Hazel Davis and her fella are home-educating their kids. This week, she’s finally given in to the lure of the internet.
It might seem (er, because I make it look like that on social media) that our home-edding is all knitting (the oldest IS totally knitting a scarf though. How cool is that?), woodwork and violin lessons. And that’s the dream, if I’m honest. When I think ahead I’m usually thinking about building rafts, foraging for mushrooms, and family revue shows. And the photographs.
But sometimes it’s literally about sitting down in front of a laptop – even though that doesn’t Instagram as well as a carved pumpkin). We do try to limit screen time: we don’t have a telly – but we do have a bloody big projector, so all we’re doing there, really, is making watching Grease 27 times a day more middle-class by pretending it’s a boutique cinema.
Anyway, what I’m saying is we’ve tried thus far to make most of our learning paper-based because it somehow felt more virtuous. I guess.
But I know it’s not. I know that my children see me on my laptop ALL the time and when I’m not on my laptop I’m on the desktop and when I’m not on the desktop I’m on my phone. They know full well that their life is going to involve technology and we’d be fools to prevent them being tech savvy.
Now we’re confident they know and love books (the little dorks take books to cuddle in bed with them for chrissakes), we’ve relaxed a bit (A LOT) about online learning.
The oldest has been working her way through the Khan Academy exercises and they are bloody brilliant. A trusted home-ed friend recommended them thoroughly so we thought we’d give it a whirl.
“With Khan Academy, there are no squawking cartoons, no bouncing shapes and no inexplicable plots – for two children raised on black-and-white musicals, these things perplex them and irritate me.”
I’ve ventured online for educational resources a few times but often found them lacking. More often than not the children’s pedantic father finds something ever-so-slightly factually inaccurate or they’re not quite right for what we’re learning at that time. Or they cost a lot of money. Or they’re all super-American (WHICH IS FINE, it’s just annoying when you’re doing phonics).
But Khan Academy is great. It doesn’t mess around. For a start, it’s free. And properly free, like nowhere does it say, “Ah if you want the GOOD, un-factually inaccurate stuff, you have to pay a subscription.”
A lot of the Khan Academy delivery is done by video but for the moment we’ve focused on the online exercises in maths, because that’s an area where we felt we needed a bit of structure. You can log in with separate user names – yeah, I might have started one for myself, what of it? – and you can progress up the levels but you can also go and redo everything until you get it right. As the oldest said with joy, “It’s maths but LIKE A GAME!”
And now I have realised how much they get from it (the oldest helps the youngest to understand the exercises – by basically trying to trounce her – while the youngest sighs and shouts, “It’s TOO HARD!” and flounces off).
I’m almost ashamed to admit that the thing I like most about Khan Academy is that nothing’s presented in a shiny, noisy multi-coloured way. There are no squawking cartoons (I HATE cartoons), no bouncing shapes and no inexplicable plots – for two children raised on black-and-white musicals, these things perplex them and irritate me. It’s simple text with straightforward videos, no twatting about.
And it’s totes educational so I can leave them in front of it while “Mummy’s just doing some work”, and still be snotty about Peppa Pig, right?
Read all of Hazel’s adventures in home-edding here.
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Hazel Davis is a freelance writer from West Yorkshire. She has two tiny children but the majority of her hours are taken up with thinking about Alec Baldwin singing sea shanties and the time someone once called her "moreishly interesting".