It’s that time of year again – back to homeschool! And that means back to school traditions!
Homeschoolers use their educational freedom to teach their kids in a style and on a schedule that suits their family. That means that some homeschool all year ‘round, others started weeks ago, and some have not yet begun.
It’s the same here at True North Homeschool Academy -some of our online classes have started while others, including our homeschool clubs, will begin later on in September.
We have found that even though we are not returning to a “school building,” home educators have their own back to school traditions. There is excitement in the air as many of us are beginning a new homeschool year, meeting new students and friends, sharpening those Ticonderogas, and cracking open our shiny, new curriculum.
Some families have simple traditions such as purchasing new p.j.’s, kicking off the year with a field trip, or participating in the online National Homeschool Spirit Week, which is the 4th week of September every year.
We asked some of the Academy teachers to share their favorite “Back to Homeschool” traditions and words of advice as we roll into a fresh (and maybe a little challenging) homeschool year.
Traditions We Love
Dana Hanley is our German teacher and her first day of school tradition involves making Schultueten and filling them with candies and small school supplies. It is a German thing, but over there, the class party is on the first day of class, not the last day of class. Dana says: “ I really like that general attitude. Last year, we did a brand new outfit for each kid, too, because I randomly thought how much I loved getting new school clothes when I was a kid. All of my kids are asking to repeat that one!”
Pets are welcome too in the Pool homeschool room!
Tamara Warner Pool shared with us some words of wisdom and a peaceful way to begin the homeschool year. “My children needed a consistent rhythm and flow to their days, so we would gently enter our new school year and gently exit it for our break times. We don’t have “First Day” photos, and we didn’t have “Last Day” parties, but we did celebrate small accomplishments and goals achieved when any of them crossed a “finish line.” If we were involved in a coop or activity, we would build up to that so everyone was prepared for whatever disruption that would bring to our routines.”
Dr. Kristin Moon reminisced about when her kids were younger. One fun tradition they had was that they got the day off on their birthdays (hers too!). As the kids got older and co-ops and college classes mandated, they come to class even on their birthday that changed, but they all still remember those days fondly. She advises us to prioritize relationships over the curriculum. “We get so caught up on finishing books or getting through a lesson plan that it can be easy to overlook when a kid just wants some mom time. As homeschoolers, we can put the books and lesson plans aside when our kids need us to. Don’t ALWAYS be in teacher mode. Yes, as homeschoolers, we are always learning, but don’t turn everything into a forced lesson. It’s ok to go to the beach and enjoy each other’s company; you don’t have to quiz them on how tides are formed. My third piece of advice: don’t get so wrapped up in your role as a homeschool mom that you forget the person who you were created to be. Continue to make time for friendships, your health, your marriage, and your hobbies.”
Sonya Goodwin Hemmings encourages us to: “Be careful as you tailor your students’ education not to eliminate all of the obstacles that threaten to stand in their way. Struggle always precedes growth. It is quite essential. And when parents and their children pray and persevere together through a difficult subject or even a difficult year, the rewards that lie on the other side —shared knowledge, special bonding, and confidence to dig into the next challenge — are incredibly sweet.”
Emily Harkey counsels homeschool parents to “Pray…a lot!” and offers practical tips and reminders. “Think about dinner when you wake up and use a crockpot or Instapot as much as tolerated by your people. Make eating cereal for dinner a special treat when needed. Give lots of hugs and smiles and affirmations throughout the day, especially to your older kids who can work on their own while you work with your littles. During the younger years, remember that if you’ve been able to touch the three R’s every day: reading, writing, and arithmetic- that is an EXCELLENT school day…even if you are unable to replicate it again in another week’s time. Give yourself some slack and grace. Take a teacher’s “in-service day” when you need it and have your kids clean while you take a day away to work on you, and go to the dentist or get your hair cut. Organization and routine is your friend. Pray for your kids and all those who influence them.”
