Parents across the country are facing unprecedented school closures as part of the ongoing effort to contain the coronavirus. By the most recent estimates, at least 72,000 of the 98,000 public schools in the U.S. have been impacted by school closures.
Without knowing how long these school closures may last, it can feel hard to prepare. Improvising on a snow day is one thing—longer school closures call for creative planning on the part of schools and parents alike.
Every family will have to find a solution that works best for them, but here are some guidelines and resources for homeschooling during school closures.
In this article:
Learning at home: Where to start
Communicate with your child's teacher
If you haven't already signed up for email communication from your child's school, now's the time. Teachers across the country are scrambling to prepare and execute lesson plans that can be taught remotely. Now is a great time to check in with your child's teacher to see if there is anything in particular your child needs to work on—and to say a heartfelt thanks for all they do.
You don't have to launch right in with a full-fledged 8-hour curriculum of activities, videos and worksheets for your kids. If you want to use this time to slow down and connect as a family, that is a worthwhile choice, too. Especially if you have a younger child, don't be afraid to just make this a time to focus on being together as a family and having fun. While no one would ever choose this situation, it may present a unique opportunity to spend time together as a family.
Remember kids learn from play
Learning doesn't have to take the form of worksheets and spelling tests. Young children have such a strong desire for knowledge. If you can trust them to lead the way, you may be surprised by how they choose to spend their time and where their curiosity takes them. And you don't need a degree in education to teach your children valuable skills through family activities:
- Play board games
- Do puzzles
- Cook together
- Plant a spring garden
- Use butcher paper to draw a life-size family portrait
Each and every one of these activities are educational for children, without mimicking school.
How to create a homeschool routine
Start with the basics
One of the most important things you can do for your child (and yourself!) is to form a routine early. What will your days at home look like? Take a few minutes to write out a rough schedule. It could look something like this:
- Snuggles, breakfast and getting dressed
- Reading together as a family
- Practicing any school assignments or work you choose for your child
- Outside play
- Lunch (and nap if applicable)
- Afternoon playtime
This is just one example—your daily plan could look totally different. It might feel weird to write a schedule for a day at home, but young children really crave routine and it will help them if they know what to expect. Besides, having a schedule is much easier than trying to sneak in work throughout the day while you half-play with your child.
Remember, your children learn without you all day long at school—and they can do it at home, too, with a little help. While you may (okay, will) encounter some resistance at first, your children will quickly get used to the expectation that, for instance, they play independently after breakfast while you get some work done.
One of the beauties of homeschooling, even in these bizarre circumstances, is flexibility. If you'd planned to do a math activity with your child but they are super into building a complex Lego creation, let them build. Having time off from school is a great opportunity for them to practice choosing what to work on themselves and to experience the deep concentration that follows.
Start with a plan, if for no other reason than to ease your own anxiety, but be open to the unexpected places your day could go and the unique ways your own child learns. Don't forget how much learning comes from play!
For more help creating a homeschool routine during school closures:
Resources for learning at home
Schools across the country are mobilizing for an unprecedented shift to remote learning, with educators and administrators working to make educational resources available while school is closed, through activity packets, online learning resources and digital classrooms.
In addition to what your child's teacher provides, there are hundreds of exciting online resources at your disposal. It can take some time to sort through them, but it is certainly easier than starting from scratch!
For early learners
5 reading games to play with your child: Reading together is one of the best (and most fun) ways parents can help young children learn.
12 easy science activities to do with your child: Easy STEM-based projects you can do at home will help kids explore their world and master basic scientific concepts.
15 math activities you can do at home: You don't have to be an expert mathematician to introduce math concepts to your children.
10 music activities that help boost learning: Ask any teacher: Music is a great educational tool for creating a calm classroom, releasing stress and helping kids focus.
49 Montessori-inspired indoor activities: Kids crave projects and activities that they can complete independently (once you show them how).
28 educational apps for toddlers, preschoolers + elementary school kids: Don't feel bad about loosening your restrictions around screen time right now, mama.
For elementary school learners
Scholastic Learn at Home: The editors of the beloved Scholastic classroom magazines have created an online hub full of learning materials for grades Pre-K through 6.
150+ Enrichment Activities for Children While Parents are Working Remotely: Compiled by educators and parents, this spreadsheet of educational activities for kids of all ages has gone viral, and for good reason.
Outschool: Your child can join virtual classes on subjects from language to math to music theory (with Legos!) on this video learning platform.
150+ Educational Shows on Netflix: This list from Homeschool Hideout, a community resource site run by a homeschooling mom, is a great resource for independent educational screen time.
Clever Learner: Find dozens of printable worksheets that help teach basic math, writing, science and language skills.
Teachers pay teachers: While not specifically designed for homeschool, these resources are inexpensive, developed by teachers, and span a wide array of subjects and learning levels.
Brainly: Get homework help from real students and teachers on this site, which enables students to ask questions and get detailed answers on most topics.
Fun ways to keep kids busy at home
It's more important than ever to build in time for joy and play. Fortunately for us parents trying to keep kids busy and engaged at home during extended social distancing, parks, artists, companies and institutions are putting their collective creativity to good use, offering free virtual experiences.
Check our constantly-growing list of virtual activities for you and your children to enjoy while spending time at home, including these great online resources for keeping kids busy.
Read a book with Olaf: Frozen actor Josh Gad is tucking kids in at night with bedtime stories. Every night the actor is reading to little ones on Twitter.
Ride Space Mountain: Online ride-through videos for all the rides at Disney World and Disneyland aren't quite as cool as the real thing, but we'll take what we can get.
Doodle with Mo Willems: Every weekday at 1 pm ET, award-winning children's book author and illustrator Mo Willems is conducting an online sketch session for kids.
Tour national parks from your couch: Google Earth has virtual tours of America's treasured national parks.
Cook with real chefs and cookbook authors: America's Test Kitchen has opened up its library of educational cooking videos for aspiring young chefs.
Play with animals at the zoo. The Cincinnati Zoo may be closed to the public at the moment, but it's open online for animal-lovers, thanks to a new Facebook video series that shows how zoologists care for animals at the zoo, weekdays at 3 pm.
Subscription boxes: From geography to art to coding, subscription boxes can help you fill extra hours at home with educational and engaging activities for your kids, without the need to scour Pinterest.
How to make screen time beneficial: More time at home will mean more screen time for many, and that's okay. Here's how to make it beneficial for your kiddos!
Each family will need to make their own decision about what to do in the event of a school closure. Your child's age and academic needs, your availability to work with them, and the length of the school closure will all play a role in how you decide to spend this time. Just trust that you know best what's right for your child and your family in these challenging circumstances. You've got this, mama!