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Free Educational Websites For Preschool – Starfall

This is the second in a series of articles that I am writing about free educational websites. Starfall is a website that also provides educational fun through games, videos, crafts and storytelling while teaching basic computer skills. This site is exceptional at teaching and developing reading comprehension and phonics skills. Though it is designed for first grade, Starfall is a great website for Pre-K through second grade. Starfall.com is set up in sections for four stages of reading development, games and activities areas. It features:

o ABCs – In this section, there is an alphabet chart from which kids can click on each letter to find out the sound it makes and to hear it used in a word. There is also a row of vowels that, when clicked, teach kids the vowels and short and long vowel sounds. A sign language section teaches kids to sign the ABCs.

o Learn to Read – In this section, there are fun animated music videos teaching the letters of the alphabets and sounds that each one makes. Stories that follow the music videos repeatedly use words containing the letters. The approach to teaching pronunciation is very creative. The “chunk that word” video is really cute and fun as it teaches how to break words up and pronounce each chunk in order to learn to pronounce the entire word.

o It’s Fun to Read – This section uses Art, Magic, Music, Poetry, Tongue twisters and riddles to show how fun it is to read. There is even an activity that lets the child create a story about his or her self.

o I’m Reading – This section has plays, comics, and various types of stories to include folk tales, fiction, nonfiction, Greek myths and Chinese fables for your child’s enjoyment.

o Games and Activities include making a calendar, holiday activities, word hunt, find a clover and earth day recycling games. There are also more opportunities for creating stories.

o There is an online store for purchasing educational materials.

o Starfall printed material and online printouts are available in the download area.

o A number of pages throughout the site have suggestions for parent or teacher use of the materials on the page.

o Kindergarten curriculum is a new offering of Starfall. This is a Kindergarten reading and language arts program available for purchase.

Starfall.com is an excellent tool for parents, teachers and home schooling for developing reading skills and its fun for children. Don’t miss this website.

Why Parents Don’t Like Rap and Hip Hop Music While Kids, Teens and Young Adults Do

Rap and Hip Hop Music is one of the leading trends in music today. Yet, so many parents disapprove of rap/hip hop music, while kids, teens and young adults have an undying love for it. Why?

Most parents want the best for their children, and so, they go about their days attempting to acquire better lives for themselves and their loved ones. Parents were young once too, but they later discovered it is more beneficial to live a positive life style compared to a negative one. They have come to understand that the path towards having constructive experiences start with feeding the mind with constructive ideas, learning good lessons and following sensible instructions.

Therefore, most parents do not want their loved ones to have negative experiences, such as the constant viewing of cruel images, repeated feelings of unnecessary pain or repetitive listening to destructive words that are heard in some hip hop and rap songs. For this reason, parents don’t like many rap and hip hop songs because of the damaging lyrical content. What is more, they don’t appreciate the idea that such harmful words are being fed into the minds of their kids, teens or young adults.

On the other hand kids, teens and young adults love rap and hip hop music because of the powerful nature of the beat, while the flow of the lyrics spew out catchy punch lines and slick metaphors. For the young at heart, hip hop and rap is more than just music, it is a life style. It is a wonderful combination of rhythm, rhetoric and hope. Kids, teens and young adults all over the world bop their heads emotionally to the rhythmic sounds of hip hop. They become awe inspired by the rhetorical flow of rap and hope to one day capture the financial success of the artists viewed in the videos.

Although some of the lyrics in rap and hip hop music are derogatory in nature, all of it is not belittling. Several hip hop and rap artists outright demean people, places and things, while some rhyme about how they overcame appalling living conditions, hateful peers, poverty and crime. Others boost about their financial success as an affirmation that they have made it out of a life of dreadfulness. And, artists may use language which they are familiar with — a curse or two to express such experiences.

So I ask parents, a kid, teens and young adults, is there a balance?

Well, everyone knows that the mind is like a sponge, soaking up information like water from the very moment of human conception. Indeed, the mind vividly records what is observed through sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and imagination. As a result, that which is recorded in our minds has an effect on our behavior. Yes, music also shapes our mindset!

Music is considered an art and science for a very good reason! Experts in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, biology, physiology, physics and education have worked alongside musicians to unravel the mysteries of music. Such research is aimed at understanding music’s basic structure; it’s biological, emotional and psychological effect on humans and the brain; it’s healing and altering potential; and its function in the evolutionary process. Music helps scientists understand complex functions of the brain and opens up treatments for patients who are recovering from strokes or suffering with Parkinson’s. Research even suggests that music may alter the structure of the brain.

What is more, words have power, real energy. This is demonstrated in the fact that music can thrill us, sadden us or inspire us. We feel goose bumps rise on our skin as we listen to a favorite melody, and we are whisked back to old memories by hearing the opening bars of an old school song. Throughout history, songs have been created with the intention to inspire feelings of happiness, joy, praise, relaxation, anger, heartache, destruction, etc. Wow! Music can do all this?

The good news is that there is a balance. For parents, it is recommended that you do not discredit all rap and hip hop music. There exist good and wholesome compositions out there that your young ones can enjoy, and you can feel safe that they are feeding their minds with sensible ideas.

And for the kids, teens, and young adults, it is suggested that you be more mindful of the type of rap and hip hop music you are listening to as it does have an impact on your mindset.

Free Educational Websites For Preschool – Noggin

It can be a challenge keeping little tikes occupied. An alternative to the television is the computer. While you don’t want them to spend hours on this either, using the computer introduces them to a tool that will likely be a necessity at home, school and work in the future. Developing computer skills early can give children a head start in school while they are having fun. We all know how important it is to make learning fun. Noggin is one of several websites that provides educational fun through games, videos, crafts, storytelling, etc…. while teaching basic computer skills. The best part is that you may access it for free.

Noggin.com is designed for preschoolers. It’s the website for the popular TV channel. Structured around the various Noggin television shows, it is like multiple websites in one with popular hosts Moose and Zee giving you the tour/directing the way to the various sites. Each show has its own area and offers a variety of educational fun opportunities. Noggin offers:

o Music videos from the popular Noggin shows as well as from popular contemporary children’s music artists. One well known artist, who has won many awards for her children’s music, is Laurie Berkner. This is music that parents and kids may enjoy together given its contemporary sound.

o Puzzles and other online games involving exploring the worlds from the various shows and finding clues or following directions.

o Story time allows kids to listen to stories as they follow along. These stories promote creativity by giving kids the opportunity to decide what happens next.

o Crafts that can be done online as well as offline like creating masterpieces with drawing tools typical for computer drawing programs. Stencils allow creating items like t-shirts and party decorations.

o Much more to explore.

If you have preschool or advance pre-preschool kids, you really should explore the Noggin.com website with them. You may enjoy it as much as them.