School closures and household isolation because of COVID-19 means that millions of parents around the world are facing the daunting task of home education. In this article have collected a list of free and paid online resources, tools and ideas to make it easier for parents to get started.
The next weeks (or months) are going to be hard on all of us adjusting to the new lifestyle of working and education children from home. At the same time, we want to take advantage of the situation and make most out of our time together at home reading children’s books, listening to free audiobooks and watching quality movies as well as doing some limited activities outdoors. Taking advice from parents that have been home educating their children for years, and using our own favourite tools here is our best tips.
Check official lockdown guidelines and school updates
Your local school will keep you updated depending on how the Coronavirus situation is developing and affecting your child. They will usually update their guidelines as soon as new statements have been communicated by the government. Your school should also be the first port of call for any questions or concerns regarding coronavirus and children. Check recent information provided by your school through their website, newsletters or bulletin boards. Most likely you already have access to online learning resources from your school, but if not make sure to get all the logins you need.
- Make sure the school has your latest details like email and phone number.
- Check that you are receiving school communication through email and/or SMS
- Get access to all the online resources that your school offers
- Join parents support groups if available, i.e. WhatsApp groups
- Check the school website and/or social media for updates
- If you are in the UK, check the UK government website and NHS website for the latest updates on coronavirus and children
Create a home education schedule
There are several examples of home education schedules making their rounds on the internet. Instead of simply adopting a standard template, we recommend adjusting it according to what suits your family best. We don’t have a rigid schedule for what to do from hour to hour, but we do have some simple rules around when to do what.
Being on the same page when it comes to when it’s time for pay and when it’s time for schoolwork just make things a lot more simple for everyone involved.
- Mornings after breakfast: Lessons that require the most concentration, like mathematics
- Late mornings: Outside time weather permitting (list of safe activities further down)
- After lunch: Reading and writing
- After dinner: TV and/or games (more as a reward for good behaviour during the day)
Make the world your classroom
Certain school assignments will be mandatory and non-negotiable but beyond these tasks, it’s important to give children a say in what you will be focusing on. Learning is most effective when driving through intrinsic motivation, so try to include different types of activities in your sessions. Most likely they’ll have some favourite themes they are fascinated by; for us, it’s all about the Tudors and the Vikings when it comes to learning history. Strong female characters like Ronja, the robber’s daughter and Pippi Longstockings are great motivators for reading. The fascination for animals and nature is great when it comes to learning about geography and new countries. Here are some examples of thinking out of the box:
- Give the grandparents a call on Skype to talk about how things were when they were kids. Did they experience the war? What type of toys did they play with when they were kids? What materials were they made of?
- Put up a bird feeder outside your kitchen window helping your kids identify birds.
- Take a walk in your local park and look at leaves and find out more about leaf characteristics and how leaves can be used to identify plants.
- Make paper mache planets to learn about the solar system. Check ProjectKid for DIY ideas.
- Teach science to kids through baking; show them how a raising agent (like baking soda) works with another ingredient.
- Encourage pretend play; let your kids dress up and act like their favourite character
Take advantage of online home education resources
- Xtramath XtraMath is a completely free online/app-based program that helps students learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts.
- BrainPop BrainPop is a collection of educational sites with over 1,000 small animated movies for students in grades K-12, together with quizzes and similar materials, including the subjects of science, social studies, English, math, engineering and technology, health, and arts and music
- CuriosityStream CuriosityStream is a private media company and video-on-demand streaming service. It is offering subscription-based nonfiction documentaries and series about science, nature, history, technology, society and lifestyle.
- Tynker Tynker is an educational programming platform directed at educating children how to create games and programs. Rather than typing the source code, you visually drag blocks of code and snap them together.
- Outschool Outschool is a community marketplace of online classes for kids. They help parents discover and enrol for classes that are offered outside of regular school. They also support teachers, both professional and amateur, manage and promote their classes to parents.
- Udemy 100,000 online video courses with new additions published every month
- Best Academy Online Beast Academy Online is an interactive online platform that guides students through elementary-school math with puzzles and problem-solving practice.
