HIGH COUNTRY — There are several online resources for continuing education at home that are free for parents and caregivers to utilize during the COVID-19 outbreak, while North Carolina Public Schools are closed with the goal of slowing the outbreak.

Local High Country homeschooling and childcare experts, along with internationally known publications and resources, offer not only interactive games involving school subjects, but they also offer advice for parents who are entering new territory.

High Country Christian Home Schoolers’ Brittany White says “the most important thing to remember is this: If you have a child, you are capable of homeschooling them.”

HCCHS a member-driven home schooling group that brings together students through local meetings and group activities. A network of other homeschooling parents and caregivers is located online at www.hcchs.com/local-support.

White recommends several user- and student-friendly online resources including the Royal Fireworks Press, which is designed specifically to help with school closures due to COVID-19. The platform offers classes in subjects such as math, arts, science, philosophy and problem-based learning. There are also resources for students with special needs and gifted students. Find its website at www.rfwp.com/pages/online-courses.

Ambleside Online is a online library resource that features “living books,” which are books that are not written in the same style of original textbooks, making them easier to read, according to White. The website can be found at www.amblesideonline.org.

“Often lessons at home take less time than the school day,” said White. “It doesn’t have to mirror regular school. Students (may) do their homework in the morning and can have afternoons to play and pursue interests. Don’t be afraid to let children get a little bored. Challenge them to use their creativity. Give them ideas. They’ll read about something new. They’ll tap into their own thoughts and resources and start to think outside the box,” White said.

Angela Shimel of Ashe School of Home Education in Ashe County echoes White’s sentiments that being in quarantine is an opportunity for growth, both for students and caregivers.

“The best quote I have heard during this social isolation has been from a pastor at Summit Church in Greensboro. He said, ‘Don’t waste your quarantine.’ Strengthen relationships with your kids, play games, learn something new, start healthy habits — that’s what kids are going to remember, not how many worksheets they were able to complete,” Shimel said.

A.S.H.E. is a community consisting of more than 100 students receiving an education from home. The organization brings students and families together through group trips, classes and other extracurriculars.

Shimel also recommends journal assignments for students during the school shutdowns.

“This will be a historical event that their children will learn about in school in 20 years, so write about it and it will be an awesome historical source for years to come,” she said. This practice also encourages students to know about what’s going on in the world around them.

For parents, Shimel said, “don’t try to recreate a classroom at home. Learning at home often takes much less time — (students) don’t have to wait in lines for the bathroom or lunch, or wait for the whole class to finish to move on. Not all learning comes from a book. The best way to learn is often hands-on for a lot of students. Teach kids how to cook, how to plan meals and budget, start a garden by growing seedlings, make a commercial about your favorite country, do a science experiment.”

Another local resource, which was founded in 2012, is a blog titled High Country Mom, at www.highcountrymom.com.

“Homeschooling is like parenting,” said Melissa Boyce, founder of the blog site. “Some days will be amazing and you’ll be so grateful, other days you’ll wonder what you were thinking or why you have to ‘endure’ this. Keep in mind that your kids may feel the same way. Some days you’ll thrive, and others you’ll simply survive. Whatever the case, don’t do it alone.”

Boyce has also published a list of helpful tips and ideas, which includes spending time outside every day, limiting non-educational screen time and, for caregivers, how to handle extra stress during this stressful time.

“Try not to whine. Your kids will whine at times. It helps if we catch ourselves when we’re having an attitude because our kids will reflect it back. Try to have a positive outlook and encourage your kids rather than nag or belittle them with your frustrations/disappointments,” Boyce said.

Some resources recommended by Boyce are listed below with a short description from each referenced site, including grade level and age range where they were provided. All of these services are free or have been made free due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Busy Toddler (www.busytoddler.com) is a blog founded by a homeschooling mother that features multiple lists of activities for children from toddler-age to middle school.

XtraMath (www.xtramath.org) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to math achievement for all. Its goal is to develop effective, efficient, adaptive and intrinsically rewarding supplemental math activities.

Seterra (www.seterra.com) is an educational geography website with games and quizzes that is available in more than 300 languages. Students become familiar with countries, capital cities, flags, rivers, lakes and other geographical features.

Google Lens (www.play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.ar.lens&hl=en_US) is a free website and app from Google that allows individuals to identify plants by taking a picture. Boyce said it’s a great way to get kids outside to learn about their surroundings.

Kosmic Kids Yoga (www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga) is a YouTube channel that highlights imaginative storytelling through body movements, geared toward young and low-elementary aged kids.

Modern States (www.modernstates.org) is geared toward more advanced/older students, but it can be used by any student. It offers a variety of courses and course providers include MIT, Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Purdue.

Boyce also noted that local public libraries offer online resources that are “a treasure trove for the homeschooler.”

Resources from Appalachian Regional Library, which is comprised of the public libraries in Ashe, Watauga and Wilkes counties, can be found at www.arlibrary.org/online-resources.

Avery County Public Library’s online resources are located at www.amyregionallibrary.org/services/services-online-resources.

Along with its regular offerings, Khan Academy has released daily schedules to assist caregivers of students in the transition to remote learning. The organization has also partnered with Pixar Inc. to produce Imagineering in a Box, which is a free online program that lets users design and build their own theme park. More information on Imagineering in a Box can be found at www.disneyparks.disney.go.com/blog/2020/03/enjoy-a-one-of-a-kind-learning-experience-from-disney-imagineers.

The Khan Academy and its resources can be found at www.khanacademy.org.

Additionally, many local facilities are keeping their websites updated with resources and tips, including the Watauga County Children’s Council at www.thechildrenscouncil.org, A.S.H.E. in Ashe County at www.ashehomeschools.com and the Blue Ridge Partnership for Children at www.mypartnershipforchildren.org, along with others.

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