by Meg Kilgannon
April 3, 2020
With much of the nation under “shelter in place” or “stay at home” advisories, most school buildings have closed, some for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. There is a wide disparity among school districts in terms of how individual schools will help parents facilitate learning. American parents find themselves in an unprecedented situation: working from home (if they are so fortunate) while simultaneously serving as school teacher, administrator, and child wrangler.
Like many of you, many of us here at FRC are working from home during this crisis. Like you, we are managing family needs and school while working to protect and promote family values in our nation’s capital and across the country.
Some of our staff has always homeschooled. These families are challenged by canceled co-ops, classes, therapies, sports, and playgroups—just like traditional school families. Others on staff have children in Christian schools or public schools. And with all schools closed, these parents are navigating a variety of situations. Some schools have moved seamlessly to online studies; others are still figuring things out. But all of us are struggling with the same less-than-ideal situation and are challenged to make the best of it for ourselves, our families, and our country.
In this post, we will share some resources we have found useful, and would love to hear from you about what you are doing to manage your children’s education during this time. This is a very real way we can support each other and do our part to help keep America safe and healthy.
The U.S. Department of Education’s coronavirus page is jam packed with information for both schools and parents. Scroll down for the “At Home Activities” section which includes links to federal agencies with worksheets and virtual tours that can keep children both entertained and informed about our beautiful country’s natural resources, wildlife, space programs, geography, and the arts. There are also reminders and links about staying healthy and preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
Some of our favorite general advice has come from parents who are also leaders or educational advocates.
The videos on this website are fun, informative, and reassuring. Just a few minutes on this website will convince you that you really can do it—you really can work and school your children at home during this crisis (and maybe even anytime). The enthusiasm of these Texas moms is contagious and just what we need.
If your school district is on hold or you are taking the rest of the year off from school, these activities will keep children and teens busy while parents are working from home. As FRC is unable to vet each item on every website, we encourage you to trust your judgement in finding materials that are appropriate for your family and reflect your values.
Resources for Parents Who Find Themselves Schooling at Home, by Subject
In Virginia, for example, parents in some districts are still waiting for resources and lessons from schools. Other districts and states have moved nimbly to online learning. In case you’re waiting for school resources, want to supplement lessons provided, or just need additional help, we offer the following list of resources. FRC believes in the primacy of parental rights, and works to protect parents’ role as the primary educators of their children. We expect that parents will maintain vigilance in reviewing materials for use by children who are schooling at home.
These websites have everything from math fact worksheets to projects and lectures that support higher level mathematics.
For Language Arts:
Take this time to read. Perhaps have a read aloud book for the whole family. Encourage each family member to keep a journal during this time. It will be a record of an important period in American and world history—the Pandemic of 2019-2020. Write letters to friends and loved ones who may feel isolated during this time.
If your school, library, or any organization recommends a reading list, carefully monitor those recommendations. As our friends at Parent and Child Loudoun can attest, there is problematic and even pornographic content lurking in children’s and young adult literature these days.
For Autistic/Sensory Integration Issue Children:
This resource from the UK is interesting and helpful for autism and sensory issues.
The University of Virginia has helps for parents of children on the autism spectrum, including webinars, zoom conferences, and scheduling ideas, just to name a few. Their most recent newsletter has helps and links.
Science and Nature:
Easy science projects can involve cooking and baking. What makes bread rise? What happens when you prepare a recipe but leave out an ingredient? Spring is a great time to start a small herb garden or take on a bigger project. Victory Gardens are back in style, which link American history to natural science and conservation. Take pictures of plants and trees on your walks and identify them from books or online resources. Teach children practical skills, like figuring out ordinal directions through clues from nature.
From the founders of ABCmouse is Adventure Academy, a resource suitable for 8 to 12-year-olds. While not free, it offers animated and interactive games, projects, and lessons geared toward elementary-aged students.
As with all subjects, science topics can be overly politicized or include concepts like Darwinism and “mindfulness.” Math word problems can include scenarios which subtly undermine Christian teaching on marriage, such as a same-sex couple planning a wedding, or reference to a student’s two dads or two moms. We remind you to be on guard for these types of messages in your children’s assignments.
Getting fresh air and sunshine is important for everyone’s physical and mental health. Please maintain social distancing while on walks or runs. Jumping rope (sanitized ropes only please), skipping races, and scavenger hunts are all options for getting your heart rate up and burning off some energy. Here are a few links we liked:
- Active For Life – “School’s cancelled—what now? Here are 200+ activities you can do with kids at home”
- American Heart Association – 25 Ways to Get Moving at Home Infographic
- Log It – If you have a pedometer, log your steps on a virtual map and walk with friends virtually.
How about coloring pages and connect-the-dots using characters from the Bible?
Suitable for high school students and more advanced middle school students, WallBuilders—an organization dedicated to the accurate teaching and representation of American history—offers helpful links and resources on everything from Creationism, to Black History, to the Founding Fathers. While this site is recommended for older students, it does include links to YouTube, so parental supervision is recommended.
Virtual Tours – These websites host their own tours, making it a little safer than YouTube tours which also can come with objectionable advertising, suggested content you might not prefer, or an automatic continuation to a site you don’t approve. You can find tours of museums in Washington, D.C., Buckingham Palace, Musee D’Orsay in Paris, churches from around the world, and many more. But we remind parents to monitor children’s activities anytime they are online.
Finally, with the disclaimer that we have not reviewed each and every item here, these links include resources for every school subject with multiple links for each. This is for parents to review themselves and decide if individual links are helpful to your family. For example, PBS has some problematic content, but that doesn’t mean everything on the website is dangerous. It’s important for parents to select materials from this list and direct children to your approved resources, not just let kids log on and click around.
Share Your Resources and Ideas With Us!
Please share your resources and ideas with us by going to the Contact FRC page and entering “Schooling at Home Resources” in the subject line, and we will post a follow-up blog with what everybody shared. We’d love to hear from you! We are all in this together, working, praying, and staying healthy. Americans will do what we must to defeat this virus and keep our families strong, safe, and free for generations to come.
Meg Kilgannon is an Education Research Associate at Family Research Council.