While earning their certification, all teachers master this mantra: Never work harder than your students! This holds true for parents as well. Instead of doing the heavy lifting to maintain learning gains over the summer break, leverage a free online learning system. Here are my picks for the best 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!
ABCmouse.com, ages: 2–8
The scoop: ABCmouse.com helps kids learn to read through phonics and teaches lessons in math, social studies, art, music and much more.
Bonus: There’s also a version in Spanish.
Adventure Academy, ages: 8–13
The scoop: Adventure Academy combines an elementary school curriculum with an interactive 3D world that provides the perfect environment for contextual learning and includes games and videos for language arts, math, science, social studies and more.
BrainPOP, grades: K–8
The scoop: Engaging learning games, animated movies and activities boost your child’s achievement. BrainPOP makes rigorous learning experiences accessible and engaging for all.
AdaptedMind, grades: K–6
The scoop: The K–6 curriculum is research-based, Common Core–aligned and comprehensive. It creates customized learning plans for students, leveraging more than 300,000 math problems and explanations as well as reading passages with comprehension questions.
Learning A–Z, grades: K–5
The scoop: Explore 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.
IXL, grades: pre-K–12+
The scoop: IXL is a personalized, comprehensive, immersive pre-K–12 learning experience trusted by educators and parents. More than 8 million students use IXL.
PBS Learning Media, grades: pre-K–12
The scoop: PBS curates free, standards-aligned videos, interactive lessons, lesson plans and more.
Khan Academy, grades: K–12+
The scoop: Khan Academy is a nonprofit with the mission to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere.
HippoCampus.org, grades: middle school–college
The scoop: Free educational resources for math, science, social studies and the humanities.
ReadWorks, grades: K–12
The scoop: Free content, curricula and tools to power teaching and learning from kindergarten through grade 12.
Nessy, ages: 6–11
The scoop: Nessy takes a different approach to teaching children with dyslexia. Through games, videos and worksheets, it helps rebuild lost confidence.
NoRedInk, grades: K–12
The scoop: NoRedInk creates stronger writers by offering an interest-based curriculum, adaptive exercises and actionable data.
Prodigy, grades: 1–8
The scoop: This engaging, curriculum-aligned math platform is loved by over 50 million students, teachers and administrators. No cost, ever.
DreamBox Learning, grades: K–12
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.
Mystery Science, grades: K–5
The scoop: This very popular K–5 science curriculum offers “open-and-go” lessons that inspire kids to love science!
Duolingo, ages/grades: all
The scoop: Earn points for correct answers, race against the clock and reach higher levels. Bite-size lessons are effective and addictive. Social-emotional learning
Everyday Speech, grades: pre-K–12
The scoop: The only curricula you’ll ever need to teach social pragmatics or social-emotional learning skills.