- Khan Academy Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2008 with the goal of creating a set of online tools that help educate students.
- Creative Bugs Access to thousands of online art and craft classes.
- Discovery Education A range of services like digital content, interactive lessons, virtual experiences with Discovery’s presenters and contributors, classroom contests and challenges.
- Virtual Museum Tours Virtual tour of 12 famous museums from the safety and comfort of your home
- All-in-one Homeschooling Free homeschooling curriculum with everything from preschool activities to 12th grade.
10 educational YouTube channels to consider
- Crash Course Kids The bi-weekly show from the producers of Crash Course is all about grade school science. They are looking at Earth, Habitats, Space, Chemical Reactions, Engineering, and much much more with host Sabrina Cruz.
- Cosmic Kids Yoga Yoga, mindfulness and relaxation designed especially for kids aged 3+, used in schools and homes all over the world.
- Art for kids hub This YouTube station gives attainable, simple art instruction from a father and usually his son.
- Science Channel Learn about outer space, leading scientific exploration, new technology, earth science basics, & more with science videos & news from Science Channel.
- SciShow Kids SciShow We really like how they explain complex scientific concepts in an easy to understand way that is also entertaining for children. A great (and slightly addictive) channel for families educating at home!
- NatGeoKids Nat Geo Kids makes it fun to explore your world with weird, wild, and wacky videos! Videos featuring wonderful animals, cool science, curious pets
- FreeSchool FreeSchool is a safe and friendly place to expose children to famous art, classical music, children’s literature, and natural science in an age-appropriate and kid-accessible way.
- Geofocus The GEOfocus channel is all about geography! I love geography, maps, flags, culture, languages, and travel. The videos I create for this channel include profiles of countries and regions, descriptions of important landmarks and geographical features (both natural and man-made), and discussion of international issues. Get to know planet Earth and how mankind interacts with it!
- Brainscoop Sharing the work and research of natural history museums with the world
- SciShow A YouTube science show for kids releasing daily well-produced videos 5-10 min long. A great choice for homeschoolers!
20 games and apps great for homeschooling
- Poio App for Apple and Android teaching children how to read
- Starfall Free to you use online service, learning through play.
- Abcya Over 400 fun and educational games categorized by grade and subject covering topics such as multiplication, parts of speech, typing, pattern recognition
- Funbrain Funbrain offers hundreds of games, books, comics, and videos that develop skills in math, reading, problem-solving and literacy
- Splashlearn StudyPad’s vision is to transform K-12 learning by making it fun and personalized for every child and to prepare them for skills required in 21st-century.
- Storyline Online The children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations
- PBS kids Educational resource from PBS that makes it easy for kids to get quickly up and running learning through interactive games.
- Highlights kids Highlights for Children, often referred to simply as Highlights, is an American children’s magazine. The website is for children of all ages to play games and discover new jokes, surveys, answers to science questions, and fun crafts and recipes from Highlights
- Nat Geo Kids Magazine featuring facts about animals, science, history and geography, along with fun competitions, games and more
- CoolMath4kids Simple and straight forward games that are easy to get started with, no registration required. We really like this website!
- Math Game Time Math Game Time was created by educators to help kids succeed to provide a fun, educational playground for students in Pre-K through 7th grade to excel in math.
- Unite for Literacy Unite for Literacy has developed the platform, publishing tools, and systems-based strategies that support our public and private sector partners to change the literacy landscape of their communities and optimize the future for all their young children.
- Literactive Literactive is a provider of reading material for pre-school, kindergarten and grade 1 students available online.
- Science for kids Learn more about the amazing world of science by enjoying fun science experiments, cool facts, online games, free activities, ideas, lesson plans, photos, quizzes, videos & science fair projects.
- Switch Zoo Switch Zoo has 142 species, and the website features additional animal games, music created from animal voices, a reference section, lesson plans, and poetry, stories and artwork created by students and other visitors.
- SeussVille The Cat in the Hat, Sam-I-Am, Horton and the Whos, and the rest of the Seuss characters welcome you to Seussville, Dr. Seuss’s playground in cyberspace
- Turtle Diary Interactive ways of learning with the help of fun online games, videos, experiments, puzzles, colouring sheets, and more!
