Homeschooling has changed dramatically in its long history: lessons taught by reading, lecturing, and testing have gone the way of learning to read from the Bible alone and teaching only practical survival skills such as farming and cooking. Today’s kids are tech savvy, eager for information, and accustomed to interactive learning that allows for exploration, self-correction, and entertainment. While it is comfortable to cling to traditional homeschool methods, it is a detriment to children to shield them from the reality of the world we live in. Technology is a fact of life; tech skills and abilities are a major pre-requisite for virtually every job in today’s workforce. Parent/teachers can take advantage of the apps and programs available to help kids learn skills, memorize facts, and practice test-taking all while preparing for future employment.
Preschoolers can use apps to help with pre-writing skills without wasting tons of paper: coloring, tracing mazes or letters, and chasing bugs around a screen all help with fine motor skills. The addition of a stylus makes the app play even more applicable to real life pre-writing skills. Apps can also be amusing and entertaining methods to teach the alphabet, number recognition, emergency safety procedures, colors, shapes, and problem solving without tears or tantrums.
Elementary students can find fun games to practice math facts, play interactive games to learn about animals, or study history while solving challenging puzzles. Students who are engaged in learning and excited about the topic will retain more information and seek out more knowledge on the subject as opposed to their counterparts who are told to read a chapter in preparation for a multiple choice test.
Middle school students can test their geography knowledge, musical and dexterity skills, and begin to create their own biographies and historical studies through various apps. As these pre-teens begin to feel a need for independence, technology gives them an outlet to choose how to learn and what to study. A student who learns best visually can discern which apps help her learn and retain information the best. A student who prefers to hear information can choose apps with more audio content. The tactile student will be drawn to apps that allow for the most interactive learning, filled with moveable graphics and changing perspectives.
High school students can utilize apps in even more ways, expanding their knowledge as they prepare for college-level courses. Apps geared toward AP students will help average students challenge themselves, apps containing links to more information can spur investigation and discovery beyond what a parent might expect, and live news apps might become an avenue to proactive community leadership.
Technology in general, and apps in particular, are creating new pathways to learning. Homeschool students have a unique opportunity to take advantage of educational apps in ways that public school students do not; homeschool students will have more time and more one-on-one instruction in the best use of the apps alongside individualized follow-up lessons in the real world. It would be foolish for a homeschooling parent to ignore the benefits of educational apps; most are created with specific intentions to teach skills and facts and deliver on that intent. While screen time should, of course, be limited, apps are a valuable asset to any homeschool setting and will continue to grow in content, availability, and intelligent design.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.