Screen Time Struggles: The Game Changer that Saved My Homeschool
Are you wondering how to limit screen time in your homeschool? I have completely been there.
In my first few weeks of homeschooling, I was a mess with trying to figure out how to do school while parking my littles in front of Dora to keep them out of my “perfectly prepared lessons.”
My oldest would be so distracted and start fussing that she wanted to watch too.
“Why do they get to watch and I have to do work?!”
The daily assigned work for a 1st grader takes about 2-3 hours, so we had a lot of extra time during the day. All my kids ever seemed to want to do was watch more TV.
I would have to drag them outside to run errands or even go to the park.
I would have to wait until their show was over or until all three had their “pick” before we could leave to go places – in order to avoid ridiculous tantrums.
My little 1st grader was compliant with her school work, but I knew the very presence of a TV in our living room was a huge distraction for her. She just didn’t seem to be motivated to do anything beyond the minimum so she could get back to shows.
Why are screen time limits such a challenge for homeschoolers?
In a traditional school setting, there are no opportunities for screen time – no matter how much kids beg. The expectation is that the child will sit in their desk, follow directions, do worksheets, etc. – so screens do not even enter their mind.
Screen time that is allowed (educational iPad time, movies for a class party, computer skills time) is very measured and strictly enforced.
Kids are not throwing themselves down on the ground to play one more game or watch one more show, because they know it would be embarrassing and the teacher would never give in.
At home…things are a bit different.
Laptops, mom’s phone, TV’s, and tablets are much more accessible.
Plus, homeschool kids have much shorter lessons than the average public school kid – so they have more hours a day to beg for more screen time.
The Day I Took a Stand
I was standing in my kitchen doorway one day and looking at my three kids laying on my living room furniture watching TV like little zombies.
From where I was standing, I could almost see the local elementary school that is down the street through one of my windows. I imagined all the kids sitting in their cute little desks, raising their hand to talk, and finishing their worksheets.
Then I glanced down at my couch potatoes. And I felt like a pretty big homeschool failure.
Was this what I had envisioned? My kid doing the bare minimum and laying on the couch to watch cartoons for hours while I tried to decompress or get somethings done? What kind of school is this?
Not long after that, my three girls were eating lunch in the kitchen and I was sitting in the living room.
I looked at my big screen TV and thought about how much I hated it.
I impulsively stood up, unplugged the TV, carried it downstairs into our basement and put it in a storage closet.
It felt amazing!
Homeschool Game Changer: Total Screen Time Fast
Yep, I decided in that moment that the whole family would do a screen time fast for one week.
Here were the rules I came up with for the kids:
- No TV of any kind (much easier to follow when the only TV is unplugged and on a different floor)
- No DVDs in the car
- No watching or playing on the laptop or my phone (we don’t have any tablets or that would have been included)
- I didn’t tell them this, but I was only planning on trying it for one week to see what would happen
The rules were pretty simple to follow and remember. My husband fully supported the change and was excited to do something “out of the box” as a family.
My kids were obviously shocked, but I was more shocked that they got over it so quickly.
Their little faces seemed to say “Well, it was a good run while it lasted. Let’s go dust off those toys mom and dad keep buying us.”
The Aftermath of our Screen Time Fast
Yes, we survived the 1st week, and then we went another week because things were going so well! Here are the amazing changes to our family and our homeschool:
1. House is so quiet!
The first and most obvious change was the house was noticeably quieter. I never realized how much background noise the TV made!
I think we all talked with slightly raised voices to be heard over it – I never noticed that!
2. Kids are more calm, less whiny
I had read before and completely believe that screens cause kids to be overstimulated. Hours of TV produce whiny, irritable kids who can only seem to be soothed by more TV – so parents give in.
Within a week of no screens, I noticed a remarkable change in all of my kids – it was incredible!
They still had their moments of course, but they were noticeably more calm and agreeable.
