With your children set to start online classrooms before phasing in days at school, we hope these free resources complement classes and are useful for your family even after restrictions are lifted.
- ? A summary of NSW’s return to school plan
- ? Scholastic Learn at Home projects
- ? MAPPEN lesson plans for Years 3–6
- ? Wild Life Sydney Virtual Zoo
- ? Sea Life Sydney Virtual Aquarium
- ? Creative learning and project ideas from around the web and socials
Scholastic Learn at Home
“Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking and growing”
The Editors of Scholastic Classroom Magazine have a great website to guide you with home schooling lessons for:
- PreK and Kindergarten
- Grades 1 and 2
- Grades 3-5
- Grades 6+
MAPPEN Home Learning
MAPPEN, an online curriculum solution with lesson plans from prep to grade 6, will be offering adapted lessons for free to all primary schools and their students across Australia to support continued learning in the home.
“As a response to the increasing likelihood of widespread school closures, we are in the process of modifying our learning sequences to be used as home learning for students in Years 3 to 6.”
Wild Life Sydney Virtual Zoo
“Bringing Wild Life Sydney Zoo to your home”
Follow their live streams with colouring in pages and activity sheets.
Sea Life Sydney Virtual Aquarium
“Bringing SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium to you with 24/7 live streams of our most beautiful sea creatures.” Check out SEA LIFE’s YouTube Channel for their library of past live streams.
By @msrachelyoung on Twitter
As discussed on Breakfast with Sam & Duncan
We’re gearing up keep our kids (ages 2 and 5) at home when the schools close. We work full time and honestly don’t know what’s next. I put together a list of projects that don’t rely on screens for learning. In no particular order.?
— Rachel Young (@msrachelyoung) March 13, 2020
- DISCLAIMER My partner and I have spent our careers in education. I got advice from colleagues in Shanghai. Even with all this background, I’m panicked. This list is aspirational, meant for us to turn to when we’ve lost our bearings. I hope it’s helpful!
- LIFE SKILLS Teach hard skills you know and love. Paint with watercolors, operate a power drill, bake bread, change a tire, dance, throw a football. Personal lessons are more memorable than worksheets.
- PERSONAL HISTORY Make a family tree, self-portrait, or short memoir. Have kids interview older relatives over the phone. Go through old photo albums and tell stories. Share food, songs, and stories from your culture.
- MATH Double recipes, divide objects into groups, determine the square footage of a room, set up a pretend store and give kids pretend money to spend. Prompt them to guess the mass of objects and then weigh them, or how many gallons the tub holds.
- EARTH SCIENCE Plant a garden. Hunt for bugs to observe. Go on a local hike and take photos of plants to identify later. Read a book about the environment, like The Lorax. Make a family plan to reduce your carbon footprint. Breathe fresh air.
- GEOGRAPHY Read a map of your neighborhood together. (Remember those paper fold outs we used to use to get around?) Design your dream neighborhood.
- READING Read poetry together. Work your way through ambitious chapter books or a series, and then watch the movies that were made from them. Make up new endings to short stories. Draw, write, or act them out.
- WRITING Fold some paper down the middle and staple it together. Now you have a blank book you can write together. Craft stories, haikus, or limericks. Practice cursive. Keep a daily journal together. Write letters to family and send them by mail.
- VISUAL ART Make claymation videos with Play Doh and your smartphone. Make papier mâché animals. Study an artist’s style and try to imitate it. Keep a daily art journal for kids to illustrate their feelings. Collage from old magazines.
- PERFORMING ART Learn a new dance or song on YouTube together and have a family performance. Make puppet shows. Make your own instruments out of household objects. Memorize poems to perform.
- HISTORY Study the indigenous people of your region. Read the NYT’s “Overlooked” series. Read about a culture, set of people, or religion that you’d like to learn about, too. If you never have, answer the questions your kids have about race.
- PE Exercise together. Run or jog. Do jumping jacks. Try that seven minute workout we’ve all heard about but never tried. Set up obstacle courses for one another. Do yoga and meditation together. Take stretch breaks.
- MAKING Make scale models of furniture from cardboard and paper. Teach your kids to sew. Make towers from marshmallows and toothpicks. Paint macaroni and then arrange it on paper to make patterns. Build with sticks, mud, and rocks outside.
