The Information Highway Can Be The Instruction Highway
by Lindsey L. Hurd

Last year, as Mom was getting her curriculum in order for the new school year, she almost passed out when she realized that she would be juggling seven different grade levels in the up-coming school year. In addition to that, she must motivate and keep everyone caught up. Monumental work to be sure! And then what about algebra? Yes, a few outside classes could be an option, but all the driving involved would almost negate the advantages.

Then she heard of Escondido Tutorials and we took the plunge into Internet classes. Mom loves it, for it has freed her for more time to work with the little kids' academics. She also enjoys seeing us sweat as we experience deadlines and get a taste of the classroom competition, exams, and improving study habits. And we kids love it because, "when Mom is happy,everybody is happy!” But seriously, our first year of Internet schooling was a success and pleasure for all, and we anticipate that the next year will be equally rewarding.

Why Internet education? Let's look at a hypothetical homeschooling day: Jane has a English enrichment class at 10:00 two days a week and 8 year-old Dick must do his handwriting, spelling, and math. Can you leave him home to do his school, while you take Jane to her class? No. You and Dick must drop everything while you drive Jane to her class. Then you get home, sigh about the hefty gasoline bill you will accumulate over the week, and try to squeeze in as much of Dick's school before it's time to pick up Jane. And of course, if you have three, five, maybe ten (!) children, you may find that the ins and outs of the normal school week could be enough to push you into a mental hospital if not worse! Because as hard as it is to admit the average homeschooling mom can't do and teach her children everything she wishes she could. This, of course is where your friendly Internet tutorials step in to help.

With an Internet tutor, you will be able to spend time with everyone's school, instead of interrupting your children's school day while you take different ones to different classes. Remember, less time on the road means more study and school! Additionally, the classroom environment promotes competition among the students without having to deal with negative peer influences. In an Internet class, your child will have the beneficial motivation without the cost of enrichment schools and the gas bill that you incur as you transport your children hither and thither.

Internet classes are not just lectures or electronic correspondence courses. The instructor will require students to answer questions and participate in class discussions that demonstrate their knowledge of the material, type answers from their workbook, or work out math problems on a whiteboard for all to see. Each tutor will have his own unique style, some love to have fun with their students; others will be more strict.

The classroom formats that we are familiar with are text and text/audio/video. The text classroom resembles an instant messenger format in which the instructor and students interact in a "chat room" using programs such as MIRC. The audio classroom allows students to interact via audio and typing. Some software also has video and whiteboard capabilities (for working out math problems), such as CeUCeMe ($75 [check here as well]). Other software requirements include a web browser and some sort of word processor such as Microsoft Works or Word preferably with spell checking capabilities). Because different schools use different software it is best to decide on the school first and then learn their software requirements for the classes.

Computer requirements? A text class will not require many special computer capabilities; a generic PC with a 28k modem is sufficient. The text/audio/video version is more demanding. You will need at minimum, a 133mz processor, as well as a minimum of 64K RAM. Also, a reliable sound card is very important if you wish to hear the voice of your instructor.

We have only begun to scratch the surface of Internet schools. Below are the two we've taken from and can recommend, so this list is by no means exhaustive. Be sure to check into the many colleges and universities that are offering internet classes. There is much to be discovered, so go for it.

The Institute for Study of the Liberal Arts and Sciences (ISLAS) offers a complete academic curriculum at the college preparatory level. This provides the opportunity for students to pick and choose in order to compensate for weaknesses they may have in a subject, or to solidify their knowledge in a favorite subject. ISLAS offers history, natural science, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, Greek, Latin, World, Western, English, and American literature, English, World history, and an extensive writing program. ISLAS also offers special summer courses.
ISLAS shares its facilities and technical resources with its sister-school, Regina Coeli Academy (RCA), as well as preparation programs for students ages 10-13. ISLAS and RCA conduct all their classes in text. ISLAS tuition is around $150 per semester, per class. Additional information may be found at their web-site: www.Islas.org.

Escondido Tutorial Service (ETS) offers classes similar to ISLAS, but is different in that ISLAS offers a more traditional form of schooling, while ETS does not attempt to offer a whole curriculum, but offers classes such as, geometry, Saxon math, history, Great Books, Latin, Greek, Christian apologetics, logic, rhetoric, history of art, etc. These classes are intended to be used by homeschool moms to supplement for areas in which they don't have the confidence to teach their children in. ETS uses the text/audio/video format. There are many different Internet schools using the ETS server. ETS tuition range from $150-$175, with the ability to audit the class via sound files for cost reduction. To take a peek, go to: www.GBT.org.

Internet classes are valuable tools for the homeschooling family. They provide the personal instructional opportunities that enhances the homeschool. As good as that is, we can enjoy the benefit of classroom interaction in the safety and supervision of the home. I encourage you to spend some time exploring the possibility of integrating Internet classes into your home school. Check out the links I have listed, talk to others who are in classes, and the potential benefit to you and your children. Plan a school year in which you can preserve your sanity. And always remember, “when mom's happy, everybody is happy.” Really!

Fortifying
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Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01