-by Mimi Rothschild
You have to have had your head in the sand for the past several years not to have heard of the ever-growing world of social networking websites such as Myspace, gloryLane, and Facebook. But what are these sites, really? And is there a way that you can use them and the internet in general to enhance your home school environment? Although it is a personal decision, as long as you’re careful the general answer would be yes.
First of all, the most important thing to remember about the internet is that it can be a dangerous, unsavory place, particularly for children. Should you decide to embark on the journey of incorporating today’s technology into your home school curriculum, be sure that you are diligent in monitoring the safety of your students.
That being said, what types of things can you do to bring the world wide web into your classroom?
Social networking sites, such as Facebook or the Christian Networking site gloryLane, are ways in which friends can keep in touch with one another, via cyberspace, and are growing in popularity daily. Many of these sites contain groups and causes you can join, ways to share links with your friends and family, and even games you can play. The games can even be interactive and somewhat educational, such as word games and IQ challenges, which will at least get your child thinking. If properly monitored, these sites can be an excellent way to foster socialization, particularly for the only child in a home school home. But be cautioned, just as there are positive aspects to some of these sites, there are, of course, also dangers. If you allow your child to create an account, be sure that the privacy levels are properly in place, and keep close tabs on what your child is doing when visiting their account.
Chat rooms and forums are another way to communicate with others online. There are countless sites that offer the ability to set up a free account and become a member of their communities, some general, others much more specific to a certain hobby or subject. In fact, there are even several out there dedicated to the world of home schooling. These types of sites can be beneficial to your child by encouraging them to develop and share thoughtful opinions with others and participate in worthwhile discussions. However, just as with the social networking sites, you must do your due diligence in properly monitoring any forum or chat activity that your child is participating in.
Blogs are an excellent way to help your child develop a love for writing. There are multiple websites that offer free blogs to anyone who wants to start one. Allowing your child to establish their own blog will help them to become independent, flex their creativity muscles, and share their thoughts and ideas with anyone who is interested in reading it. And the possible subjects or themes of blogs are endless. Is your child especially interested in ballet? Maybe a particular sport piques your son’s interest. Whatever they are passionate about would make great material for their own blog. What better way to encourage your student to write than to allow them to publish their work online, for the world to see?
As always, you must be cautiously optimistic about today’s changing and developing technological resources, and safety is always the key. Remind your child regularly that it is never ok to share personal information, such as address or phone numbers, with anyone they are speaking to online. If you are careful and diligent about it, the internet can be an excellent tool to add a new dimension to your home school classroom.
Mimi Rothschild is the Founder of LearningByGrace.org the nation’s leading provider of online PreK-12 online Christian educational programs for homeschoolers.