July 27, 2010

Tech Schooling?

Long time readers know Hubby and I plan to homeschool our girls. Actually, we've already gotten started, in an informal way.

Mostly, we encourage the girls to follow their interests, and we make sure they have the materials they need to explore. Currently, Sneak is obsessed with letters and their phonemes, light and shadow, and is in the middle of her first language bloom. Boo Bear is enamored with animals of any kind, especially dinosaurs, and she's becoming intrigued by the idea of addition and subtraction.

Originally, we envisioned lots of library trips, notebooks, homegrown experiments, and manipulative learning tools like Usborne's Wrap Ups. Then Hubby began looking into curriculum alternatives for the tiny private school where he works, as part of the school's revitalization effort. His research led him not only to the curriculum we are currently looking at for our girls, but to the applications for iPod Touch and the iPad designed, not for the adults who own the machines, but for their children. We made the decision to purchase a refurbished iPod touch for the family to share.

One of Hubby's first free ap downloads was Teach Me Toddler. It is a game that asks questions regarding letters, numbers, letter sounds, counting, shapes, and colors using a cute animated mouse to deliver instructions and ask the questions. After the child answers three questions correctly on the first try, they receive a virtual sticker to put on one of five sticker pages as a reward. Well, Boo is a champion at giving random answers to questions she knows when she becomes bored with a subject. We knew she could recognize all her shapes and colors, but we weren't entirely sure where she was on learning her alphabet and numbers because of this fact. Turns out she knew quite a bit, and the subject shifts coupled with frequent rewards kept her interested enough to answer seriously. Sneak was the one who shocked us, already recognizing half the alphabet by name and sound and able to count to three.

So, of course we shared our astonishment with our parents, especially after Hubby downloaded Teach Me Kindergarten for Boo Bear, since the toddler program bored her after that first evening. Our families decided they wanted to help out and went looking for another iPod touch to gift them with on their recent birthdays, so both girls could utilize their respective educational games at the same time. Yet they ended up purchasing an iPad instead with the hope it will grow with them longer than an iPod would.

So, Hubby and I have been periodically perusing the educational applications for our girls. We have several on early reading skills, basic math skills, dinosaurs, the planets, several electronic books, musical aps, and basic drawing applications. Plus there are a few puzzle games they've developed a fondness for as well, such as Lets Tans, which uses tangram puzzles to build spacial recognition and manipulation skills.

Now, don't get me wrong, the library, hands on experiments, field trips, pencils, paper, and regular old books are still going to be a big part of our homeschooling efforts. But with the electronic tools we are already using and the online academy we are planning to enroll our girls in once they are ready for first grade, is homeschooling slowly becoming tech schooling?

* The pictures are from the girls' joint birthday party earlier in the month. The first is just after the iPad was opened. The second is Sneak "teaching" a family friend how to work Teach Me Kindergarten.

** I no longer have any connection with Usborne Books, and I have no connection to the Teach Me aps aside from having bought two of them for my girls.

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