I am profoundly grateful that blogs came about when they did.
You see it was writing a blog that not only reignited my own stalled education….but also blogging that led me to discovering homeschooling in the first place.
Amazingly, I was 30 years old and had never even heard of homeschooling until stumbling across John Taylor Gatto while researching a post!
But that was merely the beginning. Here’s my advice on how a homeschool parent can get the most out of blogs today, and into the future:
Whenever I meet a frustrated homeschooling parent the situation is almost always related to television and video games.
But if that isn’t the culprit, in my experience the parents generally suffer from a “lack of research”. And that’s where homeschool blogs come in. I can’t believe how many homeschoolers I’ve met who are not utilizing the bounty of the internet – more specifically the collective wisdom, practical ideas, and inspiration of homeschool bloggers.
Some parents are just not very tech savvy (Luddites!) and/or they are afraid of the web for addiction or content reasons. Either way it’s a shame. The internet is a powerful tool – probably the most powerful educational tool in all of history.
If you think about it, people who don’t read blogs (on any subject) are, essentially, closed-minded.
Now how is a parent ever going to promote resourcefulness, computer literacy, and open-mindedness in their children with such an attitude?
Read Comments and Comment!
Oftentimes the real gold in the homeschooling blogosphere is buried in blog post comment threads. Yes, often the readers are more knowledgeable of a particular topic than the blog post writer!
In fact I admit that there are a few blogs that I read even though I rarely learn anything from the actual blogger. Instead I mine the comment threads for nuggets of wisdom and provocative insights.
And don’t ever be hesitant to add to the discussion yourself. Definitely comment when you have something to say. AND, most of all, ask questions when you have them. It costs you nothing and I promise you’ll be shocked at the level of generosity and helpfulness of others.
Write Your Own Blog!
Very few people are going to actually do this. And of those that do, only a small percentage will keep at it diligently, over time. Nonetheless I still strongly recommend it for many reasons.
Writing a blog will sharpen your focus, remind you of your neglected goals and priorities, and in general elevate your level of self-awareness.
Of course it’s also great to share your experiences, to give back a little inspiration to others. I promise you’ll be amazed at the power and effect your posts can have on others.
Have Your Kids Blog
Yes. Make it part of their daily or weekly work. It will be low-stress writing practice and additionally will provide a priceless record of their lives and intellectual growth. Blogging will exercise their creativity, sharpen their computer literacy, and may even, as happened with my son, get them interested in computer programming.
Here is his original blog, started at age 6:
But a few months ago he recently upgraded to a more customizable and more complicated(!) WordPress site:
Christine got started at age 4! Here’s her blog:
I highly recommend Blogger.com for its ease of use, its cost (free!), and linkage to Gmail accounts.
When the kids were young…
We would first “discuss” the blog post. My wife or I would write down a few sentences on paper. And then the kids would “copy” the written words which were placed next to the computer in an inexpensive document holder.
Here is an example of one of my daughter’s early (4.5 years old) posts – Mom.
So we started out that way, collaborating, copying, and paying strict attention to some details like capitalization, spelling, grammar, and aesthetics.
But as the kids got older my wife and I happily backed off. To us the important thing is that our kids are creating and producing content on a regular basis – that during each day they are on the lookout for “bloggable” material. Every couple of weeks we will sit down with them, make corrections, and add a little polish. In other words, we believe proper grammar, punctuation, diction, etc. are all secondary, if not tertiary to the process of blogging.
Go talk to any writing teacher or just do some research online and you’ll discover how painfully difficult it is to get many teenagers to write. To them, writing is torturous and infinitely frustrating. A lot of them are self-conscious and embarrassed about what they put down on paper. I myself have even seen some violent reactions when a parent tries to get their older children to write or even tries to take a look at what they have written.
By starting writing so early via blogging, my wife and I are not only trying to forestall this drama….we’re trying to get way out in front of it. We want to raise kids who not only can write effortlessly, but love to do so.
Tips for Blogging
These days, when bloggers are starting out….I warn them that there’s a solid chance that very few people will actually read their blog.
Why? Because of the exponential proliferation of web content and social networking. There’s just so much noise out there it’s unrealistic to expect to gain much traction. 7-10 years ago was a different story. But now the blogosphere is very crowded.
So I remind upstarts to blog “for themselves”. Do it to keep their own brain fresh and to keep a quasi record of what they are doing, one that they will certainly cherish as the years go on.
Since it’s a record, a diary….vacations, special projects, events, milestones, and even unhappy developments are obvious blog post ideas.
However, if one does want to attract a wider audience here’s my advice on how to do so.
Be original! Look at all the blogs out there and see how you can stand out, how you can offer something different. Be funnier, more irreverent, even outrageous. Forget about doing curriculum reviews and posting pictures of the blueberry muffins your kids helped you make.
Spice up your blog with your personal interests. Post a video of your golf swing. Blog your weight-loss or fitness challenges (before and after pics!). Whatever. Just do something that few others are doing. One thing I did (with my non-education, personal blog) was post all of my trades in the stock market. I didn’t write an article typical of a financial magazine where an analyst says, “I like shares of FB (Facebook)”. My posts were almost in real time and said, “I just bought shares of FB at 55.24…” My readers really appreciated this level of intimacy.
Again, if you want to stand out in the crowded World Wide Web, you’re going to have to take it up a notch. A surefire way to do this is to just give far more details about what you’re doing.
Another tactic to increase readership is to turn the blog focus away from yourself. Produce “helpful” content for your audience. It almost goes without saying that readers will rave about you and share your content if you can improve their lives in some way.
One thing that really chafes me is when I find a great homeschool blog and can’t even find out where the blogger lives. Not even which State! Then I become a detective, trying to figure out which mountain they just climbed from the images posted, and trying to figure out where they are based on context clues.
Why does it bother me?
Use Blogs to Connect
It bothers me because homeschooling, depending on where a family lives, can be lonely in the beginning. There are many people doing it in rural areas – even foreign countries – nowhere near any other homeschoolers. And I’ve mostly lived in Boston, New York, and now London – which are hardly hotbeds of homeschooling. So it’s always been tough to find other homeschool families – and even tougher when people are hiding!
You see, that blogger who doesn’t share any details might have a reader, a big fan who has a friend or family member living near the blogger – someone who is thinking hard about homeschooling (or really SHOULD homeschool) but has the usual jitters, who feels they’d be lonely in their community, doesn’t know how to get started, etc. A blog with more details has the potential to connect more homeschoolers to each other. Numerous times I myself have met people in person, AFTER I found their blogs. More accurately, I met them in person ONLY because of their blogs. My latest such success was connecting with Sarah from Delivering Grace when we moved to London earlier this year.
So please, put pictures of your kids online, use their real names, tell everyone where you live. Don’t be afraid of imaginary stalkers or privacy breaches. In over 10 years of blogging I’ve never experienced or even heard of someone having the slightest problem for posting information about themselves online. On the contrary, all those online marketing experts and blogging gurus will advise you to do just what I said above if you want to gain traction – give details, lots of them.
So even if you aren’t going to start blogging yourself, there are still many ways you can benefit from them.
I had a guy, an erstwhile friend (stereotypical bitter, cynical Ivy League guy from Boston), tell me about 6 years ago, “You’re never going to make any money from a blog…ever.”
I thought for a moment and responded, “Well, I discovered HOMESCHOOLING by blogging….go try and put a dollar value on that!”