May 18, 2020

Online Resources for Home Education

So I'm sure you are all feeling the effects of the social changes with the current pandemic. If you have kids in school, you are definitely undergoing some big changes of suddenly having to educate at home. We are probably not being affected as dramatically as others since we already do most things from home, but there have been some notable changes. The kids no longer have swim or gymnastics classes and we can no longer get books from the library. The last issue has caused me to rely more heavily on online books so I wanted to share some of the online resources I am making use of.

Picture Books

I had been reading a picture book to the kids each day of our school. But now have turned to YouTube quite a bit to find some videos of other people reading the books aloud. There are actually lots! Most books I am interested in reading to the kids, I can find an video of someone reading it aloud. 

Besides Youtube, we are using Storyline Online for our daily picture book. The kids are loving it! They are especially quiet and attentive for these. It has appropriate background music to set the mood and close up views of the pictures in the book. All the readers have been really excellent that I've heard so far and begin with a short introduction of themselves and the book and conclude with something for the audience to think about. 

Reading Eggs

I had been interested in this before when I got a free trial in the past, but I finally bought a family subscription for 1 year. It really wasn't that expensive for all that is offered, $89 for 4 kids for a year. 

Reading Eggs teaches phonics in a step by step fashion through games and short video clips. It starts with the letters teaching the sounds they make and start putting them together to make words eventually teaching kids to read on their own. 

After the Reading Eggs, there is Reading Eggspress for kids who can already read. Although some of my kids can read, they haven't made much use of this part of the program, but I would like to try to interest them in it as it has a lot of books loaded there for them to read. 

The Mathseeds part is a fun way to practice math. The visuals are really great so they can see the numbers with the number of objects. I'm interested to see just how difficult the lessons will get. My kids are finding it pretty easy so far but the highest lesson they've gotten is 50 and there are 200 lessons. 

I should mention that there is a placement test to take before starting each of these so that the child can be placed at the appropriate spot in the lessons. Although my older two pretty much passed through the Reading Eggs portion, I wanted them to have more practice with long vowels and so set them back to that lesson to progress from there. As a parent, you can change where they are at if they are finding it too difficult or easy or just want to give them extra practice on something. 

The last section I didn't mention yet, is the Reading Eggs Junior which is for preschoolers. It has puzzles, matching and sorting games and other games for learning colours, numbers, letters and more. There is also access to short videos and books that are read aloud with pages to turn. There is a lock on the Reading Eggs Junior that won't allow you to leave the page unless you enter the correct numbers. 

I've been pretty pleased with this program and consider it well worth the money for the kids to have that extra practice with their reading through fun games that they will look forward to.


Scholastic has a section on their website called Scholastic Learn at Home right now.  It is divided by grade level groups. I am mostly using the PreK and Kindergarten and the Grades 1 and 2 section. Then it is divided into weeks with 5 days in the week. Each day contains a video of a picture book being read aloud, a non-fiction book that can also be read aloud and a couple of games. Then it has a learning video from a series called Watch and Learn that teaches something related to the story book and has a short quiz at the end. Then there is an suggested activity. For the preschoolers it is usually some sort of pretend play and for the Grades 1 and 2 it is usually to draw something creative like designing your own spider or draw community you live in or listen and draw what you hear. I was surprised how much my kids liked these. And it is nice for me to just sit quietly and let the computer to the talking for a while. (Does your voice get hoarse when you are teaching all morning? Mine does.)

Audio Chapter Books

I was lucky and had just taken out two chapter books that I wanted to read to the kids from the library just before it closed. But now that I've finished them, I've been looking for a way to continue our literature time with another book. There are lots of free audio books online right now.
I am planning to use Audible Stories: Free Audiobooks for Kids to read Alice in Wonderland. There are lots of other books on there at varying levels so I hope to continue using it. I was reading aloud to the kids while the kids to their drawings. (We do nature drawings every other day working through our bird book right now, and a page from Draw Write Now on the other day.) I'm looking forward to letting the computer do the reading for me and getting to join the kids and draw alongside them. 

Internet Archive

There is a huge archive online of books, many of them too old to still be copyrighted, but still good books. This Internet Archive holds many other things besides, but I like to use it for the books. I discovered that most of the old Hooked on Phonics books are uploaded onto this site. Great practice for the kids who are just starting to read! Some of the Thornton Burgess books are on there like the Burgess Bird Book, Animal Book and Flower Book. There are lots of classic books on there too like Mr. Popper's Penguins, A Little Princess and Chronicles of Narnia. Lots of Little Miss books too. I'm sure there are lots of things I haven't even thought to look up but besides digital books that you can flip the pages through, there are audio books too although I haven't tried them yet.

Other Educational Videos and Episodes

The most obvious resource is probably Netflix. It has Our Planet episodes, Magic School Bus, Wild Kratts, Sid the Science Kid and many other great educational videos.

We use Watch Cartoon Online quite a bit too. There are lots of preschool educational cartoons such as Blues Clues, Curious George, Creative Galaxy, Dinosaur Train and other non educational stories like Bubble Guppies, Bob the Builder, Thomas the Train, and Llama Llama. You could never exhaust this resource in your lifetime. I use it for additional episodes of Wild Kratts that haven't been put on Netflix yet too. There are lots of movies there as well, if there is something your looking for, all animated of course. But we enjoyed getting to watch the video after reading the book for Winnie the Pooh, the Wizard of Oz and Stuart Little all at this site.

I mention Youtube again here because it also contains lots of educational episodes. I like to go there to watch Bill Nye's science shows when it relates to what we are studying. There's also a neat science "youtuber" (is that what you call a person who posts videos on youtube?) called SciShow Kids. She posts about all sorts of science things, many of them questions that her fans have written to ask her to post about. Many of the posts are less than 5 minutes each, a length of time I don't usually mind adding to our school day if it helps explain or draw interest to the subject we are studying. She posts about such a variety of topics that almost anything we are studying I can find a post that relates to the topic. She has a puppet mouse that accompanies her and has real footage as well as cartoons of the topic to explain how things work.

Spanish Language

PBS has published a series of episodes called Salsa for Spanish language study. The language is simple and they make use of puppets for the characters in the show. Most of the episodes are based on well known children's stories and make use of simple phrases and specific vocabulary that is repeated over and over in the episode to cement the words in. All the talking is entirely in Spanish with no other language spoken in the episodes. Each episode is about 15 minutes. My kids really like these and have asked to watch them again.

I will mention here that many shows on Netflix can have the audio changed to another language. This can create some difficulty in understanding if the speakers are still moving their lips to the English words though. However, Peppa Pig has been reworked in Spanish with natural language and the cartoons moving their mouths with the Spanish words. We are learning about pets right now in our Spanish lessons and I was planning to watch the episode in which Peppa's school class bring their pets to school for a pet contest. Peppa Pig is also in German, French and Italian. I don't know if the cartoons move their mouths to go with each of these languages, but it definitely does in Spanish.

In Conclusion

In addition to all these other things I like to look for clips on youtube that relate to what we are studying. When we draw our bird from our bird book, I like to find a short clip of the real bird in the wild with the sound it makes. When we are learning about a certain famous place from our history it's nice to see the actual place in a video clip- we looked up the Parthenon in Greece and the Nazca Drawings in Peru. We may never visit these places in real life but we can at least see what they actually look like instead of just reading about it in a book. (A picture is worth a thousand words.)

What an amazing resource the internet is! I realize it can be a huge time sucking hindrance in our life, but it also can provide an endless amount of learning if we are using it properly.

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