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11 Free Resources for Home-Schooling during COVID Crisis


11:04 PM +08 / Updated Aug. 26, 2020

1:20 AM +08 / Source: TODAY By Lisa Tolin

This list has been updated for fall 2020.

With schools going remote or part-time this fall to stop the spread of coronavirus, you may find yourself with a side-gig: teacher.

Whether you're transitioning to full-time home-school, using your school's remote learning, considering a micro-school or "pandemic pod," or just facing a few days a week at home, you may need extra support as you home-school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you're new to home-schooling, you're probably wondering about finding a curriculum for home-school and how to help your kids learn. Is it possible to work from home, teach your kids, avoid a screen time free-for-all and keep your sanity?

"Remember that this is new for everyone," says Erin Girard, a home-schooling expert for Outschool. "Teachers won't always get it right, nor will we as parents. Be willing to be flexible and adapt."

Here are resources to help you discover how to home-school or just add enrichment to your days.

1. Find out what kids need to know

A few weeks or months was one thing, but if you're facing an entire year of home-schooling or remote learning, it's worth finding out what the curriculum for your child's grade includes.

Each state has requirements for home-schooling. Find out your state's home-school laws, says Jamie Gaddy, Editor in Chief of

For an idea of what your child should learn, consult TODAY's Parenting Guides, which were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts and align with the Common Core State Standards.

2. Use free educational websites

Many education websites and online home-school programs are offering free or reduced-price subscriptions during the coronavirus crisis. If your family is in need of guidance, EPIC, Every Person Influences Children, has a family support hotline.

  • Outschool, which offers live online classes in small groups, is offering free classes to those affected by school shutdowns.

  • Calvert Homeschool offers 30 free days of curriculum during school shutdowns.

  • Scholastic learn-at-home has lesson plans for pre-K to age 9 for about $5 a month.

  • The Facebook group Amazing Educational Resources gathered home-school resources into a public website. It includes resources for reading, math, history, Chinese, coding, music and more.

  • Open Culture has free textbooks, movies and audiobooks and links to free online courses from professors.

  • Khan Academy is a great free resource for instructional videos on many topics.

  • Google created a page of teacher-approved apps for download.

  • The nonprofit First Book is providing activities in English and Spanish for pre-K through eighth grade.

  • Families with Alexa-enabled devices can take advantage of free educational programs from Bamboo learning, including math, history, music and stories. Just say, "Alexa, open Bamboo Books."

  • Beanstalk is offering online classes in art, science and more for preschoolers up to age 6.

  • The education company Hand2Mind launched a new Learn at Home platform with streaming lessons for grades K-5 and downloadable STEM activities.

  • For grades 7 and up, the math tutoring program AskMo is free.

  • The nonprofit Love in a Big World is offering a free social-emotional curriculum for children K-8.

  • Prodigy Math, which is used by many school districts, has free video game style math learning.

  • The language program Duolingo offers free online learning tools.

  • The website CK-12 has age-appropriate lessons in all subjects for different grades.

  • For young children, Bright Horizons created a library of free resources for infants up to school-age kids.

  • For high schoolers, Fiveable is a free resource for Advanced Placement class learning and test prep. Their new Fiveable Courses provide a virtual learning group for a fee.

  • Encantos Learning Hub has tools for bilingual education and geography.

  • Ed Helper provides free daily workbooks for Pre-K through high school.

3. Find a learning style that suits your family

To discover the right home-schooling method for your family, think about your approach as a teacher and what best motivates your child as a student, Gaddy says.

If you're looking for something laid back, consider options like unschooling. If you are more structured and like a schedule, you might appreciate something more traditional. has a tool to help parents find the best curriculum.

"Once you have a handful of options, take them for a test drive," Gaddy says. Make sure your child likes the program and is motivated to learn.

"Talk with your child and ask them open-ended questions about what they liked about school and what they like to learn," Girard says. "Does your child dislike math but loves to help in the kitchen? Dislike reading but likes to tell stories? You can tailor their education to fit their natural strengths."

4. Create a home-school routine

Looking for a home-school daily schedule? You may want to try to follow your child's regular school schedule, or decide on a plan with a family meeting. These printable schedules let you plan out your day.

