Have you tried online learning yet? If your children are still very young, you may be resistant to the idea. I actually agree! Young children need to have real-life, hands-on explorations with mud, sticks, play dough, and glitter. But as children mature, online learning is a wonderful addition to your homeschool repertoire.
[This post contains affiliate links to CurrClick.]
I first let Emma use some online learning in the middle school grades with a short study of the Vikings. She really enjoyed the format; it added some much needed variety to her routine. Later she took both psychology and economics for high school credit via CurrClick LIVE.
I am a fan of online learning, but instead of telling you what I think, I asked 18 homeschool parents and experts in the field to tell me what advice they would offer.
Some of their quotes focus on the benefits of online learning. Other quotes are advice about making the most of the experience. Each person is linked so you can learn more about him or her.
Gives Mom a Break
Advice from Heidi Ciravola of Starts at Eight
What is great about online learning is that you can shift the accountability to your student, and they in turn are accountable to someone other than you. It can be a great motivator for them! While I love being involved with so many aspects of my children’s life and learning, sometimes it is nice to get a break and have someone else’s input.
We are using online courses through Currclick with our middle school aged son. He loves the interaction with other students and the feedback from someone other than myself.
Engages Kids with ADHD
Advice from Lindsey Garcia of The Nitty Gritty Mom
My children who both exhibit strong tendencies for ADHD (which runs in my family) seem to stay focused and engaged for longer periods with online learning. With Teaching Textbooks, Dreambox, Reading Eggs, and other apps, and I’ve noticed a drastic difference: my children are more engaged.
They get through a lesson more quickly and more attentively. When learning offline, for example by reading a book, they often lose focus. They do well with someone speaking to them or having something to see and interact with.
Though I have not resorted to a completely online curriculum, I do appreciate how the online resources we use have boosted productivity in our school.
Look at the Style of Delivery
Advice from Lily Iatridis of Fortuigence
While different online programs teach the same skills or curriculum, the way they deliver the content and structure their courses could be completely different. This could have a huge impact on your children’s online learning experience! Make sure you know and like the content delivery style of the online program before you make a decision.
Good for Teens Who are Self-Motivated
Advice from Vicki Tillman of 7 Sisters Homeschool
Online learning is a good choice for teens who want more discussion/interaction or have parents who are out beyond their comfort zone teaching a subject. However, these teens need to be self-motivated since they don’t have a teacher standing next to them, reminding them to do their homework.
There are some great courses for a variety of interests at Currclick.com. Some of the high-academic teens that I advise have enjoyed courses at Landry Academy or The Potters School. You can also find free MOOCs at Coursera.
Try Different Teachers
Advice from Brandi Jordan of Mama Teaches
For our family, online learning opens up opportunities and experiences that we might not otherwise have. The children love the chance to learn from and engage with their teachers and their classmates. As the homeschool mom, I appreciate the opportunity to relax — even if it’s just for ten minutes while they’re having fun in their classes.
We use CurrClick (where I’m also a teacher for the littlest learners), because of the flexibility and wide range of classes. We prefer the live lessons, but when we can’t attend them, we like going back and watching the class and completing the extension activities. I’d encourage those who are interested in online learning to try low-risk classes and try different teachers. No two instructors are the same and finding a good fit for your child’s learning style is really important. Give it a try; you may find that online learning works for your family too.
Accountable to Someone Other Than Mom
Advice from Marci Goodwin of The Homeschool Scientist
Online learning has been great for my independent middle schooler. We started with one live online class with CurrClick. It taught her how to be accountable to someone other than her mom. The next year, we added a couple more online classes for a little more independence. This year, she is taking four online classes and loving it. She is taking responsibility for her education and starting to think about what courses she really wants to take next rather than taking what I give her.
Shop Around and Ask Questions
Advice from Leah Nieman of LeahNieman.com
Shopping for an online class provider is just like shopping for curriculum. Your online class provider is the source of your student’s course for any given semester or year. Consider your needs. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and research your online class provider to make sure you’re getting the best fit for your student:
- How do we access class content?
- Are the classes truly live or are the students watching recorded sessions?
- Are the live sessions recorded so students have them should they be sick, or miss class for any reason?
- How long is the course content available to the student?
- Does this course offer grading? If so, how is that handled?
Try My Favorite Online Learning Providers
Advice from Susan Williams of Education Possible
We started using online learning options in middle school. We have tried several options. Here are four we like the most. Click the links to read more about them.
- CurrClick – a psychology class
- Textile Learning -an elective sociology class
- Fortuigence – essay writing instruction
- Middlebury Interactive Languages – German language and culture
Gain a Competitive Edge in the College Admissions Process
Advice from Dr. Jennifer Bernstein of Get Yourself Into College, Inc.
