Matching, out-of-date sweatsuits. The ability to recite lines from the Iliad in response to your peers’ discussion of a television show. Parroting your parents’ values. If you’ve paid attention to mainstream depictions of homeschooled children, these images are likely familiar.
Homeschooled kids get a bad rap and are too frequently associated with social awkwardness due to a perceived lack of socialization with their peer group. However, with the dawn of social media, more homeschooled students—both those who are being schooled by more “traditional” methods and those who are students are virtual cyber charter schools—are able to better connect with their peers and other members of the homeschooling community.
Our compulsive need to interact with Facebook—even while out to dinner with our friends— perhaps reveals that we’ve come to prefer the relatively safety of virtual interactions over the vulnerability associated with actual human interactions. This may seem sad in some cases, but for students who are bullied and feel unsafe at their physical high school, both homeschooling and connecting with peers with similar interests and experiences can be an attractive option.
High school students who request to be homeschooled aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the community aspect of social media. Homeschooling parents can connect with others via Facebook or the homeschooling chat on Twitter. Students can use these resources to connect with teachers and instructors of subjects that may elude them, or even to form relationships with experts. Naturally, homeschooled students can use Facebook and Twitter in similar ways to their parents—to connect with other homeschooled teens (with their parents’ permission, of course.)
The Internet revolutionized homeschooling before modern day social media as it provided a platform for sharing lesson plans and other resources. Additionally, cyber charter schools have made it easier to bring the classroom resources to students who, for one reason or another, choose not to attend a physical high school. Pinterest has made accessing and sharing lesson plans easier, especially for the younger crowd. You can search for exactly what you’re looking for, and likely find more than you can cover in a day’s lesson.
You Tube is amazing, too—lectures, films, documentaries, and well, almost anything can be displayed on your television for free. The tutorials on the site can be amazing! Like any other social media platform, You Tube should be used with discretion, as it also contains things that have little to no place in any classroom.
While You Tube tutorials alone will likely fail your homeschooled student in the long run, a discussion about the rhetorical situation and You Tube has the potential to prepare a student for freshman comp and life in general. Studies have shown that kids learn writing better from social media than from the classroom.
The Atlantic recently featured this reflection of an educator who thinks that Facebook has made his students more reflective and able to express their emotions, which leads to better writing. Social media forces its users to write more in general, and to persuade people to peruse their shared content. The limited number of characters available on Twitter forces users to pay attention to the language they use and to make clear choices that communicate what they would like to (or need to!) say to a particular audience.
Even as social media has helped to connect homeschooling families to one another, it’s no surprise that some educators are resistant to using it across their curriculum. Like books and television, social media is best consumed in moderation with supervision appropriate to a student’s age.
When used without vigilance, Facebook, Twitter, and the like do have the potential to undo the social benefits of homeschooling—namely the increased amount of time homeschooling families get to spend with one another. When used as another educational tool, social media can build community and give students the ability to question out-of-date homeschool stereotypes.
About the Author: Sean Lords is no stranger to innovative educational choices: for three years, he taught English in Seoul, South Korea. Since returning to the States, he’s advised others who are looking for the right tesol course, all the while working on his Master of Education and making preparations to return to South Korea.