3. Kids’ imagination has skyrocketed
As you can imagine, my kids eventually got bored and had to learn to entertain themselves…without screens.
My husband and I were blown away to see our three girls (6, 4, and 2 at the time) start to play together and come up with all kinds of random adventures!
No more were they arguing over whose turn it was to pick a show or nagging me endlessly for screen time. They were racing downstairs in the morning to play dress up, build forts, and put on puppet shows.
It’s the childhood they always should have had.
4. Reading like crazy!
Weekly trips to the library became our jam! We can check out 50 books at a time and we usually hit that limit every week.
I have books in nearly every room of our house now. The kids are always flipping through them and begging me to read to them.
My youngest in particular has developed an amazing attention span to listen to chapter books. I completely attribute that to the lack of screen time.
My oldest was a reluctant reader, and now she reads 2nd grade levels ahead!
5. We are more active
Without question, my kids are more active now. They are playing, having dance parties, running up and down the stairs, and going outside much more often.
Their little bodies are moving!
6. We are closer as a family
We have much more quality time with my kids now, especially at night. Time that was spent watching TV after dinner, is now spent playing games, reading books aloud, putting puzzles together, and drawing pictures. My husband only sees the girls for a couple of hours a day, so this has been great to see!
Instead of laying on the couch on the weekends, we have started taking the kids on short hikes – who knew we had so many trails near us! My husband has also taken up fishing and taken the girls on several fishing trips.
6. School is the new entertainment
When I got rid of the TV, I had no idea that it would have such an impact on our homeschool.
Nearly overnight I found that my 6 year old was shockingly looking to school to entertain her.
She had a better attitude, asked more questions during lessons, and even asked for more work at the end of the day!!
Reading new books, history lessons, and science experiments became the things she looked forward to.
Her 2 younger sisters also started to show an interest in school and wanted to sit in on lessons. They also asked for their own curriculum! A homeschool mom dream!
I genuinely believe that taking away the screens has made all the difference and helped us to successfully continue homeschooling. Our children have increased attention spans, better attitudes, a love of books, and a desire to learn.
***Our curriculum is Charlotte Mason based and has lots of fun hands on lessons 🙂
7. Mom has more time and less guilt
Amazingly, I started to notice that the kids started to play together or go off and play individually.
There I was standing in the kitchen and not knowing what to do with myself!
Before, my kids came up to me expecting to be entertained if the TV had been turned off. As you know, it’s hard to entertain kids with the same pizazz as Disney.
Now, they just know that screens are off limits, there is no chance it will be turned on. They need to go play – and they do!
I know this is hard to believe, but how do you think this homeschool mom of three has time to write this blog?? It’s not because they’re parked in front of the TV 🙂
Why a Screen Time Fast and Not just Limit Screen Time?
Putting firm limits on screen time for your homeschool is a great thing, but I strongly recommend a total screen time fast for at least a week to reset your household and your homeschool.
Here is why:
1. You need to KNOW you can do it
Looking back, I see how weak I was with enforcing screen time. I gave in so much. There always seemed to be a valid reason to let them watch TV longer.
I needed to clean, make a phone call, make dinner, plan a lesson, spend time with my husband,…or just take a rest because I deserved it!
Now I have screen time limits biceps of steel! I have no problem at all with shutting off the TV and saying no – it’s easy!
The screen time fast gave me such confidence and showed me what I am capable of with my kids.
My kids also know that I can no longer be begged and whined into giving into their screen time demands. The fast showed them I am serious – when I say no, I mean it.
2. Your kids need to get really bored
Screen time limits can easily result in your homeschooler laying on the couch forlornly watching the clock tick until he can have his tablet back.
A screen time fast means you have no chance of getting that tablet back, so you need to come up with something else (not being entertained by mom either).
Boredom motivates kids to engage their imagination and play like it’s 1985!
You may have to wait a little while as they go through screen withdrawal, but the rewards are worth it!
