I originally posted this on my blog at homeschoolblogger, which I have not used in several years. I am going back now through the old content and moving that which I find useable. I read this particular post tonight, and thought to myself “Self, what a great idea. You’ve forgotten about this. We need to start doing this again.” So I am reposting this here. We are going to get back in this habit. I have done this a few times with the twins, but I’m thinking we need to go back to having this as a discipline – consistency is the key!
Several years ago, before my children could even truly read, I trained the oldest two in this regime: “Go get four books, find a spot on a couch or chair, and read until I tell you otherwise! The key to this training was practice and firm convictions. If I say go get four books, you are not in compliance until you have four books. If I say separate couches, you can’t all be on the same couch. If I say read until I tell you otherwise, and you get up after you finish 1 book; you are not in compliance. Since my children actually like to look through books; this was not a difficult training period frought with lots of strife. It took only a few weeks, and involved only one or two instances of punishment. The rewards have been immense!
First, the subsequent children have been trained by observation. When Momma says go get a book; we get to sit on the couch and read! It looks so fun; and pretty soon the two year old is joining right in. Whenever possible, one or both parents join in as well!
Second, when Mom and Dad need a few uninterrupted moments while they fix supper; the children have a controlled activity which they actually enjoy to keep them occupied. Since they are well trained in this activity, there is very little conflict. What typically happens in our home is this. Daddy has just arrived home from work and is helping Mommy get supper. While they work, Mom and Dad are also debriefing each other about the day. The children, who are super excited to have Daddy home and also anxious for supper, are all gathered at the kitchen table, talking to each other excitedly as they wait for attention and food. In response to Daddy’s naturally loud voice, they start getting louder and louder. Which causes Mom and Dad to get louder and louder. Finally, Mom or Dad says, “All right, we aren’t ready to have you at the table yet, why don’t you all go get some books and find a couch.” Since we have a fairly open floor plan, this works really well. If your couches are in Timbuctoo, you might have the children bring their books back to the table! Without interruption, supper is on the table within a few minutes, and children have time to share with Dad about their day — getting both the food and the attention they need and desire!
Third, it is a discipline (doing what you need to do whether you want to or not) which can come in response to rowdy children, bickering, or other aggravation — yet it is not a punishment. It is an enjoyable moment of down-time.
A few days ago I sent the children for their books and couches (no specifications), and upon making sure they were in compliance, found this:
What a joy to find them all together on one couch with no bickering! These are my oldest four children when I posted this entry almost five years ago.
And, here are my youngest two reading on the couch today.