My Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

This post may contain affiliate links. Thanks always for your support!

Today I’m eager to share the Top 5 Blog, She Wrote Pinterest Boards for Homeschooling Teens. Honestly, I love Pinterest and I’ve been creating new boards whenever I can classify content specifically for middle and high school. I only got to choose 5 for this post, but I have more boards for teens that I adore. Feel free to follow any of my boards. The more, the merrier! Are you ready for my favorites?

eReader Homeschooling

This board is a collecting place for all things Kindle related and beyond. You’ll find free book series, ways to use a Kindle in your homeschool, and plenty of content for your eReader. Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote posts related to eReader Homeschooling:

Homeschool High School

All things high school related are found on this board. I started out with just one highschool board, but I’m starting to add specific course names to my boards like chemistry, biology, and U.S. History.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote posts on Homeschooling High School:

Teaching with Technology

You’ll find ways to incorporate technology into your homeschool- whether it’s using Netflix or using an Arduino unit to program simple electronics. I’m not much for apps though we use a select few for a select purpose. I’m much more interested in our kids being makers and I try to focus on that as I collect ideas.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Technology Posts:

Project Based Homeschooling

The projects gathered here are ideas and reporting on student-driven projects. These aren’t units or parent directed projects, but the kind that come from a student’s own motivation and desire to learn.

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Project Posts:

  • Steampunk Fashion & Design- The story of Rebecca’s history and fashion project for the year.
  • Workspace- One of the keys to successful projects is the space you devote to what your kids are doing. This post shares all of our project spaces.

Coaching Writers

This board showcases ideas and programs that allow us to mentor our writers at home. There’s a lot of good stuff out there!

Blog, She Wrote: Top 5 Pinterest Picks for Homeschooling Teens

Blog, She Wrote Coaching Writer’s Posts:

I love to spend time on Pinterest saving things for a day when I need a great idea. Sometimes it’s all you need to spark something you can really use. Do you use Pinterest?

Enjoy this Cream of the Crop iHN Pinterest Boards for Homeschoolers. Join other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network as we all share our favorite Pinterest Boards today.

iHN: Our Pintastic Pinboards

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Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 3: Using OpenDNS to Filter Content

Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 3: Using OpenDNS to Filter Content

This is the 3rd post in our series on controlling our kids access to the Internet, both when they can get on, and what they can reach when they are online. In the first post we discussed the basics of how computer networks function, using the analogy of a phone system at our Blog, She Wrote Headquarters (HQ) with the part of the receptionist being played by our router, and directory assistance representing the work of Domain Name System (DNS) servers. In this analogy, the router plays the part of a receptionist who handles all outgoing and incoming calls between our internal phone system (ext. 1, ext. 2, etc.) and the external phone system (the rest of the world). We also talked about how in the computer world, the IP addresses (the numbers the computers use to call one another, similar to phone numbers at our Blog, She Wrote HQ) are constantly changing (every couple of days or so), even for external websites.

To handle that, the Internet has the Domain Name System (DNS), where DNS servers are spread around to act as directory assistance for the world. Whenever your computer wants to browse a web site, like your favorite www.blogshewrote.org, your computer contacts the local DNS server to ask for the IP address of the Blog, She Wrote server, and the DNS server looks that up in a constantly updated directory. Without that service you would be stuck, since your computer would not know what the current number is for that server. Just like our receptionist, the DNS server sits in a powerful position, as without the DNS server,  our computer could not find the websites we are trying to reach.

A company recognized how the position of the DNS server could be helpful for Internet filtering and has setup a business around that service. The service is called OpenDNS. The idea behind Open DNS is that by not giving out the IP addresses (phone numbers) of sites you don’t want anyone in your family to reach (www.evilsite.com), your devices won’t be able to reach it, no matter how hard they try. It won’t matter if it is an iOS device, a laptop, or a tablet, if the network won’t tell it how to reach it, it can’t. All of this is done by your computer network, not the device, so you don’t need to install software on the device itself.

Getting Started with OpenDNS

The service is free for families (they charge for businesses) and fairly easy to setup.

