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Home with the Kids — Ideas to Keep them Learning

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S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

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Kids and learning are two things close to my heart. I have always been an advocate for education and learning, especially for young children, for that’s where it all starts. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and, although they may share responsibility in partnership with others, they never fully relinquish that position.

I have been a teacher all my life (my mum always said I was good at teaching my younger siblings how to get up to mischief) with involvement in some form of education since earning my first teacher qualifications after leaving school. Probably the only thing I wanted as much as being a teacher was to be a writer. Now I am fortunate to combine both.

I write two blogs, both with an educational focus, and freelance for other educational publishers. My ultimate aim is to be a published author of children’s stories. My first eponymous blog is the one through which I met Charli and engage with The Carrot Ranch. The second is part of a website for which I write teaching resources to support teachers of children in their first three years of school.

Over the years I have written numerous posts that promote early learning with suggestions of how parents can support their children’s learning from birth (or earlier). Having supervised my daughter’s education at home until she was nine, I have some sense of what parents are experiencing now as they juggle their new responsibility for ‘schooling’ their children with other ongoing responsibilities.

I have always promoted education as something different from schooling and I believe that parents would be wise to focus on their children’s learning, as opposed to ‘schooling’ during these different days. Many activities that form part of everyday routines are rich in opportunities for learning and, if we ensure children are interested and engaged, they will be learning. My belief is that we all, parents, teachers (and especially those ‘in charge’ of teachers) need to lighten up and reduce stress all round in these circumstances. The children will survive. They will learn. That’s what they were born to do.

If you would like to check out some of my suggestions, you could read these posts:

Ideas for learning at home when you can’t go out

Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age

What parents can do to prepare their children for school

In this post, I want to share with you some online resources that you may find useful in supporting your children’s learning. Unless otherwise stated, the links lead to free information and resources and are suited for children up to about 8 years of age. I have avoided school-type resources in favour of those with more general appeal for a family to engage in at home. However, there is so much good stuff available for parents and children, I could not include them all. If you have favourite sites you use with your children at home, please add them in the comments.

Supporting young learners from birth

The Australian Literacy Educators Association has 27 Little People’s Literacy Learning Modules.  They are organised around themes and each is packed with suggestions for parents to implement with their young children at home.

Talking is Teaching (US) is a website that supports parents support their children’s learning from birth. The importance of talking with children, reading to them, and singing with them is stressed and encouraged. There are many online and downloadable resources with explicit suggestions for parents to encourage their children’s development in language, thinking, maths, science, art and social-emotional skills. A great resource for parents of young children from birth, or earlier.

Books, stories and poetry

The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has put together a great collection by authors and illustrators. There are book readings, audiobooks and eBooks, art lessons, activities and lots of other fun bookish things.

Michael Rosen (UK) has written many fun stories and poems. You can view videos of his recording on his website or YouTube channel. One of my favourites is Chocolate Cake.

You can doodle along with Mo Willems and his Lunch Doodles. If you enjoy Mo Willems’s books and artwork as much as I do, you’ll love these doodle sessions.

Vooks (US) is a child-friendly ad-free streaming library of animated children books. For less than the cost of one book per month, you have access to dozens of animated stories, many of which have lesson notes and ideas for parents. (This site requires payment though offers a free trial for parents and a year free for teachers.)

The Oxford Owl for Home (UK) focuses on learning for children from 3 to 11 years of age and includes eBooks, videos of storytelling and reading (including by Julia Donaldson) and free activities for developing skills in reading and maths. The books and activities are organised according to their suitability for different age groups. Access to the site is free though registration is required for some activities.

John-John Dot com (Australia) is a video channel on which teacher John-John reads picture books.

Goodnight with Dolly Dolly Parton (US) reads a story from the Imagination Library every day for ten weeks.

Across-interests

Kids News (Australia) has a wealth of up-to-date news of interest to children. It covers a wide range of topics and includes suggestions of other things kids might enjoy such as book clubs to join and competitions to enter. The news articles contain video links and exercises for discussion and comprehension. To assist teachers and parents of students who are learning at home, it provides daily activities for children from age 4 to 14.

Scholastic has many free learn-at-home projects from PreK to year 9 with books (fact and fiction) to read, videos to watch and projects to do. There is something to interest every kid.

Citizen Science

If you want to get involved in citizen science projects that advance scientific knowledge, there are plenty of those to become involved in, depending on your interests.

You can help fight disease by solving puzzles on your computer with foldit, or by allowing Folding@home to run calculations in the background using spare graphics processing on your gaming computer.