Online learning is an excellent way for homeschooling high school students to pursue their interests in exciting ways and gain a competitive edge in the college admissions process. edX and Coursera allow you to take free online classes from experts at top universities and organizations. You don’t earn college credit for these courses, but the perspective you develop can help you create an impressive college application package.
Let’s say you’re an artist who loves visiting museums and exploring cities. The course Tangible Things: Discovering History Through Artworks, Artifacts, Scientific Specimens, and the Stuff Around You at edX could be fascinating and allow you to connect with other people with similar interests. The Museum of Modern Art’s Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies For Your Classroom from Coursera could help you discover interesting career options.
Choose a Style That Suits Your Child
Advice from Gloria A. Brooks of Natureglo’s eScience
It’s not age that matters so much with choosing a class, program, or interactive site, but your child’s ability and interest level in conjunction with the chosen online content.
Online learning’s benefits abound because your choices are endless. Choose your homeschooler’s style whether it’s a highly structured online course with grading options, or an unschooling-type style, like Natureglo’s eScience, wherein learners are given science and math resources and invited to create their own assignments, projects and activities, or can choose the teacher-made resources.
Farm Out Subjects You Can’t Teach Well
Advice from Tonia Lyons of The Sunny Patch
I’ll be using online courses with The Well-Trained Mind Academy this fall. I think online learning is good for middle school through high school — a good way for older kids and teens to have a bit more responsibility in their learning since it isn’t mom or dad assigning the work. I think it is especially helpful for moms who want to farm out specific subjects like science or math that they might not be able to teach well.
Be Open to Change
Advice from T.K. Coleman of Praxis
The question is not “is online learning for me?” The question is “how can I most effectively use the tools of the future to facilitate the unique educational goals of my own home?” Technology isn’t about computers, tablets, smartphones, and machines. It’s about our need, as human beings, to tap into our potential and overcome creative challenges.
The word “technology” simply means a set of techniques or processes that empower us to fulfill our goals. Technology is here to stay. We should neither avoid it nor naively indulge it. Our responsibility as educators is to constantly challenge ourselves to be open to change, while being true to a responsibility that always remains the same: to embrace the resources that are available to us and use them to help our children discover who they are, what they love, and how they should live.
Get Tech Savvy
Advice from Roni Bergerson of Digischooling
I strongly encourage everyone to dip their toes into the world of online learning. In today’s tech age, it’s critical for both kids and parents to be tech savvy. Technology gives unlimited power. It opens doors to new areas; it takes us places we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go, and it challenges our imaginations. This power is only now starting to be harnessed for one of the noblest purposes — education.
Access is Paramount
Advice from Isaac Morehouse of Praxis
When it comes to online learning, access is more important than specific direction. Just let the kids play around with tablets, smartphones, and laptops as soon as they are able and interested. A few safeguards can keep them and your gadgets protected, but otherwise let them explore on their own. They’ll find ways to learn you didn’t even know existed!
Use Online Classes for Foreign Language
Advice from Ann Karako of Annie and Everything
I confess we pretty much avoid online classes. I have enough trouble rationing computer time as it is. However, I have to give a shout-out to the German courses at Oklahoma State University. (Read more about that here.) Foreign language learning can be tough to do via homeschool, but these make it very achievable.
Wait Until Middle School
Advice from Kaylene George at This Outnumbered Mama
I graduated from an online high school which was perfect for me. It gave me the flexibility to do classes on my own time and to continue to take higher education (AP) courses without going to a traditional school. That said, I’m not using online schools for my boys until they’re much older. I don’t want them to have too much screen time at such a young age, and I would rather be more involved in their learning while they’re little. We will probably re-visit the idea when they are around middle school age.
A Transition to More Formal Learning
Advice from Tina Robertson of Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
Parent-led homeschooling doesn’t mean you have to do all the teaching. On-line classes are another tool we have to enrich our child’s education. Our children will eventually have to transition from the way we teach to a more formal approach.
Besides the fact that on line classes are a nice introduction to more formal teaching, they are good for kids who crave a bit more interaction and who thrive on independence.
Advanced Instruction for Gifted Learners
Advice from Renee Brown of Great Peace Academy
Online learning has been the best possible solution for my son when it comes to teaching math especially because he is gifted in math and this homeschool teacher mom is not. We’ve used several online math learning option, but we always keep coming back to Khan Academy because it allows for freedom in exploring math at a students own pace and interest which is ideal for gifted learners. Most others maintain an overall grade level or completion level before allowing the student to move forward.
I suggest when trying out a new online learning program that the homeschool teacher set up a student account for herself and spend sometime doing the program. This way you know how it works and when your child needs help, you can offer them suggestions based on understanding how the program functions.
Sarah at Science4Us says
Great post! It’s great to hear the experience and expertise of so many on one topic! There are also a lot of great resources here.
It’s true that young children need to spend most of their time exploring and getting hands-on, but sometimes online content can mix with hands-on activities to provide a rich learning experience for our youngest students.