Does the thought of preparing for children’s online learning leave you feeling anxious or the amount of time they are spending in front of a screen lead to more arguments and meltdowns than usual? You certainly aren’t alone!
The good news is that in this post I’m going to give you lots of children’s online learning alternatives that will shift your mindset and turn that screen time you worry about into something productive and an opportunity to extend and challenge school-age children in different ways - whether at home, school or a vacation care program.
The tips and ideas I’m sharing in this post come from my own ‘hands-on’ family research and will also give YOU the opportunity to take a break from all that formal ‘online learning’ or programming you have tried to keep up with this year through constantly changing circumstances!
As I write this in the 2nd half of 2020 I know that many families and educators around the world are still trying to find their way in the ‘new normal’ that the Covid pandemic has created. And it looks a little bit different for every region, community and family at different times which adds to the uncertainty. There is certainly no doubt it has been a tough year and we’ve had to face a lot of challenges that are ‘unprecendented’ (2020 word of the year it seems!)
But I do honestly believe there have been some positive changes to emerge from our experiences throughout 2020. I think many of us have become aware of our strengths, resiliency, capacity and readiness for change that we might not have acknowledged previously. Increased opportunities for children’s online learning in different ways is one of those positive changes in my opinion.
Change doesn’t need to make us anxious - we can use it to shake up our old routines and roles and build our capacity as a person and educator. It isn’t easy but that’s the point of change!
When I think of the changes that have occurred for our family over the last few months I realise...
1. We are spending more time together playing once favourite board games that had been ‘lost’ in the cupboard.
2. I’m glad I had introduced my girls to online learning tools and programs and not listened to the catchcry of all ‘screen time being bad’ because these skills actually came in very handy when we needed to shift schoolwork to the home environment.
3. I have taken on more responsibility for teaching my twins how to be safe in the online world but also use technology to extend their learning because I was surprised at the lack of preparedness for online learning in our school system and access to lessons in the area of technology. It is essential our youth are able to feel empowered and confident as we move forward in this digital age. I think there has been a big shift in thinking about ‘screen time’ and I’m hoping there will be changes in how we prepare and equip children with the skills they need in this area.
4. Our family already loved outdoor play but during forced isolation we have become more consistent with growing vegetables, saving seeds & composting.
5. We went back to baking our own bread, slices and cookies.
6. We have connected more with family members living interstate than we ever have before through the use of zoom family catch-ups and facetime calls.
How about you? What changes has your family or early learning service had to make in 2020? Is there a positive change you could acknowledge instead of focusing only on the negative ones? This is a great mindset activity to do with younger and older children together as a group. You might be very surprised at what they come up with!
Although ‘children’s learning online’ and ‘homeschool’ has become a focus (and source of great stress!) for many parents, educators and teachers this year I’ve been excited to see the way some child-focused services have taken their experiences online - opening up the possibilities for children previously unable to access these types of classes. It has become so much easier to find ways to extend on children’s areas of interest and to learn something new through playful experiences, games and lessons.
Why Technology Tools and the Internet aren’t an enemy to children’s learning
Giving access to ‘screen and technology time’ no longer has to be the marker it once was that a parent or educator is somehow being ‘lazy’.I’m now seeing a greater focus on thinking outside the box, doing things differently rather than traditionally and helping children to learn in a way that makes sense to them and doesn’t require sitting at a school desk for long periods or filling in a homework worksheet.For children in rural and regional areas, 2020 has opened up a whole new world of online learning opportunities and experiences previously only accessible to those children in the city. I think we as adults and educators are finally looking at how we can use technology as one of our stepping stones to support and extend on children’s emerging skills and interests... instead of something to be feared.
“We as adults and educators are finally looking
at how we can use technology as one of
our stepping stones to support and extend on
children’s emerging skills and interests... instead
of something to be feared.”
Jodie Clarke - The Empowered Educator
Greater access to technology tools and online experiences for children doesn’t mean we replace face to face learning or classes, replace team sport or the local dance class, the importance of getting outside to play or take care of our community and land around us….but it’s also not the ‘bad guy’ that we are often told to avoid.
The reality is many of our children are the entrepreneurs of the future, there will be jobs created that we couldn’t have imagined and they are growing up in a different world than we did. So why wouldn’t we help to prepare them?
Those people are out there and they have stepped up during the COVID pandemic in 2020!
They have opened the doors for us and I’d love to see more children and educators begin to access this hidden treasure trove of learning. Could we give children the skills needed to….
So many possibilities out there now in this new world….it just takes a willingness to embrace change and try something different to what we are used to. And many businesses and educators have certainly been doing that this year!
I think being forced to stay at home in lockdown and not being able to attend usual holiday events or after school classes have forced many of those service operators who usually provide experiences for children face to face to become more innovative, learn new skills and adapt quickly to ensure they can continue to support early learning services, families and children through the use of online tools like Zoom.
I’ve been excited to see this shift and how the children are responding. The other day I was watching one of my daughters learn how to code her own Roblox game from her room at home and another taking part in a drama and theatre class online in which she was making friends with another girl logged in from Japan!
