Last week, after months and months of bitching about our crappy internet speed (despite paying through the nose for a high speed), I finally had our cable company come out and test the speed. They claimed that their modem was not only pushing the high speed, but pushing even higher than the advertised speed. Which meant the problem was us. More specificially, it was our router.
Our router was a single-band router that we’ve had for…oh, at least two years? Maybe more. And it was an exact duplicate of the predecessor it replaced. At the time, it worked. We had maybe three computers on it at the time. Eventually, we added another computer, then some smartphones, and eventually a fifth computer.
We’re way beyond a handful of computers and a smartphone or three. Between phones, computers, Kindles, and tablets, I realized we have 19 devices on our network. Nineteen! Yeah, clearly that single-band router just wasn’t up to the task.
So I called my local Office Depot and got on the phone with a tech guy. I explained the situation, and asked for his recommendation on how best to go about getting the speeds we were paying for. He told me exactly what I needed, and we bought a new AC router that I installed on Friday. We now have the higher speed we’re paying for and no more issues.
It got me thinking over the weekend, though. We really do have a lot of devices in this house. And while it might seem at first glance that all our devices are for entertainment purposes, they’re really not. Well, they are, but they serve another purpose as well. An educational one. All right, not all of them, but most of them.
Thinking about this prompted me to realize that you all might be curious to know just how we use technology for educational purposes in this house. Maybe you’re looking at something and wondering if you can justify it for school or not. So, here’s a rundown of what we have, and how we use it.
- Each of my kids, and myself, has their own laptop (thanks to the grandparents for Christmas). Before, they had their own desktop. Having their own computers may seem like a luxury, and if your budget is truly tight enough, then it is a luxury. But I would also argue that it’s a necessity if you homeschool. When you have multiple kids, having just one computer for all of them will make your day longer if you use enough computer-based lessons in your plans. With some creative scheduling, you can arrange for one kid to be doing computer work while the other does paper and pencil work, but the second it takes one kid longer to finish his computer work than the other, you’re going to find your day being extended. And trust me when I say, the second kid is not going to let you forget that Johnny got ___ extra minutes on the computer today, too! By each having their own computer, you can put them both to work on the computer at once, but even if you don’t want to do that, at least you won’t have arguments over who took too long or why they should get extra time. A the very least, if you have more than two kids, you should at least think about getting two computers, so that more than one kid can be working at the same time, even if they still all share the computers.
- We all have Kindles. We all have a regular Kindle ereader, dedicated solely to reading. I think they have the capability of opening a web browser, but it’s a bit clumsy and slow and not nearly as simple as using the computer. I love these Kindles for a lot of reasons. One is that is is dedicated solely to reading. It’s a single-tasking tool that keeps my kids focused on the task at hand: reading. No distractions of the internet or Facebook notifications or anything else. Another is the fact that I can buy a book once and everyone whose Kindle is registered to my account can read it. This is a huge bonus when my kids and I are all group reading a book together. Buy the Kindle book once for $9.99 or buy three paperbacks at $6.99 each? Yeah, it’s a no-brainer to figure out what the better option is. Plus, you can get so many books for free, including tons of classic literature. This also means less trips to the library, which saves gas and late fees if, like me, you tend to forget to return the books on time.
- The kids and I got Kindle Fire tablets for Christmas. I was actually pretty determined for a long time that my kids did not need tablets and that I wasn’t going to buy them for them. But when Amazon offered them for $35, it was too good a deal to pass up. We only started school back up today (well, technically yesterday, but yesterday was a field trip), so their only official useof the tablets so far has been playing games – entertaining games. However, there is one that they’ve been playing and having a blast with that is educational – Geometry Dash Meltdown. I also put the Spelling City app on there. We all also have QuizUp, which I find plain entertaining, and I think they will as well, but it has tons of categories that would also qualify as educational. While the rule is they must use their regular Kindles for reading, there is one exception that rule, and that is magazines. Our local library offers Zinio, which allows you to read digital versions of magazines for free. They can use their tablets for that, and there are plenty of magazines that will serve an educational purpose – fitness, woodworking and cooking, just to name a few.
- We also have Amazon Fire TV Sticks. When I got a new smartphone in November, they were running a promotion that also netted me a free year’s subscription to Amazon Prime. I already had the stick, but had been using it solely for Hulu Plus until that point, along with a few of the other apps. Now, some of the apps (History, Lifetime, Smithsonian, etc.) have changed and no longer offer full length episodes of their shows without logging in with your cable provider info. But between Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, there are tons of educational shows, movies, and documentaries we can watch. Plus, we can access Ted Talks and iEducation through the stick, which gives us more to watch. We’ve also found some rather unique apps that play to some of the interests in this house, such as a woodworking app that has videos from a professional carpenter showing how to perform a variety of woodworking skills. There are also apps for things like the History Channel or Smithsonian Channel, which allows us to find shows that may not be airing currently but that we want to watch because they tie into something we’re studying.
Technology is not the only way we teach/learn, of course. We do field trips, we go outside, we read physical books, we play games, we talk. We go to the library and research. But technology is becoming a huge part of life, and while I definitely want my children to learn the old-fashioned way of doing things, I see no reason not to embrace technology and use it to our advantage. If it makes something faster, easier or cheaper, I’m all for it.
If you’ve been considering any of the above for your home, whether for school or otherwise, I would recommend any of them. They’re worth saving up for, if the budget is too tight to simply buy them outright. The money spent on each and every one of these things will be worth it in the benefits they provide – and in some cases, you’re able to save money by using the device, so you save even more.
Do you use technology in your homeschool? What do you use, and how? If you don’t use it, what was behind that decision?