Skip to main content

To make at-home learning plans, follow the ‘4 Rs’

By Lora Cohen-Vogel, Michael Gottfried, and Carol McDonald Connor

Research informs how parents and guardians can support children’s learning, even while at home. To keep it simple, we suggest families establish “4R Plans” for each child: Routine — Relevant — Read — Run.


  • Stick to your normal routine, with your children getting up and going to bed as they would during the regular school year.
  • Make a schedule with your child. Whether you will be reporting for work or working from home, put your child on a schedule. And, involve them in building it! A child who participates in setting his/her own schedule is also more likely to follow it.
  • The schedule should include instruction, physical activity, (virus-appropriate) socialization, and – of course – three healthy meals each day. Parents and guardians whose children qualify for free and reduced priced lunch should call their school or district social workers now to inquire about programming in the event of school closings.
  • Relevant

  • If your school district sends instructional guidance, follow those. If guidance is not offered, try to plan for instructional activities each day in math, reading, science, and social studies.
  • In thinking about what activities to focus on, try spending a couple hours becoming familiar with what your child is learning in school. If your school has not yet been cancelled, begin by paying attention to the work s/he has been bringing home recently. Note the topics covered in each subject. Email your child’s teacher(s) to ask for a list of topics scheduled to be covered in the remaining months of the school year.
  • Your teachers can also point you to your state’s grade-specific learning standards. Learning standards are simply what children should know and be able to do by a certain grade level. Try searching materials recommended by professional associations that address the standards for your child’s grade level and subject matter. And, look for short instructional clips from Kahn Academy and other providers that teach the standards on-line.
  • There is an ever-growing number of documentaries available to stream. Choose documentaries that are age-appropriate and, when possible, pertain to your child’s grade-specific learning standards for science and social studies. (Now is the time to update parent controls.)
  • Don’t limit activities only to those available on-screen; instructional opportunities are all around us. As you prepare dinner each night, involve your child. Remember, cooking is chemistry at work! Ask your child to observe and tell you what happens when oil is added to vinegar or when heat is added to popcorn. Fill the bath with different cups and bowls and ask your child to notice how much water takes up the space of each (volume). A walk outside, a page from the newspaper, and a (supervised) oil change are full of fun opportunities to observe and learn.
  • Read

  • Read every day, and in any and all languages with which s/he is comfortable.
  • Engage pre-readers with picture books. Help your child become the teller of the story while you listen, ask questions and become the audience.
  • For beginning readers, let your child read to you. Try to find books that are easy to decode. Your child’s school librarian or teacher can help.
  • For older children who are readers, get a great book and read it together. If your child does not have books at home, check out free e-book offerings from the Library of Congress or your public library. If you read most of the story, that’s okay. The idea is to read the book for enjoyment and revel in the story.
  • Audio books, especially if you listen to them together, are enjoyable and build language skills.
  • Provide a quiet area for your child to read alone. Let your child choose the book but be sure s/he can read it independently. If your child can’t read 90% of the words, s/he should choose a different book.
  • Run

    “Run” here is shorthand. Any physical activity will do.

  • Remember recess. Children at home should break for physical activity much like they would in school: a break for recess in the morning, a break for lunch, and an afternoon break mirroring “afterschool”.
  • Strive for 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity, organized into shorter bouts spread throughout the day.
  • Prepare indoor/outdoor alternatives. When weather is poor or outdoor options are limited, try new ways to keep kids physically active. Numerous apps and gaming consoles have dance-offs that allow children to be active in the living room. Or sign up for a free trial period for an online subscription for beginning yoga.
  • When all is said and done, remember you were (and, arguably, will always be) your child’s first teacher. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Draw on your own experiences, talents, and cultures.

    We are a nation of amazing diversity. Take this time to consider the assets that your own life brings. Expose your child to your own interests. Share your own authentic story of self; discuss how you see that story as part of a larger story of your community, the country and the world.

    About the authors
    Lora Cohen-Vogel, Ph.D. is Frank A. Daniels Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Michael Gottfried, Ph.D. is Professor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California Santa Barbara. Carol McDonald Connor, Ph.D. is Chancellor’s Professor in the School of Education at University of California Irvine.

    + Share This