Activities & Tips

Tutor.com Offers FREE, Live, and One-on-One Homework Help for Students and Parents

Oakland Public Library is happy to now provide access to tutor.com, a trusted resource for students and adult learners that offers live and FREE one-on-one tutoring in a variety of subjects. 

You will need an Oakland Public Library card and a computer, smartphone, or tablet with internet access to get connected to a tutor 

Help is available from one of 3,500 professional tutors seven days a week, from 12pm (noon) to 12am (midnight), 361 days a year.

(tutor.com does not offer service on January 1, July 4, Thanksgiving Day, or December 25.) 

Connecting with a professional tutor is easy and free and only takes a minute

To connect with a tutor:

  1. Go to www.tutor.com/opl
  2. Log in using your Oakland Public Library card number.
  3. Choose to use the service as a guest or create an account to login*. Creating an account will allow you to unlock extra featuressuch as saving your work and receiving a recording of your tutoring sessions. *Accounts created for users ages 12 or younger are limited to live tutor help only. Parenting adults, you may create and use your own account for your child under the age of 12 if you'd like them to have access to all of the sites features.
  4.  Choose which service you'd like to use:
  • Connect with a live tutor by topic, subject, and grade level
  • Submit a paper for review
  • Drop off a math question
  • Take a practice quiz
  • Choose "Other Tools" to prep for the ACT/SAT, grad school tests, AP exams, or to watch math and English videos.

During tutoring sessions, you can share files, write on an interactive whiteboard, use a graphing calculator, and chat with your tutor using your computer’s audio or by dialing in to a toll-free number. 

tutor.com’s features for K-12 students (and their adult caregivers) include: 

*Live one-on-one tutoring in math, science, social studies, and English with subject matter experts 

*Live one-on-one tutoring in Spanish with bilingual tutors 

*Tutors versed in Common Core standard teaching strategies! 

*Tutoring available in 14 different AP subjects, including Calculus, Statistics, and History 

*Drop-off essay review (Drop off an essay and have it reviewed and returned to you within 12 hours.) 

*Math drop-off help (Drop off a math problem and get a detailed response within 24 hours.)

*Preparation for the ACT or SAT by taking a practice test from The Princeton Review

*safe online environment: 

  • No personal information is exchanged between students and tutors.  
  • Work completed in classrooms is monitored by management staff. 
  • Parents and guardians of children under the age of 13 are welcome to call Tutor.com at 1-800-2REVIEW to review policies and procedures with respect to their 
    accounts.  

Want to learn more? Watch this video
 
Need a library card? While the library is closed, please complete an online application and email eanswers@oaklandlibrary.org to set up your account.
 

You can also contact tutor.com for frequently asked questions and technical support.
 
How do you plan to use tutor.com?
 
 
 

Screen-Free Activities for Family Fun

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. When you're ready to cut down on the screens for a bit, visit the links below for recommended activities. 

What you decide to do will depend on the age of your child(ren), the supplies you have on hand, and how much time you can spend supervising. But don't stop here -- go with whatever you're inspired to do! If you discover an especially fun game, share it with us in the comments.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Rest

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

You've been working hard! Don't forget the importance of downtime. While cooped up unexpectedly, tempers can run short and anxieties high. Both kids and adults need time without screens to recharge.

  • Try meditation. If you (or your kids) haven't done this before, no sweat. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes, and think of a place where you feel completely comfortable or safe. Imagine what it looks like, what you can hear, touch, smell, and taste. Sit with that experience as long as you like. (For kids, try setting a timer for one minute, then five minutes, and longer as this becomes more familiar.) If you get distracted, don't tense up or quit; just acknowledge it in your mind and keep trying.
  • Honor naptime. You might want to use a schedule -- or, since you no longer have anywhere to be, maybe it's okay to just nap when they're tired.
  • For older kids who no longer nap, offer them the option of trying to sleep or just having quiet resting time by themselves. This will give them -- and you! -- a break.
  • Anytime you begin to feel stressed or anxious, try taking a deep breath through your nose and breathing out through your mouth. Do it a few times if you can. Your body can use the extra oxygen. 
  • At bedtime, lie down comfortably, then close your eyes and tighten your toes. Squeeze them tight and then relax. Move to your ankles and lower legs. If you can't physically tighten parts of the body, focus on them mentally for about ten seconds before relaxing and moving on. Go all the way up your body to the top of your head.
  • Remember: You're awesome. You're doing a really good job.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Experiment

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

Children, especially under age 5 or so, learn SO much from the world around them. As they get older, you can add some formal structure to everyday exploration, such as first making a hypothesis and then observing closely to see what happens. Try something slightly different, and record the results. You can get as detailed as your child wants to, and use digital technology only when you choose. It's so rewarding seeing them learn! 

Experiment.

