Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Homeschooling: Taking it to the next level

“You dropped a hundred and fifty grand on an education you could have gotten for a $1.50 in late charges at the public library”

Matt Damon – Goodwill Hunting

My idea of homeschooling goes beyond the idea of grabbing a curriculum and educating my children up to the necessary standards of public education.  Likewise it is not just about saving them from the social ills of the public schools, or protecting their religious foundations.  To me it is a life methodology of constant learning.  Call it what you want, seeking knowledge, homeschooling, educating, or enlightening yourself, the title concerns me little.  The goal is what is important.  It is not just something I do with my children, but something that I do myself as well.  

It seems that in homeschooling many people do not stick it out all the way through, and eventually enroll their children in public or private institutions as they get older.  This may be for various reasons, some of which being the idea that one lacks the ability, knowledge, or resources to give a proper education once their child reaches the higher levels.  Some may fear the eligibility of their children entering a University or their apparent acceptability to the admissions office.  I for one see none of these as problems, and today I would like to address the issue of educating your children to be prepared for University level studies, and present just one of the many tools available that can help relieve this problem. 

I hope that this post will be beneficial to those of you who would like to skip the college experience altogether, those who would like to give your children a preview, or those of you whose children have just surpassed the high school curriculums and would like something more challenging.  If you fall into any of these three categories than I suggest you become acquainted with ITunes.   ITunes is an application from apple which is the main portal through which people with apple products such as an iPod can buy and download all sorts of things from books, videos, to music and much more. However you do not need to own any apple products to use it, not an iPad, nor an iPhone, or an iPod, just your PC will do.

The best thing about ITunes in my opinion is none of the above mentioned uses, but rather a subsection of the ITunes application called ITunesU.  The U stands for University.  ITunes University is like the Napster of college courses, only it is legit, and IT IS FREE.  Have you dream of your children studying at Yale?  Maybe you don’t want them to pay the tuition of Princeton? Or perhaps you are not interested in sending your child across the country to Stanford?   If that’s the case then with ITunes U you can have your cake and eat it too, all at your fingertips with a price tag of zero. 

There are over 300 colleges and universities from across the world, which have recorded and uploaded full semester courses onto ITunesU.  Courses range from business, history, international relations, chemistry, to entrepreneurship, and so much more. Your children can study just about anything that comes to mind.  It is a wonderful resource that parents should utilize for themselves and their children while it is still available and free.  

Most of the Universities are from but not limited to the United States.  There are institutions from over 19 countries to choose from.  Some of the many institutions include Yale, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, Georgetown, Berkley, Columbia, Duke, and just about any other major University or College that you can think of.      

Possible benefits

1.      If you don’t wan your child to go to University or put themselves in thousands of dollars in debt, now you don’t have to.  Especially if you’re not concerned with that piece of paper getting them a job at the end of the day. 

2.      If they do want to go to college you can prepare them with ITunesU, in fact they can even aim for a specific university, try some of the courses, and then correspond with the professors, via email and eventually make a visit which might go to help their chances of getting in.

3.      Often times young adults (including myself) with little guidance at the age of 18 are promised a good job, all you have to do is sign on the dotted line.  “Yes it looks like a big number but as soon as you graduate your new job will be paying you $30,000 a year, maybe more, and you will pay off that debt in no time.”  Reality is a lot different from that.  Four years later, in debt, without a job, and you feel like a sucker.  That’s a lot of money to blow on a degree that you might not really like in the first place.  Also guidance counselors don’t factor in things like inflation and the cost of living once you graduate, nor the potential job market or lack thereof.  ITunesU gives you a sneak peak at the subjects your child will actually study long before they do, so that they can make a more educated decision about what to study, or to even study at all.

4.      If you are like me and you are not just educating your children but you are personally taking part by also educating yourself then ITunesU is for you.  Sometimes we feel like we would like to go back to school but just cannot afford it.  Also many parents may feel like they are lacking the propper knowledge to school their children in certain subjects.  ITunesU can help you get on track.  Another excellent idea is as your children get older, instead of teaching them, you can start studying with them.  ITunesU gives you that opportunity. 

How to use it?

First you will have to download the application from here.  They may ask you for a debit or credit card and charge you a penny/ $.01 for those of you outside of the US.  (This is because most people use this service to buy movies and music and are charged via their card)  Once you’ve downloaded the application, open up ITunes on your desktop.  Look to the left hand menu as displayed in the picture and click on ITunes Store.  This will bring up a new window.  Once that new window is displayed there will be a menu bar at the top.  Click on ITunesU and then search.  When you find something you like, click on the course and then you have three options.  You can subscribe which will automatically download upcoming lectures, or get all which downloads all of the current lectures, or you can pick any of the individual lectures by clicking on the tab under the price column, that should say free.

If you are living outside of the United States, Canada, or England, you might want to scroll all the way to the bottom of the app where you will find a circular flag of the country of your location, click on this and change to the US because in some countries certain sections are not available.
 For those of you who have not beeen aware of this resource, I hope that it is a good find for you and helps you and your children in taking your homeschooling to the next level.