Somewhere around mid-March this past year, I experienced it…
The homeschooling mother’s annual nervous breakdown.
My house was a disaster, my nerves were frayed, my kids were climbing the walls, and I felt that we weren’t “getting anything accomplished”…that I just “couldn’t do this anymore”…
Yes, I know…this happens to every homeschooling mom, and probably around mid-March, too!
Whilst I was searching up and down the road for the Yellow Bus to throw my kids onto, or googling opportunities to move to Europe, or dreaming of thousands of dollars I don’t have to send my children to the local Classical-model Christian school that doesn’t exist, a wise friend of mine had some more realistic advice for me. And I don’t even know what it was she said, really…she just calmly chatted with me, graciously resisted pointing out the fact that I was overreacting and behaving like a moron, encouraged me and helped me to think about our schooling process from a new angle.
I came home that night a little subdued, prayerful, and with my thinking cap firmly fastened on. What would help the disorganization and lack of ZIP in our school days? What were our issues? What were some plausible answers?
- My children, though they have learned the all-important lesson of sitting (relatively) still and paying (a moderate amount of) attention while I read aloud and walk them through lessons, were not, however retaining information well or engaging with the material in the way and to the degree that I wished them to.
- Our resources and materials were in a bit of a jumble. Okay, a huge mess. I start off the year/semester/unit with all materials printed out and arranged neatly in binders, with calendars and schedules and all. These are, however, very young children, and even college students don’t necessarily excel at keeping paper planners neat and organized. And my elementary-aged children? A matter of weeks and those papers were marked up, ripped up, and scattered to the four winds. Posted schedules ignored. Calendars a mess because of interruptions and illness, so this math lesson had moved to that day, this field trip cancelled or rescheduled…some changes were made manually with a great deal of scratch marks and arrows. To some extent, the whole plan was tossed out and we moved on to “what’s next in the book, let’s do that today”…(I know you know what I’m talking about!)
- I was struggling to keep up with monitoring, inspecting, and correcting. We would spend a couple hours in the morning doing our memory and read-aloud work, then move on to math, and finally to subjects like writing or science. By the time lunch was over and the kids moved on to reading off by themselves for a quiet hour or two in the afternoon, I was toast. The idea of picking up their work to look it over, checking that chores were done, etc…made me want to take a nap!
- We weren’t getting to some of the “fun stuff”…the stuff I knew was out there that makes my children’s eyes sparkle with interest and starts them off on a path of discovery, wanting to know more. I felt that we were so hindered by our messes and scheduling issues and all those books and papers and materials and we just couldn’t seem to keep everything organized.
And then, that night, I thought up this plan. I’m not even sure where the idea came from, it just seemed to pop into my head. I believe it had something to do with discussing the exorbitant cost of private school, and with five children and pricey tuition, wouldn’t there somehow be something in between that would provide a workable solution? Such as online classes or something like that? And I did look into online classes, but they don’t really exist for my children’s age levels. And somewhere in my thinking and pondering and searching, I stumbled on to the idea of…
Something that could help us with schedules and calendars and checklists. Something that wouldn’t get lost or torn or marked up. Something engaging. Something that could provide a gateway to a wealth of visually- rich educational material yet still line up with my Classical/Charlotte Mason/Literature-based schooling style.
A way to study languages, art, music, science, language arts, history, geography, mathematics…and to hold it all in your hands and touch it.
All of our information organized and backed up to cloud storage. Podcasts and audio books available instantly. All of our favorite music, learning songs, and memory songs all in one place. Literally thousands of free Kindle books, including many literary classics. All of our Netflix biographies and documentaries that we have so enjoyed viewing for science and history. Library downloads all linked to our accounts and available at the tap of a finger.
When I had this brilliant idea, the iPad 2 happened to be on sale for $399. Adding in $99 for AppleCare may seem steep at first, but my children are going to be handling this product on a daily basis, and I am covered for damage for two years. Let’s see…
2 children x 2 iPads and 2 AppleCare policies + the marginal cost of various educational apps, spread over two years plus whatever life is left in them after that time (at which point they will likely be passed down to younger siblings)
the cost of private school, or fancy new curriculums that may not even work out for us, or more consumable materials and resources that are subject to loss or damage.
Wait! You still wonder what would push me over the edge to make such an investment for a 10-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy? And did she mention Charlotte Mason? But she is putting her children in front of a screen?
In my next post I will begin an overview of all the wonderful apps I have discovered for the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone that have been such a blessing to my family. I will have to break it up into two or three posts, as there are nearly 50 that we use to varying degrees. But let me just leave off by making a few last key points that factored into my decision.
This is where we are headed. I feel so strongly about my children not spending all their time in front of screens that we don’t even own a video gaming system, not even any computer games, nor do we have any television service beyond our Netflix subscription. However, I feel that holding my children back completely from the course of technology and where it will take us in the future is a disservice to them and a naive mistake on my part. I don’t need to sit them in front of flashing lights and colors and sound for their entertainment, but I will certainly turn the screen brightness down on an iPad and place it in their hands for a couple hours a day, providing them with a portal to a world of poetry, music, literature, math, nature, and so very much more.
The parental controls on the iPad are a parent and/or educator’s dream. I can turn off general access to the internet as well as preventing them from installing or deleting apps. I can choose to allow them to use the camera or not, to have an email account set up or not, and all with a pass code that I know and they, of course, do not. I control all the content on the device, leaving them with the feeling of complete freedom while it is in their possession. This is not something that can be said of a desktop computer or laptop, as young children can quickly find their way online or into my files (and into trouble) fast!
Ah, Charlotte! I wish we could know for certain what her thoughts would be on the technologies at our fingertips in this present time. But I have a strong feeling that she would heartily approve of the careful and guided utilization of such amazing devices. To study a composer and hear his works with the tap of a finger. To play with oil paints but be able to erase a mistake. To identify a bird, hear it’s song, and make a note of it’s sighting. To spin the globe with the swipe of a hand and to zoom in on a country or city of interest. To watch a science experiment and then recreate it in the kitchen. To move the words of a sentence around with a fingertip, learning grammar and structure as we rearrange. To view a painting in brilliant detail then to tap and instantly read about the artist’s life. To keep a neat and tidy notebook for all subjects that doesn’t fall behind the dresser or get torn up or marked with crayon by the baby. To build a molecule for fun, keep a stack of flashcards handy at all times, create a scrapbook, read the Bible, memorize a catechism, study Chinese (or Spanish or French or Italian!), solve a puzzle, play chess, sketch, stargaze…the possibilities really are endless.
So this year, I forge ahead with my school planning with a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye. I am so excited! Don’t worry…we aren’t burning our books or throwing away our real oil paints. And I will still scribble things down on paper. My children will still pick up a pencil and cut and paste. But I will feel freed up to do those things because they ARE LEARNING! And they are excited about it!
************MORE TO COME!!!************
including a very exciting announcement about a lesson planning/assignment scheduling/record keeping app being designed (with quite a lot of input by me) by my amazingly brilliant and talented brother! (who is completely qualified because he does this every day as his job!)
so keep checking back!