Before we geek out, I wanted to add some perspective to our evening.
By choosing to homeschool, we’ve made the choice that we will use up much of our time in educating and training our children. I like to think my time became twice as valuable when I gave up driving my kids to school every day.
It is our job as the mother and the teacher to PROTECT our time. We are to use it wisely, spend it well. We also need to protect our hearts and our appetites. We do not want to waste emotional time or energy on things that are not praiseworthy or encouraging.
Technology, in general, is designed to save us time. Where would we all be without our washing machines, our dishwashers, our mini-vans? If you view technology as a tool to help you do your job better, and you hold every new-fangled gadget and app up to the light as “will this help me do my job better REALLY?’ then you will be able to make wise decisions about how to make technology work for you.
There are generally two schools of thought about using technology, especially among homeschoolers. There are those that fear it, afraid of what they will be exposed to, afraid of the time that it will take up. Then, there are those that embrace it, but can sometimes over-use it, rely on it too heavily, and invest so much time in enjoying technology that they forget what they intended it for in the first place.
Here is the thing I want you to remember with my talk: If you fall on the first end of the spectrum, please don’t dismiss everything out of hand as “too complicated,” or “too risky.” The internet can be used for some awful things. But it has created so much good as well. To throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak, would be to shut the door on opportunities that have NEVER BEFORE been available to us as mothers or as teachers. As with everything, Exercise Discretion.
On the other hand, if you embrace technology and love it muchly, as I do, then know that we need to take every moment captive, we are accountable to God for every moment, and we need to question our motives on our use of technology, and we need to always remember The Most Important Thing is not answering our email, but in doing our work to glorify God. Our time with our children is precious. To waste it on things that are measured in gigabytes and bandwidth is foolishness.
So I am here tonight to help you think about how you might use technology to better your time. There is an array of options out there for homeschoolers now and some fantastic tools that really will make your lives easier. They are worth learning how to use these tools, because the time saved in the long-run far outweighs the learning curve.
In addition, you can garner so much encouragement and support from various blogs, forums, and websites. It’s easy for us to feel isolated in our homes all day, but the internet tends to metaphorically open doors and tear down walls, building relationships that are uplifting and yes, even healthy for us.
Let’s start with the basics.
First, imagine you don’t know about all these new-fangled toys out there today, but you’ve got email and you can “get online.” What is the best way for you to use the internet to encourage you and inspire you as a homeschool mom?
Read blogs, read informative websites, read online magazines, but find other like-minded people on the internet and listen to what they have to say. When you choose your “daily reads” carefully, I think you will find that they give you ideas and encouragement that far exceed what you could come up with in your own little corner of the universe.
Before you hop online, though, we need to talk about the criteria that you use for picking websites. I have a series of questions that I ask myself before I allow myself to “subscribe” to a website or blog’s RSS feed (more on that in a minute).
- Does it have a positive tone? Negativity is not allowed. I must protect my mind at all costs.
- Is it complimentary of children and spouses? I want to leave a website feeling good about the people I spend time with all day. Listening to someone else complain about their family often makes me feel gripey, too.
- Can I garner ideas, information, inspiration, or encouragement from reading this? And it’s okay if something just makes you laugh. Not everything has to be “educational.” But make sure if it makes you laugh, it also fits the other criteria I mentioned earlier.
Okay, so now, let’s start with my favorite websites and blogs to read.
Informative sites (reviews, encouragement, ideas):
http://thecurriculumchoice.com/ – show off the toolbar
Blogs: (can include the same things, but they are written by individuals)
If you’re wondering why anybody would ever blog, especially a busy homeschooler, here’s a great article about why it’s so helpful to homeschoolers: http://www.hsclassroom.net/2011/01/blogging-the-journey/
iPad (or iPhone):
That had a list of apps to get me started in each subject. Most if not all were free.
Example of how I use it: To pull up maps, to give individual assignments. Can also use iPhone. iPad works better when you have a crowd as it is easier for everybody to see. Plus, it’s super fun.
