High-tech Home School
- The following article by Jennifer Kaufeld was found in the Borders Bookstore
More and more parents teach their kids at home these days. Whether they
undertake home schooling as a full-time venture or they augment their kids'
instruction with after-school learning, it's not too hard to find parents
all over the country who are educating their own children.
Using a personal computer lightens the home schooling load. Although plenty
of textbooks and reference books are available, parents and tutors feel less
of a need to know and do everything themselves when they have access to the
computer and its storehouse of knowledge. With the Internet humming 24
hours per day and software available that teaches everything from history to
computer programming, you can use the computer as an integral part of the
school day, a research tool, or a lesson planner.
Be creative as you add to your learner's knowledge base. Every class or
topic doesn't require a textbook with that subject title plastered across
the front. Spending a few moments watching an animated solar eclipse on the
Web definitely teaches more than the pages devoted to the same topic in a
textbook. When you use the computer for those things that it's really good
at - crunching numbers, interactive instruction, patient practice - you
capitalize on a good thing while you save time.
Arm your system with a few good programs that reinforce what you're trying
to teach. Keep in mind that children who enjoy themselves will be more
likely to use the computer. Generally, a software package designed at their
level and interesting to use sees more wear than one guaranteed to pour
educational concepts into them. Edmark, Knowledge Adventure, and The
Learning Company all release great programs that teach several concepts or
skills in one package. Also, look to these companies for one-subject
practice programs, like the Math Blaster series.
Use the Internet to research particular topics in history, science, current
events, and computing. Need a study unit on how to clean house for your
darling, but messy, little gems? You'll find it on the Web! The Internet
connects you with other home schoolers through chat rooms and e-mail lists,
provides products and resources for your class with online shopping, and
acts as a quick reference tool. Use your online connection to download free
lesson plans, take a look at what other home schoolers are doing, or get
answers to pressing classroom questions from a source like Ask Jeeves for
Kids ( http://www.ajkids.com ).
Computers particularly shine when the home schooler begins to incorporate
electives into the daily schedule. Learn about finances when you spend some
time mastering a spreadsheet or complete a year's worth of transactions in a
program like Quicken. Consider making a class out of genealogy or digital
photography. With genealogy students can track down their family histories
at the same time they learn how to research a topic in-depth via the
Internet. Using an online connection for a subject like genealogy saves
months (if not years) of research time. Studying digital photography can
open the way to a career in Web design or photojournalism.
Take a topic like "starting an online business" and turn it into a school
elective. If you hit on a possible lucrative idea, and decide to launch it,
the business could go a long way toward providing pizza money.
Investigate how the computer really works and pick up a programming language
or two. In addition to strengthening skills like logic and system design,
experience in programming looks great on a high school transcript.
Some subjects work best with a combination software/Internet approach. A
computer helps you teach practically any foreign language, for example, even
if you don't know it yourself. Once the student gains a basic understanding
of the language with a software package, use your Internet connection to
investigate foreign language Web sites, read international online
newspapers, and learn about the culture associated with the language.
Strategy games provide another example. Although learning to play chess
online is possible, your student is probably better off with a patient
computer program. Then, once she understands the basics, several online
game portals offer free chess games against live players.
If your student wants to study a subject that seems a little overwhelming,
you might want to purchase one of the available computing guide books and
use it as your "text" for that class. Several universities use the ...For
Dummies series as introductory texts in computing classes. With a working
computer and a good reference or two, parents can feel confident about
tackling almost any subject at home.
Jennifer Kaufeld is co-author of America Online for Dummies Quick Reference
(IDG, 1999). She home schools her two children and is developing a home
schooling guide for parents.