CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Back to school: K-12 online classes, activities to continue learning during coronavirus

Whether your child's semester will start online, in person or at home, these free and discounted educational materials can keep the learning going.

Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
Expertise Home Tips, including cooking, cleaning and appliances hacks Credentials
  • National Silver Azbee Award for Impact/Investigative Journalism; National Gold Azbee Award for Online Single Topic Coverage by a Team; National Bronze Azbee Award for Web Feature Series
Shelby Brown Editor II
Shelby Brown (she/her/hers) is an editor for CNET's services team. She covers tips and tricks for apps, operating systems and devices, as well as mobile gaming and Apple Arcade news. Shelby also oversees Tech Tips coverage. Before joining CNET, she covered app news for Download.com and served as a freelancer for Louisville.com.
  • She received the Renau Writing Scholarship in 2016 from the University of Louisville's communication department.
Alison DeNisco Rayome
Shelby Brown
7 min read
Mixetto/Getty Images

It's back to school season in the US. But as the coronavirus pandemic rolls on across the country with 4.4 million reported cases at the end of July, education will look different this year for a lot of students. Many US schools have decided to reopen with "blended" learning models as educators and parents look to CDC guidance on how to proceed. A growing number of parents are choosing to home-school their children, and some college-bound students are taking a gap or service year instead of going straight to school as planned. 

To keep learning (and to save you from yet another viewing of Frozen 2 on Disney Plus), here are several free or discounted online learning resources that pre-K-12 students can complete from home. If you're looking for even more, this post also has an extensive list of education companies offering free subscriptions due to school closings. 

All-around curriculum


Scholastic's $6-a-month Learn at Home program includes educational activities for kids aged 4 to 10 years, or pre-K up to fifth grade. Parents can work with their children on age-appropriate lessons paired with a story or video. The interactive lesson develops core skills like literacy, science, math, social-emotional learning and vocabulary.   

Khan Academy 

Khan Academy is a free online learning platform that offers practice exercises, instructional videos and a personalized learning dashboard for subjects like math, science, computer programming, history, art history and economics from home. It also has specialized content from NASA, the Museum of Modern Art, the California Academy of Sciences and MIT. In light of the recent school closures, Khan Academy released daily schedules for students in pre-K through grade 12 to follow from home.


Outschool is offering live online classes for students ages 3 to 18 affected by public school shutdowns. The 10,000-plus classes conducted over video chat cover topics in English, math, social studies, science, coding, health and wellness, music, art and world languages. You can search courses by length (ranging from one class to a full semester), format (live online or flexible schedule), subject, age range and day or time frame. It's free to make an account on Outschool, but course price can vary. For example, you can join a summer gardening club that meets twice a week, and the cost is $12 every week. 

Varsity Tutors

Varsity Tutors is offering a free program called Virtual School Day, which includes live, online classes and educational resources for K-12 students. Students can receive more than 30 hours a week of live online instruction, with classes led by tutors experienced in the course topic and virtual learning. Core lessons include math, reading, writing and science, while enrichment classes include topics such as history of the national parks and careers in science. 

Calvert Homeschool

Calvert Homeschool is providing 30 days of its home-school curriculum for grades 3 through 12 free to parents and guardians. The curriculum includes videos and interactive lessons, and free placement tests for students. 

Peanuts Worldwide

The company behind Snoopy and Charlie Brown is offering free educational materials for students in grades K-8 to learn STEM, languages, arts and social studies alongside the beloved Peanuts characters. Lesson plans were created by curriculum specialists at Young Minds Inspired, as well as in collaboration with NASA. 

Comcast Xfinity Education

If you're a Comcast Xfinity customer, you now can find nearly 2,000 hours of programming and thousands of free titles by grade level. Access all of these options by doing a voice search for "education." 

New York City Department of Education

New York's Department of Education released a free 10-day curriculum for multiple subjects for every grade level pre-K-12. While it's aimed at the New York City public school district -- the largest in the nation -- the materials are general enough to apply to a range of students nationwide. 

Read more: Best back to school gear under $250

Watch this: Great online education and distance learning services for kids stuck at home

Early learning activities, videos and games

PBS Kids newsletter, video and gaming apps

PBS Kids launched a new free weekday newsletter with activities and educational games for students ages 2 to 8 to complete from home. The PBS Kids video app is also available on mobile, tablet and connected TV devices, and offers on-demand educational videos and a livestream of PBS Kids 24/7, with no subscription required. Plus, the PBS Kids Games app includes nearly 200 educational games that can be downloaded to play offline. 