BJ Prammon, our Art teacher, points out that “back to school” can be casual and doesn’t have to be routine. “Our most prominent tradition for back to homeschool is really our lack of formal tradition. I never remember to take a “ first day of school” picture. Back to school shopping really doesn’t happen until October. I don’t like making school charts, and my kids don’t like following them. Even as I write this, I haven’t gotten around to ordering a social studies curriculum for my oldest. I’ll get around to it. We start on a different week every year, with different curriculum and different learning strategies, different goals, and, frequently, different opinions. If any of that could be rolled up into some sort of formal stab at useful information, I suppose it would be this: Don’t let what other people are doing dictate your own groove. Don’t let what last year looked like keep you from exploring this year to its fullest potential, even if last year was a really good year, but especially if last year was a ‘bad’ one.”
Whether you are already back in the swing of things or still in the planning phase, what we can all take away from this collective wisdom is that the key to a great start is concentrating on keeping a school/life balance and focusing on what works for our family.
A huge thank you to these True North Academy Teachers for taking time out of their busy schedules to their back to school traditions with us!
Getting Started with Homeschooling
Homeschooling is not Rocket Science, but as the world discovered this past spring, it is also not sitting around all day eating bonbons. The big question this spring has been, HOW DO I GET STARTED? Well, here is a quick guide to getting started.
First Things First
Check your State Laws and make sure you have everything in order. Need to sign a letter of intent or register your kids? Get it done.
You can find Homeschool Laws by State at HSLDA.
Create Your Action Plan for Schooling
This consists of your Vision, Mission, and Goals. The more detailed you are now the less confusion will ensue later. Like every big project, the more time that you devote to planning, the more effective the implementation will be, even when it’s not going as planned.
Spending time on “set-up” can save a lot of time (money) and irritation down the road.
Creating a Vision, Mission, and Goals:
- Determine your WHY. What’s driving you to Homeschool? Write it all down. Write down your frustrations, hopes, dreams, and expectations. Then distill it all into one simple sentence. Post it somewhere you’ll see it, so you don’t forget. Habbakuk 2:2 This is your Vision- your BIG picture; the long view vision for educating your kids.
- Determine your Mission for the Year. What will you get done? Write this down by child in the following areas: Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual.
- Determine Your Goals. These should be SMART– Specific, Measureless, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Smart goals are the small, incremental steps necessary to complete the mission.
Create Your Action Plan for Managing Your Home
Successful Homeschooling consists of:
- Time Management
- Household Management
Set a simple schedule to guide you. Here are some ideas for things to include in your program and ways to organize your week.
- Weekly Family Meetings – gather together weekly as a family to coordinate schedules, online classes, meals, and extra-curricular. Divvy up driving, pick-ups, and deliveries.
- Weekly Individual Student Meeting -Set aside time each week to meet with each homeschool student. Go over schedule, responsibilities, due dates, etc.
- Collective Daily Gathering –You can organize this time as a simple Morning Basket, a family devotional, or memory work. We used our Morning Gathering time as a combination of the above and included Memory Work, Bible Study, and Poetry. We schedule an hour a day and love meeting and learning together!
- Work on skills in the morning/concepts in the afternoon. This is a great way to organize your day. Take advantage of fresh minds and attitudes for the more complicated skill-based subjects like Latin or Math in the morning and then more concept-based learning like Literature, Bible, History in the afternoon.
Create a simple plan for meals and laundry.
Housework is a job, homeschooling is a job, and if you are working vocationally, you have that job as well. Make a simple, do-able plan for getting laundry, food, and kitchen responsibilities taken care of. It will keep everyone sane, sanitary, and satisfied.
Life is seasonal and if you are just starting out, plan simply. Start simple and plan to get it done. You can grow into complexity once you’ve got a system and level of comfort with the new normal of adding homeschooling to your day.
Batching is a simple and effective solution to tasks.
Develop routines for laundry. When we had seven people at home we would switch around laundry from washer to dryer daily and then fold and put away all on one day. Put away laundry when it’s folded. Just do it.
Bulk shop once a month and then mini-bulk shop weekly.
