Literature-based Learning vs. Online Lessons for Elementary School

How much technology should be part of a child’s elementary homeschool curriculum? New homeschoolers wrestle with this question quite a bit. Even experienced homeschoolers weigh the pros and cons year by year as they choose new curriculum.

  • Should you opt for online classes and digital learning programs? 

  • Or should you stick with physical books

Should you turn the teaching over to a sophisticated software, or should you sit with your kids and direct their learning yourself? 

Sometimes an online approach seems more modern, more measurable, and far more convenient since the parent doesn’t have to invest as much time. 

Kids love playing with smartphones and tablets, so it seems natural to make the most of that fascination when it comes to homeschool, right? Apps and games claim to teach preschoolers a wide variety of necessary skills: the alphabet, phonics, colors, numeracy, etc. There are subscription-based, online programs that offer to take the teaching off your hands and guide your children through all the skills they need in an orderly sequence.

But for my elementary learners, I choose literature-based learning as the foundation of our homeschool instead of mostly digital options. Before handing the tablet to your preschooler or putting your grade schooler in front of a computer screen, consider these pros and cons. 

Teaching Multiple Ages Together vs. Taking Turns on the Computer

I have eight children, all learning at different levels. Imagine using a computer-based curriculum with that many kids! I’d need at least 5 tablets, computers, or laptops to accommodate them all. Scheduling computer time would be quite a chore, not to mention keeping tablets charged for use and hard drives free from viruses.

But we can all come together over a good book

The youngest will crawl over our laps while the preschooler may color. The older ones play with animals during reading time. Not only are we saving time, we get the added bonus of family bonding. 

Building a Home Library vs. Paying Ongoing Fees

Literature-based Learning vs. Online Lessons for Elementary SchoolGood literature can be savored again and again. There are no renewal costs or course fees like you have with online learning. You buy a book once, and it’s on your shelf to be used with each child in your family, year after year. By investing in a literature-based curriculum like BookShark, you are growing a family library that can be enjoyed for years. 

Advanced Language Skills vs. Separated Elements

Teaching the elements of language separately, as an online program does, is not as effective as the integrated and natural approach that you find in a literature-based program

Yes, there is a place for grammar practice and diagramming sentences. Learning the parts of a 5-paragraph essay or parts of speech is valuable. But hearing language in a story brings vitality to your elementary language arts studies. Children absorb vocabulary naturally in context. And thanks to the discussions you have with your kids, you know exactly what they are learning and can guide them into deeper understanding.

While a computer program can offer sequential skills-based lessons, it can never engage in dialogue like you can—fostering critical thinking and honing empathy

Building Relationships vs. Working Alone

When everyone works at a computer or tablet solo, there is little opportunity for shared experiences with our homeschool. When we read a book or do a science activity together, we have the chance for shared laughter and insider family jokes and sayings.

As children mature, there’s absolutely a value in their being able to learn independently, and online classes are a great option for that. But for elementary ages, I prefer they not spend much time in front of a computer screen. 

Why? Well, one of the most precious gifts of homeschooling is the opportunity to build relationships with my children and watch them blossom. They, too, have the benefit of close sibling relationships. Why would I want to sacrifice these early years of bonding in exchange for computer-based learning? Literature-based learning is an amazing gift to the entire family.

We choose literature-based learning over all other methods, including online learning! My house is crowded with books because I love creating a literature-rich environment for my elementary aged children. If you want to savor these young years with your kids, there are few ways to teach better than reading good books together. Leave the online learning for upper grades and snuggle up with a great book for the lower grades.

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Felicia Johnson • The Zoo I Call HomeAbout the Author

Daughter, wife, and mama, Felicia Johnson has been homeschooling for 17 years! She has 8 kiddos ranging from ages 1 to 20, with a varied sampling of special needs: deafness, ADD, sensory issues, and dyslexia.

At The Zoo I Call Home Felicia writes about homeschool organization and curriculum, with one overarching theme—the desire to find rest in the chaosShe admits that our busy, distraction-filled world can quickly overload her calendar with amazing things to do or get her sucked into Pinterest or Facebook for hours. To find rest in the middle of all life's chaos takes clear intention.