by Michael Strickland
Pandemic-related restrictions have had wide-ranging effects for Idaho teachers as well as those around the nation. Teachers I have spoken to report conditions from being rattled, to completely unsupported, to finally settling in to both hybrid and fully online instruction.
With Covid-19 lasting far longer than most people seem to have expected, many parents also find themselves in unchartered territory: teaching their children from home. Positive parent involvement is easier said than done. This is especially true for parents who were used to having full-time staff and facilities to aid their children's learning every day.
What strategies are best to navigate this brave new world?
Many parents feel as though they are not up to the demand of teaching their children from home. They may also be entering the unknown for themselves: working from home for the first time. Luckily, we are in an era in which technology is up for the challenge, with many sites and tools ready for parents to utilize. This article is designed to help parents by giving them resources to start their new journey. This is not an exhaustive list. It is merely a good place to start.
Sometimes, within all the turmoil, the best tools are right in front of us. Take a deeper look at your child’s school website. In my years of teaching secondary English, I was often surprised at how many parents don't take advantage of this. Many schools have subscriptions to various learning sites and libraries which are available to parents, and these are usually designed for the grade levels of the students at the school. If you’ve never really investigated your school’s website for online resources, check it out.
One site I suggest is We are Teachers. It has a multitude of free “teach at home” tools for parents and teachers alike. These resources are great for children in grade school as well as for those in middle and high school, and the site has recently been revamped specifically for parents who are teaching their children from home due to Covid-19. In addition, many resources that usually charge for access currently offer free access to schools and parents suffering hardships at this time. Here are some of best resources according to grade level:
Grade School Students (grades K-5)
• Scholastic at Home. This is a wonderful site that gives parents roughly 20 days of lessons consisting of approximately three-hour-a-day learning journeys across various subjects.
• Reading IQ. This expansive digital book and magazine resource serves ages 2-12. It is a great substitute for the school or public library, and it also allows parents to monitor what their child is reading.
• Adventure Academy. This educational multiplayer role game is geared for students up to 13 years old. It is an adventure which not only teaches children new things but also gives them a sense of community.
• Headsprout. This K-5 online reading program is currently offering a free subscription to their service that will take students through the end of the traditional school year.
• Curriculum Associates. If your child doesn’t always have computer access for his lessons, this site is for you. Curriculum Associates offers activities in both reading and math that are printable so your child can do them anytime and anywhere.
Middle and High School Students (grades 6-12)
• Science News. This site provides experiments and over 200 STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering and Math) experiments and activities for upper-grade students.
• UWorld. This resource offers practice tests for high-stakes academic tests including the PSAT, AP, SAT, and ACT.
• Read to Lead. This self-directed learning portal serves upper grades to engage in reading. It offers “episodes” which are all roughly 500 words of reading with comprehension and vocabulary exercises included.
• iCulture. If your child has been learning or is interested in learning another language, this may be the perfect way. iCulture offers whole-language immersion classes and resources for students in French, German, and Spanish.
• Mangahigh. This game-based site is filled with online learning resources for math. Its tools are robust and they adapt to students' levels. The games help students retain what they've learned and the dashboards track progress.
There are many tools for parents to make it through this trying time. All you need to do is get on your computer, put in your search parameters, and look. Finally, check your district website for an educational roadmap, support, health and wellness suggestions, remote learning tips, links to resources, and more. You will be excited with what you find.
Michael Strickland teaches at Boise State University.