By now, you probably know that many schools across the US are closing due to Covid-19. Our local schools are closing for 2 weeks, but the uncertainty level is high, and parents are wondering if it’s going to be more than 2 weeks. Other parents are jumping straight into homeschooling in an attempt to protect immune-compromised kids and families.
I keep seeing a lot of the same questions popping up again and again in my homeschooling and community groups – what resources can we use during this time? What’s free, easy to use, and we can jump right in during our time at home?
I thought I would put together a post with some easy resources to help calm some of that educational uncertainty. If reducing one tiny bit of stress helps, I’m going to do it!
Every veteran homeschooler knows that kids coming from traditional brick-and-mortar schools need some time to decompress. If you’re leaping into homeschooling because of Covid-19, de-school first. De-schooling means fun learning, interest-led learning, and exploration. Not book work. New homeschoolers often want to recreate school-at-home because it feels right, but homeschooling is all about the best fit for the kiddo.
I often recommend field trips, museums, science centers, and other great learning experiences to new homeschoolers. That won’t work for this, so focus on online resources, zoo-cams, amazing learning documentaries, and YouTube channels.
2. Check your school’s resources:
Every teacher I talk to is scrambling to help their class transition and build a working system to help the kids work from home. Different schools use different software or learning models, but none of them want to just chuck the kids out there and disrupt their school year. Find out what your school is planning, and what your kids’ teachers might be doing to assist. Ask for books to be sent home – textbooks have lots of informative websites and resources listed or included.
3. Find resources:
If you are in the position of temporarily homeschooling, don’t panic! There are lots of free or cheap resources available right at your fingertips, and lots of them are amazing! Many learning resources are making their materials free or partially free in order to help parents and teachers during this crisis, so it’s a great time to test things out. I’m making a list of different resources here, and I’ll add to them as I find more.
Khan Acadamy – a free online curriculum, math, grammar, science, history, and more. You can jump right in and pick your child’s level and get them started with lessons that pick up where they were in school. This massive online resource spans grade levels from K-12.
Twinkl Learning Resources: this site has made their resources free during the Covid-19 crisis. Ignore the $5 per month banner on the front page and click the JOIN button for free. They have printables for grades preK – 5.
Mystery Science – a hands-on science curriculum with videos and activities to try. Mystery Science has also made a selection of their most popular lessons available for free during the Covid-19 crisis. These lessons are for grades 1-5.
McGraw-Hill has a selection of free science materials including online textbooks and activity lab books available for free. They range from grade 1-6.
BrainPOP – this enormous video encyclopedia of topics is offering free access during school closures. My kids can literally spend all day surfing different topics and learning a ton of interesting facts. BrainPOP Jr. is for grades K-3, and BrainPOP is for upper elementary and middle school. Subjects cover literally everything from math, science, STEM, current new, art, health, and more.
Kid’s Animated History with Pipo – if you have Amazon Prime, this amazing history resource is free. 32 episodes of fast-paced, wide-ranging lessons on ancient history are geared towards the elementary age range.
PBS on Amazon – PBS offers a lot of amazing documentaries for free with Prime membership. Shows like Big Pacific, Life on a Reef, Nature (season 4 only), NOVA, NOVA Wonders, The Brain, The Story of China, First Civilizations, and more, are in-depth enough for both upper elementary and teens. These educational documentaries are high quality and interesting, and you might even find yourself watching along with them!
iCivics – Free online games and resources with a civics focus – especially timely as election season is here.
Epic – Keep them reading with this amazing online library of ebooks. It costs $7.99 a month, but is free for the first 30 days. It includes everything from young adult books to read-aloud books for young children.
Teach Your Monster To Read – if your child is practicing reading, this free game is great to learn phonics. The computer version is free, but if you want an app for your device there’s a small fee. My kids highly recommend this app!
Scratch – if your kid is into coding (and hasn’t done this already) then let them loose on this free coding platform. It’s intuitive, fun, and built by MIT.
Teachers Pay Teachers – this massive, teacher-created Etsy of educational materials has a free filter – check that and your kid’s grade level to find lots of free materials. Every TpT author is required to have at least 1 free item, and many have even more. If you’re looking for something to fill in a project, TpT is the place to find it. And if you happen to find a resource that you love, remember that purchasing it helps support teachers.
Gameschooling – chances are, you already have a few amazing board games that would be sneaky educational material. Look for ideas and suggestions on Meg Grooms’ massive list of games by subject, and have some fun!
Specdrum’s Mix app – the maker of Sphero has created an amazing product called Specdrums that uses color to create music. While the Specdrums themselves are quite pricy, the app that goes with them is free – and you can create some really cool stuff just using the app. I’ve linked the Android version, but they do have an Apple version available as well.
While I’ve linked a LOT of stuff, please remember that you don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to do it all day, either! For kids in public school, a lot of instructional time is lost to bathroom breaks, getting everyone to settle down, giving instructions on how to do the assignment, and so on. For elementary students, don’t go over a few hours per day or you risk burning them out. Older students will have a longer time span, but still limit school work to a reasonable amount of time.
Good luck, and best of health to everyone!