With schools closed for in-person learning and many children being educated at home, parents are scrambling for quality alternatives that work in a home environment. One of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors has some ideas you may not have thought of:
How to Make Remote Learning Work For Your Children
Many parents are choosing to opt-out of traditional schooling, but the question of how to create a well-rounded curriculum or who to hire for this task is often the barrier that prevents at-home learning. In this article, we’ll help you make a decision by presenting popular remote learning options or childcare resources that can support homeschooling or non-traditional approaches.
Homeschooling is a progressive movement where parents educate their children instead of sending them to public or private schools. Families will choose this option for various reasons, including dissatisfaction with public education, constant relocation, or a bad social environment.
Some of the many positives of homeschooling your children include:
- Home-educated children score 15 to 30 percentile points higher than other students.
- Homeschooled children get accepted by colleges at a higher rate than other students.
- Homeschool helps children develop better social skills than their public school peers.
- Special needs children receive a significantly higher level of education on average.
- Adults who were homeschooled are more politically tolerant and happier on average.
Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but the legal requirements for this education option vary from place to place. If you’re in the process of pulling your children out of public education, you’ll need to write a letter of withdrawal to the school board that describes your intent to homeschool.
There are many curriculum options available for parents. As long as your curriculum of choice follows the requirements of your state, they can apply for college once they graduate. Parents don’t need a formal teaching degree to qualify as homeschool teachers. It may be beneficial for you to take an online course that goes over teaching fundamentals and how to run a classroom.
Teaching during the pandemic has turned the iconic job of education on its head. Should you teach at home or in school–or with a hybrid approach? How can you be effective with the new rules required to ensure safety while maximizing the students’ educational journey? Is it safe to enter the classroom? You’ve never taught remotely before–how do you do that and still meet your school’s education standards and curricula?
Many teachers are turning to homeschool co-ops or tutoring programs as reasonable approaches to pursuing a job they love in a way that allows students to succeed. If this is a choice you are making, here are suggestions from one of our Ask a Tech Teacher contributors for equipment you’ll need to succeed in this new approach:
8 Props and Pieces of Equipment for Tutoring Students Online
They can affect how engaging your lessons are, how much your students enjoy them, and even how professional you appear.
Choosing the right equipment and teaching tools is not just essential – your decisions can make or break your online teaching career.
Most online teaching platforms have basic requirements, like a high-quality headset, web tools, and a reliable internet connection, but there are other things you need to take into account before you start teaching online – things like good lighting and visual teaching aids can go a long way.
Here are eight things you’ll need to become a successful online teacher.
1. A Background
Most online teaching centers require their tutors to have some kind of professional backdrop behind them – this can be a blank wall that you’ve decorated with relevant classroom posters.
You can also set up a bulletin board behind you with your name and some interesting items that say something about your personality, like trinkets and souvenirs that relate to your hobbies. Setting up your virtual classroom can also be a great way to unleash your creativity!
You can also incorporate flags, ABCs, or a reward system into your bulletin board to keep your students more engaged.
Getting ready for extra time with kids? Here are five great ideas that are energizing and motivating:
5 Fun Science Experiments Kids Can Do at Home
Kids have a natural curiosity that is insatiable due to their innate ability to get to the bottom of anything they set their minds on. Be it blowing soap bubbles or building towers of spaghetti, they are second only to seasoned engineers and CEOs at getting results.
However, over the past few months, kids have largely been cooped up at home due to the impact of COVID-19; the lack of access to a tried-and-true schooling process and resources will result in young children missing out on foundational concepts in literature, math and science that prepare them for a lifetime of learning and working.
Virtual schooling is clearly not an effective solution, according to a study done by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS), which looked at schools specifically designed to teach coursework online with significant budgets invested in research and planning. “If they can’t make it work, it seems unlikely that parents and teachers Googling resources will do any better,” said Eric Hanushek, economist and education researcher at Stanford.
Well, don’t let that deter you. As a STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) learning advocate for kids, I can’t understate the importance of teaching simple scientific and number concepts at home, because science isn’t something you learn only in a classroom. Research shows that kids as young as pre-school or kindergarten age have divergent thinking capabilities. Trying out simple experiments with things found in and around the house can improve their critical reasoning as well as spatial skills, and promote a curiosity-mindset that they’ll carry well into adulthood.
So, here are some fun activities and easy DIY projects to get your kids excited about science. Before you let them dive right in, please make sure all experiments are done under adult supervision.
Let’s start with a simple one. Eggs are one of the favorite props in many kiddies’ experiments (and recipes).
