Free Online Writing Tools for Homeschoolers
If you’re a home teacher, it can be challenging to teach every subject on every grade-level, from preschool to high school. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. The Internet offers a wide range of support tools and resources, as well as online forums to interact with other homeschooling parents and their children.
Cyberspace expanded the homeschool classroom into a rich, diverse learning environment with the benefit of established experts and the company of other like-minded families committed to quality education. When you incorporate the Internet and other technology into your homeschool lesson plans, you expand opportunities for research, practice, review, and creative projects.
One of the most prominent resources available is online writing groups. Communication skills are crucial, and when it comes to helping your child master written communication there are some tools you should definitely check out.
Benefits of Online Writing Groups
One of the challenges of homeschooling has always been the limited scope of interaction with other children and educators. Students benefit from multiple perspectives and being able to receive feedback from different sources. Likewise, students grow when they are able to review others’ work and provide their own feedback.
Online writing groups offer the opportunity for homeschooled students to become part of a group where feedback goes both ways, and every participant’s learning is enhanced. Whether your student is currently working on creative writing, research papers, or persuasive writing, they can benefit from finding the right group in which to share their work.
Groups like Young Writers allow kids a chance to share their writing, read other kids’ writing, and give/receive feedback. The Kids Writing Club is another online forum where kids of all ages can get help with writing projects, share stories, and offer assistance to other writers in the group. And you don’t have to limit yourself to online groups – you can always augment online writing groups with a live group in your neighborhood.
Research papers are a great way to introduce collaborative writing. Writing as part of a group offers a chance for creative brainstorming, the opportunity to wrestle with (and tame) the beast of collaboration, and the benefit of multiple ideas and perspectives.
You can team up with other homeschooling parents to create a collaborative writing group for your students using resources like MixedInk, a free collaborative writing tool that allows you to establish the parameters of an assignments and monitor the group as they work together to achieve their writing goals.
Adding Massive Open Online Courses to the Mix
In addition to online writing groups and forums, online courses are a great way to expand your student’s writing experience. But before you commit to paying for any online courses for your child, be sure to try out a massive open online course (MOOC). MOOCs are both FREE and offered by some of the best universities in the U.S. All you need is an Internet connection.
Look for courses that will augment your student’s learning. If poetry isn’t your area of expertise, have your high schooler try out a course like the University of Iowa’s “How Writers Write Poetry.” This class will provide them an “interactive progression through the principles and practice of writing poetry.”
There are also a variety of MOOCs dedicated to the fundamentals of English composition. Try out “English Composition I: Achieving Expertise” from Duke University or Berkley’s “Principles of Written English.” Depending on how well your student takes to the MOOC model, these classes can also be a good indicator of if they’re ready to try a real college course from home.
And don’t worry if you missed the start date for the class you had your heart set on. You can often still enroll in a MOOC that already started. New writing MOOCs pop up all the time, so don’t stress if you just missed one. Most MOOC sites give you the option to get an email alert if a closed class restarts.
More Ideas for Teaching Writing through Technology
There are a variety of tools you can utilize to make teaching writing more fun and effective for you and your kids. Look for grammar tutorials that help bridge the gap between the concepts of grammar and the real-world application. English Grammar 101 is a website full of free online grammar lessons and homeschooling resources.
Instead of having your kids practice writing in a journal, set them up a blog where they can practice writing and share their work with others. If you’re concerned about online safety or just don’t know how to set up a blog, there’s plenty of information out there to help you find education-centered blogging sites and show how to get the most educational value out of the blogging experience.
While not every high-tech way of teaching writing is the right fit for every situation, there are so many options out there, you’re bound to find one that works for you. And, because you’re incorporating technology into your teaching strategy, make sure you have the right speed from your Internet connection. If you have a student who gets flustered from writing in general, you don’t want to add to the stress with a connection that cuts in and out or takes half the morning to download an instructional video.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the benefits of incorporating technology into your writing lessons, it’s time to get started. Jump online, check out a few different resources and give the ones you like best a try. Your students (and their brains) will thank you for it.
Sarah Pike is a college writing instructor and freelance editor. She’s a fan of book clubs, researching the intersections of health and technology, and finding the best coffee shop in any city she visits. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.