Wednesday, February 24, 2010

iSchooling - Homeschooling with Your Ebook Reader

For the past year, one of my most beloved possessions has been my Kindle. And, a couple of weeks ago, I replaced the Kindle with an iPad. Since I started using eBook readers, I've been able to read reading countless novels and public domain classics, like all the novels Jane Austen ever wrote.

Lately, I've been finding more and more classic educational materials for ebook readers. Many of these materials have long been available for reading on your computer. Project Gutenberg alone has thousands and thousands of public domain books available. I've found, though, that I really dislike reading books on the computer. Too much time in awkward positions spent staring at the glare of my laptop is sure to send me into a massive migraine! (For some reason the iPad doesn't do the same, possibly due to the ease of adjusting the display characteristics.) Plus, it is often difficult to take notes or add highlighting on the computer screen. Last, but definitely not least, many of the public domain classics are UGLY on the computer. Usually these are plain text documents, with minimal formatting and ugly fonts.

In the past, I have avoided a few of these issues by printing the documents. I've found, though, that ink and paper costs often eat up any savings you may have had over just purchasing the printed book in the first place. Not to mention, I've found myself swimming in stacks of printouts and unwieldy binders from various sources.

Now that ebook readers are readily available, I foresee a huge spike in the usefulness of all these plain public domain documents. Many of them are available in formats designed for your reader, but even plain text documents can look good on your eBook reader. There may be a few wonky paragraph breaks or alignment issues, but the standard font and spacing that the reader uses means that these books basically look and feel just like any other book! I find this to be an advantage even over reading classics that you purchase from your neighborhood bookstore. Those public domain classics are often printed in ugly or old fashioned type on cheap paper, with stiff and unwieldy bindings.

With an eBook reader, all books are created equal. Those theoretically-nice-but-unpleasant-to-use plain text online repositories are finally coming into their own.

The homeschooling movement's love of "living books" means that many homeschoolers appreciate children's classics. The lesson plans and curricula that have been developed for homeschoolers reflect that appreciation for children's literature. Works by Thornton Burgess, Andrew Lang, Edith Nesbit, and more can be at your fingertips in moments, in a format that you can use and love!

Beyond classic literature, it also turns out that there are many books for parents and educators available in the public domain. Educators of the 19th and early 20th centuries like Charlotte Mason and Maria Montessori wrote books that are popular with many homeschoolers today.

If you've been thinking about purchasing an ebook reader but are worried about the cost of getting one, perhaps it would help if you look at it this way: For $200-$600 (depending on the model), you are purchasing a collection of all the greatest adult and children's classics throughout history. And you get a cool ebook reader thrown into the deal!

I've started collecting links to free books that homeschoolers. teachers, and autodidacts may find useful. Check them out, and then check back often as I add more. I'm sorting by method or type of resource, as well as curriculum, so that you can find the books that will be most useful to you.


Updated on 6/21/10: Changed name of this post from Kindle-Schooling to iSchooling. Figured there was no reason to get too device specific, and I think most people associate that little "i" with personal mobile devices, which is consistent with the real spirit of the post - the ability to get information and read it where you are, when you need it!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What we are working on . . .

I wanted to start this semester off by moving on from our medieval overview and into a focus on early American history.  Here's how we're accomplishing that:

We are using Unit 3 of Tapestry of Grace's Year 2 curriculum.  This is an 8 week unit study of colonial American history, a topic which we have never specifically addressed before.  It will probably take us a bit longer than that, since we have several "life" events that will be popping up here and there.  My children like that they get to help schedule what they will be doing each week and when, so for now they are liking it very much!

We will be using it in a more secular manner than it is written, and I started up a Yahoo group for anyone else who wants to discuss the ins and outs of using Tapestry of Grace from a more secular perspective.  Here's the link for anyone who is interested:  togsecular.

This has been a tough winter, healthwise, so I am happy to be using a program that gives me some direction for planning lessons.  It doesn't plan out every detail, however, so I can still feed my need to have fun with planning without getting overwhelmed by researching every possible resource on Amazon, which is what I had been doing!

I can commit to this for 8 weeks of instruction, no problem!  And because you purchase the program unit by unit, I can change to something else at any point that it stops working for us or fitting our needs.  I don't have to feel like I am locked in to something for an entire year, whether it works or not.  I'm really hoping that this is a good match for our unique health AND educational needs.