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Thirteen Free Online Resources To Educate And Entertain Your Kids

School’s out for… an undetermined amount of time.

The COVID-19 outbreak has deeply changed our lives over the past few months. You’re not only confined to the limited living space of your own home, you’re confined to your own home… with your kids.

It doesn’t matter if they’re energetic preschoolers or brooding teenagers—it’s hard to keep them entertained while you work or check items off your daily to-do list. Add the challenge of continuing their education at home, and things may start to spiral out of control.

Some good news though: You can find reinforcements online, and we’re not talking about hiring a tutor off Craigslist. As a way to collaborate with parents as we wait out the pandemic, a handful of online platforms, services, and publishers have made their content available to keep students learning while in lockdown. Some have even created material specifically to guide parents and teachers during the transition to homeschooling. Best of all, they come with no price tag attached.

But first, some words of wisdom

Using online resources to help your kids learn at home doesn’t mean you get to press “play” and let the magic happen by itself. The 21st century version of hiding comic books behind a biology one is way more elaborate—changing between tabs and desktops on a laptop takes less than a second—so you’ll actually need to get involved and monitor what they do.

If you feel unprepared for this challenge, don’t worry—COVID-19 didn’t give anybody time to do research ahead of time, so your wavering confidence is not only normal, but expected. Fortunately, we have some tips to help you cope.

Be flexible

There’s a lot of pressure to be productive in lockdown—people are posting on social media about taking the quarantine as an opportunity to learn new skills and languages, and how you should do the same. But these are stressful times, and just as you may not feel like teaching yourself how to play guitar, students need a little leeway too.

“We have to be realistic, and it’s important that parents be sensitive to kids,” says William Jeynes, a professor of education at California State University, Long Beach, and an expert on homeschooling. “This is not the time to be a helicopter parent.”

Jeynes underscores the importance of remembering that kids are under a lot of stress right now—like you, they’ve had their routines interrupted and may be scared of what’s to come. He recommends parents step back a bit and, instead of trying to get their kids to cover as much material as they normally would in school, look for assignments that are not quite as demanding.

Find a schedule that works for your kid

One of the first things your child may have lost was their schedule. Maybe they’re now going to bed late at night and waking up at noon. That’s normal, and if you want them to keep studying or doing homework, it may not necessarily be a bad thing.

“It’s good to have a discussion and give the child room to say, ‘It’s too much for me,’” says Jeynes.

Having realistic expectations is especially important if your child was preparing for a standardized test, like the SAT, that has been canceled. If that’s the case, try to balance test prep with their schoolwork so they don’t get overwhelmed.

Listen to your kids and ask them directly what works for them—some may not be at their best in the afternoon or may concentrate better in the evening. Once you agree on a schedule you both can work with, try to stick with it, but don’t be strict about it—these are not normal times.

In general, stress makes it harder for kids to pay attention and move from one activity to the next. The unexpected change of being locked down at home, plus the uncertainty of living through a global pandemic, will definitely affect their learning process. Be patient—the fact your kids are not playing Animal Crossing all day is already a huge win.

Parents of the world, unite

When you’re in lockdown, you may feel your whole world has been reduced to the space within the four walls of your home, but know that you’re not alone. Lots of parents are freaking out and may be asking the same questions you are.

It’s time to team up. Organizing with the parents of other students in your kid’s class, or anybody with children the same age as yours, can facilitate not only moral support, but actual, practical help.

Once together, you can allocate responsibilities like researching and sharing the best educational resources. Other parents might also be able to relieve you from homework duty every night. Jeynes suggests that if one or more parents are fluent in different languages or particularly well-versed in history, math, or any other subject, they could make themselves available in shifts to help children with their homework over platforms such as Skype or Zoom.

Try it out and see what works best for you and your children. If you need even more help, well, look no further.

New York Public Library

  • Content appropriate for: all ages
  • What’s available: free audiobooks, online live homework help (in English and Spanish), and more

Even if you don’t live in New York, the state’s library system has made some of its remote learning resources for kids and teenagers available online, including practice tests, video readings, and certain databases. These have always been accessible to anyone with a NYPL card, but after the COVID-19 outbreak, some are now available to non-members.

All content has been sorted by grade for easy navigation—from pre-K to high school—so you can immediately see what material will suit your kid’s needs and education level. One of the most interesting services on offer is one-on-one live tutoring for homework help. It’s available for both English- and Spanish-speaking students on weekdays from 2 to 11 p.m.

Khan Academy

  • Content appropriate for: all ages
  • What’s available: guides for students, parents, and teachers available in 40 languages, daily livestreams on Facebook and YouTube, plus schedules for students of all ages

Khan Academy is a renowned educational resource for students worldwide learning a wide range of subjects, from math to languages. On top of the educational content they already offer for free, Khan Academy has posted guides and FAQs to help parents and teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The site also offers live webinars with education professionals every day.

One particularly useful resource is the set of daily schedules designed by experts for students from pre-K through 12th grade. If you’re worried about maintaining structure during lockdown, following one of these schedules is a great way to avoid one day blurring into the next.