The less often you go to the store, the more money you’ll save. Shop with a list and batch cook, or at least batch prep. I usually sauté soup veggies en masse and then have soup ingredients ready to add together to make a delicious pot of homemade goodness that feeds many and can be easily stretched. Have “fast food” meals, like soup, fajitas, tacos prepped, and ready to heat and serve on your busy days. Eat the same basic meals. Bagels and eggs for breakfast, left-overs/ salads for lunch, meat, veggies, potato, or rice for dinner.
Before you even look at a curriculum, determine what your mission is for each student, what goals you want to accomplish, and then what subjects those goals fall into. From there choose curriculum.
There are thousands of curriculum choices and everyone has their favorites. The best curriculum is the one that gets done, so don’t feel like you need to chase every shiny object. I choose curriculum based on solid educational pedagogy, like Cross Seven, that is easy to use but allows for further exploration.
Just because you homeschool doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Outsource any classes that you don’t feel equipped to teach, such as Foreign Languages, plus those you don’t have the time and energy to handle or those in your student’s area of interest for exploration to maximize opportunities. Homeschooling can look like whatever you want it to look like!
Keep it simple (always!) and start with the core four:
For younger students, focus specifically on number fluency and literacy. Choose simple but effective programs that are non-consumables like Alpha-Phonics with Explode the Code along with Poetry, which is a great way to get your kids learning to play with beautiful language and imagery. We also love Right Start Math, which includes Math games. Perfect to add to your Morning Basket or to use with multiple ages.
For older kids, you should begin to focus on growing in reading fluency and understanding. Choose curricula or online classes that teach simple literature analysis and various forms of writing. If you are considering outsourcing some of these, take a look at True North Homeschool Academy’s courses on Essay Writing, Research Papers, and Creative Writing.
For Science, choose a curriculum or class that has a focus on discovery and wonder in the early years. Older students can move into more formal studies which should start with a basic and thorough understanding of the Scientific Method and then delve into foundational sciences like Earth and Space, Biology, and Chemistry.
History is the importance of what happened before, what’s happening now, and our place in it. For those coming from a Judeo-Christian point of view, it includes the important concept that all people, places, and time lead to the Cross, and our part to play in a lost world, awaiting heavenly redemption. Students should have a broad sweeping overview of history, which is why we love studying timelines, along with specific areas, including state, U.S., and World History, Geography, and Economics.
If you have questions or need help choosing age/ stage appropriate resources, we’d love to help! Join us over at True North homeschool Tribe Facebook group or ask about our academic advising.
Focusing on open and go, non-consumable programs, especially for content-based curriculum will save you time and money. A Classical Spine, like Cross Seven in the early years, will give your kids a solid foundation for whatever future studies they pursue.
It is wise to spend time and money on helping our kids explore their interests. Literature-rich resources as well as in real-life experiences like field trips, campaigns, clubs, and camps can be inexpensive ways to teach at home. Add these enriching experiences to your homeschool program as your time and resources allow.
Some curriculum is better than others but the main thing that you want to keep in mind is that if you love it, you’ll use it. If you don’t like or understand the layout or content, you likely won’t! – Lisa Nehring, True North Homeschool Academy Director
Over the years we have used unit studies, note-booking, textbooks, online courses, clubs, camps, websites, certifications, field trips, books, movies, CD’s co-ops, class-days, and more.
Learning can take place almost anywhere, at any time. As you get started, remember, start simple.
It is so easy to add in resources as you discover areas of interest, skills that need to be honed, and the world that needs exploring. Above all, have fun. Education is the transmission of culture and it allows you this beautiful space and time to impart to your children the things most important to you; the real things. Enjoy the journey, it is time well spent.
Not sure what your focus should be?
Our team of Academic Advisors has years of experience in homeschooling, choosing curriculum, and the ages and stages of child development. We have advisors with experience planning for students with Special Needs and supporting those families. Our advisors are ready to encourage you and help you create an amazing, doable plan.
