When I made my decision to homeschool my daughter, I had the luxury of time. I debated pros and cons, researched everything I could lay my hands on, and made the choice that was best for my daughter.
The key word there is choice.
I had a choice.
I can’t imagine what it must feel like to have the choice of homeschooling thrust on you out of a necessity to stay alive, and I empathize with every single parent out there who finds themselves homeschooling during the Coronavirus.
I mean, it’s not like we aren’t stressed out enough, why not add the extra responsibility of taking over our children’s education while we’re at it?
In order to lessen your load, and hopefully make the homeschooling process easier along the way, I want to impart some tips, and a long list some of the many websites and resources I have utilized for the past two years in our homeschooling journey. (I’m sure I have missed many, it’s been a long homeschooling journey for us, and I’ve tried everything!)
I won’t lie to you, homeschooling, and ESPECIALLY homeschooling during COVID-19, isn’t easy. But, for those of you trying to homeschool during the coronavirus, read on for help from someone who has been there, done that.
1. To Schedule or Not to Schedule
When I first began to homeschool, I bought a planner, and created a wonderful, comprehensive schedule. It had EVERYTHING: second languages, dance, music theory, interactive math, geography, I mean, it was a freaking thing of beauty.
And it was totally and utterly useless.
I quickly found out that children often don’t like to follow schedules, and my neurodiverse and gifted child REALLY, REALLY, REALLY did not like to follow schedules.
So I had a choice: I either spend endless amounts of time and pull out chunks of hair in frustration as I try to make my child comply to me, OR I could focus on where she wanted to go, and what she wanted to learn each day.
It was like night and day.
Suddenly I had a child who was eager to learn and curious about the world around her.
Look, you do you, if you need to make a schedule and follow it, and your child responds well to the routine, then go for it. But first ask yourself, is the schedule for them or for me?
These are crazy times. We all have to adapt. And if you are trying to homeschool during the coronavirus, I think adaptability may take top priority.
2. Make it Fun
Look, they may not show it, but our kids are listening, and taking in more then they are letting on. They know things are different, and they feel the stress and energy we are all carrying, whether you think you are showing it or not.
That’s why it is more important than ever to make learning fun. Keep it tactile. Make games out of it. Find as many interactive apps and programs as you can, change from video, to written work, to crafts, to dance and back as often as you need to to keep them happy and engaged.
You might just keep yourself happy and engaged in the process.
3. You Don’t Need As Much Lesson Time as Brick and Mortar Schools Provide
Because your children are getting focused, personal attention from you as they learn, you will find you do not need to devote as much time each day learning as they do at regular school.
The school day is often taken up by outdoor activities like recess, as well as transitioning between classes, busy work, or simply shifting focus from lesson to lesson.
You don’t need to homeschool for very long each day to achieve the same results as you would in regular school.
In fact, due to the anxiety caused by our current
zombie apocalypse COVID-19 pandemic, I would recommend to keep sessions short and the overall lesson time short as well.
In most homeschooling blogs, you will see a general rule of thumb of 30 minutes recommended lesson time per grade, starting with Kindergarten. Hence a 1st grader would only need an hour of homeschooling daily. A 2nd grader would only need an hour and a half, a 3rd grader would need two hours, and so on, and so on.
Given the stress of our current pandemic, I would recommend keeping it even lighter than this, at 20 minutes per grade daily.
Again, keep in mind, if your child is keen on a certain day, let them learn as much and for as long as they want. And if they are reluctant, then don’t force it, give them the day off.
4. Keep the Sessions Short
I found that for my daughter, we had to do short mini-lessons of no more than 10 minutes each when we were dealing with subjects she wasn’t passionate about, and I had to intersperse them with physical activity, games or other breaks in order to give her time to re-group.
However, if we were dealing with a subject my kiddo was passionate about, it wasn’t abnormal for us to spend a day on that one particular subject.
Take your cue from your children. Follow where they lead, and you’ll be the better for it, I promise you.
5. Give Your Kiddo(s) a Sense of Control
Speaking of letting your kiddos take the lead, I recommend allowing THEM to be in charge of organizing the schedule and picking what they want to learn. I used laminated clipart to represent each possible thing we could do for homeschool every day, from a sewing machine icon for sewing lessons, to numbers for math. Every morning, I will pick out a handful that I feel we should cover for the day, and then I will allow my daughter to swap out any she’s not keen on and put them in the order she would like to do them.
This allows your homeschooler to play an active part in their own education. When they feel valued, respected and heard, they will be more willing to learn and follow direction later.
