With parents across the country facing an uncertain 2020-21 school year, they need all the help they can get to supplement (or fully take over) their kids’ educations. Free and paid options abound online to enhance teaching at home.
Our school district gave parents options for the upcoming school year. They could choose to send kids back to in-class learning, do a hybrid of in-person and at-home school or completely teach their children at home. My middle-schooler was yearning for social interaction and said masks were no big deal, so he chose to walk through the school doors last week.
But some school districts didn’t give parents an in-class option, other parents or kids have health conditions that wouldn’t make classroom learning safe for their families and many moms and dads prefer to teach their kids at home.
If a lot of the teaching is falling into your lap as a parent, luckily many resources are available. Most are also very entertaining, especially when catering to younger minds.
Storyline has videos of celebrities reading children’s books as animated illustrations move the stories along. Oprah Winfrey, Kristen Bell, Kevin Costner and James Earl Jones are among those who lend their voices to beloved books like “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “Strega Nona.” Each book also comes with a teachers’ guide (that parents can use) with ideas on how to follow up after your child watches the video. It offers question suggestions and outlines how a child could create a book report. The guide gives the basics on how to turn what your child just heard into a literary, science, technology or social science lesson. There are a few choices in Spanish as well.
Most people have heard of Khan Academy, and my son’s school has even used it during some of its online teaching.
Khan Academy is a nonprofit with a goal to bring quality educational opportunities to everyone everywhere. It’s for kindergarteners through 12th grade and is all organized by topic. Students can watch math, science, economics, art, history, technology and test preparation lectures via YouTube videos. Then, they can move on to practice exercises to make sure they’ve retained what they learned. This site is also completely translated into Spanish, French and Portuguese, and you’ll never see an ad or have to subscribe to anything.
We’ve all been to the book fairs, but Scholastic does more than just sell paperbacks and phone-shaped erasers. The company has created a Learn at Home site for students in grades pre-K through ninth. It has daily activities for math, science and social studies with stories, videos, quizzes and crafts that update every month. There’s a $5.99 per month subscription cost, and some of the material is available in Spanish. It’s tailored to kids depending on their age, so while your child in pre-K learns about kindness and our planet, your fourth grader will study inventions and amazing animals.
No doubt you’ve seen Masterclass advertised on your social media feed, and it could be really interesting for kids and parents. You get unlimited access to thousands of lessons from experts in nearly every field. Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches about scientific thinking, Stephen Curry instructs you on basketball skills and Gordon Ramsay focuses on cooking (of course). Each class has about 20 sessions which last approximately 10 minutes each. The experts not only teach, but also tell you advice they wish they had known when they started, some of their biggest failures and tricks of the trade. The annual membership costs $180 with a 30-day trial period.
For those who need a bit more than just supplemental material for their kids’ home education, take a look at Varsity Tutors. This site’s has more than 3,000 subjects for online classes, and they are live and interactive. You filter the classes by day, time, subject, grade and class size and then log in. Some offerings are free, others have a per class charge and range from core subjects to electives, like video game design. You can also buy a full homeschool curriculum from Varsity Tutors, as well as one-on-one tutoring.
It’s easy for parents to feel a bit overwhelmed if they are taking on more responsibility teaching their kids at home. But they can use these resources to add some fun to learning at home and to give themselves a break.