- LISTENING Listen to audio short stories or podcast episodes and discuss as a family. Listen to famous music and analyze it. Listen to an entire soundtrack and guess what happens in the movie. Interview one another and record it.
- FREE TIME Set aside 20 minutes each day to follow the rules of play that your kids set up for you. This might mean playing pretend, reading a book you hate, or doing an activity that’s not your favorite. Give them a time slot to be in charge and play along accordingly.
- PERSONAL GROWTH Close each day with what you’re grateful for. Give one another positive and constructive feedback. Ask your kids to give you a score of 1-5 each day. Make goals about getting better for the next day.
- A few more notes if you’re new to this teacher thing…
ROUTINE: Kids need routine and predictability. Publish and share a plan for your days to communicate when it is time for school, work, play, exercise, meals, and family. Don’t be too ambitious.
- SURPRISE: Break from routine to bring purposeful surprises. Maybe the science lesson is actually watching the sunrise or a sunset hike with flashlights. Or the history lesson is — surprise! A movie, because the parents need a break.
- COMMUNITY: Create a shared virtual learning community. Make standing video call dates with similarly aged friends or family members to discuss events of the day, read books aloud, or share progress on individual projects. Ask friends with interesting jobs to host AMAs.
- Post photos of learning projects each day to a closed messaging or Whatsapp group to learn from others and maintain accountability. My colleagues in Shanghai have been doing this in a WeChat group with their kid’s classmates and teachers.
- MORNING ROUTINE: Make a “morning basket” with an activity that your kids can do alone (a coloring sheet, a reading passage, a journal prompt) and refresh it each night. It will buy you time in the morning to get things arranged.
- SCAFFOLD: If you’re teaching something totally new, follow an “I do, we do, you do” rhythm. Demonstrate and model something new, then do it together, then prompt them to do it on their own.
- STAY COOL: @PayalKohliMD said this week, “Our emotions are contagious. … Positive emotional contagion is also contagious, so if we start to spread empowerment through knowing information, that’s just as contagious as spreading panic and fear.” So, keep your head up.
- Let’s check our privilege here. Staying home with our kids is something we can be grateful for; most people don’t have the means. If you have a neighbor/friend who works during the day and needs help, consider inviting their kid to join your family learning sessions.
- I need more ideas! You probably do too. In this moment of social distancing and isolation, let’s actually get closer to our kids. Share your ideas…
By @LovingEarthParenting on Facebook
Here are some sanity-saving tips and some connection- and joy-building tricks to give your ‘lock-in’ a chance of being a fun-in:
- Fill-my-bucket list: get together with your kids and draw up a (fill my) ‘bucket list’ of things they want to do during quarantine. You can just write it as a long list that you tick off, or you can chart it in other creative ways, including different points allocated for different activities and trying, for example, to reach 100 Happy Points, over your time together. The key here is that you are engaging with them and getting not just their buy-in but really taking into account their feelings, their needs and their wishes.
- Rhythm: consciously create a rhythm to your days. Schools do this (Steiner schools are, famously, built around this, for example… but all schools rely on predictability, like this). For us – in our homeschooling – we build in little touchstone moments, segments the kids love, come to expect and look forward to, sprinkled through the day. We are not super rigid with it, we are flexible and bend. But we have favourite rituals and activities we come back to most days (at *roughly* the same time). Examples for us include: a family board game in the morning (seriously, my youngest will literally bring a game to me while I am still in bed sometimes. Win-win. He gets connection. I get a lie-in. Home educating has its perks); ‘magical reading hour’ (more about that, in a moment) – which we literally ring in with a bell, each time; daily green smoothie; piano practice and Special Time (again, more about that in a mo). All of these segments come at an expected point in our routine. There is a flow to our days and that makes everything easier, IME.
- Read aloud: we do ‘magical reading hour’, as we say. Reading aloud to/with your kids has so many benefits from building their attention span and vocabs to nurturing empathy, creativity and imagination as well as providing a launch pad for myriad deep, juicy discussions about history, politics, music, social context, etc… not to mention literary analysis, of course!
