Americastle: A Sensible 30-Minute Break from Homeschooling Your Young Child

For parents of young children it is particularly difficult to find time to complete work-from-home tasks while being responsible for their little one. BGL is emptying its vault of content for the larger population during school closures and one piece that is particularly well-suited for young learners is our television program, Americastle.

King Jonathan goes on an adventure to find his missing friend. Along the way he sings songs, learns phonics, meets some colorful new friends and has a whole lot of fun!

Wand power!!!

How to Create Your Child’s Flexible Learn-From-Home Schedule

Kids crave routine. They get it at school and (for most kids) it works. Adults, on the other hand, suddenly find themselves working from home with their kids as their sometimes-bubbly, sometimes-bored office mates. These parents need flexibility.

How to merge these needs into a daily schedule that works for everyone?

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Below is a strategy that worked for Seth, BGL’s founder, as he joined millions of people this week by unexpectedly doubling up on his day job to become a barely-there homeschool teacher. He followed this strategy with his first-grade daughter and it’s worked really well so far.

All of these steps should be completed with (or by) your child.

Step 1: Brainstorm all the things your child might want to do during the “school day.” We suggest listing things within categories: social calls, family contact, meals, projects, physical activity, written work, art and music, reading, math, virtual field trips, unstructured playtime, direct instruction from an adult, and, inevitably, screen time. It’s ok if some things are listed in more than one category.

Step 2: Create a bank of all your brainstormed activities. It should live in the same place you will write the schedule. Keep it organized by category. Tag activities for which they can be independent versus ones for which they might need help.

Step 3: Choose your medium. Will this be virtual schedule? Piece of paper? We suggest a white board for easy erasing with the activities bank printed out on paper and attached to the board.

Step 4: Choose your time increments. For younger kids try shorter time increments; for older kids try longer ones. Limit it to “school time” (really, your work time) – the rest of the day can be open. Let’s not get too crazy here!

Step 5: Begin to make the schedule: cross-reference your work schedule and identify times when you will be less available to support them. Drop items tagged as “independent” into those time slots.

Step 6:  Next, drop in fixed appointments such as lunch, their daily call with grandma and their (now virtual) piano lesson.

Step 6a: If you have more than one kid, drop in activities that will be done in tandem leaving the rest of the remaining time slots open.

Step 7: Finally, give them full control over the rest of the schedule. Teach them how to consult the bank of activities and drop them into the schedule at logical times. Encourage choosing at least one item from each category and adding items to the bank. Consider double blocks for activities that might require more sustained attention. Revisit the parameters often, feel free to switch things around day-of and solicit their feedback. To reduce stress, do this on the weekend for the whole week or the night before each day. Be flexible!

We hope you find this helpful! Check out our other recent blog posts aimed at supporting this brand new crop of teachers formerly known as parents.

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Connect Students Socially During School Closures Using Video Conferencing

In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, just above safety and security is a feeling of belonging. For many students that is the most important thing that was suddenly ripped away from them as they were abruptly isolated from their peers and classmates. While your child may be in contact with a few friends here and there, maintaining a sense of belonging to a group is harder to achieve. Your little kiddo especially needs your help maintaining these social ties.

Luckily we still have video conferencing. Although it requires high bandwidth and can sometimes be finicky, video conferencing is the next-best thing to IRL. It’s an invaluable tool we can use to provide opportunities for group socialization during self-quarantine.

Here’s a (fairly) simple way to do it: regular group Zoom* calls run by you, the parent/teacher.

*Zoom allows you, as host, to mute other participant’s microphones. This is critical with young children.

Step 1: Contact the parents of your young child’s friends and classmates. Maybe post on a school Facebook group or message board. Set a time for a regular call (at most daily, at least weekly) for kids to drop in when they can. Explain that you will be using Zoom and will send out links that people can click to join.

Step 2: Familiarize yourself with Zoom by watching a tutorial like this one. Make sure you know how to mute participants and use breakout rooms.

Step 3: At the time of the meeting, launch a Zoom call. Click on “Invite” and “Copy URL”. Paste the URL into a message to the other parents. And, you’re in!

Structure of the Call – One Success Story

Seth at BGL has been running these all week with his first grade daughter and her classmates. Here’s his recipe for success:

1. Allow students to slowly roll in and chit chat.

2. Inevitably with young kids the call will devolve into loud noises and general silliness. That’s fine for a minute or two. Once it’s no longer fine, mute all participants.