Keep in mind younger children may only be able to focus on a task for 10 or 15 minutes. Take lots of movement breaks, sing songs and get outside when you can.

Think, too, about the physical space that might suit your child. "Does your child like to stand? Sit? Create a fort to work in?" Girard asks. "Again, you have the flexibility to create your own learning environment and schedule."

5. Check out free Ebooks

Many libraries are closing, but online resources remain available.

  • Check Libby, Kanopy, SimplyE and Hoopla to get free resources with your library card.

  • The Epic! reading app is providing free access for students at home during remote learning, using a class code from their teacher.

  • Google's reading app Rivet is free and designed to help children from kindergarten to third grade learn to read.

  • VOOKS, an online streaming library, is offering a month for free during school shutdowns in addition to resources and lesson plans.

  • The educational resource publisher Twinkl is offering its library of more than 630,000 educational resources for free to residents of the U.S. Just enter the code USATWINKLHELPS to gain access.

  • Time for Kids is also offering its digital library for free during the crisis.

  • The new kids magazine The Week Junior is offering its first issues for free.

6. Play free read-alouds

Here's one classroom staple you can find easily online, through publishers, authors and educators who have posted public videos.

  • Dolly Parton's "Goodnight with Dolly" videos feature bedtime stories with her Imagination Library.

  • Some of your children's favorite authors are offering read-alouds during the crisis. This list of read-alouds from We Are Teachers is full of resources, and Kidlit TV has a library of read-alouds and activities.

  • Mac Barnett ("Sam and Dave Dig a Hole," "Mac B: Kid Spy") has an archive of read-alouds on his Instagram page.

  • Kate Messner, author of the new middle grade novel "Chirp" and picture book "The Next President" with Adam Rex, shares an array lessons from other authors on her website.

  • Romper put together "Operation Storytime" with read-alouds from enough authors to fill a virtual library.

  • Authors who are planning new read-alouds and lessons are sharing their schedules in a Google doc created by literacy advocate Olivia Van Ledtje, and more are sharing resources with the Twitter hashtag #kidlitquarantine.

7. Watch free webinars

  • The History Channel has History at Home lessons on

  • Jarret J. Krosoczka, author of the "Lunch Lady" graphic novel series and the National Book Award finalist "Hey, Kiddo," hosts drawing webcasts on YouTube for all ages.

  • Author and illustrator Grace Lin ("Big Mooncake for Little Star") is posting tutorials and readings on her YouTube channel.

  • Universal Pictures is posting tutorials from its animators, including How to Draw a Minion or Poppy from "Trolls." (Universal Pictures and TODAY share the same parent company.)

  • For preschoolers and school-age kids, Kiddie Academy offers ideas for turning play time, meal time and outdoor time into creative lessons and activities.

  • Mystery Science is offering free science lessons during school shutdowns.

  • The storytelling nonprofit The Moth is offering free stories and lessons twice a week.

  • TED-Ed has video lessons and series by top educators, made into animated videos for kids.

  • NPR's Ari Shapiro has a YouTube channel discussing current events.

  • And "Sesame Street" is offering special resources during the crisis, including a virtual hug from Elmo and animations about washing hands and caring for each other.

  • 4-H has an array of free activities on 4-H at Home, including science projects and arts and crafts.

  • Snoopy and his friends at have a new slate of free, in-home lesson plans and activities developed by education experts.

8. Listen to free audiobooks and podcasts

  • Audible announced a free Audible Stories website with audiobooks for children of all ages. Everything on the site is free, with no login or membership required.

  • The streaming audio service Pinna is offering teachers six free months on its teacher portal, along with free lesson plans and tips for integrating audio into the classroom. Teachers can share account information with students learning remotely, or families can sign up on their own for 30 days free.

  • Learning Ally is offering free access to its audiobook database, specifically aimed to help children with learning disabilities.

  • There are plenty of educational and entertaining podcasts for kids, including NPR's WOW in the World, Story Pirates and Brains On! Story Pirates also introduced a creators club with free digital resources.

  • The Story Seeds podcast shows the creative process in real time, with kids and authors collaborating on story ideas.

  • Grim, Grimmer, Grimmest with author Adam Gidwitz ("A Tale Dark and Grimm") offers safely thrilling spooky tales.