Need a like-minded tribe to journey with? Our Parent Equipping Membership is a great place to start and our Getting Started Homeschool Printable Planning packet was created to help you create a plan, write out your goals, and your vision while keeping your home and students on track. Download it free.
Online Learning Balance
Online Learning Balance; I see what’s happening here. With everything that’s going on, you want to maintain that sense of normalcy that you know and love.
You know what your strong points are and what you need help with. The Internet is a wealth of knowledge, and although it seems like an endless resource, you know that your home education plan needs balance!
Is there such a thing as Online Learning Balance?
Yes. Yes, there is!
When it comes to online learning, the main thing is monitoring how long your child is ON the computer.
Signs to monitor:
- Do they get up?
- Do they move around?
- Do they eat?
- Do you see them during the day?
- Does their mood change?
Believe it or not, ALL of those things impact how they learn.
Balance means that there are limits!
Don’t Forget About Real-Life Lessons
Online learning balance also means that you take time to show them how what they are learning online applies in their daily lives. Remember how we used to wonder if we were EVER going to use some of the things we learned? Your child has that same sentiment!
They need to know that what they’re learning has meaning.
Let me share with you an example. A friend’s son was having issues with fractions. He came and asked for help as she was cleaning windows. Their windows were divided into sections of eight. Armed with window paint, they worked through the fractions, and he went away somewhat happy – his mom made him clean the windows once they were done.
When we show our children how a concept applies to their daily lives, it increases their desire to learn. Help them find opportunities to use what they are learning.
Online Learning Balance: Keeping Our Sanity
Having balance keeps YOU sane!
Some balk at the notion of using online tools as ways for parents to take a breather, but when used correctly, online learning can allow a homeschool parent to take a vital sanity break.
If you have reached the point where you wonder why you had children in the first place, give them time online. That gives you a moment to calm and center yourself.
Have a list of websites you know, like, and trust that your children can go to. This can keep the flow of your day on track. Allow them to choose one of your approved sites and be sure to let them know their time limit in advance.
Online Learning Balance: Tips for Offline Learning
In addition to those life lessons, it could be time for your child to take the reins. Child-led learning often yields more retention of skills than any other resource. It is also essential to have offline resources at the ready for such a time as this.
Exploring outside, playing board games, making board games, making and trading lessons with their siblings, scavenger hunts, and the like can help strengthen their learning acumen. I’ll never forget the day my daughter found mushrooms in our yard – that turned into a whole project!
Take a drive…a walk…a hike….something!
With schools closing nationwide, there are more people online using more of the sites that you know and love, and new resources are being created all the time to help meet those demands. Use an effective combination of online and offline educational activities to make learning fun and exciting!
Change Things Up
Even if you’re using a set program or curriculum, find other ways to do what’s on the menu for the day- sign them up for an online class that is interactive or help them check out a new computer game that can help them learn what’s on the lesson plan.
At the end of the day, the goal is to ensure that your child learns and gleans as much as possible. It can be done without stressing yourself (and your child) out.
Reinvent the wheel. Learn something new. Find your passions. Cultivate theirs.
Online learning, such as classes, clubs, educational games, and videos, can be part of a balanced education plan.
You’ve got this!
Special Needs Resource Listing
Special Needs Resource Listing: At True North Homeschool Academy we love to resource our families with products and services that meet their academic needs! If you have a Struggling Learner or Special Needs student, we can help you with products, services and resources that will lead you to academic success!
Services that we offer:
Blog posts on our site:
Reviews on our site:
Save Money NOW on our Special Needs Resources:
Special Needs Resources
At True North Homeschool Academy, we have developed even more courses to accommodate your non-traditional learner! Our unique, “At the Moves” series of classes is designed to deliver upper level concepts in a non-traditional way. Check out
And for those of you with kids struggling to write beyond a few sentence, our ever popular has expanded, giving you two student two great options to continue developing their skills, earning high school credit while feeling and knowing that they are succeedig!
