Textbooks are expensive, limiting, and they quickly become dated. They are two-dimensional, and they do little for those who learn best with audio or visual learning styles. To children of the digital age, they can seem woefully dated and constricting.
Welcome to the world of online learning – flexible, constantly updated, and free. Text, photos, audio and video are all blended to make a cohesive, memorable learning experience. Links to useful websites are provided, and worksheets and other assignments are also available to reinforce lessons and provide something to show any overseers of your homeschool program. Teachers’ Guides are often available to provide extra insight and activities.
Here is an introduction to two of the most innovative and useful websites on the Internet.
Curriki is an outgrowth of the Global Education and Learning Community, an educational project begun by Sun Microsystems. Educators all over the world contribute lesson plans, worksheets, free, open source textbooks and much, much more. Users rate and review these materials. Everything is well organized by subject, grade and rating.
The textbooks are often multimedia, with videos and text to explain each lesson. There are useful teachers’ guides and links to other online sources. Content is usually linked to state educational standards, which makes it easy to see exactly what your child is supposed to learn.
It would be quite possible to get a fairly complete education using the materials on this site, all for free.
Homeschooling parents are encouraged to join projects to develop new lessons and textbooks. There are many collaboration groups listed in the Connect with Teachers section.
A good place to begin with Curriki is the About Finding and Collecting page. There, you will find a video on how to use advanced search and links to the core subject pages, which feature sampler packs of materials for various age levels.
CK-12 provides Flexbooks, open source texts that are set up a bit like Wikipedia – users can edit them for their own use. Texts, which are often multimedia, can be downloaded, printed, or used online. At this point, the ones offered are middle and high school level science, mathematics, engineering and technology. Several of the texts also have workbooks and teachers’ guides. Many link to Khan Academy’s fine online videos to further explain basic concepts.
Along with the usual books about physics, chemistry, trigonometry, and life science, CK-12 offers a bit more diversified courses such as Nanotechnology and Introduction to Engineering. The middle school math books are particularly engaging.
To help parents and teachers, there is a video introduction to the Flexbook concept. Assessment and teacher keys will be emailed in PDF format if you request them. It is possible to design your own textbook and personalize it to meet your family’s or homeschool co-op’s needs, then print, download or email links for everyone’s use. You may even choose to email the day’s or week’s lessons to your child, which may be a good idea if there has been recent conflict over lessons.
It doesn’t take a new generation online math book to prove that free is better than one hundred dollars a book, especially if the free version provides a better educational experience and inspires a love of learning in students who may be less inclined towards the textbook grind.