Does Your Homeschool Need an iPad?

Dollars & Sense on 03.20.12

Image: Flickingerbrad/Creative Commons

OK, nobody "needs" an iPad, but this tempting technology is winning over many homeschoolers, and now the pressure is on. Do we buy one or not? My husband, a tech junkie, says "Yes!", but I am not as easily wooed by the latest gadget. The fact is, my daughter is only six, and I would rather her be engaged in imaginative play than glued to a screen. But in the spirit of fairness, I decided to open myself up to the idea, and see if I could find 5 really good reasons to add an iPad to our list of homeschooling tools.

1. Money-Saving Apps 

Most homeschoolers spend a small fortune on flashcards, workbooks, and the latest reading game. Although the initial cost of purchase is steep (the latest version is $499), the iPad offers apps that are far less expensive than their tangible counterparts. From math games to virtual flash-cards, apps typically cost less than 5 dollars, with most priced at just 99 cents (some are even free). And unlike traditional educational tools, which have be shipped and often don't allow you to preview before purchase, it only takes one click on the iPad. I guess the only drawback here would be resisting the urge to purchase new apps. 

2. Saving Space

Sometimes I feel like the biggest drawback to homeschooling is all the "stuff" that comes with it. Every nook and cranny of my home is filled with art projects, worksheets, and educational books. A hand-held tablet, like the iPad, is a great way to clean up your workspace. Kids can complete their lessons without all the excess paperwork--reviewing their math facts digitally and writing up a short story on the go.  

3. Instant Answers

Kids ask a million questions, and unfortunately we don't always know the answers -- but the Internet does. The iPad brings the convenience of the web wherever your homeschool adventures may take you. So, while on a field trip to the zoo or museum, you can answer questions about exotic animals or outer space that may have otherwise been forgotten by the time you got home -- how great is that? 

4. Books, Books, and More Books

From audio books to ebooks, your kids will have a virtual library at their fingertips. With a simple and free download of apps like Kindle, Apple's ibook, or Stanza, your kids will replace their pile of books with one simple and lightweight tablet. Plus, most libraries now loan books virtually, which means you can still enjoy free books, but without a trip to the library.  

5. Movies and Music

Last week we attended a Youth Philharmonic and my daughter wanted to hear more from the composers, but we had to wait until we could get home and onto the computer. Listening to music online through Pandora or Spotify, or purchasing through iTunes, is a great way to reinforce lessons, and with an iPad it's always available.

Instructional videos are easy to access, too: Browse Youtube for a demonstration on how to make your own volcano for a science project, or for tips on how to perform some math magic tricks. And if, like me, you've ditched cable TV, you can use your Netflix subscription to let your kids watch educational videos on the go. 

So do these five good reasons mean I'm heading out to purchase an iPad this week? Probably not. The idea of handing a nearly $500 piece of equipment to a 6-year-old just doesn't sound that smart to me. Plus, I think that there is always time for technology, but we only get one shot at childhood. I want my daughter to savor every playful moment, letting her imagination, not technology, be the guide. 

Now it's your turn to share: Would you buy an iPad for your child? Have you already purchased one? Do you absolutely love it, or are you ruing the day you bought it?

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