Skip to Content

The (not so) Good Old Days

Hey, guys! Normally it’s quiet around here on Thursdays, but I’m popping in with a fun off-topic post because I’m participating in a Microsoft program with other BlogHer bloggers. We’re all reminiscing about our school experiences and comparing them with the way things are for our own children.

(spoiler: very different).

My childhood schooling experience was not typical for the 1980s..although I did don a plaid uniform* to attend a private school for my kindergarten year, the rest of my school years were spent doing school at home.

*The uniform occasionally included wide-legged plaid pants. The horror.

kindergarten photo

My kindergarten school photo (we didn’t have to wear plaid that day!)

Though it’s pretty common now, back in the day, homeschooling was super-duper unusual. Like, people-look-at-you-as-though-you-have-two-heads unusual.

(What hasn’t changed is that people are still veddy, veddy curious about how homeschoolers get socialized. It was the #1 question back in 1988 and it is still the #1 question today!)

For most of my years in grade school, my family was computerless, which meant that I did all of my work with a pen or pencil, including English Composition papers.

(That may or may not be more horrible than wide-legged plaid pants. I am undecided.)

Seriously. I would very nearly want to die at the thought of writing a paper by hand, although it sort of didn’t faze me back then. You don’t miss what you don’t know about, I suppose.

I remember one very unfortunate incident during my grade school years related to pen and paper usage. I was writing a final draft of a paper which, for some reason, included a lot of exclamation marks. I got really into it and made bubble exclamation marks throughout the whole multi-page paper, and much to my dismay, my mom let me know those weren’t quite right for an English paper and I had to recopy the whole thing.


You can believe I never used bubble exclamation points in formal writing again.

Fortunately, my kids don’t have to worry about such things…a recent study from Microsoft reported that only 12% of parents used computer software when they were in school while 73% of teens say they use it for school related activities.

Something else that cracked me up from the survey: Nearly all teens (97%) agree that the tools and technologies they have today are far better than the ones their parents used when they were teens.

Um, yeah. That’s because more than half (59%) of parents used typewriters while almost all teens (82%) use either a desktop, laptop, or tablet computer.

Computers > Typewriters.

My family did get a desktop computer during my later grade school years, complete with a dot-matrix printer (remember the tractor-feed paper? You’d have to pull it off of all your papers after printing. Those were the days….)

tractor feed pper

The best thing about the computer, besides some fun games with terrible graphics, was the word processing software. Microsoft Word is to writing papers as the wheel is to travel, I think…it’s that revolutionary.

Goodbye, pen and paper, hello, ability to edit instantaneously.

My kids don’t really appreciate how awesome this is, but they regularly use Microsoft Word to do their schoolwork. Of course, they write English papers on it, and they also use it for essay writing in other subjects, journaling, and writing stories for fun (currently, “Johnson’s Restaurant in Beesville” is open in my Microsoft Word window.)

Incidentally, when I read The Winter of Our Disconnect (about a family who gave up technology for a year), I thought most of what they gave up was pretty manageable except the ability to type essays. The author, who is a writer, had to write her newspaper columns longhand, and she frequently bemoaned the loss of Word!

Oh, you know another thing that I think is waaay more awesome now than in my day?

The ability to look anything and everything up at a moment’s notice. This has its downsides (my children’s alphabetical order skills aren’t nearly as good as mine, since they rarely have to look anything up in a paper book!), but overall, I think the advantages win. Whenever my kids wonder about something, I can just tell them to look it up online, and 99% of the time, they can find the answer.

This is especially great for the sort of learning that happens as we go about our daily lives. For example, the other day, Sonia was learning Yankee Doodle on the piano, and she wondered if Yankee Doodle was real.

A quick online search led her to the answer, and also showed us that there are eleventy-bazillion verses to Yankee Doodle. (Who knew??)

Though there were some advantages to a less technology-driven school life (hello, alphabetical skills!), I’m so very glad that my kids have more technology available to them…I think it gives them a richer educational experience.

Also, I am glad that none of them need to wear plaid pants.

Speaking of old fashions…

Microsoft Office 365 is hosting a Back to School Throwback Sweepstakes launching on August 15th (on Throwback Thursday!) through September 27th where you can win a one-year subscription of Office 365 Home Premium (to be given away every weekday) or a Surface Pro (to be given away every Thursday).

To enter, all you have to do is submit a “throwback” picture of yourself from back in the day on the Office Facebook page here.

So, dig up your very fashionable school photo and embarrass yourself along with me. 😉

(To inspire you, here’s one more kindergarten school photo of me, looking very disheveled.)


Don’t forget to share on Facebook or Twitter with your friends with the #tbt and #OfficeBTS hashtags so more people can have a chance to win!

I’m curious what you think about technology and education…do you think it’s been overall a positive thing, or do you think the bad outweighs the good?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.