Need Help Sorting Through the Avalanche of Online Resources for Kids Who Are Now Learning at Home? 11 Sites for Parents to Look At
Amidst school closures and children being confined at home, parents now face the challenge of balancing their work responsibilities with their children’s educational needs. However, starting this process can be overwhelming. The abundance of online resources can often be more daunting than helpful. Therefore, we have consulted experts to provide a simplified list of recommendations.
According to Thomas Arnett, a senior research fellow in education at the Clayton Christensen Institute, parents should begin by considering their aims and goals as parents. It’s crucial to avoid viewing resources as mere babysitters and instead have a clear understanding of what they hope to achieve through online learning or educational activities.
Arnett suggests focusing on what parents want their children to create or accomplish. Discovering something that resonates with the child’s passion can be beneficial. This could involve an art project, a short story, or even an engineering endeavor. It might involve online research, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be an online activity.
Key to success, Arnett emphasizes, is for parents to actively engage with their children, rather than simply plugging them into a program and letting them go. Children tend to become bored quickly when left to their own devices. Therefore, parents should dedicate as much time as they can spare, understanding that they may be juggling work responsibilities simultaneously, to assist their children in getting started and acknowledge their progress. With this support, online learning software can become more meaningful and educationally relevant.
Cindi Williams, co-founder of Learning Heroes, a nonprofit organization, and former senior official at institutions such as the U.S. Department of Education, the White House, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, acknowledges that it can be challenging to discern valuable resources from others. She recommends identifying reliable resources that are free and can be categorized by grade level and topic.
Here is a list of suggestions meant to encourage rather than overwhelm:
1. Khan Academy and Khan Daily:
Begin with Khan Academy, as it offers a wide variety of videos and practice activities across various subjects. Aside from math, it also covers other areas of study. Notably, there is also the Pixar in a Box option, which delves into the mathematical, artistic, and storytelling aspects involved in creating Pixar movies. Additionally, Khan Daily provides a "block" schedule structure for independent navigation through subjects, incorporating videos and practice questions.
Scholastic provides reading lessons, videos, and activities for K-12 students. It covers diverse topics, including plant life, animals, and magazine-style articles enhanced by nonfiction subjects, which are divided into five-day courses for grades three through six.
Prodigy is a popular math practice tool set in a fantasy world, particularly embraced by Arnett’s children. Featuring math concepts and an engaging game aspect, it provides a platform for kids to familiarize themselves with math through practice.
Both Arnett and Williams recommend Zearn as an interactive math website with gamified classroom lessons tailored to the user. The site offers tutorial webinars to help users navigate the platform.
5. National Geographic:
Normally reserved for teachers and behind a paywall, National Geographic’s curriculum is currently available to parents for free. It grants access to videos, interactive maps, and activities that encourage exploration across various subjects, from ecology to geography.
This K-8 website features informative videos that delve into science, social studies, art, music, and health in great detail. It also introduces subject-specific vocabulary.
7. Learning Hero Roadmap:
Learning Heroes’ Roadmap is an interactive guide that assists parents in understanding grade-level skills in math, reading, and other subjects such as social and emotional learning. Williams states that the Roadmap provides activities and tools to help parents identify their child’s strengths, interests, and areas in need of support.
8. Curriculum Associates:
Curriculum Associates offers the i-Ready curriculum, which has created printable at-home activity packs recommended by Arnett. These packs facilitate a focus on math learning.
9. College Board:
For comprehensive practice tests in math, English, and writing, College Board is highly recommended. Williams notes that the site’s resources aid not only in preparing for college entrance exams but also in practicing college-level work.
Reading Rockets Packages
According to Williams, this platform has a particular emphasis on young students belonging to the pre-K to third-grade age group. It provides resources in the form of guidelines for effectively interacting with two different kinds of books: one belonging to the fiction genre, and the other falling under nonfiction. Additionally, it also offers supplementary activities to reinforce learning.