What you’ll need:
- 2 eggs
- 2 glasses
How to do it:
- Fill one glass – a little more than half – with vinegar and the other with water.
- Dip one egg in each until the eggs are completely submerged.
- Let them soak for 24 hours and remove them the next day.
As time passes, you’ll see bubbles form on the surface of the vinegar egg. At the end of 24 hours, you’ll find that the egg that was in the vinegar completely loses its shell and becomes “naked.” It’ll also be significantly larger in size than the one you kept in water.
The science behind it:
This demonstrates a principle called “osmosis.” The vinegar is made up of two parts: acetic acid and water. The acetic acid reacted with the eggshell and dissolved it. The water traveled through the egg’s membrane in such a way that the concentration of water on both sides of the membrane becomes equal. This “flow” is called osmosis.
2 Diet Coke Eruption
Warning: This might make your clothes and/or your kitchen messy. So try this outdoors.
What you’ll need:
- A packet of Mentos
- A large bottle of Diet Coke (Soda or any carbonated drink will do as a substitute)
- A test tube or paper roll to hold the Mentos loosely
- A small paper card
How to do it:
- Go out on the yard or the garden and select a place where there isn’t much of anything around for 6 to 8 feet. Place the Diet Coke on a table or on the ground.
- Stack 7 Mentos just like they are in the packing, but in a way they can fall out easily. Use a paper roll or test tube.
- Open the Diet Coke slowly so that it doesn’t fizz out.
- Cover the test tube with a little paper card and invert it over the mouth of the bottle.
- Pull out the paper card, letting the Mentos fall into the bottle quickly.
- Move back quickly from the bottle without turning your back to it (or else you’ll miss the sight).
The Diet Coke blasts up in a sky high – okay, not-so-high – explosion. But it’s a veritable fountain of the sticky stuff.
The science behind it:
The carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soda is what makes it bubbly. It’s mixed into the fizzy drink when they make it at the factory. Diet Coke rises higher probably because of some of its ingredients, and it is less sticky because of whatever sugar substitute it uses.
Now, the CO2 isn’t released from the drink until you pour it, or shake the bottle, or let it lie for a lot of days. It’s just waiting – raring, rather – to escape in the form of bubbles. Shaking the bottle or dropping something into it breaks the surface tension of the liquid and allows bubbles to form on the surface. Mentos have very tiny pits on them like a golf ball, which means the surface area increases dramatically, making space for a real lot of bubbles to form.
Experiments have proved that 7 to 8 pieces of Mentos are good enough. The world record height of the blast is about 29 feet.
Magic happens when you combine science and art. The super-creative overlap between STEM and the arts is known as STEAM. Here’s an experiment that falls into this category.
What you’ll need:
- A couple of flowers (preferably white) with a clean and thin but sturdy stem.
- Food coloring
- 2 glasses or vases
- A knife
How to do it:
- Get a couple of flowers. White flowers such as carnations work best because the color change happens quickly, but you can get daisies, roses or any moderately big flower you can find.
- Fill the glasses with clean water. Add different food coloring to each. Make the colors strong. We use food coloring instead of paint so that the plants get non-toxic water.
- Grown-up help alert! Slit the stem vertically from the bottom in two equal parts the roughly length of the glasses.
- Part the stem carefully and place one half each into the two glasses.
- Place the split flower and glasses in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
You will start to see the flower change color in a few hours. It might take anywhere from a day to three for a significant difference in color, depending on the flower you choose, the weather, and the place where you keep it.
The science behind it:
The stem of a plant has tube-like transport tissues called xylem. The water is sucked up the stem and moves to the leaves and flowers, from where it evaporates via little openings called stomata. The evaporation creates pressure for more water to be sucked up through the stem, pretty much like drinking water with a straw. The whole process is called transpiration. The speed of transpiration depends on the temperature, wind, light and humidity.
There are loads of things we take for granted in everyday life. The most unassuming of objects can prove otherwise.
What you’ll need:
- 2 dozen paper cups
- 2 sheets of strong cardboard
How to do it:
- Place 2 cups inverted on the floor side by side. Stand with one leg on each and see them get crushed. Just for the fun of it.
- Arrange 12 cups inverted and evenly spaced out in a grid of 4 x 3 on the floor.
- Place a cardboard sheet on top of the grid.
- Kids only please! Gingerly stand on top of the cardboard sheet.
- If it doesn’t break, place another layer of cups and the second cardboard sheet over this layer. Step up on top!
The paper cup structure holds up. Likely, the structure with two floors holds up just as well.
