Wednesday, April 29, 2020

From the Homeschool Front … Online learning aids by Colleen Hroncich

Home educators today are incredibly lucky. Homeschooling is increasingly embraced by society; there are numerous homeschool clubs, co-ops, sports leagues, and more; and many colleges have adopted flexible admissions guidelines that allow them to evaluate homeschoolers individually. However, the thing that I am most frequently thankful for as a home educator is the internet. 

It never ceases to amaze me how many online learning options there are today, many of which are free or very low cost. The most well-known of these is probably Khan Academy, which includes thousands of videos covering math, science, history, civics, and more. These videos are great supplements to other curricula and are particularly helpful to students who are struggling in specific areas. Skill checks are built into the courses so students can focus on areas where they need extra work.  In recent years, Khan Academy has partnered with the College Board to produce prep courses for the SAT and AP exams.

There are also online options to help you learn or improve at a foreign language. Duolingo’s website and app allow you to learn a language for free. Many libraries subscribe to language-learning sites like Mango Languages – you just need to enter your library card number to create an account. Rosetta Stone, Babbel, and Rocket Language are some of the fee-based sites. While these online learning options won’t have the same structure as a language course in school, they can help you become conversational, improve your pronunciation, and build your vocabulary.

For students who are interested in computer programming, online options abound. Codecademy has free and fee-based courses in multiple computer languages. We haven’t tried, which is free, but I’ve heard good things about it. Scratch and Scratch Jr. are geared toward younger kids to get them used to the language and structure of coding. Khan Academy also includes computer programming courses.  

If your older students are interested in history and civics, Hillsdale College has tremendous online courses at no charge. Offerings include U.S. History, the Constitution, Literature, and Economics. Liberty Classroom is a fee-based option that covers Economics, History (U.S. and Western Civilization), and logic. Many other sites, including banks and financial service firms, offer free or low cost financial and stock market courses.

Whether you’re a homeschooler or a teacher in a public or private school, these tools can open new horizons for your students … and for you. I’ve taken advantage of several online classes with my kids and on my own. These days the biggest problem is choosing which ones to take given the numerous options and limited time.

I’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to online learning options. If you have other suggestions of courses you’ve used, please share them in the comment section.

Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.