The great thing about school, other than the education, is that for nine months of the year, children know where they are going and what they are doing!
Almost five years ago, when the summer hiatus began, my children looked at me, heads tilted to the side with an inquisitive look of, "What now?" While they were too young to be celebrating the last day of classes, they were old enough to ask if they had any plans for the day. I realized that this was a perfectly acceptable question -- who wouldn't want to know?
Before going to work the following morning, I delivered a one-page newsletter to my daughters. It included the day's activities, the date, and a weather forecast! I could have left it at that. I probably should have left it at that. Instead, every day, I started adding more content ranging from news articles to word games, and geography quizzes suitable for four-year-olds. After many late nights compiling all of my material, I was looking forward to September when my kids would no longer need the newsletter because they would be back to their school year routine!
Little did I know that when September came, my daughters would be so disgruntled at the absence of their newsletter. The logic: it simply was not fair that their subscription went on an indefinite vacation stop while a pink paper, in addition to some grey ones, continued to be delivered to the front door -- we were obviously living in a pre-iPad era! And so I began thinking about the news in the context of children.
It was evident to me that the photos that my children were seeing above the fold on newspapers strewn about the kitchen counter had an impact -- whether they were of a grief stricken girl after an earthquake in Pakistan or more recently, of people torching cars on the streets of Vancouver. The challenge then became to relay useful and educational news to children in an age-appropriate manner. And so, GoGoNews was born.
Throughout the school year, parents are time starved and kids are busy between their academic and extra curricular activities. But summertime is great for shifting gears and changing focus. With fewer commitments and less pressure, it's when we may have a little more time to have an interesting conversation as a family.
I found that through the content that I was sourcing and writing for GoGoNews, I was also having more interesting and challenging conversations with my children -- both serious and funny. A recent study conducted by the Dutch Programme Council for Educational Research based in Den Haag revealed that parents who engage their young children in serious conversations seem to boost their childrens' language proficiency.
As my children, now old enough to rejoice on the last day of classes, wind down the school year, we will most certainly be covering topics such as the outstanding performance of record slashing golfer Rory McIlroy and new laws about saggy pants worn on Texan buses. With the help of this week's content on GoGoNews, our dinner conversation may centre on the increase in food prices in China due to the floods. We will also most likely spend some time being enamored with a Toronto five-year-old who has created and illustrated a computer game!
It is possible that our conversation about Rory's magical day at the U.S. Open leads to a discussion about Northern Ireland. It is also possible that our conversation about China leads to a discussion about supply and demand. Regardless of the direction, it is more than likely that all of our conversations will foster curiosity and inspire my children to think about something they may not have otherwise and make this, the summer of inquiry.