I will never be a room parent, a Girl Scout leader, or anything resembling something crafty. I’m too impatient to be a teacher and too uninterested and/or untalented to make up my own lesson plans or learning programs. Needless to say, distance learning was hard for me. Hard. Even before the pandemic, I was struggling. Teaching my toddler and then preschooler was tough. Pinterest gave me great ideas on lessons I could teach. So did mom bloggers. None of them worked for me, again because of impatience and lack of interest in setting up anything. I focused instead on finding my daughter interesting extracurricular activities to round out her education. I assumed school and these additional classes would fill in the gaps that I could not. And then the pandemic hit.
When I became an unglorified teaching assistant as Em’s school moved to distance learning, I had to face a horrible realization. My daughter was struggling and I didn’t seem to have the ability to teach her. I was at a loss until Facebook (with posts from friends I had lost touch with) and Instagram (with posts from social influencers I liked) came to my rescue. During a time when parents everywhere were leaning on each other to get through distance learning, I eagerly looked up all the various learning programs people were touting. The programs listed below are my top favorites. These are the programs that got us through quarantine and excited Em about learning again.
My favorite learning programs (in no particular order)
Dreambox – Online Subscription Learning Program
Towards the beginning of every parent’s crazy adventure in distance learning, Honolulu Family Magazine published an article about how various school’s distance learning programs were working out. Don’t even get me started on how irritating it was to read about how easy it was for these interviewed families to shift to a DLP while in my own home I would spend nights crying, overwhelmed with the task of both teaching my child and continuing my demanding, full-time job.
However, there was one good thing that came out of that article. One of the families discussed Dreambox as a math alternative for Kindergarten through 8th graders. While I was immediately sucked in by the video on the Company’s homepage, if there was one thing that my daughter was getting a lot of practice in at her own school, it was math. I wasn’t sure she needed one more program until I saw the deal they were offering. A three-month free trial period. I figured, why the heck not. The Dreambox website / app are set up like a game, which my daughter loves. Em’s school uses a much more rote and repetition method so I liked that this would be a change for her. I’m undecided on which type of teaching style is better, but I do know that Em begs to play Dreambox. Begs!
IXL – Online Subscription Learning Program
IXL has online learning programs in Math, Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies from pre-school to 6th grade. The math option was part of Em’s school’s distance learning program. It reminded me of a lot of the Kumon program that my parents enrolled me in as a kid. Personally, I hated Kumon and had no desire to ever subject my kids to that program. However, it seemed that IXL took the best part of Kumon (rote repetition) and paired it with things that aren’t available in Kumon (an online AI program that will continually measure how a child is doing and uses this knowledge to plan lessons appropriately).
IXL offers hundreds of lessons per grade that you can work your way through, subject by subject. Throughout Kindergarten and over the summer I had Em trudge along with the lessons one at a time. However, when she returned to distance learning at the beginning of the first grade her teachers to her to complete the diagnostic test first. This diagnostic was able to help provide guidance as to what lessons Em needed to focus on. I appreciated this aspect of the program so much that I changed our home IXL program to also focus on the diagnostic test and what it was saying Em needed to focus on.
Meanwhile, Em liked IXL for a very different reason. As kids complete lesson plans they receive prizes (i.e. virtual stickers). While I don’t see the appeal of these prizes, Em is constantly checking the lesson plan to see what she needs to do in order to get another “sticker”.
Outschool – Single Purchase Online Learning Program
Outschool HEAVILY advertises on Facebook so I assume every parent has heard of them with Facebook’s targeted marketing metrics. I’m pretty against following targeted advertisements on social media because a quick google search has shown me that A LOT of them are fraudulent. I would roll my eyes and scroll on by every one of their ads. Until the day when my friends started singing the praises of this online learning program. Some of them planned out their kids’ entire day using Outschool.
When my week-long trip to the east coast was canceled due to the pandemic, I decided it was time to try out Outschool for myself. I wrote an entire blog post about it here. In summary, Outschool has continued to be a great experience for us. Even though we are thankfully not doing a distance learning program anymore, Em often takes classes when we have availability in order to introduce her to something new.
Reading Eggs – Online Subscription Learning Program
If I had to pick only one online learning program out of this entire list, it would be Reading Eggs. This is the program that taught my daughter to read. I honestly do not know where we would be without it. As distance learning became a reality in our household I started to realize that not only was my daughter behind her peers when it came to reading, her self-confidence in school was drastically dropping as a cause of it. I attempted to help her learn on my own and quickly realized I was too impatient for the task. At the recommendation of another blogger, I decided to give Reading Eggs a try. I have been eternally grateful ever since. Click here for the full review I wrote about Reading Eggs this past summer.
While the regular Reading Eggs program is for kids 3-7, they also have a junior program that starts from age 2. You better believe we will be starting Baby L on that program the day after his birthday. Reading Eggs also has a Math option too, called Math Seeds. Em started using it towards the end of summer and loves it just as much as Reading Eggs.
Raddish Kids – Subscription Box Learning Program
Raddish Kids is a cooking class in a box. I actually started this subscription at the end of 2018. I did a couple of recipes with 4-year-old Em and it was okay… but it just seemed like I was adding more difficulty to a chore I already am not a huge fan of (making dinner). Needless to say, the boxes started piling up unopened (because I’m horrible at canceling subscriptions). Fast-forward 2 years, Em was now 6 and learning remotely… it was time to give the boxes another try.
This time around, Raddish Kids worked amazingly well. The monthly recipes didn’t just teach Em how to cook. This holistic learning program also tackled reading, math, and social studies. Click here for my full review of Raddish Kids. Additionally, the food is really good! My mother-in-law asked for a recipe. My foodie-snob husband has gone back for seconds and thirds on multiple occasions. It even made me enjoy chili… and I am usually NOT a fan.
Osmo – Single Purchase Learning Program
Emma received Osmo (and a Frozen 2 Osmo game) as a present for Christmas. And then it collected dust in the corner of our house for months. Not for any reason due to Osmo. Christmas always flows directly into one of my busiest times at work. My work finally let up right as Coronavirus made its way to the US. Stuck trying to figure out how to fill my daughter’s once busy schedule so that I could continue to work full-time, I took to social media to see what other friends were using for distance learning programs. The common theme was that Osmo was amazing. I decided it was time to track down that errant Christmas present.
I couldn’t believe how amazing Osmo was. We ended up ordering every game that ships to Hawaii. (Sigh… don’t get me started on why Hawaii cannot get all the Osmo games). I love watching Em peer over maps in Detective Agency. (It brings back memories of watching Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? as a kid.) Embarrassingly enough, I was so jealous watching her play Pizza Co. that I set up my own account and played at night after she went to sleep. I kid you not. They recently released a couple of new games. I am waiting for the prices to drop a little and then plan on scooping them up as well.