Making the Switch to Digital Reading

Our family finished the school year last Friday.  Yesterday, I began lesson planning for the 2016-17 academic year.  Why the rush?  Well, first off, I want to be prepared.  Second, we are transitioning to a much larger proportion of digital learning materials.  In order to effectively teach from digital curriculum, I need to understand it before my kids begin using it.

Homeschooling has changed a great deal in the last decade.  As homeschooling becomes more mainstream, there are more quality educational materials available than ever before that are specifically designed to meet the needs of those learning at home.  More and more often, these items are published digitally.

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When I began educating our oldest daughter at home in 2007, our curriculum options were fairly straightforward.  There were three basic choices:

  1. Cobble together textbooks on your own out of the mainstream homeschool catalogs.  Homeschoolers call this “eclectic” homeschooling.
  2. Unschooling, which is a child-directed approach.  While the name might imply that learning does not take place, the truth is most unschooling families allow for natural educational opportunities to direct their children’s development.
  3. What I like to call “school in a box”.  Several of the biggest homeschooling publishing companies sell grade-level curriculum packages and ship them to parents ready to use.  It comes to your door in a neat little cardboard container.  Hence the name, school in a box.

School in a box never appealed to me.  It is far too restrictive.  I like variety and options.  Unschooling is a little frightening for this Type-A mom.  So I do my own thing–eclectic homeschooling.

We have amassed a large collection of textbooks in all subjects over the years.  Some of them are well-loved favorites.  Others have been a complete waste of time and money.  All of them sit on shelves when not in use.

It is only in the last year or so, when our youngest daughter started kindergarten and no longer needed our early childhood educational materials, that I have begun to cull unneeded books from the homeschool closet.  And when I began removing unneeded, unused books from the shelves, it occurred to me: we have too many. It occurred to Todd when he moved them all from one house to the next, but I insisted we may still need them.

Now I know, that sounds pretty harsh.  I love books.  Can someone really have to many?  I would say yes.  The reality is that when there is a fairly large age span between the children in a home, oldest to youngest, a homeschool family accumulates a significant number of books in nearly ten years.  And we just realistically do not have the space to store it all.  Our home is more tidy when we have less stuff.

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So this year, we started the process of selecting more digital items.  And here are the three reasons why I am glad we did:

Digital books are more portable.

Most of our schooling takes place at the dining room table.  Next year, though, two of my girls will spend larger portions of their days sitting in the public school library because of their music class schedules.  A backpack is only designed to comfortably hold a limited amount of books.  An electronic reading device or small laptop containing several subjects and books at once is way easier to bring places than large, clunky textbooks.

Digital materials are easier to store.

We have software, subscriptions to electronic learning portals, and ebooks.  All of these items are stored on our laptop or one of our e-readers.  Backup is on a cloud or external hard drive.  All of this takes up virtually no storage space in our home.

Digital items are often less expensive.

This has been true for us in a couple of ways.  First, quality materials produced by smaller publishers (and sometimes self-published authors) are often sold in bundles for a discount.  Occasionally, I can even get things for free during promotional periods.  Some of our best learning over the years has come from digital materials like these.

Even the big publishers are starting to offer their traditional materials in an electronic format for a discount.  I found a creation apologetics curriculum package from one of my favorite publishers for pennies on the dollar last week.  A couple months ago, I found our oldest daughter’s science curriculum in a software format for a deep discount over a traditional textbook.  Plus, it includes many online-only features that will greatly enhance her learning.

I like books.  Really, I do.  I even shared on the blog once before that someone wrote in one of my yearbooks, “Enjoy your summer in the library.”  Even this book lover has to know her limit, though.  Once upon a time, Todd worked at a bookstore.  My master’s degree is in history.  We have homeschooled for nine years.  We have a lot of written words in our home, and the time has come.  We are making the switch to more digital reading.

Do you prefer digital reading or traditional books?  Let me know in an email or comment below!