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Fun & Learning: Homework Help

 

 

Need help with homework? Running searches for information on major search engines can work, but we've gathered a list of family-tested resources for specific help with homework—so your kids can skip the overwhelming extras they face when looking for information online. 

Try the sites listed here, and consider purchasing a kid-friendly electronic encyclopedia as well. We feature our unbiased opinions on each resource here, including comparisons of electronic encyclopedias and reference suites in terms of family-friendly features.

 

Online Homework Help Resources

High School: English Class: Books & Literature

NovelGuide.com Need information about The Pearl by John Steinbeck or Shakespeare's Julius Caesar? This site is a bit beleaguered with pop-ups and ads, but contains extremely useful information about novels commonly studied in high school. It offers chapter-by-chapter summaries, analyses, character profiles, theme analysis, interesting quotes from the book, and even a question-and-answer page. Great as a supplement to English class. Parents might also consider showing kids the analysis of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on the site—it can help inspire an interest in finding meaning in literature.

Upper Elementary and High School: Math Help

Math.com Extra help and practice in math concepts—from fractions to square roots—is offered at this math site. Children can learn math concepts, test themselves, and play skill-building games. Exercises are automatically graded. Tables and formulas are offered as well. Very comprehensive.

Reference

FreeTranslation.com My kids love this site. They have fun with it, and learn something in the process. Kids type (or copy and paste) text into the free translator and click for a translation from English to Spanish, Spanish to English, English to French, and so forth. Of course, not all translations are perfect, especially with complex sentences or expressions, but this tool is very useful for foreign language study.

Word Central is a kid-friendly site dedicated to words! It features a student dictionary, word of the day, games, rhymes, and more. My daughter uses this site for her "words of the day" homework, simply because she finds the definitions easier to understand than those found in the regular dictionary. There are games to play here that will appeal to word-loving kids.

MSN Encarta is a great place to start when kids are looking for information for their school projects. Many Encarta encyclopedia articles are found free on the site, but note that some of the articles retrieved from searches are teasers, and users are prompted to upgrade to the Premium subscription to Encarta online. If this doesn't bother you, the site is very useful and includes excellent dictionary and atlas/map tools. See below for a description of Encarta on CD-ROM and DVD-ROM.

Science Homework Help

Cyber Fair Science Fair Ideas Designed to jumpstart kids' brains, this site offers elementary school science project ideas. Useful for inspiring children to come up with their own ideas for their science fair project.

HowStuffWorks.com answers all sorts of questions inquiring minds want to know about computers, science, cars, electronics, and more.

General

HomeworkSpot.com Brimming with resources for homework help of all kinds, HomeworkSpot.com is a valuable one-stop site for children. Kids will find a Science Fair Center, virtual field trips, and links to high quality resources on the web. Divided into Elementary, Middle School, High School, and Reference--and further divided into subject categories. Feature articles, but mostly quality links to other sites.

 

 

Offline Computer Resources

Microsoft Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005

Our Review: We have been thrilled with the Encarta Encyclopedia for years, and with the 2005 edition, bowled over. Now including a new feature, Encarta Kids, this Reference Library is dazzling, useful, and engaging for all members of the family.

With Microsoft Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005, parents can feel confident that their children and teens are finding relevant, authoritative information for their projects and general knowledge. And, parents can of course rely on the suite as well! 

New to 2005 is an innovative feature: Encarta Kids. Encarta Kids is new content designed from the ground up with the specific needs of a younger audience in mind, including children as young as seven! Bolder, larger text, easier-to-read articles, and relevant elementary-age content makes this feature both inviting and educationally useful for children ages 7 to 12. Encarta Kids runs as a separate application, but if there are no search results in the program, a link is offered to search in Encarta Reference Library.

In addition to this new feature for children, the latest edition of Encarta includes a new Encarta Search Bar. By right-clicking on the time in the System Tray, and selecting the search bar from the Toolbar, users can begin a search at any time. New online Homework Helpers allow users with an Internet connection to get up-to-date help with, for example, math homework.

As well, the features that made previous editions outstanding are all here as well, such as the Discovery Channel videos (with topics like Bird Evolution and Life on Mars?), Dictionary and Thesaurus (including translation dictionaries), interactive games (including a geography challenge pictured at left), Homework Center, outstanding interactive Atlas, and more. 

The CD-ROM edition includes 5 CDs. If you have the space, the program can be installed to your hard drive for easy access. It requires almost two and half gigs. The DVD-ROM edition, of course, is easier to use because it is contained on only one disc.

This suite truly makes a wonderful research "companion". Articles contain encyclopedia information, of course, as well as extras like a "web center" box with links to Encarta editors' hand-picked online links. A search for a particular city will offer regional news, current temperatures, dynamic atlas, and so forth.

One of the features of the Encarta Encyclopedia series that makes it stand out from the rest is its vibrant, current, and contemporary content. Free content updates are available until October 2005 (a sign-up process is involved), after which users must be a paying member of Club Encarta.

