Screen Time in Homeshcool

Screen Time in Homeschool: how to manage it

If you want to find a controversial topic to talk about with parents, bring up screen time. And then talk to a homeschool mom about screen time in homeschool. Everyone has an opinion and a way to handle screens. But we can’t ignore the conversation – it’s part of our lives, and when it comes to our kids and homeschooling, we need to think through how we are going to manage it and set boundaries. Because if we don’t think or talk about them, we won’t set them!

Screen Time in Homeshcool

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There is no one right way to handle screen time in homeschool. How I handle it in my home is going to be different from how you handle it in yours – and that’s okay! I hope that as you read how we handle screen time in our homeschool and in our home, you will get some ideas or at least think more deeply about the why behind your decisions with screen time in your home.

If you want to hear my in-depth discussion about screens, watch this video. I go into much more than just how we handle screens for our homeschool!

Play First

Play is the work of childhood, and kids’ brains do not engage in play through screens in the same way that they engage in real life, hands-on play. Prioritize play FIRST in your homeschool. Screens can be a helpful tool, but if your kids are sitting on screens all day, they are missing out on so many key ways to engage their brains and bodies.

I know that it’s easy and convenient these days to let screens take over a lot of the teaching – and some of that is fine. But especially in the younger years, our kids NEED to touch and feel things. They need to move their bodies. They need to squish their hands in playdough. They need to move manipulatives around as they learn how to count.

Play is not an extra, so make sure that you don’t let screens replace it.

Our kids need to learn what to do when they’re bored, to be creative, to come up with their own fun and entertainment. They need to know how to live in the real world, not just a virtual one.

And this is also true for our tweens and teens! They need to play too. It looks differently in these older years, but it is just as important. I have a detailed video about protecting play in the tween and teen years in Cultivate Your Home.

Let them be bored

We live in a culture that has access to literally everything. We don’t ever have to be bored! But there is so much good that happens in those slow, quiet moments – when we are not being enteretained.

We don’t know how to be quiet anymore. We don’t know how to wait patiently without a phone in our hand. Our kids don’t know what to do when their days aren’t packed with activities.

Screens are making it worse.

If we want to raise kids who know how to be bored – and what to do in those moments – we need to get them off of screens and into the real world. We need to create spaces in our homes for them to play and be creative (I have a detailed post about this in Cultivate Your Home). We need to give their brains room to develop the skills they need to play, problem solve, think critically, and be creative – and we need to do this away from screens.

If you want suggestions for open-ended toys to use in your homeschool, you can find many suggestions in my Amazon storefont.

Set boundaries for screen time

Use screen time wisely in your homeschool. A documentary on a rainy day, an online math course for your high schooler, an occasional well-timed app for your preschooler who is distracting his older siblings. We use screens in our home, and we find them very helpful for our homeschool, but we set boundaries around them.

We had periods – especially when our kids were younger – where we were incredibly strict on screens. We saw consistent negative behavior as a direct result of screens. And when we have loosened up on our screentime boundaries, we usually see misbehaviors come back. And not just misbehaviors, but we also see less creativity and our kids don’t play as well with each other. So we always come back to tightening up our boundaries around screentime.

Here are some examples of how we have set boundaries around screens:

  • very limited screen time in the early years – we have added it in a little more as our kids have gotten older (watch my YouTube video if you want to hear a little more detail about this)
  • we watch very limited TV
  • we play few video games
  • no screens before 2pm (unless they are directly school related, like writing a story or taking an online course)
  • very limited Internet – and only permitted sites
  • using devices almost completely in common spaces of the house – no screens in bedrooms (we make some exceptions for our older kids when they are working on schoolwork and need to concentrate)
  • put filters and safety guards on devices and Internet access
  • no screens during meals

Of course, we have had periods of time when we use screens more heavily. After a new baby was born, when we are sick, if we are traveling, etc.

Screens are not all bad

Screens are not inherently bad! But we are the first generation of parents that are having to navigate screens to this degree. We need to find a balance and a way to integrate them into our homes – in a way that’s healthy and appropriate.

Our kids will use technology in almost any job they will have in the future – we want them to know how to use it! But we also need to give them real skills beyond YouTube and social media. Teach them how to cook, sew, build, raise animals, love reading, etc.

How we use screen time in homeschool

There are just some ways we have incorporated screens into our homeschool that have been very helpful!

  • writing – my kids love to type stories; they use Microsoft Word or Google Docs
  • online courses – my older kids have taken online courses (math, driver’s ed, writing, etc.); The Good and The Beautiful has video components to some of their math levels
  • videos – we watch videos that go along with topics we’re learning; we use Kahn Academy to understand math concepts that are more difficult; watching news like World Watch News
  • YouTube – we reference YouTube to learn certain skills or to watch how-to videos, like Art for Kids Hub
  • graphic design – my kids love to learn graphic design skills with Microsoft Paint 3D or Canva
  • learning apps – we have a few learning apps that we like to use — Homer Learning, DuoLingo, Garage Band, Teach Your Monster to Read, and Bible for Kids from YouVersion are a few of our faves
  • making movies – my kids love to make movies; they record on a phone or iPad, then edit the movie on the computer. They’ve gotten really good at adding in special effects!
  • coding – my husband has been teaching our kids coding
  • entrepreneurship – I’ve been teaching our kids about building online businesses; how to build websites, how to sell products online, etc.

Talk about the dangers

Talk with your kids – and with your spouse – about the dangers of social media, video games, YouTube, pornography. We need to have these conversations with our kids. Talk about what to do when you come across inappropriate content on the Internet. Talk about your expectations of what they can or cannot do on the Internet.

The book Good Pictures Bad Pictures is an excellent resource for talking with your kid about the Internet and pornography.

Talk to your kids about screen addictions and the downfalls of social media. Talk to them about your own struggles with screens and setting boundaries.

Teens and screens

It seems like the norm – and even expected – that teens should have their own devices. But we are seeing kids addicted to screens at a younger and younger ages, kids being bullied, kids who don’t know how to have conversations with each other face-to-face, kids who don’t know how to entertain themselves without a phone in their hand, kids who make dumb decisions because someone on the Internet told them to. The damages that screens are causing at an age when our kids’ brains are still developing is becoming increasingly evident.

This is one area of life that I am more than willing to be the “mean mom.”

Our teens do not have their own devices. We have a family phone that they can use to text friends, to take somewhere if we need to get a hold of them or to call us to pick them up (and to use when they are driving), etc.

We do not have to give in to the societal pressure of screens for teens. We can say NO to giving our teens phones – and especially giving our younger kids phones. We can teach them to engage in the real world first.

There are options like Gabb phones, Gizmo watches, or Bark phones for kids who need a phone. These devices give your kids the ability to call or text you when they need to, but take away access to the Internet (or give you control over what they can access). These devices also have the ability to limit who your kids text and call.

Tweens and teens do not have fully developed brains, yet we give them full access to the Internet. They are not yet mature enough to always make good decisions – especially when they are under the pressure of friends. It is our responsibility to set boundaries for them and give them the opportunity to develop without pushing them into tehse hard situations.

I want my teens to have a childhood. I don’t want them to be addicted to video games or screens. I want them to know how to play, be creative, create their own entertainment, have conversations, and live life off a screen. I want to preserve their childhood as long as I can.

Will there be a time when our kids have their own devices? Yes. But for us, that age is not 11 or 13 or even 15. At this point, I can’t see it happening anytime in the near future.

I’d love to know your thoughts on screen time in homeschool – how do you use them? How do you feel about teens and screens? Let me know in the comments!

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