Our homeschool story: the Vickers family (MS)

About our family

We (Scott and Jenny) are currently homeschooling three kids ages 8-12, and we’ve been homeschooling since 2006. Before that, Jenny was a classroom teacher.
Photograph of the Vickers family

How we use Khan Academy

We heard about Khan Academy through The New York Times, and since it’s free, we decided to check it out right away. At first, we used Khan Academy only when our kids needed help - we’d search the site for videos on the concepts they were learning in their textbooks. Soon the kids got really into the practice problems and mastery challenges, and we realized that we could track their progress. Now our younger kids use Khan Academy as their main math resource, and our older kids use it in conjunction with their textbook.
Jenny: Our younger kids (3rd and 4th grade) spend an hour on Khan Academy every weekday. First, I teach the skill. To prepare the “lesson,” I’ll look at some example problems on Khan Academy. If I need to refresh my memory, I’ll also watch the video and read all the hints. After the lesson, the kids practice the skill on Khan Academy. I sit with them while they work, and if they get stuck, I remind them to try the following strategies in order:
  • Watch the video.
  • Look at the hints.
  • Ask a parent for help.
I help the kids with practice problems as needed, but they do mastery challenges on their own every day. That way, I can find out what they really know, and Khan Academy can recommend appropriate skills for them to work on next.
Our oldest child is more independent. He works through skills on Khan Academy in addition to completing tests from the textbook, which are useful for record-keeping.

How our homeschooling changed

Jenny: Before Khan Academy, the kids wouldn’t know whether they were on the right track until I graded their work. They might answer all their math problems for the day incorrectly and have to redo the entire lesson the next day, which was really discouraging. Now, the kids get immediate feedback. I can also look at their screens to see how they’re doing, or I can use my parent account and the weekly progress emails from Khan Academy.
KA has made our homeschool what we wanted: a place where every kid can learn at their own level. We have six kids (three in preschool), and there’s only one of me. Khan Academy is like having a math teacher in the room so that I can be more of a tutor and my kids can be more independent.

Biggest challenges

The biggest challenge we encountered was technological. We were using an internet filter, and we had to unblock all of YouTube so our kids could access Khan Academy videos.

Words of wisdom

A lot of online resources require you to submit a lot of information before you can even look at the site. Khan Academy’s not like that - you can get started right away for free, so what’s to lose? Don’t be afraid to start.
Also, Khan Academy doesn’t have to be a replacement for other resources. If a textbook is working well for you and your kids, you can use Khan Academy as a supplement. However, don’t make your kids do all the practice problems in the textbook and all the practice problems on Khan Academy - you don’t want them to burn out!