Learning online – making the most of the internet.

After more years in the wilderness than was frankly bearable – with the added cruelty of being sandwiched between streets where the future had already landed, superfast broadband finally made it to our home this winter. While the reality of the house being filled with teenagers these days meant that top of their list was to start mainlining streamed Glee episodes, there have been some other major benefits to no longer having to take it in turns to watch or play something online. The two home educated children  may be regretting my newly rekindled enthusiasm for interactive learning but I’m thoroughly enjoying being able to access the content that the new decade has made available – it’s so very different to the early days of home educating when everything was on CD-roms!

I’ve teamed up with Broadband Choices to bring you some tips.

Getting the Basics Covered.

Top of the list has certainly been finding a way to access maths support easily; since Josie left school she has needed a way of working independently at this subject She’s been working her way through some of the websites on our maths resources page and has settled on IXL as the best one for her. Fast broadband means she can do timed tests, look up help topics quickly and not layer the frustration of a slow loading page on top of the horror of equations!

For reading and English practice we’ve long been a fan of Reading Eggs and Education City which combine reward systems and an interactive environment with silly games and fun animations, keeping the attention of languid learners and with the added bonus that both are used in schools and so a child can also use them for homework or find something familiar if the join school after being home educated.


Finding Out Stuff.

Our home educating style has always been to do projects, immersing ourselves in topics and finding out everything we can about them. These days websites have taken the place of books here in many respects but the great bonus for us is being able to load a page of images quickly, download favourites and print them out for scrap-booking. As sites get better and more and more paper media  moves online, sites which artfully pull together content, link to YouTube channels and provide quizzes and resources make educating using the internet even easier.

Watch it.

Which leads me on to streaming, the absolute pinnacle of perfection when it comes to fast internet connections. While I moan about the brain drain of boxed set watching that I occasionally have to stamp my feet about – and as an aside did you know it is REALLY easy to limit the connection on a device and even something like Apple TV so they can’t do too much of that? – there are plenty of benefits too. Our Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts get plenty of watching for wildlife documentaries, science shows and, in the case of the small boy, binge watching of whatever his favourite TV show is while I try to fit in a bit extra educating of his sister! iPlayer is great for catching up on programmes you only heard about after the event, or watching a full series on a topic that has become fascinating. While I rant about them at times, I’ve seen enormous inspiration for one of my kids come from following YouTubers, working on emulating their style and trying out filming, scriptwriting or performing to camera.

The World in your Hands.

One of the biggest differences to the childhood my eldest girls had is the arrival of handheld devices and apps. These days we can all google for information we want instantly and while this robs them of the endless “oh, who on earth is that actress???” debates, there is so much to learn when you can research on the spot and discuss the findings. For the younger two, apps that explore everything from basic numeracy to geometry and simultaneous equations using dragon eggs add so much to their experience. Other apps such as Duolingo offer a wealth of interactive language practice and there is plenty to be gained from even trivial gaming, especially ones that encourage planning, organising and sequencing of events such as farm or cafe games. The benefits of Minecraft (definitely better if your download speed is good!) are well documented.

Get Inspired.

The recent craze in blogging means the internet is now filled with art, craft and educational blogs and the accompanying social media. It is easier than ever to fill Pinterest boards full of ideas, neatly organised to come back to and use ready curated ideas rather than worrying about coming up with your own. Home educating and parenting is a less lonely task now that communities can support and inspire each other so easily and, even if you hit difficulties, there will normally be information and ideas readily available to help you past the hump.