Boost your kid's at-home learning with these online resources
Saskatchewan libraries, private schools and non-profits offer students free online learning resources
This week marks one month since schools across Saskatchewan began the move to remote learning in response to COVID-19.
While many students are embracing it, some families are looking for ways to boost their at-home learning even more.
Geoffrey Allen thinks local libraries are great places to start.
The collections manager at the Regina Public Library noted there are a number of resources available for students on both municipal and regional library websites — and it's all free with a library card.
At RPL, Allen said a new learning support program called Brainfuse is proving popular. It has live tutoring in the late afternoon into the evening. Through a live chat, the tutors help kids in math, science and English, with an added option to submit papers for feedback.
The RPL website also links to practice tests, writing and language labs, all of which align with the Saskatchewan curriculum.
In the past month, Allen said RPL has seen a huge uptick in the use of these online resources, with analytics showing many programs doubling users.
Audiobook apps a popular choice
One app that's seen a big increase in users is Hoopla, an audiobook app.
As a former teacher, Allen noted it's nice to see students taking time to read on their own, regardless of whether it fits in with their school work.
"It's really important that we let all our students and kids read the types of materials that they enjoy the most," he said.
"When we listen to audio books, that's still reading. It's still the same kind of engagement with language and learning. Graphic formats are also the same. The pictures and visual stimulation, plus the text, on topics of interest is really important."
In Prince Albert, Lindsay Baker, the community services librarian at the Wapiti Regional Library, echoed Allen's findings.
Numbers there show Hoopla and TumbleBook, an animated talking picture book app, are the most used these days in central and northern parts of Saskatchewan.
It's really important that we let all our students and kids read the types of materials that they enjoy the most.- Geoffrey Allen, Regina Public Library collections manager
While libraries across the province share print resources, Baker is reminding people it's different online.
"The nice thing about Saskatchewan is that we're all a part of SILS — the Saskatchewan Integrated Library System — so it doesn't matter where you live, you can take your library card to that library and check out books there," she said.
"The only thing that matters when it comes to geography is our online resources, which are determined by our geographical lines."
Baker said people can find out which library they fall under by calling any branch in Saskatchewan.
Private preschool classes streamed free online
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Regina's Pathways Learning Centre closed in mid-March and pivoted to streaming free preschool programming on social media.
Twice a week, the private preschool now offers what it calls "circle time," which gets kids sitting down in front of their electronic device to learn as though they're in the classroom.
"On the surface, it's about half an hour of fun and dancing and singing to the kids but we're also building those [speech language] skills at the same time," said Maegan Mason, Pathways Learning Centre co-founder and speech pathologist.
Each class focuses specifically on vocabulary, speech and sound production, along with emotional understanding.
Mason said the first five years of a child's life is crucial when it comes to learning and just because kids are out of school doesn't mean that should stop.
"We really know that those strong communication skills, pre-literacy skills and socialization — those are all really important in making a successful kindergartner and beyond," she said.
"Even reaching kids right now when they're at home and maybe their routines are a little wonky or a little different, that sense of routine might give a little bit of normalcy."
Physical education for the entire family
While it might be easy to submit an English paper or math assignment online, physical education is its own beast.
To make sure students stay active while school is out, the YMCA has launched its Y Thrive home workout program featuring professional instructors.
There are online videos targeted to people of all ages, including kids and families.
According to Serena Dallas, the marketing and philanthropy director with the YMCA Saskatoon, the program has been in the works for "quite some time" but because of COVID-19, it has been accelerated.
"This has been the perfect time to be able to launch it, in response to everybody staying home and having to learn how to readjust," she said.
"It's harder now because we can't just go to the park, so we have to find creative and engaging ways of getting parents and kids doing things together."
The workout videos touch on both physical and mental health, and a membership is not required to access them.