An recent conversation got me thinking. What is the role (if any) of computers in homeschooling? Being a former member of the group I lovingly refer to as “purists”, this is a topic about which I really needed to sort out my philosophical stance.
I used to believe that human nature lends us to learn best through our worldly experiences and interactions. Citing the vacant, zombified stare of kids who obviously watch too much television was my favorite proof of concept. <sigh> As a former tech worker, I have a learned aversion to all things electronic; I didn’t want my kids lost in cyberspace all the time. They were going to grow up in the physical world whether they liked it or not.
The upside of our no tech lifestyle was that my kids grew up very social. This worked great until the oldest turned nine. Lets get right to it: my kids were being left out of a lot of conversations with their friends. They were the only ones not playing video games, watching television, or with access to a computer or mobile device. Before, it just wasn’t a big deal, now, however, it was. A twinge hit my heart. I know what it is like to be left out. So, I let the them use the Kindles my father gave them for Christmas. Lo and behold, Minecraft, the game most talked about by my kids friends, could be purchased to run on this platform. They played very responsibly, and still enjoy the game immensely.
Then something happened. I had to homeschool two kids at the same time at different levels and different subjects. Other parents I know can do this without the aid of computer based learning, but there was a catch; my oldest daughter wanted to learn programming. Someone had told her that she could modify Minecraft. Can this be done without a computer? I suppose, but it’s definitely more natural and easier to learn with the tool itself. What to do, what to do?
Those pretty blue eyes are mighty hard to say “no” to. I relented. I guess the upside is that she loves programming. Once that door is open, though, it’s difficult to close. She was having difficulty with a math concept, and I was out of ideas on how to teach it. We checked YouTube, and 20 minutes later she had the concept.
It was certainly convenient, and we will continue to utilize the computer for some of our homeschooling, but I almost feel like knowledge so easily obtained is lacking in value. The ah-ha moment was nowhere near the level she has experienced for other concepts she has learned utilizing more traditional methods.
Here is my take-away: I am no longer a “purist” for children over the age of six. Once a child’s brain is past the crucial age of 2, and the second crucial age of 5, they should be socialized with technology. It’s a part of our world that is not going away anytime soon. I’m just hoping I can teach my kids to use it responsibly, and not forget to limit their screen time; there’s a whole world out there!