At Home with Homer

screen time featured

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Screen Time as Purposeful Time — with Stephanie Dua

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Screen Time as Purposeful Time — with Stephanie Dua 1920 1080 Chase Jennings

Kanika: The last year has given us a new perspective on screen time. While it allowed for remote learning during a pandemic, we also have screen time fatigue — and new blue light lenses : ) — from too much of it. What are some tips, resources, and guardrails you can share regarding screen time for young learners.

Stephanie: As you mentioned, technology has saved us in so many ways this past year. We’ve been able to stay connected to the outside world — teachers, family, friends — because of our screens. Furthermore, The pandemic has accelerated the spread of laptops and learning apps in schools, they say, normalizing digital education tools for millions of teachers, students and their families.” -NYT

While those are 2 examples of beneficial screen time, we are fatigued by it and for early learnings especially, not all screen time is created equal

Kanika: So how do we as parents and caregivers determine what is good screen time?

Stephanie: For starters, recommend embracing Mindful Media. Rather than using the amount of time our kids are spending on screen as the only consideration, we came up with the P-L-A-Y Framework: a quick and easy guide to help you make smart media decisions for your children.

  • P – Purpose
    • There are so many reasons to hand your child a screen — It could be to keep them entertained, to give them an opportunity to connect with family and friends, to assist in their schoolwork, to help them wind down at night, or to keep them safely occupied while you cook dinner.
    • Whatever the purpose might be, think about whether the type of media you are putting on that device matches up with the intended purpose. For example, in the evening if you’re winding your kids down, you want to make sure the content is calming.
    • Additionally, experts estimate that 65% of kids will have jobs that don’t currently exist. So even if the purpose of giving your child a screen doesn’t have direct learning value, you can feel good that your child is learning 21st-century skills that will set them up for 21st-century jobs.
  • L – Learning Value
    • Understand the learning value: There are so many rich, entertaining apps and digital experiences that you can find for your children
    • Common Sense Media is a great resource that has done a lot of the legwork for parents—I personally found them to be a lifesaver with my kids.
  • A – Appropriateness
    • Deciding whether an app or digital experience is appropriate for your child can seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are a couple of things to think about:
      • Is it appropriate for their age?
      • Will they engage with it? For example, will it make them giggle? Get up and dance? Try out a new word?
      • Is it personalized to them? Does it appeal to their individual interests and learning needs, or encourage them to look at the world in a new way?
      • Is it going to be a positive experience? Keep in mind what makes them feel confident, and what might make them feel scared or upset.
  • Y – YES!
    • Yes, you can use screens – Parents should feel empowered to use screens in a way that is mindful for themselves and for their family. They aren’t designed to ruin your child’s future, but rather when used appropriately, will give children the skills to thrive in the 21st century.

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summer of play featured

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Summer of Play — with Stephanie Dua

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Summer of Play — with Stephanie Dua 1920 1080 Chase Jennings

Kanika: Summer is here, but it feels different from any other summer. Typically summer break is a time to travel, enjoy the sunshine, spend time with friends and family, however this year, how we spend our summer isn’t as clear — Is it safe to travel? Should we use this time to catch up on school? Take summer school classes? Or is this a time for play? A time to recover and recharge?

Stephanie: Absolutely, I think all families can relate to what you just described. I know I certainly can. On the heels of the pandemic, everything looks a bit different and this certainly applies to summer break.

Kanika: What advice do you have for families when it comes to making the most of this summer break?

Stephanie Tips: School offers kids that needed sense of structure. When summer comes around it’s important to give kids the freedom to play, while offering some structure. The key is finding a nice balance!

