05 February 2021
For many families, normal life has been turned upside-down in the last year with lockdowns, school closures and having to depend more on technology and new online resources.
Since the Department of Education announced that they would be closing schools, there has been a scramble for parents and guardians to work out how to manage classes and learning at home. But as we’ve all seen, there are a bewildering number of websites offering you individual pieces of advice.
That’s why we’ve created this single, go-to resource, where you’ll get the best advice on websites, apps, online resources as well as tips to help you with home schooling.
The first thing is to allocate an area at home where the classes will take place. You don’t have to replicate a classroom, just decide on a dedicated area.
You will depend on your technology here, so make sure everything is working properly in advance, and that your phones, laptops and tablets are charged-up the night before. If you find on the day that one of your devices isn’t working, don’t worry, we’re open for emergency appointments.
With everything fully charged-up, your kids can move around within their learning area and won’t depend on devices being plugged in.
Once they’re settled, it frees you up to go about your own business if you’re working from home.
Tips: Be prepared, charge-up your kids’ devices the night before.
Check your Wi-Fi
To give yourself the best chance of always having resources ready to go, give your internet a regular test. We have a really handy guide for testing your Wi-Fi and improving your speeds with suggestions of what you can do if there are any Wi-Fi signal issues.
If you feel the internet might be a problem, have a back-up plan ready. For example, TJ Reid does great skills lessons every Friday on the RTÉ Home School Hub. Take a note of some skills as a backup plan - for example, PE classes can quickly kick it to keep the day going. Or, simply have some of your kids’ favourite books on standby and make it Reading Time.
Tips: Have a back-up plan ready
Lunch Planning doesn’t have to be a major departure from the routine school lunch. It can, however, be an opportunity.
Make lunchtime an interactive event where everyone helps out. Get your kids to help in the shopping and to chip in ideas about what they’d like to eat and of course, helping to prep the food. It can be a fun activity that encourages your children to try new foods through discovery.
Tips: Plan how you can turn lunchtime into an interactive learning experience
Free Home Schooling resources: online and apps
Online resources really help keep the learning going for your kids. Depending their age, they may be getting online lessons or more of it might be up to you.
We’ve drawn-up a list of resources that we believe are helpful. They’re divided up between Primary and Secondary School, so you can quickly identify what’s most useful for your family.
Primary school resources
RTÉ Home School Hub
When in doubt, one of the first places you should visit is the RTÉ Home School Hub. The hub was launched during the first school closures last year and has evolved and expanded since.
Within the hub, you’ll find Activity Sheets, divided up by classes. This is great because you can download items that are tailored to your children’s needs.
The activities are great, and RTÉ also has a Freepost address with no postage stamps needed. This means your kids can complete the work, like writing about or drawing a picture of their local hero, send it to RTÉ for free - and maybe have it featured on the TV!
With lesson plans for parents to use with kids from toddlers right up to 6th class, Twinkl.ie is a valuable website to keep in your Bookmarks. It’s helpful as well to keep up with what your children are being taught in school, when things return to normal.
Cúla4 na nÓg
Following on from Three’s journey to reconnect the island of Arranmore, we have a special place in our hearts for the Gaeltacht and the Irish language. You can help your kids with their Irish with Cúla4.
Cúla4 was created by TG4, the Irish language broadcaster, offering a huge selection of educational material. While Cúla4 is focused on older kids, Cúla4 na nÓg will help the younger ones. It might even be of interest to you to re-learn the Irish you had from school, or to start learning from scratch. Maith leat! You can visit the Cúla4 website or download their iOS or Android app.
Many people see YouTube only as an entertainment or music platform, but it offers far more than that.
YouTube is packed with helpful educational content. This ranges from tutorials for you to learn something before teaching it your kids, or classes to help you, like a quick exercise workout. YouTube can really be your friend.
You’ll also find some wonderful ideas to start imaginative conversations and you’ll probably enjoy them too.
Tips: Check out each of these sites in advance and decide how they can best help you.
Online resources for Secondary School students
Beyond the technology you’ll be using, there are other useful resources online.
Scoilnet is an official website from the Department of Education and Skills, helping with all aspects of Irish education. You’ll find over 20,000 online resources for both primary and secondary school on the Scoilnet website so it’s definitely one to bookmark.
Project Maths is an online resource powered by a team of experienced maths teachers to help fellow teachers. They’re website also has a useful “Student Area” packed with maths learning resources, calculators and video tutorials.
If you have kids facing into Junior or Leaving Cert, this is a great website. On examinations.ie you’ll be able to find exam papers and marking schemes from previous exam years. It’s ideal for practice and to work out what they should be focussed on in the exams.
Technology can break down borders and Languages Connect is a great example of how the global pandemic can actually introduce a new way of learning. Languages are often challenging but immersion and exposure to native speakers can be a great help. Languages Connect aims to make foreign language learning more appealing and is always adding to their collection of really useful learning material and online classes.
Whether it’s for schoolwork or beating the boredom, reading is still essential for young people’s development. You can join your local library for free online. Once you’re signed up, you’ll be able to access online resources and even download newspapers, magazines, e-books, audiobooks and more, all from the comfort of your own home. This is one for you to enjoy too.
Seán Ó Gáibhín has been teaching Irish for 16 years and back in 2001, he brought his teaching online. Seán says the secret to learning Irish is to develop vocabulary and confidence over time and lives by the motto “if you can speak it, you can write it”. During the pandemic, Seán started offering free Irish classes on YouTube at 12pm every weekday. These are 45 minutes long and well worth sitting in on.
If you’re seeking some additional advice or support, the National Parents Council has a helpful collection of resources for parents in lockdown. So too does the National Council for Special Education.
Tips: Make the best of these free resources – they are all helpful and up-to-date.
Free Three SIMs for schools
At Three, we’ve committed to helping everyone in every way we can in these challenging times.
In February 2021, we delivered 10,000 All You Can Eat Data SIM cards to schools around Ireland to help students across the country continue their education at home.
*This schools programme follows a range of support that Three Ireland has provided to customers during the pandemic including zero-rating health and educational websites, highlighted in this article with an asterisk.