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ContempoPlay

Home-schooling your kids due to coronavirus? Here are some resources, sites and apps that may help

Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

It’s Wednesday afternoon on the 18th of March as I write this, and here in the UK it’s just been announced that all schools in Scotland and Wales will be closing from Friday. It seems highly likely England is going to follow suit, with other countries around the world already having sent children home.

Like many parents, I’ve already been thinking ahead and worrying about how this will go: not just about what it’ll mean for my work, but also about the challenge of sudden, not-really-prepared-for home-schooling. I’m hopeful that we’ll be getting sent lesson plans and/or homework by my children’s schools, but the details aren’t clear yet. How will we get our kids to take us seriously as teachers rather than parents? What sort of things can we do around the core schoolwork to keep them engaged and interested? CAN WE PUT SEVEN MORE BOTTLES OF GIN IN THE NEXT HOME-SHOPPING DELIVERY? (For us, not them. Unless things get really difficult…)

The good news: I’ve started to notice people I follow on Twitter and other social networks sharing articles, resources and plans that could help parents who are suddenly home-schooling their children. Here’s what I plan to do: update this article every day with anything new that I’ve found, so that it builds up over time into a bunch of ideas for parents. I’m starting today with a few articles and links that I’ve seen, and when something’s really interested, I’ll write a proper article on this publication (ContempoPlay) and link to it from here as well. I hope this is useful, and if you see something (or are a person / company doing something) please do contact me: I’m @stuartdredge on Twitter and stuart@articulates.tv on email.

The daily updates follow in reverse-chronological order, so the latest stuff will be first, and you can scroll down to see the older entries.

Thursday 26 March 2020

  • “Let’s play Cluedo or Monopoly!” you say to your kids. “It will be fun, and definitely won’t end in a whole-family screaming match!” you say. Good luck with that one… But actually, maybe what you need are some new rules to freshen these games up. If so, click on the link in the tweet below immediately: it’s FAB.
  • The Week Junior magazine (disclosure: I write their On Screen pages) has launched an Activity Hub gathering some of the activities published in the mag, and making them available as free PDFs to download. From making story dice or a harmonica to cooking scrambled eggs and ‘Dreamy Hot Chocolate’ (if you’re savvy, you may get a breakfast out of this…) it’s a great resource for creative stuff.
  • Apps publisher StoryToys has made some of its (excellent) children’s apps for iPhone and iPad free in response to the current situation. Very Hungry Caterpillar Shapes, Hansel and Gretel, Goodnight Mo and more.
  • Another magazine for children, The Phoenix Comic, is tweeting some puzzles every day, then revealing the solutions at 4pm. It’s well worth following it on Twitter too, as it’s tweeting other activity ideas from its archives too.
  • And finally, if you haven’t seen it yet and have kids who love Doctor Who, watch this video shot by The Doctor herself (and like me, you may well have Something In Your Eye No Really I’m Not Crying It’s Fine afterwards…)

Tuesday 24 March 2020

  • Hurrah (not for the first time) for Common Sense Media, which is keeping a post updated with online events and resources, including virtual drawing lessons, music classes and (for parents) lesson plans.
  • Dr Gummer’s Good Play Guide has launched a Home Learning Hub, with tips for parents home-schooling; play ideas and weekly activity packs; and other resources. There’s also a mailing list you can sign up to, to get the activity packs pinged to your inbox every week.
  • This is cool: a new daily podcast called Two Whats?! And A Wow that focuses on science / STEM based challenges (the one promoted on its Instagram involved getting kids to work out which of three scientific ‘facts’ about giraffes was true).
  • Skoove is a very good app for learning to play the piano. Usually most of its lessons require a subscription, but it’s now made its beginner course and 27 songs available for free, while teachers and schools can get in touch with the company to get its Premium subscription for free.
  • YouTuber Mark Rober is going to be livestreaming a series of science lessons (for ‘high school’ level students) on his channel. The first was yesterday – ‘Why Does Helium Make Your Voice Higher?’ – with predictable ballunacy.

