Thursday, March 28, 2013

Computer Learning For Kids - How We Utilize It

  • What learning programs are they using?
  • Do they do online learning?
  • Which kids use the computers?
  • Where to find computer learning programs? 
  • When and how long to do they "play"? 
  • Computer as a tool or a toy?

We have found that computer learning can be incredibly valuable for our children, when carefully monitored, and with certain provisions, guidelines, and restrictions. Today I'll share with you how we structure these learning experiences in our home.

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What learning programs are they using?  

I've been asked which type of computers we use, and we use PC's, so all of this information is relevant to those, although many of the learning CD's are for either PC or Mac.

Our children learn many educational things through a couple of different ways on the computers.  We currently have 17 different learning CD's for them to choose from, most all of which were given to us by family or friends or some of which my sister found at a garage sale.  And the children have several choices online for learning activities.

First, here are the computer learning CD's we currently own (although some of these links are for versions that are newer online than what we have, but the content I'm pretty positive would be the same):

* Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing  -  There is a kids' version now, but this has worked great for all of our children so far.  Our two oldest girls taught themselves to type using this, and without my prompting them to do so even.  Our third child (currently 10) is currently teaching himself, and our 6-year-old son is now teaching himself as well.  They all can't wait to learn to type using this and the Jump Start typing program down below.  *smile*

* Magic School Bus "Inside the Earth" & "Ocean" (Microsoft) - There are many other versions available as well, such as "Explores the Solar System", "Explores the Human Body", "Rain forest", "Animals", "Bugs", "Dinosaurs", etc.  These programs we've owned have had abundant great learning for our children.  I don't know if the dinosaur one is full of evolution or not, but I would suspect that it does.  Once-in-a-while the Ms. Frizzle (the class teacher) says "millions of years ago", but it's few and far between and our children don't even seem to notice as we've talked about the untruth of this many times, and they've been educated quite a bit on the scriptural truth of creation, so we just ignore this infrequent untruth in these programs. 

* InquisiKids "Discover and Do" - we have a few volumes/levels of these science experiments demonstrated being done at home.  These are cute videos of a funny young man or woman playing a scientist and doing home science experiments that kids can watch them do and then do at home easily themselves if they like. 

* Jump Start "Toddler" - Numbers, letters, shapes, colors, music (3 CD's).  Our 3-year-olds enjoy beginning with these programs.  They're well done so that kids can just move the mouse over the objects in the pictures and don't even need to click to get something to happen.  No clicking or dragging even yet, just moving the curser.

* Jump Start "Preschool"  - This has been great for our 3 and 4-year-olds and even 5-year-olds.  Great learning, creative, and very simple clicking on objects and a little clicking and dragging of objects.

* Jump Start "Phonics" - Great learning, creative, and very simple clicking on objects and a little clicking and dragging of objects.

* Jump Start "Kindergarten:  Fundamentals, Reading, Math, Art" - (Advanced set, comes with 4 CD's). 

* Jump Start "1st Grade:  Music, Fundamentals, Art," (Advanced set, comes with 3 CD's) 

* Jump Start "2nd Grade"


* Jump Start "Typing"


Note:  Jump Start programs- There are also available many other curriculum such as "Spanish", etc.  Once in a while there is a video game type of activity, like racing race cars, but they do have to create the race cars first, and they only get to race the cars as a reward for having learned a lot of points on the other actually educational activities.  So we've let them "race" if they've earned it by doing all the other learning.  But just for one race or so.  We don't do video games (non-educational) as a rule.  We have also found that the 3rd grade programs on up are full of video games so we do not own any of those.  Only up through 2nd grade.  But this is okay because they're in to other learning on the computer that time anyway.

* Kindergarten "Pencil Pal"  - One of our children's favorites.

* Dr. Seuss "Kindergarten" - Also one of the favorites.  Not quite as educational I don't think as the Jump Start programs, but they still learn, and it's different, doesn't have video games, has more stories.

* Cashflow  - CAUTION - Not all the content produced by the "Rich Dad" organization is worthy of our time. "Rich Dad" is very materialistically oriented and pretty much all the materials have the stated end goal of getting rich which does not suit our educational goals. (We are not opposed to being wealthy but we are not inclined towards it as a life pursuit) However, the Cashflow series of games have a wonderful way of teaching how money works, how saving and spending wisely works, how spending foolishly does not work and even how giving to charity (tithing) is beneficial. The game teaches how to keep savings and checking registers and even how a balance sheet works. I would highly recommend that if you are interested in this type of teaching start with the board game to learn the pencil and paper method of book keeping and then get the CDROM (if you can find it) version to continue the principled learning in a faster format. The board game can be quite slow for beginners but they will get it. The main point of the game is that working in the "Rat race" is not a path to freedom to do what you want to do in your life. Escaping from the rat race to the "Fast track" through business ownership or wise investments that generate passive income is how you gain freedom from working day-to-day for money. For those that have ministry, missionary work or low/unpaid pursuits in their dreams of the future learning how to generate passive income prior to those pursuits could be a valuable component of your children's learning. Certainly learning about how to handle and track money is a worthwhile skill to have.

