A Little Bit of Everything (both online and textbook resources)
EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth. Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning–both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard. For homeschooling/unschooling kids considering college, you should know that most edX courses offer certificates.
Coursera is a social entrepreneurship company that partners with some of the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. Coursera hopes to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. The site wants to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in. The first class my daughter and I took on the site was ‘Astrobiology’ through the University of Edinburgh, and it was fantastic. For homeschooling/unschooling kids considering college, you should know that like edX, Coursera offers certificates for most of their university-level classes.
One of the most thrilling sites out there, the mission of Ted Talks is to share “ideas worth spreading.” For my daughter, I find the Ted Women talks most compelling. Talks by people such as Shirin Neshat (Art in Exile), Madeline Albright (On being a woman and a diplomat) and Mother and daughter doctor-heros, Hawa Abdi and Deqo Mohamed are just a sample of what you’ll find on the site. Just check it out- it’ll be worth your time and you’ll come out having joined the biggest optimist club in the world.
My kid LOVES these math text books. Written by Dr. Stanley Schmidt, each book is written in the style of a novel. They’re funny, smart, and follow the story of a young professor named Fred as he encounters math and learns the methods. The problems are tough, thought-provoking, includes many proofs and, wonderfully, cover much more than what most teachers cover in their traditional classrooms. The books can be used by kids as young as six and will help them all the way through third year college math. Schmidt doesn’t just stick to math, but incorporates studies of words, Shakespeare, science and 10,000 other interesting things. Warning: Schmidt is a Christian man, and the books have a few mentions of Bible class, but to a devout agnostic like myself, I felt he stuck to the material and didn’t go overboard with any God-agenda. There is one book involving biology in which he doesn’t mention evolution (he still dives into genes, mitosis, etc…), but it’s actually still really well done and worth picking up.
A non-profit website started in 2006 by Bangladeshi-American educator Salmon Khan, Khan Academy supplies a free online collection of over 2000 lectures on video lessons teaching mathematics, history, physics, astronomy, biology, chemistry, finance and even computer science. Lessons run about ten minutes and have resources for both students and parents. Bill Gates uses this site to teach his kids, which means it can’t be that bad. I think it’s pretty awesome. This site should also be thrown into the science resources I list, below. We use this site to supplement the Life of Fred books (above).
Sixty Symbols is a collection of videos about physics and astronomy presented by experts from The University of Nottingham. The aim of the website isn’t to provide lectures or lessons, but to have folks talk their favorite subjects, often from new and exciting vantage points. Many schools use these videos in their classrooms, and it’s a thoughtful and easy site to navigate.
Also brought to you by the folks at The University of Nottingham, Periodic Videos is an extensive website that not only has an interactive, video-based periodic table, but has a section called ‘Roadtrips’, where chemists discuss science from various locations around the world such as India, Ethiopia and even Turin, Italy, home of the famous Turin Shroud. Can I scream, COOL! Nobel prizewinner Roald Hoffman writes: “I not only liked [the site], but I loved it… like the best reality show I saw.” The best part about the Periodic Videos? The slightly mad-scientist-looking fellow who explains the elements juxtaposed with a slightly more normal scientist who loves blowing stuff up.
An eye-opening, original collection of gorgeous, never-before-seen photographic representations of the 118 elements in the periodic table. Based on seven years of research and photography, the pictures in this book make up the most complete, and visually arresting, representation available to the naked eye of every atom in the universe. Organized in order of appearance on the periodic table, each element is represented by a spread that includes a stunning, full-page, full-color photograph that most closely represents it in its purest form. For example, at -183˚C, oxygen turns from a colorless gas to a beautiful pale blue liquid.
Also included are fascinating facts, figures, and stories of the elements as well as data on the properties of each, including atomic weight, density, melting and boiling point, valence, electronegativity, and the year and location in which it was discovered. Several additional photographs show each element in slightly altered forms or as used in various practical ways. The element’s position on the periodic table is pinpointed on a mini rendering of the table and an illustrated scale of the element’s boiling and/or melting points appears on each page along with a density scale that runs along the bottom.
Includes a tear-out poster of Theodore Gray’s iconic Photographic Periodic Table!
Co-published by Smithsonian Books and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), The Story of Science attempts to present the ideas of the physical sciences in a narrative combining stories with coordinated “hands on” experiments and activities (found in the teaching materials). The books are beautifully designed and illustrated. They start with Thales, way back in ancient Greece, sojourn with Galileo, Kepler and Newton, take on Maxwell and the electromagnetic revolution, then Einstein, Bohr, Feynman and the moderns, finally looking at today’s theories of the cosmos. These books are written for young readers of all ages–readers who want to think and learn, which includes everyone I know. My kid LOVES these books!
***History and Geography***
Also by Joy Hakm, this ten-book series on US History is the BEST series on US History for kids that I’ve found. Book one begins thousands of years ago with people walking and boating toward an unknown continent. Book three deals with the revolutionary and constitution-making era. Book six tackles the Civil War. Book ten ends with the election of Barack Obama. These small books are easy to read, and there’s none of the intimidation that comes with behemoth texts. A History of US is an attempt to break the textbook mold. As one child reader wrote, the books seem like “an action movie.” Beautiful, with a ton of images, Hakim writes history books for kids as they should be written… They read like fiction, but are filled with data. Winner of the James Michener and other prizes, the series meets standards in most states. A hardcover edition provides a durable classroom choice, but the books are also available in softcover. The small book format brings flexibility: some schools and literacy programs use the books to teach nonfiction reading as well as social studies. A coordinated teaching website can be found at PBS. A PBS special, with 16 video adventures based on the series, is available for school use.
A great, solid and rather behemoth textbook (over 1000 pages!), this is a high school world history book that is easy enough for an advanced elementary or middle school kid. I love it because it’s not western-focused, but discusses religions and cultures from a truly global viewpoint. Filled with beautiful images and thoughtful exercises, I often assign chapters to my daughter in conjunction with other texts.
These are great games that had my kid quickly learn the geography of the countries of the world plus the states of our own country. It even taught me a few things (how to spell Liechtenstein, for example). Learning geography always leads to interesting conversations about politics, how different people live, etc. I’m always amazed by how many kids don’t know their geography. I vowed my kid would.