Google Docs: Give example of the mom who assigned her kids papers, they wrote them in Google docs, shared them with her, she used the highlight feature to edit them, emailed them back and forth, and so on. She could know they were meeting their deadlines without standing over them.
Google Reader: If you like reading blogs for inspiration or encouragement, or to keep up with loved ones, the most efficient way to read blogs is through a reader.
Why Google and not Word??? It’s accessible from anywhere. Traveling and forgot that special worksheet you made? Pull it up anywhere. EVERYBODY SHOULD HAVE A GMAIL ACCOUNT.
mathusee.com for worksheets or online practice, all free
ixl.com (there is a fee, but if we got enough to sign up, we can get a group rate)
Some curriculi are more technology savvy than others. Most of them have websites, but some of them use technology better.
If a company that has good tech support and is technology savvy appeals to you, I can recommend from personal experience Tapestry of Grace. They even have a digital version that is cheaper than the paper version and allows you to access it or print it as often as you like for a lifetime.
Or Math U See
Ambleside Online – http://amblesideonline.org/index2.shtml
The Duggars use Alpha-Omega all online. (Switched On Schoolhouse?)
Useful for keeping in touch with relatives, but folks also use it for online co-ops, virtual classrooms, or to interview grandparents or others for projects and such. A great resource.
Sometimes, I’m too lazy to take a field trip. YouTube to the rescue. We’ve learned about shearing sheep, Aesop’s Fables, Greece, The Great Sphinx, all from the comfort of our couch. WARNING: Always preview the videos before you start wandering YouTube with your kids looking over your shoulder. I speak from experience. However, it’s a great resource and I would caution you again not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Use good judgment and you can get so much educational value out of a FREE website.
Forums and Groups:
There’s another mom like you somewhere out there. Someone with the same burning questions, or the answer to all of yours. The magic of the internet makes the world just a little bit smaller. For example, some curriculums provide online forums for people who use their product. This means you sometimes get direct access to the authors and creators of your curriculum. Their perspective can be invaluable and, if they have a good forum, they are usually very helpful. Also, other moms who are further along in a study than you can answer questions.
Show example of TOG Forum: http://tapestryofgrace.groupee.net/eve/forums/a/cfrm/f/2061049621
Sometimes informal groups are born from like-minded mothers. The TOG moms took their party off the forum and to a wildly successful yahoo group just because the format lended itself better to encouragement and relationship building. Sometimes, that’s not what you want, but in this particular faith-based curriculum, it was a really good thing.
If you get involved with one of these large forums or groups, a few tips to help manage the influx of information: First, recognize that the resource is there FOR you and that you do not have to be a slave to reading every single email that comes through from that group. If I join a particular yahoo group, I set up my email client so those emails go into a separate inbox. I only read those when I have time or when I’ve asked a question and am waiting for a response.
You can also sign up to have discussions delivered in “digest” format, which means rather than getting ten emails, you get one mail with titles and links to all the other emails, if you choose to read them.
And if, hypothetically speaking, you look in that inbox one day and there are 5000 unread emails in it, hit delete. You have my permission. Also, consider unsubscribing from something that may be a distraction or a frustration just because it ISN’T getting done.
Paperback Swap - I got my book list for next year, put them all on my wish list, and posted a stack of books I got at a yard sale for five bucks. I shipped out nearly 15 books and got credits, and have spent the last six months gathering almost every single book on my book list for next year. I will probably only have to purchase 4 or 5 by the time we’re ready to start. Definitely worth the time, if you can be patient. Homeschoolers have figured out this little gem and the wait list for a book can be long.
Curriculum Swap: http://www.theswap.com/forum/Blah.pl?c-CA/
Library Thing http://www.librarything.com/
Just please know that my ultimate goal here today was not to show you neat, new-fangled stuff or to show off my iPad, but to show you resources you might use to help you use your precious minutes better.
Please remember that Productivity should not be the Goal of using technology or of any of our lists or lesson plans. To glorify God in every moment is the goal. Hopefully you will be able to find something useful in all of this to help you take your moments captive and to use them better. And if you didn’t, by all means, throw it all out. But my ultimate purpose here tonight was just to help you find a way to use ALL of your minutes for God’s glory.