If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you can help track the spread of influenza and Covid-19 by joining Flutracking.

If it’s natural phenomena you are interested in, join iNaturalist to record your observations of nature and share them with fellow naturalists. Join hundreds of thousands of other naturalists and projects around the world.

There are over 50 projects you can join in from home with Zooniverse, including space exploration like this one:

For these and other citizen science projects, visit the Australian Citizen Science Association or Scientific American or citizen science associations and organisations in your country.

Maths

Kathleen Morris (Australia), a primary tech teacher and host of the Student Blogging Challenge, has published a collection of 20 maths games in a free eBook which you can download from her website here. Like me, Kathleen is not a fan of worksheets and these games are easy to play with resources and equipment you probably already have at home.

Museums

While it may not be possible for you to physically visit a museum this year, many museums welcome you online. Here are links to just of few of the museums you may like to visit:

The British Museum

The Guggenheim Museum

The Museum of Modern Art

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

The British Natural History Museum

The Australian Maritime Museum has lots of activities for children.

You may also like to explore the Tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI.

Art Galleries

The Google Arts and Culture page provides links to many art galleries with much to explore.

Zoos and animals

At Explore.org livecams you can visit  animals in their natural habitat, on farms, and in zoos. You can see dogs, cats, bears, goats, manatees — there are so many different animals and environments to explore.

Just ten of the many places also live streaming animals:

Victoria Zoos

San Diego Zoo

Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam

Houston Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo

African Wildlife

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta

Aquarium of the Pacific

True to Life Books has 15 wildlife videos taken by wildlife author and photographer Jan Latta. The aim of the videos is to educate children about endangered wildlife. Videos include tigers, sloths, meerkats, pandas and koalas.

On Google Earth, you can explore 31 National Parks of the United States. You might even find others to explore around the world also.

For those interested in space, NASA has made its image and video library available to all.

I hope you have found a few new sites to interest you and your children. Remember to share any other favourites of yours in the comments.

Until next time, Norah.


53 Comments

  1. My goodness! I think you’ve about covered it! As I read I’d think, ‘Well, I know that Scholastic’s got books up -oh, Norah mentioned that. Well… I know the National Parks are ..oh. She’s got that, too!’ 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  2. petespringerauthor says:

    You’ve done your homework, Norah. What a treasure of ideas!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      There is so much great stuff out there, Pete. It can be a bit overwhelming sorting through it all. I hope I’ve helped relieve some of that overwhelm, for some anyway.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, Norah, what a fabulous range of resources. And a lovely introduction that will hopefully put anxious parents at ease. (Of course, I expect no less from you!)

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Dolly Parton and the Imagination Library was a big deal where I grew up! Man, what a blast from the past!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Norah says:

      I thik Dolly and I were children of the same era, but world’s apart. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • My mom bought me and my brother a children’s book about Dolly Parton. It was pretty influential to me as a kid, because my parents were poor people from the Appalachians. It was a very hopeful story talking about the values of love and aspiration, and I think it was important for me.

        But sometimes it takes little stories like this to get your nostalgia pumps rollin’.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        Those memories are precious and it’s wonderful to know that a book about Dolly Parton inspired you and instilled some strong values. Funny what we forget until something triggers a memory.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. beth says:

    you are such a fountain and wealth of information, norah. it’s so wonderful that you understand both little humans, and education. brilliant ideas

    Liked by 4 people

  6. “I believe that parents would be wise to focus on their children’s learning, as opposed to ‘schooling’ during these different days.”
    This is a time for educators and policy makers to reflect as well, and get to what matters and how best to support learning, as opposed to schooling. Everything is turned on its head, but that could (could) be a good thing if those in charge realize that maybe reinstating how it was is less important and valuable than reinventing what education could be to better serve and support learning. Ah, but it’s a mindset matter, for all involved.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      It is a mindset, and dealing with all the complications that exist makes it difficult to invent a new trajectory. I admire all teachers who are doing such an amazing job through all this turmoil. As if they haven’t enough to do without having the world as we knew it turned upside down.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A wonderful post with fantastic resources as I would expect from you, Norah, even more so at such a time as this. I love that you stress…’Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers…’ With so many young families on lockdown, this message is more vital than ever. I found it interesting reading a survey yesterday on my BBC App. It reveals that a high proportion of those on lockdown with their spouses and children are not heading for the divorce lawyers and sick of their kids as so many predicted, but do in fact feel closer to one another and now want to spend more time with their children once lockdown is over. I really hope we can learn from this in many ways, not least of all the value of education in all walks of life, most especially from parents themselves. Thank you, Norah, for providing us with such an extensive and excellent guide to help achieve it. SMAG ❤

    Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      How wonderful it is that families are finding they enjoy their time together. I wonder, if for some, the lockdown has given them time without any stresses from outside, they can just spend time together, enjoying each other’s company and getting to know each other. While not having jobs to go to has its own stresses, not having a job to go to and knowing you can’t do anything about it and are not expected to, eases things up a bit. How stressful mornings can be when getting the family ready for work and school. With that relieved for a while, families can relax a little. I’ve heard so many say that they’d be happy for things to stay as they are for while.
      I hope we can all learn from this too, Sherri. I think we humans have many areas in which some growth would be of benefit. 🌻 SMAG

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yes, exactly, Norah. I remember those times when the children had time off school for the long summers and I was fortunate to be able to spend those long, lazy days with them. We have memories we won’t forget. Time is precious and far too fleeting, isn’t it? I do hope this time out enables families to find ways to maintain a less hurried schedule, although as you say, it is so difficult with the manic pace of life today. If we can learn from this, then we really will have made progress. Thank you again, Norah, for your wonderful, caring, educator’s heart 🙂 SMAG ❤

        Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        You told it right there, Sherri. Time is precious and far too fleeting. We are always rushing towards or away from something. We need to just stop and appreciate where we are, drink in the present moment. SMAG! 🌻💖

        Liked by 2 people

      • Absolutely, Norah. Let’s hope we can do a lot more of that! SMAG! ❤ 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Norah says:

        Definitely! 💖

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Jules says:

    I’ve sent the link to the DIL who is a teacher… but truly I think I’m going to visit some of the links just for me! Especially some of the museums. But I think it would be interesting also to hear Dolly Parton reading a children’s book. 😀

    Thank you for putting all this good stuff in one place.

    Somewhere I have a series of fanciful Elfje… If I can find it I’ll send it to you. It might be a good project to have children make illustrations for it as well as learn to write their own short verses 🙂

    Just a reminder for an Elfje: https://simplyelfje.wordpress.com/about/

    Though my friends and I have turned it into an adult form too by making series of Elfje to tell complete stories.

    Keeping journals for children is another way to allow them to express how they are feeling. That can be (depending on age) shared or not.

    Stay safe and thank you for all the great information. Learning something new everyday is a good way to keep alert, happy and informed.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Norah says:

      Thanks for your suggestions of Elfjes and journal writing, Jules. I think anything that gives children (and adults) purpose for writing is great. When children engage with enjoyment in poetry, they come to appreciate it a lot more. It is good to add some different forms to one’s toolkit.
      Learning is a great way to beat of the blues and let the blue skies in.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Jim Borden says:

    what a wonderful set of resources. and how lucky you are to be doing the things you love – writing and educating!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Can’t wait for your children’s book to come out, I can see it in my hand, make it so! C

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Pastor Cathy says:

    Home with the Kids — Ideas to Keep them Learning

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great resources. My boys are both home schooling again this week and the school has really upped its programme. They will have normal lessons every day with a teacher presenting to the class.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Norah says:

      Your boys are older and may be able to cope with a little more structure and, in fact, may enjoy it. They are used to having a routine and are possibly able to work independently. I think it is different for little ones who haven’t yet developed those skills and find it difficult to separate being at home from home time. The ‘normal’ lessons will keep your boys learning. Enjoy!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Charli Mills says:

    What a robust post, Norah! Your post is a guide to parents, and I think will provide them some relief, too with your advice to focus on learning instead of schooling. In our community, the local library is offering virtual storytelling times.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. TanGental says:

    Wow that’s some list and research Norah. Hope the whole Readilearn is booming in these oddest of times

    Liked by 3 people

  15. susansleggs says:

    Norah, Thanks for sharing all the website addresses and ideas. I’m really missing doing things with my grandson. I’ll have to schedule a time to get on the phone with him and then both view the SanDiego Zoo at the same time. A virtual trip would be better than no trip.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Norah says:

      That’s wonderful, Susan. I know how you feel. It’s sad not to be able to do things together, but that day will come again – soon I hope. I think a virtual trip together would be wonderful. I had read about a goat farm (that has other animals, including llamas) that was opening it’s farm up via Zoom so that families could meet up and have a tour together. I thought it was a wonderful idea, but when I tried to find it, I couldn’t, which was disappointing. It is in the US somewhere and there is a cost, but what fun – a great initiative for their business too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Charli Mills says:

      The fun aspect of virtual trips is that we can go together!

      Liked by 2 people

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