Special Needs Resources
NEW for this year! Adapted Social Studies and English! These classes will meet more frequently, for shorter length of times, to ensure that your students will be able to take in and process the information!
At True North Homeschool Academy, we are committed to coming alongside you to provide you with Special Needs Resources, classes and community!
Sunday’s Coming! Even when life is Uncertain
I originally wrote this ten years ago and wanted to share my testimony again at this uncertain time. Sunday’s Coming! Despite our present circumstances!
Ten years ago, our house had burned, my 47-year-old sister had died unexpectedly, my oldest ended up in an E.R. several states away with Bird Flu, our contractor was crooked, we moved three times in ten months and threw away 90% of our possessions. We moved back into our partially finished house during the worst flooding in our region’s history (though last year topped that). My dad died a few months later.
It was a stressful year, to say the least. And my whole plan of keeping things simple, didn’t work out.
One thing we all have in common right now is that life is uncertain.
And with that uncertainty comes anxiety, fear, possibly depression. Stress. Will we get sick? Will we get better? Will we have a job? What will the world look like in 2, 4 or 6 months?
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Maybe right now you can relate to these words that I wrote 10 years ago:
I have been tossing and turning for nights. If there were an Olympic event for turning 360’s under the covers- I’d win. Cause while we are home, we are far from settled. The house remains undone and critically demanding from both a time and money standpoint. I feel pulled in a 100-directions at once for a myriad of reasons. Like Mrs. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, flurrying around, scurrying in all directions, wondering if she should pack the kitchen sink for their flight from imminent danger, flustered because she’s worried she won’t make a good impression, concerned that Mr. Beaver will fall into the path of danger. Geez, mahn, she’s a worrywart.
Oh, how I relate. Cause I’m faithful and true and a diligent and hard worker and busy and industrious and mindful of things, and thinking of what’s next and on and on. But I’m concerned. Concerned about all that’s not being done and what’s up ahead and how I look and what’s next.
When Mrs. Beaver finally meets Aslan, his comment to her, which sets all things right in her life is, “Peace, Beaver.”
And with those two little words, the High King sets it all straight. He recognizes who she is, calls her by name, dignifies her presence and speaking words of power and might, straightens the crooked places by His ruasch, alive and manifesting His strength and vision for her. The fussing and stressing and striving cease and she can relax in His presence knowing He’s got her back.
Sunday’s Coming! I’ve had a hard time getting there for the past many months. I’ve been grief-stricken and weary and flustered. And it’s not that things aren’t better than before, we have been blessed in amazing and profound ways; it’s the process of how they’ve gotten that way. Inventorying time and materials, thoughts and actions, sorting through possessions that were meaningful because of memories or people, profoundly feeling the loss of family, moving yet again in a matter of months.
I look around at all of the projects and consider how we’ll make due this fall and feel, oh so rocked by the waves of the circumstances. The work is something we enjoy, but the amount of it seems ominous, and while Dr. Dh is confident we’ll get it done, it’s all in the context of a day job and homeschooling and the living that will take place around it. And I see how we get tired and sore in a way we haven’t before. Age, stress, the demands of the year, manifesting themselves in practical ways.
This year, in the midst of the chaos and flurry of once in a lifetime circumstances I’ve longed for ritual. For benchmarks that say it’s this season or that. This is what you do when, the words you say now, the posture you take in response. I’ve needed guides, markers, mindless actions to go through that indicate time and life go on in a sensible and pleasing pattern despite disruption and chaos and hurt and fear and unrest and inconclusiveness”- the ritual and meaning and confirmation of faith and death and loss and living.
