In a previous post, we talked about including essential life skills in our homeschooling plan. Today, I would like to zero in on a particular skill which, in my opinion, no child should be without: the ability to set up and maintain a website.
You might ask, “What earthly good is it for my children to build websites if they aren’t going into a computer science career?” Much. In our day and age, the likelihood of owning a business at some point during one’s lifetime is good. Businesses often develop quite naturally from hobbies or other passions we pursue.
Even a small side business needs a website these days. If the owner has no knowledge of how websites are put together, he could end up spending hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for a basic package setup. And, if he doesn’t know how to make small changes, every time an update is needed (this can be often), he is again at the mercy of the website developer. More money must be paid out, and modifications may not happen as quickly as the owner would like.
By gaining familiarity with website basics now, your children will be able to tailor-fit, and tweak, their spot on the web. All this can be done cheaply and excellently — if they know how.
My daughter combined her writing skills with her knowledge of basic HTML coding (the stuff websites are made of) to start and maintain our church website as a volunteer during her teen years. Later, she turned that know-how into a side business as a copy writer, creating content for web developers. It was an unexpected path for her, and it probably never would have happened if we had not incorporated website building into her homeschooling experience.
Start with a Blog
The easiest way to get started with website building is through a blog. Most businesses use WordPress to set up their website anyway these days. So, once you learn the basics of blogging, you are well on your way, using the built-in editor to get started. A little knowledge of coding will allow you to do fancier things than the editor allows (more on coding later).
For a free blog, register at WordPress.com. There are others available, but WordPress has the most features and is easy to use. I still use the WordPress free site for my blogs, even though I also use a paid hosting website for my business. WordPress allows you to choose from many different themes (appearances). You can tweak and customize within those themes, and if you get tired of one look, you can easily change over to something different. The blog settings allow you to control the level of privacy you want your child to have.
Why have your children blog?
- Blogs are a great way to encourage your children to write. They can journal or create short stories and poems to share with extended family and friends.
- Blogs can be used to record and preserve writing assignments.
- Make on online scrapbook of memories via a blog — pictures and essays about special family outings, for instance.
- Blogs provide an outlet to share about a particular passion or hobby.
- Blogs can be a vehicle to share Jesus.
With adult supervision, even young children can create a blog of their own. As they grow older, what they include in their blog can progress to more complex ideas.
Next Step — HTML
Blogging using the default visual editor provided by WordPress is a nice start, but there are quite a few things which that basic editor won’t let you do. And sometimes, the visual editor gets stuck and won’t let you fix whatever went wrong. To do the more complex stuff, or to tweak what isn’t looking right, you need to know some basic HTML code. There is an “HTML” tab next to the visual editor. Use that. (Some blog platforms call it the “text” or “advanced” editor.) In the HTML editor, you will see the codes which were automatically plugged in when you used the bold, italic, text color, and link buttons in the visual editor.
Have your older children play around with creating a blog post entirely from scratch in the HTML editor. To do that, they will need to learn basic HTML. It’s fairly simple and logical.
Links to simple HTML tags and tutorials:
After you have played with HTML within your blog editor, you may want to move on to doing an entire website from scratch. Within your blog, WordPress has already done some of the preliminary coding for you. It is hidden code which you won’t see in the HTML editor. It is connected with whatever theme you picked out for your blog.
If you want to learn how to do the whole works, you can use a free website provider to get started. I began my website journey at Angelfire. Another free hosting site is Weebly. There are others, too. These sites will slap ads on your finished web pages, but they are a good place to practice. They usually feature an advanced editor for those who already know HTML. You can start by using their website builder tools to get the initial framework coding in place, and then switch over to the advanced editor after they help you with setup.
There are a lot more possibilities for website building than basic HTML, if you or your children are interested in exploring them. You will find links to additional free tutorials at my website’s Favorite Links page (near the bottom of that page).
Happy website building!