What’s available online?

The better question might be what isn’t available online these days because it’s a veritable treasure trove out there. The best news of all is that so much of it is free, including the following:

1. Multiple-choice tests

A great way to check up on your areas of strength and weakness, as well as a simple and efficient tool to build critical skills. You can find many multiple-choice tests on Primrose Kitten, as well as many other great resources, including the next item in our suggested list.

2. Knowledge organisers and checklists

The perfect way to put all the crucial subject information into one handy and easy-to-see location. A knowledge organiser and/or a knowledge checklist are an excellent tool for GCSE and A-Level students who may feel overwhelmed when thinking about how much they have left to study in any one subject. These can help them put their minds at rest and see their progress as they study.

3. Past papers

Nothing beats the real thing when it comes to exam prep. Get hold of some past papers by visiting, for example, the AQA website, where you can search for past papers (and their marks schemes) and get them for yourself as downloadable PDF files. Easy.

4. Online videos and lectures

Educators are absolutely committed to what they do. That commitment is so strong that they even take time to made instructional videos and put them online for free on sites like YouTube. You can find helpful videos on nearly any subject, from 5-minute “how-to” videos to full-blown documentaries and lectures. The wealth of expertise that’s available freely online is nothing short of staggering.

5. Online encyclopaedias

Despite their reputation for falsehood and inaccuracy, various studies done over the years have shown Wikipedia’s information to be pretty accurate. The main worry behind such a resource is that anyone is able to log in and change information, but the system is continually improved and quickly finds and amends errors. Many experts now (perhaps grudgingly) admit that Wikipedia is at least a very good starting point from which to learn about new topics. It’s certainly a good way to get kids reading, thinking critically and checking up on sources --- all invaluable skills.

What advice can we give homeschooling parents?

It seems that the biggest challenge emerging from the use of online resources for homeschooling is the sheer amount of available information and how to sift through it to find not just what you need but the best possible version of what you need.

Here are some further tips when it comes to using online resources:

First, never rely on a single source for all your materials

However good the one source appears to be, you shouldn’t be encouraging learners of any age to depend on a sole source of information. It’s an important thing to ingrain in learners to look to different sources and find different kinds of information to use. Encourage your kids to use all the sources at their fingertips, and never just stick with one.

Next, don’t be afraid to spend some money when the materials clearly have value.

Not all of the best resources online will be free of charge. You may have to pay for them, or perhaps even pay a monthly subscription fee. Our advice is to always have money in your budget for those premium online materials that require a fee. That being said, don’t just buy anything you see. Save the money for things of real educational value.

Third, teach your kids about accessing online resources.

Part of your instruction as a homeschool operation should be teaching kids how to find and assess online materials for themselves. In the age of social media and fake news, it has never been more important for kids to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. It’s not enough to send them out on the Internet to find information. You also have to help them learn how to find it.

Finally, mix online with traditional sources.

Similar to our first piece of advice, it’s a good idea to keep kids aware of offline materials available to them for study. A weekly trip to the local library is the perfect way to remind them that they don’t always have to rely on Wi-Fi and screens to get the information they want. There is also much to learn from the library. These are skills that will help them not only pass their GCSEs and A-Levels but also be better and more successful university students down the line.