  • Start sprouting some beans in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Once they're several days along, you can plant them in a cup of dirt or outside, or even eat them right away. Water regularly and take notes about what's happening.
  • Make cookies, fruit salad, or a snack together. Have a birthday coming up? Maybe you can bake a cake or another favorite food. If you use a recipe, kids can practice reading instructions, planning ahead, and measuring ingredients. How did people find recipes or learn how to cook before the Internet? Talk about the different kinds of food and how they help our bodies do important things. If you are using substitutes or different foods during self-isolation than you might typically, explain why.
  • Try regrowing an onion, celery, or lettuce from one you have in the kitchen. (These go much more quickly than an avocado pit!) Think about where and how you can plant it if you're successful. What do plants need to grow? What do humans and other animals need?
  • Fill a sensory bin with sand, gravel, rice, or shaving cream. Pour material from one cup to another. Bury small toys. Squish material between your fingers and try to make it into shapes. You can do the same with water -- or just enjoy at bathtime!

Got an experiment to suggest? Share it with us in the comments.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Around the House

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

We've all learned that we can't sit on the couch and watch TV all of the time -- there is plenty that needs to get done to keep everyone going. Involve your kids in the daily activity of your household. Depending on their ages, they can help:

  • make meals
  • set and clear the table
  • wash dishes
  • empty the trash
  • clean and tidy
  • do laundry (or a part of it, like sorting colors or folding)
  • entertain siblings
  • care for pets
  • with a big project like inventorying the freezer or organizing a closet

Little kids like to feel like big kids: independent, responsible, and helpful. Big kids like to have their efforts noticed and appreciated -- and they can really do a lot! If you're asking your older child to do something new -- maybe managing the laundry for the first time alone while you are on an important call or minding younger siblings -- set them up to succeed. Teach them how to do it, explicitly, including all those things that you automatically just know to do from long experience. Don't assume that they know! When the results are less than perfect, praise the effort and encourage them to try again another time. Truth of the ages: There will always be more laundry.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Making Connections

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

It's hard on humans to be away from groups of other humans, and to handle the genuine fear that might accompany interpersonal interactions right now. One way to feel more human is to make connections with people who live outside your household.

  • Write a letter or postcard to a relative. Talk about the postal system, how to address mail, and the format of snail mail versus email. Why is it important to include a date? A return address? Do you have any old mail to examine the postmark and stamps?
  • Make a card for someone who might not be getting lots of personal contact right now -- like residents of a senior community or assisted living facility -- and then take a picture and email it to them (okay, that uses a screen, but it reduces germ spread).
  • Post a picture in your window to cheer up anyone passing by.
  • Get the chalk out again and write or draw something on the sidewalk to share with your neighbors.
  • Share stories about family members. What did Mom and Uncle Al do for fun when they were kids? How is it different from what we do today? If Great-Aunt Margaret is 84, when was she born? When was she your kids' age? What was happening then in the world and where she lived?
  • Cheer the garbage truck, mail carrier, or any other people you see going by as they do essential work.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Play

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

Do you have any toys or games on hand? Check the garage or back of the closet for...

  • board games
  • puzzles
  • old newspapers with crosswords or comics
  • beach balls or sand toys
  • jacks, Hula Hoop, string for cat's cradle
  • jump rope
  • exercise bands
  • play-dough or clay
  • dice, dominoes, playing cards
  • blocks or LEGO

No interest in toys? Nothing turned up under the bed?

Get creative.

  • Raid the closet for dress-up clothes. Rehearse and perform a song and dance -- it can be as choreographed as you want.
  • If you're willing to use a screen briefly, gather props and make an impromptu photobooth.
  • Retell a favorite story or fairytale. Everyone may need to play different characters -- or maybe a stuffed animal friend can stand in! Puppet shows highly recommended, too.
  • "I'm thinking of a [category] that starts with [letter]..." Optional: guessers can ask yes/no questions to narrow down the answer.
  • If you have a pocketful of loose change, count how many coins you have and how many cents they add up to. Then hide coins around the house for kids to find. You'll know how many are missing and can make an educated guess as to what denominations they are.
  • Make a blanket fort and have an indoor picnic.
  • How many knock-knock jokes can you remember? This may be just the time to introduce the Interrupting Cow. 
  • Pick any object in the house and make up a story about it. Or have Show and Tell at home, where a child explains what an object means to them and what memories they have relating to it.
  • Read a story aloud! Picturebooks are the obvious choice, but a chapter or two of a longer book can be great for a family with a mix of ages. Maybe you have a good book for taking turns -- every reader plays a character like a play. Make sure to "do the voices"!
  • Tell stories -- scary, funny, real or made-up. Tell the story of what you did yesterday. Tell a story from last summer. You can tell a group story where you all take turns saying what comes next. Toss in a "Uh-oh! But THEN..." or "Ta-daaaaaa!" to help younger narrators.

What you decide to do will depend on the age of your child(ren), the supplies you have on hand, and how much time you can spend supervising. But don't stop here -- go with whatever you're inspired to do! If you discover an especially fun game, share it with us in the comments.

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Get the Wiggles Out

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

Getting those wiggles out is important! It can help with stress, stretch muscles that aren't getting their usual daily activity right now, improve the ability to listen and follow directions, and just be fun.

