A decade ago, I was addicted to television. I didn’t watch it; my kids did. I used children’s programming and videos as a babysitter. Then I read The Plug-In Drug and was convicted that I needed to make a change. With minimal protest, I was able to limit my kids’ screen time.
Grief Over Games
When my boys were little, and given my experience with TV, I had no intention of ever getting a game system. I caved under the pressure of other parents, however, who told me I really should have one. It wasn’t long before video and computer games had become every bit the nanny that television had been. My husband and I put the games away and told the kids they could only play on their birthdays. Birthdays then became the obsession. I was asked every day how long it would be until the next birthday. It was as though the games had become even more desirable!
More boys joined our family and they developed more friendships with game-playing boys. When the Nintendo Wii became popular, my fitness-loving husband and I decided that an active game system was okay. Before long, however, non-fitness games were added to our collection as was another game system. The kids found free games on the Internet and began playing with their homeschool friends online.
My husband and I tried numerous approaches to containing the time. Kids were only allowed to play after school and before dinner. Often my husband proclaimed game-free weeks or simply insisted they stop playing to go outside. But the problem seemed more complex than our rules.
For instance, we noticed that the kids had very little interest in doing much of anything else but games. Board games and other toys stayed on the shelves. When shooed outside, they counted the minutes until they could come back inside. Creative play had diminished.
The other problem was enforcing limits. As soon as we would declare a gaming hiatus, a neighbor boy would come over with his new game and his puppy dog eyes. When time was up, there was just one more level to complete. Or worse, one or more of the kids would claim they hadn’t gotten to play “at all.” There would be tears and frustration all around.
Having read PlayStation Nation, I recognized these signs of gaming addiction and they worried me. I sat with one of my Homeschool Homies this summer to discuss the problem. As a mother of four boys, she shared my concern.
I began researching devices to control game time for both our families’ benefit. Before I determined that these devices would not work for our situation (we have too many devices, for one thing!), I was shocked by the behavior of children of reviewers of these products. Parents recounted that their kids had learned to drop the timer device to reset it. Others had disconnected or even cut the cables! You can read the reviews of two of these game timers here and here.
It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that the kids tampering with video game timers have more troubles than just a gaming addiction. My friend and I agreed that our kids would obey whatever approach we used, but we had to determine what that would be. My friend had successfully limited gaming time to weekends in the past, but had found (as I did) that gaming became an obsession when it was allowed.
A New Approach
On the way home from my talk with my friend, I had yet another discussion about gaming with the kids. They already knew why my husband and I were concerned. We shared with them that gaming could become so addictive that young men would forego employment and even marriage because they would rather play. They knew how gaming could keep them from learning and building relationships with one another. I discussed the timing devices I had looked at with them and they agreed with me that they wouldn’t work.
After much discussion, the kids proposed the plan that we have been using and LOVING. Before I tell you what they came up with, let me tell you the results of limiting screen time in our home (I say screen time, because my daughter prefers to watch television):
Listening to audio books again (in the middle of the day!)
More creative play (the dress up closet is getting a workout)
More physical activity (the kids are swimming and jumping and working out more)
More time playing board games
My daughter isn’t watching television at all
More time spent with guests doing just about anything BUT games
More arguing (yep, you read that right. This is the next problem to address!)
Here is the kids’ taming screen time plan and why I think it works:
Free screen time on Thursday evenings
(when Mom and Dad have activities outside the home; everyone can play for an extended period and they look forward to a “free night.”
Two hours of screen time per week
The kids put two circles representing two hours on our dry erase board in the kitchen. The circles are divided in halves, representing 30 minutes each. This is the part of the system I am most excited about. The kids have time to play during the week, but they are in control of it. When our children leave home, they will have to discipline themselves this way. This approach is the best training for adult life. The kids time themselves, mark the time themselves, and even police themselves. I’m still amazed.
Before using time, the majority must agree to use the time and how they will use it
Our oldest isn’t into gaming, so if three of the five of the kids want to use some of their time, they can play. They must also agree before starting who is going to play what and for how long. Otherwise, you end up with the, “I didn’t get to play” situation. The kids choose how to spend time, knowing they must be prepared for any guests during the week as well. Their typical approach lately is to play an hour on Tuesday and an hour on Saturday. Had I dictated to them when they could play, I doubt the plan would have worked as well.
The plan is communicated to friends
Most of their game-playing friends have been told about the new system and some of them have adopted a similar approach, which is great! Because I can’t control what happens in others’ houses, however, I don’t try to control game time elsewhere. It’s not a significant problem currently.
