Tuesday, April 19, 2016

As most other kids of this day and age, Smarty loves electronics. In this post I will share online destinations that our fourth grader uses practically daily. The good news - all these websites are free!
Favorite free online destinations for 4h grade
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Growing Up Digital

We live in Silicon Valley, and we work in high-tech. This means that Smarty was surrounded by electronic gadgets since she was born. However, we are strong opponents of the current trend of "eLearning" for babies and toddlers, because this is not how humans learned throughout centuries of our evolution. It's hard to tell what electronic exposure is really doing to the brains of very young kids, and this is why I always cringe when someone asks me to recommend learning apps for 18 month old children. Yes, we did Starfall with Smarty since she was about 9 months, but it was 5-10 minutes a day looking at the screen together and me talking to her, not handing over a laptop or a smart phone to her. Also, she watched absolutely no TV until she turned 3 and even now she has very little interest in TV. 
Preschool years flew by fast, and Smarty entered school. Still, we did not want her to get too wrapped up in electronics and TV. She had limits on electronics - 30 min during week days and 60 minutes during the weekend. Over years, we experimented with variations of these rules, but always found that keeping it simple was the best approach. It provided our daughter with enough structure and with understanding that electronics time is her privilege, not her "right" in our house.
Now Smarty is almost 10. She still has only one electronic device that it totally hers - it's her classic Kindle. We also have a family iPad and recently upgraded our "family laptop", i.e. Smarty's laptop, to Acer Aspire laptop. Our current rule is that when her homework, her music practice, and her chores are done, she can have an unlimited time on her laptop if she uses it for learning and creating her own content. If she wants to play games, the old 30-minute rule is still in force. So where does Smarty go when she is online?

Favorite Websites of our Fourth Grader

Smarty does Khan Academy every single day for almost 3 months now. She is very proud of her "streak" and of more than 750,000 points that she accumulated on her school account since the beginning of this school year. I wrote about why we love Khan Academy before, and Smarty still enjoys their reward system and autonomy in choosing what she wants to study. She does not only do math - she also did several of Khan Academy computer classes and some cryptography this year. It's nice to see that we do not need to force Smarty to learn new things - she readily does it on her own free will.

Duolingo is a very recent addition to a daily lineup. It's my biggest regret that we have not made more effort of giving Smarty a gift of second (and third) language in early childhood, but lately she expressed interest in learning German and we picked free Duolingo as a starting point. Just as with Khan Academy, Duolingo has badges and points, and Smarty is already 24% percent proficient in German according to this site. Well, I will believe it when I hear her conversing in German with her father or at least understanding what he says :)

We are not in favor of letting Smarty loose on YouTube, so we usually watch YouTube educational videos together. Our whole family now watches Crash Course almost every evening, and each of us selects one subject. We already watched through Big History and Economics, and now watching Politics and Government, Psychology, and new Philosophy series. They are certainly designed for older students than Smarty - some information is even over our own heads, but Smarty really enjoys these short videos that dump so much new knowledge in our brains.
Sumdog was so far the only website that we discovered through Smarty's school. Smarty does not do Sumdog as consistently as Khan Academy, but she enjoys this playful way to practice math. I am quite impressed with the site - it's a much better way to practice fluency than those blasted worksheets.

When Smarty feels like playing games, Coolmath Games is her favorite destination. Most of the games there have really little to do with math, but they are short and fun. The games appear well screened - I never had to worry about her finding an inappropriate ad or game on this site, so I don't monitor what exactly she is playing there as long as she keeps to her limit.

But What About Minecraft?

Unlike most of her classmates, Smarty is mostly indifferent to Minecraft. We do have a pocket edition for iPad, and sometimes she and her father play together, but she never really got into it, at least not yet. Even after she got a chance to do Minecraft in school for a joint project with her friend, she still did not ask for it, and I know better than to offer this addictive world building platform. Smarty spends enough time in online world as it is - there is no need to push it even further. I think our next frontier will be online communications as her friends are starting to get into emails and IMs. But this is the topic for a separate post.

Your Turn

I really want to know - where do your children go when they are online and how old are they?
Free online destinations for gifted students

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Ticia said...

My kids didn't really like Kahn Academy when we used it last summer for Brain Chase.

They do quite like Minecraft, all 3 of them.

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Emma goes to Khan Academy and Wikipedia. The other kids aren't online at home.

JL said...

K doesn't ask for Kahn Academy but likes Minecraft. But she only does it once in a while if she has nothing to do which is rare.