When you place many cups side by side, your weight is distributed across all of them by the cardboard sheet. Each cup has to bear just a fraction of your weight. The minimum number of cups needed to support your weight depends on the size and quality of the cups and, well, your weight.
What state is toothpaste or jelly – solid or liquid? Turns out, they’re colloids. Oobleck is
What you’ll need:
- 2 cups corn starch
- 1 cup water
- Food coloring
How to do it:
- Take water in a bowl.
- Add the food color.
- Add 1.5 cups corn starch to it. Mix with a spoon at first.
- Slowly add the rest of the corn starch. As the consistency of the mixture strengthens, knead with your hands.
You get a gooey, slimy mixture that was termed “Oobleck” in the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. When you knead the mixture or tap its surface, it feels hard. But when you dip your hand inside slowly, your fingers slide through it as if it’s water. This is exactly how quicksand works.
The science behind it:
Oobleck is a “non-Newtonian” fluid – it acts like a liquid when it’s being poured (this property is called viscosity) and like a solid when a force (in this case, pressure) is acting on it. Some of its properties:
- When you roll Oobleck into a ball, it solidifies. But when you stop moving it, it melts back in your hand.
- It is messy but can be washed away completely with soap and hot water.
- When left in the open for too long, it hardens and turns back into cornstarch.
- It isn’t poisonous, but tastes awful.
- Make enough Oobleck in a large tub or bin and you can walk on it.
Over to You
What do you think of these experiments? Which ones are you going to try right away?
While parents certainly can’t match the school’s resources and expertise in imparting science and technology education to eager little minds, there’s quite a bit we can do to grow the next Einstein (or Musk) at home. If you have a bit of extra space and a stuff lying around, why not try and build a science lab at home for the budding genius?
Shreiya Aggarwal-Gupta is the owner of the early education startup Kidpillar, which aims to provide developmental opportunities and resources for young children in the field of STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) via kid-friendly journals, practical DIY-kits, and simple project-based learnings and workshops. Shreiya is also a passionate blogger, computer science engineer, finance whiz, and “perfect mommy” to her son.
Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.
A few months ago, Jane Sandwood sent me a nice note. She’s a a freelance writer, editor and former tutor, homeschooler, and mother of two teenage daughters. She’d read my articles about preparing for SAT/ACTs and had a story of her own detailing how she helped her children prepare for their ACT. I think you’ll enjoy her experiences!
As spring approaches, my eldest daughter Katherine, now in her junior year, is bracing herself for the upcoming ACT exams, while my youngest, Elizabeth, a sophomore, is getting ready for next year. I am a former tutor and for almost 10 years, I helped students prepare for both SATs and ACTs, relying heavily on tech tools and games to keep them motivated. Somehow, even students who needed the most help weren’t quite as challenging as my own daughters, and the lines between tutor and mom were often blurred, as is to be expected.
Different Learning Styles
Katherine and Elizabeth are just about as different as two people can be when it comes to their attitudes about school and their interests. Katherine, who wishes to be an actor, always took to her studies almost instinctively, since she was a child. She took great pride in handing in her homework neatly, took great pains to finish all her tasks, and was more of a rote learner than Elizabeth, who is more into writing, and who always took a more critical, analytical approach to her studies.
Elizabeth is naturally bright and quick, and has an enviable memory. She has always loved reading and has amassed quite a collection on her Kindle, yet is reticent to complete homework and has always had a strong aversion to maths. Because things tend to come easier to her, she is easily bored and far less disciplined than Kathy when it comes to homework and creating a study strategy. She also struggles with time management, often getting lost in a book or musical album and arriving to school without having completed home tasks.
Now, Zapzapmath has made the experience even better with a long list of enhancements, in-game improvements, and an even greater variety of features. These are designed for all types of players from those who play at school to students who log on at a homeschool or through a family account. This is perfect for the many different ways students learn math, the wide variety of digital devices being used, and gives a nod toward the lifelong learner who is as likely to play math games because they love learning as that it’s part of teacher-directed activities.
There seems to be a limitless supply of online education content. In fact, my email box and social media explodes with them. But often, these offerings are too basic, a lite version of a paid program that isn’t terribly robust, confusing, or created by people who don’t really understand how to blend technology and education. As a busy teacher, I want resources that are clear, easy-to-use, accessible by all types of students, scalable, and fun.
I found that.
Understand, finding a reliable source is a big deal to me. I give potential new sites the seven-second test: If I’m not engaged and excited in seven seconds, I move on. If I have to work too hard to figure out how to use it, I move on. If it requires more than three clicks to access content, I move on.
WittyWe had none of these problems.
WittyWe is a K-9 learning environment that inspires students to become passionate about meaningful learning through engaging video content. Using techniques such as storytelling, resolving real-life cases, learning through play, and self-teaching, WittyWe covers academic topics such as science, social studies, law, economics, entrepreneurship, and engineering as well as life skills like time management, learning, money management, social awareness, healthy living, goal-setting, and leadership. The videos are arranged as themes, online courses, and/or guided suggestions through Ask the Professor. In this last option, students tell the Professor what they’re interested in by theme, grade, and difficulty level, and he suggests appropriate videos.
One of the wonderful Ask a Tech Teacher contributers, Jenny Wise, is a busy homeschooler who suggested I publish an article about the benefits of technology for the homeschooler. I asked Jenny if she would share how she came to homeschool her children, how technology contributes to her success, and then share resources. Here are her thoughts:
At one time, homeschooling was a religious or moral choice made by families that wanted to guide the education of their children more carefully than a public school system would. Today, millions of families choose to homeschool for a variety of reasons, ranging from protecting their children from bullying and violence to avoiding the standardized testing that permeates public schools. Homeschool curricula have greatly improved over the past few years, and new technologies are making it easier for families that homeschool their children but don’t have education degrees themselves. These technologies are helping students achieve academic and social success while meeting the needs of various learning styles.
- Experiencing Proven Curricula and Support
Some parents would love to homeschool their children but just don’t feel confident in their ability to deliver a sound education that will help their children develop the skills and knowledge they need to attend college and become successful adults. Thanks to online homeschooling programs and accredited curricula like the one offered by Calvert, parents can access the tools and support they need to deliver top-notch education to their children at home.
Playful Learning (Parents’ Choice Gold Medal website) is a well-done, professional-looking website that offers advice, projects, and visual images touting the benefits of education through play. The reader is drawn into the child-centered imagery and strong basic colors, wanting everything on offer so their child’s play areas can look and work as described.
Let’s back up a moment. Play as the vehicle of education is not a revolutionary idea. Pedagogy has long recommended ‘play’ as a superior teacher for youngers–
Play is the great synthesizing, integrating, and developing force in childhood and adolescence. –PsycINFO Database Record 2012 APA,
The play of children is not recreation; it means earnest work. Play is the purest intellectual production of the human being, in this stage … for the whole man is visible in them, in his finest capacities, in his innermost being.~ Friedrich Froebel
In general, research shows strong links between creative play and language, physical, cognitive, and social development. Play is a healthy, essential part of childhood. —Department of Education, Newfoundland LabradorYoung children learn the most important things not by being told but by constructing knowledge for themselves in interaction with the physical world and with other children – and the way they do this is by playing.” –Jones, E., & Reynolds, G. “The play’s the thing: Teachers’ roles in children’s play”
Here’s another great article from Catherine Ross on homeschooling and keyboard skills. Catherine Ross is a full-time stay-at-home-mum who believes learning should be enjoyable for young minds. An erstwhile elementary school teacher, Catherine loves coming up with creative ways through which kids can grasp the seemingly difficult concepts of learning easily. She believes that a ‘fun factor’ can go a long way in enhancing kids’ understanding and blogs at http://kidslearninggames.weebly.com/
It is nothing short of a struggle to make my 8-year-old daughter sit down at her desk and write a couple of lines at a stretch, without getting up a dozen times in between.But ask her to type out the lines on the computer and she’s happily done with it in less than half the time!
There’s something about ‘working’ on a computer which appeals to all kids; they just don’t seem to comprehend the fact that studies can be related to a computer as well. And this is something I realized early on when I took up homeschooling full-time. If I could use this to my advantage and incorporate some constructive online ‘computer-time’ into my kids’ curriculum, it would probably do them good in the long run and they would enjoy it too.
As a homeschool mom, today’s guest, Catherine Ross, has to juggle lots of activities–and do it by herself. I’m always in awe of those parents who choose this route. In the fullness of time, they are modeling the best traits that education can teach–problem-solving, critical-thinking, and tenacity, and perspective-taking.
Here are Catherine’s ideas on squeezing the most out of every activity her children participate it:
As moms of very young kids, we certainly appreciate the luxury of being able to make a phone call or read a book without a dozen interruptions every other minute. I homeschool my little ones, and I have come to realize that my kids’ online time can actually be productive. Here are five handy distractions – a.k.a. online activities – to keep your kids busy and constructively engaged.