10. Get physical

  • With kids kept indoors more than usual, don't forget to provide plenty of wiggle time. Take your work outside and let the kids dig, or just observe nature. They can track what they see in a science notebook.

  • Cosmic Kids Yoga has free (and wildly entertaining) yoga resources for young children.

  • Go Noodle features short videos to get kids moving.

  • The Kidz Bop YouTube channel has dance-along videos.

  • A fitness coach in the U.K. is offering "fitness with Joe" P.E. classes during the crisis.

  • Ballet Hispanico is offering dance lessons on Instagram.

  • Tinkergarten, the outdoor early learning program, is offering Tinkergarten At Home for families with weekly activity ideas and other resources.


Expert Potty Training Tips for Parents

12:34 AM +08 / Updated Sept. 17, 2020, 12:46 AM +08 / Source: TODAY Contributor By Gail Saltz

Potty training is a process that can be challenging in the best of times. What’s normal with potty training and what isn’t? Readers shared some pressing questions with TODAY Parents. Here, pychiatrist Gail Saltz weighs in:

My 4-year-old has regressed with potty training and keeps having poo accidents. Help!

For most parents, potty training can be quite stressful. You are often trying to get your child to do something he or she is not especially interested in doing. Parents also can feel a lot of pressure because they think there is a very clear timeline for potty training, but in fact, there is a wide range of “normal.” In addition, more than half of all kids experience setbacks while potty training, and setbacks tend to freak parents out. Many start wondering, “Is something wrong? Will my child never get out of diapers?” — but please don’t worry. Setbacks are common, and children eventually move on and continue their training.

It’s fairly common for kids to train to pee and poo in the toilet at different times, with pee training often happening first. Why is this the case? Quite simply, many toddlers find pooing in the toilet to be scary. To them, it may feel like they are losing body parts as the poo goes into the toilet to be flushed away. Other aspects of the experience may scare them as well: The loud splash into the water, the loud flush of the toilet. They also may feel (and dread) pain when they go, especially if they’ve been holding it in and becoming constipated.

The poo “accidents” that you mentioned may stem from your child being nervous about going, holding it in and then having it come out when there isn’t enough time to get to the toilet. Or if children are truly terrified of the toilet, guess what? They’ll just go in their underwear.

So what can parents do? For starters, help children with their fears on a few different fronts:

  • Explain to them that poop is not part of their bodies — it is the waste from leftover food, and it will not harm them.

  • Take them with you to see pooping in action so they can witness firsthand that nothing scary happens.

  • Scoop the poop from their underwear or diaper into the toilet for them to see. Wave bye-bye to it as it flushes away.

  • Have them tell you they need to poop and put on a diaper for them to do so. Then you can transition toward sitting them on the toilet in their diaper to poop. From there, you can try cutting a hole in the diaper so that when they go, it can fall through the hole into the toilet. Once that isn’t scary, you are on the road to being diaper-free!

Here are a few other rules of engagement to keep in mind:

  • Above all, avoid shaming them for accidents. Negative reinforcement doesn’t work well, and it can traumatize children and lengthen the whole process.

  • Do give positive reinforcement for a job well done. Let children know that when they poop in the toilet, they will get a special sticker or something else small and non-sugary (because the treats can add up fast!). Such incentives have been shown to work very well.

  • Know when to show extra sensitivity. If something very stressful is happening in your child’s life, such as family tension or a significant loss, then do not be surprised if he or she regresses in potty training. This is to be expected. Lots of kindness, patience and TLC will help your child to feel less stressed and resume potty training in due time.

My 4-year-old isn’t having accidents — in fact, it’s quite the opposite. He won’t stop using the potty! He’s needing to go constantly, and we have to stop wherever we are to use the bathroom. Is this normal?

These are several possible factors at work here. If your son is newly trained, then the anxiety of having an accident can cause him to charge to the bathroom whenever he feels anything at all. His nervousness will lessen over time if that’s the case.

Or, if you used a lot of positive reinforcement for potty training, he may have become a bit trained to go as often as possible for rewards. To remedy this, you can stop giving him specific rewards for going.

Another possibility: If he is not newly trained and this just started suddenly, make sure he does not have a urinary tract infection, which can cause the feeling of always having to go. He also may be dealing with something that’s making him feel anxious. Ask him whether anything is worrying him; if there is, have him draw or play out the thing that is worrying him. If you’re seeing other signs of anxiety, such as difficulty sleeping, increased tantrums or a return to younger behavior, then his bathroom issues might be connected to anxiety, which is not uncommon in young children.

