Homeschool Pioneers on the Web -- These Web Homeschooling Pioneers Are Charting out New Frontiers of Teaching and Learning
Rutkowski, Kathleen, Multimedia Schools
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
Homeschool Support on the Internet
The Canadian Homeschool Resource Page (CHRP)
HomeSchool Find-It Virtual Library
Jon's Homeschool Resource Page
HOME SCHOOLING DAILY
After 4 years of home schooling and Net access, I continue to tell my friends about all the wonderful resources out on the Internet. It's a virtual library at my finger tips. As you can imagine, this resource is a homeschooler's dream. Many homeschoolers do not live in a large metropolitan area where they can gather resources from the local library. There are some libraries in this country where you can only get one weather book, one book on bats, NO books on the Catskills Mountains and NO reserves may be placed for any Magic School Bus Books.--Belinda Augusta, WebMaster, Home Schooling Daily
Belinda Augusta, the Webmaster of the Home Schooling Daily, knows a lot about homeschooling--she homeschools her two elementary-aged children, administers a weekly schedule of classes for 85 students, and leads a local homeschool support group. She also knows a great deal about the Internet and the World Wide Web and is a strong advocate of using these technologies in the homeschooling community.
The Home Schooling Daily is a Web site that serves as an excellent online clearinghouse for diverse information about homeschooling challenges, activities, and plans. It also serves as a research center for the integration of advanced technologies in homeschooling activities (see Figures 1 and 2).
The main page provides a basic introduction to the site and links to the major divisional pages. A general reference page provides links to major online resources on homeschooling including publications, other homeschool Web pages, and institutions supporting homeschooling families. The reference page for parents provides links to online curricular resources, and another page links to online lesson plans. There are also pages that suggest online resources and activities that can be used with homeschoolers on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. There are thematic pages with links to helpful online resources. A page for new Web users provides links to useful online tutorials. Finally, there are many opportunities for interaction on this site: an opportunity for children to review books and Web sites, a chat room for homeschoolers, and a homeschooling daily message board.
THE CARON FAMILY'S HOMESCHOOL HOMEPAGE
The Caron Family Homeschool Web site is colorful and inviting, incorporating the original artwork and poetry of the Caron children in a multimedia experience. Java scripting is effectively used to provide interest and engage the reader. This is a well-designed, well-structured, highly functional, and easily navigated site. Above all, this site contains a wealth of useful information for homeschoolers and their families (see Figure 3).
School VOICES of the Web
An Evaluation Methodology
VOICES is an evaluation methodology for school-produced Web sites. The key, equally-weighted criteria are:
Vision: How well is the fundamental purpose or purposes of the Web site articulated and implemented?
Originality: How original are the technical tool kit and technical design elements? How original is the content? How different is this Web site in terms of partnerships, collaboration, and interactive elements?
Integrity: How fully integrated are the design, content, technical, and vision components? How well does the site as a whole serve to advance a unified vision or create a new learning community or experience?
Community: How effective is the site in facilitating new communication, encouraging new collaborations, and building connections, internally, externally, or in combination?
Empowerment: How active is the involvement of students, teachers, and parents in the design, content development, production, and sustenance of the site?
Structure: How easy is it to navigate between pages and main components? How well is the code written? How well is the content organized? How well does the site serve audiences with diverse access capabilities and requirements?
School Web sites highlighted in this column do not necessarily excel in any single component. Those that are selected provide the most powerful VOICES--that magical combination of features that demonstrates effective and innovative uses of the technology for teaching and learning. As we learn more about successful educational "Web-weaving," these criteria may change. Please send your suggestions and comments to Kathy Rutkowski.
There are numerous sectional pages on homeschooling, including a page that addresses frequently asked questions from families just starting homeschooling. One section provides links to over 800 educational content sites; another links to Web sites that offer used educational materials, educational shareware, and commercial sources of educational materials. A homeschooling and television page links to television networks such as PBS, C-SPAN, and CNN. Another page links to online resources of interest and relevance to homeschooled highschoolers. A "bookshelf" offers titles and access to books useful to homeschoolers and their families. Finally, a section of this site provides useful links for Maine-based homeschooling families concerning resources, requirements, and educational or professional associations.
A virtual homeschool community is evident in this site through the Homeschool Web Ring and the Homeschool Resource Web Ring. The Homeschool Web Ring is an online community of homeschooling families with a Web presence. The Homeschool Resources Web Ring provides access to Web resources that are relevant to homeschooling. Those with an interest in sharing resources about homeschooling are invited to submit useful sites and join this unique web ring. Both services can be accessed via the Caron Family Web site.
Kaleidoscapes is a virtual community managed by a team of experienced homeschool veterans. Cindy Johns, the creator of Kaleidoscapes, is currently homeschooling her children, and Cafi Cohen, the co-manager of Kaleidoscapes, successfully homeschooled her two children through middle school and high school in three states. Kaleidoscapes, a term derived from the combination of kaleidoscope and landscapes, provides parents valuable information and numerous opportunities to communicate with other homeschoolers (see Figure 4).
A major feature of Kaleidoscapes is the discussion boards. These boards are hosted by expert homeschoolers. Current messages are posted on the Web site, discussion board subscribers can post their messages via a Web-based form available on the Web site, and visitors can subscribe or search archives via the discussion board pages. Currently there are nine discussion boards: the Main Board; Newbie FAQ Board; Curricula!; Science; Unit Studies; High School and College Tips; Special Needs; Compliance; and Sidetracks, an area billed as a "hangout" for homeschoolers.
Kaleidoscapes also features Cafi's Homeschool Index--a searchable directory of online resources relevant to homeschoolers and teaching and learning more generally; the Kaleidoscapes' Kids Place--a virtual playground for children; the Cool Kids Animation Gallery--a virtual exhibition hall for young online artists; and the Create-an-Animated Web Page--an interactive program that allows kids to create animated Web pages.
Communications to the author may be addressed to Kathleen Rutkowski, 13102 Weather Vane Way, Herndon, VA 22071; 703/471-0593; email@example.com.
The Web Honor Roll
Exemplary Homeschool Web Sites:
Home Schooling Daily
The Caron Family's Homeschool Homepage
The Teel Home Education Page
The Teel Home Education Page is an excellent online resource for homeschoolers. It showcases interesting and engaging learning activities for homeschoolers developed and/or found by the Teel family.
The WindyCreek Homeschool
Nancy Lande, the author of Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days, and her industrious family are the creators of The WindyCreek Homeschool. This site provides a treasure-trove of information for homeschoolers and their families.
Annette's Home Page
This site is packed filled with interesting and useful information and Web links for homeschoolers.
The Hilltop Homeschool
The Lovelace Homeschool Family selects useful online articles, sites, and resources for homeschooling families.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Homeschool Pioneers on the Web -- These Web Homeschooling Pioneers Are Charting out New Frontiers of Teaching and Learning. Contributors: Rutkowski, Kathleen - Author. Magazine title: Multimedia Schools. Volume: 5. Issue: 3 Publication date: May-June 1998. Page number: 76+. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 1998 Gale Group.
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