Using technology in your homeschool

teens and technology

Written by contributor Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

A couple of weeks ago, I had finally saved enough money to do something that I’d wanted to do for several months – get my two younger kids laptops. We don’t spend a lot of money on curriculum and, now that they’re both in middle school, I saw a lot of positives to them each having their own computers (rather than using mine or the ancient desktop that’s on its last leg).

The two immediate benefits I saw were math and typing. We use computer-based math programs and both kids are going to be learning typing this year. The fact that the kids are now able to do those things on their own devices is definitely a sanity-saver. However, I’m seeing lots of other benefits as well.

First, I think it’s important for kids to know how to use technology since we live in a technology-driven world. Their future employment is likely to depend upon being knowledgeable about basic programs.

And, let me tell you – kids are smart. Their new laptops have Windows 8. Mine older one does not. I was a little worried about being able to help them learn to maneuver in this new operating system. The worry was short-lived. They were pretty much showing me how to use it after a day or two.

laptop for homeschooling

Photo by ilouque

Second, I set both kids up with a Skype account (with an extremely limited contact list). They’re both getting in lots of spelling – and a little grammar and capitalization – practice Skyping me (a few dozen times a day for my talkative girl!).

That may not seem like a big deal, but my boy has dyslexia. Using Skype is a painless way for him to get in some spelling practice – and, I’ll admit, his spelling has improved much more than I’d realized. (And, Skype, as far as I can tell, does not offer spell check or auto-correct).

My girl likes using Word to work on her book, too. Yes, I have a budding writer. With a little help from me, she’s learned how to do things like:

  • Double-space a document
  • Save a document to a flash drive
  • Retrieve a document from a flash drive
  • Use a thesaurus
  • Copy and paste text
  • Use quotes around spoken words
  • Start a new line after a completed line of dialogue

We also enjoy (cautiously) using YouTube for learning. When my youngest and I were having trouble figuring out how to do something on her laptop, I looked up “Windows 8 tutorials” on YouTube. It wasn’t long until she had it (and a few other things) figured out.

Finally, both of my kids are getting some basic graphic design practice using Microsoft Paint. They’ve used it to create screen savers and avatars for their Skype accounts. Everything they’ve learned in Paint has been learned through hands-on experience and trial and error. I think the only thing they’ve asked me is how to save an image once they’ve created it.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Internet safety. That is something else that we’ve discussed. First, I’ve made sure that the kids are aware of basic safety rules, such as not sharing personally identifying information anywhere online.

Second, thanks to a mention on Blog, She Wrote, I have learned how to use Open DNS to add parental controls across all our devices at the server level. It’s easy and free.

How do you use technology in your homeschool?

About Kris

Kris, who blogs at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers, is a homeschooling mom to three amazing kids and wife to her unbelievably supportive husband. She enjoys photography, running, and drinking sweet tea. You can connect with Kris on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Comments

  1. Was made aware of this by some school teachers. Neat safe search engine for kids (plus links to searches already done for kids) http://www.sweetsearch.com

  2. Great post! I agree, it’s important for kids to learn about technology. My kids are like yours, they pick up new programs easily. As far as You Tube, it’s a love/hate relationship. I wish there was a way to block or have more control over content. Otherwise, I love that if you want to learn how to do something, you can more than likely find a tutorial. Heck, just last week we were watching a video on how to repair our dryer. Oh, also, what typing program are you using? Is it online or a book? Thanks :)

    • Yes! I completely agree about wishing we could have more control over YouTube content. There is so much to learn there, though, if you search cautiously.

      Honestly, I’m not sure what typing program we’ll be using yet. We start Journeys to the Ancient World (the middle school series from Geography Matters that follows Trail Guide to Learning) next semester. I know it includes typing, but that’s all I know right now. I think it’s a program, but I’m not sure yet.
      Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the Crazy Week

  3. Great typing program/game: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/typing/

  4. We’re pretty low-tech in our home :-) My kids don’t own any devices or use the computer. With my eldest, whom I homeschooled all the way through, I did the same, and on his 18th birthday gave him the gift of an account on my computer, and email.

