As we are all aware, due to school closures the majority of parents are facing homeschooling their children for the foreseeable future. A daunting task for many especially when exacerbated by other life circumstances. So how can we lower the stress levels and provide learning opportunities at home? Lourdes Daly has been homeschooling her children for three years and understands the challenges at the best of times. The first thing she stresses is importance of family’s health and well-being which she says takes precedence over schoolwork.
“School is important, but right now, our state of mind is more important than trying to get through the school year,” Daly said, adding that parents should take necessary breaks both for themselves and their kids.
She continues to point out that this time at home is a great opportunity for kids to learn non-academic life skills, including cooking and cleaning. This not only helps with the family workload, but children surprisingly enjoy it when tasks are presented as learning and helping rather than a chore.
When we look at a school day of around six hours that can be very daunting, but the actual time children should be and are able to be focused on academic school work at home is probably less than you think. Many education authorities advise:
Grades one to five students should spend one to two hours on schoolwork. Grades five to seven should spend three to four hours and high schoolers should spend at least four hours. Reading is sighted as the most important aspect of children’s learning during these school closures, so if you are able to add reading in addition to other school work wonderful, but if homeschooling is all too much and you have very limited time resources, then even reading everyday is enough. It’s recommended approximately 10 mins per day for each grade level. For example, 20 minutes for grade 2 and 50mins for grade 5 and so on.
Ideally your children’s school will be guiding you on the subjects and areas to be taught, though Daly also advises parents to customize the curriculum and make learning as enjoyable as possible.
“Try different things with different kids,” she said. “Some kids really love online learning. Some other kids want hands-on, so it depends on the kid.”
Another aspect of your day, for the well-being of the whole family, to get outside if possible, preferably into nature. We understand with social distancing this is more challenging for some than others, but even being near natural light and looking at nature has a calming effect on our nervous system. The benefits of those who are fortunate to get outside are, it’s free, and simply walking and talking about your surroundings is a learning opportunity for children.
Some other great pointers of advice and support are:
- Know that you are not expected to recreate ‘school’ and the amount of online resources available can be overwhelming. We suggest finding one or two resources that work for you and prioritize your child’s great need, maybe that’s reading or math, then prioritize their greatest area of interest. For some children that maybe crafts, for others dance or music – there are a number of generous teachers putting classes online, many for free, and it’s best to look for them within your local community, both for connection and two way support.
- Creating a designated space for learning is really helpful for your young student – please see our article outlining the benefits and the how-to’s: Helping Your Students Create A Good Learning Environment At Home
- Create a routine and schedule with your children, if you let them have some input it will be more meaningful for them and they’re more likely to respect it. But allow for flexibility, for both you and them. It’s also OK to let your kids sleep in a little later than usual, research shows many of our children and teens are chronically sleep-deprived.
Lastly, during this time, here is a comforting reminder from Ana Homayoun, an educational coach for students –
“Be forgiving of yourself and your kid. This is a very stressful time. If you need to put on a movie to get through the day, that’s absolutely fine.” Homayoun says, “You don’t have to home school if it’s really going to cause emotional distress for everyone involved. And I think that’s really important for parents to hear right now because we all feel so much personal pressure.”
Our team at Natural Pod, the majority who are parents themselves, have collaborated with educators on a curated list of quality resources to support you and your children during this time. But as the advice above suggests, just find a couple of resources that work for you and your family.
KHAN ACADEMY – Khan Academy is a free resource for students, teachers, and parents. Khan Academy’s library of trusted practice and lessons covers math, science, and more. They have created daily learning schedules ready to go for teachers or parents to implement, with lesson content embedded. The schedules are organized into different grade levels. Here is a breakdown of features:
- Khan Academy has a library of standards-aligned lessons covering kindergarten through early college math, grammar, science, history, AP® courses, SAT® preparation, and more.
- Students can practice skills with exercises, quizzes, and mastery challenges and get immediate feedback and support.
- Khan Academy is available in 40 languages.
- Students without laptops can access the Khan Academy website or use the Khan Academy app on smartphones.
TED ED – TedEd an extension of the famous Ted Talks. TedEd comprises of video based lessons organized by age and subject. As an educator you can use the resource to create your own video based lessons customized for your students adding interactive questions, discussion topics and more to your favorite TED-Ed Animations, TED talks or any video on YouTube. You can share the lessons with your students online and track the results. In addition you can receive a daily email of lesson plans that span all subjects and age groups. Students can also use the platform to create talks of their own at home, sharing their ideas with the world. In the TedEd Student Talks program, your students will learn how to discover, explore and present their big ideas as TED-style talks.
