Joanna Gaines gives an update on life at home with Chip and the kids

Like everyone else, the Gaines family is sticking close to home these days. But as Joanna shared on TODAY, that’s not a bad thing.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Ree Hines

Life as we know it has changed in recent weeks with social distancing and self-quarantine keeping families close to home — and closer to each other than ever before.

It’s no different for former “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, who are currently hunkered down with their kids on the family’s farm in Waco, Texas, without the distractions classes, work and outside interactions usually provide.

But as Joanna explained during a Wednesday morning virtual visit to TODAY, while this new way of life comes with extra challenges, it comes with plenty of perks, too.

“The kids are loving the idea of getting to stay home and even doing school from home,” the doyenne of interior design said when Hoda Kotb asked her about her “six kids” (counting husband Chip as No. 6).

As for Chip, he’s keeping busy tending to the farm, “and it’s spring on the farm right now,” Joanna noted. “So every baby animal you can think of is being born, and everything is blooming. I feel like everything is coming back to life here. It’s been nice to just get outside.”

The family spends loads of time inside these days, too, and filling that extra time in close quarters has required a little creativity.

“I’ve had to learn that on the dining room table when we’re not eating I just, every day, I’ll set cards out, puzzles, just to give them options,” the 41-year-old explained. “I think originally, the kids thought — especially the boys — ‘This is going to be wonderful; we get hours and hours of game time!’ And, you know, I’m kind of a strict mom when it comes to that. So, giving them ideas outside of just screen time and stuff like that, I’ve had to put it in front of their face.”

But she hasn’t been as strict when it comes to their schedule. As much as the author and entrepreneur (who just released a new cookbook this week, “Magnolia Table, Volume 2,”) likes a sense of order, she’s discovered an appreciation for flexibility these days.

“I’m more of the let-it-be kind (now),” she said. “It’s funny. We’re figuring out this new rhythm, and it’s taken us a second, but I think just naturally, it’s kind of been a bit consistent, where the kids all wake up at about the same time. They tackle their homework. … It’s been interesting in that there’s no schedule, and I kind of love that, for someone who typically likes everything scheduled.”

And all of them — Drake, 15, Ella, 13, Duke, 11, Emmie, 10, and Crew, 1, and Mom and Dad included — find themselves bonding in brand-new ways.

“Times like this just shifts everything and puts everything in perspective,” she continued. “I think that, for me, the idea that we get these extra hours and these moments with each other and with our kids, I’m learning more and more. As much as I already thought I knew, I’m learning even more.”

She now sees herself engaging with the little ones “on almost a friend level” as they fill their days with games. “Playing with them and interacting with them, I’ve seen another side of them that I think is really sweet.”

And when the old normal returns, she’s hoping to maintain some of the new ways, too.

“It’s going to be hard, once everything starts going back,” Joanna stressed. “I think that’s something I want to hold on to, just these sweet moments and not taking that for granted.”