Thursday, May 8, 2008

Writing your own online lessons

As the Internet has grown, so has its use in homeschooling. Unfortunately, there's not a lot out there about exactly how to go about setting up a lesson that is based on websites, or how to document what's been learned. In these pages, I'll try to give you a few ideas, and hopefully you'll be able to use them easily! If you have any ones I haven't thought of, please email me here!!

When my son Ken turned thirteen, he became resistant to long, drawn-out lessons. The simple joys of reading while cuddled on the couch became less common, and we switched to a different method: school by email. At the start of each week, I email Ken his assignments, and at the end he emails me the links to his projects or gives me his papers. we discuss the things he's working on during the week, and he adapts the assignments and chooses topics, but the pressure of having to monitor him constantly is gone.

Beginners and Reluctant Writers

I start my children off with very easy assignments to give them a feel for the whole concept. How fast they progress depends on how fast they learn to design and write their reports.

Here are the basic steps:

1) Pick your subject.

This can be done using the child's interests as a guide, by using a reference work such as the What your child needs to know series , or by using another resource that you like, such as a library book you'd like to share with your child. The more specific you make it in the early stages, the better. For instance, 'Rocks and Minerals" is a bit too broad, but "Igneous Rocks" may be a better choice.

2) Pick your website.

There are many websites with lists of educational sites, and I hope to be adding several myself. When you are looking around, keep in mind the learning goal of the lesson, and the reading level of the child. at first. I like to stick with one website per lesson, then when they are comfortable with the process, add a few more per lesson. Learning to cite the websites properly comes a bit later.

A few good sources of possible lesson websites are:

Science Links


All Info About Science for Families



Library in the Sky

American Library Association

Blue Web'n

3) Pick your assignment.

Worksheet? Writing assignment? Story? Web page? Begin with what's most comfortable for your child.
  • Is she a techie who can make a web page faster than you can vacuum the living room? Then encourage her to create a web page with pictures and text, and maybe even a video from Youtube or Google video.
  • Does he like to write stories and imagine new worlds? Have him write a fictional piece that involves the information used in the lesson. A mystery that's solved with the knowledge gained is a good starter.
  • Maybe she needs a bit of structure to get going. A starter like 'Ten Reasons Why I'd Rather Not Live on Mars...and Ten Reasons Why I'd Like To' could be helpful.
  • For those who get stalled easily, or who are fond of them, try searching for 'free worksheets', including the subject being studied in the search. It's possible to find premade worksheets for many subjects and age levels. also look at books like The Creative Teacher, which have pages that can be used for many subjects.
  • For the artistically inclined, try a poster, collage, travel brochure, news broadcast, speech for the family, videos or photos of experiments, etc.
  • Or, let the child decide how to display her new ideas and information.

4) Vary it and document it.

Once the child gets the idea, be sure to change things up pretty often. Make sure they try many types of websites, reports and displays. If you need it for your government portfolio, or if you just want the memories, be sure to take photos and videos.

Sample Beginner Online Science Lesson

Topic: Rocks, with Neal (age 10) being allowed to choose exactly what he wants to report about

Website: I went to Yahooligans and entered 'rocks'. After checking out several sites, I chose Geomysteries, a very appealing, very fascinating site that pulled me in right away! If I'd have been picking one for my thirteen -year-old son, I'd have chosen something a bit older and more technical, with more sites, like A to Z' Homes Cool. Then he would have had a choice of sites, and he'd have done more of the work!!!

Assignment: Play around with the site, since it's a mystery game also. Then create options for a report of some kind. The choices I gave him were :
  • Classify our family box of rocks (as well as he can) into the three major groups, using other websites or reference books as needed. Take photos and run an exhibit for the family and a few friends.
  • Give three characteristics of each major classification of rocks, then give three examples of each. This could be written or typed, or even done as a web page, with photos that Neal takes of a few examples of each type. (Very popular: he just got a new camera for his birthday!)
  • Or, fill in the answers on this page here or from The Complete Book of Science.
I like to use three options because it gives him choices without making him confused.

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