Can you believe how quickly the spread of Coronavirus changed all of our lives? This Coronavirus is closing schools and businesses at an unprecedented rate. Families around the world isolate themselves at home to slow the spread. The challenge facing many parents is how to keep our kids occupied at home when they would usually be at school. How do we fill an extra 8 hours a day, week by week, for the unforeseeable future? Because all screen time doesn’t have to be mindless screen time, here are 5 education-focused and safe, free websites you can feel confident in sharing with your bored kids at home.
Stay home and protect your kids from COVID-19.
The Government of India is asking families to isolate at home, to practice social distancing when outside the house, and many districts are requiring all non-essential businesses and government agencies to close through a countrywide quarantine. Our first goal as parents is to protect our kids from the virus, and if you are looking for ideas, check out a previous blog I wrote, 10 Tips to Protect Your Family from the Coronavirus. With our kids at home, our second goal is to help our kids continue their education and normal life as much as possible with whatever resources we can find.
How we are managing in Delhi at home during the pandemic.
Our 5-year-old daughter’s school, once a week, sends an email to us with 5 days’ worth of homework assignments. A daily assignment consists of two worksheets that focus on reading, math, Hindi, and/or science. My wife is working full-time from home, I’m working part-time, so each day we come up with a plan for one of us to be with our daughter throughout the day. After her daily schoolwork is complete, we do several activities like cooking, art, workbooks on a variety of subjects I purchased on Amazon, and DIY science and craft kits. We also spend some time each day practicing the after-school activities she can no longer attend because of the quarantine: ballet, piano, and gymnastics. Free time, structured and unstructured screen time, nap time, and outside time, if safe, complete our day.
Schoolwork is not enough.
Our daughter usually finishes her school’s two daily worksheets in less than an hour. While we want our kids healthy and safe, we also worry about the opportunity cost, the lost time our kids would typically be at school. As much as we’d all love to stop working and solely concentrate on our kids’ education, for most of us, that’s just not possible. In addition, worksheets and craft kits aren’t enough either. Our kids need variety. To help you plan your kid’s daily activities, I’m sharing 5 education-focused websites, you can feel confident about sharing with your kids. By varying how our kids learn at home, and leveraging the love most kids have of technology, we can provide more fun and less boredom to their day, while feeling secure they’re thoughtfully engaged.
Screen time doesn’t have to be mindless.
While there is no substitute for an individual schoolteacher or the variety of teachers our kids engage with at school, there are education-focused websites that can engage your kid in fun and meaningful activities. My suggestion is to use these sites sparingly, perhaps just once a day. Add an activity on an education-based website with the other activities you have planned for them each day. It is understandable being home all day can become monotonous and boring for all us. Providing our kids with variety, one or two activities a day using technology in a meaningful way can go a long way to combatting boredom.
5 Free Education Based Websites for Kids for your consideration
I’ve compiled the following list from websites we’ve used, and recommendations from other parents and friends, many of whom are teachers. Before unleashing your kids on any of these sites, please review the sites beforehand. While I’m confident in the legitimacy and safety of these sites, you know your child best when it comes to what they are passionate about and which areas of study they may need more practice.
1. Scholastic Learn at Home
Day-by-day projects to keep kids reading, thinking, and growing. Scholastic created this site in response to COVID-19 and students being isolated at home. Scholastic has a long, excellent reputation as a leader in producing educational materials. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve put together this engaging website utilizing their catalog of print and media materials. The site focuses on reading and comprehension on a variety of subjects kids enjoy. The site also includes puzzles, games, art activities, virtual field trips, and opportunities for further learning. Each week Scholastic uploads another 5 days of activities specific to Pre-K – Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2, Grades 3 – 5, and Grades 6 – 9. We are big fans and users of the site.
GoNoodle is in a category all its own. Because Pre-K to grade 8 kids at home need some kind of physical release throughout the day, GoNoodle could be your “go-to” website. GoNoodle builds on the verifiable evidence that student learning improves when they are physically fit and engage in relaxation exercises. The site consists of a variety of 5 to 10-minute videos you can use between activities at home. Teachers or parents choose a video, walk the kids through the moves, then get out of the way. The site is updated regularly, is based on science, and is well-reviewed.
3. Storyline Online.
Storyline Online consists of children stories read by celebrities, combined with fantastic animation, designed to get kids excited about reading and storytelling. Imagine Kevin Costner reading Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girls Baseball Dream, Lily Tomlin reading Hey, That’s My Monster, or Betty White reading Harry the Dirty Dog. Each story provides two activity guides, one for parents and one for teachers. The activity guides are great and include discussion points, writing exercises, and creative art activities. New stories are added regularly. While Storyline Online is designed for PreK to grade 3 students, because of the amazing graphics and famous narrators, I can also see older students, even some adults, enjoying many of the stories.
4. Mystery Science.
Mystery Science is another company that created a site to share its resources with families and teachers in response to COVID-19. Mystery Science offers well-crafted and compelling videos designed to engage kids’ curiosity. The videos are funny, educational, and sometimes gross. Lessons are divided by grade level, kindergarten through 5th grade. Some of the mini-lessons are just a short video with places to pause and discuss, while other videos include additional reading materials, activities, and games. Mystery Science is well-reviewed, can be downloaded as an app, and combines classroom experiments, many you can do at home.
5. The Tech Interactive.
Tech Interactive is a privately-owned technology center in San Jose, California. Because all the websites I’ve included up to this point are focused on younger students, I wanted to share this excellent site for High School students. Visitors at Tech engage in hands-on activities focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). Because COVID-10 closed Tech, the company has released a series of challenges and experiments that can be done at home. If your high school student is interested in problem-solving through design, science, and technology, you must check Tech Interactive out. A quick and topic example is a challenge that asks students to design a plan to deliver a vaccine to various cities. Each city has its own downloadable student booklet, videos to watch, and prompts to take you through the process. Check it out!
Check out these education-focused websites for yourself!
I suggest you read through the summaries above and identify a site you think will resonate with your kid. Then take some time and explore the site. If you want to move ahead, create a profile, and engage any parental controls the site may include.
As I shared earlier, in our home, we have a daily list of scheduled activities. To help bring structure to you and your kid’s life at home, if you haven’t already, create your own family program. To bring some variety to your child’s life, I would consider designating thirty minutes, up to an hour for older students, to use the site. And be sure, that first day, to spend time together exploring the site. Both of you will more than likely discover features and content that appeal to both of you. Exploring the site together the first day is a great way to get them started and ensure you are familiar with how they are spending their time.
Feel confident that your kids are spending time productively while also having fun. When I think about it, few things in life make me feel better as a parent than knowing my daughter is safe while exploring and learning about the world around her. During the epidemic, being with our kids the entire 8 hours they would usually be at school is nearly impossible. And if you’re working from home, forget about it! However, we can schedule their day so that we can pick and choose some times when we need a break from our kids or be on a conference call with our supervisor. Finding an education-focused website your kids are excited to play can potentially be one of those activities when you know they’re learning, having fun, and most important of all, safe, while not being exposed to the virus.