Generally, we’re emphatic supporters of alternative education options, and choosing the learning environment that works best for your individual child. But if leaving institutional school isn’t an option for your family right now, you have plenty of options to ensure a well-rounded and engaging education.

Whether you’re dipping your toes in the water of alternative education, or supplementing public school at home, the ideas and strategies below will help you supplement things large-classroom education just can’t cover.

Give yourself permission to try something small. Consider your time constraints, budget, and educational priorities. Pick, choose, change your mind, try something else, laugh at yourselves, adapt. The important thing is to get started.

That being said, here are 57 ways you can connect with your kids and supplement their education without having to pull them from public school.


At Home:


  1. Look things up
    When a question comes up, walk your child through your process of looking up the answer. Feed their curiosity and demonstrate good research skills at the same time.
  2. Read together
    Reading to and with your kids promotes lifelong literacy and supports language development. Make reading together a fun and
    engaging experience.
  3. Plan a budget
    Give your kids a set amount of money (whatever you typically spend on a family meal) and let them choose the menu and ingredients at the grocery store. Calculate how much each portion costs, and compare that to other meals your family enjoys.
  4. Cook a meal
    Recipes are good practice for reading comprehension and simple fractions. Cooking together might even help kids appreciate what they eat a bit more.
  5. Keep your library basket stocked
    Keep a basket or bin in your home stocked with the latest library finds, and either rotate them out with your kids’ help, or surprise them with new selections.
  6. Engage with the animals
    Training and caring for a pet is a great experience for kids to learn patience, responsibility, and other soft skills. The emotional connection of caring for a living thing raises the stakes on learning discovery.
  7. Play math games
    Use a deck of cards to encourage basic arithmetic. Practice fractions when you’re dividing up a pizza. Inspire counting by fives and tens by giving your kids coins to stack. You can also choose from scores of online math apps which combine learning with gamification. Math is absolutely everywhere, if you take the time to look.
  8. Learn about your family tree
    The whole family will love digging up a personal past with resources like or (see if your library has a subscription). These websites collect and store the personal data you enter, so it’s a good opportunity to discuss online safety and privacy, too.
  9. Start a garden
    Plan and plant a garden, even if it’s a few 5-gallon buckets or window boxes on a patio. Divide up tasks, create systems, and stay consistent. Get your hands dirty. Watch what blooms.
  10. Estimate your ETA
    When your young person is motivated to be somewhere on time, help them work backwards from that goal and anticipate what needs to be done to get out the door on time. Set a manageable schedule and stick to it. This is a lifelong skill that most adults have yet to master.
  11. Celebrate your heritage
    Learn together about traditional dress and dishes from the places your family originates. Try celebrating Santa Lucia day if your family has Swedish heritage, Dia de los Muertos if you’re of Hispanic stock. Make mooncakes or hamantaschen or jollof rice. Expand your palate by learning about traditions from other cultures, and celebrate how complex and dynamic the world you’re living in is.
  12. Write a chain story
    Spark your kids’ creativity by writing a chain story together. Provide a story-starting prompt of any complexity, and let their imaginations run wild.
  13. Research a creative skill – Even if you don’t try it
    If your kid admires the calligraphy on a wedding invitation, treat their interest like an invitation. Research a new passion. Maybe they’ll never want to get their fingers inky, but you’ll spend an hour pouring over illuminated manuscripts or kanji characters.
  14. Learn a new skill
    Thousands of YouTube tutorials can inspire and assist your young puppeteer, knitter, gardener, sculptor, baker, or backpacker. Encourage a growth mindset, emphasizing that we start with simple skills (and lots of mistakes) and work our way up to artistic excellence.
  15. Keep a scientific log
    Any frequent observation (what time the mail arrives, how fast your kid’s hair grows, when the dog needs to go out) offers science-project potential. Keep a scientific log of data, and make predictions
  16. Model the joy of learning
    If you try a new recipe or a new path through the city and it doesn’t go well, model the good humor and growth mindset you hope to see when they get discouraged. Take a course or class yourself. Kids observe our excitement about challenges, and see our enjoyment of learning something new.
  17. Fall in love with podcasts
    Podcasts can be a great way to learn together and to stimulate conversations about topics outside your kids’ day to day. Download any “podcatcher” to your phone and sign up for a few feeds, and you’ll have dinner-table-worthy discussions fed right to your device.
  18. Create a family scrapbook
    Collect photos, ticket stubs, recital programs, family stories, and field-day ribbons. Write a description together for future-you to enjoy and “remember when.”
  19. Don’t neglect pop culture
    If your son is watching Percy Jackson and the Olympians for the ninth time, invite him to explore Greek myths and their timeless characters. If your daughter can’t get enough Frozen, offer supplemental materials about anything from fairy tale tropes to ice harvesting.
  20. Encourage creative exploration
    Feed the appetite for exploration with books that celebrate what kids can do. Don’t have time for another read-aloud today? There are lots on YouTube! We recommend Roxaboxen; The Most Magnificent Thing; Fancy Nancy books, and Astronaut Annie.
  21. Manage money
    Each time your kid earns or receives money, offer them the chance to save or invest it. Set them up with a bank account as soon as possible. Introduce simple budgeting and explain that every dollar can only be spent once. These skills, built at an early age, last a lifetime.


