Many parents have kids at home with an unexpected amount of free time after schools closed statewide in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

In North Dakota, Gov. Burgum signed an executive to close all public schools indefinitely starting March 19, with instructions for each K-12 district to devise alternative or online learning solutions by April 1.

In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz and Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker announced all Minnesota public schools will close to students starting Wednesday, March 18, with the plan to resume some form of instruction on Monday, March 30.

During the next week many moms (and dads) are faced with the challenging situation of wearing new hats of "teacher", "fitness instructor" and "counselor". While online resources can't do all the work for parents or kids, they can help parents to get started.

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In fact, Khan Academy, a nonprofit-based learning software provides possible schedules for preschool through 12th-grade students.

Other online learning portals provide free downloads, videos and interactive learning activities for individuals and groups. Try any of the following networks to help connect your eager student to new ideas or teachers:

  • TED-Ed: The maker of TED Talks now provides carefully curated educational videos or "lessons worth sharing." Topics range from Literature and Language, to Mathematics, to Science and Technology.
  • WatchKnowLearn: This site has indexed over 33,000 educational videos from YouTube and placed them into a directory of over 3,000 categories. The videos are available without registration or fees to teachers in the classroom and to students at home.
  • YouTube EDU: A curated collection of educational videos from sources ranging from Sesame Street to Harvard. Created by YouTube itself.
  • NeoK12: Designated a "Great Site for Kids" by the American Library Association, this site provides educational videos, lessons, quizzes and educational games for K-12 students in various subject areas, such as science, math, health, social studies and English.

Tools for inspiration

Because many kids have experienced canceled or postponed showcase events, like the spring art show or dance recital, encourage them to practice their creativity at home with any of the following sites including virtual tours, drawing lessons or learn a new language:

  • Virtual tour 30 museums and two million works of art: The page gives you access to collections of digitized art from 30 world-class museums. It features more than 2 million works of art.
  • Google Art Project: A new tool that gives you access to more than 1,000 works of art appearing in 17 great museums across the world. Using Google’s Street View technology, you can now tour collections at 184 museums worldwide, including the MoMA and Met in New York City, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
  • ArtThink: Created by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this site offers theme-based activities in visual arts, language arts, history and social studies. The site lets students investigate artists' work, lives, and their historical context.
  • SmartHistory: Smarthistory provides an extensive collection of audio and video introductions to works of art found in standard art history survey texts. You can find a complete collection of their videos on YouTube.
  • Virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel: Thanks to Villanova University, you can take an amazing virtual, panoramic tour of the Sistine Chapel. Using buttons in the lower-left screen, you can move around the room and zoom in on the paintings, including those on the ceiling.
  • Open Culture Foreign Language Collection: This list created by Open Culture offers free lessons in 40 different languages. You can generally download the mp3/podcasts to your devices.
  • Destinos: An Introduction to Spanish: This video instructional series for high school and college classrooms teaches Spanish speaking and listening skills. Produced by WGBH Boston.
  • Deutsch – warum nicht?: An extensive collection of introductory German lessons put together by Deutsche Welle. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.
  • French in Action: Become fluent in French by exploring French culture in this well-known video series for high school and college classrooms. Produced by Yale University and WGBH Boston with Wellesley College.
  • Real Chinese: Presented by the BBC. A lively introduction to Mandarin Chinese presented in 10 short parts with video clips from the Real Chinese TV series.
  • Talk Italian: A lively introduction to Italian presented by the BBC.
  • WatchKnowLearn: This site has aggregated YouTube videos that will teach students new languages.
  • Google Cultural Institute: Google has built a robust, umbrella Cultural Institute to house 42 new online historical exhibitions.

Tools for 'STEM'

Short for "Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics", numerous online resources can help your budding scientist, mathematician, or engineer to complete an award-winning science project at home. Check out any of the following resources:

Science

  • Bugscope: Lets K–12 students view bugs under a scanning electron microscope over the web. From the University of Illinois.
  • CELLS Alive!: Brings together 30 years of computer-enhanced images of living cells and organisms for education and medical research.
  • Chemistry Activities for Kids: Features chemistry demonstrations, crafts, and projects that are suitable for kids. Some activities require adult supervision. Assembled by Anne Marie Helmenstine, About.com Guide to Chemistry.
  • Digital Universe Atlas: Developed by the American Museum of Natural History's Hayden Planetarium, with support from NASA, this digital atlas makes available the most complete and accurate 3D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe. Download it for free!
  • Science for Kids: a free online science network for parents and teachers, this site includes experiments. Try their soap experiment to show kids how to fight germs with regular handwashing.

