Image: Jane Sherman

Thanks to the novel coronavirus, parents around the country have suddenly been forced to consider playing a new role in their children’s lives: teacher. In Seattle, it’s not a short-term assignment. On March 13, governor Jay Inslee announced that Washington state’s schools would be shut down through at least April 24.

Parents have been doing their best to cope with this new normal. Some have used whiteboard schedules to plot their home education, leading to some funny viral versions online. Others shun attempts at recreating the classroom environment, opting for cookies and video games instead.

Households are, of course, welcome to handle this educational predicament however they would like. There’s no blueprint here. But if your kid seeks some mental stimulation, you might want to check out the handful of general resources listed below.

Seattle Public Schools' Suggested Activities and Schedules

This a great starting point for any parent. If you do want to go the whiteboard route, SPS has put together some recommended schedules for home learning. One is for preschoolers, the other for those in elementary and middle school. And all grades have recommended activities with long resource lists organized by subject and accessible to a variety of different learners.

SPS TV Educational Programming

SPS has now started posting supplemental learning videos on local channel 26, YouTube, its social media pages, and In the closed captioned clips, SPS teachers offer instruction in math, English and language arts, visual and performing arts, physical education, and other subjects. “The first two weeks of programming will focus on K-5 supports and additional content and grades will be added in the coming weeks,” SPS states. Don’t expect too much relief, parents. Most of the videos are in the five-minute range and rarely exceed half an hour. (Families without access to TV or those sites can pick up learning packets at meal distribution sites.) But it’s nice to welcome back some professional tutelage from familiar faces. Plus, you can analyze teachers’ video background choices, an activity anybody in the family can enjoy.

The Seattle Public Library's Digital Resources

Before you dive into the world of e-learning, see if one of our most expansive local knowledge hubs has what you're looking for first. With a library card, you can download e-books and e-audiobooks, magazines and newspapers, movies and TV shows, and podcasts and music. Think about the educational value of, say, viewing the Seattle Times's coverage of the Spanish Flu in 1918. The library can also serve as an entry point into the vast sphere of education sites. It provides access to (LinkedIn Learning) skill-building exercises applicable to the business, technology, and creative spheres; Mango Languages, which helps you become more conversational in dozens of native tongues; Bookflix, which "pairs animated stories with real world concepts for early readers up to 3rd grade"; and much more. Never underestimate the power of a library card.

Khan Academy Courses

You may have heard of this nonprofit, which has partnered with College Board to produce SAT and Advanced Placement practice testing. Its mission is "to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere." Well, that's a particularly big need right now, and this organization certainly isn't sleeping on it. Daily schedules and resources for parents are available on the site, as are numerous courses in math, science and engineering, economics and finance, computing, and arts and humanities. They incorporate instructional videos, practice exercises, and a learning dashboard in multiple languages. It's an opportunity for students to try a remote mode of learning which, you may have noticed, is no longer such a futuristic concept. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has a roundup of other popular digital learning options.

CDC Information about the Novel Coronavirus

Not to get too meta, but we're in the midst of an event that invites study and conversation. Children are going to be curious about what's going on, and parents should have their facts straight. In this climate, that is a lesson you can't teach enough.

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