As classical homeschoolers (14 years and counting), our home is filled to overflowing with good books, and we spend the long winter days curled up with our favorite literature. However, one of our best family homeschooling purchases is our iPad, which we rely on as a companion for each subject of study. The iPad functions as an e-reader, research tool, teacher’s assistant, and key instructional component for our academic pursuits. With the iPad, we take our classical studies to a whole new level, as we experience dynamic interaction with our learning. At first, it may seem incongruent that modern technology, through the iPad or other tablets, would have much in common with classical education philosophies with its origins from times past. Yet, surprisingly, new and emerging technologies are quite compatible with classical methods.
Classical education methods are based on the three ways or roads of learning, known as the trivium in Latin, which include the grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric stages. The grammar stage, approximately at the elementary level, covers the foundational base of knowledge whereby new information is memorized and stored in the learning pathways of the brain. The dialectic stage, occurring roughly in the upper elementary and junior high years, includes the phase where assimilated learning is processed in a logical manner and deeper understanding is gained. The rhetoric stage, typically achieved during the high school and collegiate years, takes place when the student is proficient in expression and can teach wisdom gained to others. Through each stage of classical learning, our family finds that the iPad offers unparallelled access to educational resources, all available right at our fingertips.
Here are just a few examples of the grammar level explorations we have taken with the iPad:
- memorized the times tables with MathBoard
- mastered basic math facts with OperationMath
- completed a full year of study with SplashMath 4th Grade
- memorized the U.S. Presidents in Presidents Vs. Aliens
- accessed the National Archives through Today’s Doc
- explored a timeline of ancient history in Wonders of Old Ancient World
- traveled the world through Google Earth
- learned of many unique animals and locations in the Barefoot Atlas
- memorized facts about U.S. States in Stack the States and countries of the world in Stack the Countries
- read volumes of free classic literature available via the Kindle app
- fine tuned our writing with IEW Writing Tools
- practiced spelling and vocabulary with SpellingCity
In our classical homeschool, we use educational apps to supplement our core curriculum for each subject of study, and the apps play a huge role in our success. The iPad is a tremendous positive reinforcement to the structure of our day. On focused days, when attitudes are cheerful and eager for our studies, we complete our usual assigned tasks, and then enjoy educational apps that support each subject. The kids look forward to using the iPad each day, and most often will work towards a focused time of study. On days when we have grumpy attitudes pop up, we take a break from using the iPad and other media. To maintain healthy boundaries for technology use, we do limit the amount of “screen time” that each person has each day. But it is amazing how just a few minutes of an educational app offers an interactive dimension to our traditional books and resources. By adding this new tool into our homeschooling, we avoid the boredom and monotony that can arise in different seasons of the year.
Our greatest blessing with the iPad is that our ten year old, who once cried (frequently) over her classical math textbooks, now considers math a favorite subject. We did not eliminate the classical math program, but we took a short break from the text, and began using several high quality math apps on the iPad. Our daughter thrived with the interactive nature of the educational apps and mastered several basic grammar levels of math in a short period of time. Just recently, she announced at dinner that she loved algebra and polynomial equations, which she tinkered around with in a higher math app. This is a huge step of growth and learning for someone who once loathed math, and cried profusely when faced with a math textbook. I attribute our conquering of math anxiety to the benefit we gained from using math apps on the iPad.
Do you currently incorporate mobile apps within your homeschooling day?