[Note -this was written in 2020; as at May 2021 when Singapore has re-entered a phase of Heightened Restrictions and school closures, I’ve written an updated post here with new resources]
In most countries, schools have closed, and the magnanimous task for parents of homeschooling begins. We’ve been doing it for over a month now, and expecting it to continue through until June 2020.
As full time working parents, we needed to rope in some extra ‘support’, especially when it came to Chinese learning. So here are our favourite online platforms for learning from (note – we paid full price for all subscriptions, so no favouritism here!).
Some great online Chinese tutors exist. I’ve done a comparison of the difference classes we have tried here. Since schools closed, we have engaged a teacher for 2 x 25 minute classes each week for each child. They have a virtual chalkboard for sharing writing, reading stories together, etc, and option for homework each week too. If anyone is keen, I am happy to share a referral code to give a free Viva Ling lesson.
In addition, there are two great an iPad app called iHuman and Wukong Literacy which have graded syllabus and games. You can use the first 20 levels for free, which should be enough to get through the next month, otherwise it’s about SG$30/year subscription or about SG$90 for a lifetime subscription. iHuman is a little tricky to download without reading Mandarin.
For the last few years, we have been using ABC Reading Eggs. It can be trialled for free for 2 weeks, otherwise it’s about SG$70/year. The app caters from nursery level pre-readers through to upper primary. It’s also a graded syllabus of levels which get increasingly harder, and includes story writing competitions, comprehension, spelling units, and online books.
At the moment, another great tool is Audible Stories, which has beautifully recorded audio of many classics (and new stuff like Harry Potter!), and has been made available free during Covid.
There are heaps of options here. For my older kids, she is addicted to Matific Galaxy, which covers syllabus from K1 through to P6 in a fully gamified way. It’s simple for parents to get emails on progress, and places where the child has become stuck and needs extra revision.
I have also tried to use Koobits because it aligns with Singapore Primary Maths curriculum from P1 to P6. I really wanted to like it for this reason. It has typical Singapore style maths questions, and students can clock up rewards to get game sessions. Admittedly, the games are pure gaming, rather than maths, which annoys me, and the time limit of 30 minutes per game is quite long for a mother who tries to limit screen time. I find the cost is a little steep too, compared to Matific Galaxy or MathSeeds.
For the younger ones, we use MathSeeds as it teaches core math and problem solving skills in highly interactive lesson format. Unfortunately neither of these services has a free trial, but you could just sign up for a 6 months subscription, which is fairly reasonably priced.
Generally a trip to the park with a ball, kite, or frisbee is enough sport for us. However, if stuck indoors, a good free app is GoNoodle, which engages kids in movement and mindfulness activities. It’s available for free, and there’s plenty of Zumba, Kidsbop, and Yoga to get active with.
Joy Tunes apps are our picks. We use their SimplyPiano and PianoMaestro tools, which have lessons from beginners to experts, and plenty of sheet music for popular songs. It’s a curated series of lessons, and the app can hear the sounds played on your piano (or your singing, your flute, etc) and give you instant feedback. Whilst the lessons are designed for piano, we’ve found it fun to try out with other instruments too with the musical games, and compete as a family for highest points. This also has a free trial for the first few levels. It doesn’t beat having the real piano teacher visit, but it does keep the kids practicing and getting excited about learning.
And after all that, don’t forget that your existing schools or tuition centres may have online classes. So you’ll have plenty of resources at your fingertips from around the world, many of which are available for limited amount of time for free. The trouble might be working out which out to try first!
In terms of a timetable, for us we write down each kids’ subjects on a popsicle stick, and also add one for outside play, and one for family chores. The kids have the freedom to choose their own ‘order’ for doing the tasks, but they must all be finished before 4pm. Between each ‘task’ they must have a ten minute no-device brain break (usually scribbling on chalk board, singing songs, playing with toys).
I can assure that that after a month of home schooling together, you’ll have learnt a lot about yourselves, and children, and no doubt will be closer, stronger and more united. Enjoy the unique opportunity to be at home and learning with your children! It’s once in a lifetime for most.