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As the UK faces several more weeks of lockdown, we’re seeing similarities to how our lives changed in 2020. For the majority of parents with children over four, that means a return to homeschooling. And another bout of groundhog day.
It’s been a huge adjustment for parents - juggling homeschooling with their own careers, all in the middle of the pandemic reaching new levels of severity. But out of the crisis has come help - with brands, celebrities, and platforms creating content and resources to support. We’ve seen Joe Wicks pick up the PE teacher baton once again to entertain our children and provide us with exercise inspiration, and Zoom has been invaluable in helping us all stay connected.
So, we thought it was important to weigh in and provide our favourite apps and hacks for learning plus some pearls of wisdom from a few Somo parents. We’ve included some platforms that you may not know about, tips for all school ages, and things to help you work from home.
Oxford University Press are providing tablet friendly ebooks on their Oxford Owl platform. There’s a library of resources for all ages, but we loved the options for early years learning and fun activity options.
A different option for younger children that doesn’t involve screen time is Yoto Play, the connected audio device. Aimed at ages 3+, this speaker uses cards to play stories, music and activities and can be managed by parents via the app. This one was a favourite amongst the parents of Somo!
The RSPCA have created a library of downloads and resources for your little ones to learn about animals and their conservation. There’s also a great section of fun activities for pet owners.
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Lockdown isn’t fun, and even us adults are starting to hate the word. So why not change the meaning for children? Try framing the time spent inside and being away from others as ‘hibernation’ instead so it seems more fun and adventurous.
- Chris George, SVP Product, Somo
Nature programmes are both entertaining and educational - thankfully the BBC is a rich source of animal content that caters to all tastes. iPlayer Kids Awesome Animals is perfect for the younger end of the age group. If your kids show more of an appetite for predators, the perennial favourites of Deadly 60 and Walking with Dinosaurs are still available on BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
Need a break from screen time? Check out these great craft at home ideas from the NSPCC which are great value. And Dobble is an addictive board game (yep they still exist), for the whole family or younger siblings to play on their own. Just be prepared to see a few tears shed from whoever loses…
For those with an interest in computer science, it’s worth looking at sites that bring to life the concept of coding in a fun, infant-friendly way. Like the coding academy from codeSpark which is aimed at 5-9 year-olds (but preschoolers can have a go with a little adult assistance). The videos are visual so it’s easy for them to understand and there’s a seven day free trial available.
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Facebook Messenger Rooms is a great tool for virtual playdates without parents having to supervise. More interactive than Zoom and user friendly than House Party, it comes with cool AR effects and 360 degree backgrounds which makes it ideal for kids to chew the fat with their mates.
- Mitul Chauhan, copywriter, Somo
You may think Audible is a platform for adults to listen to autobiographies, and the Harry Potter series - but you’d be wrong! They’re now giving out free books for homeschooling and have said ‘as long as schools are closed, we’ll be open’. They have stacks to listen to and are a great, screen-free option for learning and entertaining.
If your children learn better by watching, CBBC is providing live, real-time educational alternatives. For three hours every day they'll be showing curriculum-based programmes for primary school learning.
We love coding obvs, so here’s another platform that’s geared towards older kids. Codakid has 58 computer coding courses that cover all aspects of coding – it even has courses for building Minecraft and Roblox games! Designed for ages 8+, it’s a subscription based site, they’re also offering a free trial, this one for 14 days.
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Give each child and your partner a walkie talkie, so that when you're all working in different rooms they can ask questions and chat through them remotely - which means less disturbance for you and more independence building for them.
- Carl Uminski, COO, Somo
Quizlet provides access to thousands of ready-made study sets covering 24 GCSE subjects, aligned to exam board specifications and created by Verified Educators and partners. However, that’s not all! Quizlet also gives the student the opportunity to create their own study materials, which they can then share with their classmates - enabling them to mimic group work from home.
Seneca has formulated a smart learning algorithm to help students retain topics better. Any incorrect answers to quiz questions will be logged and the content will be shown again but in a different format. This will even be done at a time when it’s optimal for students to learn it. Seneca also aims to tailor their content specifically to teens with hand-selected GIFs and memes on the internet, to make revising more light-hearted than stressful!
In need of something a little more visual than your standard textbooks? Labxchange allows your children accessible, innovative video learning materials collated from a host of top academic institutions. Covering all traditional school subjects, it provides a welcome break from KS3 and GCSE textbooks.
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My kids say the key for them is planning. The structure of a school day may not be the same as home schooling, so more emphasis is needed to plan out your days and weeks as to what you do when, especially if you have group or collaboration work with classmates. Planning tools like Notion are great for this. On top of that, removing all your distractions from the workspace (phones, social media etc) is crucial to ensure focus.
- Ross Sleight, CSO, Somo
If Joe Wicks’s 30-minute workouts sound too stressful and eats into what little ‘work’ time you have, try his 8-minute versions instead. What’s more, if you do them, your brood might be more inclined to join in too. Which could be a blessing or a curse...
If you can, rotate homeschooling shifts with your partner so you both get uninterrupted work time while the other is ‘on duty’. If you don’t have that luxury, ask for help from friends or family. Grandma may be unable to see her grandkids in the flesh but she might be up for running a few facetime lessons to help break the cycle of resistance!
Older siblings in the house? Get them involved in schooling the younger ones. And if you’re worried they’re more likely to fight than help each other, give them both a reward or incentive to play nicely. While they’re preoccupied, you might just get away with more than five minutes of peace.