A little known but very powerful tool for homeschooling: Free Software
Free Software is widely used in education due to its lower cost and huge flexibility. Homeschooling is relatively popular in the USA and other countries. One would expect Free Software to be very popular among homeschoolers, due to their own philosophy: how could an homeschooling advocate not love software that is all about being “free as in freedom” and doing things by yourself?
Reality, however is quite different: compared to Windows and Mac, Free Software is still almost unknown in the homeschooling community. One year ago I even contacted directly several homeschooling magazines and websites to ask why (at that time) they had not yet recommended Free Software to their readers, and I'm still waiting for (any) answer...
Very likely, the only reason why this happens is simple fear of the unknown: why add to all the work required by homeschooling the extra effort of learning something that must surely be boring and very difficult? While discussing homeschooling per se is beyond the purpose of this article, the rest of this page proves that this assumption is wrong!
Here is what Dean Anderson, a homeschool parent who has "zero training, zero schooling in Linux and learned out of necessity", says about Free Software for homeschooling:
Stop: Dean, why are you homeschooling?
Dean: A lot of homeschoolers have given us a bad name and I guess I am trying to do my part to bring some authenticity to homeschooling. I in no way put down any parents that send their child to school. I and my wife went to Public School. We are homeschooling only because we can. Not everybody can and that is OK! I think that sometimes people think we are "Amish" or "Extreme Fundamentalists" or "Cultish" because we homeschool. I just like the teacher-student ratio!
Stop: How did you discover Free Software?
Dean: I stumbled across Free Software programs for typing, geography, hangman (spelling) and crossword and soon realized that I could actually make educating my son fun using Free Software that was primarily Linux driven.
Stop:Did you have to learn programming to use this software?
Dean: No, I am not a software developer. I am a "post-frustrated Microsoft user" that did the math and figured the amount of time I spent trying to fix things that could not be fixed in Windows would have been spent wiser learning a better operating system (Linux Ubuntu in my case, but there is also a version, Edubuntu,, already preconfigured for school usage). I am happy enough that I want to try to convince other homeschoolers in my area to follow my path.
Dean: I told the pastor of the local Church that I had a bunch of old computers that I could install in an unused classroom for an after-school program for children and also as a resource for home-schooling parents and he was game. I am going to be teaching the parents how to navigate through Linux, what software programs are installed to augment the learning of their children and to prove to them that Free Software "Rocks!"
Stop: What do the kids say?
Dean: They are asking me all the time about the computer lab and are more resilient than parents in terms of learning a new operating system.
Stop: Summing it all up, why use Free Software on Linux for homeschooling?
Dean: The two really go hand-in-hand. Linux enables us to use archaic equipment and we know that we are already putting out quite a bit of money just trying to educate our children. In our area we still have to pay local school taxes even though we are not burdening the system. On top of that we need to buy this and that to improve the education environment. If a free system like Edubuntu coupled with free used computers and Free Software to teach your children doesn't attract a homeschooling parent I must live on another planet!
Stop: Congratulations to Dean and, as a final greeting, three extra resources for homeschoolers interested in "Free as in Freedom" software and courseware: Teaching with Tux, the E-learning for Kids courses and the INGOTs, software certificates that reward children helping other people
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