The world on your laptop

by Laura A

This is the time of year when most homeschooling parents are busy choosing classes and curriculum for the next year. Though Sarie will be a senior according to the US system next year, there’s one more year of high school here, so we’ve decide to use it to get some APs while we figure out whether she can attend school here. If she doesn’t, it will still be time well spent.  It will also give her time to learn music and academics simultaneously. We just don’t know enough to say what’s the best thing to do yet.

Anyway, in my search, I’ve come across some really interesting online resources lately.  Most of them I’d at least seen in passing before, but as I sifted through them again during the past couple of weeks, I must say that online education opportunities have grown tremendously since we started homeschooling. When I first started researching, I thought I was pretty lucky to find one primitive message board and the first embodiment of Amazon.com.  Now we have Khan Academy, TED ed, Brightstorm, and online classes in abundance.

These sources have their different strengths and weaknesses.  I like TED ed for sheer big-idea provocation and gorgeous graphics, though occasionally I think there’s more style than substance.  Sarie is a big fan of Sal Khan.  I don’t know what the draw is:  his soothing voice, the patience of a math practice program that generates ever more problems until you get a lot of them right, the lure of self-charted progress, or the fact that he stops in the middle of explaining supernovas to say with genuine appreciation, “This is really cool!” But Khan math and science have been a life saver in this, our year of losing all our accustomed math/science resources. (Though we’re looking for something more systematic for next year.)

Sarie, meanwhile, recommends IMSLP, the free sheet music resource, for music, and if you live in NYC or another place with good library services, Freegal. And she also likes this:

Sarie was practicing the second movement of Bach Double this morning for a performance she hopes to do with the conservatory orchestra next January. Not only is the video mesmerizing, but it helps you to see the relationships between the lines of melody and other patterns. And it’s surprisingly close to how I visualize music that I’ve never seen performed live before.

And in another corner of the internet world, why not learn German in Italian?  (Now there’s one way to learn two foreign languages at once.) Or Italian in Italian?

(Update: For Dante, I substituted another video above, which Sarie points out is much better than the one put out by the education ministry.  In it, Roberto Benigni composes a letter to Dante, asks him if he’s getting his royalty checks for Benigni’s performances of The Divine Comedy, and rhapsodizes about the “gift of poetry” which, if I understand correctly, no one wants to pay for because it’s a gift.  I love this video, even the parts I can’t understand, because it’s so Italian.  It always seems to me that this is how the people next to me in restaurants are talking, and after watching this, wouldn’t you want to know what they’re saying?  Here’s part two. )

Of course, we’ll also be doing plenty of old-fashioned reading, writing, and discussion as well. And hopefully some field trips. After all, we are in a country full of fields.

Roman temple ruins in Luni, Liguria

What are some of your favorite online resources?

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