The Internet can be a great wealth of information. It is a tool that I feel every homeschool should have in their home. There was the day where it was important to have a set of the encyclopedia. Now it has it's place too but for many of us that space can be used more wisely. The argument might be that garbage on the cyber world might outweigh the acceptable. Truth be told and all of you know it there is a lot of unacceptable material on the web. We surely want to protect our children from that. There are ways that students can be safe online but we have to make sure we monitor it just as we do everything else in their lives. Keeping your computer equipment in a center location helps you do that. You should also give them rules before they get online. Be very specific about what can and cannot be done according to your values and beliefs. Make sure you post those rules as a reminder. I went as far as to have the teens sign a usage agreement. Using parental controls helps the parent keep a watchful eye on content , However do not solely rely on these services. Things sometime leak in with out your knowledge and kids often figure out ways around them. If I want my kids to research a project often times for the younger crowd I might do the work ahead of time and locate websites that I am comfortable with them viewing. I simply bookmark them to a folder for my child's use. This way I can read the content and ensure it aligns with our values and check for unwanted visual ads that I might not want my kids viewing. Another option might be diigo.com. With diggo you can search weblinks and save them to a specific folder within your diggo account. So you can label them for each child/each topic. You can also highlight text you feel is important and write notes to your student with sticky notes. This is an amazing tool one I will come back to another day and explain for you in more detail. Until then you can go look around yourself . The video tutorials are a huge help. As my children became/ become older I allow them more freedom in research. We have had the talks and lessons on what is good information for our eyes and hearts to see and I have to trust they make the right choices. (Although electronics are all still in a general household area it never hurts to check on them)
Before you have your kids jump in and do the research it is important to teach them the tools of how to use the internet. When you use a search engine on the web you are getting the websites that that search engine wants you to see. Which isn't always what you want to see. Some tips for searching are outlined below...
*Don't use small words like to, a, the etc..
*Put quotes around phrases to get the exact wording
*Be as specific as you can
*When doing a search look for words in the results that you can use to do another search for more results
*If your word has more than one meaning such as the word Mullet and say for this meaning you want to look up the fish mullet. You can exclude all the searches having to do with hair if you put a hyphen after it like this...
As I mentioned these search engines are great but they only allow you to see what they feel is important and perhaps you want to do a deep search. Often times your local library will offer a search on their website. This search is typically a deep web search. It is just another source for your kids to look into if they are lacking the resources for a particular project.
Discern the Truth
The next problem we often have online is finding the truth. There is a really great bible study on this very topic but having to do with bible truth. However I think the two could be nicely put together to make a wonderful lesson for kids. The study comes from the Who is God- What We Believe Series from Apologia. It would be lesson 2 if you have the book. I always like to put bible truth with every day. The lesson talks about how we can tell if something is truth or if it is a false. There are some fun Science activities to go with it to help you realize how easy it is to be fooled. The internet is no different in that foolery. Below are some tips for finding truth ...
* Check the date of the material make sure it is recent.
* Does your url end in net or org if so it is usually pretty reliable content but still use your judgment wisely. It is still a purchase domain. The best sites are gov and edu which are educational sites.
* Read over the material first and check to see if it seems as if it is the authors opinion or if it is filled with facts.
*Research facts to see if they align. However even with cross referencing if its a common misconception you still might get the wrong information. You can research the opposite as well to help you discern the truth.
*Verify the author. Email the organization associated with the writer to make sure they are actually in employment there or better yet call. IF they are a professor or other professional it can take a bit of time to check but if you need accurate information it is a way to check your sources. Great lesson for the kids too.
*Pray over the material. Ask God to show you the truth on whatever topic you are learning about.
Before I go I wanted to talk a little about time management. The web can really take your time if you allow it to. You can research and research finding no end. Be specific with their projects. Include how many sources they are to have so there is an end to surfing the web. You might want them to work a specific time each day for so long on the project. You can set a timer and that is how long they get. Avoid going off to social media and strictly stick to the project that you are working on. Yes moms this goes for us too. (hheem or to me. )
I know the internet can be a time waster and can be full of things we don't want our little ones hearts and minds to see but there are things of value there. It is our job as parents to locate that material. If you do come across things of questionable nature this is the perfect time for another lesson. This one on why we feel the material is wrong.