- e-learningforkids Free and fun digital education for children worldwide
- Happy Numbers Game-based learning where kids get visual rewards of special creatures hatching from eggs and revealing new planets for having completed math practice.
- Seterra A fun, interactive geography game with quizzes your children can play with and learn about the world
Home education through outdoor activities
Make sure to include physical activity in your daily schedule. Fresh air is good for kids as well as for you as parents. Being under the sun gives you a healthy dose of vitamin D, which is essential for a healthy immune system as well as your general state of mental and physical wellbeing. It can improve your mood, decrease feelings of stress or anger, and make you feel more relaxed.
The type of activities that will be possible to take depends on the Government’s measures when it comes to social distancing, i.e. keeping 2 meters distance to others outside of your own immediate family. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a highly infectious disease which means guidelines and regulations need to be respected. No matter what activities you engage in, make sure to take the follow the measures as per the government’s advice:
- Social distancing: Avoid situations where there are crowds incl. meeting up with friends and extended family. Avoid any contact with people that are sick or have symptoms.
- Hand hygiene: Wash your hands and avoid touching your face. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects in the home.
- Respiratory hygiene: Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then bin your tissue and wash your hands.
12 safe outdoor activities with kids
Expecting the Coronavirus pandemic to go through different phases with guidelines changing from week to week, “safe outdoor activities” will ultimately depend on official government advice, rules and regulations. It’s also allowed to use common sense and stay active in your local area while respecting the social distancing rules. As an example, if it’s not allowed to have picnics in the Royal Parks (like at the time of writing), an alternative could be your garden or on your veranda. These tips are our own personal suggestions of course and do not represent official guidelines in any way.
Here are activities you should be able to safely do, while still respecting the guidelines:
- Go for a walk: Take advantage of the green space around you. Create a few alternative routes and alternate between them. Add some pitstops along the routes to make sure the kids get to play a bit as well.
- Ride your scooter: Our kids love their scooters and it’s a fantastic exercise that you can do almost everywhere in London/
- Go for a bike ride: Find a safe bike-path in your area and go for a family bike ride!
- Learn skateboarding: It’s easier than you think, especially for kids that are used to scooting
- Walk your dog: Your dog will love it!
- Make a theatre show in your garden: Take advantage of your local park/woodlands or garden and play out your favourite fairytale!
- Fly a kite: We know several spots around London that are always windy 😉
- Climb a tree: We love climbing the old fallen over trees in Hampstead Heath
- Go mudlarking: Go treasure hunting along the Thames foreshore
- Go birdwatching: Birds are everywhere! Here are some tips on how to get started.
- Identify trees: Take a book or use this free app from Woodland Trust to identify British trees using leaves, bark, twigs, buds, flowers or fruit.
- Go for a picnic: Get a boost of vitamin D by enjoying your lunch in the sun!
Check our article Coping with Coronavirus: 20 activities with kids outdoors for a more extensive list
What about playgrounds during lockdown?
If the playground is crowded, we would most definitely skip it right away. If the playground is relatively empty you should also consider the research showing that Coronavirus can live on hard surfaces such as plastic and metal for a very long time. Disinfecting the playground on your own is not an option, and it’s also very difficult to prevent children from touching their face. So even if the playground is relatively empty, the risk is there.
On the positive side, research is also showing that sunlight kills the coronavirus because of ultraviolet radiation (UV), which is deadly to it. If you are considering visiting a farm, we would make the same considerations as for playgrounds.
Home Education Bloggers
If you are interested exploring homeschooling further, a good starting-point could be to follow some of these excellent bloggers with many years of experience educating their children at home:
ofamily learning together Stay at home mother of two sharing her favourite learning projects. Lots of hands-on advice on how to get started with practical examples.
Let them be small Mum of three children, sharing her Home Education journey
Enchanted Pixie – Mum of three girls, blogging about day-to-day life and home education
Adele Jarrett -Kerr Mother of three living in Cornwall, blogging about home education and sharing beautiful photos of her family in the countryside
Don’t forget to check our list of 100+ activities for kids bored at home!