Overhaul Your Homeschooling with MOOCs

All parents who homeschool their children probably agree on one point: it’s not easy. In addition to choosing the right curriculum, you need to spend hours tutoring, and often, becoming an expert in different subjects every year.

Fortunately, a recent development is making life a lot easier for homeschooling parents, and education a lot more promising for their children. It started just a few years ago with the advent of massively open online courses (MOOCs). These are free courses designed by the top minds at the best universities in just about every academic field. Taken online, the courses include video lectures, graded tests and quizzes, and assigned reading – just like a real college course. This guide will show you how to use this amazing new resource can greatly enhance your child’s homeschooling experience and future – and make life a little easier for you.

Father homeschooling daughter

Encourage Your Student’s Passions

There are many excellent homeschooling curricula to choose from, including A Beka, Oak Meadow and Calvert Homeschool, just to name a few. But one of the greatest advantages of homeschooling is allowing talented students to excel beyond the standard curriculum in subjects that interest and motivate them. If your student is a computer whiz or rocket scientist to-be, then the standard curriculum might not cut it. Or if your student has a passion for bugs, how can you prepare him or her for a future career in entomology? That’s where MOOCs become an excellent tool. There are hundreds of complete college-level courses on numerous academic subjects available free online, and from top universities like MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, University of Texas. Explore them all at edX, Coursera, and Udacity.

If your student can follow his passions with interesting and rewarding learning materials, his chances of being a motivated and successful student are much higher. Indeed, this individual attention and encouragement is one reason many parents opt for homeschooling. And as a result, it’s no surprise that homeschooled students have higher GPAs and better college admissions test scores on average than their public school peers.

Reinforce Key Subjects

With MOOCs, you can reinforce this advantage even further, through test prep activities offered on sites like Khan Academy. You can be sure your student won’t suffer any deficiencies in math. Make sure her skills are up to par with the competency tests and reviews on Khan Academy’s Knowledge Map, covering everything from basic arithmetic to calculus.

Explore Different Major/Career Tracks

According to MyMajors.com, 80% of college freshman have still not decided on a major by the time they enter college. Additionally, when they do choose a major, 50% of them change it. While this isn’t necessarily a big problem – college students need time to explore different interests and studies – it can put students at a disadvantage. College is exorbitantly expensive nowadays (fees have sextupled since 1985), and time spent exploring and backtracking during freshman and sophomore year means thousands of dollars in loans that will need to be repaid, not to mention missed opportunity.

In addition, students still have to choose a college or university, even if they haven’t yet decided on a major. So when they do finally decide, they often find themselves in schools that are less than idea for their desired course of study. With so much confusion and mounting costs, no wonder almost half of American students fail to finish college in under six years!

There is a better way to do it. Your homeschooled student doesn’t needs to wait until she’s on campus to explore different academic tracks. The major MOOC providers now offer courses in just about every college subject, from all the major science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects to the most liberal of the arts. Don’t forget the abundance of computer classes available on sites like UDACITY and Codecademy, which offer A-Z instruction of one of the most valuable skill sets of today.

Earn College Credits

Last but not least, MOOCs are even becoming a viable way for homeschoolers to earn college credit before they set foot on campus – providing a superb advantage in their education and careers. Homeschooled students already enter university with more college credits than their public-schooled peers, according to National Association of College Admission Counseling study.

Early in 2013, the nation’s most influential higher education association, the American Council of Education (ACE) approved five Coursera MOOCs for college credit. Naturally, this has set a precedent. Later in the year, the State University of New York (SUNY) partnered with Coursera to work toward the college system’s goal of “students [earning] up to one-third of their college credits from sources outside their home campus.”

These developments are coupled with security enhancements that aim to eliminate the possibility of cheating in MOOCs. Developments like keyboard biometrics that identify a user’s unique typing pattern and user account that require photo identification. We’re likely right around the corner from homeschooled students taking free college courses in their junior and senior years and earning credit for it too.

Even now, MOOCs can serve as some of the best prep and supplementary study for CLEP exams, which allow students to earn college credit simply by proving competency in one of the 33 subject tests available.

Homeschooling is the fastest growing approach to K-12 education, increasing from an estimated 13,000 homeschoolers in 1970 to over 1.5 million in 2007. The advantages of offering your child an individually-tailored education are clear, and they’re now more pronounced than ever. With the explosive rise of MOOCs just a few years ago, thousands of top-quality academic resources are now available with the click of a mouse. If you’re a homeschooling parent, don’t miss this opportunity for giving your student the opportunity to truly excel.

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