The question of whether to incorporate technology into homeschool is one I have thought long and hard about over the years. While our family has always tried to have a healthy balance concerning technology, I noticed it creeping into our lives in more ways than I would have liked. Now that we know two of our children have specific learning disabilities (dyslexia and dysgraphia), I have learned to cautiously welcome educational technology or programs that allow my children to access the material they need for learning.
Here are some thoughts to consider on utilizing technology in your home learning environment:
- Do you have the proper internet safety measures in place if your child will be using web-based technology? This is the first and most important question to ask. Children should not be given “free reign” on the internet because the internet is a vast pool of information and bad actors seek out ways to connect with and exploit children online. I would suggest using a content filtering program like Covenant Eyes and programs that manage devices and length of use like Disney Circle. We use Covenant Eyes to protect our kids from pornographic websites and images, as well as to turn “on” and “off” certain sites we want to restrict, such as YouTube.
- Is there a certain subject that is difficult for you to teach or for your child to understand? If so, it’s okay to consider how technology might assist you and your child in learning. For example, we used an online program for dyslexics called “Nessy.com,” and we also use “Keyboarding Without Tears.” The videos our child uses for math can be accessed online, and many schools and home-based curriculum companies now offer online options. Most parents who homeschool are looking for ways to protect their children and find a balance between in-person instruction and online instruction or helpful programs, so consider what you want your homeschool environment to resemble and how your kids respond to technology usage
- Are their educational “games” that will give you a break and help your child learn? I put educational games in a different category in our home than online curriculum or supplemental programs. For example, while others might disagree, I look at StarFall as an educational game, but it’s one we love. Our kids love learning about holidays and classical children’s songs through StarFall, and I don’t mind giving myself a twenty minute break, especially while trying to cook dinner. While there are lots of free options available, some aspects of StarFall, or other programs like ChessKid, do require monthly or annual subscriptions, so be aware of technology’s price tag.
- It’s always okay to try new things and scale back if there is “too much tech” happening in your home. One of the areas we have struggled to keep tech under control in our home is through audiobooks. Our son LOVES audiobooks and consumes tons of content via audiobooks daily. He listens maybe 2 – 3 hours a day of audiobooks while he is working on other projects. This is fine with us, but if we notice he’s avoiding going outside, or completing other tasks, we have him take a break for several hours. Additionally, we do not allow a computer or the iPad we have to be used in the bedroom. We have him start an audiobook, leave it on the counter, and stream it into his room. Of course, there are situations where he forgets or we do, too, but these are the types of challenges that come with technology. You can never be too diligent!
How do you approach technology use in your home when it comes to education? Do you allow educational games online or personal electronic devices like iPads? Please share your thoughts and ideas with us!