Guest Blog: Using BrainPop Jr. for Homeschooling
Jenny Williams is a homeschooling mom and tech guru. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us, Jenny!
I can’t remember when I learned about BrainPOP, but it was at least a couple of years ago. The site appealed to me, with its colorful design, fun look, and educational content. I knew my kids would love it. I knew that adding BrainPOP content to our homeschooling schedule would add some real variety and interest, especially since my kids are very visual learners.
Since my kids are in early elementary school (third grade and kindergarten), we concentrated mostly on BrainPOP Jr. My eight year old daughter grasped all the concepts there with ease. My five year old son watched most of the videos with us and soaked up most of what we learned. We also saw many of the regular BrainPop videos for added enrichment.
BrainPop Jr. is so valuable that I think we have done every applicable topic on the site. We skipped a few of the basics, such as Phonics, since both of my kids already know how to read. But we fell into a rhythm of how we went about each page. We started out by watching the video. I really enjoyed listening to Annie. She always gave me a warm, safe, comforting feeling. I can only imagine that she has the same effect on kids. After the video, we usually skipped printing the notebook because if my kids had any questions about what the terms in the video meant, we addressed them during the video. Then we would do the quizzes online, both easy and hard, and print out the results. (This has caused me to have a very full three-ring binder dedicated to BrainPop!) Next we did the game. This was always the kids’ favorite part. Sometimes the games were spinner games, or sorting games, or spotting games. I preferred the ones that were completely online, but they were all fun and great for reinforcing the subject matter. From there we just continued from left to right. We often skipped the activity if it felt more like busy work to the kids than continued learning, but we did it about half of the time. We never missed Belly Up or Pop a Joke, though. Those were always big hits with the kids, especially my son. We would check in with the Word Wall to make sure all the terms were familiar.
Then down to the bottom row. We skipped Draw About It most of the time, since the kids could have spent all day drawing things. If we were going at a more leisurely pace, however, I would have had the kids do that one. Since I have two kids, though, I probably wouldn’t have had them do it online, instead just giving them a blank sheet of paper and some colored pencils. We usually skipped Write About It, since my son was a bit young to write too much yet, and, until recently, my daughter would fight me about doing lengthy writing exercises. She’s much more excited about writing now, though, so when we watch the videos again next time, we won’t skip this part. It will be a great addition for multi-disciplinary learning.
I liked the Read About It section for added material to find at the library, and this was a good place for ideas to learn more about a topic. Mostly, though, we made sure to do Talk About It. That usually involved a worksheet we could print out, or do on the screen and then print. My kids just seem to understand worksheets, so that was an easy and fun way to carry the subject further.
The Ideas for Grownups section is filled with so much useful information. By the time we finished the other parts of the page, though, we were usually wanting to move on to another subject. But there is so much information available on the website for each topic that I feel like I’ll never run out of teaching ideas. BrainPop Jr. isn’t a “use it and be done with it” site. New topics are being added all the time, and each topic can be revisited in more depth as time goes on. Finding such useful, quality, fun material was like finding a gold mine for me. I really like how Annie and Moby take on a subject in BrainPop Jr. and simplify it for the age of the audience without dumbing it down. That’s not always easy to do.
Overall, it took us about 20 minutes or so to do each topic page, including the extra activities. There were occasional ones with more lengthy activities that took longer. I look forward to taking more time with the topics in the future.