Learning to read and reading comprehension

ABCmouse.com, Adventure Academy and Reading IQ

The company Age of Learning is providing a 30-day free trial to kids on ABCmouse.com and ReadingIQ. The company's mobile app Adventure Academy comes with a 49% discount on its annual subscription. ABCmouse.com is a comprehensive curriculum for pre-K through grade 2. Adventure Academy is an educational multiplayer online game for elementary and middle school students, with thousands of learning activities covering reading, math and science. ReadingIQ is a digital library and literacy platform for children ages 12 and under, with thousands of books to choose from. 


Audiobook service Audible has a large collection of free streaming audiobooks for kids, including J.K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Read more: Audible adds Harry Potter, Beedle the Bard starring Jude Law, Bonnie Wright

Storyline Online

A children's literacy website from the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, Storyline Online streams videos featuring award-winning actors reading children's books with illustrations. Each book includes a supplemental curriculum developed by an elementary school educator, which aims to improve comprehension and verbal and written skills, particularly for English-language learners. Celebrity readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.


Rivet is a free, AI-based kids' reading app and website created by Google's Area 120 experimental workshop that encourages reading practice with 3,500-plus free books for kids. The books are designed for developing readers ages 5 to 10. It's available in the App Store, the Google Play Store, and on the web through Clever.


Digital education company Achieve3000 is offering free, differentiated online learning resources for educators and students in grades PreK-12. Find all of the free remote learning resources on their website. 

Our new reality now that coronavirus has sent the world online

See all photos


Storytelling School with The Moth

Twice weekly, storytelling nonprofit The Moth is putting out a video with a story and a teaching guide. Students can listen and discuss what they've heard with parents or teachers, and find reflection questions and journal prompts. Find each story on The Moth's site.


Prodigy Math

Prodigy Math is a free online math platform used by more than 50 million students, teachers and administrators, which reinforces math skills through video game-style play. At $5 a month for a yearly subscription, parents can get their students extra in-game features, benefits and rewards, as well as access placement tests, learning goals and progress reports. 


Mystery Science

Amid the school closures, Mystery Science has opened its most popular science lessons for grade K-5 for students and parents to access free. Lessons range from completely digital mini-lessons, to full lessons that include a hands-on activity. All are designed to use simple supplies that families likely already have at home. 

Watch this: Keep in touch with loved ones while keeping your distance

Language learning


Duolingo is a free language-learning app that helps kids (and adults) learn a language through short, game-like exercises. It motivates you to continue learning with a "streak" feature that tracks the number of days you've reached your point goal. For $10 a month you can subscribe to Premium version with an ad-free experience and downloadable lessons. 

Read more: The best language-learning apps of 2020


Language learning app Babbel gives students a productive way to spend time at home or brush up for school. The app's minimalist layout and 15-minute lessons helps prevent a new language from feeling like it's overwhelming. You can use Babbel for free or subscribe monthly for $13.


Language learning platform Busuu has free live language lessons streaming through its YouTube channel for students age 5 to 14. Live lessons in English, Spanish and Chinese are currently available. And more are coming soon, according to the company. 


Droplets, the app for kids from language learning platform Drops, now includes new features for distance learning and virtual classrooms for students age 8 to 17. Through the Droplets app, teachers can create an account where up to 50 students can make profiles. Droplets offers 37 different languages, and lessons can be as short as five minutes. 

AP classes


Fiveable is a free social learning platform for high school students and teachers focused on Advanced Placement test preparation. It has live streams, trivia battles and Q&A forums for students to connect with teachers across 15 AP subjects within English, STEM, history and social sciences. 



Outside of formal art classes on platforms such as Outschool (mentioned above), students and parents can find a number of free art lessons and tutorials on  YouTube . Author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka is hosting daily drawing classes and animator Mo Willems is hosting daily cartooning classesThe Art Sherpa has a number of painting tutorials on YouTube as well. 

Virtual field trips

Travel to art museums around the world through Google Arts and Culture. You can also virtually visit the San Diego Zoo, Yellowstone National Park and the Great Wall of China

Watch this: Khan Academy founder shares the key to self-study for students

More coronavirus guides