  • What songs and fingerplays do you remember from library storytime? Here's somewhere to get started: our beloved Jbrary videos on YouTube. (This is where children's librarians get THEIR ideas!) Once you've jogged your memory, put away the screen and use your whole body.
  • What songs do you (or your kids) know by heart? Belt them out! Singing makes your brain happy. If it has a particularly infectious chorus, time it and see if it's long enough (at least 20 seconds) to wash your hands to.
  • Start every day (or every transition) with a dance break! Put on some of your favorite tunes and get moving to the beat. No dance move too silly -- just keep feet going and incorporate the upper body, too.
  • Stretch at least once a day and encourage your kids to join you. Shake out your hands and arms; roll your neck, streeeeeeeeetch up to the ceiling and down to the floor. Reach toward each side and then reach toward each side with your opposite hand. Stand like a superhero. Open your arms wide and breathe deeply. Then wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze.

What's your favorite song to dance to? Tell us in the comments. More tips on screen-free fun and learning coming tomorrow!

Screen-Free Activities for Kids : Exercise

Sheltering in place (while perhaps working from home with kids out of school/daycare) can lead to a lot of screen time. Don't feel guilty about that; these are difficult times and parents need to do what they need to do. Let us help! We're posting suggestions each day this week for how to get away from the screens for a little while.

If you're able, remember that you can go outside for exercise (staying at least 6 feet away from anyone not already in your household). Fresh air and sunshine go a long way toward improving the quarantine experience.

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood and identify colors, letters, and numbers. What do you spy with your little eye?
  • Practice running, skipping, and hopping to build motor skills. 
  • Do a lap or a block with a silly walk.
  • For older kids, try drawing a map of your immediate area; label the houses of people you know, street names, fruit trees, etc. Update it every time you go out. Maybe you can mold it in clay or trace the paths in sand or rice. 
  • Pass a ball back and forth. With younger kids, start close enough to hand the ball to each other, then take one step back and try again. See how far apart you can get before someone misses a catch.
  • Got chalk? Time for a hopscotch or foursquare grid.
  • Use a blanket or tablecloth as a parachute if you have enough people in your household; bounce light objects (crumpled paper, scarves, ping-pong balls) on top and take turns running underneath.
  • Make a list of objects to spot for a scavenger hunt during your walk.

You can also exercise inside:

  • Do your kids know how to do push-ups and sit-ups? How about lunges and wall-sits? Lots of exercises use only bodyweight and don't need extra equipment or a lot of space.
  • Make an indoor obstacle course (can be as simple as a loop with stations at various stopping points, or a long line with something at each end). Whenever you reach an obstacle, you have to do something like a jumping jack, put a stuffed animal into a bin, turn around three times, or touch your toes and then your nose.
  • Make shapes with your body. See what you can make with another person. Can you do the whole alphabet?

How to Learn at Home During School Closure

So schools are closed! Possibly for several weeks or months. First things first: Don't panic. You can do this. Kids are made to learn; they learn new things every day just by interacting with their world. You can help them by providing a little structure and access to tools that will encourage their curiosity. (Read this article from KQED to get started.)

Know that you don't have to recreate a school classroom in your kitchen. Start with whatever work your child's school has sent home. It might not take very long to complete worksheets or do assigned reading. What else can you do to keep your family occupied? Well, we know that kids learn when they are interested and having fun. The topic almost doesn't matter. Try one of these free educational sites to find more of what they like.

  • OUSD's list of online learning resources is available here in English and Spanish.
  • Scholastic Learn At Home allows open access to daily learning journeys divided into four grade spans—Pre-K–K, Grades 1–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–9+, covering ELA, STEM, Science, Social Studies, and Social-Emotional Learning.
  • Khan Academy’s free library of lessons covers math K-12 through early college, grammar, science, history, AP®, SAT®, and more.
  • Many paid educational services are offering free subscriptions during this time. Here's a long list!
  • Free online coding classes taught BY youth FOR youth: Kids Teach Tech
  • Check out the animal webcams (and DIY lesson plans) from California Academy of Sciences.
  • PBS Kids offers videos and learning games themed with favorite TV and book characters.
  • Practice touch typing with Typing Club (and then send Grandma an email, not a text message).
  • Find fun animal facts, science experiments, and world studies from National Geographic Kids.
  • Tumblebooks: interactive, online picture books and early readers for kids for different reading levels, with games and puzzles.
  • Science Buddies: kid-friendly projects and experiments you can do at home.
  • Brain Pop has learning modules organized by subject. Check out the section on health and social emotional learning.
  • The New York Times provides writing prompts for middle and high school students.
  • Virtual tours of famous museums worldwide - art, culture, and history!
  • Virtual field trips to zoos, farms, state parks, and more prove that learning doesn't have to happen only in a classroom.

Whether you are a seasoned homeschool leader or just looking for something to keep kids busy while you work from home under self-isolation guidelines, Oakland Public Library can connect you to learning every day!