Updated 03 Dec 2016

Recommended Vendors

Admin @ 1:41 pm

Below are products at other vendors’ sites that we believe have educational value. (These outbound links open in a new window). We invite you to comment on your experiences at the bottom of this page (or contact us privately). If you have any problems with any of these products, please let us know. We reserve the right to remove links to vendors that do not treat customers well.

Advertising Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links and I’ll earn a small commission if you shop through them, thereby encouraging me to continue improving this site.

Academics

See also “Courses Online.”

Language and Literacy

Early Reading
Children Learning Reading Program

This program is aimed at parents who wish to help their child learn to read or read better. View my blog post about this program and reading instruction in general, or go straight to the Children Learning Reading Program website.

Osmo®

“Words” is Osmo’s interactive game for teaching word recognition and spelling. It combines hands-on manipulation of cardboard letters with computer feedback and challenges and can be played individually, in pairs or in teams. There is more to Osmo than the Words game; see my blog post.

Osmo is available from Amazon, Apple iTunes®, and from Osmo itself.

Handwriting Practice Fonts

Create your own handwriting practice worksheets using fonts developed specifically for students to trace. Personally, I have used StartWrite since 2013. I wrote a short review in 2014, but as companies continually improve their offerings, my advice is to try at least two or three companies’ free trials to see which best meets your needs.

StartWrite

With Startwrite software, create letters and numbers for students to trace using any of the common handwriting styles. Click for our review.

Downhill Publishing

Downhill Publishing has a collection of handwriting worksheets and software for making your own, decorative alphabets, clipart and more. They also have a variety of fonts for tracing that can be used within other programs. More…

GetWorksheets.com (Teachnology, Inc.)

Besides worksheets, GetWorksheets.com has several dozen downloadable fonts for both Mac and PC that work within other programs such as MS Word. (To find them, after you click the link, click on “Templates” and then scroll down the page to “PC/Mac Teacher Fonts.”) You gain access by paying a yearly membership fee; more details are in our GetWorksheets.com entry under Practice Worksheets, below.

Reference and Plagiarism Checking
Unplag.com

This software checks your paper against documents on the Web. When it finds a match, the non-unique items are highlighted in plagiarism reports and include direct hyperlinks to original sources. Teachers and editors can be more certain that a document does not plagiarize or quote without giving due credit. Students and writers can look up a quotation with a forgotten source, even if they forgot it was a quote in the first place. You can test Unplag.com with up to 275 words for free. (Click the big blue “Learn More” button on the website and scroll down the page to the box for pasting text.)

Visual Thesaurus®

When you type a word into Visual Thesaurus, you not only get definitions under the appropriate parts of speech (noun, adjective, verb, etc.), but you also get a visual word web and one or more pronunciations spoken by humans with a U.S. accent (click the speaker symbol). For example, when I typed “hamburger,” the program created a diagram with my word in the middle, the words “ground beef” connected to a line going up, and a line going down that split into the words “beefburger” and “burger.” “Separate” produced a web of over fifty other words. Each word in the web can be clicked to get a new web centered on that word. Try it out and see if you find the visual display helpful, then sign up for the free trial. They offer individual monthly and yearly subscriptions as well as group and institutional subscriptions.

Sign Language
See Sign Language under Special Needs

I mention sign language here because young children invariably love learning movements to go with words and letters. Teaching finger spelling is a great way to encourage children to focus on the sounds within words, and teaching whole-word signs can help them remember new vocabulary. For resources, see Sign Language under Special Needs, below.

Science and Technology

Biology
Human Anatomy & Physiology Course

Dr. James Ross has created a detailed anatomy course for download at an extremely reasonable price ($37 when I saw it on February 16, 2015). Although aimed at older students, this is a great reference for interested high school and some younger students. Those planning to pursue human biology in college can get a head start.

If you are interested in buying the course on CD, be aware that you must first buy the download version, at which point you can buy the CD from the members area for an additional cost ($19.95 on February 18, 2015).

Social Sciences (Geography, History, Etc.)

Little Passports®

Started by two San Francisco mothers, Little Passports is a wonderful way for children to learn about other places and cultures. After you choose a plan, you receive an introductory kit followed by monthly packages filled with letters, souvenirs, activities and more. Three different plans target ages 3-5, 5-10, and 7-12 (USA). Discover more activities for free at the Little Passports Blog (even if you are not a subscriber).

The company ships to addresses in the US, Canada, Australia, and “UK-bound packages from the US.” (If you are in the UK and do not understand what that means, please ask Little Passports).

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Courses Online

While some of these are entirely software-based, others combine online software with a mentor to help when the student has questions or gets stuck. (For programs and materials that are not based online, see “Academics,” above.)

Caution: Computer Technology and Children

Too much computer use may interfere with children’s physical, social and cognitive development. Please pay attention to how long your child is at the computer and restrict access to a sane, healthy level.