My youngest came up to me where I was sitting a few days after we moved back home and said, very quietly, “Momma, the fire scared me.” Just so plain and simple and straight forward, but sad and apologetic, like her little 7-year-old self should be braver. The very fact of being home again, I think, finally allowed her to say these simple words. I said, “I know, Baby, of course it did.” And she crawled into my lap and snuggled against me, curled up like when she was two and stayed there for a while. Later she looked up at me and smiled and gave me a big hug and hopped up and went to find kittens to play with. I’m grateful she could be as little as she needed to be and snuggle up with someone older and bigger and stronger and sit and soak in my strength and comfort until she’d absorbed as much as she needed.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever–present help in trouble. … Come and see the works of the LORD. Psalm 46:1
On so many levels, I’ve felt like my little girl and I’ve wanted to say the same thing; “The fire scared me, Sue’s death rocked me, I feel the loss and lost.” And I want to feel and hear and know Abba is saying, “I know, Baby, of course. Rest in My peace. I’ve got you. Despite the worry and chaos and confusion and disorder and the house undone and work ahead, I’ve got your back.”
And He does.
I know He does for me and I know He does for you!
Sunday’s coming! And with it, the Living Christ!
The world of online learning is burgeoning, the options varied and choices better than ever before. And that was before Covid 19 hit the streets and forced public schoolers home! So many choices, so many opportunities. How does one choose? Not all online education is created equal. Here’s a beginner’s guide to sorting options!
What to Look For in Online Classes
Check the “About” page of whatever program you are considering. Many on-line programs are now run by savvy business owners, looking to make money from the billion-dollar alternative education market.
That’s just good business but it might not be a good fit for your student or your family. Sarah Synder’s podcast, Choosing an Online Class is a helpful resource for finding the perfect online class for your family.
Things to Think About with Online Learning:
- Do their values align with yours?
- Do they contribute to causes that concern you?
- Are they privately or government-funded?
- If they are privately funded, what is the underlying value system of the people or organization behind the school? I had to dig pretty far into a very popular on-line company to find that they were privately funded by alt-right Conservatives.
Consider the Company’s Underlying Educational Philosophy
Remember, everybody who is providing you an education is also providing an ideology and a world view. There are no exceptions to that. So, when you consider on-line education, think about:
- Who gets your money?
- Who they are funding?
- What ideology or value system is being conveyed
Don’t forget that companies that market to homeschoolers might not understand and appreciate the flexibility of the homeschooler.
The Evolving Homeschool
Homeschooling IS changing. This month proved that in a profound way. Both parents still work, but they need oversight. And that is fine. But homeschoolers have far more flexibility and can adapt and change things up as needed for fun, greater learning, and unusual opportunities. Make sure that whatever company you are working with understands and cares about the adaptability and flexibility that homeschooling can afford.
Because you have options. Credits don’t have to come out of a book. Each platform and program is different and can utilize a plethora of various on-line tools.
Questions to ask about any program you are considering:
- Asynchronous vs. Synchronous learning- are the students learning the same materials, but at different times (like with Khan Academy), or are they learning the same materials, at the same time (like with True North Homeschool Academy).
- Can students see/hear and interact with other students?
- Can the student engage with the teacher personally, or only through “chat”?
- Will the teacher respond to “chat” during class time?
- Does the program have access to a virtual white-board, chat-room, break-out rooms, audio or video recording?
- Can you get a copy of the video recording if you miss a class or is it posted where you can access it?
- Is there screen sharing and will the teacher utilize multi-media in their classroom?
- How will assessments be delivered?
- Will grading be done by the teacher?
- How frequently are grades given?
- Is the teacher accessible by phone or email during the duration of the class time?
And while we’re talking about FAQ’s, this might be the biggest one of all:
The Accreditation Question
What is accreditation?
Accreditation refers to an accrediting board that sets the standard for an organization and ensures that they meet those standards. Accrediting boards vary widely, so don’t assume that because a school is accredited that it necessarily means that there are clear quality controls in places. Accreditation is a spendy endeavor, and we in the homeschooling world know the value is questionable.
Furthermore, accreditation might demand that the school utilize licensed teachers, many of whom have fled the public-school system. Accreditation and teachers’ licenses are no guarantee of quality education. They are a guarantee of conformity – for better or worse.
Questions to ask:
- What accreditation do you carry?
- What does the accrediting agency oversee?
- How does accreditation affect the cost of classes?
