In each issue of MULTIMEDIA SCHOOLS, VOICES of the Web will highlight exemplary school Web sites that demonstrate effective uses of the World Wide Web for educational purposes. Each issue will focus on different types of school Web sites--e.g., school districts, school libraries, school-originated projects, private schools, and homeschools. School Webs selected have been evaluated using the VOICES methodology described in the adjacent sidebar. Please send your suggestions and comments to Kathy Rutkowski, whose address appears at the end of this section.
[Editor's note: URLs for sites mentioned in this article appear in the VOICES of the Web Honor Roll, page 80.]
The World Wide Web offers abundant opportunities for homeschoolers. Families use the World Wide Web to tap global knowledge repositories, to connect with experts and other students around the world, and to participate in Internet-based learning experiences. Homeschool parents and teachers use the networks to research national and state laws impacting homeschooling, to find rich online curricular resources and projects, and to connect with other homeschooling parents and teachers for political, professional, and social support purposes. Global networks help homeschoolers overcome isolation and to connect with peers around the world. There are a number of good starting points to begin learning about homeschooling on the Web (see the "Useful Web Sites" sidebar).
CONNECTING WITH OTHERS
Homeschool Web sites typically tell a story of unique families learning together, working together, and sharing their experiences with other families around the world. The concept of "connecting" is a major theme, and the connecting occurs at various levels. Many family sites are connected together through metaphors such as Web rings, train tracks, and virtual tours, which provide hot links among similar sites. These Web-savvy families are eager to share the resources they have discovered with others.
Homeschooling is often thought to be a very isolating experience for both children and their parents. But, the Web sites that I visited cogently debunk this myth. These children and their parents are using the World Wide Web and global networks to touch and be touched by an entire globe and to pursue intellectual quests that are anything but narrow and limiting. In a very real way, these Web homeschooling pioneers are charting new frontiers of teaching and learning that will benefit not only homeschooled children but more formally "schooled" children, their parents, and teachers. Indeed, the ability of homeschooled children and educators to connect with traditionally schooled students and teachers and vice versa may prove to be easier in the virtual world than is currently the case in the non-virtual world.
The homeschooling process is not an easy one. It involves dealing with local school districts and sometimes unique legal issues. Thus, many of these Webs sites provide information and links to other sites that assist families in the administrative and legal aspects of homeschooling.
The Web sites that I visited were created by and for homeschool families. These sites provide useful information about the homeschooling experience in its many facets. Typically, these sites showcase learning activities and products of the children in the family. Many Web pages are created by the children themselves. Here's a sampling of some of the very best:
Useful Web Sites for Homeschoolers
HomeSchooler Information Network
The Homeschooling Web
Homeschooling Information and Resource Page
Learn @ Home
Alternative Education Resource Organization