  • Go to the OpenDNS website and setup an account.
  • You then need to tell your network to use the OpenDNS DNS server instead of your local ISP DNS server. The DNS server information is given out to devices when they are assigned an IP address by the router. You can tell the router to give out the OpenDNS server information instead of the local one in the router settings.
  • The OpenDNS site has a good set of instructions on how to do this for most major router models.

Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 3: Using OpenDNS to Filter Using OpenDNS for Content Filtering

In your account options on the OpenDNS site, you have many different ways to select the filtering you want to do. Content filtering is often done using whitelists or blacklists. Blacklists are designed around the idea that you maintain a list of sites you want to block, and allow everything else. Whitelists are the opposite of that, where you block everything by default, and only allow sites that are on the approved list. Neither method is perfect at filtering. With a blacklist, you have to work hard to maintain an accurate list of bad sites with a constantly changing Internet. Any new bad sites are not on your excluded list until you learn about them and add them in. Whitelists suffer from blocking most of the world, and only letting in a small portion that is already approved. Many good sites will be blocked since you don’t know anything about them yet, and a previously good site can start posting bad content and be approved until you notice and remove it from the whitelist.

OpenDNS works under the blacklist mode, with their own internal categorization of sites. They assign websites to various filtering categories, and either block or allow on your network based on the options you select. So, you can choose to block all adult sites as well as social networking sites like Facebook, or only block adult sites. They work hard to maintain the lists as they are the basis for the filtering of the commercial service they sell to companies. You also have the option to add your own list of sites to either always block or always allow as well. That way you can customize it based on your individual needs. When someone on your network tries to reach a blocked site, they are redirected to an OpenDNS webpage telling them that it is blocked and what categories it is blocked under. That way you know why you cannot reach the webpage.Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 3: Using OpenDNS to Filter

One last challenge to deal with is that the OpenDNS servers are getting many DNS requests from many different computers, so they need to know which requests are from your network to know what filtering to apply. To do that their computers needs to know the external IP address of your router (you can find it at www.whatismyip.com). The challenge is that this number can change every couple of days, so you will need to constantly update OpenDNS with the new number to keep the filtering correct. To make this easy, OpenDNS has created a small program that only needs to run on one computer in your network. It checks the external IP address of your network every now and then, and automatically updates OpenDNS with any changes that occur. It is better to choose a computer that spends most of the time at home, not a laptop that is taken to and from work or school regularly. Otherwise OpenDNS will be updated with the wrong IP address when the computer is off-site, and your filtering will go away until it returns home. On our home network, this is handled automatically by my router, but explaining that setup is beyond the scope of this post. The OpenDNS site would have some information on how to do that for those who are interested.

Have a Question? Leave a Comment!

I hope you have found this information useful as you work to guide your kids towards responsible use of the Internet. Feel free to post any questions or follow-ups in the comments and I will try to respond as best as I can.

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Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 2: Controlling When Your Kids Are Wandering the Web

Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 2- Controlling When Your Kids Are Wandering the Web

Thanks again to Dan who has he put together Part 2 of our series on how to filter and control access to the Internet using your router. Today’s post contains affiliate links. Thanks always for your support!

In our Part 1 post we explained the basics of how our devices, such as laptops and

Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 2- Controlling When Your Kids Are Wandering the Web

Our noble router!

iPads, connect through our home network to reach the Internet. We used an analogy of an office phone system for the Blog, She Wrote headquarters (HQ), with your router being the receptionist, and directory assistance being your Domain Name System (DNS) servers that tell you the current IP addresses (phone numbers) for your favorite website like Blog, She Wrote. We saw that since everything going out to and coming in from the Internet goes through the router, it can be a powerful ally in controlling your network.

