How our kids learn…what learning tools we use

In the past 2 years of full time travel, our kids have been learning in a non traditional way. They don’t go to school everyday, but rather walk out in the world and learn a new lesson from it. We combine these spontaneous and world learning moments to a more formal education. We use some apps and websites to help them keep up with math, english, science and history.

library

How do we organize our “learning” schedule

Since we don’t have a constant routine also our learning moments are flexible. When we have a tour or city exploration planned we don’t do extra school work on that day. We want to make sure that they take in everything there is to learn from that moment. We don’t want them to have to worry about the extra work they will have to do later. 

During our regular days the kids don’t spend hours on 5 different subjects, just 1 to 2 hours maximum on 1 or 2 subjects. We want to make sure that they actually remember and learn something in that time. We noticed that if they know they have a shorter amount of time, their attention is more active. However they end up doing a bit longer anyway, because they never leave any assignment incomplete.

When we go to museums, specially art museums I created a little project for them to do so they can learn to explore what really fascinates them. They have to pick 4 or 5 paintings and answer to a few questions. Why they like it or not? What do they feel when they look at it and so on. The idea is to help them explore their feelings about a painting and help them understand what they like and what they don’t like. I also wrote a post 10 tips how to best visit a museum with your kids, so you can check out some other tips while visiting a museum!

Here is a list of our learning tools, how we use them and why we like them!

museum

Time 4 learning

This needs its own paragraph because it is the main site we use for all our subjects. After a few months in our new learning method, I found Time 4 learning! What I loved about it on the spot was the fact that it covered all topics. From math to english, social studies and science. I thought this would give our kids more consistency in their learning process.

The activities are engaging and entertaining, so it doesn’t feel like they are simply doing school work. There is a large amount of diverse activities to hold their attention. Time 4 learning offers a variety of tools for learning, so they can shift from computer-based lessons to discussion, or from paper and pencil exercises to art projects. We have mainly been doing the computer-based activities because we are hardly ever around a printer, but they do offer this option.

Every topic goes step by step, so it doesn’t feel overwhelming. The information builds up as they move on through the school years. After one topic is covered there is a little test to verify their understanding and then a bigger chapter test at the end of every chapter. These quizzes aren’t meant to stress them out but to help them understand what they need to focus on a bit more or review. We ask our kids to review what they did wrong in the test and to redo it only if they got under 80%. In fact we noticed that most of the time they misread a question. However if they do more mistakes, they clearly didn’t focus while reading the topic. 

Parents have a control on everything from the backend, they can see their kids progress, organize what they have to learn and so on. For the time being this system has worked well for both Cosimo and Emma, however we know that with time their learning necessities may change. 

The cost is monthly and it is $19.95 the first student and $14.95 for each additional one. 

Math

For math we started with the books we brought with us from the US. However shortly after starting our trip, we realized that it was not working. So we adopted a few different technological resources.

Khan AcademyThis is a nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. They cover many different topics for every age. We used it for a few months specifically for math. Cosimo loved it, they explain very clearly by showing every step of their reasoning. For Emma it wasn’t as appealing. She learned from it, but it took longer. This is why after a few months we started using Time 4 learning, however at times we still go back to it, when we need an extra clarification.

Elephant LearningJust a month ago I found this app. It is an automated Math Academy for kids from 2 to 16. They guarantee that students will learn 1 year of mathematics over the course of 3 months when they use their system at least 30 minutes per week. What I really like about this system is that it is constantly adapting to the student. In fact if the kids answers incorrectly, the system finds the gap in understanding and fills it with the most effective activities. Instead if the kids answers correctly, they advance forward to the next level quickly. The result is they are always receiving activities at their level. The right activity, at the right time, accelerates learning.  

We tested this system because we felt that we needed to change things up a bit for math. It is working every effectively on all 3 of them! They have been doing 20 minutes everyday for the past 4 weeks and are now way ahead of their school year! I think they got a bit too excited!

The cost is $35 a month for 3 students.

Mathemagics. If your kids are having a hard time learning multiplications, this App teaches them in a fun way. It helps them learn and practice the tricks of mental math calculation in a fun and engaging way. Emma used it for a while and now Luca is always on it, although I’m still not sure how much of it he is truly understanding! 

Reading

Do your kids like reading? Mine didn’t really enjoy it when they were in school, specially because they had to do book reports and had to read genres they weren’t really interested in. 

As soon as we left Cosimo and Emma started exploring a whole new way of reading! We walked in a used bookstore in Australia and Cosimo was hooked. He found so many different books he had never even heard about! After he finished the first one we brought it back and he got credit to buy more. It was so much fun. As time went by we started getting different books wherever we found a used bookstore. He started trying new genres too without anyone forcing him. He was happy to do so, because it was his choice. At times we went to places where he could also make book exchanges. He loves that too! However it is more common for adult books. Check out our post about The book exchange experience.  

