The idea of giving up television for two weeks might make some people a little crazy. Questions such as what will we do until bedtime or how will we entertain the kids would plague most families.
But not Scott and Tonya Marquez nor Ramona Gonzalez, all of Sunnyside.
The two young families recently took part in a two-week ban on television watching, just to see how their family would react.
"What we learned is that we really aren't a television family," said Tonya Marquez. The Marquez family and Gonzalez family were among the families to take part in "TV Turnoff Week."
The week was extended to two weeks for the Sunnyside families to see if they could kick the television habit.
The concept of TV Turnoff Week was established 10 years ago by the TV Turnoff Network, a non-profit group that encourages families to watch less television and spend more time together exercising, reading and talking to one another. According to research, 40 percent of American families have the TV on before sitting down to eat dinner and continue watching it through dinner. The turnoff event is designed to encourage families to have a meal together without television at least three or four times each week and hang out together, sharing the events in each other's lives.
"When we work with families that is one of the things we request in family counseling," said Jody McClellan, a family counselor with Lutheran Community Services of Yakima.
A local organizer of the TV Turnoff event, she said turning off the television doesn't mean tuning out the world.
She said a TV-free evening is a good chance for families to talk together about world events, rather than just watch them unfold on the TV. "It helps the youngsters to develop some of those critical thinking skills educators are hoping children will develop," she added.
The Marquez and Gonzalez families are among seven million American families who switched off their televisions for the temporary ban on TV.
With their busy schedules that include a near daily routine of work, school, as well as after school latchkey sessions, religious classes, dance lessons and soccer games and practices, the families found their evenings packed with more conversation and more meal times spent around the dinner table.
The Marquez family kept a small journal of their experiences.
"We did well on the first several days keeping track of every little activity. But soon we saw a pattern emerging," Marquez said.
Daily routines varied little from school programs and homework. The parents found themselves spending more time together.
"I found I didn't sit down until after the evening chores were all done and it was time for bed," said Tonya Marquez. "We got a lot done every day," she added.
Gonzalez, who is a single mother of three and a college student, said her daily schedule doesn't allow for much television watching.
"We're out of the house by 7:30 a.m. and sometimes don't get back home until after 7 p.m.," she said of her schedule.
"That doesn't leave much time to sit in front of the television," Gonzalez smiled.
"We watch television at Grandma's," said her son, Marcel, 9.
Watching television at the babysitter's was another place the Marquez youngsters found time for a quick 30 minutes of cartoons, said their mother
But on the whole, the children didn't seem too upset about not being planted in front of the television.
"They never asked about watching television," Marquez said. But when they did it was to see a special show," she added. So we recorded it for viewing at a later date," she added.
The Marquez family, who spent some of their TV-free evenings going for bike rides, also had plenty of other activities with which to keep them busy.
"Madison, 8, has weekly dance classes while Mathew is involved in soccer and little Molly, 4, is always hurrying to keep up.
"The kids are usually in bed by 8 p.m., so we spent a few minutes every night reading to them after baths," Marquez said.
When the youngsters weren't on their way to soccer games or practice, they rode their bikes, played outside or did homework.
A similar pattern was developing in the Gonzalez household.
"The kids spent time at latchkey after school most weekdays, where they get their homework done until I pick them up," said Gonzalez.
"They also have extra soccer practice and soon they'll be active in softball and t-ball," said the young mother.
In addition to finding time to study for her English and education classes at Central Washington University, where she is an education major, Gonzalez coaches her son's soccer team.
"We're all in bed by about 9 each night," she said. "Then up again at 6:30 a.m. to start all over," she added.
Scott Marquez said watching television has never been a big priority for his family.
"I think it steals your creativity," said Marquez, who works at Marquez Manufacturing. His wife is employed at Sunnyside Community Hospital in the business department. "We have very busy schedules so the time we spend with the family is very important," he added.
He enjoyed the past week of spending extra time playing with the kids. Their evenings included a lot of family cycling, games, such as dominos, and reading books.
So far, neither family has plans of increasing their TV time. While admitting a little bit of television is a great way to unwind, the Marquez family likes the idea of keeping television turned off. It may remain a special treat for their family. "We taped "Survivors" last week and saved it for a family night treat with popcorn to celebrate the end of our no TV experience," he said.
Gonzalez said she also likes the idea of her children having more time to do extra reading or working on creative projects.
"I think they get along better this way as well," she added.