As a teacher, I've spent years talking to parents about how to find the balance between homework, extracurricular activities, and having time to connect as a family. No parent wants to argue over homework after spending the day away from their child.
As a mom to two boys, ages 3 and 6 years old, I feel this struggle. My kids don't yet read on their own. I thought I'd have early readers because I'm a teacher, but it isn't the case. At home, I'm their mom, not their teacher.
Forcing my sons to practice isn't going to foster a love of reading. Sure, they want to snuggle while I read a story but they rarely want to spend that time identifying sounds or sight words.
I want to spend the 4-7 pm stretch, as harmoniously as possible. There is already enough conflict around washing hands, cleaning up, and bedtime bathroom routines that I'm unwilling to add more to the mix. Toss in the season of rough play they are in and I want to spend weekday evenings filling my kids buckets with active play and laughter. This is part of the reason we moved lakeside after all.
But I also want my boys to read. The earlier they can master language concepts and reading strategies the easier their academic life will be. Recently, I was introduced to the Ooka Island app. It's a research-based reading program focusing on phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension.
Since loading it onto our iPad, Matt and John have been requesting to play it several times a week. Ooka Island is a series of predictable games that my kids can independently manage as they move through the different sounds. The program is fun. Their superhero avatars climb a mountain, spelunk through a cave of sounds, and skateboard with tricks. Ooka Island feels active which appeals to my boys.
The program helps me understand more about what each of my kids needs to work on. When watching them play, I can tell that Matt needs practice identifying the alphabet when it's not a song and John would benefit from word chunking activities. Ooka Island also emails me regular reports.
While I often limit screen time during the school week, because I want the boys to be active after sitting most of the day, this is an app I'm willing to let them play regularly. In a few short weeks, they've made noticeable progress and our quality time together is not compromised.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post which is the first in a three-part series about the Ooka Island reading program. I'm honestly so impressed with the educational quality of this program.