Now we are stuck in lockdown and our printed books are running out. Luckily we found Epic!. This is a digital library for kids. It offers unlimited access for up to 4 kids for $ 7.99 a month. There is an incredible variety of books, with new ones added weekly. They also offer learning videos, which Cosimo is really enjoying. Read to me books, that Luca loves. We also noticed that since we started using Epic!, Emma is enjoying reading much more. She was much slower with printed books, instead since using digital she will find any excuse to read! Epic!, sends parents email telling you what your kids are reading, so you always know what is going on.

A great new website we were recommended is Pdfdrive.com, there are thousands of book pdfs free to download!!! Cosimo and Emma found some books that weren’t available on Epic!,so now their digital library is expanding even more! 

bookstore

English

For english we mainly use Time 4 learning. We tried a few different apps in the past but they all didn’t really work out. 

Anyway the few times when we have connection issues Cosimo and Emma like to use Spellmania. This is an App where you have to swipe over the letter tiles to spell as many words as you can. Discover 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7-letter words. If you need help you can use clues to discover longer words. If you want to challenge yourself more you can also try to find as many words as you can before the time runs out! A great learning feature they offer is the dictionary. Once you spell a word you can check its definition & thesaurus.

History and Science

Again Time 4 learning covers these topics as well! They have also teach them how to do some science experiments. If we aren’t in a good place to try them, they write them down, so we can experiment them later.

As for history we have found ourselves to be in the place they were learning about. For example, Emma was learning about the Vikings right when we went to Iceland and Ireland. Everything made so much more sense! Plus our visits at the museums there reinforced what she had already learned. Same for Cosimo who was doing the Egyptians while we were in Egypt.

However sometimes these topics can also be a bit boring, because there is more reading involved. So we thought it could be helpful to tackle it from a different perspective, so we use Brain Pop. This is an engagement tool that helps kids be involved in the learning process. Through games, animated movies and activities they cover universal topics. It wants to help them learn by reflecting, making connections and engage in a deeper curiosity driven learning. We usually let them pick a topic, they watch the short movie about it. Take the quiz and then check what related topics are offered. They watch at least one more. It is always exciting when they understand a connection!

What we love about Brain Pop is that it explains also difficult topics at a child level, making them feel mature enough to understand. This develops their understanding and curiosity, although in that moment they feel more like they are playing a game.

science

For our toddler

What about our little Luca? He is just 4 but is learning constantly! One of the methods we adopted since he was little, just like we did with Cosimo and Emma, was letting him watch Word World. Did you ever watch it? Through their cartoons they immerse children in a word-rich place where things spell out the objects they represent. WordWorld aims to fascinate children with words and to inspire a love of words and reading. Luca has started spelling out some words a few months ago because of watching this cartoon! This doesn’t mean he watches it all day of course, but when he does watch cartoons, we always try to push ones that have an educational aspect to it, like Word World.

Combined with this we also use flash cards both for numbers as well as letters. He loves telling you the letters and the word combined to it. He thinks it is a game and will stay hours doing it with any of us!

Abc Mouse, I’m sure many heard of it! Luca enjoys it. He tends to do the same things over and over and then at one point move on. Letter songs are his favorite right now, he will listen to them for the whole time. However he will also work on his letters by tracing them. There are also a few activities related to numbers that he works on, but right now it is still more of an exploration than a full use of the app.  The cost is $ 59.95 per year.

Since his brother and sister started using Elephant Learning, he has been more interested in going on this app to do his numbers, although it is all more of a game for him. 

Luca learning

In conclusion

I would to clarify that this is a list of what works for us in this moment of our learning experience. Things may change in a few weeks, months or years.

For us, the most important aspect of homeschooling/worldschooling our kids is actually learning to observe and listen to them and their needs. If we realize that something isn’t working for them anymore, it doesn’t mean that we did something wrong or that he/she isn’t good enough. Simply their learning needs are ready to evolve to the next step. What will that be? We can figure it out together as a team!

Our advice is not to fear educating your kids yourself. There are plenty of resources out there that can assist you with the important topics. Plus kids will have the chance to learn at their own pace without the stress of a classroom environment. When you are giving them the opportunity to learn from the world around them, you are giving them the chance to become more conscious of such a variety of realities. For us, in a world where there is so much hostility towards who is “different” and non acceptance for other cultures and traditions, learning to understand and accept that we are all the same, also if with different skin color, different religion or language is one of the biggest educational values to give to our kids.  

 

Check out our post How our kids learn….Our worldschooling experience, to learn about our worldschooling experience!


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