Using the Internet for Your Home School Group (Part 3: Blogging)

Alright, so your home school group has mass email and it has a Facebook account; what now? If your group is extremely active—or if you personally are, and you want to tell the world about it—then I suggest you start a blog.

The Basics

First things first: Let’s get a few semantics out of the way. “Blog” (like many internet-terms) is an abbreviation. It’s short for web log. I know it doesn’t seem like that much trouble to write the letters W and E, but for some reason internet gurus thought better, so the term was shortened. Today, “blog” is the only term you’ll hear thrown around on the net.

Alright, so what exactly is a blog? Well, a blog is nothing more than a diary kept online. Some people use them to catalogue their daily lives (in a true diary-manner); some use them to report news or write articles about topics of interest; either way, it’s a very versatile type of website that has many applications.

Every blog is unique; they each have their own sets of tools, features, layouts, and uses. However, the two components that every blog shares are:

1. They have a serial-format (i.e. just like a diary).

2. They allow visitors to leave comments on the topics discussed.

This second feature is not present on every blog, but that’s usually because the blog’s author has somehow disabled or limited visitors’ ability to comment.

Now, the big question I get when it comes to blogs is this: What separates a blog from any other website? Well, a blog is a special type of website that (I believe) is much more user-friendly.

A good example of this is our very own Education Alliance website. If you go to www.arkansashomeschool.org, you’ll see the static website: The information only changes if we update it, and changing it usually involves re-writing code in a web-design program, uploading files, and managing directories. Switch over to our blog (you’re reading it now—www.arkansashomeschool.org/blog). The blog is a very simple, set-it-and-forget-it platform. I set up the blog; now, if I want to change something, I log on to my blog-management service (aka blogging platform), make my changes (or write my new article), and press “Post”; that’s it!

Blogging is a very basic web design that almost anybody can use. Blogs can be as intricate or as simple as you want—it all depends on how comfortable you are with a computer and how much time you want to invest in blogging.

Some people make their living writing for blogs. They usually have several blogs that they manage, and they earn their money by selling advertising space on their site (we have ads on our site that help us cover some of the very basic expenses we incur). You probably won’t be able to earn serious money with your blog, but it’s always a possibility.

Applications for Home Schooling

Blogs are a great way for home school groups to post daily updates about upcoming events, make announcements about past activities, keep each other informed on current events, and make their presence known to the world. Besides that, remember: Home school websites that look well-ordered, are updated regularly, and have a lot of followers are a good way to remind lawmakers that we’re out here, we’re organized, and we keep up with what’s going on in our world.

Alright, so you’ve established that your home school group (or you personally) must have a blog. Where do you begin?

The first thing to do is decide whether or not you want to spend any money.

The Free Route

If you want to set up your blog for free, you’re in luck. There are more free blogging services out there than I can list! My personal favorites are WordPress (it’s what I’m using right now) and Blogspot/Blogger (services I used to blog with). There’s also Live Journal, Xanga (pronounced “ZANG-uh”), MySpace, and Facebook’s Notes (although the Notes offer virtually no custom features).

Most of these blogging services will let you pick a blog username that will determine what your blog’s web address will be. For instance, if your username at WordPress is ARHomeSchoolMom99, your blog’s web address will probably be something like ARHomeSchoolMom99.Wordpress.com. This is good to keep in mind when you set up your free account with them, because you’ll want your username to be fairly memorable.

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