There has never been a better time to homeschool through high school than right now. A big reason is because of all the amazing technology available to make the journey easier. And all of that tech has never been cheaper or more accessible.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the best tech tools to ensure your high-school student is successful. It can be tempting to approach the high-school years with fear and anxiety, but with these resources at your disposal, you can be sure your student receives a quality education.
We’ve divided this blog post into two sections. The first offers some tips around the best software, programs, and apps for homeschooling. The second gives some insights on must-have technological hardware to make high-school homeschool all the easier. Let’s get started!
1. The basics: Email account and word processing
First, your student will need an email account with a professional email address. Gmail should be your first stop here—it offers a range of features that are extremely useful, such as a large storage capacity, access to Google Drive, Google Forms, Google Calendar (the whole family can sync their calendars!), and more. All for free!
Here’s a tip: Aim to create a professional sounding email address. The most basic approach is first and last name, but that combination is unlikely to be available, so adding a few numerals at the end is a workaround. Keep it simple and avoid anything cheesy here.
Word processing software is the next step. Through Gmail, your student can access the Google Docs suite that includes word processing and spreadsheets all in the cloud. For Microsoft Office, Office 365 provides access to Word, Excel, and PowerPoint for a low monthly fee.
2. All-in-one suite: Google Classroom
This is an online classroom used by private and public schools, but it can work for home schools, too. If you’re already accustomed to using Google Calendar, Chrome, Google Drive, and other parts of the Google Suite, this is an ideal fit for you. And the cost is that one word that thrifty homeschool families love to hear—free! The Forget Momma blog has an excellent rundown of how to set up Google Classroom.
3. Online instruction: LinkedIn Learning, Khan Academy, or GreatCoursesPlus
You’ve probably heard of Khan Academy. It’s a free online learning portal with a variety of subjects to study. Course materials range from pre-K through high school and also cover college prep, entrepreneurship, and growth mindset. Computer programming, AP courses, and other advanced course options are also available.
LinkedIn Learning bills itself as having courses for “every step of your career.” High school kids will be able to learn real world, directly applicable skills from instructors who have actual experience. A subscription starts at $19.99 and students of any age earn certificates for each course they complete.
Another option is subscription to Great Courses Plus. This resource has content specifically for high school students in math, language arts, history, and foreign language as well as content that homeschoolers can use to fulfill high school course needs. You have the option of starting on a 14-day free trial and then switch to a plan that suits your budget. All plans allow cancellation at any time, plus unlimited streaming. The monthly plan is $20 per month, the quarterly plan is $45 billed every three months, and the annual plan is $150 paid at one time.
Here are a few bonus options to consider, too:
- Crash Course on YouTube is an educational YouTube channel created by John and Hank Green (the Vlog Brothers). Courses are free but Crash Course accepts donations through their Patreon.
- Outschool offers live classes taught via video chat for kids from three to eighteen years old. Courses start at $10. There are even tutors available on Outschool.
For more, check out our blog post 15 of the best online tools for your homeschool student during coronavirus.
4. Assignment management: Trello or Asana
We know that homeschool high school students tend to be much better than their peers at self-directed learning. A way to help out with that is keeping on track and on task with a project management app. Here are two to consider:
- Trello offers an excellent way to visually represent various buckets of assignments and schoolwork and move them from “in progress” to “review” to “complete.” This is the project management app I personally use for my business. With Trello, you can create individual cards that represent assignments and then move them between “stacks” showing progress and momentum. The app also makes it easy to add attachments or make comments. As a parent, you can also access your student’s Trello board to monitor progress.
- Asana is similar to Trello except that it offers more customization and detail on individual tasks. Another big difference is in the visuals: If your high school student works better with a “check list” type format, then Asana is ideal. If he or she prefers a more visual approach, Trello is the ticket. The bottom line: If you want to go more granular, Asana can be a great tool. But if you want to keep it simple, go with Trello. For most high school students, Trello will be more than sufficient.
1. A laptop
As a tech tool, a laptop is close to indispensable for high school students because they will inevitably use them during the next step in college or other vocational training. A laptop doesn’t have to break the bank, either: Chromebooks can easily be found for under $300 (some of them $200) and offer much of what’s needed to aid a high-school education.
Why not get a desktop? While they’re cheaper, in the long run a laptop will serve your student better and prepare them for life after college. Plus, you always have the option of connecting a laptop to an external LCD and keyboard to mirror a desktop experience. (See point 3 below.)
This could be an Apple iPad, an Android tablet, or even a Kindle or Nook e-reader for books. A tablet could actually be a decent replacement for a laptop. For example, if you want an Apple device but can’t stomach the $1,000 entry-level price for a MacBook Air, you can combine an iPad with a smart keyboard for around $450.
They must have a built-in microphone. A bonus is if they are noise cancelling, especially if you have a larger family.
4. External monitor
Having a portable device like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has its perks, but screen real estate is not one of them! That’s why it can be beneficial to have an external monitor on hand where you can hook up your portable devices to enjoy a bigger screen.