New interactive opportunities for children’s online learning
Children’s online learning doesn’t need to be boring (or all online of course - I’m talking about hour-long classes at a time...not a whole day!) it’s about providing options and opportunities that might not have been possible for a child before.
“Children’s online learning doesn’t need to be boring it’s about providing options and opportunities that might not have been possible for a child before.”
Jodie Clarke - The Empowered Educator
Throughout 2020 my girls have been helping me to research and find online classes and events that interest them - some were hits and some were misses but they have learnt a whole lot along the way. At the very least they are now experts in using Zoom and I’ve watched them share with friends how to use certain features!
It can take a little searching and trial and error to find these worthwhile online learning experiences so I’ve put together a list of our favourites so far for you to explore below - most also have dedicated school holiday or outside school hours care experiences planned - perfect for families or educators trying to keep children busy if you can’t get outdoors or travel as usual and also vacation care, camp and outside school hours care services.
And yes we have truthfully tried them all and they have been kid and parent approved. I’m pretty selective and set a high bar for my children’s online learning so rest assured those who made the list below I believe are worth a look.
Alternative Classes, Workshops and Experiences for Children’s Online Learning
I’ve included a little information about each class, workshop or program and my own reflections as both an educator and parent to help you decide what might work best for you. You can also click on the website links provided for more information and access to trial classes or other freebies.
Your presenters are the creators of Toonworld, Mike and Claudio, they are passionate about designing classes that inspire creativity in a nurturing and safe environment.
... “The vision of Toonworld Education is simple we Encourage, Empower, Educate and Entertain kids through interactive workshops that are both fun and creative. These workshops are designed to improve communication and literacy while channelling creativity and imagination.”
Toonworld Education brings you simple interactive drawing workshops from the comfort of your living room. All you need is a pencil and paper.
- It’s easy to get started – there is even a free session for first-timers!
- Holiday and afterschool programmes perfect for ages 5-10
- Our online cartooning journey will be filled with exciting drawing challenges where you will meet fun characters and we will design our own wonderful heroes while defending the lands against the evil Rubbix and his rampaging stickmen army!
Before the sessions, you will be sent the Zoom link and the fun sheets to printout.
We believe that Toonworld is teaching a form of child development which not only enhances the students drawing ability but also bolstering their confidence in themselves and with their peers while unlocking their creativity.
Come on an exciting creative adventure where there are no mistakes! Go Drawing Mad!
Both of my girls are taking part in these weekly classes and really enjoying them, they are both so different in their approaches to drawing and Tooning is obviously empowering them to feel more confident in their own creativity and self-expression.
They include special handouts each week and it’s become a lovely social experience for them too. I really like the approach of ‘no mistakes or judgement’ and no need for a rubber to ‘correct’ their work.
They also have some fantastic free resources for educators here including drawing sheets and paper cutout characters on their website so you can download those and incorporate into your holiday or after school care program!
The days of packing your child into a car and taking them miles across town for a cooking class have long gone. The kids in 2020 can join in the fun of a live class, without travelling anywhere - except to your own kitchen… with you enjoying the delicious results - Winning!
"Our super friendly Presenter - Beth, introduces herself, goes through the Safety Points, then works through the recipe with the participants on a Step By Step basis. She checks in with the participants to see how they are going, and answer any questions. There’s a really relaxed vibe, and the kids learn as they participate."
Providing hands-on interactive cooking classes designed specifically for 5-14-year-olds.
Providing kids with the chance to touch, stir, bake, crumb and crunch.
- Learning comes alive in the kitchen classroom, where kids mix maths, simmer science and taste fun!
- Learn at your child or teen’s pace - in your own home.
- Join us for an Online Workshop, or join in the fun at home with or - “Play, Pause and Cook” videos
There are 3 skill stages to the KLTC classes. The kids can join in any class they choose. My daughter Ruby has a real interest in learning to cook so she joined the ‘Rookie Cook’ class and absolutely loves it!
Saturday afternoons we get to eat the treats she bakes and it has really improved her confidence (I try to do baking with my girls but trust me when I say it’s a lot less stressful with Beth doing the teaching!!) I like that Beth explains the processes and cooking terms as they go so they know why they are doing a step and there is a strong focus on autonomy, safety and hygiene throughout the class.
Artventure by Kirsty Shadic
Artventure provides everything you’ll need to grow your children's skills and confidence in art. Simply choose an artwork, watch how it’s created and then follow along step-by-step or use the lesson as inspiration to create your own artwork!
Simply set them up and watch them create artworks all by themselves.
Quality educational activities (ones that your students love) that won’t break the budget.
A key part of many homeschool curriculums.
As a teacher, you know it can be hard to be an expert in everything, Artventure is here to ensure you look like an expert in teaching art!
“I love that I can create an art lesson once and then kids all over the world can learn from it. The buzz I get from knowing that my lessons are teaching kids in 146 countries is huge. What a privilege to be doing what I love and making a difference in so many lives”.
