Thursday, October 25, 2007

Schooling With Computers

I am discovering that I really love the simplicity of teaching and learning at home. Give us a few good books, a few good apples, a bench outside (if it's sunny and warm) or a couch inside (if it's cold and rainy) and we're good to go!

But I'm also delighting in the fact that I am homeschooling in the information age.

It's unusual for me to admit that I feel at home in my own time. Often I'm like a fish out of water. And I've always seen the "two-sidedness" of technology -- both the potential and actual blessings that come with it, and the potential and actual pitfalls.(Yes, I note the irony that I am writing this in a blogpost.) Among other things, I sometimes wonder if we're just taking in way too much information too quickly, with no way to assimilate it or respond to it meaningfully. But that's probably another post for another time.

This week I've been realizing how wonderful it is to have the internet at my fingertips when it comes to supplementing or enriching our lessons. So far at least I haven't really planned much of the "computer activities" that we've used. I just find myself getting curious about topics as I teach them, so I begin to explore on my own, the way I do with most topics in which I'm interested. Or I find helpful looking websites recommended by other parents and teachers on homeschooling forums.

This week we've used the internet for three things. We've been studying the seven continents, reviewing their names, learning where they're located on a map, and reading some facts about each. As usual, the sweet girl is utterly fascinated by Antarctica (her penguin passion never seems to fade). I found a terrific zoomable map at, where with a click of the mouse you can zoom in and out on a satellite photo of Antarctica. We had great fun with that, making the land of ice and snow bigger and smaller!

We've also been reading about Johnny Appleseed, the legendary name of the real John Chapman of Massachusetts, who traveled in the young United States planting apple trees and helping pioneering settlers. You can find the well-known Johnny Appleseed "grace" at If you're not sure you remember the tune (I wasn't!) you can even play a recording of the melody played simply on piano. They've got the words to several verses of the song in English, and the first verse in Spanish.

And then today we spent some time at this fun website: The activities there re-emphasize the letter sounds and phonics we've been working on for months. It also has simple but effective graphics and easy "click and drag" kinds of games that help S. learn basic computer skills as well as review letter sounds. That's a nice plus because I've been looking for a "gentle in" to more computer usage. We've not been in any rush to teach her computer skills. She did some game-playing on the computer at preschool last year, and she's done a bit of typing and clicking with us from time to time. I know some might think it's foolish -- there seems to be a huge push to want to get kids "computer-savvy" as quickly as possible. But frankly, although it's an important skill in our culture, I haven't felt the need or desire to have her learn it right away. It's felt more important that she spend time reading, writing, coloring, counting, stringing beads, playing with play-doh, making up stories for her tiny dollhouse family, taking walks and looking for beetles. I'm sure she will spend plenty of hours of her life on a computer; those skills will come in time just like everything else. Today it was just such fun to watch her delight in clicking on the capital A's and lower-case a's on the apple tree, and dragging each letter to the appropriate apple basket down below.

Yep, today I was thankful to live in the computer age.


Erin said...

Cool sites! I like that Earth Day page on Starfall where you pick up the garbage from the woods and all the animals come out. Very nifty!

We used to sing the Johnny Appleseed song before lunch in elementary school. We had a few prayers we alternated among, but Johnny Appleseed was definitely our favorite! :)

Beth said...

Glad you liked them! :-) I'm partly posting these for my own records and partly thinking other folks might be interested in them too.

I think I remembered the Johnny Appleseed grace from the Disney film. :-) I'd be curious to know if he actually wrote any of the words (or they're attributed to him) though I suspect it was written long after his death.