To be honest, I didn’t mean for this to happen.
My name is Kavin, I’m a dad of two kids and founder of a parenting and education app called “KidCoachApp”.
When we first built it we didn’t specifically have home educators in mind. But as it turns out a huge number have downloaded the app, and I have been speaking to many to understand why.
Below is what I have learned so far.
A quick bit of context so the rest of this article makes sense!
The KidCoachApp has hundreds of quick, fun and thought-provoking questions for 6-12 year old children. There are lots of questions with no right answer, where kids get to voice their opinions rather than be marked for getting things correct, e.g. “Should everyone have magic wands?” or “Would chocolate rain be a good thing?” or “How would you cross a river if you had to?”
It helps parents spark more meaningful conversations that build key 21st century skills like creativity, communication and critical thinking.
So why do home educators seem drawn to it?
I’ve loved speaking to home educators as we seem to share the same parenting mindset. We both see that schools cannot provide everything our children need for the future. Most are too academically focussed and don’t have the budget or bandwidth to do more enriching life skill development. Parents must plug the gap!
Home educator Suzy told me: “A lot of parents leave education at the school gates and feel it is covered. But it is not. The curriculum is so skewed towards attainment and teachers simply don’t have time to cover the things that actually matter. It falls to us parents to nurture an environment of questioning and exploration. When something as simple as a conversation can help parents take part in their education like this then why would you not give the KidCoachApp a go?”
The questions we have in the app are deliberately designed to build 21st century skills. Alison is another home educator that heavily uses the app. She told me: “I can take a quick look and think about what skills my son needs to develop. Maybe one day it’s communication and the other it’s empathy. I just go into those sections and the relevant questions are right in front of me. A lot of the time I then favourite them. This means I have a whole host of cards sitting there ready for me to do when I have a moment with him."
Children want to play! The best learning is when they are having fun, and not even realising they are learning.
It seems the KidCoachApp is used in one of two ways, both of which make it a fun experience!
The first is when the children know about the app and like to choose the question themselves, treating it a bit like a game.
Home educator Caren told me “Sometimes the kids like to scroll through the questions and see where it lands. A bit like question roulette!”
The second is if the children don’t know about the app as mum or dad have been able to sneak it casually into a regular conversation. Conversations just happen and children don’t even realise they are building skills.
Home educator Fatima said: “We’ve been using the app a lot but my kids haven’t even realised yet! Sometimes they tell me how fun these chats are and how they like using their brain. Amazing outcome!”
So two ways, but each lots of fun for the kids.
I’m also hearing how fun it is for parents too. We make it easy by providing not only stimulating questions but also plenty of thoughtful prompts for each discussion to help you extend dialogue and deepen thinking. These prompts take hours to write but seem to be super helpful.
Suzy again: "Having the follow-on prompts are just so useful. It lets me enjoy the question, rather than getting bogged down in the research and planning. We can all just have an authentic conversation.”
And Alison: “Having all these questions and prompts in one place on my phone makes it so accessible and easy for me to pick up and read at any time. I also love the ‘take it further’ option, as it gives a chance to set and stretch goals, with a conversation that has gone really well."
As a home educating family there are potentially a lot of things you need to buy. Books, worksheets, equipment, apps, subscriptions etc. And for each child something different needed probably. Much of this would normally be free through a school, but for a home educating family the cost can add up.
The KidCoachApp has questions that cover many different disciplines, so many subjects and skill areas are covered in a single subscription.
Alison said: "There are so many skills to develop in the app. Having questions on philosophy, leadership and communication etc. This isn’t something you would have in a classroom at primary school. It feels like having 30 experts right there in your pocket.”
The discussions we encourage are also suitable for a wide range of ages (we suggest from about 6 to 12 years). It’s unlike math for instance where you need to learn numbers first, then algebra, then trigonometry etc. Critical thinking and creativity type discussions are far more age fluid. Also, I’ve found that home educating parents have the craft to calibrate questions up or down to make them appropriate for their children. Suzy said: “I feel there are no topics you have to avoid, you just have to approach everything in an age-sensitive way."
I’ve learned that there is a spectrum to home educators. At one end are unschoolers who have a free, unstructured and “roaming” type of education experience. Most days won’t start with a concrete plan and the family will be led by what the kids seem interested in.
Sarah is an unschooler and told me “The KidCoachApp really is just what we are looking to promote through our unschooling lifestyle - an ability to have and voice opinions, communicate our views respectfully and think critically about things we read and hear. Not to mention the vital skills of resilience, empathy, problem solving, etc. I've always loved having 'big juicy conversations' with my children and this has prompted me to investigate new topics with them and explore different ideas.”
At the other end of the spectrum seems to be more structured families who like to have a timetable of the day and overall curriculum to follow. They like using the app in a scheduled slot a few times a week.
Home educating Cara told me: “I have a note to use the KidCoachApp in my timetable for the week so it is in the back of my mind if I’ve got some time between activities or I want to shake things up. I really love how much it encourages the children to talk with meaning and explore new concepts. You can literally hear their minds working.”
It seems that sometimes the reason a family is home educating is that one or more of the children have some special needs that a school cannot fully provide for.
Autism and ADHD seem to be common conditions here. I admit to having very little experience with this, but as I talk to more of our subscribed parents I am learning more.
For instance, Suzy is a mum of a 10 year old Autistic ADHDer. With her son she wanted to work on opening up his mind to what other people might be thinking about. She told me: “With my autistic son the KidCoachApp has helped him with perspective-taking. It’s helpful for him to realise that other people might have different views to him and to become comfortable with this. All the questions in the app are open-ended with lots of possible ways someone might think about them, so this helps him think of those other opinions.”
I mentioned it before, but there are so many resources that have to be bought by a dedicated home educating family. That is on top of having one parent typically staying at home to be the key educator and not earning a salary.
The KidCoachApp is very affordable at less than $5 or £5 a month, with content regularly added so a subscription means you never run out of things to talk about.
Home educator Katie equated it with a visit to the coffee shop: "It’s just the price of a Starbucks a month. I would spend more than that taking the kids out to the park or the zoo or a museum, and that all happens way more than once a month!"
As I keep talking to and learning from home educating parents, we keep adding to and improving the app. For instance, one request was for more current content and questions from the news. So we’ve been adding this in with discussion topics on things like Covid-19, Black Lives Matter, Animal Rights, or whatever is breaking in the news that week. Here for instance here is a discussion card on COP26 and Climate Change.
If you are a home educating family and would like to get your kids talking and thinking in fun and new ways, then you should give the KidCoachApp a go.
It’s free to download from your usual app store, takes 43 seconds to register and get started (super quick – we’ve timed it!) and you can immediately browse hundreds of great questions for your 6-12 year old children.
We’d love you to join our fast-growing home educating community!
Try the KidCoachApp now with your kids!