Technology in our homeschool

Technology in our homeschool

Technology in our homeschool

One of the biggest—and most surprising—changes to our homeschool this year has been the addition of technology. Although we’ve always used an iPad for memory work and audiobooks, and we are on our third year of using Teaching Textbooks, this is the first year we have fully embraced technology as a learning tool.

The big girls (3rd and 4th grade) now do vocabulary, spelling, Latin, a foreign language (French and Spanish, respectively), and Teaching Textbooks on the computer. Our oldest also writes her Essentials papers on the computer, and all three big girls have started typing various stories in their spare time. And (just this week) we’ve started using the Routines app for their daily checklists.

Why did we make this change?

Part of my motivation is the success we’ve had with Teaching Textbooks as part of their independent work, but the other part is that it helps our girls stay motivated and engaged with some of the more “tedious” parts of their daily tasks. Our oldest loves to write, but is not a fan of the actual writing-on-paper part. Practicing spelling words is more fun when wrapped up in games. And some things—like learning a foreign language—are just more effective in an interactive format.

We are still pretty stingy about technology use outside of school time, although I’ve recently loaded a few more educational games to the iPads and iPods with the intent of giving them more freedom for those things as well.

At the beginning of the school year, my parents generously passed down a laptop and iPad for the girls to use, which means we now have 2 laptop, 2 iPads and 2 iPods in addition to the computers and phones my husband and I use. It’s a bit on the excessive side, except there are so many of us sharing them every day! We’ve just recently assigned each of the iPads and iPods to the girls as their “own” (although they know that ultimately, we reserve the right to set the rules and take them back)

Recently I’ve read a few posts, articles and Facebook comments about the dangers of technology for kids. I agree that there are very real concerns that we need to be aware of, but there are dangers in dismissing it altogether as well. I still remember my first computer classes in 1st or 2nd grade and the Tandy computer I got for Christmas when I was 7. I spent hours using Print Shop on DOS to make cards, banners, etc. and writing my own reports on the computer. While the possibilities for abuse and addiction are much greater now due to advances in technology, I still want to give our girls the opportunity to use them as tools in the same way we did 20-25 years ago.

It’s easy to lump all technology together, especially if you’re opposed to its use, and there is still a part of me that wants to limit their screen time for interactions with the “real” world. But it’s hard to replace things like interactively building atoms or putting together the human body, watching demonstrations on a wide variety of specialized topics, or practicing math facts in a rapid fire game that gets them excited about learning them. To lump these things together with Angry Birds or social media as harmful technology feels shortsighted to me.

Rather than focusing on avoiding technology, I’m focusing on the things I want them to embrace—time exploring outside, physical activity, reading about the world, kindness to one another (this is a big on right now!)—and developing self-regulation with their technology use. As long as those things are happening as well, I’m thankful for the addition of technology in our learning toolkit!

How do you feel about technology in your homeschool or for your kids in general? Has that changed over time?

This Post Has 14 Comments

  1. As far as school is concerned….. bring on the technology!! Anything that helps them learn, engages, and makes school easier for all of us is a huge plus. Now, technology in free time? Not so much. They have some time with it, but it’s limited.

    1. Ha, love it! I mentioned this is response to Johanna, but one thing we’re experimenting with is limiting which “non-educational” technology they have access to but not limiting the time as much, as a way to slowly loosen the reins and teach them to self-regulate. That means they only have a couple of games on their devices each and—so far—real life fun wins out most of the time!

  2. We use some technology for school. We are working through the Liberty Kids DVD series to learn about the American Revolution and I created an overview science curriculum based on The Magic School Bus DVDs. We also use xtramath.org and various games on our iPad for extra reading and math practice. We do limit technology with no learning element.

    1. We also like to learn typing skills!

    2. Yes, we LOVE both of those DVD series. I’m going to have to look at xtramath.org some more—thanks for mentioning that!

  3. I don’t homeschool, but I agree with your approach. We have been slow to introduce technology, and it does make me nervous, but ignoring it isn’t going to make it go away. Using the good aspects of it in moderation is working for us so far.

  4. Mandi, I agree with this post!

  5. This is really helpful. Our kids are still young, so we don’t do any learning on technology yet, but it’s been that little thing at the back of my mind constantly there but never quite sure how we are going to handle it. (Know what I mean?) I think it is a huge benefit that we do have technology so I don’t think we should avoid the use especially as they get older, but obviously it can get out of hand too so finding a balance is key. I also love your perspective about teaching them to self govern their time on technology…that is a tool that our kids are going to have to learn and just avoiding it altogether will ultimately not teach them that.

    1. I completely get what you mean; I don’t know how we are going to handle the next stage either, lol!

      I think you really hit on something here…I’m actually experimenting with NOT regulating their time on the iPads/iPods much at all. I think when I say no, no, no all the time, they want it more, but when I load games and apps that I’m okay with them using and then just give them free reign, a funny thing happens…they gorge for a day or two and then they self-regulate *very* well. I’m still limiting what they have access to, but giving them freedom within there, and I think that may be more useful over the long term than carefully counting the minutes that they’re in front of technology!

  6. Can you share what apps you use and what safety measures you put on your devices? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nikki! I’ll try to put together a list of apps soon (right now we have a lot of U.S. history/geography and human anatomy and chemistry to go with the things we’ve studied this year).

      As far as safety measures, I have the Restrictions password locked on each device, and I turn off Safari, YouTube, installing and deleting apps, iTunes store and in-app purchases. That basically limits them to texting the family members *I* add to their text app (but if they ever added someone on their own, I would take it away because we’re not ready to use it for that just yet) and using the apps I’ve installed.

  7. We have! Our three older girls have all been through the program, and we revisit it once a year!

    1. Great idea to revisit it once a year. How long did it take to go through the whole program? How much time did your kids spend on it each session?

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