{Homeschool Tips} Using Screen Time (Guilt-Free) in a Homeschool Setting

This post contains one sponsored link.*

For all the fretting, hand-wringing, and mommy guilt that appears when the topic of "screen time" comes up with parents, more and more homeschool parents are relying upon iPads and computers to fill up hours in the school day.

Is that a good or a bad thing?

Tough call.

If like me you balance work and homeschool with a minimal social support system, then technology can be a real lifesaver, er, job saver.  I know in my career, as a writer and consultant, there are some weeks when technology is utilized more than others. High volume technology weeks for our son track with my deadlines and appointments.

I believe that the issue of "is computer/screen time a good or bad thing" is a question with too many variables to warrant a pat answer.

For me, responsible use of technology hinges upon two central questions:

1. Does the technology involve age-appropriate content that moves the child forward in a desirable area?

We have deleted apps and restricted access to website that we feel are inappropriate. For the most part, our kid uses iPad applications that reflect academic or social goals. Oh, sure, we have Angry Birds but the apps that hold his interest the longest tend to have some sort of educational bent to them.

Note that "educational" doesn't have to mean games descended from Frogger but with cutesy language lessons incorporated. In fact, some of the best options bring real world experiences into the virtual world. Take for example the Bookboard subscription service* and Dragon Box. Both are dynamic, modern spins on old-fashioned experiences: reading books and learning the underpinnings of algebra. (These two particular apps are so popular here that I actually keep them, together with MindSnacks, on our lesson plan rotation.)

2. Are parental and child attitudes to technology positive?

If you want to have kids that have responsible attitudes about technology, then you need to start nurturing those attitudes from the moment you allow access. For example, use a timer or schedule to keep track of who has been online for how long. With older kids talk about how it feels physically when one stays on too long. Ask them to compare that sensation to running, swimming, or playing or other outside, physical activities. (That conversation will clue you in to what your kids need more--or less--of.)

Parents, if you work out of the home--and if your job involves heavy computer use, be sure to visibly take breaks--in other words, model healthy usage--in your own routine. Kids don't really grasp that Mom is making money from writing. Much of what we do looks like it could be play to them as well.

Parents: I'd love to hear from you on this topic.

How do you navigate technology use in your homeschool setting?
What mistakes have you made?
What have you learned?

* FCC Disclosure: I am a brand ambassador for Bookboard and receive compensation for referrals to the site through my social media accounts, including this blog. The opinions expressed here are my own.

{Homeschool Tips} A Message of Support for Parents Who Aren't "Loving" Their Homeschool Experience

My friend Brenda has a post up on her blog from a reader who is hurting:

I don’t know how to fall in love with homeschooling like you and everyone else. I enjoy reading your blog because you seem so relaxed about the chaos, but you seem to be in love with homeschooling.

Am I the only one who hates it? I don’t want to put my kids in public school, but I feel like I am doing them a disservice when deep down I don’t even want to get up in the morning and face the day. I am overwhelmed and not sure what to do.

Brenda offered her own advice, and then she invited her readers to weigh-in.

Here's my response, which I left in comments:

When I work with new homeschool parents–or established homeschoolers who are seeking to reinvigorate their commitment, I often find that unease comes from using techniques and approaches that aren’t well suited to the learning style of the parents, the kids, or both. It may be time to reconsider one’s approach to home learning or even take a break from it and embrace unschooling or something close to it for a few weeks. (The holidays are a great time to do that because math abounds in recipes and crafts and cultural history abounds, whatever your faith.)

I’d also be curious if you have the kind of intellectual stimulation and social support in your life to energize yourself. Sometimes I find we get so focused on our kids’ learning outcomes and “socialization” that we forget that we adults are learners and social beings, too. I’ve got a small tribe of women and men who keep me going, and they aren’t all homeschoolers, either. 

Hope this helps. Good on you for speaking up and not suffering in silence.

Do you ever struggle with "not loving" homeschooling? How do you handle it?

And if you haven't already heard, I've created a new private How to Work and Homeschool group on Facebook where parents can work through challenges like these. This is in addition to the public page. You are welcome to join both or either of them.

What It's Like to Work and Homeschool as a... Freelance Writer

My part-time "day job" is as a freelance writer. It's a big deadline week for me, so the kiddo is accompanying me on interviews. He's getting older now and I have started to see elements of my work as learning opportunities for him.

Today alone we've discussed all kinds of useful things--story sources, ethical journalistic behavior, how to find a story idea, approaching people, and how to explain to your editor that you need to switch topics because you found a much better story.

I even had him proofread one of my articles and offer up suggestions. As it happens he had a great idea, reminding me of a detail in our encounter with the story source that I'd forgotten. What he suggested is the kind of thing that readers love, so he seems to have a natural gift for writing.

Tagging along with me, he also heard a lot today about artmaking and the importance of supporting small businesses. He expressed, too, a desire to make and sell his own gift cards using his own artwork. Very cool.

All in all, it's just another day working and homeschooling, both of us learning new things along the way.

What a gift it is to share with him.

I'd love to hear how you combine your career with homeschooling. Please leave a comment.

Pamela Price is the author of  How to Work and Homeschool: Practical Advice, Tips, and Strategies from Parents (GHF Press). She is also the founder of an award-winning blog, Red, White and Grew.

Congratulations to Bookboard, An Award-Winning Children's Book Subscription Service

 FCC Disclosure*

As I mentioned last month, I'm pleased to be a blog ambassador for Bookboard, the innovative children's book subscription service.

Having blogged for many years--and having been approached by various companies who wanted my endorsement, I was slow to accept a brand ambassadorship offer until I found a product in which I could believe and feel confident about recommending.

Bookboard fit that bill for me.

As it happens, I'm not alone in recognizing the product's value for parents and children. Earlier this week the company received a much-coveted 2013 "Family Choice Award" recognizing the best in children's and parenting products.

From the official award announcement:

Bookboard is unique in its ability to motivate and engage kids to read more. Christine Ying of TechCrunch reported, “Bookboard has really identified something to keep my kids engaged and motivated…” “In addition, the service provides a curated reading experience so kids can easily find the next great book.” Jordan Shapiro of Forbes commended, “A thoughtful librarian delivered instantly to your home.  {More}

In addition to sharing news about the award, Bookboard announced this week a new gift certificate program that is perfect for holiday gift giving.

The gift of Bookboard for an entire year is especially suitable for working homeschool families since it allows us to transport hundreds of books easily on an iPad. New books are added all the time, too, and the company takes a lot of pride in sharing collections of books tied to seasonal themes. (For examples, see their Pinterest board.) The content on the service is curated by a real, live, professional librarian, and the books offered are matched to a child's learning skills and interests. (Parents also have the power to exclude or add books as they see fit.)

If you're still not convinced that you want to add the gift certificates to your holiday wish list--or to purchase a gift certificate for a family on your gift list, I would like to personally invite you to experience a free trial. I think you'll find that Bookboard brings the best of technology and childhood literacy to your electronic device in an engaging and convenient way.

Are you curious to learn more about the company and what led to its creation? Check out this article from Christian Science Monitor.

Update: Since I shared this post, Bookboard has received another award, the National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Gold Award in the "Family" category.

*FCC Disclosure: I am a member of Bookboard’s Blog Ambassador program. I am compensated, from time to time, with free products and monetary payments.