Creative homeschooling: A go to list when the lesson plans fail

ArtsHub has put together this ‘easy go to emergency kit’ of creative and educational activities that might help alleviate some of the pressure, when the lesson plan fails.

I don’t think there is anyone who would describe homeschooling in a pandemic as ‘easy’, especially when you have four hours of ‘schooling’ to face, and only one hour of lesson plans provided … oh, and of course your own work to do.

With a little creativity and a whole lot of flexibility, families can adapt to this new way of working and schooling. But a little help doesn’t hurt.

ArtsHub has put together this ‘easy go to emergency kit’ of creative and educational activities that might help alleviate some of the pressure.


WATCH: Ted-Ed The junior version of Ted talks. Free and fascinating. Basically broken into two sections ‘Discover’ and ‘Create’, you can find video based lessons by age / subject and Earth School – both great quick grab resources.
Age: offerings for all ages
Time: from under 3 minutes to over 20 minutes (with quick filter search)

ACTIVITY/VIDEO: Paper storytelling is a great resource by the MCA with artist Jumaadi. It is a easy step-by-step video walk through drawing out observations and learnings.
Age: Suitable for ages 4+ … and yes adults love it too.

LISTEN: Outside the Lines, is a podcast produced by the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) and Kinderling that allows kids to be curious about art. There are 10 episodes in the series, which feature renowned contemporary Australian artists including Angela Tiatia, Ben Quilty, Dale Harding, Elisa Jane (Leecee) and Gemma Smith. Kinderling Kids Radio is a downloadable app.

STEM LEARNING:  Digital Creatives is designed for students who have an interest in technology. Inspired by art, this suite of activities provides the foundations for building code and using simple software programs. These activities integrate STEM with the visual arts, and provide an authentic context for developing critical and creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Digital Creatives activities include workshop instructions on how to create tessellation patterns, inspired by the art of M.C. Escher, using simple coding. Students can also access a coding guide to create their very own video game controller inspired by iconic video game Space Invaders displayed in the MoMA at NGV exhibition.  

AUTHOR LED WORKSHOPS: This is an incredible resource – while a paid one – is worth the depth and access it offers through activities and insights with loved Aussie Authors. Pre recorded workshops include techniques modelled, writing challenges and expansion of vocab. Check out the suite of on-demand workshops in  The Homeschooling 2021 Mini-Writing Festival Education Kit produced by Little Scribe. Over 250+ writing activities which are around 45 minutes long.

WATCH: National Geographic has launched a new online hub, NatGeo@Home, which pulls together all of National Geographic’s family-friendly educational content into a one-stop shop for parents and teachers alike. The free digital resource combines the educational content from the National Geographic Society with those from National Geographic Kids and other tools and services. This includes access to the National Geographic Society’s Learn at Home portal, where you’ll find educational content like articles, lessons, videos, other online activities and more.
Age: K-12 students, is organised by grade and tagged as either “read,” “watch” or “play,” depending on whether it’s an article, video or activity. There are also lesson plans available, which parents and teachers can favorite to save to their library, if signed in.
Time: all durations available

FOLLOW ALONG LEARNING VIDEOS: The Art Gallery of NSW have developed a fabulous suite of follow along videos with artists.  There are a bunch here and they are all great, and appeal to a range of ages. Check out these:

Art Gallery of South Australia kids programming. Photo: Nat Rogers.

CREATE: Take inspiration from Aboriginal artist Megan Cope to transform a found object so that it can make a unique sound. This is a great exercise for thinking outside the box, and finding unexpected creativity in the everyday.
Age: all school ages
Time: 12 minute video plus activity time.

WATCH FOR THE YOUNGER SET: One of the leaders in an online kid’s portal is the NGV.  Curator of Children’s Programs, Kate Ryan, says: ‘We hope that our activities and games will empower children’s positive thinking and mental wellbeing while at home. It is widely understood that art and making are deeply therapeutic, and we hope that children and families can use these resources to relax and connect. The activities have been created to occupy young minds, nurture their creativity and hopefully have lots of fun along the way.’

Check out their curated NGV Kids resource, which is sorted by online events (upcoming), archived as on-demand videos, and activity sheets and games. Check out these:

WORKSHOPS FOR THE OLDER SET: Explore NGV Learning Resources that unpack the ideas behind the art. These are clearly labelled by age-appropriate learning levels for a quick grab. They are structured as a DIY introduction to artwork or theme, with questions and activities – a kind of virtual workshop.