6. Incorporate ALL Their Senses When Learning
We all know there are many types of learners; visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and those that prefer to receive their information through reading and writing, so it stands to reason that you appeal to as many senses as you can when teaching your kiddos.
This means you use worksheets, videos, games, dance, singing, art or any other medium that appeals to them. My daughter and I improve her throwing skills and practice counting by 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5,’s etc. with each catch.
7. Learning Takes Place OUTSIDE of Lesson Time Too
If your kiddos are having a bad day, don’t sweat it. The beauty of homeschooling is you can improvise and make it up as you go. If they don’t want to homeschool today, then slip some learnin’ in when you cut up an apple for a snack, it’s a great time to learn fractions.
If it’s a sunny day, you can look for clouds in the sky and talk about cloud formation.
Everything is an opportunity for learning and everywhere is your classroom. Once you figure that out, you’re off to the races.
Without further ado, I will switch from tips for how to homeschool, and provide my list of resources, programs and apps that I’ve found to be particularly helpful.
8. Reading Eggs
Reading Eggs was one of the first English and grammar programs I was introduced to in my homeschooling journey and we are still using it. With different levels for different ages, you will find Reading Eggs Junior for kids 2-4 years old, Reading Eggs for kids 3-7, and Reading Eggspress for kids 7-13 years old.
I can’t say enough about this program y’all. For my neurodiverse kiddo, it checks all the boxes.
From fun animated characters, organized lessons, quizzes and progress reports, this app does a LOT of the heavy lifting for you. And my daughter loves, loves, loves the reward system! Every task and lesson completed earns your child eggs, which they can use to outfit their very own apartment. Not to mention the cool trading cards they can receive for lessons completed!
In addition, there is a great library for your child to access, as well as separate tasks designed for specific spelling and word study.
Offered in conjunction with Reading Eggs, Math Seeds provides online math lessons for ages 3-9. As with Reading Eggs, this program is designed to be colorful, dynamic and fun, building steadily from one concept to the next, and breaking each down to easy-to-understand parts.
Just like Reading Eggs, all progress is tracked, and you can take a test to figure out which level to start your kiddo at. Rewards are abundant, and this time, your kiddo can totally outfit their very own tree house, cuz, you know…..TREE HOUSE!
Math Seeds is offered on Google Play and the App Store and is accessible through the Reading Eggs web page or App. The only catch is you may have to buy a Reading Eggs Subscription in order to receive Mathseeds. The price is affordable, starting at about $7 Canadian monthly.
Another great program available and offering free basic subscriptions during the COVID-19 pandemic is Education .com. With fun and engaging interactive lessons from grades pre-kindergarten up to grade five in Reading, Writing, Math and Typing, plus a MILLION worksheets and downloadable workbooks, PLUS fun ribbons for rewards, this is another great way to learn and not even know you’re learning.
Oh yeah, they’ll keep track of your child’s progress, provide assessments, and also give daily suggestions of downloads for science, art and social studies too!
My sister-in-law, who is a teacher, tipped me off to this math program, and I’m so glad she did. Imagine you are an explorer and you get to land on different planets and help the inhabitants by doing math problems. That’s the premise for this program, and it comes with so many other bells and whistles, from colorful interactive lessons, to complete lesson plans with accompanying worksheets and activities, it has it all.
And the best thing yet, they are providing free learning bundles during this challenging time. Check out Zorbits.com here for your free learning bundle.
12. BrainPop and BrainPop Jr.
Science? They’ve got it. English? Oh Yeah! Arts and Music? Check. Engineering and Tech? Yup. You will find ALL of these on BrainPop or BrainPop Jr. (K-3)
From video lessons on digital technology, to social and emotional learning, to quizzes and games, and even templates to form reports, these programs are informative and well-rounded.
Oh yeah, and they are free during the pandemic. SCORE!
You can find BrainPop and Brain Pop Jr. on the Google Play and the App Store. They also have a new app called BrainPop ELL which looks to be an English program/app. We haven’t tried this yet, but if it’s free, I would suggest you give it a try and let me know how you like it.
If you want an adventure, then I’ve got the perfect one for you! This program is completely immersive and interactive. Your kiddo gets to create an avatar and wander around the Adventure Academy universe, which is fully tailored to learning. From physics, to math, to English to social studies, your learner will be sent on quests and assigned tasks daily, all designed to promote learning.
Now, for those of you worried about online predators, there is a chat function, but you can set the privacy settings to wherever you would like for your own comfort.
The depth of material and content is truly remarkable, and it is a completely engaging way to get your homeschooler some socialization time combined with LOTS of learning.
You can find the Adventure Academy App on Google Play and the App Store.