3. Now, you take charge. Start with a general feelings check in. How are you feeling today? What other emotions would you like to share? Do a share around the circle by unmuting each kid one by one to let them answer before muting them again. Don’t forget to let your kid respond, too!

4. Next, do another share around the circle. This one can be a variable topic, different every day. So far Seth has done:

– choose an artifact from your home to share (show and tell)

– what is your daily schedule like now that you’re learning from home?

– tell us a joke!

– choose a picture from your home. Tell us about it.

5. Then, do breakout rooms. Create enough for 2-3 students per room and let them run for 3-5 minutes. Check in if you can, but they basically run themselves when they are this small. If you have time, mix up the rooms and do another round.

6. Finally, come back for a quick dance party. Play a song through your computer and just be silly for a few minutes. Thank everyone for coming and tell them you’ll see them tomorrow.


We hope this strategy helps connect kids to each other during this weird and challenging time.

At BGL we used to just work with schools and teachers. Now that parents have suddenly become homeschool teachers, we think you might be interested in some of our free content, too. If so, give us your email and we’ll include you in our announcements. No pressure!

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March 20 UPDATE – New Kids

Seth managed a call today that extended beyond his daughter’s friend group (it was advertised on the school’s FaceBook page as the first of a recurring Friday event). The call spanned 5 grade levels and included students who did not know each other. The following adjustments were made:

  1. The first few minutes were spent on introductions – just grade level, name and a general how ya doin? As the host of the meeting, Seth used the dropdown menu in their video feed to rename their account from their parents’ name to the students’ name so he’d be able to call on them later.
  2. Time was spent sharing general knowledge about the nature of this pandemic. Why are we here and not at school? Why can’t we be near people right now even if we won’t necessarily get that sick? What is scary and sad about this? What is hopeful and good? This took about 10 minutes.
  3. With older kids who were more willing to share and actual subject matter (the pandemic) the dynamic was more call-and-response than circle-share. Seth tried to make sure he was calling on different people each time.
  4. In breakout rooms, Seth created groups of kids that were on similar grade levels and seemed to at least be familiar with each other.
  5. The dance party was a fail. We’ll need to try a different closing next time. One of Seth’s favorites from his days in the NYC DOE was having everyone whisper their wishes into their hands and then hold on to them with their hands closed. On the count of three everyone releases their wishes into the air. It sounds corny but it’s pretty powerful when a whole room does it. Next time!

While Learning from Home Participate in Big Dayta’s Interactive STEM Global Data Collaboration Project

Families around the world are finding themselves at home with their children and are looking for ways to #keeplearning.

Almost 1,000 students have participated in BGL’s Big Dayta project with their classes. But did you know that it’s also open to kids who are learning at home? The project is free and does not require a log in. 

What do I do?

Kids, keep track of one weekday in your life and complete the form so you can add your day to our Big Dayta tracker! 

Then you can explore the data. Check out the spreadsheet with all the data, and explore it however you wish. Or if you would like some guidance (especially parents who are looking for grade-level ideas!), check out our idea guide

We even have some worksheets that automatically update as more kids add their data. Due to COVID-19 keeping so many people at home right now, we are creating worksheets as fast as we can. Check out the list below (and please send a request for a specific grade level so we know where gaps need to be filled! :

  • Second grade investigates only second grade, 2- and 1-digit numbers with comparisons
  • Second grade investigates all data, 3-digit numbers
  • Fourth grade investigates all data, comparisons of 2- and 3-digit numbers
  • Third and Fourth grade investigates all data, estimating, rounding, and subtracting with 2- and 3-digit numbers
  • Fourth grade more estimating and rounding

Resources:

We look forward to seeing what you investigate!

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This project was created by Banyan Global Learning and is provided free by BGL. If you are a teacher or school leader who is transitioning to online learning, check out their free resources for getting your class online quickly

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Working from Home? Resources for Young Children Home from School

Online teaching resources for teachers – click here.
School closures are keeping the nation’s children away from school while parents are being asked to work from home. Even the biggest critics of screen time will need to rely on some virtual babysitting just to stay afloat during this crazy time. Rather than turning on Netflix, why not edu-tain them?

 

With fun characters and catchy hooks, BGL has a library of media content for young kids. Please feel free to share these YouTube playlists:
Themes: TransportationAnimals and more!
There’s even an educational show that encourages active participation from children. With sing-alongs, read-alouds and fun activities, there’s sure to be some content on the BGL YouTube channel that will bring joy to your child’s online home-based learning.

 

By working together and sharing our resources, we can ensure that students receive the best education no matter what the classroom looks like.