You might also want to check out their Great Art Ideas  which are curriculum linked lesson plans for primary school students, aged between 6 and 11 years old. You can also use them. These practical activities explore the NGV Collection and encourage students to consider the ideas and meanings behind some of the world’s great art and design. These activities can be carried out at home, with step-by-step instructions and include photographs of completed examples.  

Read: Working during self-isolation: How to support yourself and the kids for more sane advice.

VIDEO CHAT: Meet artist Indigenous artist Richard Bell in this Kids and family audio guide developed by the MCA to coincide with his exhibition Richard Bell: You Can Go Now. You can listen to artist Richard Bell answer questions from the MCA Kids Committee. Find out which superpower he would choose, or whether he prefers peanut butter or Vegemite! It is a bit of quick fun, a quick diffuse and reset when you need something to grab.
Time: approximately 2 minutes.

Join artist Thomas Readett, and the Art Gallery of SA, for an online drawing workshop. Courtesy the artist and AGSA.

ACTIVITY FOR OLDER SET: Join artist Thomas Readett – for the Art Gallery of SA – to learn some drawing tips and techniques to create a portrait of a person, your favourite furry friend or take it further and make it abstract! Unless you are working with a younger child, this one requires a level of initiative to follow, but it can be very rewarding.

MAKE: Bring a bit of science into the kitchen and learn a lesson in how we see through jelly or chemical reactions through honeycomb.

INNOVATE: MAKE YOUR OWN STOP MOTION ANIMATION The NGV Kids exhibition Open House: Tromorama for Kids welcomed children into a house of fun where familiar domestic scenes were recreated in an immersive and highly interactive environment. Relating to the exhibition, the Tromoramix Kids iPad App brings everyday objects to life using stop motion animation techniques and is available to download via the Apple iPad App Store for free. This easy to use, rewarding app allows children to create short animations that can be shared with friends and family.  

TEEN: We Change the World is an exhibition that invites audiences to think about the idea of change and the role art and design have in provoking and responding to change, in any way, large or small. The NGV Teen Council share their ideas and thoughts in this short video. While it does not have an ‘activity’ attached to it – it is a great jumping point for your teens to respond to by writing down their own ideas for change and how they might envisage a pathway to making them a reality.
Age: Teens
Time: 3 minutes plus self-directed activity

ACTIVITY SHEETS TO DOWNLOAD: AGNSW have a quick portal of easy activity sheet downloads – ranging from creating miniature portraits, nature pattern making to foil sculpture figures. Print them all out and have them handy for a quick grab when things go bung.


Children will be looking to you as their reference point and will think, ‘If mum or dad are calm, then I’m okay.’

Put together an age appropriate ‘boredom box’ be it filled with playdough, a Rubik’s Cube, puzzle books or Boggle. Alternatively, spend a little time each evening printing off activity sheets for older children for the following day.

Make TV or iPad time a ‘treat’ and save it until you desperately need a distraction to get work done. Disney+, Netflix, YouTube, and of course, Curiosity Stream are inexpensive way to add hundreds of options to your list of documentaries for homeschoolers when you are in a pinch. This list is also a good ‘go to’ for the pressure release.

For school-aged kids, explain to them prior to the call that you aren’t to be disturbed, and give them the option of writing a note on some paper for you if there is an emergency.

Children do better when they can see you – it can be tempting to close doors, but this can often trigger children and they will naturally seek connection with you.

Freelancer and homeschooler Elissa Blake advised in a previous ArtsHub article: ‘Don’t attempt to replicate a school day, and don’t place an intimidating pile of textbooks on the table.’ Blake adds that writing up each day’s ‘time plan’ – and making it visible – not only gives structure, but means that everyone knows what is expected.

Gina Fairley is ArtsHub's National Visual Arts Editor. For a decade she worked as a freelance writer and curator across Southeast Asia and was previously the Regional Contributing Editor for Hong Kong based magazines Asian Art News and World Sculpture News. Prior to writing she worked as an arts manager in America and Australia for 14 years, including the regional gallery, biennale and commercial sectors. She is based in Mittagong, regional NSW. Twitter: @ginafairley Instagram: fairleygina