- Special Time: this is the awesome sauce that relieves behavioural issues and sibling rivalry. It’s quite simple but incredibly powerful. Set a timer and spend a short amount of time (usually between 10 and 20 minutes – certainly not more than 30) giving your COMPLETE attention to ONE child. That is key. It is one-to-one with a guarantee of no interruptions (especially by the other sibling/s). AND the kid gets to lead 100%. It is their time, their choice. They get to chose what to play or not play. You can have some safety limits but that really should be it. ? This is about them. They lead. You follow. Your main job is to pour your DELIGHT into your child. Focus on what THEY are interested in, for those 10-20minutes. Be positive and supportive. Do not fix, rescue or ‘adjust’ their ideas, plans and creations. Your warm attention and joyful connection is like balm for their soul. And as you ‘fill their happiness bucket’ in this way, you really re-set them emotionally and have a way bigger chance of seeing the best of them in the hours to come. A connected child is a contended and cooperative child. ?❤️? Now… sometimes Special Time creates so much safety that it actually allows kids to show us MORE of their pent-up emotions/tears/tantrums. That’s another story. That’s them being smart and using your attention to offload those feelings… we can talk about that another time. But for now, know that Special Time is a real go-to for maintaining a connected family.
- Bake and cook together. ‘Cos it’s fun… and then you can eat it. ?
- Time in nature: you have to be apart from other people… that does not mean you cannot be apart in a forest or field or beach. As long as you are somewhere on your own with your kids, it counts. And nature is just the best way to re-set, re-energise and spend HOURS playing without even remembering or thinking about screens. In fact, if the kids are squabbling and you add space, that is often enough to completely change the mood, giving them a new focus as naturally they take to climbing, racing and imaginative play in the woods (for example).
- Skype playdates with family and friends – anything to give the kids (and you) some extra connection and FaceTime with people they love and who love them AND to give you 15mins off to think or, you know, go to the toilet. ?
- Music: music is healing and uplifting. Play music, sing, dance. Explore music linked to books you are reading together. Have a dance party in the kitchen. Make up songs. Pick up some instruments and have an impromptu jam session.
- Milk the resources: educational apps, books on tape, documentaries, board games, online soduko, logical problems, activity books, etc…
- Play. Play. Play. Do as much full-body roughhousing style play as you can pull off. Play tag, hide-and-seek, wrestle, have pillow fights, sock fights, balloon pong, bucking bronco, airplanes, wacky races. Even if you just do 5mins a day but do it with your full heart your kids will thank you. The more you all giggle together, the happier your time together will be – not just in those moments, but after, too, as laugher is really one of the best ways to relieve stress. ❤
- Follow some YouTube tutorials: they can guide you step-by-step in art, crafts or science projects, even if you don’t have the foggiest where to begin with these. This can provide a whole focus for a day or week’s worth of self-paced projects. Let them choose so you are sure it is something THEY want to do. Do it with them (for more connection) or let it be one thing they do on their own, while you use the time to catch up on chores or your own work or what have you.
- Daily challenges: if you are trying to get some education in – which they might resist if they’re used to associating school with (enforced) learning and you with time off, of course – one way that some kids find fun is to have a daily challenge up on a board. My kids love this… not least because it is always optional. They get to do it if and when it feels fun to engage with. Freedom to come at it when they want to is a huge part of why they love it, though, for sure.
- Listening Partnerships, Support and Connection for you! You won’t be able to take good care of the kids and create ‘wonder & joy’ at home, if you are overwhelmed, underwater emotionally or just struggling. Do whatever you can to top up YOUR cup. Listening Partnerships (or LPs) are free, can be done online and are such a great way to offload tension and re-find your own centre.
- Self-care: meditate, do some yoga, chant, sing and dance for you… on your own or WITH the kids. ? Again – as with LPs – it’s about keeping yourself as grounded and uplifted as you can. The more resourced you are, the better you’ll be able to respond to your kids AND be creative about making this a positive time they remember, growing up, as having been if not ‘super fun’ at least strewn with magical moments!!
- Surprises – Rhythm is important. So is being crazy, spontaneous and surprising your kids. ? Mix it up. Randomly do one dinner by candlelight; or do a movie-night with popcorn and them camp out in the living room overnight; have an impromptu game of charades; or let them wake up to a to a string of clues or a treasure map to find their breakfast stuffs. Have fun with it.
What ideas would you add? What are your go-to fun family games, activities or ways to keep the kids and the whole family happy for long stretches at home?
Disclaimer: it won’t always be easy with rainbows and unicorns. Be kind and forgiving of yourself along the way…!
By Little Bins for Little Hands
For other science and slime ideas, visit littlebinsforlittlehands.com