12 of the best home learning websites for kids
Throughout lockdown and while schools were closed, many of us found ourselves in a situation we'd never expected or prepared for: supporting our children to keep up with their learning at home.
From the start of the academic year 2020-21, the aim is for all pupils (except those who are being electively home educated) to go back to school full time, but it's likely that there will be further disruptions.
Local or national lockdowns are still possible, meaning that theoretically, schools could close again. Children will have to self-isolate if they, or a member of their household, have symptoms of coronavirus or a confirmed positive test. Individual 'bubbles' could be sent home from school if another child in the bubble tests positive for coronavirus. And children who travel abroad may need to quarantine for 14 days.
All of this means that it's quite likely that you'll be supporting your child with home learning again at some point during the school year.
Using websites to support home learning
This is where the internet comes in.
‘During school closures, there has been an explosion of online providers – from websites to YouTube channels – that bring learning to life,’ says Bobby Seagull, maths teacher, half of BBC duo Monkman and Seagull, and spokesperson for Explore Learning.
It can be difficult, however, to sift through the thousands of online learning resources to find the right ones for your child.
‘It’s worth taking some time to look at what a particular website is offering,’ Bobby says.
‘Is it linked to the school curriculum, or does it offer tangential but interesting learning? Both are good and can complement each other.'
As well as keeping up the momentum with maths and English, it’s important to support your child's learning in different ways, including creative subjects, physical activity and learning through play.
‘Children need a variety of subjects to help them develop a broader appreciation of the wonderful world of knowledge out there,’ Bobby explains. ‘This is a chance for them to learn new things that they might not have done before.’
Tapping into diverse resources – from worksheets to tutorials to YouTube videos – will also keep your child engaged so they don’t lose interest in learning.
Need a little help?
It’s important to give our kids lots of different learning experiences during the ongoing disruption to school life, but we also need to help them keep moving with literacy and maths. Lots of families will also be preparing for their child to take the 11+ in the autumn: we've rounded up the latest information about revised 11+ dates in each area.
While some of us may have grown in confidence with home learning over the past months, others might still feel out of their comfort zone when supporting their children with maths and English.
This is where online tutoring can help.
‘Using an online tutor can help take the pressure off you by giving your child time with someone who’s knowledgeable in a particular area,’ explains Charlotte Gater, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning. ‘It will give your child the chance to be stretched in a subject that they excel in, or develop in an area they find more challenging.’
Online tutoring isn’t passive learning, where your child sits at a screen and is expected to work through endless questions and tasks. Rather, it calls on them to be engaged and independent (as well as offering you the reassurance that they are working through a structured set of resources).
‘When we’re teaching a new concept, we get children to teach it back to us, so we know they understand,’ says Charlotte.
‘We focus a lot on how children are learning, not just what they’re learning, and establishing these great learning habits allows them to embrace learning in any scenario.’
Whether your child is preparing for entrance exams or home learning, one-to-one online tutoring is a great way to provide structure and help them focus on key skills, but you can supplement it with online resources to make learning fun and varied.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up our 12 favourite online resources that’ll keep your child’s learning on track.
Best for reading scheme books
If your child's progress with their school reading scheme ground to a halt during school closures, you can get them back on track thanks to the brilliant ebooks from leading educational publisher Oxford University Press.
The virtual library is stocked with books for primary school children of all reading levels, including books from reading schemes like Biff and Chip and Read Write Inc Phonics. There are also books for independent reading.
Once you’ve registered, you can search by age, reading level, book type and series to find the best titles to help your child make progress with their reading at home.
Best for one-to-one tuition
Explore Learning is renowned for helping children aged 4-14 learn through its Explore at Home one-to-one tutoring: brilliant if your child needs a little help to get back on track now they're back at school, or is preparing for the 11+ or other important exam.
When you sign up for Explore at Home, your child’s personal expert tutor will devise a bespoke programme tailored to their age and stage, aligned with the primary curriculum.
Your child will have a weekly one-to-one online session with a qualified centre tutor (the sessions can be delivered from any device, including mobile and tablets); learning will happen through a split screen and feedback will be provided to both you and your child at the end.
Your child’s progress is tracked so their tutor can identify their strengths and weaknesses and support them with the areas they find difficult, plus they'll have unlimited online access to an individualised online learning programme, with downloadable educational resources and worksheets, so they can work on their maths and English skills from home.
Explore Learning is offering a free trial of Explore at Home so you can decide if it would be right for you and your child.
Best for demystifying primary school jargon
One of the trickiest things about supporting your child’s home learning - whether you're helping with homework or facing school closures again - is making sense of what they’re learning at school. Many of the terms they use are unfamiliar (fronted adverbials, anyone?), which is where TheSchoolRun comes in.
The comprehensive primary school glossaries – English, grammar, maths, science and computing – explain every bit of terminology you need to know, with examples, step-by-step explanations and teachers’ tips to help you support your child.
