As educators well know, the first few years of a K-12 education are no longer a "warming up" period for our youngest students. Like it or hate it, students are expected to know more when they enter kindergarten doors and to work at an accelerated pace when they arrive. This has made the role of early childhood education even more important as it has gradually replaced much of the learning benchmarks that were once earmarked for kindergarten and first grade.
Teachers do as much as they possibly can, but at least some of the responsibility for the heightened levels of learning falls on parents. The standard recommendation that educators have given parents to read 20 minutes per day with each child certainly helps in the households where it takes place, but even it isn't enough to fully prepare kids for elementary school academic rigor. Parents have to find creative ways to keep their kids on a heightened learning path and in reality, so do educators.
The truth is that the average parent does not truly understand the best ways to help guide their kids to put them on the right academic track. Subjects like reading and math are taught in different ways than they were when even the youngest parents were still in school. This leads to confusion, and sometimes anger, in parents when it comes to finding the best method for teaching their kids in ways that mirror classroom methods. Finding the happy medium between keeping kids interested in learning but pushing them enough to keep up is a struggle for parents and educators alike.
Brainzy: Smart Learning for the Youngest Students
I'm always interested in the ways in which companies are combining technology with learning initiatives, and I recently got the chance to check out Brainzy, a new math and reading program from Education.com that focuses on 30 foundational academic skills for ages 3 to 7. The site was developed based on data from the 20 million worksheets or modules downloaded by educators from Education.com every year (to put this in perspective, one-quarter of U.S. teachers have accessed materials from Education.com).
Brainzy eliminates the foundational learning guesswork on the part of parents, and teachers, by aligning with Common Core Standards on subjects like reading and math for pre-k, kindergarten and first grade students. Along with hundreds of academically-themed games, there are 50 educational songs and 50 read-along stories. For parents and educators who want to give the site a test drive, Brainzy offers a 7-day free trial. After that the monthly cost for families and teachers is less than a trip or two to the coffee shop and provides unlimited access to the resources on the site.
Why Brainzy Works
Instead of a "pick and choose" layout where students just decide what they want to complete randomly, Brainzy sets up user accounts for individuals based on their grade level and guides them through activities. A family, for example, could set up a different user account for each child and pick that profile when that particular student logs in. This provides a distinct learning track for individual students, as opposed to the majority of education sites that must be searched and navigated to track down the right material. The same goes for school accounts. Teachers can sign up to have individual accounts for the students in their classrooms, allowing them customized learning paths within the program.
The way these learning tracks are determined is also pretty innovative. Brainzy is built from data gathered from users on the already well-established Education.com. The site does not have to guess what materials parents and teachers will come looking for based on grade level--it is crafted into its own learning program in advance. A lot of research time is eliminated and then redirected to actual learning time for students.
What I like the most about Brainzy is that it focuses on a specific age set and uses interactive methods to get messages across. Fun and friendly characters accompany the lessons, aligning the Brainzy experience with what kids already enjoy doing at that age--singing songs, using their imaginations and learning through creative play. I look forward to seeing more from this learning program as it gains more followers and is sure to expand on its already vast collection of resources.
What learning techniques have you found, as a parent or educator, which work best with the 3- to 7-year-old age group?