Maggie may not have a room of her own (no one really does in this house), but she now has a computer of her own. After our summer stay in New York, my mother-in-law’s old laptop came home with us. It’s about 7 years old, which makes it something like 150 in computer years, I think. But it occurred to me that it might be fun for Maggie to have a computer that was hers, so I set to configuring it for her. I set up an email account on the computer, and installed a few things that I thought she might like to investigate. Macs have a lot of parental controls available, and for now her internet browser is set so that she can only visit Mommy-approved websites. The kids love playing on the family computer, but often the default path is to end up on Nick Jr. or PBS kids watching videos. Which is fine in small doses, but tends to render them a bit hypnotized, so I just wanted to keep away from that with the new computer. Or old computer. Whatever. My thinking was not so much to limit the use of this computer, but open up the possibilities for other ways to use it, rather than just the old favorites.
The email has been a big hit. (Let me know if you’d like Maggie’s address.) Maggie can be a bit reluctant to write, so in part I was looking for fun, authentic ways for her to practice. She also learned to touch-type to make things easier. She’s enjoying trading emails with friends and family. She’s had the email account for some time, but having her own machine makes all the difference. I’m a bit ambivalent about the automatic spell-checking, but she likes knowing if she’s spelling words correctly. Never one for the inventive spelling, this one.
I’ve also been leaving her little surprises on the computer in the form of new bookmarks. For example, I happened upon this website, and put a link to an addition game. Or I printed out some materials from this very fun website (animal secret agents? what could be more fun than that?), and left them for her with a note. I often leave a little sticky note on top of the computer for her to find when she gets up in the morning. I’m thinking that I’d also like to start sending her emails myself, but I haven’t started that.
It’s fun watching her pride of ownership. She likes talking about “my computer,” and is discovering the fun of carrying up into her top bunk or onto the screen porch to work on something. I look forward to helping her explore some of the other things she might enjoy, like taking pictures and putting them on the computer. She’s interested in the idea of starting her own blog, but that hasn’t quite gotten off the ground yet. In the meantime, this special new possession makes her feel more grown-up, and we enjoy occasional evenings of sitting together at the kitchen counter–she has her laptop, and I have mine. We sit, we have a snack, we do our work, and we chat a little bit. What could be better than that?