Thursday, February 19, 2015

Our 5 Favorite Online Resources for Learning

Let’s face it.  Technology is everywhere.  My children know how to use some of our Apple devices better than I do.  Occasionally my 5 or 7 year old will walk by me and give a little sigh while explaining that I’m on the wrong input or that I need to go back to click on the correct button on the iPad. 

Rather than fight the technology, we choose to embrace it.   Let me be clear and say that yes, we do have electronic privileges at our home, and yes, they often have to be earned.  They can also be lost with poor attitudes or poor choices during the day.  Our kids do watch TV, and they do play on the iPad.  They also use the computer.  We set boundaries with technology.  Sometimes those boundaries are in the form of a time frame (you get 30 minutes to watch something), other times they are in the form of subject matter (you may use the computer but only if you are using it for…).  Internet usage is monitored, and they do not just get to do whatever they want.  

Over time, we have found some really great websites or apps that we enjoy.  Our children are able to learn new subject matter while having fun.  That’s my favorite kind of learning J

Today I thought I'd share with you some of our favorites:

1.  KhanAcademy:  Khan Academy is an incredible website, full of completely free information.  My 5 & 7 year olds each have their own accounts, and I have a parent account.  Khan tracks your progress, and awards “points” or “stickers” for mastering subject matters.  Then, each week, Khan sends an email to me letting me know how many minutes they’ve each spent on Khan, what areas of learning they spent their time on, what they’re mastering, and what they’re having a hard time with. 

Khan offers math starting at preschool and all the way up through college.  They have teaching videos that are unique and engaging.  When kids get stuck on a question, they can request a “tip” to help them figure it out.  They also offer science (biology, physics, etc.), test prep (ACT, SAT, etc.), Art and Humanities, and more.  This is a website suitable for any aged learner...even us grown-ups!

My 7 year old really enjoys their coding (HTML) lessons.  She is learning the very basics of coding, and likes that she can watch how to videos, experiment on her own, and watch her “code” come to life.  Although she’s only doing simple things (creating shapes, changing background screen colors), she feels quite proud of her accomplishments.  And really, what a great skill to have in this technology world!

The Khan website is ad free, which is really important, in my opinion, for children’s sites.

2.  America's Story from America's Library.  My 7 year old is extremely interested in US history and the presidents of the United States.  This website will let your child "Meet Amazing Americans," "Jump Back in Time," "Explore the States," and more.  The site is run by the Library of Congress.  My daughter loves all the presidential information and the information on famous inventors.  It's easy to navigate, has child friendly content, and is also ad free.

3.  Typing Games.  Typing is an incredibly important skill related to computers.  There are certainly excellent paid programs out there, but there are also a ton of really great free games out there to at least get you started.  Fun to Type is one of them (my kids enjoy the balloon game). The downside to many of these free typing websites is that they are not made to be a full, comprehensive programs that track progress and move you up slowly through the skill levels.  So you really have to try various games out and see which games work well for your child’s level.

Also, these sites are not typically ad free, and there are many things to click on that may lead your child away from your desired location.  I recommend being in proximity to your child while she plays these typing games.  At the very least, you can help her figure out where to click and which pages to stay on.

4.  Wonderopolis.  This site is fantastic for answering lots of “wonders”.  Each day there is a new wonder to read and learn about.  You can also submit a question, or a wonder, of your own.  It’s an awesome website for learning about all sorts of fun topics.  You’ll find “wonder” topics such as: “What was the Gettysburg address?” or “Who invented the candy bar?” or “How does a phone work?” or “Why do bananas bruise?”  So much to explore on this site!  It is ad free.

5.  PBS Kids.  If you’re like me, you still remember all the wonderful PBS shows from when you were little.  PBS is still around, and now utilizes the internet for excellent kids content.  They have both shows and games.  My kids especially enjoy the Electric Company word games (spelling, rhyming, matching, etc.), and the various building games (great for problem solving).  My children’s new favorite show on the PBS kids website is called Odd Squad.  It is a fun action show for children ages 5-8, and is filled with math content.  PBS Kids is also ad free. I want to hear about your favorites!  What do your kids use on a weekly basis? Which are your favorites?  How do you deal with electronics in your home?

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