Since schools began to close in response to the rapid spread of COVID-19, traditional school systems have struggled. Education at home is unfamiliar territory for the majority of our country.
We here at Brainly have made our entire answer library free as the school community adapts to learning from home. We want to help students get the resources they need in this challenging time.
Luckily, others with experience in remote learning have been quick to aid as well. Homeschool communities and online platforms alike are offering resources that can help support your kids at every part of their school day at home.
Barron Whited, MS.Ed. and in his 10th year of counseling at a virtual high school, is no stranger to at-home schooling. He says:
“One of the biggest challenges for parents [of virtual students] is learning how to understand what their assignments are, when they’re due, and being creative with all the downtime.”
Read on for his suggestions, advice from a few homeschool parents, and free resources for families experiencing this new learning situation.
Know What’s Expected and What’s Available
As schools scramble to virtually replicate their education experience, parents may be left with an uncertain space to fill.
But the burden doesn’t lie solely on parents; it’s important to keep a channel open to schools no matter where they are in the process of taking their programs online.
Barron says, “I would recommend parents stay connected with their school districts through their website, emails, and text alerts, use calendars and planners and have their child make to-do lists to keep track of homework.”
If your school isn’t fully prepared to support your student at home yet, there are fortunately lots of great platforms offering free curriculum and programs for newly at-home learning.
Here are a few of our favorites, with links to initiatives created in response to Coronavirus:
- International bookseller Scholastic created “Learn at Home,” a large digital resource for students, parents, and teachers in grades PreK-9.
- Teacher-founded freeCodeCamp.org recommends older students take one of their many free tutorials designed to kickstart their coding literacy.
- Varsity Tutors is offering “Virtual School Day,” a free library of classes, practice tests, and parent resources during your time at home.
- Thunkable has released free coding tutorials, the first of which helps students learn how to build mobile apps from home.
- TEDEd has launched TEDEd@Home, a daily email newsletter featuring free education videos for each school level.
- Codecademy has put together a number of resources for students, parents, and teachers to help develop effective learning habits and navigating their resources.
- LearnZillion has made their entire video library of math and ELA videos available to all students across a wide grade range.
- For elementary school students, Twinkl has unlocked their 500,000-resource library of teaching plans and ideas.
- BrainPOP has made their collection of instructional videos and resources free by request to both parents and schools of all secondary levels.
- EduRef has listed several colleges that are offering online courses for free.
Denise Thomas, a seasoned homeschool mother, started a Facebook group with an arsenal of activities and videos for newly homeschooling parents. She says, “there are educational websites that are free with free online art classes, teaching various core subjects, educational companies with free subscriptions, educational streaming on Netflix, over 300 Ivy League courses free online, virtual field trips such as the San Diego Zoo and museums, the Metropolitan opera every night, and national park tours.”
How prepared are traditional schools?
Barron says, “It depends on the school district and whether they have flexible instructional time built-in for snow days and other cancellations. I do think it is a new concept for a lot of schools, but they are working diligently to provide resources for online teaching and resources.”
Several homeschool parents offered advice to enable a creative space where kids can find their own passions.
Mike Kawula, founder of Help A Teen and a parent of three teenagers, gave each a learning choice from the very beginning. One chose to homeschool.
Now, he’s got all 3 learning from home. He says:
“Honestly, the best advice to any parent is don’t force and ruin this great opportunity by picking what your child will learn. Sit down and have a heart to heart. The next 3-6 weeks is an opportunity to learn something new they’ve always wanted to do but haven’t ever slowed down to take the chance.”
Holly Chubb, a homeschool mom of 3 and author of At Home With Holly, says this:
“If you are new to the world of homeschooling, don’t fall victim to the idea that learning has to occur behind a desk. My first year homeschooling, my son sat at a little wooden desk and hated it. Learning can happen anywhere you are comfortable though. If you are going stir crazy, read in the backyard. Do math lessons on the couch. Things like cooking can teach measurements and calculations.”
Timarie Friesen, a former homeschool mom of 3, learned the value of letting books teach and speak for themselves.
“For the reluctant reader, audiobooks work well for time spent at home. Reading a novel or someone else’s story takes our mind off self, fostering empathy, and other character-building traits. And we need other entertainment options for the long days at home. A new reading (or listening) habit can be formed.”
Timarie is taking lunchtime audiobook breaks together with her middle-schooler, choosing books by popular young adult authors featuring great dialogue.
Speaking of, Audible has made a library of audiobooks listenable and free for students of all ages.
Create Family Activities
Barron says, “Come up with family activities such as board games, arts and crafts, exercising, and learning a life skill.”
Luckily, there’s no shortage of websites that have made these services more accessible during this period.
Here are a few of our picks:
- Raddish, an at-home cooking club for kids, delivered 50,000 cooking kits since early March.
- Eat2Explore, a kids cooking activity that explores foods around the world, is offering a homeschool curriculum for ongoing food learning.
- Sworkit, a school-centered fitness app, is offering its Youth Initiative program for free.
- Book Club for Kids, a kids’ book discussion podcast with over 100 free episodes, has curriculum up for discussion at home. And, they’re looking for interested kids of all ages to talk to them about their favorite books.
- AllSides, a resource center for literacy and information, created a Coronavirus-centered conversation guide for parents to lead with their kids, along with many others available for free.
- Language Games – Tomedes is a translation company that has put together a list of fun family language games to help children to master language skills.
Create a Distraction-Free Workspace
Nice though a change of scenery can be, it’s also important to have a physical and mental space to be productive.
Barron says, “Have a place in the home where students have limited distractions from TV, music or a lot of noise.”
If possible, try and keep your study space physically away from places of other activities, like sleeping, talking, or playing video games.
Take a look at our article on conquering homework distractions, which is equally relevant to creating a productive full day from home.
From Barron: “Create a flexible schedule that allows for both schoolwork and downtime, such as breakfast, lunch and family time/activities.”
Leslie Stroud, author of 7wayfinders and a mom “worldschooling” her 5 children, has experienced many new homeschool settings through educating and traveling for the past two years.
“Have a rough schedule, but be flexible. Schedule ‘free time’ for the kids and make them entertain themselves. Call it recess or quiet time or whatever, but everyone needs a break during the day. Best is to get out and get some fresh air if possible, but free play inside is also a great option.”
Your Safety First
COVID-19 is a serious and life-threatening disease. As we have here at Brainly, we urge you to prioritize a safe and healthy living environment for your family.
As schools make their learning resources more available, don’t forget to keep asking the tough questions to the online community at Brainly!
Thanks to a multitude of people who were so willing to share their knowledge for this article. A bit more about our main contributor:
Barron Whited, MS.Ed., earned his Masters of Science degree from Duquesne University in Education in School Counseling and is Certified as a K-12 as a School Counselor. He also holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in Biology and Communication. Barron is going into his 10th year of cyber education and has 23 years of experience in elementary, secondary and higher education. Barron has been featured on “Pittsburgh Today Live” on KDKA, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, New York Daily News, Today’s Show-NBC and USA Today. He also has presented at the 2018 ASCA Conference in Los Angeles as well as the PA School Counselors Association Conference 2018 and 2019.