Do Not Open by Dorling Kindersley. An almanac of fascinating information and trivia, this book comes in a cool silver box with a jail cell door. Tell kids they can’t have it, and of course they want it! The information and graphic layout is fresh and will keep you and/or your kid engaged for hours.
Anything by Dorling Kindersley (DK) Publishing. Although I’m not personally as much of a fan of their Eyewitness books (though plenty of kids love ’em), I love pretty much everything else they produce. Go to DK for encyclopedic information on just about everything, from biology to physics, Lego characters to Disney Princesses. DK, always famous for its fresh content and engaging graphic design and layout only gets better with each new publication.
Minecraft. This open-ended blocky virtual world has been sweeping the nation for a while now. As kids are becoming increasingly obsessed, parents and educators are investigating possible educational opportunities to keep the classroom relevant and fun. I’ve read about the game being used to explore physics, art, math, story-telling, circuitry and more. We gave it a go for history, and I let my kids create interactive timelines as a portion of their class time. Though the kids loved the idea, the timelines were time intensive, and though I’m not going to say that Minecraft shouldn’t be used in schools, I will say that it will help to set definite goals and due dates with your students. I love open-ended projects, but this one proved too much so for us. Still – there are tons of folks using it successfully, so if you’re into it, give it a go! To read Eva’s review about using Minecraft in history, click here. To read mine, click here.
TED. Ah, the beauty and wisdom of TED talks. About 20 minutes each, these online short presentations will wow you, challenge you, expose you to topics you never even considered, and sometimes bring you to tears. This is a life-changing series, and well worth watching together with your spouse, friends, children, and more. I can’t tell you what they’re about, because they’re about everything. People who are passionate experts in their fields talk about what they know and love, and in doing that, expand your world. From science and math to human relationships, art, education, and culture, there’s something for everyone.
TED-Ed. More recently, TED has expanded to specifically reach out to K-12 students through their TED-Ed series. Shorter in length (usually only a few minutes), these talks are usually animated, quirky, and fast-paced. The site lists a variety of general subjects, which all contain several videos a piece. So if you’re studying creative writing, you can go directly to those videos. These make fantastic supplements to a ton of study units.
TEDx Youth. Though TED videos originate from the annual TED conference, the organization also sponsors regional TED talks, called TEDx. There are a ton of these, and all of them are available on the main TED YouTube channel. However, there are a special breed among these “X” talks. TEDx Youth are events specifically given by and for youth. If you ever want to be inspired, just listen to 10 and 13 and 15 year olds tell you how children need more respect, how education can and should be different, or how to, I don’t know, make a major discovery to detect pancreatic cancer earlier than ever before (ok, that last one was actually invited to both TEDx and the official TED event). Far from intimidating, these kids make me want to do more and be more. They help me believe in my own qualities and potential. And I believe they inspire that feeling in my kids as well.
Crash Course. Man, I love this YouTube channel! Hosted by John and Hank Green, Crash Course videos cover history, science, and even a little bit of literature. These are super fast-paced, so be prepared to pause and watch again as needed. Like many of these online educational video resources, Crash Course is meant to be supplementary. But they not only reinforce great content, they make it fun, and if you know me by now, you know that fun is an essential ingredient for me in education. For example, when we were studying the Great Depression, my intensely emotionally sensitive daughter was absolutely depressed. Then one morning she remembered and her whole face lit up: “what about Crash Course, Mom? Do they have a video on the Great Depression?” And, sure enough, they did. The content is still real, still hard, but for Eva, it helped her look at it objectively and not be weighed down by endless sad images of hunger and want. It helped her engage in the material. We also love their science content.
PBS Idea Channel. I will confess that I have not explored this series as much as I have some of the others. But the general feel is the same: fast-paced, with plenty of quirk, and a high respect for the intelligence of the viewer. Plenty of topics to explore here, both in and outside of “core” subjects.
Sir Ken Robinson. If you haven’t heard Robinson’s TED talks on education yet, you’re in for a treat. His “How Schools Kill Creativity” is the most watched TED talk, with almost 25 million views. I mean. 25 million! His words strike a chord in almost everyone, and if you ever needed a boost of confidence to take education by the horns, this is it. It doesn’t hurt that Robinson is not only brilliant and brave, but hilarious and entertaining. There are many times every year that I question my education approaches – second guess, wonder if I’m doing it “right.” This is almost always the prescription I give myself to keep me on our own untraditional but creative path.
The Parent Backpack for Kindergarten through Grade 5: How to Support Your Child’s Education, End Homework Meltdowns, and Build Parent-Teacher Connections by ML Nichols. This wonderful book is the perfect resource for parents of elementary school kids, offering practical ideas, motivation, and encouragement that will help you support your child through these formative years. Be sure to also look around her outstanding website. Both the book and site are go-to resources for parents wanting to be more fully engaged in their child’s education.
Lisa Rivero. For those of you who are homeschooling or considering homeschooling, may I introduce the kind and brilliant author. Check out Rivero’s book The Homeschooling Option, which will help you assess readiness at each stage of the homeschooling journey as well as her Creative Home Schooling, which will help you create an education that is truly unique and child-centered. Both are such informative and interesting reads!
Hacking Your Education by Dale J. Stephens. In this progressive and boundary-pushing text, Stephens challenges teens and 20-somethings to create their education outside the university walls. Involved in universities all my life, I can’t exactly promote that as a good choice for everyone (and frankly, Stephens doesn’t say this either; he is instead asking you to question the choice and your motivations). However, there is great enthusiasm here for the motivated self-learner, no matter what path you choose. I found it inspiring too for my own continued growth as an adult.
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