While most kids are back to school now, there’s no harm in learning some homeschooling tips from pros in my opinion. Plus, when these tips involve Google products, well naturally the Google geek in me gets pretty excited. My brother, sister-in-law and 2 nephews recently returned to New Zealand after three years travelling the world, therefore I asked if they’d be interested in sharing some of their remote education advice. Thanks Ewers Family aka Our Awesome World Adventure!
As New Zealand Covid-19 restrictions reduce and children return to their bricks and mortar schools, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on what we have been doing for the past three years. Plus, Casey asked if we would be interested in writing a blog post about this subject.
Back in 2017 we sold our home, quit our jobs, took our two boys (aged eight and nearly five at that time) out of formal education and headed off; out into the big wide world on a huge family adventure. We spent our days sightseeing (on a budget), trying new foods, meeting new people, learning about new cultures and traditions and home/world schooling the boys.
World Schooling / Homeschooling
To be honest, our boys’ schooling was one of the major worries we had when we were making this huge decision because the terms ‘homeschooling’ or ‘world schooling’ conjure up many different ideas and concepts for people and it wasn’t a task we were incredibly comfortable with. We were not trained teachers, but we were parents with a thirst for world knowledge and adventures and we were all excited to share as much of that as possible, together as a family.
Many parents around the world have seen themselves thrown in the deep end recently, with the Covid outbreak shutting down schools almost overnight and keeping children at home for extended periods and in need of continued education. We can see how it would be alarming for many because we would have felt exactly the same had we not already been through the past few years.
But, we need not have worried, and we hope not too many parents out there did either. With a little internet connection and a device, everything we needed was at our fingertips, and of course our first port of call was…. Google.
Online Learning Platforms
First we started by searching Google for online learning platforms, reading reviews and testimonials and viewing demo videos to secure the boys a learning foundation with English and Maths.
Here we chose ixl.com and it’s ability for us to continue to follow the New Zealand curriculum (it currently supports 15 countries) was a real winning feature. We highly recommend this subscription based platform and our children really liked the goals and awards features that kept them interested and on track to learn more and more. We would even suggest using it as an education supplement if you think your child might need a little boost in either English or Math.
From there we basically called upon Google whenever and wherever we needed it. Let’s have a look at just some of Google’s fantastic products and features:
G Suite for Education
Our eldest son had already spent three years at school before we left on our travels and was well versed in using G Suite for Education so we continued with this and he taught his younger brother (and his parents) some of those skills. He particularly enjoys using Slides to create amazing projects and presentations. The sharing features are really useful if you have multiple people working together on one document.
While we were lucky enough to physically visit and explore some incredible sites and countries around the globe there is still plenty to be seen and learnt with Google Earth Education. There is a huge array of resources on this site for ‘beginners to gurus” with activities and projects available and we will continue to explore these even though the boys are back at school.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the World.” – Nelson Mandela
Google AR (Augmented Reality) & VR (Virtual Reality)
There is becoming so much available with these experiences on just about any subject your children might be interested in. Simply type into Google what you are after it magically appears.
- Take a virtual trip through the human body
- Get a magnified view of our microscopic world
- Turn your home into a museum or a zoo
- Explore the Apollo 11spacecraft up close
Google Meet is built for secure business meetings, has been re-engineered to make it free and available for everyone. And while we have never personally used it, the boys’ cousins did while they did virtual classroom lessons during level 4 lockdown in New Zealand. So we set up a little interview to get their first hand user impressions.
Lincoln & Braxton: Was Google Meet cool to use?
Leo: Yes it was fun to talk to my classmates while I was in lockdown because I needed some company.
Mia: It is cool to use because you can meet up with your classmates.
Lincoln & Braxton: What features did you like best about Google Meet?
Leo: I liked it that there was a setting to look at all of your classmates at the same time.
Mia: My favourite feature was that you can text the people in the chat while still talking.
Lincoln & Braxton: Does Google Meet have any glitches or bugs that you noticed? Was there any lag?
Leo: There was not the best audio because it kept interrupting the person that was speaking and that was annoying.
Mia: The only glitch for me was that sometimes it freezes somebody then it looks like they are teleporting.
Lincoln & Braxton: Any ways you think Google Meet could be better?
Leo: Get better audio maybe, add a few little mini games to play.
Mia: They could add games like they have in Messenger Kids.
YouTube for kids
And what about Google’s amazing side hustle – YouTube. Not just great for life hacks and animal videos but there is SO much information and some fantastic learning channels just waiting for your children here. If we ever came across a new topic the boys weren’t familiar with, it was so easy to find well presented, often short and to the point, tutorials to get them (and us) started.
Here are just a few channels that our boys really enjoy are –
- Minute Earth
- Smithsonian Channel
- The Brain Scoop
- Art for Kids Hub
- And basically any zoo channel, but particularly Auckland Zoo and Houston Zoo
Google Home for Education
Of course, if you are based in one location then Google Home is always ready to answer any questions and get children engaged with whatever they may be wondering about. We did quite a bit of ‘interest based learning’ during our travels and it often starts with just one question…
- Hey Google, tell me about the Titanic?
- Hey Google, tell me a riddle?
- Hey Google, how are snowflakes formed?
- Hey Google, how can we make a lava lamp at home?
Half the time the kids don’t even realise they are doing all this learning. Google makes it so much fun!! Google has so many fantastic resources and they make great activities for the weekends and school holidays too. Let their imaginations run wild.
And if you think they need a break from the screen or they are “bored” or not in the mood, then just suggest a good old fashion board or card game, some drawing or colouring or playing with some toys. Learning doesn’t always need to be structured, timetabled or go exactly how you might imagine it, but don’t stress too much about those times. Learning happens in so many ways, you just have to test a few methods and find what works for each individual child. We have found short sharp sessions work best, regular snack breaks and compromise.
As far as we can tell the decision to ‘world school’ has been hugely positive but only time will tell as our boys now resume their schooling with dedicated classrooms, teachers and many more classmates and us as parents resume our role as casual teaching support at home. Although one thing we are very sure of is that our interactions with Google will certainly not be reduced.