Beautiful to look at, filled with multimedia and helpful content, and easy to use, this reference library will help make any family's research efforts easier. The search feature is fabulous, with content from all titles in the suite seamlessly integrated together. Streaming live media and easy content updates (they're automatic) contribute to an exceptional product that feels alive and fresh.

Searching in Encarta is easy. One search pulls up articles, maps, multimedia content, and more. In fact, as you type in your keyword, lists of results begin to appear and adjust as you keep typing. This is very handy for times when you don't know the complete spelling of a word. Alternate spellings also pop up for extra help.

When students stumble upon a word in an article that they don't understand, they need only double-click on it and a dictionary entry pops up. Doing research for a school project is especially easy with this suite. Children can select any text and images from Encarta contents or the Internet, click "Add to Researcher", and the information is cataloged and stored. Researcher allows users to organize and edit the information they've collected ("note cards" can be clicked and dragged for easy organizing), and then export their work to a Word document. Citations are automatic with this handy tool. The suite's World Atlas is superior to those found in other leading electronic reference suites. The atlas is dynamic and original. Users can easily customize their view of the world with map styles and customizer tools.

Many children (and adults!) equate encyclopedias with "boring", simply because of the dry, "encyclopedic" presentations. Not so with Encarta. The presentation is slick and modern, and the multimedia content is strong.

The program is available on CD-ROM as well as DVD-ROM (the DVD-ROM edition includes extra videos). 

What we like most about the program:

  • Contemporary, well-integrated suite

  • Rich with multimedia

  • Updatable content (until Oct. 31, 2005) is automatic when users are online

  • Plenty of extras and special features

  • Gorgeous interface

  • New Encarta Kids offers children under 12 excellent, age-appropriate content.

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: Microsoft Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005 CD or Microsoft Encarta Reference Library Premium 2005 DVD

 

World Book Encyclopedia 2005 Edition

Sometimes less is more. World Book Encyclopedia 2005 Edition is a fantastic starter electronic encyclopedia for kids just beginning to do research for school projects. Although it features less content than many electronic encyclopedias on the market, its articles are right on target for elementary-age children. Not only is the reading level appropriate, the program features articles that students are looking for.

There are three CD-ROMs in this edition. New to this 2004 edition are over 3000 additional articles, 43 new maps, 105 new illustrations, 530 new photographs, and 45 new tables. The basic features and interface remain the same. This time around, users can fully install the first CD-ROM in the set.

The main encyclopedia, contained on two CD-ROMs, opens with a splash screen. Children can choose to browse the contents in a variety of creative ways using the various browse options, such as Just Looking and Surf the Ages, or select "Topics" and begin a search for the information they need.

The "Monthly Spotlight" feature is a great place to start browsing. If the current month is February, for example, kids can read about the February birthstone (amethyst) and choose to read more about this gemstone through the link to another article. They can read about Valentine's day, or explore that month's focus (transportation).  

Using the program's toolkit, students can highlight information needed from the articles. Kids can also place Sticky Notes in articles and media. Double-clicking on a word in the article pulls up a dictionary entry for the word. The built-in dictionary is great for students because it provides plenty of example sentences and the pronunciations are presented in a straightforward, understandable manner. 

Surf the Ages is a unique feature that presents simulated web sites as if the web had existed since Ancient times. Very creative! The Back in Time option presents 80 years of World Book articles, useful for exploring events described without the current perspective. Another way to browse is found in Just Looking which can be totally random or a more customized browsing. The Atlas is nicely integrated and features a distance calculator. It isn't as snazzy as the one found in Encarta, however. 

We wish the encyclopedia offered help when children don't know the exact spelling of a word. In Encarta, for example, alternate spellings appear automatically. But when kids know exactly what they're looking for, the program doesn't disappoint. The articles feature nice multimedia, which keeps interest levels high, and often point users to valuable and related information online.

This program is ideal for elementary-age children. Older kids and adults will want (or need) more information, and the best choice for them will be Encarta (see our review above). However, World Book 2005 is delightfully uncomplicated and uncluttered. It has an imaginative presentation that gives it a friendly feel. In fact, gathering information can actually be a fun experience with this program. 

We think that World Book 2004 Edition, priced at only $19.99 US or less, is a great buy.  

Pros:

  • Information is relevant and to the point.

  • Exceptionally kid-friendly product: easy reading level, clean interface, appealing features that nurture curiosity.

Cons:

  • Less content than other encyclopedias means that older kids and adults will need more (we recommend Encarta, above).

For more information, user reviews, or to buy: WorldBook Encyclopedia 2005 (2 CD Set)

 

Other Electronic Encyclopedias

The Encyclopedia Britannica 2005 DVD Ultimate Reference Suite is notable for the quality of information it contains, but it is considerably less kid-friendly than the encyclopedias above. Its presentation is less dynamic and somewhat dry in comparison. We recommend Encarta and World Book (see reviews above) for families. 

 

 

 

 

 

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