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I have long been a consummate consumer of the news. Beginning in fourth grade, my class watched a weekly current events filmstrip (yeesh, dating myself!!). There would be on-going news stories (the Iran/Iraq war, the Savings & Loan crisis…again, I’m dating myself here!) as well as one-time stories. I didn’t know it at the time but those film strips began a lifelong love affair.
Recently, I was with a group of homeschool moms when the topic turned to news sources for kids. One mother, incredulously, asked, “Why would you study current events in your homeschool?” Now, something you should know about me is that I have no poker face. Delight or disgust, love or fear. It all shows on my face, often before I even realize what I’m thinking.
So you can imagine what my face likely looked like when she said that. I tried to answer diplomatically but I’m quite sure I failed.
Today’s current events are tomorrow’s history. And, as George Santayana quipped, those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.
My kids will know it.
How we incorporate news into our homeschool
When my kids were younger, my main goal was to build the habit of consuming news. I also wanted to build exposure to names and places. With that familiarity would come recognition as we studied history and as we consumed other news stories.
With exposure and habit in mind, I became more conscious of choosing wise news sources for myself and consuming it around them. I would stream news radio on the iPad as we gathered for school each morning and turn on CNN10 on the iPad every day at lunch or as we gathered back to school after lunch.
As my kiddos have grown, I’ve been more purposeful about it. My oldest is required to watch it a few times a week. I make sure I have at least one article a week that we read and discuss as a school. My older two get at least one article a week as required reading.
5 Practical Tips
Just turn it on! When you’re preparing meals, when you’re cleaning, when you’re getting your school room ready for the day, pop it on and you’ll be amazed at how much news you (and your kids) hear even when you can’t give it 100% attention.
Ask your kids what bits of history and/or other knowledge they have that may relate to the story. Sometimes I do this before I share an article, sometimes after. My kids often surprise me with the connections they make.
Get out the maps! I love maps almost as much as I love current events! Any reason to pull out a map is a good one and finding locations of current events is an excellent reason! Sometimes I pull out a paper map or one of our wall maps, other times I utilize Google Maps.
Pull out articles that relate to your history and science. I set up Google news alerts each year with keywords from the coming year’s studies. I share many of those articles as part of our studies. This year, we’re studying ancient history. There aren’t many current events about that! But I have news alerts for pyramids, Mesopotamia, Fertile Crescent, ancient, etc. I also pull current event stories from many of the countries we will study this year. Even if there isn’t a direct tie-in with the stories we learn this year, it’s a way to tie together today and thousands of years ago.
Current events make for great writing projects. Perfecting summaries, learning to write critiques, forcing alternate points of view by taking a stance on the topic, research skills by researching more about the topic.
My favorite online news sources
- Tween Tribune has a feature that I haven’t found in other news sources. They provide multiple Lexile reading levels for many of their articles! If you have kids of multiple reading levels, this is a source you will want to look at. You can sort by Lexile level (beginning at 500) as well as by the topic. The occasional sponsored content is well-written and clearly identified.
- You won’t find a plethora of articles on Newsround by BBC but they are well-written and interesting to my kids. If you like videos, they have a news roundup video and many of their stories are in video format.
- We use Kids Post for lighter stories rather than the typical current event stories. I know I can give them free-reign on this site and not need to preview topics. This site is all about learning to enjoy reading the news.
- CNN 10 (formerly CNN Student News) is, as the name suggests, a 10-minute daily news program. Aimed at kids middle school and up, we have used this in younger grades for exposure. You can sign up to receive a daily e-mail containing that day’s topics. I appreciate that they follow topics over time, building on them. They handle heavy topics well and also include lighter news stories.
- PBS Newshour Extra is for middle school and high school students. Their section on teaching media literacy is excellent. If you have a budding writer, they can submit their own articles in the student voice section. The breadth of their topics means there can be interesting topics for everyone.
These resources are ones we use infrequently.
Channel One news is the long-running student news that launched the careers of many journalists including Lisa Ling & Andersson Cooper.
NY Times The Learning Network
Time for Kids writes articles down to even a first-grade level!
Science News for Students
Teaching Kids News