Thursday, July 16, 2009

Educational References to Have At Home

While more references are available on-line and with software, students still do benefit by having their own hard copies of certain items available for study. Whether you are a home schooling parent who will be responsible for choosing your curriculum or a parent who is preparing for the back to school homework schedule, having these items on hand can make life simpler. You will see ads for products on this site but I encourage you to be frugal. I work from home so the ads provide revenue. However, I will suggest alternatives as I am in this article. You are not the first or last group of parents seeking these items which means the second hand market flourishes. You can find many of these items at library books sales, Church sales, used book stores, and yard sales. Also check any of your other favorite second hand shopping places. I have had great luck shopping for the notebook references in odd venues like Christmas Tree Shops and Office Supply Stores. So by all means I will be happy to have you check out the ads but this article is about finding reference sources to have on hand.

A simple one that arises early on is a dictionary. I could never get a school system to provide me with a complete set, but was able to upgrade through used book sales in the fall to complete the sets when I moved. Do to the use a dictionary gets, buying a hard covered children’s dictionary is a good investment. I have experimented with the paper versions and they do not last. There are on-line options, but children can lose quite a bit of time searching. My experience has been that the resources also are not as extensive as one would wish. I know I just recently bought a thesaurus after finding the on-line version limited and time consuming for my own writing.

I could not find the copy of the student thesaurus I used to purchase, on-line. The reviews on the others were questionable so I did not post one. I would suggest reviewing a few before purchasing. There is an American Heritage Student version that I flipped through that is due out this summer that looks more detailed than many of the other current versions available for purchase. One possibility is to get a simple version to teach the child the basics and then buy a more complicated one as the child understands the process. Home schooling parents obviously expect to teach their children these skills. I would suggest that all parents review dictionary and thesaurus skills with their children when they start using them. Valuable time is wasted when children do not understand how both these resources work. While it can seem a burden on limited homework time, making sure the child understands the basics can increase homework productivity for years to come.

These notebook resources are available from a few different publishers. The value is that they present the terms for the subject in clear, easy to understand terms. They define the vocabulary, use diagrams, and demonstrations to key concepts in the subject areas. I used to use the math and the science ones in my classroom and still buy both for family. Even if your school uses different math and science programs with different vocabulary, it gives you a starting point to work from when your child comes home and does not understand. Also, it sometimes presents a new way for your child to see something that is not in the textbook which can be the “light bulb” moment that kids need. I have given these to family members who home school as well. The general reference material is handy to have.

Another item you will want to consider adding to your home reference section is a writer’s guide. I like Write Source products. However, if your school has a preferred product and guideline for writing I suggest you buy it. Students are doing more structured writing at younger ages. Being able to check the guidelines and formats and see examples can be helpful to you and the child. Again for home school parents it is a great resource for both the format of writing and the grammar that supports that skill. Choose one that fits your home school format.

One last note for public school parents, during curriculum night do check to see what topics will be covered in science, math, and social studies during the year. Knowing your child, this may be a time to consider any additional resources you might want to add to your home resource library. You may want to research free resources you can access on-line or through your local library. Do check the curriculum resource links on this blog for help. For instance if this is the year your child needs to learn the states and capitals of the United States and your child struggles with memory, this would be a good time to start thinking about what you could do to help. While it is the job of the teacher to teach and you do not want to step on toes, anticipating problems and having resources you can access is not a bad option.

This also is a chance to integrate local areas of interest that support the curriculum. Many schools are cutting back on field trips do to expenses. However, libraries still are offering free passes to science and history museums that can help kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learners to process and integrate information in unique ways not available in the classroom. You can provide alternative learning strategies that support the curriculum your child needs to learn without busting the household budget


  1. We bought a Garfield kids' dictionary and were pleased to see it being used so often. Of course, then we found out that the offspring were just reading the comics at the bottom of the pages and had never actually used it to look up works. That was kind of a downer.

  2. Do they know how to use it? I find that kids are most often drawn to resources when they need them. Unfortunatly that is generally when they realize they have no idea how they work. The cartoons are a great gate to open the door to getting them to look at the rest of the book.

  3. They understand how but they aren't seeing it as something useful quite yet. They see it alternatively as a joke book and as something they are forced to use. Hopefully they will see it as something there to help them someday!