BRAIN POP – Brain Pop is a comprehensive library of animated movies and activities, organised into groupings of grades and covering a huge range of topics, in English, French, Spanish and Mandarin. Lessons are designed with relevance, depth and humour to encourage kids on their unique learning paths and to challenge them to reflect, make connections and engage in deeper curiosity-driven learning.
NEWSELA – Newsela offers great content across many subjects, specifically curated to keep students highly engaged with their learning. They ensure diverse opinions are covered and feature people all students can identify with. – “When students aren’t engaged, learning doesn’t happen. Content manufactured for the classroom isn’t cutting it. Newsela content comes from the real world, about people and topics students relate to. We start with the world’s best sources and carefully select only the content that is most representative, most engaging, and best for Culturally Responsive Teaching. Because when students read about things they’re excited about, they learn to love learning for life.” – They are offering their entire product suite free until the end of 2020.
SCHOLASTIC LEARN AT HOME – Scholastic, one of the best known names in the educational materials industry, has created a Learn at Home site for students in grades Pre-K through 9th. The site features two-week’s worth of daily activities and projects on a variety of subjects, including science, math, ELA, and social studies. The curriculum includes stories, articles, videos, and activities designed to stimulate kids’ curiosity. Some of the material is also available in Spanish.
STORY LINE – Story Line is an award-winning children’s literacy website that features famous people reading beloved children’s books. You can browse all the wonderful stories or search by book title. It then shows the recommended grade level and how many minutes the reading time is. Children can listen to the story, follow the words, and enjoy the colorful animations.
Math, Science and Technology resources:
HOW TO SMILE – Here you can over 3,500 of the very best science and math activities on the web – all designed especially for those who teach school-aged kids in non-classroom settings. SMILE was launched in 2010 by a group of science museums dedicated to bringing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) out of the academic cloister and into the wider world.
TODO MATH – Designed for kids in pre-K to grade 2. Todo Math takes your child on a daily math adventure. There is a 10–15 minute practice drill available each day, a Mission Mode for tackling early word problems, and a Free Play mode. The app has won multiple awards, including a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and a five-star rating on Common Sense Media. The free app contains a basic version of every game, and the full version is available on a subscription basis. For Android and iOS
STEVE SPANGLER SCIENCE – There are some free resources on this site, and lots of kitchen science ideas you can carry out at home. But really this is a site for when you wish to purchase specific items, or kits for hands-on science activities, and for that it’s fantastic.
NASA VISUALIZATION EXPLORER – NASA Visualization Explorer, or NASA Viz, is the coolest way to explore the latest news and stories about the Earth, the sun, and the universe. The app features stunning images and video from space and animations that can make challenging concepts easier to understand. Older kids will love diving into everything this app has to offer on their own, and your younger ones can begin learning about the planets and stars with your help. For ages 7 and up, for iOS
SCRATCH – Scratch is a coding programming language and an online community where children can program and share interactive media such as stories, games, and animation with people from all over the world. Scratch is designed especially for young people ages 8 to 16. Younger children may want to try ScratchJr (shown below) a simplified version of Scratch designed for ages 5 to 7. As children create with Scratch, they learn to think creatively, work collaboratively, and reason systematically. Scratch is designed and maintained by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. For Android and iOS
SCRATCH JR – Scratch Jr. teaches children as young as five the basics of coding. Designed by researchers at Tufts University and MIT, the app was inspired by the Scratch programming language, redesigned for a younger audience. Your child can make the app’s adorable characters move, jump, and even dance and sing by snapping together different programming blocks. In addition to learning how to code, they’ll also be learning problem solving, design, and how to create their own story. Ages 5 and up. For Android and iOS
SWIFT PLAYGROUNDS – Swift Playgrounds is an app for older kids, ages 9 and up (and adults!) that was created by Apple to introduce people to the coding language that app developers across the globe use. In the app, you can learn the basics of coding language through puzzles, targeted lessons, and dynamic visuals. The app is gorgeous to look at and fun to play, but it works best on iPads.
Other Recommended App’s via Common Sense Media:
LEELA KIDS – For those of you that would like to include podcasts in your home learning – Leela kids is a great one stop shop for finding engaging podcasts for your kids and you. You select your children’s’ age and topic of interest and then Leela Kid’s technology crawls the podcast universe to find kid-safe audio content based on your selection.
We will be updating this list periodically, please reach out to Anuk at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to share another resource that would be beneficial for the community. Thank you.
We are in this together and will come out stronger if we stick together and care for one another. We wish you and your family well.