Managing Your Back-to-School Budget: Free Student Resources

Ed Note: Now that students are back in the swing of things and the assignments are beginning to pile up, look to these free resources for a bit of help without breaking the bank. Jenn Fowler of Frugal Upstate (and mom of two) returns to Block Talk with some ultra-useful back-to-school budgeting advice for parents.

When did sending your kids off to school every fall get so expensive?

With the younger kids, it seems like the classroom supply list gets longer, and more costly, every year.  And college? Tuition, text books, lab fees… the lists go on and on. While some costs seem to keep going up, there are still some things out there that are free—here’s a list of some great free software and educational resources your student can use this year.

Educational Resources for Younger Students

Ask.com for Kids
More and more of kids research for school is being done online—but “adult” search engines might result in links you really don’t want your 3rd grader clicking on! Ask.com for Kids is designed exclusively for the 6-12 year old age group. It’s free, fun and a much safer and more age appropriate environment than your standard search engines.

Kids.gov
Kids.gov is the U.S. government’s official web portal for kids. It has areas for Kindergarten-5th grade, 6th-8th grade and a parents/teacher section. You can find information about art, healthy living, math, government, money, science, reading & writing, music, history, social studies and more.  The “learn your state” section is especially fun—it has links to kids sites for each state government.  Don’t forget about that the next time your child has a state report to do!

US Constitution For Kids
This portion of the USConstitution.net has a general overview of the US Constitution for Kindergarten-3rd grade, 4th-7th grade and high school grade levels. (Note: This is a private site, not government-run. You can read about the author and see his credentials here).

Smithsonian Kids
The Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, boasting 19 museums and galleries, multiple research facilities and the National Zoological Park. Their kids site is packed with information, videos, interactive learning experiences and more.  Don’t miss the 21 “Animal Cams” from the Zoo—they’re fun for all ages.

Discovery Education
Discovery Education offers free student resources including interactive games, videos, contests, virtual labs and activities. There is “Homework Help” in science, English, social studies & math, learning games. The really neat “Step by Step WebMath” breaks down how to do math problems into steps for–K-8, Algebra, Plots & Geometry, Trig & Calculus.

Educational Resources for Older Students

Purplemath
This algebra help site has a huge selection of algebra information in the lesson index, as well as a list of “vetted” links to free online tutoring and lesson sites.

William Strunk’s Elements of Style
The full text of this classic English reference book is available at Bartleby.com. Brief, educational and at times amusing, this book will teach you composition and English writing style. It also highlights the rules of usage and principles of composition that are most often done incorrectly.

Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com
Not only can you have your own reference library online with Thesaurus.com and Dictionary.com, but with their apps you can have instant access on your Andriod or Apple device. Less bulky than their paper counterparts (and completely portable if you use a phone/tablet app) they have the additional benefit of being able to play the word aloud to hear the pronunciation.

APA Style Citation Guide (Cornell University) and MLA Formatting & Style Guide (Purdue Online Writing Lab)
Research papers are usually required to be formatted according to a standard  style; APA and the MLA styles are two of the most common. Cornell and Purdue’s online guides are great references.

OttoBib
Need to create a bibliography for a paper? No problem. Just enter the ISBN numbers (that’s the number on the back near the bar code) from all the books you reference into this site, choose MLA, APA and other formats, click submit and you’ll have a perfectly formatted bibliography.

Free Software and Applications

OpenOffice.org
Open Office is a completely free suite of software that does everything that your major brand software does — without the major brand price. It has a full featured word processor (Writer), Spreadsheet (Calc), presentation (Impress), graphic (Draw), database (Base) and mathematic equation editor (Math). The programs run on all major computing platforms – Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, Sun Solaris, Apple Mac. Your work can be saved in multiple formats—for example, if you create a presentation in Impress, you can save it as a PowerPoint presentation to play in the classroom.

Remember the Milk
Remember the Milk is a full-featured web based task and to-do list that can be accessed online via your desktop or mobile device. You can even set reminders for text messaging or email, and share between users. Get yourself organized and on task for free!

What other free student resources do you or your family use?

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