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learninglabnotes

Reflections on education and what it means to prepare kids for their world

Month

June 2016

The Challenge of the Digital Age

Our family’s travel packing list has evolved over the years. Nappies and toys,for the journey has been replaced with chargers for everybody’s various electronic devices.
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Just when we were getting immune to the question of “Are we there yet?”; we now are asked by the kids “Does this place have wifi?”

With growing children who seem to be more digitally aware than I am; I decided some time ago that as a parent I was going to take on the responsibility of providing proactive guidance – not just ensure that we have all the necessary chargers when travelling! I was aware of various protection measures available for computers but soon realised that while I could child proof our gadgets I could not child proof their friends’ gadgets. 

As we did spent more time online together doing research during lessons,it was annoying to find pornographic pictures come up when one least expect it. Some pictures promote the objectification of women and do not wish my children to grow up thinking it is  acceptable. Having grown up in a smaller town in South East Asia, the kids have not been exposed to less modest pictures of women in larger cities. They may live in a small town but they certainly are digital citizens.

The children of today are growing up in what has been labelled as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  Technology is reshaping many aspects of our lives and it is doing so at a rapid pace. It has great potential to improve the way we live. Consider reading this insightful article.

We love technology at the Learning Lab. My oldest is enrolled with a online Homeschool while we live in a different time zone.  Both watch Brain Pop and Khan Academy videos. One is learning German and French via the Duolingo app while the other revises Multiplication on Monkey Multiplication App.

On the other hand, there are issues like screen time to consider. What do Silicon Valley parents do? In an earlier blog I posted an article about this. It is fascinating to read about the steps which tech savvy parents take.

In a recent survey in the UK,  the issue of how exposure to pornography online is affecting the young digital citizens of today. Check out this BBC News article

Naturally the best way to protect our children is to create safe places to talk with them; taking into account their age and maturity. I came across this helpful site recently which has various podcasts on this topic. My  earlier post might also be useful.

My feelings towards my young children coming across inappropriate pictures online has gone from shock, to anger to anxiety to determination. I have resolved to coach my kids as they navigate through the the digital world with love and wisdom. Loving enough to forgive mistakes, and to limit screen times but wise enough to put measures in place so as to protect them. It’s after all part of preparing them for their world which is certainly different from the world which I grew up in.

Appreciating Maths

Maths is essential for daily living;  yet I grew up thinking of it as a challenging subject in my early years at primary school. 

Homeschooling has given us the liberty to choose which curriculum to use. While we use a UK curriculum for English and Humanities in the primary years; we chose to do Singapore Maths. It took time and effort to understand the methodology but am satisfied with the good foundations it had given the children.  The oldest is in his first year of secondary school with a UK online Wolsey Hall Oxford and is enjoying Maths.

Maths can be challenging for some. There is a lot of encouraging research on this. Check out this site about allowing older kids to use their fingers to work out Maths problem.  Think you do not have a brain for Maths? Read this article.

Homeschooling has also meant we have deviated from prescribed curriculum depending on the needs of the learner.  Games are always much appreciated.  So playing matching pairs for Number Bonds made learning Maths less labourous.

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Credit: I printed these from a website which I cannot remember and pasted them on cardboard.

We are currently enjoying a Math game set by Thinkfun called Math Dice. The application of all the basic Mathematical functions are applied in this game.  The functions applied could be limited of course for younger children.

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There are many Multiplication Apps available. We love
10monkey Multiplication at the Learning Lab.

We have done Maths with ‘Sal‘ years ago. We revisited the site recently and we are exploring about the Maths Doodling and Computer Science.

Having learnt about Leonardo da Vinci through Museum visits, books the movie Mr Peabody and Sherman, they are aware of the role of Mathematics in Art. We have applied principles of symmetry in our Art lessons. For further ideas on this check out this beautiful site for inspiring activities by a creative Maths teacher.

