How to Get your Kids to do Their School – Part 2 – Media Time

March 21, 2011

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Experimenting with unlimited TV and computer games led to my boys stuck to the screens all day long (my daughter, however could really care less).  I waiting, hoping, they would eventually get their fill and move back to playing outdoors or with their Legos, but it didn’t happen.

So we ended up using computer games and TV as a reward for finishing their school.  Originally everyone could have 2 hours of time a day once they finished their school.  The idea was that this would motivate the kids to get busy so they could play sooner.  There was a bit of a deadline in that everything got turned off for chore time an hour before dinner, but kids could still ‘spend’ their time up until bedtime.

Kids were responsible for setting their own times to keep track of their 2 hours.  Do you already see a problem developing here?  I could never be sure the timers were being used honestly, so we put separate log-ins on the computer for each child with a time counter that would kick them off after 2 hours.  But, that didn’t do anything for the TV, the Nintendo DS’s, or the Wii.  And finally, no one thought they should have to use any of their time if they were ‘just watching’ a sibling play a game.

The result: Whole afternoons and evenings would go by where it seemed like the kids were constantly gaming, and somehow they all still claimed to have one more half hour left up until bedtime.  I felt like a hated policeman and beautiful sunny days were passing unappreciated.  My husband wasn’t too pleased either, because when he came home from work the kids were too busy ‘spending’ their computer time to want to do anything with day.  I was at my wit’s end and ready to get rid of the games and TV altogether.

The solution: One night I had an epiphany.  Instead of trying to keep track of five children and their two hours each, why didn’t I just pick a 2 hour timeslot during the day and everyone who’d finished their chores and school could play during the newly dubbed “Media Time”.

Here’s how ‘Media Time’ works now at our house:

  • Media Time is from 2 to 4 pm every day.
  • Chore time is from 4 pm until we say the blessing on dinner.  If you have your evening chores done and checked off before the blessing, you’ve earned one half hour of your media time for the following day.
  • Morning chores (teeth, clothes, bed, etc.) need to be done before dad goes to work, earning you another half hour of media time.
  • Finishing your six school subjects earns you the last hour of media time (or 1/2 hr for 3).
  • If you didn’t earn all your media time, you have to start late (not finish early), ie. start at 3 pm if you only earned 1 hour of media time.
  • Everything gets turned off at 4 pm.  Too many running past 4 pm, and everyone loses a day of media time.

I used a calendar in MS Word and just added initials and little lines for kids to check off how much time they earned. (C – chores, M – morning chores, S – school)  We don’t always use it, since the kids haven’t had any trouble remembering how much they’ve earned.

So, far media time has done wonders limiting all the screen time, arguing, and cheating.

Benefits of the new system:

  • Everyone in the house can now tell time – at least 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock 🙂
  • Aside from that one chunk of time, the kids are now running around outside, making up games with each other, and in general, participating in life again.
  • Dad gets lots of time with the kids again.  They just played a marathon Monopoly game together last night.
  • My policing load has dropped considerably.
  • The 2 pm deadline adds a new level of motivation, since it comes pretty quickly.  The “You snooze, you lose” concept is very motivating.  Chores and school are being done much more consistently lately.
  • An unexpected bonus:  my daughter is interacting a lot more with the four boys since they have to all play their time together.

How about your house?  Do you limit media time or have ways to keep it from becoming an obsession or cause of contention?  I’d love ideas and suggestions!



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14 Comments so far

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  2. docmisty April 19, 2012 8:53 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it!


  3. Julie Osburn April 17, 2012 10:19 pm

    I love this. It is a timely suggestion for me. Thanks!

  4. docmisty April 20, 2011 10:25 pm

    Christina – We’ve toyed with the limit/no limit idea. Things always change around here. I love getting my kids outside. Now, if the weather lately would just cooperate!

    Kat – We love TimezAttack, too – my favorite was when my daughters two friends wanted to play it with her, yelling out the answers and having a blast.

    Sarah – I sure wish I’d thought of the whole ‘media time’ thing earlier. If you’re going to limit, it’s SOOO much easier to have it all at the same time. And thanks for including me in the carnival – I enjoyed it.

    Becky – Glad you enjoyed it. I learn things from other homeschool internet parents all the time. Glad I can also help out.

    🙂 Misty

  5. Becky P April 20, 2011 10:10 pm

    This sounds great! I’m saving the link and coming back tomorrow when I have time to read it closer. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. Sarah at SmallWorld April 18, 2011 8:51 am

    “And finally, no one thought they should have to use any of their time if they were ‘just watching’ a sibling play a game.” I can SO relate to that!! I love your schedule. I only have 1 left that I have to keep track of as far as media time goes (the others are teens/college), but that would have been handy when I had 3 young ones! And thanks for submitting to the Carnival of Homeschooling.

  7. Kat April 13, 2011 5:01 am

    A really good solution to a very normal problem. I’ve discovered, too, that my 8-year-old will do ALL his school work without complaining or arguing as long has he gets 30 minutes of computer time afterwards — and even then, he sometimes plays TimezAttack!

    Please have a look at my blog about more ideas dealing with boys’ education.

  8. Cristina April 7, 2011 11:36 am

    We don’t limit, but I do insist they get outside regularly if they don’t want to be unplugged!

    Thank you for your comment. We are highly regulated here. I try to look on the bright side. At least I get a better perspective every quarter on how much my kids have actually done, instead of always feeling like I’m not doing enough. 🙂

    Peace and Laughter!

  9. docmisty March 25, 2011 9:23 pm

    I hear you! I hate the policing. I hope the media time idea works out if you give it a try. Maybe on Saturdays to try it out. And good luck transitioning to homeschooling – we love it and I see benefits with my kids every year we continue. Take care!


  10. CMW March 25, 2011 1:16 pm

    We are still in the timer zone, but it’s like a library. We were having all the same issues as you with sneaking. All handheld devices stay in our room and are checked out. We set the timer for 30 minute blocks of time, then they have to bring it back. 30 minutes on school days and 2 hours on weekends. I really like the media time you have, but since ours are still in public school, there’s not enough time after homework etc…maybe when we homeschool next year!

  11. docmisty March 23, 2011 10:12 pm

    I hear you on the prime outside time. The school buses get here a little after 4, so my kids finish up some chores after media time and then head out to play with neighborhood friends. But, you have to get out and play while the sun is shining!

    Thanks for the kind comments – feel free to tweet, facebook, or link to my blog. I’m grateful for new readers.


  12. Will Gill March 23, 2011 7:31 pm

    We’re going to try it, but I think we’ll use a block of time after dinner, 2-4 is prime getting outside time for us since we live pretty far north. Been checking out some of your other posts, some great ideas you’ve got there. Glad we found your blog.

  13. docmisty March 23, 2011 7:10 pm

    Glad you liked it! We’re loving the set time here on week three. A side benefit is the kids have to work cooperatively about who is playing what on the Wii or on which computer. And I’m feeling much better knowing their screen time is much more limited – especially with spring time on it’s way. They’re getting out to play much more now.

    Hope it works as well if you try it!


  14. Will Gill March 23, 2011 7:07 pm

    Interesting suggestions. We have run into many of the same problems you have. Even with reward based systems to earn computer time my wife and I were still policing the time to make sure no one was abusing it. The set “media time” sound like something worth trying, thanks for the suggestion.


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