from your own kids you're in an extreme minority in today's ADD/ADHD generation.
Let's face it - over the last century as TV has become more and more of a fixture in the western household, kids have been less and less able to concentrate on anything that doesn't constantly grab and regrab their attention with new and improved gimmicks and methods. Schools have changed too in this time. But not nearly as quickly. The vast majority of schools still teach frontally - the kids sit at a desk while a teacher lectures. Even the most entertaining teachers (and what percentage of teachers has the kind of charisma the media does) still expect the child to contribute to the interchange by memorizing facts. They then assign the child to go home, sit at a desk and work on their own in a static textbook. Is it any wonder that parents wanting their kids to learn traditional school subjects feel in such desperate straits find the present situation so discouraging? The issue of TV has been debated by education experts and parents over the last half century. They've raised questions such as how one is supposed to fight such an enticing opponent, such a tempting brain drain as the television. As long as media stayed in the world of the movie theatre it provided an occasional distraction for kids on the weekend. But it would seem that the invention of the small silver screen sounded a death knell to education and brought with it many questions as to how to deal with this distracting enemy.
Indeed there are many questions to ask. But I believe that the initial questions are not those I've posed above. On the contrary I think those questions illustrate the kind of in the box thinking we should have started questioning from day one, or at least since the invention of the video recorder which allowed us to acquire programs for private watching at home. They're the kind of assumptions which keep the education system in the sorry state it's in. In school our teachers regularly taught us that when you assume you make an "Ass of U and Me." Yet aren't all the questions above based on an assumption? The assumption that just because television is more successful than teachers at engaging pupils' attention the fault is with the television's newfangled attention grabbing methods rather than with the outdated nature of those of the educational system? Wouldn't it make more sense to incorporate the methods that television uses to capture and hold kids' attention rather than to try and fight against it with old fashioned methods simply because "that's the way its always been done"? If you suggested to a school principal that they have their secretary send messages to the parents with smoke signals or homing pigeons they'll laugh at you or humor you like an idiot and explain that its far less efficient than using the phone. But frontal learning, which was never a natural way for children to learn (children probably make their greatest leaps of learning before they're 3 and yet how many of them do it by sitting at desks taking notes?!) is still widely used.
The chances that your kids' school principal is going to be convinced to change his methods are low. Even if they could be convinced there's so much red tape from the school board to the department of education that would have to approve each move that your grandchildren may well graduate before you see any movement. Your job and desire as a parent however isn't to change the world immediately but it IS to give your child all the advantages you can and the sooner the better. And as a parent who has been using TV for educational advantage for over a decade already with great success I want to help you learn to use TV as a useful took for expanding your children's knowledge base. My blog at tv teaches dot com is precisely dedicated to helping you turn what you've considered a foe into a friend and enabling you to use your television in order to teach your kids in a way that not only will they be receptive to but with material they'll be begging to watch full of information you'll be thrilled to have them absorb.
Think about it. Wouldn't it be great if instead of the tantrum your kid now throws when you try to get him to finish his snack already and go study about the US Midwest in the 19th century instead of watching his favorite program he's throwing tantrums when you tell him he has to stop watching his favorite program about the US Midwest in the 19th century. Sound surreal? My son does it - he just turned 9. How about a 3rd grader who creates on her own a lengthy powerpoint presentation on the periodic table - for fun and managed to convince her science teacher to let her deliver a lecture to her class. I've been there. I didn't understand much of it but people who do understand it and looked at it assured me that it was the real deal. Or how about having to deal with your kids arguments, not over whether Bratz or Pokemon is cooler but whether chemistry or physics is cooler. I've heard that conversation (and actually worsened it by throwing in the biology option) - between my 9 year old and 11 year old. Or how about a kid who's constantly asking to be given spelling bees and begs to be allowed to watch math programs? That's my almost 6 year old.
No, these kids aren't geeks - they all do karate, they collect stuffed animals, score winning soccer goals at school, play with beyblades with their preschool friends etc. but when they watch TV they watch the programming I decide to expose them to. What keeps them doing so isn't my ordering them to do so as a parent (though that's a part of it of course) but that I've spent over a decade researching the best, funnest, most effective educational television material for kids in every school subject and made sure to acquire it for my kids. And now, with the urging of friends who have followed my advice and have seen its results with both my kids and theirs, I blog about it so that I can help guide any concerned parents who are interested in turning their kids seeming liability - an ADD tv addiction - into an advantage.
I can hear the objections already.
"Your kids are exceptionally brilliant - great for you, but my kids aren't like that."
"I can't afford to buy lots and lots of programs"
"money's not a problem but who the heck has time to go research all the programs and decide what's good or what isn't - maybe you do but I don't!"
Well to begin with my kids are smart but not geniuses. They're near the top of their school classes in many subjects but not automatically at the top in most of them. What they do have however that many of their friends don't is a breadth of knowledge in a wide variety of subjects that go beyond the scope of what's being taught in class. It may not assure them of the automatic top grades but it does give them ideas to contribute on most subjects (which teachers like) and they feel comfortable with the subject as a whole. All this because they take it in in a manner they enjoy. As for buying lots of programs, many of these programs are still playing, either live or in syndicated form on stations you already have as part of your television package. Its been right there all along. You just may never have exposed them to it because you weren't aware of its existence. As for the programs that require purchase, many of them I can help you with at the site's resource center where I've collected the links to where the programs I review can be purchased (yes I get a tiny kickback if you buy through my link which is a very nice thank you but isn't meant to keep me in yachts). You don't have to rush out and purchase everything there of course! In fact to do so would be rather rash. Not everything will meet every child's needs agewise or subjectwise. You want to use my blog as a reference guide, safe within the knowledge that these are all shows which have what to offer educationally - but you're still going to want to choose what to use based on your knowledge of your own children. Between my reviews of the shows and your knowledge of your children's ages and weak points in school you can decide which programs are worth the investment in order to foster their love for that subject. Choose the subjects and shows you feel your child could use a boost in safe in the assurance that these are shows which have a track record of appealing to kids and buy only those programs your TV package doesn't include. In any case knowing these shows exist gives you information you didn't have before and since I've already done all the research for you all you need to do is decide what will help your kids specifically.
The school system isn't changing now and likely won't tomorrow. But you can decide to change your approach to expanding your kids education now and I want to help you. Because frankly the more kids out there watching programs that expand their minds rather than zombify them the happier we'll all be as a society.
If you feel you need more personal help with teaching your kids I'm also available for personal consultation at liverperson dot com under the name tvteaches. But at least start by visiting the site (and if you're so kind visiting my sponsors while you're there) and see how your TV can become the most useful learning tool you've ever used.
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