As the parent of a homeschool student, you already have made an important decision in your child’s education.
In doing so, you provide endless support and serve as both parent and mentor to your child.
While considering the many learning approaches available to today’s students, you know that online courses may be an effective way to supplement your child’s homeschool education.
If you have opted to incorporate eLearning, you, too, have done your homework on the best programs and their fit with your homeschooler’s learning style.
Now, both you and your child are excited to get started. Equipped with the following helpful tips, parents of homeschool students can help them enjoy a great education experience.
Tip #1: Tech (and Not-So-Tech) Prep
While it may be a no-brainer that a computer is necessary for online classes, the type, speed, memory, software, and techno-gadgets may not be so easy to pick.
While different programs require various tech components, here are some homeschool basics:
- Computer: The type of computer – PC or Apple – often depends on your student’s area of study. While both can do similar things, PCs and tablets are most often preferred by those who don’t need the Mac attachments for design and art. Most important is that the computer is reliable, fits your homeschooler’s personal needs, and has the basics (e.g., monitor, keyboard, mouse, updated operating system, and adequate RAM).
- Internet: Today’s online courses typically require a high-speed internet connection. Some rural areas may have difficulty acquiring this service. So, it’s important to make sure your home or local library has internet that’s available and reliable.
- Software: Online course requirements may vary depending on the program and subject matter. Basic software, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, and security, are often a good place to start in addition to any specialized software needed for your learner’s online course.
- Tech gadgets: Your homeschooler may need some additional equipment to enhance his or her online learning experience. These include a webcam, noise-canceling headphones, a microphone, and speakers.
- Old school supplies: Yes, you read that right. Pens, pencils, and paper are standbys for taking notes and a personal planner helps keep your student on track with deadlines, assignments, and tests.
With these items readily available, you will help prepare your student for the excitement of online learning and all the possibilities it offers to enrich their education.
Tip #2: Give Your Student Space
We knew that headline would get your attention.
By space, we’re referring to creating the right learning environment for your homeschooler, especially if they are enrolled in an online school.
Knowing your child gives you an advantage in helping create a unique space that’s right for him or her.
If she prefers a quiet, isolated nook in the house, designate that area especially for her.
On the other hand, if you have a child who loves being in the center of everything and can still focus, just about any place in your home can work.
The goal is to have somewhere your student can jump on the computer, engage in their lessons, complete assignments, and take tests.
This doesn’t have to mean an expensive new addition to your home, but a place that’s dedicated and customized to your child’s learning style.
Tip #3: Be Both a Parent and a Mentor
You already have a handle on parenting. So, let’s turn our attention to mentoring your homeschool student who has supplemented a homeschool education with online classes.
Here at Michigan Virtual, we define a mentor as the liaison between the student and online instructor.
Many people have the misconception that online learners don’t have the benefit of the traditional human relationships established in the face-to-face classroom.
In fact, the mentor provides that personal connection for students learning virtually.
In the case of homeschool students, the parent serves in the role of mentor, working with the students every day, support them and build trusting relationships.
Ways you can serve as a mentor to your child include:
- Helping your homeschool student select technology that will serve him or her today and into tomorrow. Technology does get outdated quickly, so select equipment that has the capacity to add memory and software that comes with online updates.
- Talking to your homeschool student about his or her perfect space for online learning. Together, you can create an environment that encourages learning both on- and offline.
- Sharing life and work experiences that relate to the topic your child is studying online. This helps bring online lessons alive and keeps them memorable.
- Helping your homeschool learner stay on track with online classes, reading assignments, and tests.
- Discussing progress and goals, perhaps at the end of each day or week. Writing them down is a great way to keep them in focus.
Tip #4: Know Where to Get Help
Unless you’re a computer technician or a certified teacher, there will come a time when your homeschool student needs some help or additional resources for an online program.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t have all the answers because assistance is just a phone call, chat or email away.
Online programs, such as Michigan Virtual, provide several ways to contact them for help.
This includes the course instructor teaching the virtual course. The teacher is typically the first one to go to when your child has questions about assignments or resources.
Is your student unable to upload an assignment or download a lesson? The Help Desk can serve as a great resource either through email or by phone for issues that you cannot resolve.
And, let’s not forget your child’s peers, who are familiar with eLearning.
They can provide encouragement and help in troubleshooting. Other students in your child’s online course may also share information about course features and assignments.
With these helpful tips in hand, you can help make your student’s online classes a welcome addition to your homeschool curriculum.
Among the many resources offered by Michigan Virtual are free research-based guides on online learning for both parents and students.
International Association for K-12 Online Learning. (2010). A Parent’s Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program.
Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute. (2017). Mentor Guide to Online Learning.
Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute. (2017). Parent Guide to Online Learning.