30 Days of Homeschool – Day 15: Free Online References

(reminder: this is about free resources for homeschool, in 30 non-consecutive posts…meaning: there won’t be a post every day, but there will be 30).

PREFACE/ENCOURAGEMENT/PONTIFICATION: Gone are the days when college-age salesmen were at the door constantly to sell you dictionaries and encyclopedias. I’m a bibliophile, so I certainly don’t mind hardcopy books. And there’s still the occasional salesman. But the advent of e-books and online access has really put the hardcopy industry under duress. With each age of change there’s typically some kind of silver lining. In this case, there are SO MANY free resources out there that their influence can’t be ignored. One set of hardback encyclopedias used to cost $300 +, and you didn’t get free or cheap updates; now an online resource can be free, though you may have to skip around to put together the information you need. This helps homeschoolers a tremendous amount. Even if you don’t have a computer, you could potentially go to a friend’s house (a friend who has a computer, of course) or use your public library, and access these quality resources – all for free.

Wikipediawww.wikipedia.org
This site has over 4.8 million articles. The lack of scholarship is to be expected from a site where anyone can edit it (e.g., one should not reference this site in any essays as a source of reliable intel), but it’s a great and quick way to get basic information such as photos of historical figures, birth/death dates, lengths of battles, and where various animals live.

Wolfram Alphahttps://www.wolframalpha.com/
At least as of a couple years ago, Siri used WA for about 25% of its answers. Great site! It also provides toolbars and extensions for your browsers.

Library of Congresshttp://www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/virtualref.html
This page has plenty of links to keep you busy, plus if you navigate the site you’ll find Ask a Librarian. Your local library may have that option/feature, too. And don’t forget to go to your library and actually ask the librarians and staff! They know plenty of things from training and experience.

Merriam-Webster – www.m-w.com
It’s a dictionary, it’s a thesaurus, it has a Spanish translator/language section, it has grammar video…it even has a Scrabble Word Finder! – a great place (with intuitive interface) for English grammar and vocabulary.

Encyclopedia Britannicahttp://www.britannica.com/
Just click on the Search Britannica field and search away!

Encyclopedia.comhttp://www.encyclopedia.com/
This free site contains articles from a conglomeration of encyclopedias.

Bartleby – http://www.bartleby.com/
This is literature-based, but it has a lot of great sources for quotes and literary references.

Oxford English Dictionarywww.oed.com
I put this last because A) though it’s a paid site (ca $300/yr), B) your library may subscribe to it. If your library subscribes to it (just email/call them and they’ll tell you), then you’re good and is free with your library card/login. It’s an excellent reference. I’ve only used it on a trial basis; I haven’t paid for it, nor does our library have it. But it’s good to know about it.

BONUS: If you want to get an appreciation for the OED, read “The Professor and the Madman” by Simon Winchester.

In this day and age, great information and education for homeschooling is right at your fingertips. It may take a little sweat and ingenuity to accomplish what you’re looking to do, but to modify my wife’s quote from Mother’s Day (“Being a mother necessitates invention”), “homeschooling necessitates invention.”

*A note about sites that keep track of your number of visits: You can pretty much always either use another browser (as the cookies haven’t been generated in that browser yet), or you can delete your temporary internet files/cache/browsing history to rejuvenate your viewing privileges. This can be a hassle, but there’s always that general principle in life that you either spend time or money – the more time you spend, the less money you spend; the more money you spend, the less time you spend. This falls into the former category.

Happy Homeschooling!

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