With so many schools across the country closed right now, the responsibility of keeping children up to speed on their schoolwork is largely falling to parents. With older kids, it's a bit easier — a lot of schools are providing assignments for older students.
But for K-6 students, parents may be wondering how to organize a typical school day. Here are some tips and resources parents can use to make homeschooling easier.
There are myriad online options for homeschooling your children, which is great not only because you can find the right option for each individual child but also because you could continually switch things up to help keep the kids from getting bored or falling in a rut. Also, many of them are free, so homeschooling costs can be kept to a minimum.
"Sesame Street" has launched an initiative called "Caring for Each Other," which is offering 110 free ebooks for children, plus fun and educational entertainment, like Elmo's Playdate, Storytime With Alan, and Oscar the Grouch Says #StayHome. One resource that parents might find particularly helpful is an article about how to explain COVID-19 to your children without scaring them. The article is written with autistic children in mind, but the tactics are helpful to any child.
PBS also has two streaming video apps that are completely free. The PBS Kids app is great for episodes of PBS Kids shows like "Sesame Street" and "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood," but it has games and educational videos as well. The regular PBS app is a great resource for older children (and also adults), as it has everything from the "PBS NewsHour" to "The Great British Baking Show," to nature documentaries and musical performances.
While Scholastic does sell educational items, it is currently offering many things for free on its website. It has free how-to activities and printables, like "How to Teach STEAM Skills by Making Bath Bombs" or printable math practice worksheets. It also features dozens of articles that have outside-the-box ideas for teaching different subjects, like strengthening children's observation skills by going outside to look at bugs, spring leaves, what happens to the world after it rains, etc.
Other free resources include Capstone Kids and Khan Academy, which even has suggested daily schedules for various age groups. ABC Mouse and Adventure Academy are also great resources; they are paid services but are both offering the first month free when you sign up. Study Island is also offering a year free for new members.
Finally, Curiosity Stream is a new app that curates educational videos and documentaries for kids. It is currently offering a StayIn40 discount, which gives subscribers 40 percent off the yearly price of $19.99, which makes an annual membership $11.99, or subscribers can pay $2.99/month.
If the idea of using screens all day is making you uncomfortable, there are plenty of offline activities to do with kids. In addition to the printable activities mentioned above, there are workbooks available on Amazon or, if you are able to go out to local businesses like Walmart, Target or Sam's Club, in retail stores. These can be a great way for younger children to practice their handwriting while also doing schoolwork.
For free offline ideas, if you have any books in the house, reading aloud to your children is a great way to engage in studying, especially if you make sure to go over the definitions of words they don't know or ask them questions about what you're reading.
Or give your children writing prompts. Ask them to take an opinion about their favorite food or the best type of pet and write down reasons to support their argument.
If you have a deck of playing cards in the house, use those to play a math game where each player turns over two cards and adds them together; the largest sum wins all the cards on the table. Play until one player has all the cards.
With the weather turning nice, try to get outside if you can. Teachingmama.org has a great idea for a spring scavenger hunt — you don't actually pick things up, just check off things on a list as you spot them. If the kids are able to collect things, like sticks and leaves, they could turn their collection into an art project with glue and a little construction paper.
For social studies, kids could write letters to essential workers like doctors and nurses, the mail carrier, the garbage collector or the grocery store workers, thanking them for what they are doing for the community. For music and PE, turn on your favorite tunes and have a dance marathon.
Give Yourself a Break
This is a trying time for everyone, so the most important thing to remember is that whatever you are able to do for your children is great. If their homeschooling is all screen-based, that's OK. If none of it is screen-based because you don't have access to the internet or enough devices, that's OK, too. Whatever you can do is OK.
For this article, we spoke to a woman who was home-schooled until high school, along with her five siblings. She told us that so much of regular school is about crowd control; it takes up an entire day because it's hard to control 25+ kids. Being home-schooled took about two hours a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. There was also a mandatory nap time right after lunch. As the kids got older, that mostly turned into quiet reading time because it was actually a break for their mom. So take a break after lunch — and also cut yourself a break in general. We are all doing the best we can.
Finally, she had a piece of advice for dealing with unruly students: "The quickest, most effective form of punishment is jumping jacks."
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