Take heart: Most potty-related issues make parents more worried than they need to be. Setbacks and obstacles are completely normal, and they are not a reflection of your parenting skills! Try not to judge yourself (or others) based on a child’s toilet-training ability.

Most important of all: Try to wait for signs that your child actually feels ready to train. Such signs include interest in the potty, a desire to wear big kid underwear, a willingness to sit on the potty and the ability to notice a need to go. Starting too early, before a child is really ready, is often fruitless and stressful for everyone.



April 6, 2016, 3:20 AM +08 , 12:09 AM +08 / Source: TODAY By A. Pawlowski

Getting kids to sleep consistently and soundly can turn into a nightmare for parents, inspiring books like "Go the F***k to Sleep" and leaving everyone cranky and tired.

Sleep expert Jodi Mindell, associate director of the Sleep Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, gave her advice on burning sleep questions from the TODAY Parenting Team.

Here are some of her tips, sorted by age group:


1. Do I have to use the “Cry It Out Method” to get my 10-month-old baby to sleep in her crib? She cries as soon as I put her down, and she stands up and doesn't know how to lay back down.

- You can make slow changes. Sit next to her for a few nights and pat her to sleep. Then take a few nights to sit halfway across the room. The next few nights in the doorway. Slow changes are easier for many families. For lots more tips, check out my book "Sleeping Through the Night," which is available in most public libraries.

2. My 6-week-old will only sleep if he’s held or sits in an infant seat. When it comes to lying flat in the bassinet, he is flailing around and won't sleep.

- Transition to a crib by the time your child is 3 months old. After that, it's much harder for the little ones to get used to sleeping somewhere new. If he sleeps better upright, then think about whether something like reflux is bothering him. If so, you may find that trying something that is a bit more upright works better.

3. When is a good age to transition out of a crib?

- I recommend not transitioning to a bed until closer to age 3. Before that age, it's hard for little ones to understand the imaginary boundaries of a bed and to stay put.


4. My son will be 4 in June and hasn't napped since he gave up his pacifier four months ago. He gets so cranky and overtired every afternoon, but he refuses to nap or even have quiet time in his room. He's also waking up way too early in the morning and I'm worried he's just not getting enough sleep!

- It's hard for little ones who are used to sleeping with their pacifier! If you are able to encourage him to take on a new lovey — like a favorite stuffed animal — that will help. To manage the early morning waking, a "good morning light" is a great thing. Simply put a nightlight on a timer to turn on at 6 or 6:30. This will let him know when it's morning. Once he gets the hang of it, you can then move the timer 15 minutes later every few days. He can't tell time, so he won't notice the difference.

5. My 2-year-old goes to sleep well but wakes every single night around 2 a.m. needing comforting, wanting a bottle or being taken into bed with us. Even if he doesn't wake fully he moans through the night. Help!

- No worries about the moaning, unless you think that he is in pain. Little ones are very active in their sleep and many sleep talk (or in your case, sleep moan). Most of the time, the issue is that they are unable to fall asleep or fall back to sleep on their own when they naturally awaken. If this is the case, start with bedtime working on having him fall asleep on his own. Do whatever you normally do in the middle of the night to get everyone back to sleep. In many cases, little ones start naturally sleeping longer at night once they are falling asleep easily on their own at bedtime.

6. My almost 3-year-old still has a bottle of milk before she falls asleep. What's the best way to end that habit and make a smooth transition?

- Drop the bedtime bottle. You can drop it an ounce per night. And then the "bottle fairy" can come to take the bottles and leave a present.


7. I am DESPERATE to get my 11-year-old son out of my bed. He refuses to sleep in his room.

- We hear this all the time! You are not the only family with this issue. Think about whether this is simply a habit or whether it's more due to anxiety. If he is anxious, we typically focus on managing the anxiety and developing coping skills before making changes in sleep. There are some excellent parenting books available on anxiety in kids or talk to your health care provider for recommendations.

8. My 8-year-old grandson will not go to sleep without one of his parents at his bedside. They leave after he falls asleep, but when he wakes during the night, he calls for them and one of them will stay with him until he is back to sleep and usually until morning.

