Mom tips: educational websites to enhance learning

I distinctly remember the day I fully realized the educational power of the Web. It was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a few years back, and like all good educators, I'd embraced the holiday as an opportunity to teach my kids about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. We'd read library books about Dr. King, and they alluded to his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, but I wanted my kids to know more. I wanted my older kids to read the text of the speech, so I turned to the Web. Within seconds, we were watching Dr. King give his powerful speech! All my life, I'd heard that Dr. King was a powerful orator. But in 16 years of education, I'd never had a chance to see the man in action. My kids, though, had that experience available at the tips of their fingers.


Since then, the World Wide Web has become one of my favorite educational resources. Here are some of my favorite educational websites:


Got an emerging or struggling reader in the house? Starfall is a completely FREE website that helps kids learn how to read. Preschoolers can start with simple activities to help them learn their ABCs and letter sounds. Older kids can gain experience with plays, comics, myths, fables and fiction and non-fiction tales. Each activity includes an animation and an interactive game. There are also special activities for holidays, including St. Patrick's Day and Earth Day.


Remember learning the parts of speech in school? Could anything be more boring than circling nouns and verbs on worksheet after worksheet? I didn't want to put my kids through that same kind of torture, so I looked for a fun way to teach the parts of speech -- and found it at itsamadlibsworld.com. This site is an automated version of the MadLibs books you might remember. Students can choose a theme and type in nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives, as requested. (You'll still have to explain to your kids what, exactly, nouns and verbs are, but I'm willing to bet that they'll catch on pretty quickly.) The site then takes your child's answers and spits out a completed MadLibs. It's great reading practice as well.


Talk about an all-in-one learning site. This website is a treasure trove of educational games, and includes content for all ages and stages, from kindergarten through eighth grade. You can select games by grade level or by subject. There are math games, word games, language arts games, science/social studies/history games and logic games. I click over to this site whenever the kids are a) bored with our previous approach to a subject or b) need some extra practice. I don't know about your kids, but mine enjoy practicing their math facts with a computer game far more than flipping through flash cards.


Khan Academy is a great resource for older (or advanced) students. The 100 percent free site contains top-notch math and science content; it's started to add humanities lectures, as well. You can search by topic, so if your student is struggling with a particular concept -- such as negative numbers -- you can quickly and easily find a video lecture to explain the content. The amount of information on the site is mind-boggling; it ranges from heart disease to computer science to organic chemistry. There's a special section for teachers and parents, as well, to help you figure out how to get the most out of the site.

What are some of your favorite educational websites? Leave a comment and let us know.