By Patti Hermes – Parent to Parent
Does it seem like you have to be connected to the internet all the time? Can you get through an entire weekend without it, and without complaining? What about the rest of your family? If yours is anything like mine, then a few laptops, a couple of Ipods, an E reader and a gaming system (or two) don't sit idle for long. What do we need all that for?
In my family we homeschool: Online courses, web sites that support lesson planning, videos, research, TED Talks, emailing assignments back and forth … the list seems endless. Even on days that aren't heavily reliant upon internet access, I still have to make adjustments, and we often finish our lessons early when our internet service is out. It seems like every subject is reinforced by watching a video, or playing a game, or new ideas are sparked by something we saw on the internet.
I can tell by perusing our local school district web site that home internet access is practically taken for granted, which is unfortunate for the students who do not have it. Teacher emails, homework help and Parent Connect are all available to the connected, or those who can get to the library, in addition to all the uses mentioned above.
Online teaching/learning: How do you teach a course online (or take a course online) without reliable internet service? I suppose you could head to the local coffee shop or library for free wi-fi, but that negates the working-in-pajamas, or squeezing in just a few minutes here and there, in between work and other commitments.
Writing: I almost never complete a column without at least a few internet searches. Even an opinion piece is supported by or inspired by something I read online. Submissions are all done online now, and most freelance work can be found … you guessed it … online.
Reading: No longer a solitary occupation, curled up in a corner with my nose stuck between the pages of a book, I now can be found with my Kindle in hand, setting it down, picking it up, quickly reviewing and sharing my latest read with my contacts on Good Reads, buying new books, and searching for freebies (new ones available every day).
Gaming: When the weather outside is nasty and the boys want to play with their friends, or their cousins who live 1000 miles away, internet access is required. And let's not forget Words With Friends, which can be addictive all by itself.
Staying in touch with family and friends: Whether near or far, email, Facebook, Google+, and way too many other social networks keep us close. Sure there are days when I really do not need to see another recipe for crock pot chicken, but it's nice to be able to cheer on my cousin in her latest road race, or hear about my niece's lacrosse game, and share the latest books with fellow readers, wherever they may live.
Updated news and weather, both local and worldwide, along with stories, information, opinions of all stripes, are all available at the touch of a few buttons, as long as it works. The trick is not to overdose, not to get too dependent, and not to freak out when it all goes away. After a winter that is overstaying its welcome, that can be a little difficult.
Maybe a complete break is exactly what is needed. If it weren't for some actual commitments, such as deadlines, I could probably do that. And as soon as I can stand being outside for more than ten minutes at a time, I certainly will spend more time there, and away from any keyboards. It takes two hands to walk the dog, and I have to look up and see where we're going, so no smart phone will interrupt us. Outside there's a garden to plant, bikes to ride, and friends to play with, and no screens to stare at blankly.
And inside, while we wait for the weather to cooperate (and the internet repairman to show up) there's plenty of books to read, movies to watch on dvd, and games to play amongst our family. Maybe I could even bake something that's not posted on Pinterest.
(This column was written without even a single Google search. I promise never to do it again if someone would please just fix my home wi-fi!)