Everything seems internet-based today, almost to the point where “homeschool” is often used interchangeably with “online school.” Even homeschooling programs that are not entirely online often use internet-based resources. So can you homeschool today – without the internet?
Homeschooling was taking place long before people had even thought about the internet. Even though it is going against the grain today, it is certainly still possible to homeschool successfully without using the internet. Homeschooling can also be done with varying levels of online support.
However, some families do not have the ability to access the internet or do not want it to be a part of their children’s education. Are there options for homeschooling that do not involve the internet?
28 Ways to Homeschool Without the Internet
Online education programs offer nothing that cannot be replicated, or at least nearly so, through other means. The main draw of the internet is convenience, but parents willing to invest creativity and hard work into education will get by just fine without it.
Here are a few options for providing a stellar home education without using online resources.
- Public libraries as sources of books, free classes, scholarly journals, and more.
- Join homeschool co-ops to supplement home education and provide socialization.
- Find classes and clubs through local schools, community centers, churches, etc.
- Find affordable books through used bookstores or even yard and garage sales.
- Get students involved in volunteer opportunities with local charities.
- Finding community, school, or homeschool sports teams to join.
- Get involved with arts groups, such as a choir, theatre troupe, or pottery class.
- Put students in private music or art lessons.
- Hire a tutor—high school and college students are often available for affordable rates.
- Go on field trips to local parks, zoos, museums, concerts, historical sites, etc.
- Join a martial arts or dance class that builds students’ fitness and confidence.
- Involve students in home projects, from cooking dinner to renovating a bathroom.
- Start a garden or raise an animal to teach biology and personal responsibility.
- Visit local businesses and interview workers to learn about different careers.
- Start a business, such as babysitting, yard work, or selling baked goods.
- Collect rocks, leaves, feathers, and other pieces of nature.
- Put up a birdfeeder and observe the different species that show up.
- Go out into the countryside to stargaze and identify planets and constellations.
- Get in touch with your local historical society to learn about the town’s past.
- Participate in a geography bee, spelling bee, or science fair.
- Encourage ambitious creative projects, such as writing a book or a song.
- Have older siblings help teach their younger siblings.
- Take road trips to see natural wonders or important historic sites across the country.
- Have students write letters to local newspapers or politicians about current issues.
- Subscribe to a magazine about students’ interests.
- Put on a concert, play, or presentation for neighbors, friends, and relatives.
- Perform science experiments students find in books or think of on their own.
- Explore a different country’s history, language, food, and other cultural elements in person or from a distance.
While all of these are great ways to learn offline, sometimes the issue isn’t finding activities but sources of information about books and curricula.
Here are a few starting resources for the homeschool parent seeking advice. The following links do go to Amazon and open in new windows.
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- “102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum,” by Cathy Duffy. Cathy Duffy is a veteran homeschooler who reviews books and curricula targeted at homeschooling parents. Rather than promoting one specific approach, her goal is to help each family find what works best for their unique situation.
- “The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home,” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. The title says “classical education,” but this book has terrific ideas for activities and descriptions of different homeschool programs that are useful for any education style.
When to do Homeschool Offline (Without the Internet)
Homeschooling offline is a personal decision. There are plenty of valid reasons to pursue an internet-free homeschool experience, from genuine concerns about the effect on students to the mere fact that the internet is not necessary for a good education.
So, when is it the best choice to homeschool without the help of the internet? Here are some common reasons for choosing an offline approach:
- Concern for students’ safety online and “stranger danger.”
- The home does not have a reliable internet connection.
- Effects of the internet on mental health and brain development.
- Desire to encourage creativity and independent thinking.
- Teaching students to work hard and stay curious instead of settling for easy answers.
- Concern for physical health: eyestrain, prolonged sitting, etc.
- The desire for more interaction and stronger relationships with children.
Of course, every family’s situation is different, and there are many other factors in deciding whether to use the internet to homeschool. Some of the abovementioned issues might prompt parents to cut out online activity entirely, while others might best be addressed by limiting internet use.
When the Internet Can Help with Homeschooling
In some situations, going fully offline is not the best choice. The internet can be an extremely helpful resource; there is a reason that online resources are so popular among homeschooling families.
While many functions of the internet are just slightly more convenient versions of what could be found in books or in-person classes, some unique online services cannot be found elsewhere. For example:
- Access to videos of experts in different fields explaining the pertinent concepts.
- Visual depictions of just about anything are especially helpful for subjects like anatomy.
- Connection to other homeschooled families around the world.
- Students’ ability to deep-dive into their subjects of interest, no matter how obscure.
- Ability to access countless scholarly articles on any topic, often for free.
- Free access to written works in the public domain, including free audiobooks.
- Ability to find the absolute lowest price on a used copy of any published book.
- Advice on many different topics from veteran homeschoolers and professional educators.
Some of these benefits can be accessed, at least to some degree, through other means. However, using the internet tends to be much more efficient and effective.
The key is using the internet well. Homeschoolers who want to take advantage of the internet need to teach their students skills such as fact-checking to ensure they do not fall prey to scams, deepfakes, and other forms of online deception.
Using the internet for education requires education on how to use the internet. But this is a good thing for everyone to learn – and not just homeschoolers.
Do You Need a Computer to Homeschool?
There are computer-based skills, such as typing and compiling a resume, that every student, regardless of career plans, will need to learn at some point. However, this does not mean a homeschooled family has to own a computer.
The ubiquitous presence of computers in today’s world is inescapable, and lacking basic computer skills is akin to illiteracy in its impact on career options. The vast majority of jobs require using programs like Word or Excel or at least the ability to write a good email.
However, it is possible for students to learn these skills without their family owning a personal computer. Public libraries allow the free use of computers with internet access. Community colleges and community centers often offer typing and computer classes.
Homeschool co-ops are another option for families looking to teach digital literacy without investing in a computer. It might even be possible to ask a local public or private school if a homeschooled student could join their computer class.
Solutions to seemingly thorny problems are often surprisingly simple. Teaching computer skills without owning a computer could look as simple as borrowing one from another family or going to your local library.
Of course, with any borrowing or sharing arrangement, offering something in return, such as free babysitting or used books, can be best. It’s worth discussing, at the very least.
If borrowing a computer from someone isn’t feasible, check with your local library. Many local libraries provide free access to the internet, even if some branches do put a limit on how long patrons can browse.
Our local library, for example, lets anyone with a library card “check out” computer time on a desktop there in the library. It’s not particularly private, and the time is in 30-minute blocks. However, if nobody’s in line? It’s really easy to get another 30-minute block to keep working on the computer.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
While internet-free schooling is not the norm in the twenty-first century, taking a fully or partially offline approach can often lead to a more rewarding and memorable experience for students and parents.
Pursuing activities and education methods that do not involve the internet help foster students’ imaginations, critical thinking, and investigation skills. It can also provide more significant opportunities for socialization and family bonding.
The above ideas are only a tiny sample of the many available learning opportunities with no internet connection required. The recommended books are also excellent sources of ideas for educating offline.
That said, teaching without the internet can be more time-consuming and taxing for parents. Many valuable online tools can be a big help for home educators. Busy parents should not feel guilty for supplementing their children’s schooling with online resources.
In addition, the inescapable truth is that we live in an incredibly online world. Learning how to operate a computer and safely and responsibly use the internet is almost as crucial for students as learning how to read.
As such, while there are many advantages to choosing a largely or entirely offline approach to education, it is also essential to consider when and how to introduce digital literacy. Every family must decide when and how to introduce computers and the internet.
For readers who would like further information about homeschooling, these articles are packed with many things to deepen your knowledge on the subject: