School’s Out

School’s Out

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In this uncertain era, there is some comfort to be taken in the opportunity to appreciate the here and now.

Many of us may no longer use the excuse ‘I just don’t have the time’. Yet it’s easy to over-romanticise the notion of having less, technically, to do. Learn a new language! Take up yoga! Play marbles while reading poetry!  Although an idealistic sentiment, new skills very much can be learnt indoors. Our virtual world and E-resources have become infinitely more valuable. 

Many of us will be attempting to work from home. Some will be obstructed by cabin-fevered children. For those wanting to swap schools for home education, help is at hand. For those taking a more relaxed approach, we can assure you that agonising (and arguing!) over long division, is not the only way. 

Hopefully the following can be somewhat of a survival guide for all those trying to make the best of our new, (hopefully) temporary way of living.

Arts and Culture 

While museums and galleries are shut, many are offering free online tours. Borders are closing, yet culturally our eyes must, and can, remain wide open. 

The below is just a snippet of what can be found on Google’s Arts VR platform; artsandculture.google.com 

The Guggenheim Museum has opened their entire collection. Grab the kids and your biggest screen, and “walk” the halls of New York’s architectural marvel. As you walk, Google will offer information about the pieces you pass.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, can similarly be toured with Google Street View. E-visitors can admire the impressive architecture, as well as the art within. 

The Uffizi Gallery, Florence, offers a virtual tour, too. You can find this at www.florence.net/virtual-tour-uffizi-gallery.asp. 

While in Florence, stick around for the Boboli Gardens, known as the city’s ‘green lung’. The Gardens are also one of Florence’s greatest open-air museums.  

Hop over to South America, specifically Peru. Take the kids for a walk around Machu Picchu, whatever your fitness level. 

On to the East; masterpieces from the Tokyo National Museum, such as the National Treasures Maple Viewers and Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra), can be seen along with images of the Honkan, and the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures. 

For a little royalty, virtually explore The National Palace of Sintra, Portugal. Next, the Palace of Versailles, a World Heritage Site and one of the greatest achievements in French 17th century art and architecture. Bonus points for anyone who dons their princess dress before doing so.  

The natural world awaits..

Staying close to home: despite closing on 22 March, Kew Gardens continues to connect people with nature. Their online platform Virtual Kew invites viewers into a weird and wonderful world of plants and fungi, providing inspiring visuals together with fun facts and activities for homeschooling.

See www.kew.org/learning/learning-at-home for downloadable resources, and www.kew.org/read-and-watch for access to videos, art and photography, and science stories.  

Delight in the shenanigans of sea otters, or mellow out to the hypnotic drifting of jellyfish. Watch baby apes frolic, and tigers prowl. With many zoos and aquariums switching to live streaming, it’s now possible to tune in to the shenanigans of everybody’s favourite animal. 

San Diego Zoo (www.zoo.sandiegozoo.org/live-cams) and Smithsonian’s National Zoo (https://nationalzoo.si.edu/webcams) have live cams covering their pandas, penguins and polar bears, while the Monterey Aquarium has a sea otter cam and a kelp forest cam. 

Cincinnati Zoo is offering  ‘home safaris’ daily via Facebook Live. (https://www.facebook.com/cincinnatizoo/) 

Georgia Aquarium (www.georgiaaquarium.org) not only has live cams, but is offering lesson plans too.

Of course, David Attenborough’s extensive repertoire can be found on iPlayer, (www.bbc.co.uk/ipl ayer) and provides true delight for the entire family.   

For budding birdwatchers, those on Twitter can follow a ‘Self-Isolating Bird Account’ where they can tag @SIBirdClub. Go to twitter.com/SIbirdclub.  

Visit www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/actions for simple, practical ideas to make your garden more wildlife friendly. 

Play games and learn all about animals: see www.switchzoo.com

National Geographic for kids can be found here: https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/ 

Finally, www.projectnoah.org is a global citizen science platform helping you discover, share and identify wildlife. The whole family can get involved with their missions.

A good old-fashioned book:  

Flights are grounded, but our imaginations aren’t.  

London locals might consider enlisting the delivery services of their local Indy bookshop. Reports of books being delivered via skateboard, dog at heel (perhaps hipster dreamland does still exist) are a-plenty.  

Fulham’s Nomad Books (https://nomadbooks.co.uk/) can recommend titles for the whole family and deliver to your door. Same in other boroughs; check www.burleyfisherbooks.com, www.pagesofhackney.co.uk,  www.stokenewingtonbookshop.co.uk, www.newhambooks.co.uk and many more.

Also check www.indiebookshops.com, who have mapped details of independent bookshops, publishers and creatives all offering delivery services and adapting to the times.

For audio books and listening, Audible has made many of its children’s books free. Go to https://stories.audible.com/start-listen.

And for favourite kids’ books read by famous people, check out www.storylineonline.net.

