Homeschooling is the next big thing in education. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, more than 1,500,000 students are homeschooled in the United States. This number is growing each year. Many people turn to homeschooling when they seek a sane response to public schools.
There are many online programs for homeschoolers that cater to these families. Most online homeschools are run by K-12, which is a corporate entity known for overworking teachers, insufficiently supporting children, and stealing money from the government. For more information on these schools, check out these great articles by The New York Times, Mother Jones, The National Education Policy Center, and yours truly.
Other options are available, though. Using online tools homeschoolers and teachers can create communities where education can be home-based, vibrant, challenging and engaging.
I run a small, online program for homeschooled middle school students. Each week, I use WizIQ to introduce them to material. We consider the material together, and then I send them assignments to enhance their understanding of the ideas. We interact regularly throughout the week, so that I am able to support their learning.
What do the kids think of my classes? What do parents have to say? Is my program meeting their needs? I did a bit of research to learn what they thought of my classes. Here is what they had to say:
It is more fun than homeschooling alone.
Morgan, a sixth grade student from Massachusetts, stated that, “Learning is more fun online.” Humans are social creatures, and they learn more when they can interact over ideas. Recently, I taught my students dance moves to remember the first 10 amendments to the Bill of Rights. Sure, my students could practice the dance moves alone in front of the mirror, but when they could actually see their classmates moving, it became more fun for everyone- and they all know the amendments.
It is good to have someone other than Mom correcting my work.
Cora, a seventh grade student from Georgia, says that her mom is too critical of her work. Her mother agrees! The parent-child relationship is complicated. Just because a family decided to homeschool doesn’t mean that a particular child is best taught all of her subjects and every idea that she learns by her mother. Is it reasonable to expect parents to teach children:
-to do chores
-to shop and cook, and
-have good manners
-write a five paragraph essay
– learn the top 100 vocab words for the SAT, and
-and correctly multiply three digit numbers?
Cora and her mother concur that when I correct her papers, she is better able to “hear” my suggestions and improve her writing. Kerry, a mom from Washington States, says, “There is no denying that tweens can’t hear parent’s wisdom on some matters and it is probably best that they hear it from at least one other source so that when they come back home at 28, they can say “Mom, you were right!”
Parents appreciate having the opinion of a competent teacher.
Nancy, of Massachusetts, homeschools three children. While she has been a sole practitioner for many years, as her kids got older, she began to wonder if her kids were at “Grade level” and learning the reading and writing skills necessary for success in high school. When she found my program, she was no longer worried. Kerry stated, “I often felt like I was missing huge pieces to the puzzle. Having an online teacher for some of the subjects alleviates that concern, freeing me to concentrate on what is left.” Both parents found a lot of comfort in having the opinion of a teacher who has worked with Middle School students for many years, and could reassure them that their children were meeting typical academic standards for kids their ages.
Students get some individual attention.
Parents who homeschool often have 3 or more children. The kids are of different ages and have different needs. Kerry likes the online program because it gives her daughter the “one on one attention that she deserves, as I often have to focus on her younger brother.”
It helps with portfolio creation and reporting to the state or to high schools.
Many states require students to have an independent evaluation of their work. Private high schools require that their students submit letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are stronger when they are not from Mom or Dad. Recently, one of my students decided to return to public school, and she knew where to turn to get a written evaluation of her work and progress.
It is important to note that I am not a technological expert. I am a trained teacher with a master’s degree and ten years of experience in the classroom, so I do have a good sense of what children of this age are capable of. However, I am not even a “Computer person.” Nonetheless, with WizIQ, I have been able to respond to the needs of a group of people and create a small business. The possibilities are endless and they are much more exciting than flashy corporate educational sites.
-Parents can offer classes to each other’s children.
-Libraries can have online reading groups.
-Teachers can offer independent, creative, exciting classes, independent of The Common Core and the requirements of High Stakes Testing.
This semester, for example, I am offering a course on Malala: The Girl Who Stood up to the Taliban, as well as on The Industrial Food Chain. Neither of these courses fit in with a standard public education nor a corporate homeschool curriculum. But they are oh-so-interesting!
If you are going to homeschool, give your kids a great curriculum! Seek out a local or online freelance educator.