Online learning: How to keep your kids educated and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic

a man and his daughter sitting at a table at home and learning with a laptop

With schools shut down across much of the world to weather the pandemic storm that is COVID-19, teachers, parents, and students everywhere face uncertainty around how learning and education will continue while we all self-isolate and hope our kids can go back to school soon.  

Now that spring break is over, many parents, who are either working from home or have lost their jobs, face the challenge of having to drag their kids away from Animal Crossing or that third viewing of The Rise of Skywalker and take up the role of teacher to curate their kid’s education for the foreseeable future. It’s a daunting task, but luckily we have the internet.   

As school boards and learning institutions work towards long-term, online learning solutions, some parents are rising to the challenge by organizing Zoom video gatherings with their kids’ classmates and teachers, and drawing from the plethora of online resources, apps, tech tools and games to pull together fun, daily “class” schedules. And whether you’re looking for something holistic and structured or prefer to pull from various sources to fill out your kid’s curriculum, here we round up a range of them, mainly for the elementary and secondary (or K-12) education range. These resources will help keep young minds engaged and learning while we get through this together. 

Tip: Check with your child’s teacher or school, they may have classroom logins for many of these resources.

General learning

Scholastic Learn at Home

The folks at educational publishing company Scholastic have risen to the occasion, offering 21 days of content for kids, taken from a range of their web resources. Updated weekly, each block offers five days of themed lessons (up to three hours of activity per day) across science, social studies, math, history, geography and more. Fun articles, videos, quizzes and readings for kids from pre-K to grade 9 will keep them busy, and can be done on their own or with help from mom or dad.   

Common Sense Media

Trusted non-profit media recommendation organization, Common Sense Media, has compiled a COVID-19 portal of helpful at-home learning resources for families, and includes everything from support content on how to de-stress your kids and talk to them about coronavirus, to tips on how to create a daily homeschool plan. This could be a great starting point for parents as they try out different options.       

Khan Academy

The popular not-for-profit e-learning platform has stepped up to the plate, offering well-organized and free educational resources for kids aged 4-18, covering most major subject areas. Using a variety of exercises, articles, and videos, students can learn at their own pace online and via the free Khan Academy and Khan Academy Kids apps. During the school closures, Khan has even laid out helpful daily learning schedules for parents to follow, as well as a daily “homeroom” live stream on Facebook and YouTube, with founder Sal Khan. Using the platform, parents can add assignments and track their kids’ progress.          

Math

two children playing with an abacus in a bedroom

SplashLearn

Fun, colorful and easy-to-use, SplashLearn offers free trials for interactive math exercises to kids up to fifth grade. Parents sign up their kids and are given a dashboard where they can monitor progress and control the learning schedule and goals. For example, you could set Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4 p.m. as math days, and the system will send you reminders. Grade appropriate lessons are in the form of animated games, where kids are rewarded “coins” for correct answers.

Prodigy

You might have heard your kids talk about Prodigy already. The video-game style math learning platform is used by a million and a half teachers around the world. Made for students grades one through eight, the free Prodigy game is tied into several local school curriculums from around the world – and you get to choose the closest to your school district. As kids solve math challenges and compete in “math battles,” they progress in the game, navigating interesting worlds with fun characters. The game is adaptive and moves at the learning pace of the student. The best part is they can largely play unsupervised. Parents can track and support progress with real-time insights via a parent account.

Reading and Writing

Homer Reading and Homer Stories apps

Designed for kids aged 2-8, the Homer Reading app offers personalized learning plans based on age, current reading level and personal interests to help guide children through things like their ABCs, phonics, word recognition, basic storytelling and more. Additionally, Homer Stories combines the same personalized learning, but with interactive and animated versions of popular titles such as Angelina Ballerina and Thomas the Tank Engine. 

Tip: There are myriad other free resources for young readers worth checking out, including Raz Kids, Pebble Go and the aforementioned Scholastic Learn at Home.         

Epic

If you’re just looking for access to a large library of digital books (35,000 and counting) for kids 12 and under, many teachers and students are familiar with Epic. Accessible on desktops and mobile devices, the range of popular books, videos, audiobooks and quiz materials available is, well, epic. It includes fiction, non-fiction, biographies, STEM titles, graphic novels and more. You can even start with a free trial.

Quill

As their website boasts, “2.6 million students have written 353 million sentences on Quill,” a well-designed and easy-to-use online resource to help elementary, middle and high school students. Quill guides students through more than 50 hours and 400 activities of writing concepts, including parallel structure, grammar, commas, conjunctions, and prepositions, to name a few – all for free. Parents can choose and monitor the activities, and the platform can link with Google Classroom, if your child’s school uses it.    

Science, Coding & STEM

A mother home schooling her daughter at her dining room table

Mystery Science

Responding to the need for remote learning resources at home during the COVID-19 crisis, US-based online science learning provider Mystery Science has made a wide range of their popular mini (15-30 mins) and full-length (30-90 mins) digital science lessons for kids K-12 free to anyone. Lessons are hands-on and use readily-available materials you’re likely able to find, even in lockdown.   

Code.org & Scratch

For the code-crunchers at home, two of the world’s most popular coding resources would fit in well with your home curriculum. Code.org has curated a landing page of resources and introductory tutorials (create a dance party or a Minecraft adventure!) for kids from kindergarten and up. Helpful videos accompany each lesson and there are even two express courses that teach the fundamentals of computer science. 

Meanwhile, Scratch is an online coding platform from MIT geared toward kids eight and up. Step-by-step guides get kids started in creating games, animations and stories. 

Tip: Take the coding experience hands-on with OSMO, various sets of physical iPad accessories that offer coding, math, drawing, spelling and puzzle games kids interact with.      

Zizzle Inventions app

This app was founded by two Toronto-based parents who were frustrated at the lack of resources online for teaching their own young children the answers to basic questions like “How does a toilet work?” With a focus on science and engineering concepts found in everyday life, kids aged 3-7 tap and drag their way around the app to take apart and reassemble cute and colorful animations such as a rollercoaster, cement truck, toaster or vacuum cleaner, to learn how they tick. The first few inventions are free, with additional to purchase.

Museum tours

The #RijksmuseumFromHome series features museum curators who are able to provide more context and history behind some of the paintings and artifacts on display at the Dutch museum.

Many museums around the world are also closed to visitors for the time being, but that doesn’t stop them from creating and sharing content. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, for example, offers daily interactive activities online like sing-alongs, games, and videos. Other museums, like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul are offering virtual tours and creating other educational content for people to enjoy from the comfort of their own home.

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We aim to inform and inspire through thoughtful research, responsible reporting, and clear, unbiased writing, and to create a platform for a diverse group of innovators to bring multiple perspectives.

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