Thursday, March 19, 2020

Free Online Classes, Storytime, Museum Tours, Field Trips, and More to Support Parents and Kids During Coronavirus Quarantine

Free photo 82954199 © creativecommonsstockphotos -
[image description: a row of shelves with books, behind several bright light bulbs]

COVID-19 has introduced parents across the globe--already experienced chaos survivors--to a whole new level of disorder. We're all supposed to become teachers, while somehow maintaining our sanity, working from home, and preventing the house from caving in. There's never been a more compelling case for paying more to teachers (and school bus drivers, and cafeteria workers, and daycare providers, and nannies, and everyone else who serves our children and our families).

No one can do it alone. Sometimes you have to outsource the teaching to someone else--if only so you can get a quick break to go scream into a paper bag. Here's a list of the best resources I've found. Almost all are free. A few are low cost. None require any special equipment. If you've found something that keeps your kids under control for a few minutes, please add it to the list. 

But before we go any further, a quick note about homeschooling and formal education: The reason teachers use worksheets, videos, and a formulaic approach isn't because this approach is best. It's because it's scalable. Research overwhelmingly shows us that children are not meant to do worksheets all day, or to passively learn from someone else. Kids learn best when they're playing. Even if you burn all the worksheets and refuse to do a single educational "project," your kids will still learn. You do not have to make every moment enriching. Your child does not have to do homework every day. 

Indeed, this break from formal education presents a meaningful opportunity to help your kid learn other skills--playing alone, for example, or learning how to sew. Parents of children who struggle in school may find that their kids suddenly gain mastery of challenging topics when there's not so much pressure. So don't get too caught up in formal learning. Integrate education into daily life. Cooking offers a math lesson. Gardening is biology. And writing an angry note to your younger sibling definitely counts as English class. Make learning fun and your kids will learn more. You'll worry less. You'll all be less likely to kill one another.

These resources are just that--resources. You are not a bad parent for not using them. You are not a bad parent for parking your kid in front of the TV all day. The name of the game in the middle of a pandemic is survival. If you survive, you win. So do what you need to do. Your kids will be ok.

Nonprofits sponsor many of these lessons. Individuals are also giving up time and talent. I've provided links to donate where I could find them. Please donate generously. Unless I note otherwise, all times are Eastern time.

Online Lessons to Get Kids Moving

GoNoodle offers dance and movement videos that encourage mindfulness while telling stories and teaching basic social skills.

Cosmic Kids Yoga embeds simple yoga poses in child-friendly stories. All ages can do it, but it's ideal for preschoolers.

Online Art and Music Classes

Music Together offers music classes for the youngest kids--ages 0 to 5. Several local classes, including the one in my hometown of Decatur, are offering virtual lessons. You can also listen to popular tracks on their YouTube channel.

Bob Ross lives on on YouTube. Enjoy his gentle, meditative painting videos here.

Beloved children's illustrator Mo Willems offers daily Lunchtime Doodles at 1 on his YouTube channel.

The Paris Opera is offering free daily performances during France's quarantine period.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has posted numerous performances online.

The Drawing Lab offers a virtual art school weekdays at 2.

Online School

Scholastic Kids offers daily home lessons divided by age. Most lessons feature a book and story, as well as an activity

Nova Teachers assembles educational material for teachers. Each lesson is based around a theme, and includes videos, activities, and more. Support Nova and PBS by donating to your local PBS station here.

Think Indigenous boasts a wide range of educational videos from indigenous educators. The lessons are free, and include traditional classroom skills as well as videos on topics such as stress management and mindfulness.

The Science Friday podcast covers a range of STEM topics in a kid-friendly manner that never condescends.

Brains On! is a kids' science podcast featuring animals, technology, and much more.

The Show About Science puts kids in the driver's seat. It features a 5-year-old interviewing adults about science.

The Smithsonian's Science How webcast features lessons covering every branch of science that appeal to a wide age range.

The Kennedy Center offers a wide range of lesson plans and academic resources.

Masterclass offers a host of fun educational videos, including this one from Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Membership is $15/year, but you can view some portions of some videos for free.

Take a 3-D virtual tour of the Great Pyramids.

Virtual Museum Tours

Enjoy online tours of various exhibits at the Louvre.

Take a virtual tour of Mexico City's National Museum of Anthropology.

Virtually walk through history with this British Museum tour.

Explore Korea's National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Tour the Van Gogh Museum from a distance. 

Online Classes About Animals and Nature

The Cincinnati Zoo posts a daily virtual safari video that includes live animals, information about animal conservation, and suggested family activities. You can view previous videos on their YouTube Channel. Donate to the zoo here.

Enjoy live videos of gorillas at Grace Center. Support their gorilla rehabilitation here.

Watch the antics of pandas all day with Zoo Atlanta's Panda Cam.

Join the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy on Facebook Live or Instagram every day at 10 for story time and a Q&A session about sharks.Support sharks and the Conservancy's work here. 

Go on a virtual tour of some of the most unique places on Earth, including Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park with Exploring Earth.

Free Online Storytime

Charis Books and More offers story time some afternoons with Angela Gabriel, a preschool educator and the store's co-owner. Videos are posted on the store's Facebook page. Support Charis here.

The Center for Puppetry Arts is livestreaming a variety of kid-friendly performances. Support their work here.

Search the #operationstorytime hashtag on Facebook to find children's book authors reading their work.

Join Penguin Kids on Instagram for virtual storytime every day at 11.

Oliver Jeffers offers free storytime daily at 1.

The Brooklyn Library reads children's books online most days at 2.

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