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.

Online Resources for Homeschooling a Preschooler, Part 3

My youngest is ready to get at that computer too!

This is the third part of my 3-part column series that I wrote for The Barrow Journal about homeschooling a preschooler.  In it I focus on our online learning.  Click here to read the full column, and scroll down to find all the links I mention in the column plus more!

www.starfall.com — great for teaching kids their ABCs and phonics –>  and Free!

www.time4learning.com —  a full, online curriculum for Pre-K through 8th grade; includes reports (except for Pre-K portion)  –>  $20 per month (But they are having an April special for $4.99, so you can check it out for cheap, if you want!)

www.khanacademy.org — I didn’t mention this in my column because we have not used it yet, and I think my son needs to get a little older before we do.  But it looks awesome, and it’s FREE!  It’s great for math and science.

A few other sites that I have found, which look great, but I haven’t used them much.

www.preschoolexpress.com

www.janbrett.com —  (My sister, the first grade teacher, tipped me off to this one as well as starfall.com.)

We also use applications or “apps” on my iPod Touch.  You have to download iTunes to access these.  (http://www.apple.com/itunes/) iTunes is free to download, and it works on a PC too.

These apps were all under $2 to use.

“Letter Tracer” by Niftybrick Software

“First Words: Vehicles” and similar apps by Learning Touch

“TeachMe: Kindergarten” by 24x7digital LLC

“Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Wheels on the Bus” and similar apps by Duck Duck Moose

Last but not least, my son and I LOVE YouTube.  I only gave it a paragraph in my column, but I wanted to go on and on about it. Sure, YouTube has a lot of junk on it, but you can also find many gems.  In the past, we have used it to look up different kinds of music and musicians because my son likes music, especially classical.  (“Play something with no words, Mommy.”)  Mostly we use it to look up videos of animals, especially ocean animals.  In fact, every time we make a paper animal as I mentioned in my earlier post/column, we always look it up on YouTube to see a video of the real animal in action.

If you are interested, here are a few of my son’s favorite videos on YouTube.  I have bookmarked them and taught him how to retrieve them, so once in a while, he watches them by himself.  (By teaching him to use the bookmarks, he goes down the list, and I don’t have to worry too much about him clicking on something I don’t want him to watch.  But I do check on him often, if I let him sit and watch by himself, just in case.)

Hermit Crab Shell Change — This hermit crab is a pet for a Kindergarten class in Florida, and in this video, you can watch it get a new home.

Lobster Migration —  Narrated by David Attenborough.  A BBC production.  For some reason, I think this is my son’s favorite.  Go figure!

Swimming with a Manta Ray —  Such beautiful creatures.  Another BBC production.

Army of Sea Urchins — Part of BBC’s Planet Earth.  (We are planning to watch that whole series sometime.)  This is a cool video because you can watch the sea urchins and starfish move in fast motion.

Shark vs. Octopus — by National Geographic.  Not for the faint of heart.

Stingray — by National Geographic.

Of course, you can watch lots of videos for kids at National Geographic for Kids!

These links are only a drop in the ocean of what is available to our kids today.  As long as children have a good balance of play time, outdoor time, and other activities, I strongly believe that it’s okay to let kids use computers, television and gadgets to learn, and I believe they enhance learning and the imagination too!  When our kids are adults, the world will be even more technologically sophisticated than it is today!  If a parent is able, why not let them start using these devices?

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