Using the Internet for Your Home School Group (Part 1: Mass Email)

The Internet has revolutionized home schooling. As someone who grew up during the ‘90s (yes, I realize that makes some people feel old), I got to see the Internet evolve from little websites run by astronomers and computer geeks into a multi-billion-dollar institution. Once upon a time, reading about something meant going to the local library or cracking open an encyclopedia. Now we have Google, Wikipedia, eHow, Wikihow, and everything else in between. Yes, the Internet has fundamentally changed the amount of information we can access and how we access it.

In my experience, home schoolers are more tech-savvy than many everyday folks. Nevertheless, it seems worthwhile to write a series of articles about how home school groups can integrate the Internet in what they do. Today is a really basic concept: Email.

When I say “email,” I’m really talking about mass-email: Emailing large groups of people at a time.

When it comes to mass email, there are some really simple tools available for you. The first is called the “distribution list.”

Distribution lists are (drum roll, please) lists of people and their email addresses. You can use distribution lists to email groups of people quickly and easily.

Creating a distribution varies a little from program-to-program; I’m going to briefly highlight how to create lists in Microsoft Outlook and Gmail, because they are so popular.

Before I do that, though, let me go over a few prerequisites to creating distribution lists.

First things first: You need an email address. You can create a free address through any number of services out there—Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, your personal domain name—you name it. If you already have an email address you use, that will make things a lot easier. If not, go create one, and check back here when you’re done.

Secondly, you need to be able to access your email address and follow some basic instructions to figure out how distribution lists work. The process is pretty similar across the board, but I’m going to highlight Gmail and Outlook.

Alright, that said, here are step-by-step instructions for setting up a distribution list for your home school contacts in Microsoft Outlook:

Step 1.

Open Outlook. On the File menu, click New and Distribution List (Or press Control, Shift, and L at the same time). Click the image below for a full-size example.

Step 2.

A window should open up that will allow you to create a distribution list using either people already in your address book or people you want to enter manually. It should look something like this:

Step 3.

First things first: Your list needs a name. I’m going to call mine “Home School Support Group,” but you can name yours whatever you want.

Step 4.

Now its time to populate this list with the people we want to be able to email. To do this, you can add people from your address book or enter them manually.

To add them from your address book, click the “Select Members…” button. A window will open up that looks something like this:

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