Another place to access classic children’s ebooks and audiobooks, from Black Beauty to Wind in the Willows, is www.researchify.co.uk/audiobooks.html. All of their resources are free.

Educational online resources 

For those looking to mix family activities with academics, the following online resources may be of help. 

For printable worksheets in all subjects, from toddlers to teens, go to www.123homeschool4me.com/home-school-free-printables.

For biology, www.innerbody.com is a great resource. Similarly, https://human.biodigital.com allows students to explore the human body using an innovative 3D visualization platform.

Fun physics: Explore the surface of Mars on the Curiosity Rover: https://accessmars.withgoogle.com.

Go to www.everyday-earth.com/ for an interactive video, Earth Science -based curriculum supplement.

NASA has a kids-focused initiative which covers weather, climate, atmosphere, water, energy, plants and animals. https://climatekids.nasa.gov/.

For politics and history written for children and young people, check out https://learning.parliament.uk/resources/.

Cypher, a leading coding school for children, have also launched live online camps (at cost). Visit www.cyphercoders.com.

Carol Vorderman, best known from Countdown, has an online maths school which she has made free for the foreseeable future. Go to www.themathsfactor.com.

Also visit www.literacytrust.org.uk/familyzone: the site is full of fun activities and is also a brilliant hub for reading and writing resources, audiobooks, videos and competitions.

www.amazingeducationalresources.com has also taken one for the team and created an incredible extensive list of resources for all ages.

Finally, www.youtube.com/user/KidsTV123 has a wealth of educational songs and videos for babies and children. 

Educational Apps

Kaligo have made their handwriting app free. The app uses machine learning and tailors itself exactly to your child’s ability. 

The Teach Your Monster to Read app is free when used online, and can pass as more of a fun game, rather than an obvious learning resource.  

Another fun one, Spelling Stage is both entertaining and educational – kids can enter unique spelling bees for multiple abilities. 

Similarly, the Lego Duplo World app is packed with open-ended play experiences, particularly fun for juniors.

Duolingo is a well-known language learning app which allows the entire family to learn together. Dream of future Spanish holidays, where everyone can order Tapas in an authentic accent.  

EdPlus Kids has just launched, allowing learners to test each other in maths, English, Science and foreign languages with video questions. The app is currently free.

New skills

For those trying to work from home, new drum kits aren’t going to be at the top of the shopping list. Earplug sales, though… 

Help the kids learn to mix with Virtual DJ (www.virtualdj.com).

For teens / budding music producers, Moog and Korg have kindly released their usually rather pricey synthesizer apps for free.

For the younger ones, Youtube for Kids (https://www.youtube.com/kids/) is full of fun music tutorials and age-appropriate videos. 

Get everyone in the kitchen: many small businesses are live streaming. Visit www.breadahead.com, the London bakery live streaming bread baking tutorials. Fresh Sourdough, anyone? 

www.cookingwithkids.org/resources is also great for those looking to impart some culinary wisdom in this time. Plenty of healthy recipes and fun guides.

Keeping mind and body active 

Following school closures, the Body Coach has stepped in and is offering online P.E. lessons. Almost a million households tuned into the first lesson, and they happen every day at 9am. Find them at www.thebodycoach.com/blog/pe-with-joe.  

More child-friendly workouts can be found at https://app.workit.com/collections/kids-workouts, while www.theottoolbox.com offers resources designed to build skills through movement and play.  

With mental health equally if not more important at these times, movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts can be found at https://www.gonoodle.com. 

Young Minds is also a veritable mental health support resource for children and adolescents. Visit www.youngminds.org.uk

Similarly, Chatter Pack (https://chatterpack.net/) is full of resources to help with mental health and includes simple step-by-step instructions as well as tips on how to adapt for individual needs.

 And finally, our pick of subscriptions:  

A regular goody bag arriving through the post is a simple joy.

We particularly recommend the current affairs magazine The Week Junior, if children are between the ages of 8 and 14. Check out their subscription offers at www.theweekjunior.co.uk. 

For other choices, head to www.magazine.co.uk/kids-magazines.

For subscription boxes, the Toucan Box; inspired by Montessori learning and built by educational experts, is a great pick. Visit www.toucanbox.com.  

Science Learning Box https://www.letterboxlab.com/ have experienced unprecedented demand but are set to take new orders again soon.

For the insatiable book lovers, personalised services are offered by Bookabees http://www.bookabees.com/.

Mysteries in Time offer a time machine box, making history fun for 7-11-year olds. https://www.mysteriesintime.co.uk/ 

Mud and Bloom offer boxes packed with activities and equipment (seeds, trowels etc) to encourage children aged 4-8 to get hands-on with nature. 

Finally, for kitchen inspiration, Little Cooks Co helps kids get involved in the kitchen and build healthy eating habits. Includes pre-weighed baking ingredients. Visit https://www.littlecooksco.co.uk/. Enjoy! 

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