Both girls are enjoying their access to Artventure and they dip in and out whenever they want to get creative or try one of the new designs. There is a huge library of designs and tutorials to choose from and they can also filter by difficulty, year level or subject which is handy as they have different interests and levels of skill.
The video lessons are visual step by step sequences with a special pause and draw function that encourages children to go at their own pace.
I also like that the lessons are linked to the curriculum with additional learning notes and prompts for children to learn more about what they are drawing.
You can access a free trial here (that’s how we first tried Artventure just to see if the children enjoyed it, now we subscribe!)
Huge range of workshops for 5 – 16 years
Small class sizes – workshops are capped at 12 – 16 students to create the best possible learning environment.
Qualified industry professionals are our teaching artists
Learn to create and perform for family and friends
Bespoke, crafted lesson plans from 50 years experience teaching workshops
Huge range of options for all age groups and interests – including those completely new to drama!
Easy online bookings
The online drama classes were something new for my girls and really helped to develop their confidence and public speaking skills. The 1.5 hour class each week also gave them lots of opportunities to work in groups or pairs in zoom ‘breakout rooms’ to create a fun or serious theatre piece and then come back into the main room to present them to the class.
They built their vocal skills, movement skills, creative self expression and imagination and I heard lots of laughs and socialising from the other room!
Each class began with a vocal and physical warm-up and was presented live with a maximum of 12 students. The presentation style was really engaging and friendly and this soon had even my shy Ruby participating in all of the activities and conversations.
REDed is Australia’s leading dance resource for teachers and parents.
"We deliver curriculum-based in-school dance programs and teaching resources. Our downloadable dance tutorials are perfect for active learning both at school and at home".
OR join the REDed team live online with a fabulous range of dance classes.
- All classes focus on engagement, interactive activities and exercises for physical and mental wellbeing.
- Join for one class or the full term
- Classes run on the afternoons of Saturdays, Tuesday’s, Wednesday’s and Thursday’s.
You can choose from options like this
Both girls enjoyed the Saturday dance parties the most and we continued with those for a few terms online. The presenters are friendly and engaging and really know how to connect with the kids and keep the classes high energy and interactive.
Ruby and Tara tell me the music was awesome (I don’t mind admitting I liked it too!) and they enjoyed being able to see the others and take part in the games. They each won a gift voucher prize throughout the term too so that was a bonus and the cause of much competitiveness!
This is also a great option for children who don’t enjoy large group style dance classes as it can be overwhelming if they are sensory sensitive or shy.
"Give your kids productive screen time, get the kids off the video games and encourage them to learn valuable skills!"
Build Minecraft ‘Mods’ and learn to code.
Learn the coding language of the web!
- All lessons are conducted online, through Zoom, and one-on-one with your student.
- On your child’s first lesson, our teachers will figure out what level they are at; and then work with them at their lesson.
- Our teachers work with your child to work through our custom content and build something your child will be proud of.
Tara has a real interest in playing the Roblox game online and I noticed a definite shift to more gameplay screen time during lockdown so I thought we could turn that into a more productive opportunity to learn new skills in her interest area.
She started with a few one-off group codespace classes and loved it so much that she now participates in an individual weekly class. It’s turned her love of playing the Roblox game into a productive learning experience developing problem-solving and critical thinking skills, all while building her very own Roblox Games.
There is a wide variety of times and class instructors to choose from and I receive a text after each class from Tara’s tutor telling me what they covered in class and the new things she has learnt to do (most of which I have absolutely no understanding of but I certainly appreciate the connection and feedback!)
Designed from 10 years of distance education experience
Highly interactive distance shows & workshops by experienced distance educators.
Designed for full online child safety and direct curriculum links.
Up to 60 classrooms or homes can connect together.
Live classes – kids can question & answer our educators and participate in experiments using household materials.
We send you a list of inexpensive materials that students can have on-hand during the lesson.
Simple connection via Zoom or Webex, one click and you’re in!
Over 30 remote classes to choose from.
We participated in a number of interactive classes while in lockdown and it was a fantastic way to ignite interest in STEM and experimenting.
Each online workshop was delivered via zoom and was a mix of watching the fun and friendly presenters as well as trying out the experiments at home for themselves. We were told what materials to get ready before each workshop but they were all craft or household items so we didn’t actually need to purchase anything.
Some of the different topics were ‘Wacky Water’, Crazy Cool Chemistry and The Magic of Science. Lots of active learning and laughs!
With these types of online classes and workshops becoming more accessible, I think you will agree that children’s online learning doesn’t need to be boring, frustrating or just answering questions on a google worksheet!
What are your thoughts on using technology and online learning tools for either early learning or to complement homeschool and school age learning?
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A Little About Me
Jodie Clarke is an early childhood professional supporting educators who want and need to stay passionate about the work they do! She has 30 years hands-on experience in the early childhood and human services sectors across many different roles.
Jodie is mum to 3 in Australia and has already helped thousands of educators with their work through her popular blog posts, activity ideas, online training and e-books.