I know families who allow gaming only in the winter, only ten minutes a day (which makes it not fun), and families who don’t allow games at all. As a family who has them, we are thrilled with this approach that allows our kids to develop self-control.
What, if any, approach do you use to control screen time in your home?
I wrote previously about family and personal devotions. Now I’d like to address how to motivate your children to enjoy studying the Bible for school.
I have mentioned two aspects of what we have used in previous posts: Answers for Kids and Memlok for Bible verse memorization. I’d like to share with you a few other resources we enjoy and what has been the key to making Bible time something the kids beg for.
I purchased the Family Bible Library a few years ago and absolutely love it. I was concerned because the text isn’t straight Scripture, but it offers so much more. This resource, together with Color Thru the Bible that we use to memorize Bible books, are the core of our curriculum right now.
In the past, we have enjoyed Firm Foundations (which we will return to soon) and the devotional A View from the Zoo, among many other resources. No matter which resources you choose, I believe you can make Bible time a favorite subject by employing principles that have been key to the resources we’ve chosen:
Start with Stories
There is a reason that children’s Bibles are almost always made up of exciting historical accounts from Scripture, otherwise known as stories. Even if you choose to use the Bible as your only text for Bible time, you’ll want to begin with Genesis–the book comprised of great stories.
When reading from the Bible or any other resource, I frequently look up and tell it like I would if it happened to people I knew. I use my voice and my hands to really bring it to life. If you don’t feel comfortable with my more dramatic style, let your children dramatize as you speak. My kids absolutely love acting out the stories. Yes, they get very silly, but I know they will remember what we’ve learned forever.
The Family Bible Library books include comprehension questions after each story, but I often make up my own when using our texts. Vary the kind of questions from facts to opinions. For example, ask if your child would have been afraid of the giant Goliath and why or why not.
The Family Bible Library includes Bible trivia questions which my kids are crazy about. I have also used the 365 – DAY BIBLE TRIVIA CHALLENGE to get them motivated to expand their biblical knowledge. While I recognize no winners or losers, the quiz aspect appeals to my competitive kids.
Participate as a Family
Bible time is one subject that the kids enjoy studying together. While my high schoolers have and will do their own Bible studies, their participation is a review and an inspiration to the younger kids. We also love it when Dad shows up in class to join in and see what we’re learning.
Part of family participation is using materials that you learn from and love. Because I love Bible time, our children do, too.
In an upcoming post, I will share how to help children memorize–something that also makes Bible time a favorite subject for our kids.
Although I haven’t struggled much with personal devotion time, family devotions have been very difficult for me. Here are my struggles and solutions I’ve found that you may be able to relate to.
Husband Not Home
My husband works out of town some of the time and also is frequently gone in the evenings for sports. While I prefer to have him lead and participate in family devotions, I have had to accept that we are going to do family devotions even in his absence. That acceptance has made them much more consistent in our home.
Husband Not Leading
Even when my husband was home, he wasn’t leading. I discovered there were several reasons for that.
One, sad to say, is because I would butt in when he was leading. On one particular occasion, I blurted out something I thought the kids should know and he said, “I was just going to say that.” Whoops.
A second issue that has prompted my husband to be less interested in leading is his need for reading glasses. He is frustrated that he needs them now and honestly prefers not to read. Just because I am reading doesn’t mean he isn’t leading. He listens to what I read and then takes the lead in asking the kids questions and relating his own teaching on the subject.
A final issue that prompted my husband to be less interested in leading some types of devotions is that the materials he needed weren’t at hand. I realized that as his help-meet (See Created to Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious by Debi Pearl), I could make sure all the objects for the lesson were in place. Then he could do what the leader does best. Imagine your pastor coming to preach and being expected to find his own microphone and stand. Not very conducive to good leadership! Now I make sure he is equipped to fulfill his calling.
Devotions are Too Time-Consuming
I have tried many different types of family devotions and the ones that have worked well are short. I have shared that our family has tons of fun already, so the devotions that are designed to get families having fun together aren’t essential for us. We like to get the heart of the issue and then go about our day. What we currently use and love is Character Building for Families (Volume 1). We are working through Volume 2 right now. I found one doctrinal issue presented that doesn’t fit with our faith, but the rest has been excellent for discussing what is most important to our family–godly character.