- What percentage of your teachers are from the public-school system?
- Is being a licensed teacher a requirement for teaching with this company?
- Who has experience with homeschooling in your company?
- Will you be considered a homeschooler by the state in which you reside?
- Will you have to register as a homeschooler in your state, regardless of their accreditation?
When You Need Accreditation
If you live in one of the few states that will not accept homeschooling high school credits and you plan to put your student back into public school at some point during their high school career.
Why You Don’t Need Accreditation
It’s expensive and that expense will be passed down to the consumer. Most colleges, universities, tech schools, internships, and jobs don’t care. They’ll be looking at test scores, applications, essays, and references. Accreditation is often simply a marketing tool.
When Accreditation IS Important
After high school and when looking at colleges or universities, accreditation becomes important. You will want to go to an accredited school if case you ever transfer or want to go to graduate school.
Other Things to Consider
- Does my state recognize homeschooling high school credits?
- In what instance would I need (i.e. need to pay for) an accredited program?
These programs set themselves up and will let you know the standards that they utilize in order to meet the demands of the customer. Marketplace demands offer correction as needed.
What types of Online Programs Are Out There?
Live Online Classes
This refers to real-time interaction between teachers and students. This can happen on a variety of platforms such as Skype, Go-to Meeting, or our personal favorite, Zoom. Schools vary widely on how they utilize this format. Some schools allow the students to see the teacher and interact with them only via chat. Others allow students to see and interact with both the teachers and students- it is a virtual classroom. Teachers are often highly qualified to teach their subject matter and engage with the kids. Students, also, can see and interact with their classmates, and often online friendships are formed.
Questions to Ask About Live Online Classes
- Does this school allow my students to interact in real-time, during class with the teacher and other students or not?
- When can my student engage and interact with the teacher and other students?
- Will the teacher simply be lecturing the student for the entirety of each class or is there an interactive component to the virtual classroom?
- What benefits are there to this type of learning over and above a self-paced, pre-recorded program?
What About Self-paced Classes?
- Self-paced classes refer to those classes where students log in to a platform and watch or listen to pre-recorded classes, either video or audio.
- Students work through the information at their own pace, doing the assignments when they are ready to do them and reviving a grade based on homework assignments, quizzes, tests and projects which are graded via computer or docent.
- Students do not engage with a teacher, but simply the material.
Questions to consider about Self-paced Classes Online:
- Is my student self-motivated enough to complete these courses?
- Is the quality of the program worth our time and money?
- Is there an option that is not passive learning?
- Is there a less expensive alternative?
What About Blended Online Programs?
Blended programs involve using a combination of self-paced information and live online interaction. Often, the students go through material at their own pace and then meet with a live tutor or have grading done by a live tutor on a regular basis.
Questions to consider about the blended program:
- When and how does live, interactive learning take place?
- How are the assessments done?
- What qualifications does the teacher bring to the class?
- Does my student have the self-motivation to complete the course?
Types of Online Schools
One-time Classes or Workshops
These classes are offered one at a time, by an individual or group of people who have gathered together to offer their expertise. Often you’ll see homeschool parents whose kids have graduated developing and offering classes in an area that they are passionate about.
This is a company that allows teachers to offer classes. There is no vetting of teachers’ qualifications or world view, though teachers must often teach from a secular, “objective” point of view, especially if the program takes government funding, including vouchers. Teachers offer classes they want to teach, and set their own terms including pricing, length of course, etc. and then pay the overseeing company a percentage of what they make on the class. Teachers teach, the company takes care of logistics and may provide a background check. Prices and quality of teaching can fluctuate wildly.
Questions to ask about Marketplace Courses:
- Who is funding the company?
- Do I want to fund this organization?
- How will I determine the quality of the classes?
- How will I determine credit or grades for the work my kids have done?
