Technology and Homeschooling: What Do You Think?

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My first computer--the Atari 400, released in 1979.

Ever since I got my first computer more than thirty years ago I've had an ongoing fascination with technology and its applications. I've since studied and written on the topic of philosophy of technology--a branch of philosophy concerned with all sorts of questions relating to technology.

Although I grew up in an era before the advent of the World Wide Web, cell phones in every pocket, and personal computers in nearly every home, I've done a pretty good job of keeping up with technology. In relation to education the topic of technology is of definite interest to me. Considering that Sonlight offers literature-rich curriculum, the rise of ebooks and ebook readers is also of interest. I first began reading ebooks in the '90s with the advent of the PalmPilot. Granted, my printed library of books far exceeds what I have read in ebook form.

Marshall McLuhan in the 1960s began to explore some important questions regarding technology, especially in his seminal book Understanding Media. He wrote about extensions and amputations. Technology often offers extensions. Talking with someone in person, for instance, is extended by the telephone. But McLuhan also wrote about amputations. Consequently, a phone call allows an extension of communication, but something is also lost, such as a visual reference as well as body language and other factors present when we are in face-to-face interaction.

Nevertheless, technology presents tremendous opportunities, especially in relation to education. With so much information instantly accessible, though, we must be careful to balance knowledge with what the Greeks considered a key virtue: practical wisdom.

At any rate, I'm curious as to how (or even if) you integrate technology into your homeschooling.

  • What kinds of technology do you use?
  • How often are they utilized?
  • Do you continue to prefer printed books or are you integrating ebooks to any extent?
  • What concerns, if any, do you have about the rise of technology and its implications in relation to education?
  • Is technology a benefit to your homeschooling? If so, how?
  • Are there detriments to using technology in your homeschooling?

Let us know what you think!

Robert Velarde

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About Robert

Robert Velarde serves as a curriculum creator with Sonlight's product development team. He’s author of The Wisdom of Pixar, A Visual Defense, Conversations with C.S. Lewis, The Golden Rules of Narnia, and more.
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5 Responses to Technology and Homeschooling: What Do You Think?

  1. I am not trying to spam, but I thought this was relevant. I just copy/pasted from Midwest Parent Educators (homeschoolers!) facebook page. Yesterday's status.

    From the MPE Inbox:

    Greetings fellow home schoolers.
    I am a single home school mom working to finish my PhD in child development and I need help with research in order to graduate. I wonder if you all could take some time out of your busy schedule to complete a survey that will help me get closer to graduation (I am hoping for December 2013!) while informing parents and educators about home schooling with technology? It is completely anonymous and you can quit at anytime (but completed surveys are very appreciated!!). A link to an informational flyer and the survey is posted below. Would you also share this e-mail or flyer to your group forum or send to anyone you know who would be interested? Thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer! ; (link to the flyer) (link to the survey)


    Jackie R

  2. Sarah says:

    My kids are still pretty little, so we haven't reached the age where we'd need to consider letting them have cell phones, that sort of thing. Our oldest is 6. But this is what we do have.

    We have a laptop, and an iPad with a few free educational games on it. On the laptop, the 6-year-old and 4-year-old occasionally play educational games such as Dreambox and Reading Eggs. The 2-year-old likes Endless Alphabet on the iPad and is really learning her letters by playing it. I'm pleased with their amount of usage and what they're learning, and since they basically only play educational games I don't really worry about content. We tend to do it in fits and spurts... the kids might do it daily for a week, 15-30 minutes a day, and then we might not do it for a week or two. At most I'd say we average every other day, and possibly less.

    I very much prefer regular books to ebooks, especially at this age. My Kindle is only black and white, so they'd miss a lot in the way of pictures if their history or science books were in black and white. Not to mention that the pictures would be smaller. I wouldn't really mind ebooks for read-alouds, I suppose. However, I think that my opinions might be very different if I had older kids. A Kindle would be very convenient for taking along to sports games. Also, you can often highlight or underline, mark things you want to look up (or even look them up directly), all sorts of things like that.

    I've also heard from a number of missionaries or Sonlighters from overseas who would love to have most of the books be ebooks, and even the IG be an ebook, because it would help them with shipping costs and with the difficulties of getting books to their locations.

    I would also love a digital IG. I photocopy the IG anyway so I can write on it without destroying it for my next kid. I like to check off things as I do them. A digital IG that would allow me to remove things I plan to skip, shift things around, add things, make notes here or there (like maybe if I want to add a craft or activity), etc., and then print it out... that would be really, really great.

    As for detriments to technology... I think those are more likely to happen as the kids get older and more in control of their own use of technology, and wanting to spend too much time with it. Social aspects of technology can also be challenging. But at this point we're 7 years from having to make any sort of decision about letting our children have a Facebook account or the like, so technology seems rather benign.

  3. Bobbie says:

    I prefer ebooks. In fact, I have avoided purchasing Sonlight books because of this. I just see this huge library of books in my house if I ordered from you guys. I know to some people that might be a good thing, but I already have books that I have had for 15-20 years and they show signs of age and sometimes even--tiny, little bugs. Yuck. I am over it. We have ipads, ipods, iphones, and laptops here. However, the laptop and ipad has become the staple for my homeschooler. It is great. Less mess and organization for me. He can take his whole library of Amazon books with him anywhere. Simplicity.

    As far as Facebook, I personally hate it and I feel it is for the self-absorbed. Everyone talks about themselves, their food, and their kids. I should know because I didn't get any "likes" about my posts from those I thought loved me and so it made me feel unloved. I cannot imagine how teens are taking it. Twitter is full of pornography and scammers, believe it. Therefore, social networking is not at the top of the list for my younger children.

    We use technology every day. The downfall of technology is that it is addictive. My children do not have games on their devices. They only have educational apps, which can be games--but build up the mind. I have restrictions enabled on their devices like no internet access or app store access, etc. My son begs me for gaming games on his ipad mini, but I say no, no, nope. Games are for the xbox and that is it. He cannot play the xbox unless he has finished all his work and read an assigned book. No exceptions. The ipad is only available for one hour each day unless he is reading a book on it. Weekends are a bit more flexible, but all devices for children must have STRICT limits or they go crazy. I have learned--please take my advice moms--children will promise to watch their time or stop visiting an app, but it is a lie. It is too much for them.

    Public schools have transitioned to STEM technology, which is science, technology, engineering, and math. This directly affects homeschooling if you desire for your child to go to college. Our children have to know how technology works and I hope that homeschooling companies will understand this without thinking that we need to give up sitting under a tree. I costs much less for companies to produce and ebook than a real book. This is why you are seeing the diminishing of the printing industry. I am in that industry, by the way.

    I have four kids. I only buy paper books if I absolutely must. I cannot wait for Sonlight to offer a full reading load of ebooks for history/social studies. Um, fourth and fifth grade. *cheeky* I will be a buyer.

  4. Sara Ellen says:

    I have been following your blog for quite some time, and this is my first comment. You offer such simple, practical advice that makes this whole homeschooling adventure seem not only possible but incredibly exciting. I used online curriculum for my kids. For both of my sons, nothing makes them sit up and take notice more than the realization that something is a hindrance on their inner freedom and autonomy – and they both see clearly through the illusion of independence that technology such as cell phones provide. Thanks for your article!

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