During certification, all teachers master this mantra: Never work harder than your students! Now that Washington schools have closed their doors by Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate, that goes for parents who are picking up the slack at home, too! Instead of doing the heavy lifting to maintain learning gains, leverage a free online learning system. Here are my picks for the best online learning programs.
Each program is:
- 100 percent free or offers a free 7-,14- or 30-day trial
- Targets a range of K–12 students
- Covers one or more core academic subjects
- Offers engaging and interactive content in a systematic presentation (and sometimes even in customized content and learning plans!)
- Aligns with Common Core State Standards
- Works for all students — general education and those with IEPs/504s. Just identify the correct level for your student, or let the platform do it for you!
Why do I recommend these products?
It didn't take a state of emergency for me to start using these products. I’ve been a parent, educator and volunteer in Lake Washington, Northshore and Bellevue school districts for almost 18 years. As a teacher, I worked across grades (K–12), subjects and abilities (from general education to highly impacted special-education students). Each of these learning systems helped me meet the needs of a valued student in some important way.
What do I get out of this?
Rest assured, nothing! This article does not include affiliate links. These are simply my best professional recommendations for free, “done for you,” systematic learning opportunities.
What does your student get out of this?
Unfortunately, your student won’t receive credits toward classes or school attendance. But you will get sustained learning to prevent a “March Madness” version of the “summer slide.” You also stand to learn a lot about your child’s learning style and preferences, and you may even get valuable progress data to support your case for accommodations or special education. At the very least, when we all get back to normal (and we will!), your student will be ready to summit instead of slump.
How can I choose a system for my student(s)?
Check (as best you can) that the product is free, targeted to K–12 students and systematic.
How do I sign my student up?
Simply click through to each product homepage and choose its version of “register.” Be sure to check for late-breaking special offers, then select your preferred plan — free, trial, paid, etc. Education companies are really stepping up in this time of need. Don’t miss the chance to graciously accept their offers!
Ages: 2–8 | FREE for 30 days
The scoop: ABCMouse.com helps kids learn to read through phonics, and teaches lessons in math, social studies, art, music and much more. Full online curricula for children ages 2–8. Bonus: There's also a version in Spanish.
Ages: 8–13 | first month free (credit card required for sign-up)
The scoop: Adventure Academy combines an elementary school curriculum with an interactive 3-D world that provides the perfect environment for contextual learning. An epic learning adventure awaits! Learning games and videos for language arts, math, science, social studies and more.
Grades: K–8 | FREE for students in closed districts
The scoop: Engaging learning games, animated movies and activities boost your child’s achievement. BrainPOP makes rigorous learning experiences accessible and engaging for all.
Grades: K–6 | FREE for 1 month
The scoop: Our K–6 curriculum is research-based, Common-Core-aligned and comprehensive. It creates customized learning plans for your student leveraging over 300,000 math problems and explanations and reading passages with comprehension questions. But even better, students will feel like they’re playing a game.
Grades: K–5 | FREE for 14 days by app
The scoop: Explore our award-winning products to see how they empower teachers and equip students with the skills they need for literacy success in the classroom and beyond. Online game-based activities and quizzes that students love!
Grades: K–12+ | FREE for 7 days (credit card required for sign-up)
The scoop: IXL is personalized learning. Comprehensive K–12 curriculum. An immersive learning experience trusted by educators and parents. Over 60 billion questions answered. More than 8 million students use IXL.
I contacted IXL on March 12, and they replied with this info: “For family memberships, we are now offering a 7-day free trial on the U.S. edition. This trial will give you full access to IXL, allowing you to experience all of the features. You can share the link to sign up for the 7-day trial.”
PBS Learning Media
Grades: K–12+ | FREE
The scoop: PBS has curated FREE, standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans and more.
Grades: K–12+ | FREE
The scoop: We’re a nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.
Grades: middle school through college | FREE
The scoop: Free educational resources for math, science, social studies, humanities.
Grades: K–12 | FREE
The scoop: FREE content, curriculum and tools to power teaching and learning from kindergarten to 12th grade.
Read Write Think
Grades: K–12 | FREE
The scoop: Looking for engaging ways to introduce your child to reading or to encourage your teen to write? Need some age-appropriate book suggestions or activities? These materials are your answer — fun, educational and easy to use.
Ages: 6–11 | FREE 14-day trial
The scoop: Nessy has a different approach to teaching children with dyslexia. Through games, videos and worksheets, we help rebuild lost confidence. Programs other than reading and spelling are fee-based.
Grades: K–12 | FREE
The scoop: NoRedInk builds stronger writers through interest-based curriculum, adaptive exercises and actionable data.
Grades: 1–8 | FREE
The scoop: The engaging, curriculum-aligned math platform loved by over 50 million students, teachers and admins. No cost, ever. Accessible at home or in class!
Grades: 1–8 | FREE 14-day trial
The scoop: DreamBox Learning Math adapts to students’ actions to meet them at the right level. An engaging, game-like environment motivates students to persist, progress and achieve success.
Grades: K–5 | FREE
The scoop: The most popular K–5 science curriculum. Open-and-go lessons that inspire kids to love science! Hands-on, NGSS-aligned and Common Core.
Ages/grades: all | FREE
The scoop: Learning with Duolingo is fun and addictive. Earn points for correct answers, race against the clock and level up. Our bite-sized lessons are effective, and we have proof that it works.
Grades: K–12 | FREE for 30 days (credit card required for sign-up)
The scoop: The only curriculum you’ll ever need to teach social-emotional skills. Our Social-Emotional Learning Platform is a curriculum for anyone teaching social pragmatics or social-emotional learning. ... Adding in a bit of cooperative or competitive fun, our online games are an engaging, interactive teaching tool.
And that's it! It's a difficult time for students and parents alike, but in the famous words of Winston Churchill (or, more accurately, his government), "Keep calm and carry on." You got this!