Learning From Home: Tips and Resources

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr.  Seuss

Just like that, we’re confined to a small space. Many of us at First Tech are parents and have suddenly added “homeschool teacher” to our list of responsibilities. With stay-at-home advisories and schools closed to slow down the spread of disease, we’ve been put in an unfamiliar situation. Luckily, there are great online resources to help our children to keep learning and “going places” even when our normal routines are put on pause.

First, some general homeschooling tips:

1)      You don’t need to recreate the classroom for success

Many schools have distance learning programs in place, and others are in the process of launching them now, so your child will likely have academic coursework assigned by teachers. Help children understand the goals and expectations for their grade level, but recognize that learning at home will look different than a traditional six- or seven-hour school day that covers several subjects. With fewer interruptions and less transition time than at school, you might be surprised to discover how quickly you can get things done.

Rule of thumb: elementary age will only need 1-2 hours of study time. Middle school, 2-3 hours, and high school, 3-4 hours. Don’t expect them to work 6-8 hours a day (even if you, the parent, need to work that much remotely for your job).

2)      Make a schedule, but be flexible.

For starters, try to make sure everyone gets enough sleep. Sleep is maybe the most important thing a growing child needs. There’s no need to get dressed for school, so maybe you can choose to let them sleep a little later. No need to build in unnecessary rules during this already stressful time. It’s ok to improvise how to fill their time, but having a general structure for the day helps. 

The best way to build a daily routine is to understand your child’s preferred learning style. Consider whether your child learns best by seeing, listening, or engaging directly in an activity. Are they more likely to do study work in the morning or afternoon? 

Talk to your child about what they want to work on. Let them be part of the planning. Responsibility and ownership of their learning in this time is a valuable skill to teach.

3)      Get outside when you can

“Shelter in home” doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors. When the weather is nice, pause book and online learning for some physical activity outdoors. Sun is the best way to get vitamin D, which is the best way to boost the immune system. Children need exercise and free time away from screens to thrive and avoid feeling cooped up. Try to give your child at least one hour of outdoor time a day. 

4)      Reading hour

Make sure your child keeps up on their reading. At younger ages, skills can diminish if they aren’t reading daily. Give them plenty of choices—even those that differ in style or level from what your kids usually pick. You can also check out books online from your local library with apps like Overdrive and Libby.
https://app.overdrive.com/
https://www.overdrive.com/apps/libby/

5)      Chore time counts as learning time

Remember home economics class? This is a great time to learn and be responsible for household chores. Spring cleaning this year can get serious! Also, cook together. There’s a lot of math in recipes. Knowing how to cook is a great life skill, not to mention a wonderful time to bond as a family. Grow a vegetable garden. Learning how to grow plants and food also means learning about science and biology. Hands-on projects like these at home can be as beneficial of a learning tool as what they bring home in their curriculum. 

6)      Be gentle. Be transparent. Be forgiving.

This is a stressful time for all ages. Don’t make it worse by stressing out about school. Be gentle. Have grace with your kids and with yourself. Let your kids know you’re learning as this happens too and that you support them. If you feel frustration begin to take over, walk away. There is no need to create time pressure right now. Later is okay. 

Now some resources by age range:

Resources for Elementary School Parents

Prodigy is a game-based math platform for students between first and eighth grade. Cost: Free to play. Premium membership offers more features and starts at $5 per month.
https://www.prodigygame.com/

Outschool offers small group video-chat courses presented by teachers and designed for kids ages 3 to 18. Cost: Varies. Some classes are just $5.
https://outschool.com/

Scholastic Book Lists will inspire new selections for your young readers. Its site also offers daily activities and lessons based around one of its books. Cost: Free
https://classroommagazines.scholastic.com/support/learnathome.html

DON’T FORGET: Leave ample time for play. Free play is a great way elementary age kids learn. 

Resources for Middle School Parents

Khan Academy provides practice exercises, quizzes, and videos on a wide range of subjects including math, science, humanities, and economics. You can even download their daily schedules and curricula. Cost: Free
https://www.khanacademy.org/

Schmoop offers study guides in a variety of subjects, including mythology, civics, film, history, science, and literature. Cost: Study guides are free, but extra features like test prep come with a price.
https://www.shmoop.com/

Math is Fun includes puzzles, games, and worksheets to help with math concepts. Cost: Free
https://www.mathsisfun.com/

DON’T FORGET: Kids in middle school need to keep in touch with friends. Parents can help by using FaceTime or even Zoom’s video conferencing tool so kids can see each other. 

Resources for High School Parents

LibriVox is a library of audiobooks recorded by volunteers in a variety of languages, from English to German to Portuguese. Cost: Free
https://librivox.org/

HippoCampus offers 17,000 educational videos in 13 different subject areas geared at students in middle school, high school, and college. Cost: Free
https://www.hippocampus.org/

Albert is an online study tool offering test preparation, English Language Arts, math, social studies, and science programs. Cost: $19–$79 per subject.
https://www.albert.io/home

DON’T FORGET: Because teenagers are old enough to understand the gravity of the current situation, they’re likely feeling significant anxiety and distress, just as many adults are. Create space for those emotions and allow your kids to grieve the loss of activities they were looking forward to, like graduation parties, prom, or travel. 

Lastly, make room for family time. Enjoy meals, games, projects, and movies together. Head outside and take nature walks as a family. This is a time to refocus on the people we love.

No matter what learning at home looks like for your child, remember that what works best for your family is what matters most.