A homeschool learning trifecta.
Kids easily adapt to new technology, and integrating blogging with unit studies and notebooking is a way for kids to not just showcase their learning but actually continue it.
Homeschooling parents can use what they already know about unit studies and notebooking to have their children create their own unit study blogs on specific topics.
Helping Your Child Create a Unit Study Blog
To get started with helping your child create a unit study blog:
- Use free blog sites like Blogger or WordPress.
- Have your child blog a current unit study topic or academic focus
- Consider helping your child make separate blogs for different subjects -- just as notebooking addresses specific subjects with a notebook for each
- Set the privacy settings to meet your needs -- subject area blogs don't need to be public to be effective
For example, a child doing a unit study blog on volcanoes might include:
- A question list -- things the child wants to know about volcanoes
- A library list -- books from the library about volcanoes. Maybe she could even note where she found the books on the shelf or how she used the library catalog to find books on the topic.
- Book notes -- thoughts about books she's read on volcanoes; even full book reports on several titles
- Book links -- links to Goodreads or Amazon, where with Mom or Dad's help, she may place her own book review for a book about volcanoes
- Video links -- links to online videos or documentaries about volcanoes, with comments about which videos contained information that was new to her
- Original art and projects -- Photos, scans, or videos of the child's own volcano related projects -- paintings or sculptures of volcanoes, the ubiquitous baking soda and vinegar simulated eruption, diagrams of the parts of a volcano
- A learning journal -- a written record of facts she is learning about volcanoes
- Volcano cams -- links to cameras aimed at volcanoes around the world
- Volcano maps -- maps depicting volcanoes worldwide, linking back to the original website that hosts the map
- Creative writing -- original stories and poems about volcanoes -- written in the form of blog posts or uploaded documents
- Website links -- favorite volcano-related websites, perhaps with notes about interesting things she has learned from each site
- Quiz and educational links -- links to online quizzes she has completed, such as those at National Geographic Kids
- Field trip reports -- description and photos of your visit to a seismic observatory (at universities and some museums) or active or extinct volcano
- Volcano photos -- online photos of eruptions that have taken place around the world
- News reports -- links to news reports about active volcanic eruptions
Here's an example of one kid's volcano blog. This one's pretty basic, but what a great way to round up his learning!
A child creating a unit study blog will learn just from curating what goes on the site, but should also be encouraged to blog about how she interacted with the topic. That's why rather than just compiling a lot of links, it's important to include original writing, photos of related projects, and comments about why certain resources have been included in the unit study blog. Reflecting on the subject is a key factor in the effectiveness of unit studies and notebooking, and that's no different with a blogged unit study.
Kids Blogging Documents Learning
In my role as a homeschool evaluator in Virginia, I teach about and encourage other uses of blogs -- most commonly as documentation of learning -- a blogfolio or electronic portfolio. The two uses are slightly different, because the blog as a portfolio is an evaluation tool (to be used by "others"), and the blog as an online unit study -- a virtual homeschooling notebooking project -- is actually a learning tool (used by the learner). Of course, sometimes there is a cross-over.
Homeschooling parents tend to blog a lot (and helpfully!) about their favorite unit studies and how to do notebooking the old fashioned way, using a notebook. The hands-on aspect of that homeschool approach make real notebooking suit some kids better than blogging an online unit study will.
And, there are a lot of homeschooled kids blogging general interest topics -- a day-in-my-life and miscellaneous reports on learning. These are valuable experiences for kids, providing a place for writing and reflection on learning and living. There are fewer of these specific subject-area blogs created by kids.
However, some kids will really enjoy the creative challenge of creating a unit study blog around specific topics, just as they might create homeschool notebooks.
How about having your kid blog a unit study on weather? the solar system? dinosaurs? the history of money? ancient Egypt?
As always, the parent will want to help just enough to help the kid master any new technical skills, but not so much as to take away the child's autonomy. Better to leave the blog unpolished and the kid feeling like the creator!
Educators call these blogs part of a child's Virtual Learning Environment, so you have a fancy educationese term to go along with this fun way to further learning.