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We have had great fun solving a challenging riddle which required application of our mathematical skills. It’s amazing to have a myriad of resources available at one’s disposal. I am thankful for the flexibility Homeschooling as it allows us to employ different strategies to make learning a more exciting experience.   

Appreciating History

What were History lessons like for you?

Growing up in a developing and driven nation state as a student; meant that history as a subject was not a priority as other subjects compared to Literacy and Numeracy.  By the time I was at Secondary school, History was a compulsory subject for the first two years.  Textbooks were wordy full of black and white pictures. I memorised the dates of the various Ancient Empires of Asia to be able to get a pass in exams but quiz me now and I would be stumped. 

I do, however,remember stories told by my parents, of their near escapes as a child during the Japanese Occupation; my mother’s recollection of learning about about the bombing of Pearl Harbour and Hiroshima.  Those were valuable History lessons which I have come to only appreciate as an adult and a Homeschooling Mum.

The resources available these days for helping children appreciate History  stand in stark contrast to my schooling years. 

Museums these days are interactive with the clever use of multimedia that the line,  “Are we done yet?”  are hardly heard. 

Living in South East Asia and visiting the UK regularly, has meant we have made trips to some of the state of the art Museums. Singapore has an excellent National Museum which has activities and exhibits which are designed with the young visitors in mind.  We were fortunate to be in London during the 100th Anniversary celebration of the end of World War 1. Visiting the Imperial War Musuem was an amazing experience for all of us.  There were displays and activities which sustained the children’s attention as well as mine. I did not find myself continually disturbed about the doom and gloom of the era but touched by the courage and strength of the many – men, women and children who lived through the period. 

Our family have also had the privilege of visiting a number of smaller musuems and historical landmarks in other parts of the UK and South East Asia. History became alive for all of us as a family.

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Malacca, Malaysia

Small towns often have interesting quaint museums, shops, buildings and even factories! Stepping into them makes you feel as if you’re going back in time.

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A working 80 year old Matchstick Factory in a small town in Malaysia

One of the earliest History books we read at the Learning Lab were graphic novels.  The Geronimo Stilton series by Scholastic has an excellent range of stories told in pictures with speech bubbles of adventures the articulate Mouse in different historical settings.

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The famous mouse and his relatives have a time travel series too which accounts their adventures through different eras.

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These books are dearly loved and they have been re-read several times. 

We have done some ‘time travel’ on our own too via Google Earth using a fun activity book to guide us.

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Engaging activities to use with Google Earth

The activities in the book plus learning to use Google Earth whet their appetites for appreciating History. 

The Horrible Histories books and Videos are a firm all time favourite for sure.

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Over the years, we have enjoyed the books which came with our Homeschool curriculum. We discovered about History through the readers, comprehension text and novels we read. We created clothes of the past through Art and Craft activities. Having a well planned curriculum saved me time and energy of doing searches online and trying to do cross curricular links.
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These activities spurred my children to look for podcasts, search sites  with activities and explore museums in places we visit. 
My 12 year old is enjoying his first year of secondary school science which he is doing through an online homeschool course.   His text books are certainly more engaging than mine were and am confident he will remember all that he is learning in the years to come.

Learning about the past is more than just knowing dates and significant people.  Personally, I think it is gleaning over our shared humanity with the generations past; learning from mistakes, extending forgiveness if necessary and in doing so find strength to carry on.

What do you think?

Fun with Art

Art is a favourite lesson at the Learning Lab.

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We used to have it in the middle of our week. It was a great way to break up our week.   We have moved it to the end of the week just before the kids attend squash training.

Art sessions have become less driven by me and less messier. My innovative 10 year old recently created a game for our Art lesson.  We had to take turns drawing an item – a line, a shape, etc.;on a piece of paper. No verbal communication about what it is although this rule gets broken often due to excitement by the younger participants.  Each player takes turns to add to the drawing until a scene is created!

Here are some of our materpieces….

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We had loads of fun and laughter. Have a go today!

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