Some Suggested Online Resources for Independent Learners
(reviewed & selected by ALC staff)
Science & Technology
Edmund Scientific is a long trusted retailer of science projects, labware, and materials for classroom demonstrations. For over 70 years, Edmund Scientifics Direct has been a respected source for unusual science activities, toys, gifts, and demonstrations.
MIT’s Open Courseware brings together the expertise of MIT’s top professors to share free courseware. For advanced students looking to explore college level coursework, OCW helps educators improve courses and curricula; students find additional resources to help them succeed; and independent learners enrich their lives and use the content to tackle some of our world’s most difficult challenges, including sustainable development, climate change, and cancer eradication.
Astronomy Picture of the day. Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer. The APOD archive contains the largest collection of annotated astronomical images on the internet.
Science World Report (SWR) offers visitors free access to news on scientific breakthroughs and discoveries, as well as others that pertain to science. Science topics include Space, Nature & the Environment, Health & Medicine, Technology, Physics, and other scientific issues impacting humans. The site is updated every day. All articles published have featured images and related videos that add more information.
Search hundreds of free science education resources at BioInteractive, where you can find award-winning multimedia resources, including apps, animations, videos, interactives, and virtual labs, to bring the excitement of scientific discovery to the homeschool. Subscribe to the BioInteractive News to receive weekly videos, click-and-learns, and digital shorts by email.
Scientific American is the longest continuously published magazine in the U.S., and has been bringing its readers unique insights about developments in science and technology for more than 170 years. This website provides an authoritative source for information about groundbreaking science discoveries and technology innovations that matter.
Excel Easy offers an easy to follow, fully-illustrated Microsoft Excel tutorial with 300 examples, and it’s 100% free. Microsoft Excel is an important technical skill in many jobs, and for many students
English, Language Arts
The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University offers writing resources and instructional material, and provides these as a free service of the Writing Lab at Purdue. Students, members of the community, and users worldwide will find information to assist with many writing projects. Teachers and trainers may use this material for in-class and out-of-class instruction.
Project Gutenberg offers over 60,000 free eBooks: Choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online. You will find the world’s great literature here, especially older works for which copyright has expired. They have been digitized and diligently proofread with the help of thousands of volunteers. Project Gutenberg and the related audiobook site LibriVox.org make thousands of public domain works available in electronic formats.
Free eBook Download Guide. While some may argue that having a printed book in their hands is an experience beyond compare, there are plenty of things to love about eBooks. Find out more about the benefits of eBooks via this guide. From eBook downloads to popular e-reader apps and alternatives, there’s something here for everyone.
Explore the 15 major themes to access more than 6,000 images and see words like never before at Merriam-Webster’s Visual Dictionary Online. The Visual Dictionary is designed to help you find the right word at a glance. Filled with stunning illustrations labeled with accurate terminology in up to six languages, it is the ideal language-learning and vocabulary dictionary for use at school, at home or at work.
Encyclopedia.com provides you reference entries from credible, published sources like the Oxford University Press and the Columbia Encyclopedia. Free access to nearly 200,000 reference entries from sources you can cite, and more than 50,000 topic summaries feature related pictures, videos, topic summaries, and newspaper and magazine articles from around the world.
TheFreeDictionary.com is an American online dictionary, thesaurus, and encyclopedia that gathers information from a variety of sources. The site cross-references the contents of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the Columbia Encyclopedia, the Computer Desktop Encyclopedia, the Hutchinson Encyclopedia and Wikipedia, as well as the Acronym Finder database, several financial dictionaries, legal dictionaries, and other content.
Power Thesaurus is built by users for students and writers. Over 73 million synonymic and other associations are suggested for over 4 million words and terms, as rated and used by the site’s visitors.
History & Social Studies
The History Channel‘s website offers programming information, and a wealth of resources for history students and buffs alike. The History by Topic page includes trending topics, and hundreds of articles and videos sorted by category.
The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex. Termed “the nation’s attic” for its eclectic holdings of 154 million items, the Institution’s nineteen museums, nine research centers, and zoo include historical and architectural landmarks. Take a voyage of discovery and explore your interests online, or browse lesson plans by subject area or search by grade levels and keywords. Smithsonian lesson plans emphasize inquiry-based learning using primary sources and museum collections. Each plan is print-friendly and provides you with all the materials you need—photographs, reproductions, handouts, activities, suggested strategies, standards information, and additional online resources.
The Smithsonian’s Learning Lab puts the treasures of the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex within reach. The Lab is a free, interactive platform for discovering millions of authentic digital resources, creating content with online tools, and sharing in the Smithsonian’s expansive community of knowledge and learning.
