Firecracker and I were driving around town a few days ago, when we had an interesting conversation. Firecracker was asking why we don't have a TV...or rather why we don't have a TV that you can watch TV on. We do own a tiny old TV...but no converter box. We don't subscribe to any kind of cable, so it is only good for watching our very limited supply of VHS movies.
Firecracker was trying to sell me on the idea that there are lots of education shows. She said, "But Mom! Super Why teaches you to read!" to which I responded, "Yes, but 'Super Why' doesn't teach you to read nearly as well as picking up a book and reading does."
There are a few things I've discovered about my kids...they love to pick up and look at books. Firecracker is good enough at reading now, that she can pick up many books and actually read them to herself. But as much as she likes books, she would pretty much never choose reading over watching TV if she was given the choice. TV is easier...you don't have to do any work, and it's more vibrant and faster paced. We just don't often give our kids the choice most of the time.
Back when Hubby was a full-time student, we had free cable that came with our apartment. We'd go through cycles...I'd let Firecracker watch a show or two each morning...you know the "good, educational" ones. She'd want to watch "just one more," and we'd end up with a lot of whining when it was time for the TV to go off and then whining and begging throughout the day for it to go back on. She'd be bored and the only thing she could think of to do was to watch TV. When we'd had enough of this, the TV would "break." She was too young to realize it had come unplugged from the wall. Guess what happened...after a day or so of her trying to turn on the TV and it not responding, the whining stopped and she was able to think of things to do again. Then the TV would stay off for a few weeks until in a moment of weakness I would plug it back in to entertain her while I got something done, and the cycle would start all over again.
I'm certainly not saying that TV is "bad" or this is the answer for everyone. And don't get me wrong...there are definitely days when I plop my kids down in front of a video so I can get something done or as a reward. I'm just offering it up as food for thought...life is possible without a TV, and it might not be as boring as you and your kids think.
I'm sure Firecracker would still be doing fine in school if we had a TV that "worked," but I highly doubt her reading would be as developed as it is right now. I also know that we have a lot more peace in our home without a lot of bickering and begging to watch more than the allotted amount of TV.
Are we the only ones who tell the cable salespeople who call that we're not interested in their "amazing deal" and wouldn't be, even if it were free?