Thanks to the internet, the opportunities for educating outside of a classroom are endless. Homeschooling families are discovering what universities all over the world have used to their advantage: Students do not need to be in a classroom with a teacher to process “the facts” and the internet is an extremely effective means of transmitting those facts in an engaging way.
Online homeschooling can mean a variety of things. You can use the internet to reinforce lessons learned from a purchased in-the-box curriculum or from your daily “life learning”. You can use the plethora of (mostly free!) online resources and pull together your own curriculum specially tailored to your child and your lifestyle. You can also use the internet to participate in distance learning homeschool programs in which the curriculum is presented on CDs and via an internet connection, tests are taken online and transcripts are kept for you.
This is by no means an exhaustive exposition on ways to use online resources for homeschooling, but in this article we will dig deeper into a few of the ways that homeschooling online can work for your family.
- Use the internet as a supplement to your boxed curriculum or your “life learning”. In our home, we utilize this method of on-line schooling quite a bit. I do not currently use a boxed curriculum but I often find activities and videos for my children to watch that will reinforce things that we are doing in our daily lesson time. When I was young, we used the encyclopedia much the same way as we use the internet today. If I found a frog in the backyard and was curious as to how in the world it was able to cling upside down to one of the gutters on my house, a quick trip to the Encyclopedia Britannica at my neighbor’s house (or a visit to the library) would shed light on those questions. Today, in addition to the encyclopedia and the library (both of which, by the way, are still fabulous ways to find information), I can also ask my friend Google, “How do frogs stick to walls?” and I learn within seconds that not only do they use suction but they actually utilize geometry as well (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,264958,00.html). YouTube is also a great source for educational videos. (But be sure to preview the videos before clicking willy-nilly with your child sitting in your lap. Not all frog videos are educational, or at least not the kind of education that you want to be imparting to your 6 year old.)
- Use online resources as your primary modality of teaching. The internet has it all; everything you could possibly imagine is available. That’s wonderful, isn’t it? It is wonderful if you want to have lots of information available in a variety of different ways, it is NOT wonderful if you are in a hurry and need to cut through all the useless information quickly. With all the information that is published on the world wide web, it is absolutely possible to pull together your own curriculum and have everything you need to teach virtually any subject and do it for practically nothing. That’s the good news. The bad news is, because there is SO much information available, it could take you HOURS to pull together something that should take 20 minutes to teach. How do you navigate all of that information and get your child the data that they need? One solution is to use a site like Lesson Pathways to pull the resources of the internet together for you. This is a subscription site but the rates are very reasonable for the service that is provided. I have found this site to be invaluable in my homeschooling endeavor. They have done all the gathering of information for me. It has lessons broken down by subject (math, science, language arts, reading, and history) and by grade (currently they have lessons for preschool – 5th grade). You can follow the lessons week by week or you can search the site to find information on any subject you choose. It really has been a fabulous tool for us and a smart use of on-line resources.
- Use an online distance-learning homeschool program. This follows more of the “do-school-at-home” method rather than the “homeschool” method in which the child’s experience is very similar to what he would have in a classroom. These programs are more of a “private school at home” option and families participate in online forums and interact with teachers and other students, follow a curriculum prescribed by the school and are graded by the school. This takes some of the flexibility and control over what is taught away from the family but it also offers the parent the opportunity to have their child at home. It also offers some peace of mind, knowing that their child is being exposed to a repertoire of facts that is very similar to their private school contemporaries. Often, these programs offer a multimedia approach including the use of CDs and textbooks as well as online presentations. Another advantage of this type of program is that a transcript is kept and if your child ever transitions out of homeschool, this is a helpful tool. For more information on these programs, check out http://homeschooling.about.com/od/distancelearning/Distance_Learning.htm on About.com.
As you can see, there is a wealth of homeschooling resources right at your fingertips. Chances are, if you’re online reading this article you’re a “computer person” already. If you’re comfortable navigating Google and YouTube, you’re well on your way to effectively using online resources in your home education enterprise.
Julie Clark is a writer and content contributor for LessonPathways.com, an innovative new product that maps online educational resources into ready to teach units. She is a homeschooling mother of three children, executive assistant to her husband, a blogger (TheClarkChronicles.com), and Foster Care Coordinator for a nationally acclaimed mental health agency.