With the changes for the school year for 2020/2021, you may have decided that Homeschooling is your best option. Or you and/or your school district have chosen Distance Learning. Minnesota families are facing big changes and challenges.
As Unexpected Homeschoolers, we have so many questions and so few answers.
Teachers and other educators have been tasked with building online platforms for students to continue learning from home. Working parents are scrambling to figure out child care and how best to support scholars who will be doing school at home. Kids may be mourning the loss of activities at school and be missing their social network. It’s a stressful, uncertain, overwhelming, isolating, historic time. One thing we can all agree on: the education of our kids is not cancelled!
Stay calm and get the facts: Learn the facts about CoVid-19 (Coronavirus).
The three families that make up the FFTC team have players scattered all over the board. We include homeschoolers, kindergartners, middle schoolers and high school sophomores. We are made up of parents who work from home, parents who work full time, parents who educate and parents who have been able to stay home with the children. We understand and are very close to the challenges that lay ahead for Minnesota families as we navigate this new model of school.
To support our readers during this time, we’ve compiled tips on doing school at home, other homeschool resources, a calendar of online activities and virtual field trips, a boredom-busting guide packed with outdoor and indoor games, and other ways to connect while we’re keeping our distance.
Whether you are already a homeschool family or school at home is a brand new to you, these tips can help make the learning go more smoothly. For those of you inclined to feel overwhelmed, keep in mind that this situation is temporary. We need to stay positive for the sake of our families.
Keep a regular routine
The experts say our kids need a routine. Gianna, our resident homeschool mom, agrees. She points out that some people do well with a rigid schedule to follow, while others perform better more relaxed. You have to pick what works for your family – and that might take some trial and error. At a very basic level, try having the kids stick to the “normal” wake-up, bedtimes and mealtimes. Depending on the ages of your kids and the level of schoolwork expected of them, you can decide where to fit learning time in. Here’s an example of a schedule you could try for younger kids:
Start by communicating to your little scholars that school at home will be the new norm for now. Anne, our team member whose family attends a classical charter school and is used to lots of structure, began by reminding her kids that this is not a vacation. Moving to a distance learning model does not change the fact that teachers are expecting assignments to be completed on time. The amount of daily “screen time” – not counting what will be required for schoolwork, will not change. Lay out your own expectations for your kids no matter the age or grade level so everyone is informed and on the same page. Here’s an example of a simple list we’ve been known to tack on our kids’ bedroom doors on the first day of summer break:
Designate a time and place for academic work
Before you begin school at home, decide where and when most of the learning will take place. This may mean setting up a classroom space. It may mean older kids stick to their desks. If possible, try to designate a learning environment away from toys or TV screens to limit distractions. Make sure you are organized and stocked with all materials ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with any new technology the kids may use to communicate with their schools during distance learning (hello, Google Classroom, Zoom, Hangouts!)
Inject some fun
If you’ve got the freedom, take advantage of it! Gianna suggests picking an enrichment activity to learn about together and really go for it. Are you interested in learning about the War of the Roses in Britain? Are you curious about global warming? What about the election process? That could be fascinating to learn this year with the election happening in November. Make a list of your top 3-5 things and discuss the options with your child. And, she reminds us, give yourself and the kids space and grace. Even a homeschooling mom who has chosen this education path for her children gets hard on herself.
Virtual Field Trips
12 world-famous museums, including the British Museum in London, offer virtual tours of their amazing galleries.
Outdoor & Indoor Games
Remember to take frequent breaks from the schoolwork to hang out and enjoy time together. Inevitably, at some point (reality: many points) you’re going to hear the dreaded words, “I’M BORED!” Arm yourself with these lists of family outdoor and indoor games to button up boredom.
Outdoor Games – Kickball, Four Square, hopscotch and jump roping are just the beginning. We have 60 games or activities on this list that will keep them entertained outdoors for hours. Or, ’tis the season for spring yard cleanup and gardening prep!
