In anticipation of the new homeschool year ahead, most of us are starting to peer over the long, hot days and into the crisp autumn leaves around the corner. We aren’t the only ones. I see back-to-school supplies stacked neatly on shelves of department stores, hip new fashions on mannequins, and most of my friends are starting to lay out their master plan (insert evil laugh) while shining their invisible name badge that displays: Homeschool Concierge. So much to do and so little time.
With change often comes challenge, and we all know homeschooling is no different. Just because we are constantly dishing out reminders and suggestions to our mostly rule-abiding offspring doesn’t mean that it’s always smooth sailing, right? Likely the abovementioned master plan consists of a plethora of things to do and places to be on our daily calendars. Rarely does screen time ever make the cut- well, at least intentionally. I’m guessing it doesn’t exactly fall between reading and math in your house either.
If you’ve read my blog on guilt free apps, then you know how my kids feel about their iPads. That’s right, today I want to talk to you about facing an ugly beast; one of the least favorite topics in my house (and maybe yours): limiting screen time. With summer break in full swing, our screen time management has become a bit shall we say…relaxed. Soooo, we’ve been developing a plan to get things back on track for the fall semester ahead. Hopefully these tips will make an otherwise painful transition like a walk in the park!
• ROLL CALL: Don’t purge just yet. Host a family meeting and have a heart to heart with your family about electronics and media in general. Most of us as adults could stand to step away from TV, phones, or tablets too! Discuss how they all affect your time together and independent time, feelings, productivity and listen to what everyone has to say.
• SET LIMITS: If you haven’t already done so, find or create a media contract where you can bring all of your ideals together. Put it somewhere visible as a gentle reminder. You can find plenty online like this one from com.
• BE INTENTIONAL WITH YOUR MEDIA: What is the role of electronics in your school day? Uncover how you can make the screens work to your advantage and integrate them into the plan. Technology is a necessity, but it doesn’t have to be an obsession. As homeschoolers, consider feeding the need for screen time by offering math manipulatives, typing, dictionary apps, or an online class. Once your whole family is on the same boat, it’s time to carry out the plan.
• BINGE: Set aside a specific day to indulge in all the device and screen time you can all handle! Charge all of the devices and wear them out. The excitement of doing this for most kids will be a fun way to kick start the plan (and actually once they have unlimited access it probably won’t last as long as you might think). Maybe consider scheduling a few of these throughout the academic year.
• MONITOR THEM: Use it to your advantage so it’s a WIN-WIN tool. Find a device management app. You can set up daily schedules for each child’s usage. For example, you could allow 20 minutes of screen time between school and dinner. Or time can be awarded only after chores are completed. You can set long periods of time or block them at a specific time. Right now in our house, we are having success with OurPact, which is a free app for the iPads/iPhone. A few other apps worth checking out: Kidslox, Screen Time Limit for Parents, Glued, and Smartphone Addiction Timer. Check out the other apps for different mobile devices in your app store.
• OFFER ALTERNATIVES: Sometimes kids choose screen time because it’s a no-brainer, easy go-to pastime. If they have a ready to go list of fun things to do, they might choose to do those instead.
One thing I’ve discovered in my short but eventful time parenting is the quickest way for me to make things more difficult on all of us is to force something. Once I’ve discussed things with the kiddos, they generally are able to understand my point of view and we come up with a game plan together. I love it when we are all on the same team and working toward a common goal. And it seems for us, that sense of comradery goes a long way.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm.” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-11
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka.