According to study numbers of a decade ago, nearly 4% of school-aged children in the United States were receiving their education at home. And over 64% of homeschooling parents have said that they use technology on a daily basis when teaching their children. Widespread access to internet technology means that homeschooling parents can now access a wider range of teaching resources than ever before. And indeed, many believe that technology will play an even greater role for home schools of the future.
Parents are getting more creative with the technology they use in their classrooms, and children are benefiting. But just as important is the ability to complement the opportunities of the virtual world with rich real-world experiences.
Cloud services like Google Docs have many benefits for the home-schooled child. Children in the same home can use it to collaborate on assignments. Parents who are banding together to bring children in several households together for a project like the writing of collaborative fiction can also make great use of this free service.
Instant access to materials such as documentaries, podcasts and educational videos is possible with the use of media players, instant streaming services like Netflix. There are also classes available via podcast, which any parent can download to their device before class begins. And web cams make it possible for students to connect with each other across a few miles or several countries.
Web Pages vs. Paper Assignments
Children can use a service like Squidoo to create web pages about the subjects being covered in class. An additional benefit of creating web pages is that a child can also learn about how a web page is built. And in creating their assignments online, children also learn about alternatives to reduce waste.
The Effect of Technology on Developing Minds
Independence could likely be the biggest benefit to home-schooled children who have access to technology. In working to solve problems without the assistance of the teacher, children can learn to become resourceful and self-sufficient, which could lead to the development of more sophisticated problem-solving ability in later years.
Independence can also be encouraged by the parent. If, for instance, a child has a question that the parent doesn’t have the answer for, a parent can give them the opportunity to self-teach by suggesting they look up the answer by searching for it online.
Access to distance-learning programs with an online component can introduce an additional teacher into the home classroom, which can cause a child to be much more motivated to learn.
Striking a Balance
While technology definitely plays a role in today’s home schools, there can sometimes be no virtual replacement for experiences which will enhance a child’s educational experience. In some cases, technology can be combined with physical activity and teaching, such as bringing a tablet to a park and looking up complementary information about the local flora and fauna which can be found there.
Socialization can be another factor of home-schooling which can be lacking unless a student is given the chance to interact with other students. Many home-schooling parents organize regular field trips with other home-schooled children in their neighborhoods, which allows for socializing opportunities as well as a learning experience which involves all of the senses.
Parents who educate their children at home may also run the risk of their child becoming unfocused due to aimless surfing or use of social media sites. But with firm guidelines being established and enforced, a separation can be easily made between acceptable and non-acceptable internet activity during school hours. There are also many resources for filtering unacceptable web sites and tracking the web activities of home-schooled students.
Guest author Ruth Suelemente enjoys writing on a variety of topics, particularly in the area of technology. She recommends the ISP Watchdog as a resource for consumers investigating broadband.