    With the younger one’s that day might come sooner if they’re ready for college before turning 18, as having access to university email and suchlike is a part of it all. We’ll see! We tend to be all about art and music and books and nature. I am thrilled to be living in the technological era, but feel that it’s important for my kids to have plenty of years under their belts before getting immersed in it all themselves. In my experience, ease in computer usage comes in about an hour or so!, once exposed to it all, so there’s no rush :-)
    Ellie’s latest post: in the cove homeschool

  5. Technology is very important in our homeschool.
    I wrote about it earlier this year here:
    http://fimby.tougas.net/technology-new-literacy

    I echo your sentiments about using tech. for our dyslexic kids. Not only to access books easier, audio books for example. But now that my son has discovered social media he is writing up a storm while sharing his art via Instagram.
    renee @ FIMBY’s latest post: Trail stories & other getting outdoors resources

    • We’ve experienced the same with social media. I’ve read a lot of articles about how good that can be for dyslexic kids. Often spelling isn’t judged as harshly in social media as it is in other forms of writing, so dyslexic kids can enjoy getting their thoughts in writing and communicating with their friends without some of the stigma that might otherwise be present with dyslexia and the written word.
      Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the Crazy Week

  6. Hey Kris, great post. I absolutely agreed it is important fr kids to learn about technology. Kids are smart learner and they can pick up the learning very fast. One day, i just noticed that my kid put my usb flash drive into the slot and start deleting my files. ! I have never taught him but he learned it from observation. Now, i set all my usb pen drive as non-deletable status.
    Glovis Yan’s latest post: Portable power bank as new trend of corporate gifts

  7. My DD also has dyslexia and using technology has really helped her. We use an online resource for school (Time4Learning High School–new this year), Spelling City, Khan Academy, and YouTube.
    I had her create a blog a few years back to help with writing and spelling. It was great and made a big difference in her skill level. She worked hard at it because she knew her peers would be reading it. She wrote and we would edit together…great teaching tool! She uses her Nook for drawing applications and she uses the Mac for lots of things I have no clue how to do.

    I know technology can be a pain sometimes, but it has helped my daughter in many positive ways.

    Joyfully,
    Jackie
    Jackie’s latest post: Homeschool High School Future

    • I agree. There are a lot of negatives with technology, but I’ve seen it do great things for my dyslexic kids. My oldest had a blog, too, but she never did much with it. I read a great idea from another mom who set up a private blog for her and her son. She would write “story starter” type ideas and he would have to respond to them on the blog or he would write reports and such and she would comment. I really like that idea and might explore it with my kids.

      I guess it’s not much different than having them type their reports or whatever and email them to you, but somehow having it all on a blog just sounds like a lot more fun.
      Kris @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-Up: The One with the Crazy Week

  8. We have incorporated many elements of technology into our learning throughout the years. This year, though I have actually carved out time for “computer lab” several times a week. We use it mostly for science, history, and social studies. I will give them the assignment to research and report on a certain topic, often of their choosing. We have strict rules and safety measures in place though. My son, who loves all things technology, is very excited to have this as an option several times a week, and he does a really good job in his research.
    Gradually, we will add in typing skills, web design, and longer writing assignments. Plus I’m sure a ton of things I haven’t even thought of, but I’m sure he will.
    He bought my husband old iphone from him over the summer, and while it is not activated right now to make calls, he still loves it! His current fave is making videos of his slight of hand and experiments using Viddy. he is not allowed to show his face, or any major parts of the house, and all videos must be parent approved before posting. There are too many positives to list, even though we remain vigilant about safety.
    Judy’s latest post: Quite Simply, Very Complicated

  9. Hi, I would love to know which math program you use on the computer :)
    thanks
    Rachael

  10. I just wrote a post on this after teaching a workshop on this topic at our local homeschool kick-off. I put together a bunch of links for some sites that I have found helpful!
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Technology-Friend or Foe? Using it to your advantage in homeschooling

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