Best of History Web Sites aims to provide quick, convenient, and reliable access to the best history-oriented resources online in a wide range of categories and has been designed to benefit history teachers and their students; however, general history enthusiasts will benefit from the site as well. Ranked #1 by Google for history web sites, Best of History Web Sites receives upwards of 100,000 visitors per month.
Interactive Constitution, created by The National Constitution Center, presents constitutional experts interacting with each other about the text, history, and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. Leading scholars of diverse legal and philosophical perspectives discuss areas of agreement and disagreement, and offer interpretations, based on their divergent viewpoints, for each provision of the Constitution. These experts were selected with the guidance of two prominent constitutional law organizations: The American Constitution Society and The Federalist Society.
Refdesk.com offers an unbelievably comprehensive and amazingly navigable catalog of Web resources on a multitude of topics and subject areas. Since 1995, Refdesk has been a free and family-friendly web site that indexes and reviews quality, credible, and current web-based resources. Regular featured resources include Fact of the Day, Thought of the Day, Article of the Day, This Day in History, Today’s Birthday, and the Site of the Day which highlights useful and/or unusual websites, with previously reviewed sites stored in the Site of the Day Archives.
In 1996, The Old Farmer’s Almanac launched Almanac.com. This online presence features the same kind of information found in the print edition, a reference book founded in 1792 that contains weather forecasts, tide tables, recipes, planting charts, astronomical data, recipes, and articles on a number of topics, including folklore, history, gardening, sports, astronomy, farming, and trivia.
Factslides takes relevant and complex information from NGOs, think tanks, journals, specialized magazines and media and converts it into colorful and animated slideshows that are easy and fun to read, making the information accessible to students, teachers and curious minds for fun, research, lesson planning, and homework. “Factslides is dedicated to provide well-sourced and verified information that will help young people access the information and critical thinking skills they need to make our world a better place.”
Homeschooling & Unschooling
Homeschoolers of Whatcom‘s goal is to bring local homeschooling families together, extend resources to those families and help to enrich their educational experiences. Whatcom Homeschool Association exists to support parents taking responsibility for the education of their children, and is operated completely by volunteers who want to see families grow closer through learning together.
John Holt GWS is a website dedicated to the ideas and goals of the seminal homeschool theorist and pioneer. After writing Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better, John Holt learned about homeschooling and decided to support it by publishing his networking newsletter, Growing Without Schooling (GWS), in 1977. Holt died in 1985 and Patrick Farenga and his colleagues carried on Holt’s work for another 16 years, publishing Growing Without Schooling magazine until 2001. Farenga continues to popularize Holt’s work through this site, illuminating and explaining the myriad ways that people live and learn throughout their lives, without going to school. If you want to do school at home, there are many sites, books, and people who will tell you what, when, and where to learn but this isn’t the place for that. In Holt’s view, Homeschooling doesn’t have to duplicate school in any way in order for children to learn, grow, and thrive overall.
Homeschool.com was created to empower parents to create the ideal school for their child at home. Homeschool.com’s founding principle is to consistently provide resources, information, and support to all homeschooling families. Offering tips and help for locating curriculum and resources, plus homeschooling blogs, articles, and products. The top 100 Educational Websites page is updated annually.
Simple Homeschool is a blog featuring contributing writers who teach a variety of age groups at home, from preschoolers to high school seniors preparing for graduation. The blog provides direction and encouragement for those beginning to consider homeschooling and offers practical advice and curriculum reviews.
Radical Unschooling is a web page about unschooling by the noted unschooling advocate Sandra Dodd. Her articles have been published in homeschooling journals, in her self-published books “Moving a Puddle” and “Sandra Dodd’s Big Book of Unschooling”, and are available on her personal website.
Special Needs Homeschooling. Parents who have a child with disabilities often turn to homeschooling to meet their child’s unique needs. Heather Laurie, a mother of five children with special needs, writes about her experiences and suggests other special needs resources where parents might find support.
Home School Legal Defense Association. A group of lawyers began this nonprofit organization in 1983. They provide representation for homeschoolers having legal challenges as well as information on current laws in the U.S. and abroad. If you want to research the legal status of homeschooling in another country, visit the international section for an overview on the current policies around the globe.
At The Coalition for Responsible Home Education , you can search for information by state with an easy-to-use map and read about relevant homeschooling policies. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and in many (though not all) foreign countries. Use this site to find legal information you need to homeschool confidently.
Khan Academy is a collection of videos covering a wide variety of subjects appropriate to High School level students. Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization created in 2006 by educator Salman Khan with a goal of creating a set of online tools that help educate students.
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading are a series of talks by scientist, authors and artists on a wide number of subjects. TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED, with an agenda to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation, covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages.
Awesome Library is a web resource of pages scrutinized and organized for educational use. The Awesome Library provides only resources that have been reviewed and found to be of high quality for users. In order to be included in the Awesome Library, resources need to meet all of the following standards: only child-safe links; useful for teachers, students, parents and librarians; “real” content (actual documents, projects, pictures, and discussion groups); current; load quickly; best version available. Having trouble approaching a subject or need project ideas? Try the Awesome Library’s Lesson Plan page.