- It's amazing how habits develop. But at his age, he can definitely start sleeping on his own. The whole family has to be on board with making changes. The best place to start is making changes at bedtime, slowly easing out so that he gets used to falling asleep on his own.

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I think my child may be LGBTQ: 6 things you can do before they come out

9:55 PM +08 / Updated June 5, 2020, 9:59 PM +08 / Source: TODAY By Alexander Kacala


I was in Atlantic City with my best friends when a table of women nearby — moms in their late 30s to early 40s — decided to join in on our Friday night out. They were getting away from their kids and husbands for the weekend, as we were getting away from the hustle and bustle of New York City. They immediately clocked us as gay, while we immediately clocked them as tipsy.

After we warmed up to another, one mom anxiously said: "I have a question: I am pretty sure my son is gay, but I don't know what to do. He hasn't come out yet, but I wanna make sure he knows I'll be OK with it."

Most LGBTQ youth are aware of their sexual orientation or gender identity by the start of adolescence. But still, the real and perceived fear of rejection still deters many children from coming out.

What can parents do? From responding to Neil Patrick Harris on "The Tonight Show" to spending some time with Google, here are six things a parent can do before their child comes out.



1. Respond to an LGBTQ character in the media

With LGBTQ visibility continuing to rise in the media, there are plenty of opportunities to breach the topic in your household.

"If you’re watching TV or a movie together and an LGBTQ character comes on, seize the opportunity to affirm to your child that you are accepting and supportive of LGBTQ people," Kristina Furia, the founder and executive director of Emerge Wellness and Philadelphia LGBTQ Counseling, tells TODAY Parents.

2. Stop any and all hate speech

This may seem like an obvious one, but microaggressions are a great opportunity for you to demonstrate to your child that you are an ally.

A 2018 report from the Human Rights Campaign shows that 78% of LGBTQ youth who are not out at home hear their families make negative comments about LGBTQ people.

Furia says, "It is crucial that your child feel that your home and ultimately you are a safe space. You must not allow hateful speech, whether subtle or overt, of any kind to be tolerated."

For example, if someone uses the word "gay" in place of "stupid," remind them that the two are not interchangeable, and suggest they should say what they actually mean instead.

3. Educate yourself

Start educating yourself about the LGBTQ community: You don't have to wait for the big "coming out" moment to start learning.

"Consider increasing your understanding of the LGBTQ experience and brushing up on appropriate language," Furia says. "There is an array of vocabulary relevant to the community that you very well might not know yet."

4. Seek your own network

You're also part of your child's LGBTQ experience, so make sure you take care of yourself in the process.

"Consider getting involved with an organization for additional support and resources," Furia says. "PFLAG is a great place to start."

PFLAG is the nation's first and largest organization for LGBTQ people, their families and allies.

"Self-care is crucial, which means that even as you are learning how best to support your child or loved one, you must also find support for you," Liz Owen, director of communications for PFLAG National, told TODAY.

"This is especially true if your emotions are less positive, as you’ll need a safe place to work through those feelings. PFLAG meetings are a great and confidential way to find people who have gone through similar experiences." Another group specifically for dads is Dragon Dads, an online network and resource for religious fathers who shower their LGBTQ children with love and support.

5. Ask open-ended questions

Facilitating healthy dialogue can begin with the parent.

"Give your child ample opportunity to open up and share their thoughts and feelings. Whether they want to talk about their hopes for the future, or a situation that happened in school or at work that day, the prospect for open discussion is endless," Owen says.

"If you have a sense that your loved one might want to talk, but isn’t doing so on their own, a gentle open-ended question, such as, 'How did things go at school/work/church today?' can open the door to dialogue."

6. Don't push

Furia and Owen both stress the importance of not jumping the gun. Let your child take the lead.

"It is important that you address this subject with great care," Furia explains. "It may seem counter-intuitive but the best thing to do is to wait for your child to open up to you. If asked about their sexual orientation or gender identity before they’re ready to discuss it, your child might shell up, or worse, experience feelings of embarrassment or even shame. The best thing you can do is to make the conversation welcome by creating a warm and safe environment where open communication is the norm."

And when they finally are ready to talk, Owen adds, "Really listen."

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