Dear Parents,

In these unsettling times it can be difficult to know what to do with your children to keep them learning and growing while they are out of school. As an educator and former homeschool mom, I want to offer some suggestions for you to make this easier on you and your children. First of all, you don’t have to replace “school” to keep your child learning. Take this time to learn alongside your children and have a fun and relaxed time with them.

Here’s a few important tips:

Young ones need to hear you read books to learn what fluent reading sounds like. Read to your children every day! Enjoy this time with them, snuggled up on a couch with a cup of coffee (for you!) and share a good book with them. They also need to be decoding books to their ability. Simple readers like BOB Books can be obtained from a library, local bookstore delivery or Amazon. Don’t worry about doing the “phonics” or doing it wrong, just help them sound out words while you are spending time reading with them. Young children should be reading/read to for a minimum of 20 minutes a day.

Older children should be reading for a minimum of 30 minutes every day (3rd – 8th grade). Have your child create a simple book report that talks about the characters, events, and setting of the book because, let’s face it, books take longer than the movie and are not as instantly gratifying as a video game. You have to hold them accountable. Better yet, read it with them! Take turns each reading a page and then talk about the book with them and have some great conversations! You’ll be amazed at your child’s insight!

What about non-fiction text? Now is the perfect time to study something that sparks your child’s interest! Have them pick something they want to learn about and (if they are young you would help them) find some online articles to read about that topic, find some appropriate videos to watch, maybe even phone a relative or friend who is an expert in that field and conduct an interview! Some ideas are to learn to cook, learn a new language, learn how to paint or draw or make fancy lettering.

One year I had a student who wanted to learn how to build a skateboard and he did! It was fantastic! Keep it age appropriate for your child but give them the freedom to follow their passion. This can be done with any age child. Have them write about their experience and how much fun they had learning!

When kids are journal writing, or writing a letter to a friend or grandparent, writing is fun and not as labor intensive as writing at school. Make your kids proofread their writing and use proper spelling and punctuation but writing letters is a great way to keep kids writing. Many nursing homes are on lock-down right now and cannot have visitors, but they would love to receive a letter of encouragement from your child! Have your child write a story about their favorite character or a next episode of their favorite television show. Young children should spend at least 10-20 minutes a day writing. Older children up to 30 minutes. While you’re at it have children practice their penmanship for a short period each day (up to 10 minutes). Young children can practice printing and children in grades 3-8 can practice cursive.

Children need to keep interacting with mathematics to keep up their skills. One source online is Khan Academy, which has free videos and other resources. A simple search for math facts worksheets will give you a ton of options. Children who are in 3rd grade and up should practice their math skills for at least 20-30 minutes a day. Middle school students might require closer to 45 minutes a day to keep their skills sharp.

Don’t forget all the everyday ways that students interact with math in the real world and make the most of it! Have your children cook with you and follow a recipe. If you have older children, have them double a recipe’s measurements or cut that recipe in half. Teach your children how to count back change or how to balance a checkbook. If your kids are little, have them add and subtract goldfish crackers or cookies. There is math everywhere you look, just make a point of using those opportunities with your children.

Science can be super FUN! You probably have all the ingredients you need to conduct some fun science experiments around the house (with adult supervision of course), but there are also TONS of fun science videos online where children can get intrigued by the scientific world around us and explore ideas. I recommend all students interact with Science for 20-30 minutes a day.

Kids LOVE to learn about history, and this could be combined with your reading time together. Choose a biography of a historical figure and read it together or study a historical event. I suggest you spend at least 20-30 minutes a day engaging with history.

Children LOVE to be creative and this can really keep them engaged. If you can, incorporate music or art into all the activities that you do throughout the day! Crayons or markers and some paper can beget the next Michelangelo (no, I’m not talking about the turtle). Turn up some music and create a joyful mood in your home.

Above all, enjoy this time with your kids! Keep them learning and have fun with it!

Sally Datria is an ELA Content Coach for the Peoria Unified School District and a former homeschool mom.