We also have hundreds of free Homework Gnome resources to help your child with all those primary school history, geography, science and RE topics, each packed with facts, trivia, images, videos and links to further info: just what you need if your child has been given a home learning project and doesn’t know where to start.
Best for book recommendations
Whether your child is happiest with their nose in a book or needs encouragement to read, Toppsta is packed with inspiring ideas to support reading for pleasure.
The website is full of book recommendations for children aged 0 to 14, with reader reviews, book lists for different ages, stages and subjects, featured books, giveaways and inspiring ideas to help your child enjoy reading.
During school disruptions, Toppsta is also publishing a bookish activities blog listing many of each day’s brilliant live streams, YouTube and Instagram videos and talks by children’s authors, such as David Walliams and Tom Fletcher – perfect for bookworms and reluctant readers alike.
Best for library lovers
Your local library
Whether or not your local library is open at the moment, you can take advantage of their well-stocked shelves to keep your child reading.
If you have a library card, you can borrow a vast range of children’s and young adult ebooks and audiobooks from your local library to read or listen to on a tablet or phone using apps like Libby, Borrowbox, PressReader and rbdigital. Visit your library’s website to find out which app it uses.
You can also access a wide range of online reference books to support your child’s homework projects, as well as newspapers and magazines to give them a grounding in reading non-fiction and current affairs.
Best for daily lessons
BBC Bitesize has a huge range of online lessons in English and maths, tailored to your child’s key stage. You can use these to supplement what your child is learning at school, or to keep them learning if they're off school for any reason.
From 11 Jan, there will also be three hours of educational programmes for primary school children on BBC2 starting at 9am: perfect if your child has run out of schoolwork, or needs a bit of time to get ready to put pen to paper.
Hosted by famous faces like Karim Zeroual and Oti Mabuse, BBC Bitesize will help your child stay on track with key curriculum areas, backed up with resources from reputable organisations such as the Premier League and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
There are also videos, quizzes and podcasts to make learning fun, plus educational programmes on iPlayer and the red button.
Best for maths games
Children learn best if they’re enjoying themselves, which is why we love Topmarks: a website full of fantastic maths games for children aged three to 14.
The games are grouped by age, and you can also pick a particular category for your child to focus on, like place value, money maths, shapes and problem-solving. Games include Place Value Basketball, Rocket Rounding, and Number Patterns.
Many of the games are tablet-friendly, while others use Flash and so need to be played on a computer or laptop. There are also parents’ resources to give you ideas for improving your child’s maths skills, for example learning through cooking.
Best coding website
Blockly Games introduces children to the basics of computer coding through interactive games.
Blockly is a programming language that works by stacking blocks together, a bit like a jigsaw. These blocks are used to create chunks of code that can then be converted into professional text code.
Blockly Games helps children get to grips with coding through games, puzzles and activities like making an animated character, writing instructions for a maze, and composing music using simple commands. This helps them understand key principles of coding like sequences, conditionals and loops.
Best for play ideas
Learning isn’t all about sitting at the table with pencil and paper; there’s a lot that kids can learn through play, too.
Once your child is back at school, they might struggle to get back into the swing of table-top learning, so why not have a look at Make Time 2 Play? It has over 450 play ideas for primary school children and younger that can be played online or downloaded to a tablet or phone. You can search by age, the number of children participating, the duration of the game and the particular benefits.
There’s a great selection of activities including arts and crafts, physical challenges and imaginative play, many of which you can do in the home and garden.
Best for KS3
It’s natural to feel daunted if you’re supporting a secondary school child’s learning at home, especially if they've just started Year 7 and are facing a bigger homework workload than they're used to.
Every day, Home Learning Timetable links to three online lessons on websites like YouTube and TED-Ed, covering key curriculum areas like maths and science plus optional subjects like media studies.
You can access previous days’ learning activities, so there’s no obligation to do every lesson every day, and there’s an emphasis on fun, with quizzes, TV programmes and practical challenges alongside more structured lessons.
If you or your child finds a great learning resource online, you can submit it to the website to be considered for inclusion.
Best search engine
Keeping kids safe online is a priority for every parent, especially as a few wrong clicks could lead them to seriously unsuitable content.
Kiddle is a search engine for children that’s designed to ensure they can search safely. Search results are filtered to make sure they’re age-appropriate, and websites written especially for children are top of the listings.
Most results are illustrated with a thumbnail picture to help your child understand what they’re about, and the site is written in a large, child-friendly font for ease of reading.
Best for broadening horizons
TED is renowned for its short, informative and powerful talks on a huge range of subjects – and TED-Ed is its youth and education initiative, bringing new ideas to children from primary age up.
Short animations that spark ideas are TED-Ed’s bread and butter, with collaborations from teachers, designers, journalists, science writers and historians, covering subjects as diverse as the immune system, the myths behind the Chinese Zodiac, and materials science.
Register with the website to receive engaging learning ideas by email, grouped by age, across curriculum and non-curriculum areas from maths, literature and language to health and psychology.
This article is a paid collaboration between TheSchoolRun and Explore Learning.
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