Around Town:


  1. Connect to community
    You don’t have to do this alone. Check out for calendars of things happening in your area, and use social media to connect to other grown-ups looking to enhance their kids’ experiences.
  2. Shadow someone
    Identify someone in your community whose job, hobby, or lifestyle interests your kid. Ask if they’d mind letting your little one tag along for a few hours. Write about the experience and don’t forget the thank-you note!
  3. Intern or apprentice
    Like shadowing, apprenticeship allows your young person to work with other adults in your community, gaining first-hand insight and real-world knowledge. In these models, kids spend more time, and begin to develop skills by spending time at the elbow of a practitioner.
  4. Interview someone interesting
    Everyone has stories. Your kid can formulate some questions and interview someone they know well (or would like to know better), then write down an interesting story and give it to the interviewee.
  5. Find a museum
    Even small towns have excellent museums, many of them geared to kids. Your local library can point you to hidden gems, and may even have free passes you can borrow just like a book.
  6. Visit living history center/historical societies
    In addition to exhibits and the fanatically cool people who work there, these treasured spots offer activities (think candle-dipping, butter churning) as well as take-home kits and coloring pages.
  7. Check out language learning groups
    Interested in learning a new language? Seek out social groups in your area or the chance to converse with native speakers and other beginners.
  8. Seek hands-on sessions and open houses
    Check with your local science and art museums for hands-on kids sessions. Watch for open house nights at dance centers or gymnastics studios.
  9. Try scouting
    Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Navigators, Campfire societies, and a variety of smaller affiliations offer self-development and training, as well as outdoor skills and leadership opportunities for kids five and up.
  10. Volunteer
    Connect kids to the communities around them, and put their skills to work. Plant trees, pick up trash, read to retirees, collect donations for a food bank. Focus on skills your kid wants to develop anyway, and look for places they’ll be valued.
  11. Build something
    National hardware chains have “build it yourself” weekend workshops, and sometimes take-home kits. Cultivate handiness and self-sufficiency while someone else handles the supplies and clean-up.
  12. Enjoy your local park
    Not only is your park a great site for unstructured outdoor time, but many county park associations offer classes, where kids can be exposed to everything from bushcraft to botany. Free services like park-finder or Playground Buddy can help you get started.
  13. Take an art class
    Pottery or painting or paper mache, any hands-on craft will do. Look for kid-focused classes at paint-and-sip spots, local art studios, or dedicated art schools. Let your Little Picasso get creative.
  14. Experiment with Odyssey of the Mind
    This course in creative exploration involves teambuilding and a problem-solving competition, but any of its tools can be used with or without the formal structure. Try a spontaneous exploration!
  15. Experience community theater
    Live theater doesn’t have to break the bank, and you might even find kids-only productions. Go to a show, observe all the roles people are playing, on- and off-stage. Let your little one know they can audition one day, work on lights or sound or sets.
  16. Write a newsletter
    Your favorite community org, street, or school has new happenings every day! Kids can collaborate to collect news stories and coming events, and put together a newsletter, no matter how big or small the audience. Build it out with photos and interviews!
  17. Experiment with entrepreneurship
    Transcend the lemonade stand by capitalizing on something your child does uniquely well. Find a craft fair or flea market where kids can sell their creations, and help them trace market demand to produce more of what people want to buy. This invites saving and investing talks, too.
  18. Find a Forest School
    Local nature play groups can help your kid connect to the natural environment, which has huge psychological, social, and ecological benefits. They’re usually drop-in, no commitment, and the largest ones are free. Locate a group near you or start one yourself.
  19. Meet the seniors
    Older people love the energy kids bring to any space or activity. Connect with a local nursing facility or care home and offer to come by. Host a sing-along, do a craft, or just visit and listen to their stories.
  20. Tackle a summer reading program
    Libraries and schools offer supplemental reading programs to encourage good habits throughout the year. If you’re building reading skills, or just want to head off any learning-loss, these programs give concrete incentives (rankings, badges, even free pizza) to kids who stay committed.
  21. Discover a Maker’s Space
    Maker’s Spaces have proliferated in recent years, and there’s likely to be one near you. Check for special events that cater to kids, or just dive into the mixed-age fray. Get creative, get creating!
  22. Take in a concert
    Appreciation for music, especially live performance, can help shape a kid’s view of the world and its people. While Disney sing-a-longs are great, exposing them to a wider variety of music genres can inspire a lifelong love, and perhaps an interest in taking up an instrument.
  23. Engage with younger kids
    One of the best ways to master a skill is to teach it to someone else. Give your kid a chance to engage with kids younger than they are (at the playground, in playgroup, or by offering to babysit) and watch your compassionate, confident little teacher take over.



