If you’ve followed our blog for any length of time, you probably have caught on to the “tech free” and “hands on” play motif. I mean, I DO have a free ebook I offer subscribers called 101 Tech Free Toddler Activities (have you grabbed yours yet!?). And now I’m writing a post on App Schooling for homeschool parents. How does this fit in?
Here’s a situation where as parents (and homeschoolers), I think we always need to evaluate where we stand. Honestly? Today? Right now? I have no desire to include app technology into our homeschooling. We’re sailing along just find with our hands on play curriculum and literature rich learning. I can’t see right now where an app can offer better experiences than hands-on play and in-person discourse and reading. Easier? Wider access? yes, but better experience? … I think I will always have preference for an actual experience versus a virtual one.
But that may not always be the case. And it may not be the case for you in your home. That’s why I believe it’s important to stay current with technology as a parent, even if you’re not utilizing it with your kids. Be aware of what is out there, because family life and schooling needs can change year by year and child by child.
There was a definitely period of my parenting life where I said, “I’ll never have a smartphone!” But being an online writer can be a challenge lately without a smartphone these days! Clearly what worked just 3-4 years ago, no longer is as effective for me today. The same goes for using technology with children – monitor and adjust the situation. Set up parameters to be intentional about how you use tech (and other innovations) with your kids.
App Schooling: How to Fit Technology Into Homeschooling
Now, I still firmly believe children under age 2 don’t need screen time, as to date, there’s been no evidence of positive effect, and definite evidence that screen time can interfere with development.
I am also convinced, personally, that screen time is unnecessary for children under 8 – that their best learning happens in hands-on, face-to-face, eyes-on-page time. Do my kids occasional watch a DVD or short movie? Sure. Although I always have that tickley voice in the back of my head saying, “We could do something more productive.” Maybe I’m the only one?
Yet this IS the digital age. I’m not pretending my children will never use computers or phones because of course they will. I just want to be intentional about purpose and timing of introducing technology use.
Reasons to choose app schooling
In the past two years since I got a smartphone, there’s been a significant rise in the quality and abundance of apps of all kinds. I have a few apps I love for goal setting and managing my time. I don’t collect a ton of apps on my phone – only those that save me time or money. Since this works for my personal life, I’m translating it to parenting and homeschooling as well.
So I’ve decided to create “parameters” or “guidelines” to help me assess when and whether technology will be a good value or not.
- Provokes thought – Children need to do the work of thinking, so mindless games are out.
- Provides detailed information – Atlas, weather and scientific apps have potential, because they give students reference materials at their fingertips. Apps that merely provide a few fun facts but not much content are out.
- Provides expert knowledge – There are going to be areas outside my expertise – higher math and foreign language for example – I may need to rely on a digital program to teach these subjects.
- Produces records – Since I’d want app schooling to have maximum value, I’d like to see apps that generate usage and progress reports, as well as set learning goals and limits on usage.
- Parental oversight – I’d likely also use an app to monitor children’s usage and screen time and blackout certain times of day to set up some boundaries.
- Promote organization and resourcefulness – The major benefit to app schooling that I can see is the ability to have a portable classroom without paper waste. We would love to take the kids on a cross country trip in a few years, which would take up several weeks of our year. It will be helpful to avoid overpacking, so app schooling for a few weeks might be an option.
App Schooling with High-Value Choices
When I do decide to use apps in our homeschool, I’ll be selective, intentionally choosing “high-value” apps. After reading probably a dozen articles with long (and short) lists of “the best apps,” I have culled a short list for me to consider for future use.
I chose these mostly based on the descriptions of the app and knowledge of the providing company. Not surprisingly, these apps showed up over and over again on many lists I consulted (Sources below for your further reading!):
- Barefoot World Atlas (Interactive maps and facts)
- Kids’ Weather (weather and graphing)
- Presidents’ Challenge (memory work)
- The Civil War Today (4 years of facts about “this day in the Civil War. Sounds pretty neat!)
- This Day in History
- United States Puzzle Map
- Learner’s Dictionary
- DuoLingo (language learning tool)
- Khan Academy (full math curriculum, for FREE!)
- Math Bingo (Facts practice)
- Montessori Numberland (#0-9)
- I Write Words (handwriting practice) or Handwriting Without Tears app
- Screen Time (manage student usage)
- Evernote (parent and/or student organization)
So that’s how I’m addressing the rising tide of app schooling for our family. Apps are neither good nor bad on their own. It’s how they are used that makes them a positive or a negative.
And, I’m still formulating my thoughts. This is a topic that needs revisiting as families grow and change. So I’d welcome any constructive feedback on how you have handled technology in your home.
What apps you have found to be beneficial in your homeschool curriculum (i.e., for learning and not for entertainment). And when / why do you choose to use app schooling in your home?
Sources & Additional Reading:
- Top 10 Elementary Apps by Not Consumed
- 40 Ipad Apps for Homeschoolers By Tech Thought
- 10 Best Apps for Homeschool Parents by Learning Lift Off
- 15 Best Apps for Homeschooling by Tech Times
- Math Apps Ideas by You Clever Monkey!
- 24 Best Education Apps by What’s Up Fagans
- Why We Love Khan Academy by Planet Smarty