Try also our list of 45 Fun Physical Activities For All Ages! It’s got tons more ideas on getting the heart pumping and bodies young and old moving.
Indoor Games – Balloon games, tape games, indoor scavenger hunts, charades and dozens more. This massive list of 75 indoor games and activities will keep little scholars busy for hours.
Gianna, our homeschooling mom, has collected her top homeschool resources if you’re interested in diving into this method of education. We are also adding other resources as we find them. Whether you have had to take on homeschooling or you just want to supplement the distance learning offered through the schools, you can start with these resources.
Arts & Creativity Resources:
- Children’s Theater Company has these Three Indoor Imaginative Activities to try with your kids.
- The Jim Henson Foundation has a list of streaming Puppet Events.
- Minneapolis Institute of Art – MIA at Home.
- Stay At Home with Minnesota Opera.
These Suggestions are Courtesy GTCYS:
- The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Concert Library
- Minnesota Orchestra’s Live Broadcast on March 13
- Classical MPR’s list of upcoming live concerts
- NPR’s list of upcoming live concerts
- Snapology – Is Offering LEGO Build Challenges and Inexpensive Online Classes.
- Lakeshore Learning Lesson Plans
- Kitchen Pantry Scientist YouTube
- Anoka County Virtual Parks – Nature Lessons • Scavenger Hunts • Nature Videos • Coloring Pages • Park Information.
- Washington County Parks offers activity packets for things to do while visiting their parks. They have also waived vehicle fees through April 7th.
- If you are watching the Cincinnati Zoo’s daily Virtual Safari (see our calendar), find resources to learn more here.
- The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum has created some Flora & Fauna coloring pages. Mix these with a nature walk!
- Nature Cams Suggested by Carpenter Nature Center:
- Don’t Forget that Carpenter Nature Center’s Trails are open and they have some restrooms available, but buildings are closed.
- Science Museum of Minnesota offers At-Home Science Experiments. Fulfill your science curiosity at home.
- Bell Museum’s lead planetarium educator, Thaddeus LaCoursiere, has put together a video guide to reading the April star map, which you can download and head outside on a clear night.
Social Studies / History Resources:
- Lakeshore Learning Lesson Plans
- Saint Paul Port Authority – Grade 3 Curriculum
- Doing Good Together has created a Digital Kindness Kit. They are asking $4.95 per family to cover their costs. However, if the cost is a problem, use the coupon code KINDNESS to download it for free.
- The Minnesota Historical Society has made its award-winning “Northern Lights” Interactive eBook free for all. Featuring 20 chapters exploring the diverse stories of our state, the e-book will be available free of charge through the end of the school year.
- Join Dave Pilkey and Scholastic for a Super Week of Activities. Learn to create your own comic book. (This week is over, but you can still download the free resources).
- Lakeshore Learning Lesson Plans
Reading and Literature Resources:
- I’ve been wondering for the last year whether the dust-gathering Magic Tree House collection still deserved shelf space. It’s getting used now. Print out these activities to go with the books.
- Random House offers resources for teachers, librarians and parents here.
- All of our local libraries offer a variety of online resources for all ages (all the time). Check out a list here. Or visit your own library’s website for a full list of what they offer. A few libraries are now offering contactless pick up of books!
- One of our favorite nearly-local authors, Miranda Paul has shared educational resources (which we share here) to go with her books. Many of these could call under science or social studies resources as well as literature.
- Check out Audible Stories, which is offering children’s audio books streaming for free – no commitment or cancellation necessary.
- Joy’s family has been taking advantage of a Free Month of Audible to listen to audiobooks together. This has a larger selection than the Audible Stories. Bonus: Audio books don’t tire out from reading aloud. If this is something you would like to do with your family, consider using our affiliate link. We get a a small commission on sales through our site.
- Teach.com offers 120 Digital Resources for at home learning.
- TPT is also gathering resources. Find their lists, conveniently categorized by age, here