At Least For Now….
If you follow me on Behind the Stall Door, you know I homeschool my kids. My oldest  just finished 12th grade, the middle girl  is in kindergarten and the youngest  is preschool age. Anyone who homeschools, or attends college, knows how EXPENSIVE textbooks can be. Even used textbook prices hurt to look at sometimes. As a semi-large family who is dependent upon a full time working dad and a mom who works from home part time, our budget can be very, very tight. I see all these complete curriculum kits, electronic and paper, and wonder how families can afford these things. [PS – if you have tricks or coupons for purchasing these on the cheap, let me know so I can post them here!!!]
Luckily, when you homeschool your children, how you put together what to use to teach them is entirely up to you in South Carolina – I am not sure how other states operate, so I cannot comment to how free you are in your choices. We go to our local Barnes and Nobel store to purchase $13.00 Brain Quest workbooks – I copy the pages on my printer, so both girls can use the book (and we can use the lesson on the page more than once, if needed) – as well as other age-appropriate workbooks. We use flash cards (home made from index cards, using a Sharpie). I do have handwriting paper for learning, but prefer to use their white boards to save some trees (I’m a tree hugger, as well as a geek!). I search online for websites devoted to kids’ activities and use them for science, as well as art. I use Netflix on our Apple TV for viewing documentaries and other learning programs (we stream videos so we don’t have to worry about losing disks), which teach them about science, nature and geography (both the Discovery and History Channel videos rock!). We use podcasts, through iTunes on our iPods, for read aloud story time, as well as foreign language podcasts for Spanish, Japanese and Mandarin. There are a ton of other subjects in iTunesU (also for use on your iPod) for older kids, or adults.
But the one thing we use the absolute most during homeschool time is this: our iPad. The Apple App store in the last year has really gotten some great learning apps which range from free to as much as $9.99. Two apps we use everyday are called Teach Me: Kindergarten and Teach Me: Toddler (they have Teach Me for first grade, too). These apps ROCK and, as of this posting, are only $0.99 each. For reading help, we use the Bob Books app, these are $3.99 each, currently. These apps get a little harder with each level – just like the books – and the girls love them. For the alphabet writing, we use Letter Tracer the most. There is also an app called White Board – you can download this to the iPad AND your Mac, and you can interact between them in real time, even from separate rooms. There is also a PBS Kids app and a ton of read-to-me books, some even have language controls so you can set it to read to them in Spanish or another language! [Oh, and don’t worry, those are not affiliate links above, I just really love these apps.]
There are also a ton of e-textbooks, free classic fiction and non-fiction books out there. I got most of mine from Amazon, through the Kindle app for iPod and iPad. It was great to be able to give our teenager a list of what she would be reading for the year, let her pick out five to ten, then forward her links to the books to download to her iPod Touch to read. It saves on paper (save a tree!), it is less expensive (a fraction of the cost of a “real” book) and it takes less time to obtain (no driving to the store to purchase the books!).
I have been hearing rumours recently Apple is going to make a big announcement regarding textbooks in the next month or so. I can’t wait to hear about how even better homeschool will be next year with our iPad.
Is there a downside? Oh, yes. They took my iPad! Plus, they fight over whose turn it is to be using it – so we will probably need to buy them both one for next year, when we rev up with PreK and 1st Grade. And yes, that is waaaaay more expensive than a curriculum course kit – BUT, I can use it every single year, adding and subtracting apps and books which are no longer relevant, or just didn’t work for us. So, if I get five years out of their iPads, that is only a $100 investment, per child, per year (even less if we buy refurb models). And most of the apps we use are free! (Some are $4.99 or less.)
The price of the iPad is well worth the cost to us, especially when they giggle and clap and try to say back some of the words spoken while listening to The Little Mermaid (not the Disney version) in Mandarin. Now I just need to figure out how to block Mythbusters so they’ll stop asking me to let them set fire to non-dairy creamer….