How To Talk Directly with Your Router & Get It to Do What You Want

To make friends with your router and get it to do what you want, you first need to be able to talk directly to it. To do that you need to figure out what internal IP address it is at, sort of like determining what extension the receptionist’s phone is. Generally every model of router has a default internal address that it gives itself. You can look this up in the directions for your router, or do a simple Google search for your router model number (found somewhere on the back or bottom of it) and ‘default IP’. In MS Windows you can also go under the Start Menu to Accessories, Command Prompt, and then a new window comes up, type ipconfig. The router will be listed as the gateway. Once you locate it, you simply open up a web browser (like Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, etc.) and type that address into your web browser instead of a website address. So, you would type into the address bar: 192.168.1.1 instead of www.blogshewrote.org. If you have the correct address you should get a web page asking you to log in. If you have never changed the username and password on your router, another web search should help you find the default ones. If you haven’t changed them, please take this time to change them. It is not good to leave the router with the default username and password since even the bad guys know this information so they can use it to do bad things on your network.Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 2- Controlling When Your Kids Are Wandering the Web

Once you get into the router you will be looking at web pages sent to you by the router to interact with it. You will have menus to click through and fields you can type in. Click around a bit and see what is there. Don’t be afraid that you will mess something up, just don’t confirm or save anything until you are sure of what you are changing. Most routers made in the past 5 years or so have some level of access control features built into them. These settings allow you to set hours when Internet access is turned off, either for specific devices or for everyone. It may also allow you to block certain websites by name or certain services. Since each device is different, I can’t cover the specific details on how to set these options on your router. All I can do is point you to the directions for your router, either the ones that came with it, or a manual you find through a web search on the website of the manufacturer.

Block by MAC Address If You Can, Not IP Address

One important thing to note is that a common way for routers to do this is to block by the IP address which, as we discussed in our last post, can be dynamic and change over time, which can be a problem. In that case the device will be no longer blocked or the wrong computer will be blocked. A better way to do it is by using the MAC address to specify which device to block, as this does not change but the MAC address can be harder to find on your devices. The best way to figure out how to find it is through our friend Google again. Simply Google your device name / model and “MAC Address” to locate directions on how to look-up your device’s MAC address. In some cases you can look that information up on the router itself as you click through the menus on the web pages.

So, going back to our analogy, setting restricted access times for devices on the network is a bit like telling the receptionist at our Blog, She Wrote HQ not to allow any outbound calls from specific extensions at specific times. This does not prevent someone from calling another internal extension, as this does not go through the receptionist, nor our router. So, kids could still print to the wireless printer, play games over the network with each other (in the same house), and other types of activities that don’t involve contacting an Internet server or website. Or, if your neighbor doesn’t secure their wireless network with a password, kids can always connect to their network and bypass everything you are trying to do. Be a good neighbor, secure your Wi-Fi with a password.Blog, She Wrote: Internet Filtering & Access Control Part 2- Controlling When Your Kids Are Wandering the Web

In our household, I have the router set to turn off all Internet access for the kids devices at 9 PM and to leave it off until 8:30 AM the next morning. That way the kids who wake up early don’t have hours of unsupervised time on the Internet. I also have a distracting site or two blocked during school hours to keep a few of our older kids from wandering there online during school time. You could set earlier times for younger kids’ devices and later times for those who stay up later. There is usually a limit to the number of rules you can create, but if done carefully, you can get by with the 5 – 10 rules you are given.

Make Sure You Have The Right Router for The Job

If you find your router does not have these access features built into them, or cannot filter by MAC address, only IP address, purchasing a basic new wireless router that does have these features is not that expensive, and can be well worth the effort. There are many options available for under $50.

Here are a few:

  • NETGEAR Wireless Router N300- This router is specifically designed to work with OpenDNS to control Internet content though it doesn’t seem to allow easy set up to turn all Internet off at certain hours. (This one appears to be part of the deal of the day at Amazon 3-11-14)
  • Linksys WRT54GL Wireless- G Broadband Router- Another option for a router that will meet the basic needs for both OpenDNS and time based controls

It is important to note that if your kids devices can operate over cellular signals, such as smartphones, or tablets with data plans, this method will not work. It will only work for devices that need to connect over Wi-Fi or physically plug into the network to connect. If this is a smartphone or tablet with a data plan, control must be done one the device itself, as it can connect to the Internet in other ways. At this point I cannot offer any assistance on this as we have not reached this point yet in our parenting. Again, doing a Google search on parental controls for your specific device might be the best starting point for further learning.

In Part 3 we will deal with filtering the content that is allowed in when the Internet is on.

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