  • Get into nature. Nature has the ability to heal us, so whether that’s a walk around the neighborhood, hike or a day trip to a nearby national park with your family.
    • Create a scavenger hunt together. Before you head out, make a list of things you might see on your walk
  • Encourage independence and a bit of downtime
    • Start a project that can be worked on a bit everyday
  • Studies have shown the importance of having jobs around the house. It’s important to make sure your kids feel like they’re part of the team but contributing with certain chores. This also gives them structure and a sense of accomplishment.
  • Encourage play, not academic learning because the good news is that Play is Learning! Like our friend Fred Rogers once said: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” So think of this as your SUMMER OF PLAY!
    • Play is so powerful because kids don’t realize just how much they’re learning while playing. It’s like “sneaking” vegetables into the muffin or smoothie recipe to get some greens in there.

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mental health featured

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Mental Health & Social Emotional Learning — with Stephanie Dua

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Mental Health & Social Emotional Learning — with Stephanie Dua 1920 1080 Chase Jennings

Kanika: My kids are having a really hard time being cut off from their friends and dealing with COVID. How do I help them navigate through these times?

Stephanie / Statistics:

  • Most notably, the low-income, Black and Hispanic communities that urban districts more often serve have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus. Their students are expected to have some of the greatest academic, social and emotional learning losses coming out of the pandemic (USNews).
  • Even before the coronavirus hit, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety were on the rise in children ages 6 to 17, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows social isolation can worsen these symptoms.
  • Based on prior research on isolation and loneliness, children and adolescents are more likely to have high rates of depression, and, probably, anxiety, even after the enforced isolation resulting from the COVID‐19 pandemic ends, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (source).
  • A national survey of 3,300 high school students conducted in the Spring of 2020 found nearly a third reporting they were unhappy and depressed “much more than usual” in the past month. Almost 51% said they felt a lot more uncertainty about the future as well. (source) ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children (CDC).
  • Overseas, in a survey of 1,143 parents measuring the effects of the lockdowns in Italy and Spain, nearly 86% reported changes in their children such as difficulty concentrating and spending more time online and asleep, and less time engaging in physical activity.
  • A study of 2,330 schoolchildren in China found both anxiety and depression rose in comparison to rates seen in previous investigations.

Stephanie / Tips:

  • Make sure you have a daily check-in, something I do with my child:
    • Rose, thorn and bud
  • Mindfulness corner, walk and belly breathwork (CMI)
  • For younger kids ages 3-6 who might not be as verbal, HOMER has this great activity kit called Explore Feelings, and you do just that. Kids learn self expression and to identify feelings, through hands-on activities and prompts.
    • Color-in Feelings Forest Map
    • Conversation Prompts + Bag
    • Social-emotional Matching Cards
    • Feelings Activity Book & Crayons

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raising a reader featured

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Raising a Reader — with Stephanie Dua

AT HOME WITH HOMER: Raising a Reader — with Stephanie Dua 1920 1080 Chase Jennings

Kanika: Reading to me is one of my favorite things to do and I want so badly for my children to enjoy it, but it can be scary. HOMER’s reading program is proven to increase early learning scores by 74%, so clearly you’re the pro here.

Stephanie (HOMER origin story): I was working at the fund for public schools and my daughter Anya was struggling with reading. I had access to the greatest minds in education and no one could recommend a product they trusted, so I set out to create one.

Kanika: I love that and with Mother’s Day coming up, I just want to celebrate that for a second. There is real power in women starting business to solve parent pain points. What advice do you have for parents listening whose children might be struggling with reading?

Stephanie / Stats:

  • Reading is the foundation of a strong education, however it’s not intuitive or natural.
  • We also know that if you’re not at reading level by grade 4.

Stephanie / Tips:

  • Make your home a reading rich environment
    • Subtitles on TV shows
    • Leave books all around
    • Lead by example
  • Create Reading Routine
    • The value of bedtime stories – an oldie but a goodie. Proven to help develop literacy skills and bond parents with their children.
    • Car time is book time – pick a book before the ride or make the car into a mini library with a small box of books on the back seat
    • Weekly library visit
    • 20 min / day
  • Create a book exchange with your weekly playdate. Each week your child picks out one book to give to their playdate, who borrows it for the week.

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