Technology

  • Code Ninjas: Students, K through 8th grade, can register now for Code Ninjas Fargo free virtual game building sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3 p.m.
  • Codecademy: This venture gives students the ability to take free computer science lessons online. Teaches everything from HTML basics to Python in a “user active” style.
  • Computer Science Courses from Great Universities: The more advanced student can watch lectures from computer science courses presented at great universities.

Engineering

  • BuiltByKids: Encourages next generation of makers to tackle the do-it-yourself projects of their dreams. Engineering very 101.
  • CK-12: This non-profit provides "open textbooks" for K-12 students all over the world. It offers free high-quality, standards-aligned, open content in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
  • MIT-K12: Taking a page from Khan, MIT is now producing ”short videos teaching basic concepts in science and engineering” for K-12 students. The videos are generally created by MIT students. You can sort the videos by topic and grade level. Find versions of these videos on iTunes.

Mathematics

  • Math Shack: Created by Shmoop, Math Shack allows students to practice an infinite number of auto-generated math problems in Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Geometry. It’s Common Core-aligned, and students can see how they’re performing—by topic and subject—through an easy color-coded system.
  • NRICH: The Nrich Math Project (based at Cambridge University) offers mathematics resources for children, parents and teachers to enrich learning. It provides resources for students of all ages.
  • STEM From The Start: Designed for PreK-2 learners, SFTS uses the power of educational video to help lay the groundwork for STEM subjects by engaging children in learning that is fun, engaging and long-lasting. Produced by New Hampshire PBS & Learniverse Educational Media.
  • TutPup Math: Helps young children gain confidence and mastery of basic educational skills. Its math section comes recommended by our readers.
  • Wolfram MathWorld: Bills itself as the web's most extensive mathematical resource. Designed for more advanced students, this collection is provided as a free service by Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica. Topics covered include Algebra, Applied Mathematics, Calculus and Analysis, Discrete Mathematics, Foundations of Mathematics, Geometry, History and Terminology, Number Theory, Probability and Statistics, Recreational Mathematics, and Topology.

Tools for critical thinking

While it can be easy to assign reading to children, it can be challenging to test reading comprehension. Here are some online resources to help kids grow their critical thinking skills, whether they are reading, studying maps or discovering a leader from history:

  • Historic Children's Books: The University of Florida’s Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature has digitized 6,000 books. They're free to read online from cover to cover. You can find other collections by The Library of Congress and UCLA.
  • International Children's Digital Library: Provides free access to high-quality children's books from around the world in different languages, including Arabic, Afrikaans, Danish, English, Farsi and beyond. Hosts books for kids 3-5, 6-9, and 10-13. Start browsing the library here.
  • Librivox: A favorite of ours, Librivox provides free audiobooks from the public domain. You will find 5000+ books in their catalog.
  • Scholastic: The multinational publishing, education and media company known for publishing, selling and distributing books and educational materials provides daily projects to keep kids reading and develop critical thinking skills for grades, K-12.
  • 50States.com: Offers copious information about the fifty United States of America.
  • A Biography of America: This video series for high school and college students presents American history as a living narrative rather than a collection of facts and dates. Produced by WGBH Boston in cooperation with the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.

Tools for exercise

Perhaps the most important tool to keep you and your kids sane, here are resources to help your busy kid to expend some of his or her excess energy:

  • Cosmic Kids: Part mindfulness, part yoga, Cosmic Kids provides videos for kids to learn yoga, including inclusive instructions for teaching kids with hearing loss or anxiety.

  • Moovlee: Using exercise, meditation and breathing techniques to help children with their social, emotional and physical development, kids can follow Moovelee the monkey to to develop stronger connections between both hemispheres of the brain.

  • Virtual P.E.: Jesica Larson from Detriot Lakes, Minn., streams virtual physical education Mondays through Fridays in a public Facebook group.

Have you created a resource for parents or kids? We want to know about it. Email moms@forumcomm.com.

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