2012 has been our family’s Year of the Kipi. We started this year with none, and now we have five iPads. Our girls christened them “kipis” (“keepies”) and the name has stuck.

Our Year of the Kipi (iPad), Sparkling Adventures

We first started thinking about purchasing a tablet as a learning tool when we met several families in January whose children could navigate the touch-screen as easily as they could work with play-dough. In Sydney, Joe told us how his son Joshua could access new books on his iPad each day, and we were fascinated by the way Josh could use his iPad to do so many things!

We visited another family with three young boys who have successfully integrated technology into their household. All the children are computer-literate, and yet they’re not lacking the inclination to also work with their hands at crafts or puzzles.

Previously, we have been very limiting in the way we exposed our children to technology. In a basic sense, it has been hypocritical for me to place limits on our children’s screen use when I don’t do the same for myself. In a more long-sighted approach, allowing our children early and positive access to technology will allow them to cultivate the skills they’ll need in a future, technology-driven society.

So we bought two kipis in March as homeschooling tools for our family. We chose to purchase wifi-only models with 64Gb of storage. By going through the online Apple store and choosing refurbished models, we saved $200 each off the retail price.

I consider the kipis to be a good investment for our girls’ education. Although public school in Australia is free, by the time a family has bought uniforms, books, bags, accessories, technology levies and more, a student’s attendance can cost between $300 and $600. When compared to traditional schooling costs, buying a kipi is not so extravagant.

We have rarely bought four of any item for the girls. Our family’s motto is “We’re Fishers — we share,” and we thought two kipis would be more than enough for any family. Although our daughters did work out a good way of sharing the kipis, the girls’ individual preferences and skill-sets made it evident that they would benefit most from having complete ownership of their own kipis. So we bought two more kipis when we returned to Australia in June.

Four kipis was more than enough for our family.

Then Elijah drowned, David was arrested, and the police seized all four kipis, our phone and computer (which they still haven’t returned). Without access to a phone or the ability to get online, I was completely cut off from supportive friends and family. When my Dad came up to Brisbane, he brought a brand-new kipi just for me, with the SIM-card already enabled so I could make calls and go online. Getting online and receiving the waves of love from around the world sustained me through the darkest days of my life, and I am so thankful to my Dad for restoring this lifeline.

So we are now a five-kipi family.

These touch-screen tablets have changed our lives in many ways, and I’m thankful that we have them. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to any family. In the coming weeks, I’ll be going into details of how we use them, accessories we recommend and which apps the girls are enjoying the most.

This week, I bought one more kipi — just like the one the girls use — to give away. I’ll be offering it in the true spirit of generosity as a celebration of six years of blogging. Check back later this month for your opportunity to make 2012 the Year of the Kipi for someone you love too.