The other day, Brad sent me this photo:
It is of my eight year old, G, playing war over Skype with his cousin. This is not a thing I can relate to from my own childhood.
Instead, it causes me once again to marvel at the wonders of modern technology. And it got me thinking about all the incredible things my children have access to in this technological world.
Bringing it around to unschooling, I’ve long imagined that back in the 70’s when John Holt first coined the term–and in the intervening decades–it really would have had to take a serious leap of faith to do it. Because it requires you to not only believe in your children’s innate desire and ability to learn everything they might need to know without adult intervention, but also to believe that they’re better off without access to the programs and resources their schooled counterparts would have.
For some things, it still is true that my children just don’t have the same access to opportunities as schooled children–mostly things considered “extracurricular”, like sports teams and musical bands. But I believe wholeheartedly that the advent of technology as it stands today opens up so many exciting opportunities, for free, at their fingertips, that unschooling has become a clear hands down winner for even the faintest hearted parent of any sort of child.
To drive my point home, here is a list of a few ways my kids have used technology that I think is just way cooler than science projects and book reports:
- Skype play with cousins. Families are important! And now, thousands of kilometres can’t stop my kids from developing relationships with their extended family.
- Skype learning with cousins. It’s not all recreational: E has learned some legitimate kitchen skills from baking with her older cousin over the phone. I think she’s also got some drawing tutorials (A is a prodigy artist), been inspired to learn piano, and motivated to read books she found intimidating. G doesn’t just play war–the other day he and his cousin were full on engaged in some kind of fantasy RPG over Skype.
- Email and messaging. Not only is it great reading and spelling practice, but it’s also another way to stay connected with family and close friends. E likes to message her gramma for advice.
- Educational videos. Ted-Ed, for one, has so many great animated, short videos on a huge variety of subjects. My six year old will often surprise me with random facts he remembers from videos he’s seen. Super cool.
- Art tutorials. One thing that all my kids at some point in their childhoods have enjoyed is drawing along with Art Hub for Kids. They’ve made all sorts of cool art-by-youtube.
- Yoga. Another youtube advent–I mean, tutorials in general have changed the world as we know it. My kids really enjoy Kozmic Kids Yoga. Although L decided to get serious and tried out a few adult yoga videos the other day. He was very excited to learn a new way to do tree pose from what he’d been shown before.
- Audiobooks. The local library is my friend–so amazing that we have access to hundreds of kids books on audio for free; downloadable straight onto my tablet, from the comfort of my living room.
- Podcasts. One that the kids have been into that I love is called Wow in the World. Every episode is packed with fascinating information, presented in a fun way! G has been going about his business attached to a podcast nearly every day this month.
- Minecraft. You know, when I was a young girl, if I wanted to design a dream home I’d have to get graph paper and draw out a floor plan in 2-D like some kind of BARBARIAN. Now my kids can make mansions of grandeur beyond my wildest imaginings. And you should see some of the ingenuous solutions they’ve come up with to work around the restrictions of what’s available in the game to accommodate their desires. The most recent one that comes to mind is using chickens as children. That one’s not quite so ingenuous as it is hilarious.
- Straight up google searches. This generation is spoiled with how quickly they can find literally any answer they’re seeking. E wants to know the fastest aquatic animal? She knows where to go.
- Powerpoint. While someone else’s kid is copying words from a chalkboard, my kid is making a powerpoint presentation on all their favourite kinds of pizza.
- Writing stories. Whenever the mood strikes–pop onto the computer to add a few paragraphs to that budding novel!
- Learning about constellations. We have an app on our tablet that the kids have sometimes enjoyed, which tells you what the constellations are wherever your screen is pointing.
- Setting personal goals. Recently E decided to download a “health” app onto the spare smart phone. It has yoga; mindfulness techniques; exercise goals…she’s into it. She’s got L to go jogging with her a few mornings this week.
- Word puzzles and thinking games. So many cool apps that keep the brain juices flowing. Brad recently got the kids into sudoku so that’s on the spare phone now.
- Teach Your Monster to Read. Amazing game; go check it out.
- Animation. We downloaded a free program called Pivot to our computer that allows you to move little stick men through any adventure your mind thinks up.
- Quality shows, on demand. The new Magic School Bus, anyone?! SO GOOD.
I want to emphasize that this is just a quick list off the top of my head. Technology has just made so many incredible things so easily available. These days, a child at home has access not only to physical toys, creative supplies, nature, books, and all that good stuff; but also technology, which really tips the scales in favour of the unschooled child, don’t you think?