WolframAlpha is a fundamentally new paradigm for getting knowledge and answers—not by searching the web, but by doing dynamic computations based on a vast collection of built-in data, algorithms and methods, and bringing broad, deep, expert-level knowledge to everyone… anytime, anywhere. Wolfram/Alpha’s goal is to male a systemic knowledge immediately computable and accessible to everyone.
WannaLearn.com has over 350 categories of free, first-rate, family-safe online tutorials, guides, and instructionally oriented Websites. WannaLearn has been designed to provide a wide range of users with an effective and efficient means of accessing the best learning opportunities available on the Web, in books, DVDs and other instructional media.
Academic Earth provides advanced-level lectures in dozens of subjects at no cost. In 2009, it built the first collection of free online college courses from the world’s top universities. Today the curated lists of online courses are hand selected by staff to show you the very best offerings by subject area. They also make sure there is something for everyone: whether you want to explore a new topic or advance in your current field, they bring the amazing world of academia to you for free.
HowStuffWorks got its start at a college professor’s kitchen table and grew into an award-winning source of unbiased, reliable, easy-to-understand answers and explanations of how the world actually works. Its writers, editors, podcasters and video hosts share all the things they’re most excited to learn about with nearly 30 million visitors to the site each month.
All My Faves Education is a visual logo directory that lists the top 10 “favorite” resources by educational category. “The AllMyFaves’ Internet team scans the Internet for the best and latest sites on the web. . . . Why search? is the essence of AllMyFaves‘ philosophy. We believe the Internet should be an inspiring, easy and free experience for everyone.”
HomeworkSpot.com is “a free homework information portal that features the very best K-12 homework-related sites . . . the best resources for English, math, science, history, art, music, technology, foreign language, college prep, health, life skills, extracurricular activities and much more.” Resources are organized into grade-appropriate categories for elementary, middle and high school.
For Younger Students
Great Websites for Kids is sponsored by the Association for Library Service for Children of the American Library Association. The Great Websites for Kids site is evolving into Notable Children’s Digital Media. Content highlighted on this site will include ALL forms of digital media, not just websites. The purpose of this site is to evaluate, select, annotate, and present a list of notable digital media of interest to children which is updated on a continual basis.
Reading Eggs makes learning to read interesting and engaging for kids, with online reading games and activities.There are three programs within Reading Eggs – Reading Eggs Junior for 2–4 year olds, Reading Eggs for 3–7 year olds and Reading Eggspress for 7–13 year olds. A free 30-day trial subscription is offered, after which various annual and monthly subscription payment plans are available.
Almanac4kids.com was launched in 2005 by the Old Farmer’s Almanac. This site is dedicated to content for younger readers, their parents, and teachers, featuring interactive activities and exclusive articles that further explore topics found in the book and parent website.
Take a Hike! A list of “9 Totally Kid-Friendly Hikes In Washington That Are 1 mile and Under.” (Three of these are located in Whatcom, Skagit, and Island counties.) “A love of nature and hiking often starts young, which is wonderful. And luckily, we’ve got plenty of trails here in Washington that are great for little legs (and short attention spans). We found these 9 beautiful hikes perfect for families.” The website, OnlyInYourState, takes a fun, informal approach to help readers discover great things to do in each of the 50 states.
Starfall is a homeschooling website, started as a free interactive way to teach young children to read using phonics; kids can play games, watch short videos on letters and sounds, and flip through ″books” of stories.
Career & College Planning
TheBestColleges.org offers information on hundreds of online programs, and their listing of the top 25 Colleges & Universities offering free online classes and lectures. “We only include schools that are recognized and reputable, so you know they’re the best ones out there already. We also aim to bring you affordable options, so you know you’re getting good quality for your money, but not spending a fortune in the process. And we rank schools based on all the standard details — including tuition, retention rate, and median starting salary for graduates — that go into picking a high-quality program.” Their rankings of schools cover a range of topics, from the best MBA programs to the most affordable online schools to, simply, the best overall.
A Guide to Green Careers covers a wide spectrum of topics centered around emerging and environmentally beneficial jobs and services. “This guidebook has been created to help readers better understand exactly what lies ahead for job seekers in a renewable, sustainable and more efficient world. If you are interested in finding a career where you can make a difference while making a living, this guidebook is for you.”
Zippia is a job research and resource site which has a lot of career pathway information, and has a career explorer tool that empowers career aspirations with knowledgable data about jobs, college majors, and locations. Categories include jobs for high schoolers, work from home jobs, jobs by industry, by discipline, by company, and by popularity.
(This page will be updated regularly)