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A smartphone is a tool. It isn’t good or bad in and of itself. It’s just a tool; it’s up to you how you use it.
I encourage you to make sure that you use technology in a way that reinforces the knowledge and the habits that you are trying to instill in your child’s mind and heart, rather than sabotaging your efforts. Technology can be one of the tools that can help you and your children be lifelong learners, deep thinkers, people of godly character.
If you can make sure that your smartphone is your servant, rather than your master, it can play a valuable role in your home school. There are several apps that can save you time and keep some valuable resources right at your finger tips, no matter where you happen to be (well, provided you have a cell signal).
So here are 10 smartphone hacks for the Charlotte Mason homeschooler.
- Use an audio recorder to capture oral narrations. This works especially well for older students who need to do an oral narration, but you’re busy helping one of the younger students. Hand that older student the audio recorder and let her record her narration. You can listen to it later when you’re free and maybe save it for posterity’s sake.
- Use a music app to play your music for music study or for hymn singing. You can also have your music always at hand to put on while you’re running errands in the van or to play in the background during a meal. By the way, setting your phone in a bowl (make sure it’s a clean bowl, of course) can form a natural amplifier and boost the volume level. Or you could connect to some kind of speaker, if you want to. It’s just handy to have that music right there when you’re ready for it.
- Use your favorite podcast app to subscribe to a Charlotte Mason podcast. It’s so important to keep learning for yourself; and a good podcast will share ideas for your own continued growth as well as encouragement to help you keep going on those difficult days.
- Use the timer on your phone. Timers work well for cultivating the habit of attention. You can set the timer for yourself, to make sure you keep that math lesson short, or you can set the timer for one of your children, to help him stay focused and keep moving forward in a lesson or a chore. One way to keep things lighthearted in that situation is to let your child select which sound he wants the timer to make when it goes off. If your timer app has that capability, you might try that little technique.
- Use the camera to capture nature friends who tend to fly away or walk away. We all know that sketching or drawing a nature friend is one of the best ways to look closely and carefully, but some of those nature friends won’t stick around long enough for you to get that illustration done. In those situations, you can use your camera to take its picture, then later when you’re at home, you can bring up that picture on a large computer screen and see it in beautiful detail while you create your illustration.
- An e-book reader can be very practical. Now, I know, many of us prefer holding a real book and reading from a real paper page, but an e-book reader can be helpful when you’re traveling or if you’re moving overseas and space is limited. Don’t overlook the astounding fact that you can carry hundreds of books with you on a little phone that fits into your pocket.
- Use nature apps to help you identify what you find on your nature walks. There are wonderful nature apps available for plants and birds and trees and stars and insects. Use those apps as you would field guides. Some of them give you the option of loading the birds or trees that are specific to your region, and that can be really helpful in narrowing down the possibilities when you’re trying to identify a new nature friend.
- Speaking of nature study, use a weather app to help you plan the best day for your nature walk this week. Maybe you have it scheduled for Friday afternoon, but take a look at the weather and see if that time slot will be good for going outside. If it’s going to be extremely hot or if it’s going to rain, you can always do a little switching around and move your nature walk to a different time or even a different day.
- Use your smartphone to look up dates for your Book of Centuries. Maybe your student really likes one particular poet and wants to add it to his Book of Centuries, but you don’t see any dates in the book of poems. Do an Internet search on your phone to find out when that poet lived. This strategy works well for poets or composers or favorite authors or inventors—really any interest your student shows in a historical person. If he wants to enter someone into the Book of Centuries, you want to encourage him and help him do it right then. Your phone can be a great tool for that.
- Use a foreign language app to give you extra listening and practice in the language you are trying to learn. You can listen to songs and stories in your selected language, and usually the apps have a native speaker so you can hear correct pronunciations as you’re reviewing. Use the Gouin series approach, as Charlotte Mason outlined, for your regular foreign language lessons, but you can use an app for extra practice and listening fun.
How about two more bonus hacks?
- The Google Earth app is great for geography. You can easily look up locations as you read about them, plus it has some fun exploration features that highlight the people who live around the world. Check into Google Earth.
- With an online planner, like the CM Organizer, you can quickly see what you have planned to do every day for each student, plus you can easily record what actually got done. Having that planner at your fingertips helps keep you on track and makes it so easy to always have up-to-date, accurate records.
As you can see, there are many smart uses for a smartphone. Use it wisely.