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@HomeSchool Library Journal with Andrea From

A few weeks back I posted about homeschoolers using technology as a teaching tool in the home. Needless to say, I was awed by the ingenuity taking place and invited one of my commenters, Andrea, from AtypicalLife blog, to share her family’s story. 
So take your time and get ready to experience raw fun, and information for lifetime! This is the FIRST in a series.

Andrea writes…

I’d like to point out we didn’t have "success with technology" as an objective. Our only objective as parents has been to have raised happy adults who continue to learn new things and who question *everything*. Yes, even their parents. We also wanted to enjoy the ride with them, as much as possible.
I think part of our successes is due to the fact that both Ron and I are fairly young, and were fairly young new parents. We also – both – had an existing love of learning, a curiosity, and a drive to figure things out. One of the other things I noticed as a mom of young kids was that I spent an inordinate amount of time saying "no". One day I realized I had no real reason to say no other than "because"… so I showed the kids how to use the stereo so they could also change their own CDs. Besides, they always interrupted me, and this ultimately enabled them to do for themselves. We are big believers in independence.

I have four children ages 20, 17, 15 and 7. The first three were in a clump and in many ways were parented and taught as a unit. And honestly, the younger days with three kids spanning five years, it was much easier for crowd control. When you’re home alone in the country with three small kids and no car? Yeah, you find things to do that can amuse *everyone*.

Back in those days, Ron was working in the IT industry, and I was a SAHM. We both met in college while we took a computer programming course. So I suppose it was kind of destined to be this way.  Given all that, you can expect we had a computer in our house. This was way back before Windows had even come put, but it was on the horizon and GUIs [graphic user interface] were the next hot thing. I had one very active little boy and a toddler hot on his heels. We didn’t have the option of much tv, as we were that far out in the country. Three channels – four if you counted the french one. Yes, another screen was another way to keep them busy, but it was *interactive*. They had to do something, especially on rainy days or when it was too cold to go outside.

I had found some very simple shareware games – mostly keyboard bashers, but all of the "educational" variety. Since it was, as I said, before windows, you had to type in the program name to start it. Busy moms are the mother of invention, I think, so what I eventually did was whip up a two-line program that started my daughter Sarah’s favorite game when she typed in her name. The game would show a letter on the screen with an object beginning with that letter. Press the letter and the screen would flash, music would play, and it would then show the next letter — simple enough, but it kept Sarah busy. She was two – three at the latest. She was also quite verbal at this age, so we didn’t think anything of it. After all, she saw mommy Daddy and big brother use it, why not her?

This continued on, mostly just computer useage whenever, and when there were three of them using it, we did have turns and time limits. Our oldest – our son, Addison – had the most issues with wanting to spend all day in front of a game and then be really aggressive afterwards, but I still feel that’s more just being a boy. As long as he got outside and wore off the energy, it helped. The girls were less interested and were often done before their time was up.

In noticing other parents talk about time limits, I felt some of them were too short. Like I said above, the kids saw us using the computers, and yes we played some games as well. Se we had a good idea as to how much time was needed to get anywhere in a particular game, and what sort of limit was really frustrating for the kids. Booting them off after 20 minutes on something really complicated was almost always a guarantee we had a surly child on our hands. But it’s not the computer’s fault or the game’s fault. I would suggest that any parent play the games their kids are. 

As they got older, computer games became more involved and complicated, and because the computer was in an open area with the screen visible to others, siblings became drawn into what was happening on the screen as well. Some single player games became a group effort just by nature of people being there. And the subject matter of some games marketed for "fun" were educational as well. We spent a few years delving through history by way of games such as Age of Empires and Civilization. Other simulation games were a big hit, and the kids learned all kinds of things that way – planning, budgeting, marketing, math – and I find most people miss the obvious: you have to read the instructions on the screen.

More tomorrow @HomeSchool Library Journal W/Andrea.
All of Andrea’s kids have blogs!