Here’s the thing about the internet as technology. You cannot stick your head in the sand and ignore the fact that the internet exists. In order to navigate through college and life — in almost all future jobs (even that of a homeschool Mom) — your child is going to need to understand and utilize the internet. Every other child in the United States will have at least a basic level of exposure to the internet by the time they reach adulthood, and most will be quite internet savvy.
To completely isolate your children from this technology could put them at a serious disadvantage. The internet is full of amazing information and resources that can improve your quality of life. However, if you are going to have internet access in your home, I think the very first thing you need to do is make internet surfing safe for your kids. The internet is also full of companies and people who are trying to exploit and influence others without any moral grounding. To keep the children in our home safe we use a three-pronged approach.
Line of Site Control – This means nobody surfs the internet in a private location and I keep tabs on which website they are visiting. The iPods in our household block all internet surfing, youtube videos, and purchases through the parental controls.
Accountability – We use a program called Covenant Eyes to keep track of every single internet website opened on any of our computers or iPods. Each week, it mails my husband and I a report and ranks sites according to maturity level. We can see exactly where every member of the family has been spending their internet time.
Limitations – Many computer programs exist to block or limit web-browsing for children. We place limitations on our children by choosing which websites they are allowed to view on their accounts. Some programs choose instead to decide what you can view. It is a slightly different approach. The only time they have more freedom is if we sign them in on one of our accounts. If we do sign them in for a specific assignment, we keep an even closer watch on what they are doing.
After you have taken steps to keep use of the internet safe in your home, you are ready to start exploring the possibilities. What exactly can you find on-line? Here are just a few of the many ways to use the internet.
Supplemental Material: From pictures for that special notebooking project to that obscure piece of music you would like to actually hear, from coloring pages to minibooks — if you are looking to supplement a subject you will be able to find ideas on-line. One of my favorite sites to find supplemental material is Pinterest. Pinterest needs to be used with care by the parent, it is not the place to turn your children loose. However specific searches can turn up amazing lesson plans, photos, blog posts and other resources – chances are you will be able to find what you need. Two other great websites are homeschoolshare.com and notebookingpages.com – both of which have a large library of free material! Looking for copywork? Homeschoolcopywork.com has a large collection of free copywork plus a paid membership option with beautiful copywork choices.
Research: Does your child need to read about a recent oil spill or tsunami and write an essay about it? You can help your child find safe websites with up-to-the-minute information on current affairs. Does your child have a sudden urge to absorb all information about Polar Bears or Homestead farming? An internet search will turn up all the information you need. For starting research, I especially like KidsConnect and Wikipedia.
On-Line Classes: Are you over your head as you attempt to teach your child chemistry? There is an on-line class for that! Would your child like to learn Spanish? Well, there is an on-line class for that too. In fact, online classes are becoming more and more common every day. Where we live, students in ninth grade and up can take on-line courses through almost any state university for $1 plus book costs! What an opportunity! One of the most well-known websites for finding a wide variety of online classes is Currclick.
Membership Websites: Examples of a membership website would be MyAudioSchool.com or SchoolhouseTeachers.com. You pay a set fee for a set time of membership and get access to the material on that website for as long as you are a member. Most of these websites update daily or at least weekly with new content related to their niche. For instance, MyAudioSchool is constantly adding new audio files for families to enjoy. SchoolhouseTeachers has new lessons daily or weekly in a wide variety of subjects. Niche membership sites are popping up all over the place!
On-Line Games: From math facts to spelling review, on-line based gaming has become big business in the homeschool arena. The online game that has been life-changing for us is ReadingEggs.com. We have only used this online gaming site for about three months and have seen remarkable growth in our little girl’s reading ability. Another favorite is starfall.com.
Blogging: If your child needs a little push to get that writing up to par, why not let them start their very own blog to share with friends and family? You can set up a blog for free through blogger or wordpress, and your child can learn keyboarding skills, writing skills, editing skills, photography skills, and even marketing skills through blogging each week. Once they have a little experience under their belts, they can even start playing with html coding!