Educating at Home in the Age of COVID-19

Chris Adams

As a retired high school teacher with over thirty years in the classroom, I am both entertained and bemused by some of the parent reactions to having their children’s education move into their home instead of occuring at school. I think my favorite parental meme thus far asked “Who do I call to get a substitute?” All joking aside, I can only imagine how stressful it is for parents and guardians to assume the role of “teacher” and “principal” for their children without, in most cases, any training about “how” to teach, or how to supervise learning while working at home. My best advice seems contradictory at first glance: Provide Structure, and Relax.

One of the things children of all ages get at school is structure. There are specific, consistent segments to the day at school. Kids will never admit it, but study after study supports the fact their brains like, and need, structure (just Google “kids need structure” if you don’t believe me). Structure brings comfort in knowing what lies ahead, and that helps to ease anxiety. Being at home for learning must not become a free-for-all. Make a schedule with specific, clock-based segments of the day to accomplish specific tasks. Setting up an organized self-serve area with materials for learning is a huge help in encouraging your child to become more responsible for their tasks and cleaning up after themselves after each project. These tasks should include not just school work, but chores around the home, projects that are creative, and especially, time to read for pleasure. The greatest gift you can give your children is the gift of loving to read; reading is the foundation of ALL knowledge, after all!

Most of all, try to RELAX when you become stressed or frustrated; even when you have a plan, things won’t always go exactly as you wanted. Talking with and being honest with your child about your concerns over their learning–and the work that you may have to do at home at the same time–will strengthen your relationship and also help your child understand that grownups need time for their own work, too.

My educator-friends have been knocking it out of the park by sharing resources on social media. Here’s a list of the sites I think are really great, but it is hardly exhaustive or all-inclusive. Even when this pandemic is over, I think you’ll find these resources helpful in your children’s education. You might learn some things too!

Resources for Home Education

Technology Needs

If you don’t have internet at home, you may have options you didn’t know about. If your cell plan is unlimited and you have a smart phone, you can probably use your cell phone as a wifi hotspot. Check with your provider, and check out the link below about data caps being removed by major providers.

If you have internet, an old cell phone can use your wifi while you’re at home. Really. It can’t make calls, but it can connect. Check it out.

Major providers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Spectrum have removed data caps from cell and home internet use. Several cable providers have special offers to provide FREE service while schools are not in session.

Channel 9, KMBC, ran a story outlining what Spectrum is offering HERE and KSHB, Channel 41, reported that Google Fiber and LISC have helped Connecting for Good provide very low-cost hotspots and computers Here.

Learning Resources for Educating at Home

For an overview of what to expect when educating at home, with links for resources:

Fraise: Coronavirus Has Turned Families Into Unwitting Homeschoolers. Some Suggestions for How They Can Treat It Like an Opportunity 

The Kansas City Public Schools website offers everything District parents need to know about services available to students HERE.

Especially for Mathematics, but really for any subject, instruction and tutorials for any grade level, Khan Academy is your new best friend HERE.

It’s FREE and many educators actually require their students to have an account so they can get help when they do their homework.

Scholastic has created daily lessons for students of all ages, with videos, reading, and learning activities all compiled in an easy-to-use site HERE.

If your child doesn’t have a Kansas City Public Library card, now is the time to get one. Online books, media, and more await you, and it’s all free HERE.

You can also Google “free online kids books,” free online young adult books,” and “free online books” to get some reading material. 

Want to reinforce the importance of reading? Just Google “stars reading books” and you will see just how important reading is to some of today’s biggest stars. A quick search shows Josh Gad, Chris Pine, Betty White, Oprah Winfrey, and tons of Screen Actors Guild stars sharing their reading talents with our younger ones. Many are available on the SAG-AFTRA Storyline website HERE.

Science Lessons for K-12 have been compiled  by the American Association for the Advancement of Science HERE and check out NASA and The Jet Propulsion Lab’s student activities HERE.

For advanced high school students who are getting ready for college, normally pricey Ivy League institutions have over 450 FREE courses they can take online.

Working on Spanish instruction? Check out this site.

Working on English instruction? Check out this site; scroll down until you find the “Students” section.

In addition to a ton of “home arts and crafts” sites, some very talented artists are reaching out to share their talents. Children’s book illustrator Mo Willilams shares a daily “doodle break.”

To get some Physical Education help if it’s muddy outside, check out The Body Coach’s Kids Workouts on YouTube.

Are your kids wondering how we have dealt with a National Emergency in the past? PBS takes you back to WWII HERE.

Unusual learning opportunities also abound, like this combination of Engineering and Fun from Walt Disney in partnership with Khan Academy called “Imagineering in a Box.”

Vacation Plans on hold? Looking for some fun experiences?

Enjoy learning about the non-humans on our planet with the help of zoo websites:

Kansas City 

San Diego 

Take a virtual ride through these Disney parks.

Look for the Northern Lights and other natural wonders thanks to live webcams from

Step out of state, live, by exploring the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden via their Home Safari on Facebook Live sessions, to be offered 4-6 p.m. Central Time on weekdays. Each session will highlight an animal and provide an activity to do at home.

Challenge your critical thinking skills in a Hogwarts Digital Escape Room here.

For a “Massive List” of all sorts of places for families to explore, Good Housekeeping just put up this super helpful list.

Our California friends have really taken on the task of home-education with gusto. Here is the color-coded chart of their “school days.”

By repurposing a cubby and various crates and tubs, this family provided their children with the ability to find and get what they need on their own.

A tiny corner becomes a special reading nook, and lets her parents have some needed quiet work time of their own.

An old laptop finds new life as the “computer center” for educational games, field trips, and video that will provide background for writing or creative projects. An old cell phone can also work with the internet while at home.

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