- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Although home-schooling is a fairly economical way to educate, there are times when it is worth it to invest in equipment or software that will become both a learning tool and a way to produce valuable items.

Some of the software available includes word processing, spreadsheet, bookkeeping and publishing programs. Others allow students to become professional-quality media producers.

Most children love music, and many youngsters seem to spend their lives with headphones on their ears or a boombox blasting. An incredible amount of broadcasts involve music, whether as a soundtrack to a movie or television program, in a music video, or on the radio.

Teens develop strong affinities to certain types of music, and the tastes they develop at this age will often color how they feel about events and what things they will remember in the future.

How many of us can sing along with the songs we listened to in our teens or even go to concerts of those aging performers even now?

Yet few make the transition from consumers of music to creators of music. In the past, this was understandable. To write a song, audition, get accepted by a producer or label, and then go through the labor and time of recording and producing the music — these were opportunities denied to the vast majority by a select few.

However, today, the technology exists for nearly anyone to become producers and creators of music, not just listeners. Recently, we have been investigating how to create our own recordings using the software, audio equipment and computer technology now available.

For some time, the children have been learning to sing, write and arrange songs, creating unique percussion and harmonies. They are skilled at performing, having sung and played before hundreds of audiences. However, to record music is a different matter.

To begin with, you need to lay down the instrumental portion of the recording — the guitar, percussion and other instruments. Then, listening to the instrumental tracks, the children each sing their respective parts, adding layers to the existing tracks.

After capturing the basic sounds, new things can be added: solos, special effects, etc. This group of seven or eight students, working all day and into the late-night hours, completed about six songs. Using computer software, the recorded tracks can be mixed to create a final, professional sound that is equivalent to the songs you hear on the radio.

In the same way, video-editing technology can turn those simple home videos into exciting movies. My daughter has now mastered this process and is able to produce some interesting videos, both for her volunteer work and for her professional career training. She was able to skip several courses in television production by working on this at home.

If you are considering Christmas or other holiday gifts, why not think about ones that will not only entertain, but also help your children learn? Books, software, musical instruments, cameras and other high-price-tag items may not be the usual gifts you would think of for your children, but if you look ahead at the various uses for the items, in terms of learning and preparing for life, you may feel that it’s worth the initial cost.

If you are considering such equipment, keep in mind the ultimate uses and make sure that it will all work together. For instance, there may be special ports or connectors required to work with your existing technology. Read the accessories section of the product description before buying so that you can be sure.

Technological developments are one of the reasons that we can educate at home with complete access to sophisticated resources. Let’s use technology and other tools to prepare our children to be creators and entrepreneurs.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer living in Maryland.

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