Most homeschoolers have limited their homeschooling programs to the traditional model of textbooks and workbooks. While there is nothing wrong with these, there are vast amounts of additional resources available to homeschool parents through the computer, whether through online schools, website programs, or research tools. However, many homeschool parents have shied away from these tools out of fear or the challenges that come with modern technology. These issues don’t have to cripple your homeschool program, as long as you take care to implement a few strategies.
Parents who use the computer for their homeschooling programs need to have some basic knowledge of document management. While this seems obvious, it is not as easy for parents to make this switch as it is for students. Since parents are the primary record-keepers for the homeschool, it is imperative that parents understand how to organize files on their computers, maintain simple folder hierarchies, and frequently save and back up external copies of all records. Most computer have built-in tutorials on how to do these things, and parents should take the time to become familiar with how to make the most of the computer tool in their homeschool classrooms.
A second challenge to homeschooling and the use of modern technology is the “lost time” that students can experience playing on social websites such as Facebook and MySpace. Parenting and homeschooling with a computer can be an excellent way to homeschool but not if the parents are not monitoring their child’s use of these social sites. Family guidelines need to be established and clearly understood regarding when a child can begin using these sites, if at all, as well as the time and content allowed on these sites One of the best rules of thumb is to have the parents have access to the child’s site management. Parents can follow along with their children’s friends and “conversations” to watch over time spent on the sites, as well as the topics of conversation. Even though some children object to this, it should be one of the rules regarding use of these sites.
A third, and the most important, is the issue of safety and identity protection. Parents who homeschool with the use of a computer will often be asked to provide email addresses and for purchases, credit information. As with any other credit card (or debit card) purchase, parents should ensure that the business with which you are doing is a reputable business, but this is not the major issue facing parents as most homeschool programs are easily verified. The larger issue is ensuring that children do not give out personal information over the internet. Any request to give names, addresses, etc., should be part of the family guidelines conversation. Homeschool parents should have strict rules about the types of detail that their students can release, and then it is important that parents follow up with their children to be sure that the guidelines are remembered and adhered to.