Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Second-Best Thing about Controlling Screen Time

Finding What Works for Your Family

For every family I meet who limits and/or controls screen time I meet another one who doesn't. We are parenting in uncharted waters and doing what works best for our families. For my family, what works best is setting limits. My children are screen-free until Saturday morning when they watch cartoons for an hour.

The First-Best Thing

It hasn't always been that way. We used to use an iPad and watch TV on a daily basis. But when things began to deteriorate, I made a change that had remarkable and lasting positive effects on our lives.

The best thing: sleep. After three weeks of screen-free living, my son began sleeping long and uninterrupted, which was the first time ever in his five and a half years of life.

The Second-Best Thing

So what is the second-best thing? Binging on free piano lessons. My children and I have found a loophole in the screen-free rule. They can take piano lessons via The Hoffman Academy whenever they want and for as long as they want. And they do.

This is what you should know about The Hoffman Academy:

  • 160 Free Piano Lessons
  • Each lesson is between 10-20 minutes long, presented as a YouTube video. 
  • Mr. Hoffman teaches more than chopsticks. He presents a comprehensive curriculum that includes ear training, rhythm, sight reading, technique, improvisation, and music theory. (Now, I'm no expert but I am a critical consumer and this looks pretty freaking awesome to me.)
  • Each lessons ends with a 30-second comedy sketch that keeps young children coming back.
  • Each lesson has supplemental materials you can buy.

More than a Babysitter

I have to admit that I enjoy the peace and quiet that Saturday morning cartoons bring to the household. While the kids sit watching Octonauts or Pokemon, rapt, I enjoy a slow cup of coffee and conversation with my husband. It is almost as good as hiring a babysitter for date night and it is free.

But piano lessons with Mr. Hoffman is more than free babysitting. While I cook or have a little quiet time in the next room, the kids take turns sitting at the keyboard listening to Mr. Hoffman who is simultaneously entertaining and educating them. I hear them giggling, answering his questions, clapping rhythms, or playing notes. And with that work, I suspect they are experiencing and enjoying the whole-brain workout of playing a musical instrument.

Better than TV

It is the whole-brain work that makes piano lessons with Mr. Hoffman better than TV time or playing an iPad. For our family, the marked difference becomes obvious when my children step away from their piano lessons.

When they play on iPads or watch TV, they come off it like drug addicts, which is apparently not unique to my kids. In fact, the chaos that ensues immediately after watching an episode of Octonauts is not unlike what is described in research: they can't do anything on their own. As part of our Saturday morning routine, my husband and I plan to reconnect with the kids by reading books to them or playing a game with them to help them transition away from being mindlessly entertained by the TV into being independent human beings.

However, when they step away from the piano, they are entirely independent and often elaborating on what they learned. Sometimes they pretend to be Mr. Hoffman, sometimes they pretend to be his finger puppets. Last week, they used a metronome to define the speeds at which they raced around the back yard. And yesterday my son started writing music note "secret codes."

Maybe, Possibly, Perhaps...

Do you think that your children would ever binge on piano lessons? Maybe...with Mr. Hoffman.

Do you think your children could learn to play an instrument? Possibly...from Mr. Hoffman.

Do you think you are ready to accept my invitation to try? Perhaps... It is up to you.

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