Most of us are juggling a little more than usual these days, just to weather the current storm. But especially now that school and work have formed a necessary fusion at home, let’s face it – not everyone is cut out to pick up the course curriculum and homeschool their kids. I have high respect for the teaching profession, and if you’ve been trying to teach school at home to your own kids, you probably think teachers deserve a raise too. It’s a tough job already, but it’s even tougher to do your regular job plus effectively teach.
But let’s think about this challenge from your kid’s perspective as well. I grew up hearing how capable but inattentive I was in school, so I understand how difficult it can be to stay focused on school topics. Today must be way more difficult, and not just because kids are at home – it’s because they’ve got access to humanity’s wealth of information right in their pockets!
The internet is a modern-day super-charged Alexandria library. All due respect to Dewey and his decimal system, but the internet is so beautifully indexed. Finding anything is a breeze. Kids can get the answer to anything in seconds. They can stay connected not only to their peers via social media, but also to all the music, movies, art and game media they can process. Everything is already in full color and high definition, but if they’re still not immersed enough, they can always get google cardboard cheap, or even make it themselves – and turn most phones into a makeshift VR (that means virtual reality, Mom and Dad) headset with ease. You talk about immersive, well… these are deep waters indeed.
Schools ask kids to put away these devices, then pledge their attention to an adult droning over the same topic they’ve been talking about for 15 years. It’s not fair to the teachers, really. They’re often still working with 2 colors – white chalk and a green board – a ‘technology’ great-great-grandfathered in from the days of the old west.
Fun fact: The use of chalk on a blackboard in the United States dates to September 21, 1801, during a math lecture at the US Military Academy. Manufacture of slate blackboards began in the 1840s.
See? We’re learning already!
But even for great teachers, at well-funded schools with digital classrooms, the course curriculums can be quite rigid. Year over year? Quite boring compared to all the fun packed into that smart phone. The way I see it, there is a sweet spot: You want your kids entertained, which keeps the mind occupied, but you also want them educated. Long gone is the word edutainment but the concept of being entertained while learning remains ideal, especially when you’re 10 years old. So why not take this opportunity to spice things up, and educate your kids outside of the curriculum?
Luckily, we live in a time where virtual visits to extreme environments and cultural gems are not an outlandish request. Build on the things they take interest in with digital tools they prefer and engaging environments they’re comfortable in. The following is hardly an exhaustive list, but we’ve compiled a short list of highlights from the CureDuchenne Health Update Guide for you to test the waters. Match their interests with technology, and you might be surprised at what enthusiastic learners they’ll become! Your kids are likely quite savvy when it comes to navigating the internet and can go at their own pace.
With an interest in animals or nature, they can tour world famous zoos, immerse themselves in natural habitats and visit natural wonders.
- The San Diego Zoo has a website just for kids with amazing videos, activities, and games
- This Canadian site FarmFood 360 offers 11 Virtual Tours of farms from minks, pigs, and cows, to apples and eggs
- Alaskan Wildlife cams
- Tour Yellowstone National Park
- This educational website hosted by the Smithsonian Museum takes a deep dive into ocean life
Into science? How about a trip to Mars, or some fun experiments they can do at home?
- Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover
- Space science for kiddos
- Tons of science experiments that you can do at home
- Engineering challenges with things you have at home
- Just explore, have fun, and learn some science along the way
Anyone with an interest in art, cultural treasures and museums can visit them virtually across the planet.
- A wonderful, endlessly detailed way to get kids engaged in the world of art
- Travel to Paris, France to see amazing works of art at The Louvre with this virtual field trip
- This Virtual Tour of the Great Wall of China is beautiful and makes history come to life
- This iconic museum located in the heart of London allows virtual visitors to tour the Great Court and discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies
- No need to travel to one of the Smithsonian’s zoos or museums — this website brings your child everything from live video of the National Zoo to the Smithsonian Learning Lab right to their screen
There is no need to remind us all how valuable life skills are, and this covers kids of all ages.
- Life skills curriculum for students in grades K-12, with resources and strategies for teaching social and emotional skills
Other Virtual Exploration & Educational Resources and activities to do with your family:
- A human visualization platform that allows students to explore the human body in really cool ways.
- Science projects that can be completed with or without Internet access
- Online digital coloring pages
- An interactive way to learn history
- Allows students to type in any city, state, or country to view an archive of historical photographs and other documents. It’s a unique way to help them learn about history.
- Cool Kid Facts gives your child access to educational videos, pictures, quizzes, downloadable worksheets, and infographics. They can use these to learn about geography, history, science, animals, and even the human body.
- This NASA initiative covers a wide range of topics including weather, climate, atmosphere, water, energy, plants, and animals.
- Innerbody explores the 11 bodily systems in depth. With interactive models and detailed explanations, this website will help them learn more about the internal mechanics of the amazing human body.