Curriculum Suppliers Now Offering Online Classes
Many successful homeschooling curriculum companies have taken their curriculum to online classes, such as IEW, Memoria Press and The Well-Trained Mind. These companies have branded themselves and are furthering their brand through courses, with vetted teachers, set meeting times and grades. Classes meet 1-4 times a week live on-line with homework assigned and graded. The cost can be prohibitive and classes may fill quickly though.
Full-service homeschool programs offer live online and self-paced classes, testing, advising and more. A Full-Service program offers the flexibility that homeschoolers need, classes that suit your needs and a fundamental understanding and respect for the homeschooling lifestyle while helping you navigate the way from K-12th grade. They will help you successfully launch your students into higher education or the working world. These companies have often been founded by home educators who started umbrella schools in their local area and then went online to provide more robust services to families in their region and beyond!
Here are some types of full-service programs to consider:
This is a group of dedicated teachers or homeschoolers who come together to provide classes, usually pulled together by a long-time homeschooler who loves to teach and has some talented friends.
A Membership Site
This type of program is usually self-paced. Families pay a monthly fee and have access to whatever classes and services are offered. Fees may vary for the same site, depending on services offered.
What to Think About When Planning to Use Online Classes
There are a lot of great options out there and they offer many benefits to your child. Educators agree that these are some other educational components you need to think about when you are planning to use online classes in your homeschool. You should think through all these aspects of an online school or class if you think it is something that will benefit your family.
- Dynamic learning – requires the student to actively participate in the course material, responding to the teacher’s questions, prompts, possibly using break-out rooms and doing group activities. Assessment tools can include quizzes, tests, as well as projects, presentations, essays or dramatic performances.
- Passive learning – allows the student to sit while they are being lectured to or show a presentation of some sort. Assessments are usually done via quizzes and tests.
- Asynchronous learning – communication is not in real-time and the teaching/ learning can take place at different times and different places. Because the learner views information and responses at different times and from different places, there is much flexibility. The teacher does not have to be “live,” and content can be delivered via written, audio or video recordings.
- Synchronous learning – communication is in real-time so teachers and learners meet at the same time although they are in different places. Learners view content at the same time so responses can be immediate. Because of the set meeting time, there is less flexibility than with asynchronous learning. The teacher is “live” via whatever platform is utilized for transmission.
- The Learning Management System/ Course Management System – (or LMS/ CMS) allows on-line schools and teachers to deliver course materials, correspondence, lessons, assessments, and grading and other features electronically.
Why Choose Online Classes?
With all the amazing resources out there why choose an online class or academy? Well there are many reasons your family may want to adopt this type of educational resource as part of your homeschool. Here are just a few we thought of:
- Outside accountability
- World-class teachers are just a “click” away
- Friendships and relationships form with students and teachers from around the world
- Colleges and universities are making use of online education and LMS/CMS- give your student a jump-start on understanding how an online system works
- The quality of teachers you might not find locally
- Exceptional and unique classes that might not be found in your community
- A wonderful supplement to a traditional day school or homeschool
- To build independence and pride in one’s academic achievements
- Because the Goldilocks Syndrome is at work, and our kids want a challenge
We hope this article is helpful to you if you are thinking about investing in online classes. If you have not considered it as a benefit to your homeschoolers we hope you will see now how adding an online class component to your homeschool can contribute to a well-rounded home education.
This blog is part of True North Homeschool Academy and we blog here because we love homeschooling and believe in education.
Each semester we are excited to provide live online and self-paced classes, delivered by exceptional teachers who love homeschooling- and love their subject matter. We are teaching from a Judeo-Christian point of view with a love for the flexibility and freedom homeschooling brings to the table. Yet we provide grading and assessments, to ensure that your student is learning, growing and excelling in each class. Students see, hear and interact with their teachers and fellow students from around the world.
We value a rich education and you will see from our course selections that we firmly believe it should be vibrant, creative and will allow your children to stretch and grow. Students develop real-world relationships and real-life skills. For a great listen, you may want to check out Lisa Nehring’s (True North Homeschool Academy’s Director) podcast interview with The Online Homeschool Mom, Sarah Snyder!
Check out all of our current classes!