Boredom is what motivated my three girls to band together and build a “fairy house” in our backyard one day. They used sticks, leaves, rocks, and dirt and completed it with snacks for the fairies and big signs telling them to come to our backyard.
That is priceless to me and so much better than anything a screen could offer their young minds.
I can’t imagine any of them would come in and say, “Man, I wish I hadn’t wasted that time outside playing. I could have been watching a movie.”
What about the educational screen time??
I think one of the biggest things that holds parents back from screen time limits or a screen time fast is all the educational options that are available out there.
I am here to tell you that they have their place, and you can introduce them back in.
But your child will not suffer in any way from taking a break from them for a week or two.
But…aren’t screens the way of the future?
I hear this a lot, and I understand your concern. Yes, screens are the way of the future, but keep in mind that not every “wave of the future” is good.
Here are some recent waves of the future that aren’t really working out for us:
- Eating lots of processed, ready to go food because we’re all in a hurry – exploding our rates of obesity and illness
- Sitting most of our day because we are driving a car or working at a desk – this has led to a more sedentary lifestyle and increases your risk factor for many health issues
- Social Media use is linked to increasing rates of depression, anxiety, and even suicide
Eating processed food, sitting, and social media are all things that your kids are going to deal with – and that’s normal!
But you, as the parent, need to equip your children to have a healthy balance with foods, prioritize exercise and fitness, and interact with social media in a healthy way. You do these things because you love them!
In the same way, screen time for our kids has been linked to all kind of issues – increasing childhood obesity, ADHD, behavioral problems, sleep problems, development issues, speech delays, and decreased social skills.
As a parent, harnessing the screens in your home with a firm grip may be one of the greatest gifts you give your children.
Our New Screen Time Normal
Do our kids have daily screen time now? Yes.
We eventually started doing a Friday night movie night, and the kids loved it! It was a treat for everyone to haul the TV up once a week and pick something to watch.
Eventually, it became a pain to do this once a week, so we ended up just leaving the TV in our living room. Our kids didn’t seem to notice it because they knew it was for movie night only.
We started to add in watching some football or soccer when my husband wanted to watch a game on Sundays. It was really fun to do that as a family!
I have even allowed the girls to pick one show together (some teamwork required there!) to watch in the afternoon after their quiet time.
The girls also use my laptop for Reading Eggs, Teaching Textbooks, Reflex Math, and some youtube videos for school work.
Over the last year and a half, we have slowly worked our way into a healthy balance that works for our family while still maintaining the original benefits of the screen fast.
So, eventually bring back the screens?
Yes! Fasting is only meant to be for a period of time – not forever.
When you start to bring back the screens, do it slowly and deliberately. See how your kids react and adjust as needed.
Depending on the ages of your kids and the results of your fast, you may decide that you are perfectly fine extending the fast indefinitely.
You may decide to opt for a family movie night once a week like we did and go from there.
The point is that you are in charge now. You have full control, which may not have been true before the fast.
Start Your Screen Time Fast Challenge Today!
Do you want the benefits I’ve listed for your family and homeschool, but you’re pretty terrified that you’ll crumble at the first sign of adversity?
I’m here for you homeschool mama!!
Sign up today for my 5 Day Screen Time Challenge!
I will send you daily tasks to work on, helpful tips, ideas for your kids, and encouragement to see this through! I will be with you every step of the way!
I’m excited to do this with you!
Just fill out the form below and let’s get started!
Who knows how different your family and homeschool will be in 5 days!
I sure appreciate you writing your experience! I am in that boat FOR SURE, and struggling to bring it back to a sane level. We had twins a few years ago, and i resorted to screens for pure survival – however it especially doused the incentive & interest in learning in my older two. Maybe its their personalities as well. Trying to reset our home, and worried that a fast would be far too much for them and planning to do step by step reduction instread – but I give in easily for so many reasons too! i love how you spelled out every result. Awesome. And believable. I grew up in an almost screen free home! Thanks a million. Well done!!