Homeschooling during a pandemic lockdown

Bambi Francisco Roizen · March 16, 2020 · Short URL:

Social distancing means online social connections and learning

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I am now homeschooling my children. But mainly my 7 year old. I thought I'd be doing this for a week or two, but now six Bay area counties have "ordered" residents to "shelter in place" for the next three weeks.  

For those new to online schooling, like me, here are some online programs I've collected that might be good ways to keep your kids engaged. Many kids (like mine) feel this is a vacation. But for me, my boys (7 yrs old, 13, 17) are going to school at home. Most schools, if not all, have assignments for the kids, which is definitely a blessing for those unsure what to do.

While my kids get the freedom to be at home, they still have responsibilities. They make their beds and put their phones on the kitchen counter. For my older boys, they have five hours without their phones and in that time they're reading a book, writing, meditating or using their imagination. There's also some online resources, such as IXL, which is a comprehensive online curriculum for K-12. For my youngest son, he has a full day sans digital entertainment, but with recess and lunch breaks.  

Here's some apps that were recommended by my youngest son's school teacher Catherine Suer at St. Philip Neri in Alameda and a bunch suggested by friends.

Outschool -- This is one of my favorite apps because you can sign up for an online class with friends and family. Like a web conferencing tool, all the kids can see one another with the teacher in the middle. The classes can be expensive, like this one called Beginner Multiplication Facts for $180 for 10 weeks. The classes are also limited. Here's one for architecture for 6 weeks and it costs $121. American Government for 13-18 yr olds is for 16 weeks and cost $215.

FB Messenger for Kids -- Admittedly, I was skeptical when a friend asked us to have my son Branson Race (7) sign up. But I went ahead and signed him up under my account. And firstly, it's relatively easy. Secondly, he can only connect with people I allow him to connect with and they're typically my friends on Facebook. It's best that your child has his or her own iPad or device. The nice thing for me is that he's too young to have a phone, but with an iPad he can connect to WiFi and then contact his friends, cousins, aunts and uncles. You can also create a chat room and connect your child's classmates or a group of cousins or friends and have conversations. -- This is free! This non-profit service is offered by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation featuring actors reading children's books alongside illustrations. Some actors include James Earl Jones, Lily Tomlin and Kevin Costner. Reading aloud to children improves reading, writing and communication skills, logical thinking and concentration. -- This is for $7.99 a month, you can get access to a number of popular books, like National Geographic books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Super Fly Guy. As of today, Epic is being offered free until June 30 2020. This is by teacher invitation. No credit card needed! -- This is free with school! This is one that my 7 yr old is on. This is part of the school apps provided for his school St. Philip Neri in Alameda. This is a great learning resource for students to proactively engage with. Each book allows students to hear the book read to them with words highlighted as it is read out loud; they then get to read the book and then take a quiz. Kids receive points for each book they read and quizzes they take. -- This is free! Here you can find word, math, skill and strategy games for Kindergarten to 6th grade. 

Mathplayground -- This is for $5.99 a month. There are a number of fun math games, puzzles for 1st to 6th grade. 

National Geographic for Kids -- This is free! It's one of my favorites. Kids can take quizzes. Even personality trait quizzes. There's fun sections, such as "Weird but true" things about the history of water. Not surprisingly there are tons of videos about different types of animals. It's like Wild Kratts, but only two minutes long.

Farfaria -- This is $4.99 a month or $99 for a lifetime. But starting today, using "Happy50" you can get half off any subscription -- even the $99 for life. Sounds like a good deal. This reading app is for pre-school to 4th grade. Kids get access to more than 1000 books read to them with words highlighted as they're being read. The titles include favorites, such as David and Goliath, and originals. 

Here's a couple of podcasts for kids.  

Brains On -- This appears to be free. This is a science podcast for kids. My son just finished listening to Understanding Coronavirus and How Germs Spread. Next, my son is excited to hear about Bigfoot, Unicorns and Dragons.

The Show About Politics & History -- This is a podcast by a 9 yr old. These are 15 minute interviews about how American politics work. These podcasts include "The Supreme Court", "Too young to vote". These podcasts are hosted by 9-yr-old Nate who is joined by reporters, such as Leon Neyfakh, who hosts Slate's podcast Slow Burn. He also spoke with NPR's Nina Totenberg.   

You can see a larger list of podcasts for kids from Ali Wilkinson, which was listed on Sonia Arrison Senkut's Facebook thread after she asked for homeschooling tips. Thanks, Sonia!

And from Nicole Aulicino's Facebook thread, here are 40 free educational resources!

Let me know if you have any good online learning apps for kids I can mention in this piece! @bambi100

(Image source: moneycrashers)

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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