* Homeschooling for 3rd grade and up - We use Alpha Omega Press's (AOP'S) Switched On Schoolhouse (SOS) for our older children's home school curriculum.  From about 3rd grade and up our children have used SOS just for science (and do their other subjects with Alpha Omega Press's LifePac workbooks); and from 7th grade on up they use this for LA, Science, and History.  Our children love this curriculum and the independence of doing it on the computers.  And we have been very impressed with the quality of their education with AOP, and their standardized test scores every year have reflected their great education.

Do they do online learning?

Our older children also use Microsoft Word, Paint, and Power Point.  I look forward to them learning to use Excell but I don't know how to use that myself at this time so they'll either have to learn that from their daddy or from an online tutorial I suppose.  *smile*  

The older three children are allowed some supervised online learning by bringing a lap top out to the family room and use it on the table where I can see and hear everything they're doing.  (The three "kids computers" do not have any online access.)  The 14 and 13-year-old girls love to watch hair-styling videos on; our 13-year-old daughter greatly improves her drawing skills with YouTube tutorials; and all three older kids (14, 13, 10) enjoy learning to fold origami creations also via YouTube videos.

We have been experimenting with an online protection service, but are not satisfied with the one we've currently purchased at this time so I'm sorry I do not have one to recommend yet.  I'd love to know if any of you have a service to recommend.

Where to find computer learning programs and computers

We've purchased a few from Toys R Us, or consignment shops, or online is probably easiest. 
I encourage you to be careful if you choose to purchase computer learning CD's from a garage sale or e-Bay, which we've done, because they're likely too old for your computer to play even if they're just several years old.  Computer technology is updated so often, we've had to throw away several CD's because they weren't compatible.   But our kids computers are also older, so right now these CD's still play.  *smile*

We have older computers for our youngest 3 children, each computer was given to us by one of my sisters or my dad when they've needed to upgrade and their current computer could no longer do what they need it to do.  But our youngest children's computers only need to be able to play these computer learning activities, and it's nice if they can use Word and Paint as well, but they really don't need to be able to do anything else.

Our older girls lap tops were purchased online, and my husband found refurbished ones for them also cutting back on cost quite a bit.

Which kids use the computers?

Our children begin learning on one of the three kids computers around age 3.  None of our children ever uses mine and Bob's computer.  And our older 2 girls each have very inexpensive lap tops (not the fastest or highly functioning, about $250 each) which they do most of their school work on (and which the younger children also do not use). 

We encourage the kids to use their accurate skill level, or the next level down from what they're able to do with me or in a workbook; but I allow them to use the older levels if they want to try, with the understanding that one is going to do it for them; they need to be able to do it pretty much by themselves.  And we do not let the older kids such as our 10-year-old play anything younger than 2nd grade as he is in 3rd grade currently, and playing anything younger means he's just watching the animation really.  *wink*  But he rarely desires this as he's busy with older activities on the computer.

When and how long to do they "play"?

Not including our school curriculum times on the computers, for recreation I usually schedule a 30 minute block of time for each child per day, usually during our homeschool morning.  It is a good way to productively occupy a younger child while I'm working with an older one.  They don't have to use the computer during that time but may rather just play in the play room where the computers are, but they know that they may not have another opportunity later because someone else may be on the computer or it may not be the right time of day for the family's activities.  

Once-in-a-while if I need kids to have a quieter than usual play time then I'll suggest that they have some computer learning time.  I'd rather do that than put on a documentary usually.  If kids are sick then I may encourage some extra time as it helps them just sit and rest.  Or if we're getting ready for company to come over and I'd rather not have any clean up to do last second then I'll allow some extra computer learning time.  But I always like to know that they're doing something productive and educational.

Computer as a tool or a toy?

I have been asked whether or not we keep the computer strictly for a tool and not a toy.  Well, I guess the answer is 'yes' it's a tool if you consider our children's young ages, and my inability with so many little ones to go find these types of opportunities for them.  They are not doing very advanced learning at this time (such as designing and writing a newsletter for church or a ministry, or doing inventory for an entrepreneurial home business), but we look forward to this for them in the future.  For now we use it for a tool in the sense that everything they do on it is educational, and never video games or excessive amounts of time.  Many of their activities are animated so some may argue that we do use it as a toy, but in my opinion we do not.  I'm continually amazed at what they tell me they've learned during their computer learning times here at home!  And that blesses me as I simply could not give all of the children my full attention every minute of the day, so to have them learning independently from me is a blessing both for them and for me.  *smile*

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I hope it's been helpful for you to see what our children learn on the computer, how we incorporate all ages of children, and how we try to keep it educational and never a waste of time.  

Blessings on your children's learning,


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