14. Lingo Bus
If you’re looking for something new to introduce to your kiddo, you can try Chinese. Lingo Bus provides fully immersive Chinese lessons with a native Chinese speaker, along with tons of lesson materials, work books and videos on YouTube.
You can book lessons on your time, when it is convenient, and then you’re off and running.
The only drawback is price, Lingo Bus runs around $18 a lesson, but, personally I have found it to be well worth it. Once you have enrolled, there are review materials for each lesson, plus tons of printables and supplementary materials to help your child along the way.
I would recommend if you do enroll in LingoBus that you do your prep and review for each lesson on the iPad app, the PC program isn’t as responsive and tends to be glitchy. The online class platform works well on both PC and tablet platforms however.
If you’re looking to get your child interested in coding, you should check out Kodable. For grades K-5, you’ll find this to be a great introduction to coding and programming language. The kids get to create their own “Fuzz” characters, and use them as they play games and develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.
Tons of fun, this program utilizes drag and drop programming to allow you to design your own games, allowing the kids a chance to show their creative side too!
Check out these FREE COVID-19 resources they are offering!
You can download the app on the App Store.
From Ocean Forests to Amazing Amphibians, these apps are so realistic and immersive it makes you feel like you’re actually there, watching a moray eel spring out of the rocks at the bottom of the ocean, or learning about the lifecycle of frogs in our wetlands. These apps are outstanding for providing immersive reading and science experiences.
From science to grammar, and everything in between, the RosiMosi Learning Games apps for Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6 are great for mini-lessons. All you need to do is download the app from the App Store!
18. Dragon Box
These games are a personal favorite of mine. Teach your kids algebra and other math concepts through simple games designed to teach them the basics….and beyond. Before you know it, they’ll be doing advanced algebra!
And they won’t even know they are learning, which , let’s be honest, is the goal, right?
19. Crazy Gears
Introduce your kids to mechanical engineering in the funnest way possible! In order to make the screen slide to each new stage, they first have to use problem solving to piece together simple machines, using gears and chains.
My daughter was entranced the first time we played this, and still loves to lose herself in this.
20. GoNoodle Kids
This is a must have. Seriously, go download it now.
Did you download? Sigh…..
Go do it!
GoNoodle Kids is a must have for getting your kids moving and grooving, singing and dancing, and having a great time. Keep them active and OUT OF YOUR HAIR ( I knew that would get your attention) with GoNoodle.
21. Mindful Powers
Let’s not forget about our kids emotional health as we all hunker down. According to the Mindful Powers App, it is a “kid first, holistic approach to building social emotional learning.”
Teach your child mindfulness and meditation through a series of relaxing exercises developed specifically for children.
Great for bedtime, or anytime, you can get it on the App Store.
For your little ones, or your older kids that need help with printing and forming letters, this is an incredibly handy app to have. You can get it in the App Store but it is also available for android on Google Play.
If you have a budding ballet dancer in your midst, and you want to help them keep up their skills, the Royal Academy of Dance has downloadable dance exercises and lessons all grouped by Grade and Level. Use these videos to develop balance, coordination and creativity, not to mention good posture and great life skills! Available on Google Play and The App Store.
24. Garage Band
Keeping with the music and dance theme, why not dedicate some time to laying down some tracks and mixing some beats! Explore your kids creative side with this fun and interactive way to experiment with creating awesome music! Great for young and old alike, it’s never too early for music awareness. Let your child be their own composer AND conductor!
Help your child get quiet, restful sleep, and be more more focused and relaxed when they’re awake with this amazing app. Designed so your child can pick the appropriate story/meditation depending on their mood, I guarantee a delightful, tranquil experience.
Addendum: In my haste to get this blog out in answer to the requests from some of my non-homeschooling friends, I missed a few websites we’ve used in the past.
Without further ado, they are: Draw So Cute-a great YouTube video series designed to teach your child how to draw the CUTEST characters (hence the name), Froguts BioLearning-an absolutely fantastic way teach your child biology and anatomy through the coolest virtual dissection ever, Duolingo-for learning any second language of your choice, and MineCraft-which, I’m sure everyone knows by now, but did you also know they have an entire Education Edition?
The upside to all of my additions? They are ALL free or have FREE content during our lockdown…score!
I hope you find these tips and programs as useful as I have as you embark on your journey of homeschooling during the coronavirus. While not exhaustive, they should be enough to get you started.
Just remember, take it day by day, be gentle with yourself and your kids, and breathe.
You’ve got this!
If you have any apps or curriculum you want to share with everyone, please feel free to share and comment below!