“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues” (Eddie Cochran)
Summertime. Remember how it used to feel. The days were long. The sun came up and you were out all day until the waning light at the end of the day. There were no teachers or parents bothering you. It was bliss.
Now, your child fantasizes about the summer too. Similarly, he sees his days as hassle free. The main difference is that the fantasy largely involves being in the basement (or wherever in the house) spending hours upon hours staring at Youtube on the iPad and playing Fortnite on the xBox. (Picture a basement filled with cotton candy with no restrictions on the devouring.)
While I am reflecting on the state of childhood as we approach summer, something that has stuck in my side that in some ways has nothing to do with summer, but somehow seem connected is the parade of kids I see who are unable to completely write their address, as well as their diminished sense of word awareness.
So, before your child goes off to his daily dose of summertime screen stupor, I offer two suggestions:
- Ask your child to write out his address. If he/she can’t do it fully (yes, including town and zip code count), then you need to carve out time and teach it to him and then he needs to practice it to mastery. The summer will be a great time for your child to practice the skill of writing his address.
- In terms of increasing your child’s word awareness, go to store like Barnes & Nobles (I know, “how quaint”) and browse around the education section. Look for books with titles such as “The 500 Essential Words Your Fifth Grader” (or whatever grade) Should Know.” Along with the exercises in the book, go way old school and have your child put 10 words a day on index cards (paper index cards that will go in a real box, not virtual ones). On the back side of the card, your child can write the definition and a simple drawn picture of the word. Practice these words with your child to the point of mastery so that he knows the word and definition automatically.
Yes, you will get a lot of whining and teeth-gnashing as you insist on your child doing these in a daily ritual.
So be it. Toughen your resolve. Your child should know where he lives and what represents a complete address. Vocabulary is the single best skill that can be developed to improve overall reading comprehension and writing skills, and will certainly add to your child’s cognitive development.
Yes, there are vocabulary “apps” and games that can be played and swiped on the iPad. Don’t go there. For one hour a day, before the child indulges himself with his screen cotton candy, set up the vocabulary/address practice hour.
If you don’t get decent attitude and motivation while engaging with these activities, then calmly put the iPad and the xBox controller in a locked safe (buy one if you don’t have one for symbolic purpose) – no yelling, no screaming, no punishing.
Just shrug and say, “It’s OK. We will try and again tomorrow. Hopefully, you’ll have a better attitude and you will have earned some of your screen time. Until then the screens stay in the safe.”
There is a seeming inevitability to the way your child will be indulging himself this summer. Beat back the indulgences by practicing a couple of essential life skills like knowing his address and increasing his vocabulary.