If there’s one thing we’ve learned during this extraordinary and unprecedented time of virus-hiding it is that children don’t learn as well electronically, or for as long, as they do at school. Your school-age children, particularly the younger ones, are at home with you 24/7 now, and if Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are any indication, they are driving you crazy.
You need some diversions for them to keep them learning and engaged while school is closed, even if it’s not an approved age-appropriate curriculum. This isn’t about binomials and subject-verb agreement; it’s about making sure the gears inside their heads keep turning, and the furniture remains intact.
With that in mind, we’ve found a few online diversions you can deploy strategically for the enjoyment and edification of your children, from first grade through middle school.
Free teaching tools…for now. Amazing Educational Resources has made its entire catalog of grade-specific teaching tools available for free online for 30 days. Sign up for math, reading, science, social studies, computer science, fine arts, and a host of other subjects, grades K-12. For example, in the STEM Resources section, find separate lesson plans on air pollution modeling tailored for grades K-6, 7-8, and 9-12. A lesson plan for exploring antibodies is designed only for high school students.
Try some hands-on science. The Mommy Poppins website offers a plethora of science experiments that younger kids can do at home. We particularly liked creating Oobleck – the liquid that’s also solid. These experiments work best when parents research the science behind them and engage children in a discussion while they are creating.
Teach them a musical instrument. Don’t know how to play? There is a multitude of online lessons for a range of instruments. Here is lesson one for the piano (Piano not included.) Children of any age, even adults, can learn and enjoy this.
Take them to the zoo. We were disappointed in most of the virtual tours of museums and national parks. They are static, unimaginative, and unaccompanied by commentary. But as we mentioned when delving into ideas for preschoolers, it’s fun to watch the animals in semi-natural habitats, even for older kids (of all ages.) Among the zoos with webcams are the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Houston, San Diego, Maryland, and Memphis. We found the penguin exhibit at the Kansas City Zoo particularly entertaining, at least during the 15 minutes we were mesmerized by it.
Educate your children online. Scholastic has created a series of grade-specific curricula for children up to 9th grade that involves reading, discussing, and writing, all online. One example: readings for grades 6-9 feature a story about a girl with a sparkly purple prosthetic where her left arm should be and include stories about artists, the future of zoos, and the derivation of popular emojis. Each story is accompanied by questions to think about and sidebar stories on video.
Open up a National Geographic. NatGeo offers a wide variety of activities for children of all ages, most of which are at least minimally interactive. Some activities, like a gallery of insect facts, are aimed at grade-schoolers; others, like scientists on video explaining complicated processes, is aimed at middle schoolers; another series focuses on older junior high and high schoolers.
Volunteer! Food pantry volunteers tend to be older and retired people, the very folks who are most susceptible to Covid-19. Taking all the proper precautions, teach your middle school and high school-aged children about the power of volunteering by helping out a local charity and the people in need they serve. Local food pantries include 180 Place in Charleston, Helping Hands of Goose Creek, East Cooper Community Outreach, Tricounty Family Ministries in North Charleston, and Meals on Wheels of Summerville.
Here are some more ideas from the Washington Post. Test these before leading your children on them because some are better than others.
It’s important that we will be able to look back on the time our children were sheltered and know that we used the time to expand their horizons, broaden their knowledge, and increase their skills.