With Maryland schools and some places of work closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, parents are looking for creative new ways to educate their children at home.
One expert in homeschooling says a coronavirus-related quarantine situation should not be mistaken for a traditional educational setting. And parents should not lose sleep over whether their children are getting enough learning materials during such uncertain times.
“We’re dealing with a global pandemic ... we need to worry about how we’re helping our children to cope with the stress," said Alessa Giampaolo Keener, an educational consultant and representative of the grassroots Maryland Homeschooling Association.
One of the best ways to help students stay mentally engaged in the coming weeks is by finding a routine that works for them without caving to the pressure interrupt play or set elaborate schedules for children, Giampaolo Keener said.
“That’s the kind of mindset that works really well in a public school, but may not always work at home,” she said of the color-coded schedules some parents have posted on social media. “Find the routine that works for your specific family. Some children thrive in no structure. Others need structure that allows for some predictability throughout the day.”
Families may need to shelter in place for extended periods of time, so flexibility is key. Older children may respond well to being given a list of chores or assignments to complete by a set deadline, which allows them the autonomy to budget their own time throughout the day, Giampaolo Keener said.
Allowing children to have a say in their own routines helps maintain family harmony and positive mental health during an incredibly taxing time, she said.
And while the economic impact of the virus has some facing burdens including financial trouble, health problems and food insecurity, Maryland families should remember that not all valuable lessons come from a textbook or online learning packets, Giampaolo Keener said.
Here is a list of free educational resources to help children continue learning during the pandemic:
Free Internet Access
For many families, there’s a digital divide in which not all children have access to a computer or WiFi connection, Giampaolo Keener said.
For families looking for an affordable way to access the internet, Xfinity Comcast’s WiFi hotspots have been opened to anyone who needs them, including non-customers, the company announced March 18.
Marylanders looking for the hotspot locations can search Xfinity’s online interactive map.
The Khan Academy is a nonprofit that offers online educational resources for students, teachers and parents. Giampaolo Keener said the website is popular among families who homeschool normally.
The organization has published remote learning resources in more than 20 languages for students ages 2 to 18.
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library has thousands of eBooks, eMagazines, eAudiobooks, movies and more available online for residents who are staying home.
The Pratt’s eLibrary has seen increased usage, with more than 1,000 people signing up for the Pratt eCard within the past 10 days, the library announced Friday.
Breaking News Alerts
In the coming weeks, Pratt officials are planning to increase virtual programs, including taped story times, and are collaborating with Baltimore City Public Schools to find a way to bridge the digital divide for students.
Scholastic’s Online Resources
Families can find day-by-day projects on Scholastic’s Learn at Home webpage to keep kids thinking during a quarantine. Projects are available for levels Pre-K through 9th grade.
Scholastic also offers free trials for Bookflix, its online literacy resource that pairs classic video storybooks from Weston Woods with related nonfiction eBooks.
Cosmic Kids Yoga
Some kids may miss recess and gym class just as much as academics. Families can find yoga, mindfulness and relaxation exercises on the Cosmic Kids Yoga Channel on YouTube.
A previous version of this article incorrectly spelled Alessa Giampaolo Keener's name. The Sun regrets the error.