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?

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