Monday 23 March 2020

  • YouTube has launched a Learn at Home page, which points you towards useful family-learning videos and series on its service. One of them is a collection of student schedules compiled by Khan Academy, aimed at parents in the US (although it may have useful ideas for parents elsewhere) showing sample learning days.
  • This is marvellous – fitness influencer Joe Wicks is going to be hosting a workout at 9am (UK-time) every morning on his YouTube channel. A 30-minute livestream to get children (and parents!) bouncing about. It looks like the streams will be archived to watch later too, which is good news for parents in other timezones. Here’s today’s:
  • Audible is Amazon’s audiobook subscription service, but it’s collected together a bunch of audiobooks for children and made them available for free, in front of its paywall. Categories include Littlest Listeners, Elementary, Tween, Teen and Literary Classics, as well as categories for French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese children etc.
  • Here in the UK, the Scouts have created a new section on their website called The Great Indoors: a collection of 100 activities for children of different ages, from creating your own tornado to building ‘teeny tiny twig rafts’. They’ll also be doing Facebook livestreams with instructors showing how the activities work, so follow the Scouts page to be notified about those.
  • Finally today, Anorak Magazine has created some ‘Happy Downloads’ including a word-search puzzle and colouring pages, which can be downloaded and printed out.

Thursday 19 March 2020

  • Common Sense Media in the US, who know their onions when it comes to Good Stuff for children, have launched a Resources for Families During the Coronavirus Pandemic page. It links to articles on understanding and explaining the news; staying calm; learning at home and more. Brilliant.
  • Also brilliant: Emma Bearman here in the UK is setting up something called the YouTube Makers Club: “a safe space online where anybody anywhere can create up to three-minute videos of creative, sporting, interesting and shareable content, challenges, projects and quests. With recipes, links, guides to support others to go Make, Create and Do”. She’s also aiming to raise £6,000 to run it, including commissioning content.
  • This is an excellent recommendation from Peter, the culture and technology editor at Tortoise:
  • Outschool in the US is doing a bunch of free, live-video classes for children who are at home. They have loads of different topics — I love the idea of the class teaching children to paint Totoro from the (wonderful!) Studio Ghibli film My Neighbor Totoro for example – even though it’s not scheduled again at the time of writing. Anyway, lots to browse there if you’re in the US.
  • Finally for today, another excellent recommendation via Twitter, for children interested in all thing animally:

Wednesday 18 March 2020

  • Keza MacDonald is the Guardian’s games editor, and she also runs an excellent podcast for gamer parents called Spawnpoint. Today she’s published a big list of “kid-appropriate games to help out anyone who’s stuck at home in the next few months”. It’s really good!
  • The BBC here in the UK has announced its plan to “inform, educate and entertain during unprecedented times”, including some plans that will be really helpful for parents. That’ll include a daily educational programme for different school ages broadcast via the Beeb’s red button, and also streamable from its iPlayer; lots more content in its BBC Bitesize service which focuses on the school curriculum; putting lots more educational stuff on iPlayer; two new daily podcasts — one for primary-age kids and one for secondary-age kids; and a block of shows on BBC Four (and the red button) every night focusing on GCSE and A-Level curriculum.
  • Publisher No Starch Press has launched a ‘Humble Bundle’ of some of its popular books teaching children to code. The way Humble Bundles work is you pay what you like: in this case, if you pay at least £1 you’ll get six e-books to download, including four focused on the Scratch coding tool. Pay at least £6.50 and you’ll get five more, including several with a focus on electronics and robotics.
  • Chris O’Shea, the developer of some of my favourite children’s apps when I was writing about them regularly, has started a big Twitter thread of good learning apps, games and technology. You can click on it below to read the full thing, which he’ll be updating:
  • The Cincinatti Zoo and Botanical Gardens is going to be livestreaming some of its animals and exhibits, for children who can’t visit in person for the moment. It’ll be every weekday at 3PM EDT (that’s 7pm here in the UK, so good timing for a pre-bedtime chillout perhaps!)

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