  1. Visit a museum (virtually)
    Stroll up the steps of The Met, or roam the halls of The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History., the Vatican Museums and The Louvre, no luggage or airfare required. Find an online collection of artifacts for any interest, whether it’s spycraft, video games, space exploration, or Harry Potter.
  2. Tap into live streams
    Thanks to live-streaming technology, your kid can use a browser as a window, anywhere in the world. Wildlife cams lead the way, but you can also find feeds from the International Space Station, the South Pole, and your city traffic cameras.
  3. Try an escape room
    Getting stir crazy? Get out of there! Try a Harry Potter themed Digital Escape Room or any of dozens of other options loaded with educational and fun tasks.
  4. Use YouTube’s power for good
    Under all those unboxing videos, YouTube is packed with educational resources. You can watch historical reenactments, explore life in other countries, and learn about daily routines in far-off places. Teach the algorithm to fuel curiosity in wholesome ways.
  5. Supplement schoolwork with Khan Academy
    Whether your young person is struggling in school, or desperate for more challenge than his classroom can offer, Khan Academy unlocks the best of academics online. Khan classes are FREE, and ad-free, always.
  6. Study the social world
    Resources from some of the world’s best institutions have been modified to enhance kids’ learning about their own and other cultures. Get started with The Learning Network from the New York Times and games or mini-courses from PBSKids.
  7. Dive deep
    For older kids and teens,try full-length lecture series like those from The Great Courses (check your local library to see what they have for free) or Open Culture. Encourage them to write a response essay or develop a mini-lesson to teach other kids a bit of what they learned.
  8. Play with storytelling
    Brainstorm story ideas with your child, encourage them, and provide support if needed. Let them read it aloud to an audience, even if it’s the dog and some stuffed animals. A confident storyteller is a powerful communicator.
  9. Join an online competition
    Whatever online world your kid can’t get enough of, there are others like her. Got an eager worldbuilder? Investigate Ender, where kids can earn cash prizes and win upgrades for their Minecraft creations. Try a Roblox Build Battle. Enter a project in the Scratch Olympiad.
  10. Take an entrepreneurship challenge
    Older kids and teens can choose from a variety of business development, problem-solving, and pitching competitions that last anywhere from a few hours to a year or more. Engage their competitive (or collaborative) instincts and cultivate soft skills that will last a lifetime.
  11. Start a blog
    Kids have a lot to say, and their voices matter. Start a blog and share the link with friends and family. It’s a great way to build writing chops (and the writing habit!) and receive real-world feedback from readers.
  12. Get epic!
    Inspire your voracious (or reluctant) reader with the Reading-‎Epic!’ collection of 40,000 digital books sorted by age range and topic. Read-aloud books and a cross-linked dictionary fuel their curiosity and reading confidence.
  13. Practice handwriting
    Whether they’re just getting started with letter shapes or mastering the cursive Q, online resources can help your student improve their handwriting capability and legibility. Badges and games make the process fun – and no broken pencils or stray paper to clean up!


Working one-on-one with your child allows you the freedom to work with technology, in your community, and to let your individual child’s interests guide your exploration. Look into any kind of educational activities that might help keep your kid engaged, and that support the interactions and experiences you want to have together. Even if they’re doing “old school” five days a week, you can enrich and enhance that education on your own.




Laura Williams

Laura Williams

Laura Williams is a communication strategist, writer, educator, and mom to a self-directed learner based in Atlanta, GA. She is a passionate advocate for critical thinking, individual liberties, and the Oxford Comma.

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