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?