Today’s military families often rely on technology to bridge the separation between loved ones and support networks—but technology can also enhance the learning opportunities of military families.
Here are a few ideas of how technology platforms can broaden homeschool experiences:
A 21st-century version of pen-pals, allowing students to correspond with friends or family members by email, can strengthen their typing skills—a skill they are likely to need later in life, while getting the added benefit of social interaction.
We were recently introduced to games that can be played across the computer—Battleship is a popular selection in our all-boys house. There are also applications to facilitate my son practicing chess with his grandfather in another city and his uncle in another state.
In addition to keeping in touch with family and friends, consider setting up virtual career days for your students to learn more about a variety of occupations. Before a video conference call, introduce your children to basic knowledge about the field you will be studying and prepare questions for the professional. Questions can range from exploring what specifically they do in their field and how they prepared for that position, to looking at the job itself and what benefits it brings to the community.
Virtual career days expose students to different opportunities available and can connect them with mentors who may be able to help them on their way.
Virtual Field Trips
Especially post-COVID, many online resources have been developed to give students virtual tours of places. While they are no substitute for in-person field trips, virtual field trips can help pique your children’s interest before getting their boots on the ground and help them make better use of their time when they actually get to start exploring.
Research and Exploration
For military families, permanent changes of duty station are practically inevitable. Help your children get on board with an upcoming move through some research and preparation. Learning things about the state or country you are moving to next can help ease their nerves.
You can look up the climate and weather patterns in the new location, as well as research aspects of the local culture and fun things to do in the area. It can be a fun geography exercise to prepare for the move—and the trip to get to the new place.
In our house, we still cling pretty strongly to traditional education with pens, paper, and books, but we also see developing technological competency as an important skill.
Typing and research skills are important, but it is also important that our children feel comfortable, safe, and competent in their use of computers and the internet. Incorporating educational gaming can help build technological fluency so our children are better prepared to thrive in a technology-rich world.
Boundaries and Expectations
When it comes to new technology each generation seems to pick it up faster than the one before. We enjoy watching our children grow and explore, but safety remains one of our chief concerns. Here are a few guidelines and boundaries we have set for our elementary-age children to help ease them into computer literacy while guarding their safety.
1. Reviewed Content Only
Many games and other children's content marked for their age range does not reflect our values. Rather than open season on all content geared toward their age, my husband and I review the applications our children are allowed to interact with before they are on the "approved" list.
2. Balance/Time Management
Gaming is fun—for adults as well as children. Because we value in-person connections and would like the children to remain active, we set appropriate time frames for playing on computers or tablets and balance that time with time for creative play not on a device.
3. Permission for Others' Screens
Permission from Dad or Mom is required to look at anyone else's screen. This guideline applies to computers, tablets, and phones. While many of our children's peers are governed by similar rules and expectations, getting permission before exploring someone else's devices ensures consistent internet boundaries that are not accidentally breached by exposure to someone else's screen.
With creativity and clear expectations, you can channel internet and computer technology into educational opportunities no matter where you’re posted!