Do you have a little 4×6 beast in your house? Some days, I want to throw the iPods (insert the name of any handheld app bearing device here) in our home out the window! When my teen and tween start spending to much time with their “little beast” I remind them of this fact. “God made us to be in relationship, and you can’t be in relationship with us if you are always hiding behind that iPod.” Nevertheless, with a little restraint handheld technology and tablets can be a wonderful tool. We have a few rules that help keep us in check.
Quick note: Did you enter our Kindle Fire Giveaway yet? You could win a Fire tablet, cover and gift card! It will help you put into practice some of the ideas in this post.
Rules for Handheld Devices in our Home
- Handheld Gaming is limited to one hour per day, and except on car rides and before bedtime. Occasionally extra gaming is allowed if they are with friends.
- Music and Audiobooks are unlimited as long as volume controls are set and it isn’t interfering with relationships. In other words, these things will be unlimited until someone forgets to show good judgement.
- Internet surfing and YouTube videos are without line of site from a parent (we can see the screen) and supervision.
Here I am starting with the rules again! Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about how to use apps in your homeschool. We have actually been using an iPod for my daughter’s occupational therapy. She has this very common habit of pointing with her middle finger. When I say common, I’m saying it is common in occupational therapy students who are much younger then she.
This is not a good habit. We are using an iPod Touch to teach her to use her first finger to point. Whenever she plays a game or uses an app she has to use her first finger to perform every operation whenever possible. This is the first thing we have found that is actually making a difference. I even have another rule for the younger children. If I catch them using anything besides their first finger, they lose iPod time after the second warning. It works!
I have a wonderful app called Brushes with which oldest my daughter has created some pretty neat artwork! We also have the free Photoshop Express app and the same daughter is getting quite skilled at manipulating photos for effect. Using the camera app on her iPod, she is also learning to be quite the photogapher! Check out the squirrel picture she took on a recent field trip!
She is learning to be a graphic artist without even knowing it is part of her homeschool. Did you know that art created with Brushes has been sold for good money? Yes, Virginia, handheld technology can be a good thing.
Here are the guidelines I use for choosing apps to put on my iPod Touch or iPhone.
- Does it do a good job of teaching?
- Does it contradict my values? (pictures, authority of parents, creation, etc.)
- Does it hold their attention?
At first, I attempted to only put educational apps on my iPod. However as time went on I learned that the other games available are great as incentives. If my child will play for so many minutes on Look Again or Look Again Jr., he or she can play for the same number of minutes on Angry Birds or one of the other games which are mostly for entertainment.
So how can you find great apps? I like to check out the top 25 apps in iTunes under the education category frequently, but I also like to keep my eyes and ears open. I ask my friends what their kids are playing. I follow internet websites that review apps such as Apps-School. I read about apps in magazines and on mommy blogs. I found out about one amazing app last week when a friend emailed me because she knew I was doing this series! It is called Heavens Above and it is based on Creation science.