Saturday, February 22, 2014

T is for Technology

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Technology! Can't live with it, can't live without it! Or something like that . . . I definitely have a love-hate relationship with technology! Without a doubt, our family would have to make some rather major changes to how we homeschool if it weren't for technology. I am thankful beyond measure, to be able to "google it" when my kids ask me a question I don't know the answer to. And, as they get older, they are learning to look things up on their own. Could they do that without technology? Sure, we could go to the library and hunt down the information, but technology makes it so much easier!

And now, in no particular order, here are some of the ways we use technology in our homeschool:

Lesson Planning:
From the very beginning, many of our "curriculum" choices have been based on free, online curriculum options often adapt them, but it's a great, easy, starting point.

  • We used this Preschool Curriculum when Lexie and Ashlyn were 4, and now we've been using it again with Little Bit.
  • We used this American History Curriculum from Guest Hollow when the twins were 5, and again, when they were 8.
  • Guest Hollow has many other free curriculum options here.
  • We are currently loving using Bible Road Trip, for Bible.

Once I have a general idea WHAT we'll be studying, I also use the computer to figure out how it all works together. There are numerous computer programs for available, and I've tried a couple of them, and looked into several others. Many people use, and love them, but they tend to not work well for our eclectic, year-round, travel-heavy approach, so after much trial and error, I've settled on Evernote (Exactly how I lesson plan in Evernote is a post of it's own, that I hope to write soon).

Record Keeping:
We live in one of the 5 "hardest" states to homeschool in, meaning we have lots of "hoops" to jump through. Without technology, I can't imagine creating the forms that I'm required to turn in, or maintaining the detailed records I'm required to maintain. I use a combination of Evernote and Google Drive, for this.

The Library:
Obviously libraries have been around for alot longer than computers and smart phones, but I am extremely thankful for the technology that allows me to reserve books from all over the county (or country if I use inner-library loan) from the comfort of my living room, and pick them all up at one location!

My Smartphone:
15+ years ago I remember wishing there was a way to carry my DayTimer, cell phone, and a book to read, all in one small device. Today, I have that, plus e-mail, and the entire internet, thanks to my much-loved smart phone! For homeschool purposes, it means I can answer those random "google it" questions wherever we are. It makes it easier for me to maintain shopping lists (I can type them up on the computer while I'm lesson planning, and access them on my phone when I'm at the store). And, fun educational games can help keep Little Bit occupied when we're out and about, or, once in a great while, at home.

Netflix on Demand:
While, much to my frustration, it seems that Netflix has removed many great educational videos in the last year or so, it's still a wonderful resource for videos on history, science, Bible, and whatever else we might be interested in.

I LOVE this!!! Chromecast is a handy dandy little do-dad that plugs into the tv and lets me "cast" all kinds of things from my computer, phone, or iPad onto our tv screen. This means that when I find an online video that goes along with what we're studying, we don't all have to cluster around my computer screen to watch it. I especially appreciated it last year when we reviewed an online sewing curriculum, and I could cast the video lessons onto the tv for Lexie and Ashlyn to watch.  My one complaint is that I haven't found a way to cast things that open in a pop-up window, so some of the online resources I'd hoped to be able to use this with, haven't worked. But still, this little piece of technology is WONDERFUL!

My iPad:
While I certainly COULD homeschool without an iPad, and did for several years. I SOOO love having it! I use it daily (and missed it IMMENSELY when I accidentally left it at a friend's house and was without it for a few days). On an average day, in addition to accessing the overall lesson plan, I use it to, review memory verses with Lexie and Ashlyn. Read the Bible chapters for Bible Road Trip, and access the day's discussion questions. I have all my poems and songs for circle time with the little ones, on my iPad, and built into that list is a link to the "background music" that I play while they do their calendar books (music playing helps them remember that it's not time for talking).  Depending on what we're reading for history, bedtime, etc. If the book is online, I generally read it on my iPad, using Kindle or a .pdf reader. And, of course, Little Bit loves to play educational games on the iPad when I don't need it for other things.

I don't actually own a Kindle, but I still love the whole Kindle concept! Kindle has free apps for computers, tablets, and smartphones, and I have the app on all 3! There are lots of free books for Kindle, some available all the time, others only for a limited time. Over time I've amassed a large Kindle "library" that we use often for school or just for fun reading. Also, when we need a book that isn't available from the library, I include Kindle in my price comparisons, and often will purchase the Kindle book instead of a "real" book. It often costs less, there are no shipping costs, and is one less book to add to my already overflowing bookshelves.

iPod Touch:
A couple years ago, Lexie and Ashlyn each got a used iPod Touch for their birthday. Essentially this is a smart phone minus the phone :) and it has been a great option for them! While they prefer "real books" they CAN read books on the Kindle app. They can play educational games from Sudoku, to games that let them set up and "run" a pet shop or other store, to angry birds (yes, it is educational! You have to figure out the exact angle to shoot the bird at to get it to land where you want, that's math folks!). They can "google" things (with permission).  Ashlyn recently wanted to know how a heart works, she googled, and found diagrams and videos explaining it all and, by the end of the day, was explaining to Daddy exactly how his heart works.

Last, but definitely NOT least . . .
 My Laptop:
Much as I love my iPad and smartphone, my laptop is still the thing that ties all the other technology together! My kids often complain that I'm "always" on the computer, which is a rather big exaggeration but I DO spent alot of time with this little device on my lap. All those things I mentioned above, like lesson planning and reserving library books . . . not to mention blogging, and shopping, yup, my laptop is pretty important :)

And those are just some of the ways that technology helps us homeschool!

Visit to see other Blogging Through the Alphabet posts.

Visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew Blog, on Tuesday, to see what other members of the crew have to say about technology in your homeschool.

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