by Mimi Rothschild
What exactly is "online homeschooling"? Online homeschooling is a way to teach our children at home that uses the Internet to deliver curricula, instruction and/or interactive experiences.
Online homeschooling can range from simply using great individual websites in our existing programs all the way to enrolling in a full time program that offers online courses, tutoring, grading, credits and diplomas and ofcourse, online homeschooling can include many options in between. Online resources can be used for core curriculum, supplemental, religious and practical instruction. Online courses can range from one hour to one year.
Not all online courses or schools are created equally. In fact, they can vary as much as night and day. And this is where having some knowledge and knowing how to evaluate the claims puts you in a position of making great choices.
Some online schools are like the older correspondence schools that just delivers assignments that are based on traditional textbooks through email or a website. Some online schools offer a comprehensive solution where you can take advantage of multimedia rich electronic textbooks complete with lesson plans, tests and projects. Some of the more established online homeschooling programs have all the benefits of a community with social centers, message boards, gatherings, and accreditation. We will explore it all.
Let's start at the very beginning. The beginning for me was 1983 when I had my first child and wanted nothing less than the very best possible education for her. Naturally, I chose to homeschool. My thinking was I loved her best, I knew her best; therefore I could give her the best education. Greatintentions. A little faulty on the logic. Back then a curriculum fair consisted of about 6 vendors in the church basement. Never one to mince words, I will say the truth-I simply hated all the curriculum I saw. I could not envision how sitting my daughter down at the kitchen table with black and white workbooks was the "best possible education."
As time went on and every other year or so brought another baby into our family (8 precious treasures from heaven from 1983-1999), traditional homeschooling became harder and harder, less fulfilling and less and less looking like my dreams. I started coops, held classes for homeschoolers in my home, and tried to convince our church to offer classes so that I didn't have to do it all alone.
All through those years, I kept returning to the same thought that haunted me: to give my kids milk (after the breastfeeding phase), I did not have to become a farmer and milk cows in my backyard. To homeschool them, do I necessarily have to be the sole instructor and have my own school in my kitchen? I was tormented by the fact that I did not feel at all gifted as a teacher (in fact by all accounts, I was a terrible one) yet to relinquish my babies to the Godless school system was unthinkable.
It wasn't until 1997 following the delivery of my triplets, that the solution came to me. Our triplets were born 3 months prematurely and one baby struggled for his life for the first two years on a ventilator. I brought all 5 children with me day after day to the hospital as they worked on their schoolwork on the computers in the hospital's library. As we all got to know the other children who were hospital bound, one day while in my son's hospital room, a light bulb went on. When a child cannot (or in the case of homeschooling, chooses not) to go to school, why can't the internet bring the school to the child? This very moment was the seed of the online homeschooling program that I would later co-found with my husband that would be built on two basic principles that to be a great homeschooling parent, you do not have to do it all alone and to offer a great homeschooling curriculum, you need to engage students with a rich multimedia experience.
With the newfound blessings of the web, we could now conceive of a way for interesting curricula and even teachers to come directly into our homes (or anywhere we needed to be) and fill the gaps that I was unable to fill alone.
As I share this story, I am amazed at the number of families whose experience with homeschooling was similar to mine. They believe in it and believe that what is happening and offered in public schools is not good. (Much more on this in issues to come, I guarantee)They believe homeschooling can be a phenomenal way to raise children and build a family. But, they do not know math past fourth grade (that is me!) or they could not decipher Shakespeare if their lives depended on it. Although a staunch advocate of homeschooling, I did not have satisfying answer to the "how do parents teach all of the subjects necessary for college?" Enter online homeschooling. Suddenly and inexpensively, we can have the best of both worlds. We have the freedom, flexibility and safety of our own homes and the value of other adults who have the gift of teaching and specific subject matter expertise. And the web offers much more to homeschoolers than a vehicle for teachers, it can also engage the learner like no textbook can. So, be sure to tune in next time for another installment in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Online Homeschooling.
Mimi Rothschild is the co-founder of Learning By Grace (http://www.LearningbyGrace.org) a Christian ministry that offers Online HomeSchooling Programs for PreK-12.
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