Devotions Don’t Become a Habit
A final problem we’ve had is that although we’ve enjoyed doing devotions together, we aren’t faithful in doing them regularly. I’ve discovered that this is because we haven’t paired family devotions with an anchor activity that we always do. I tried to schedule family devotions for weekend evenings for example. We never know what we’re doing then, however, so devotions just weren’t happening. We now do devotions at meal time. We always eat so unless we are bolting out the door immediately, we have devotion time. This video demonstrates how simple family devotions at mealtime can be.
Family devotions will likely be one of the memories our children and we cherish most–both for the fact that we learn from God and we are spending time together.
One of the most common questions I get from young mothers is how to find time for personal devotions. We all know how vitally important it is for having the energy we need to do all that we do, but when you’re up multiple times feeding a baby, awakened early by a toddler, and even chased into the bathroom by your kids, how can you find the time?
I’ve been there. But I had very little distress about my devotional life during that particular season of motherhood (my youngest is now six). Here’s why:
I Redefined Personal Devotions
Is devotional time an hour spent in your quiet spot reading the Bible, completing in-depth Bible study assignments, and praying over every need in neatly organized categories? Sure, but devotions can take many different forms.
Having devotions can also mean taking minutes, seconds even, to connect with the Lord. It can mean meditating on just one Scripture throughout the day. It can mean talking to God out loud while your children observe you. “Help me!” may be all you manage to eek out. It can mean forgoing formal Bible study during this season of your life. It can mean reading a brief devotion online while going through email. Devotional time can be praying with your husband at bedtime. It can be singing or playing an instrument. It can even be devotions that you share with your children. Susanna Wesley is said to have found time to pray by sitting amidst her children with her apron thrown over her head: Susanna Wesley (Women of Faith (Bethany House))
The best thing I can say to you tired, time-pressed mom is not to feel bad. The Lord knows you are in a season of your life that requires much of you. He is caring for you and hearing the Spirit groan for you on your behalf even when your lips aren’t moving.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans (Romans 8:26).
But What if You are Desperate for More Time?
Ask for help. Ask your husband to give you some time so you can read the Bible and pray alone. I hired our niece to come and help out one afternoon a week. A moms’ Bible study group I was in often hired sitters so we could study and discuss God’s Word without interruption.
Pray about it. Ask the Lord to give you more time with Him. He may get you up early, but not the littles! I firmly believe that He answers these prayers–just not always the way we expect.
Be content. I used to be frustrated that I couldn’t do more of the reading and studying I wanted to do. Now I have more time and I wonder what I fussed about. Even now, though, busy as I am, I pray and read one chapter of the Bible per day and then read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on it. This process takes me just half an hour. The rest of my devotional time is spent with my family and church.
Do you have other advice for young moms looking for ways to spend time with the Lord?
Home educators have a lot of demands on their time. We may have multiple children, some of whom are babies or toddlers who require extra care. Some of our children may be teens who aren’t yet driving, yet are involved in numerous outside classes or activities. Then there are homeschooling parents who have a home-based businesses or work outside the home. We want to teach our children well, but we wonder:
Is there a way of providing a quality education in less time?
Some homeschoolers think so. The idea is that you teach the essential material in just one hour a day, leaving the rest of the time for the children to do independent work, related assignments, or pursue their own interests in an unschooling approach.
What Would an Hour a Day Homeschool Look Like?
Teach one subject or do memory work for six subjects, ten minutes each
Teach four subjects (math, language arts, Bible, read aloud) for four subjects, fifteen minutes each
Teach two subjects (math, language arts) for thirty minutes each; these could be switched out daily
Teach one subject for an hour each day on a rotation
Teach an hour for older students and an hour for youngers
Teach for more than one hour using any combination above
Teach this way when you’re pressed for time
I have used the latter approach many, many times. A repair person comes, the phone rings, I have to pick someone up from the airport–you name it–and the time I have left for teaching is down to an hour. I often use the ten-minute per subject approach. Most of the time I teach for three hours using a combination of approaches. I have six children, some of whom require more intensive instruction in reading. As they mature, less of my time will be required.
But Don’t Students Need More of Your Time?
Yes, they often do. That’s why every teacher who uses this method must make themselves available to tutor and answer questions. You may be spending only an hour of focused time “teaching” your students, but they will be spending many hours relying on your tutoring and learning on their own.
Want More Information About Homeschooling in an Hour?
Check out Homeschooling-Ideas and Homeschool.com that reference a father whose six children were homeschooled in an hour a day and attended Stanford. He notes that he used this approach with older children.