30 Dec 2015

I want to point you to some of the most amazing online sources of support for your homeschool, but first, I want to tell you why these resources are free. The A2K movement (i.e. access to knowledge) is a global social justice movement that argues in the new economy (created by the Internet and globalization) access to a world class education should be available to all—free. Wikipedia was just the first prominent outworking of this mindset. (To learn more about this movement just search on open knowledge movementopen culture or A2K.)

While most of us have not heard about A2K, all of us have come to expect information to be free: free downloads, free podcasts, free blogs, free news, free e-books. This ubiquitous sea of free data is a blessing and a bane, though. Finding the best sources of content is very time consuming and the Internet is yet to be well organized, though that is certainly the goal of companies like Google and Wikipedia.

While those two and others are completing that task, here’s a quick tour of some of the best places to find free content that you can use in your homeschool:

  1. Learner.org—I used to pay $400 or more for the courseware now available free as streaming video at Annenberg Learner’s website. These professionally-produced courses in many disciplines were originally broadcasted on PBS, so they are by far the most engaging lessons you will find anywhere on the web. My daughter used French in Action, I’ve used the literature courses for my online AP classes, and the families in my co-op used the world history together. You will find the companion textbooks often available used at sources like Amazon, Half or Follett Educational Services.
  2. Khan Academy—this is the best source of supplemental videos for math and science (with additional subjects coming online every day). Even more beneficial, students can work through practice exercises which are scored and stored under the student’s account. Parents and teachers can access this information and track student progress—all at no cost.
  3. Math.com—a great source of well-organized, incremental math exercises and short explanations of key math topics (an indispensable source of knowledge for a non-math teaching parent!).
  4. CK-12.org—the best source of organized and reviewed open textbooks for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
  5. Academic Earth—a curated (managed) source of free video courses from top scholars and top universities around the world. It’s all here: from trigonometry to poetry to western civilization.

Can it get any better? Yes it will. Individuals and foundations are already starting to organize all these sources of a free world-class education into certificate and degree bearing ventures that will be accepted by forward-thinking twenty-first century employers. Just search on MOOC if you want to see what the future looks like. In the meantime you can get your kids ready to participate in this emerging global economy by showing them how to be self-educating with the free tools now a few keystrokes away.

Debra Bell, Ph.D., is the best-selling author of the award-winning Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens and the Ultimate Planners for moms, teens and students. Writers-in-Residence: A Writing-Focused Language Arts Program and Readers-in-Residence: A Literacy Program will be released in 2015. Debra and her husband, Kermit, home educated their four children K through 12. All four are now married, degreed, employed, and they also love Jesus! She has been a keynote or featured speaker at numerous international and national venues for more than twenty years. Debra and her sons were featured on NBC Nightly News for a story on homeschoolers and their participation in scholastic sports. After homeschooling, she completed a Ph.D. in educational psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Her research interests include identifying how, why and when homeschooling works; and she looks forward to using her training to better serve the homeschool community well into the future. A pioneer in online education, today she is executive director and lead teacher for Aim Academy, which provides online college prep and AP® courses for seventh through twelfth graders. More information about her online classes, books, forthcoming curriculum and speaking schedule can be found at DebraBell.com.