Using E-mail in Homeschool

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Math                            Reading                        Hiking                     Story                             Snake Project

Some of my favorite clip art that I found on Microsoft Office free images website that I use in e-mails to my six-year-old.

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on October 17, 2012.

In my last column “Using Technology in Home Education,” I wrote about an interview I heard with Fraser Speirs, a mobile education technology consultant.  According to his website (fraserspeirs.com), “Fraser works with schools and technology companies to enhance their approach to 21st century skills, teaching and modern technology provision.”

The interview inspired me to try to incorporate more technology into our homeschool, but by that I don’t just mean I’m going to have my child take classes online.  I want to use technology for productivity much like what Speirs discussed.

At this young age, I want to introduce different programs to my son so that when he’s older he’ll be able to complete and showcase his projects on the computer or another device.  This doesn’t mean we won’t use other means to showcase his work.  The computer will be one of many tools.

Right now I’m starting with the basics, and I decided to create an e-mail address for him.  (I opened it under my name.)  My other motive in using e-mail was trying to think of ways that might inspire him to want to learn to read.  It has proven to be very helpful to me, and my son enjoys checking his e-mail each weekday morning before we do our lessons.

Every evening, I compose a message for him with the next day’s date and our agenda for the morning.  When it comes to getting my son to cooperate with me, I have to let him know ahead of time what our plans are.  Writing the e-mail is a great way of doing this, and it’s been helpful to me to plan the day ahead of time.

Our plan of action is usually quite simple.  I alternate math and reading lessons Monday-Thursday. Then we work on a project.  I plan most of them, but my son initiates some of them.  If we have time, we do book time, but usually it’s time for lunch.

After lunch, he’s free to play for the rest of the day, but if we have any plans for the afternoon, I’ll inform him in the e-mail.  If we’re attending a class, going on a play date, or running errands, I’ll let him know at this time too.

He cannot read well enough to understand the written messages, so I include a lot of clip art for him.  For every subject, I find an illustrated drawing using Microsoft Office’s free clip art  and drag the thumbnail into the message in front of the bullet point.  I try to use animated clip art when possible because that’s more fun for the six-year-old.  I also use the same words every day in my agenda’s list in the hopes that’ll he’ll start to recognize these words.

The most helpful part of using e-mail is being able to include any links that I want him to see.  I’m a big fan of YouTube, and when I’m trying to reinforce something from our reading or math lessons, I’ll search for short videos for him to watch.  It’s easy to include links to these in the e-mail, and they are right there ready to go in the morning.

Occasionally my husband or I will come across an article on the Internet with photos – perhaps something about animals or scientific research – that we know our son would like to see.  I used to forget to show these golden nuggets to my son, but now I can just send him a link in an e-mail, and we’ll look at it in the morning before his lessons.  Sometimes these articles are starting-off points for further discussion and research, if it sparks his curiosity.  (I’ll talk more about this in my next post.)

I have also shared his e-mail address with a few close friends and relatives with instructions that short, simple messages and photographs are appreciated.  It’s always a treat to my son to receive something from someone besides my husband or me.

If there’s one thing for sure, technology is here to stay, and someday my sons will be competing for employment in a world that will have even more advanced technological capabilities.  As long as children are taught that it’s a tool and how to use it wisely and safely, it’ll give them an advantage to grow up using it.  Indeed, it would be a disadvantage to shield them from it.

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