Parents choose to homeschool their children for a variety of reasons. Concerns about educational quality, a desire to incorporate religion into their studies, the cost of private school, and many other issues motivate homeschoolers. For many families, this approach works very well and homeschooled kids go on to top universities every year. Yet one component of a high quality education, regardless of where it is obtained, is deep subject matter expertise. In fact, public schools are working hard to find, train, and retain teachers with just this sort of deep understanding of the subjects they teach (although, invariably, budget cuts have history teachers teaching math classes in schools nationwide).
Parents, no matter how brilliant or well qualified, can’t be experts in everything.
Increasing numbers of homeschoolers are forming cooperatives and even their own private schools to address this. A parent with advanced degrees in math and engineering might handle math instruction for all of the students in the cooperative, while another who works by day as a journalist handles English, for example. The resources now available online, however, are varied, numerous, and often of very high quality, easily supplementing what parents can teach their children and allowing parents to act as educational guides rather than instructor of everything.
What about connecting homeschoolers to the subject experts…
Educational resources for homeschoolers range from complete curricula to open source electronic textbooks to virtual schools. Virtual classrooms in particular provide a powerful means of connecting homeschooled children to subject matter experts outside the context of a traditional school. Services like WizIQ provide both a marketplace where teachers on various subjects can be searched, contacted, and paid for educational services. Tutoring services like GradeResults can supplement asynchronous resources using virtual classrooms, as well (GradeResults, in fact, is now offering extensive curricula and teaching services both synchronously and asynchronously).
A virtual classroom provides beyond your expectations…
A virtual classroom also provides interesting opportunities for homeschooling parents beyond the easy access to instruction on specific subjects. Homeschoolers often share particular ideologies that they expect to see infused into their children’s education. What once had to be a neighborhood cooperative to ensure that like-minded individuals were participating in their children’s education can now be a global community. The likelihood of finding someone who can teach your kids physics or calculus or Hindi and who also shares the beliefs that brought you to homeschooling in the first place increases drastically when you can look around the world instead of down the street.
The virtual classroom also provides an opportunity for the homeschooling parent to share his or her knowledge and expertise and to become part of a global network of educators. At WizIQ, we define the term “educator” quite broadly. A teaching certificate can be part of it, but what really defines an educator is the desire to share an expertise with others. I know many parents who have chosen to stay home with their kids, not only to raise them but also to educate them. These stay-at-home parents are often among the best educated people I know and are supremely qualified to teach. Why not extend their teaching to many more students who are looking for just the sort of expertise they posses, as well as for their unique approach?
After all, if their approach wasn’t unique, they’d be sending their kids to public school.
E-learning perhaps fits even better with homeschooling than it does with more institutionalized forms of education. The Internet, and the tools that run on it and the resources it hosts, are now vital parts of the homeschooling equation. Whether it’s a blog that a cooperative uses to share great resources or best practices with other homeschoolers, electronic textbooks, an LMS to coordinate teaching and learning among several families, or a full-blown virtual classroom platform to connect homeschoolers with experts, e-learning most definitely fits into the homeschool community.