However you decide to move forward with your children’s education this year, you will likely be taking a more hands-on approach with their schooling than usual. Working and studying while making sure your child is still receiving a well-rounded education from home can feel overwhelming, and it’s more than okay if learning from home looks different for you than it does for other parents. To help your efforts in supporting your children’s education, we want to share some simple strategies and resources to consider while developing a plan for this school year.
Understand what remote learning means.
With remote learning, it’s important to make a distinction between homeschooling, where the parent is the curriculum developer and deliverer, and blended learning, where the home supports the curriculum delivered by a professional teacher. For parents who are choosing remote learning options this year, you will be taking a blended learning approach rather than a homeschooling approach. This means that you will be supporting the curriculum designed by your child’s school, and perhaps supplementing that curriculum with additional learning resources. Following a curriculum can help you create a routine that works to support your child’s learning, but remote learning also comes with flexibility that can offer you the time needed to complete your own studies.
Remember that you don’t need to sit at a desk or stick to a schedule.
You don’t need to build a classroom in your home or come up with an hourly schedule to ensure that your children are still learning. In fact, remote learning offers a unique opportunity to figure out what learning environment best supports your children’s educational needs. This may mean doing your language lessons before bed during story time, or starting a small garden to teach your kids about photosynthesis.
Similarly, while it can be helpful for some families to have a daily routine, it’s important not to stress about the quantity of time your kids spend studying each day, particularly when it comes to younger children. “Parents of young children should treat distance learning as more of a menu instead of a schedule,” says Nermeen Dashoush, Ph.D., an early childhood education professor at Boston University. “Pick and choose activities from different content areas that your child is excited about and can do without stress, and this means not forcing your child to participate in academic activities for the length of a school day.”
Find the right learning tools for your kids.
After schools closed in March, there was a surge in free online learning resources being shared on social media. With so many options to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. The Ontario Learn at Home program offers a great overview of Canadian resources for parents. An additional resource that can help support your curriculum is Amazing Educational Resources, a spreadsheet of over 300 education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings.
Here are a few more educational resources, broken down by age group, to help get you started. Keep in mind that these resources shouldn’t replace any homework assigned by teachers, but they can complement that work.
For preschoolers and kindergarteners…
- The But Why? Podcast from Vermont Public Radio is an educational and interactive show that answers questions about nature, science, and the world submitted by its young listeners in an engaging way.
- Sparkle Stories offers a great collection of original audio stories that make for an easy listening experience for both parents and kids.
- Teach Your Monster To Read is a free program that helps kids develop a love of reading through mini-games that focus on phonics and words, getting progressively more challenging the more you play. It’s available as a website and as well as an app.
For elementary and middle schoolers…
- The maker of TED Talks is now providing educational videos — or “Ted-Ed” videos — ranging from topics on Literature and Language, history, MAthematics, Science, and Technology.
- NoRedInk is a free online writing curriculum with a paid premium option that provides writing and grammar lessons for middle schoolers and above.
- Khan Academy offers free, online learning videos in a variety of subjects, and is especially known for its math programming. Parents can track their kid’s progress and identify strengths and weaknesses through daily learning schedules. There are videos available for children aged 2-18. Khan academy has also created guides designed to help parents and teachers get through the COVID-19 crisis.
- IXL features thousands of exercises designed to help young students (K-8) practice math, including practice questions, step-by-step explanations, engaging awards and certificates, easy-to-read progress reports, and more.
- Codecademy gives students the ability to take free computer science lessons online, offering lessons on everything from HTML basics to Python.
- Climate Classroom focuses on creating age-appropriate curriculums and projects that educate youth about the causes and remedies for global warming. This resource includes lesson plans for middle and high schoolers.
- Google has also partnered with many educational creators to bring families resources and activities on a variety of subjects for kids through their Google Learn at Home program.
For high schoolers (and beyond!)…
- The Crash Course web series, hosted by authors John and Hank Green, provides bite-sized lessons on subjects in philosophy, economics, politics, psychology, literature, world history, computer science, physics, biology, chemistry, ecology, and more!
- Against All Odds: Inside Statistics shows students the relevance of statistics in real-world settings through an engaging video series targeted towards high school and university students.
- MIT is producing a series of short videos that teach basic concepts in science and engineering for K-12 students. These videos are generally produced by MIT students, and can be sorted by topic and grade level.
- If you’re on the hunt for a Shakespeare play, MIT offers the Web’s first edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. You can also read all of Shakespeare’s plays for free online, courtesy of Project Gutenberg.
Collaborate with others.
Many parents will be busy working or studying from home during this school year, so collaborating with local parents or neighbors can help make learning from home more feasible and fulfilling for your family. Other parents in Canada have started connecting with people in their neighborhood to form “micro schools” or pandemic learning pods. Micro schools are usually home-based, multi-age learning communities for small groups of children that can be facilitated by one or more instructors and/or parents within your social bubble. Parents will be able to take turns teaching and supervising a small group of children rather than acting as a 24/7 parent and teacher to their own child.
Adjust as needed.
Just like with in-person learning, there will likely be bumps along the road during your academic journey this year, but don’t be discouraged! Remain responsive to how your child is reacting to your teaching method, your educational material, and your schedule, then make small changes as necessary.
Adjusting to remote learning can feel like a daunting task, but it helps to keep in mind that no one is expecting you to have all the answers. It is less important that your child meets certain benchmarks than it is for your children to continue exercising their brains and learn something new. Remember, learning is a lifelong journey that looks different for everyone — especially during such extraordinary circumstances.