The Audubon Society

  • Content appropriate for: elementary and middle school students
  • What’s available: bird guides, craft and art projects, and outdoor activities

The Audubon Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of birds in America. Its website now features educational material specifically designed to help young kids explore birds and nature from the safety of their homes during the pandemic. That includes birding guides and projects that range from learning how to draw a bird to identifying and appreciating city pigeons.

Scholastic

  • Content appropriate for: first- and second-graders
  • What’s available: videos, activities, and books with read-alongs

The publishing house that brought you Clifford the Big Red Dog (a classic) has also made some of its content available online for free. The material covers subjects including science, math, reading, and writing, and is indexed according to age. Every day, the platform offers two readings on the same subject with difficulty levels that match your child’s reading level. When that’s done, your kid can apply what they’ve learned by completing a matching activity. The daily curriculum also includes one project in Spanish.

Mission US

  • Content appropriate for: middle school and high school students
  • What’s available: a role-playing game that teaches US history

Mission US is a free online role-playing game and a fun way for kids to experience important moments in US history. There are five missions, each designed to depict events such as the Great Depression and the start of the American Revolution, through the eyes of an adolescent protagonist. As each story progresses, players will have to make decisions that have real consequences as they navigate those difficult times. A single mission can keep a player entertained for at least a couple hours, and if you choose to accompany your kid on their journey, you might get hooked too.

PBS for Kids

  • Content appropriate for: children in pre-K and elementary school
  • What’s available: videos, activities, and a daily newsletter for parents

PBS for Kids has a handful of tools to keep your little ones entertained and learning. You don’t need to have the PBS channel to access their platforms—only the live TV features. Their online educational material covers art, science, math, and literacy, and comes in the form of videos, exercises, and games.

To make your life easier, you can subscribe to a daily weekday newsletter with various and cohesive sets of activities for kids ages 5 to 8.

Radiolab for Kids

  • Content appropriate for: all ages
  • What’s available: a selection of Radiolab’s family-friendly episodes

One of the longest-running podcasts out there, Radiolab is a true institution when it comes to scientific on-demand radio content. To help parents keep their children entertained during the outbreak, the team behind the show put together Radiolab for Kids: a deep dive into the podcast’s archives that gathers episodes that appeal to younger audiences.

The selection includes the answers to questions such as: “Is laughter a human thing?” “What is the purpose of mosquitoes?” And “How global is tic-tac-toe?

Club SciKidz

  • Content appropriate for: elementary and middle school students
  • What’s available: daily science lessons and activities for kids

Club SciKidz offers science camps, but these days their blog also features daily activities with videos and experiments that children and teens can conduct at home. All of them focus on chemistry, physics, astronomy, and other scientific disciplines, and come in different levels (primary and intermediate) so kids of all ages and backgrounds can feel comfortable.

Mathgames

  • Content appropriate for: pre-K to eighth-grade students
  • What’s available: games (free and paid) for different math skills and levels

This is a simple platform that lets kids choose the kind of game they want to play and learn with. You have to pay for some of them, but most are free and allow users to choose not only the difficulty level, but also what skill they want to practice, from simple counting to mixed equations.

Hippocampus

  • Content appropriate for: all ages
  • What’s available: quick videos, simulations, and varied content on several subjects

Hippocampus is an open-source project that aims to gather and make all kinds of educational material available for kids and teenagers. The platform has a great amount of multimedia content—videos, simulations, and graphics—covering subjects like math, science, English, history, social science, and religion. It’s absolutely free and there’s no login required.

Google

  • Content appropriate for: all ages
  • What’s available: 3D animals, virtual tours, and more

It may not be news to you, but Google offers a lot more than searching. These days, people online are having fun with the 3D animals feature, which allows you to see life-size tigers, lions, and panda bears, among others, in augmented reality.

If you have a virtual reality visor—and even if you don’t—the Expeditions app (available for iOS and Android devices) is a fun way for kids to explore places around the world, such as the Roman ruins in Italy and the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Rosetta Stone

  • Content appropriate for: students from kindergarten to 12th grade
  • What’s available: three months of free language lessons (available in 24 languages)

Rosetta Stone is a well-known web platform for learning new languages, and in the midst of the pandemic, they’ve given students three months of lessons for free. Students can choose languages common in US schools, such as Spanish (from either Spain or Latin America), French, and German, but also Persian, Hindi, and Polish. To sign up, you’ll need to provide a parent’s name, email address, and the name of the school your child attends.

Beanstalk

  • Content appropriate for: kids ages 18 months to 6 years old
  • What’s available: three months of live and on-demand science and art lessons, and varied activities

This platform (currently in its beta version) aims to give kids “healthy screen time” by proposing real-life movement and activities. Here you’ll be able to find live and recorded classes for young kids, some of them with projects you can make at home. Beanstalk is available on desktop, mobile, and smart TVs, and to help parents during the COVID-19 outbreak, it now offers three months of free lessons.

Source: https://www.popsci.com/story/diy/free-learning-educational-resources-online/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter 

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