The Washington Times
March 2, 1999

Web site allows families to net safe information

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
March 2, 1999

Home schooling is rapidly becoming an education with old-fashioned values and high tech capabilities. The new HomeSchool Channel at crosswalk.com is an example of both sides of home schooling.

The first concern most home schoolers express about the internet is safety. The American Library Association may want children to have access to pornography while online in libraries, given its reluctance to use Internet filtering devices. But I can assure you that home schooling parents want the safety of those filters.

Although you can buy filtering software, crosswalk.com offers free Internet filtering and safe searches to home schoolers (and for that matter, to everyone). It’s very easy to follow the on-screen directions to get this free protection for yourself and your family.

Crosswalk.com is created by Didax Inc., a Chantilly-based company dedicated to “building Christian community on the World Wide Web,” as the site states.

Many people who are considering home schooling have a lot of questions. Veteran home schoolers know this because their school days often are interrupted by phone calls from friends of friends with questions.

Now there is another place these callers can get answers to questions about curriculum, socialization, legal issues, high school graduation, and sports for home schoolers as well as several dozen questions that just about everyone asks when considering home schooling.

Another feature of the HomeSchool Channel is the online support group functions. Here home schoolers can find encouragement on days that have been particularly hard, forums where you can leave questions and get answers from both experienced home schoolers and national experts, and a hosted chat session every night of the week. I have agreed to be the regular Tuesday night chat host (11 p.m.).

As I have dabbled on the Internet, I have been surprised by two things: First, there are many valuable resources for my children’s education.

For example, I was helping my 14-year-old recently in geography. Her text book was talking about Mount Blanc (in France and Italy) in a manner that left me cold. I have seen Mount Blanc and I thought that any person learning about it would be better off by at least seeing a picture. A textbook can’t include a picture of everything, so I logged on to the Web and found some great photos of the mountain. I have found great science experiments on a museum’s Web site and help for algebra problems at another site. I also have found a fascinating site that takes viewers to photographs of the graves of a number of prominent Americans. The Net has a lot of interesting educational resources.

But, the second thing I have found is that you have to wade through a lot of junk to find the good stuff—and I mean more than just porn or evil. For example, in looking for material on Patrick Henry, I had to sort through a lot of unrelated material, including a Web site on a hockey player from Germany by that name.

While no on-line library can hope to be truly comprehensive, the HomeSchool Channel, at its recent launch, already had several hundred good links regarding specific people, places, and events in American history available for instant research. The links to math also help, and museum tours and more are supposed to be coming very soon.

No high-tech program will ever replace the need for a warm, loving parent who sits by the side of her child and listens to them read. But if Mom wants to save herself a trip to the library so that her son can copy a picture of Patrick Henry for his report, learning to use the Internet is a great asset to any student in any school.

I think it is great that private enterprise, not the federal government, has delivered a safe and beneficial Web site to help home schoolers and others. In the Clinton administration, it is highly doubtful that any government Web site will protect children. Parents who want their children to be learners and not victims would do well to visit crosswalk.com.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.