Young children especially are designed to run around and play with others. Childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing, at least partly due to the more sedentary lifestyle of today. A child overly plugged into the computer is not learning to respond to body language, negotiate, and generally interact with others.

Also, the verdict is not out yet on whether the frequencies generated by WiFi, Bluetooth, or cell phones are harmful, but remember that a child’s arms are shorter, meaning that their heads and bodies will be closer to the technology than an adult’s. If the technology has the potential to cause harm, children will be exposed to harmful levels more quickly than will adults. (Physics and math tell us that when you are half as far away you get four times the dose.) Also, a child’s developing body may be more prone to injury from such frequencies than an adult’s even at the same exposure. Cut down on WiFi exposure by turning off WiFi whenever possible. Connect the child’s computer to the Internet using an Ethernet cable instead of WiFi.

One more thing: Ergonomics matters for children, too. If your child complains of headaches, backaches or pain in the wrist, it could be from sitting improperly or repetitive stress on muscles and joints.

Multiple Subjects

Coursmos

Recognizing that teaching is natural for those with expertise, Coursmos invites anyone to post a mini-course video on their platform and choose whether to offer it for free or not. While aimed at adults, the music and cooking courses may be particularly well-suited to younger folks. There are two levels for student subscriptions – free and premium. The premium subscription gives you access to all the courses on the site, while the free version gives access to free courses. The company has only been around since 2013, but their site is already quite popular. (Look it up in Wikipedia® for an interesting read.)

GiftedandTalented.com®

Developed out of years of educational research at Stanford University’s Educational Program for Gifted Youth (EPGY), which began in the 1990’s, GiftedandTalented.com offers quarterly subscriptions in various course areas: mathematics (Grades K-12), language arts (Grades 2-9), computer programming (9-12) and physics (9-12). All courses have a tutor option, for a higher price.

Art

See also Arts and Crafts Supplies under Miscellaneous Materials and Services, below.

Drawing
Mark Kistler’s Draw3D

Draw3D is a membership site that gives you access to over 300 drawing lessons for a yearly membership fee. I have linked here to the product at the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op, because once you join them (for free), they provide a 60% discount on Draw3D. The only catch is that you must check a box that says, “I certify that I homeschool my children.” Alternatively, you can go directly to the Draw3D website (but you will not get a discount).

Foreign Language

LingQ®

LingQ takes you through meaningful communication experiences in the language of your choice so that you will learn naturally and easily, energized by your own interest, much as a child does. When you sign up, you join a global language learning community, where you can practice communicating about topics that appeal to you. You also get plenty of listening exercises and word lists to increase your comprehension and vocabulary, and native speakers are available as tutors. Languages currently available include English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish, Korean and Dutch. Explore LingQ with a free trial.

Verbling Inc.

Take web-based classes to learn another language and/or work with a professional tutor. So far, classes teach English and Spanish, and I expect more will be added over time. One-on-one tutors can help you learn over 10 languages, including Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Russian, English, and Spanish. Although the website is aimed at adults, younger students can also benefit from the Verbling approach.

Mathematics

Splash Math®

Splash Math is a fun, engaging way to practice math skills for grades Kindergarten through five.

Science and Technology (including Computers)

Computer Software
Learnable®

Learnable specializes in teaching beginning as well as intermediate Web designers and developers. Sitepoint, the parent company, has been publishing books, ebooks, and online training since 2000. Their materials continue to help people to put up a first website as painlessly as possible, and I have no doubt that most interested high school and even younger students could benefit. Learnable also offers more advanced topics. Even though I came from a programming background myself, I have found their training to be a good starting place whenever I want to expand my website-building skills. Many of their books are sold on Amazon, where the reviews show them to be on par with similar books put out by other well-respected software training book publishers such as O’Reilly and Wiley. Learnable has monthly and yearly subscription plans that give you access to all of their online books, training, and over 5,000 videos. If you create an account and wait a few days, you’re likely to get a special trial offer. I am currently studying Ruby for a month for $1. I won’t guarantee that you’ll get the same offer, but at the moment Learnable is selling a year’s subscription for $50 off (on March 24, 2015).

Simplilearn®

Although many of its courses are preparation for specific computer-related certification tests, Simplilearn also has beginner through advanced courses in end-user software such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook and Access, as well as a suite of classes to help you get an online business up and running with WordPress. For students planning to go into computer sciences, browsing Simplilearn’s various course offerings can give you an idea of what certifications exist, whereupon you can type those certifications into a search engine (such as Google) to learn more about what they are for, prerequisites, etc.

Treehouse®

Treehouse by Treehouse Island, Inc. (not to be confused with Treehouse Software) has Web-based courses including Web design, coding, platforms (such as WordPress), building apps, and starting a business. They offer a 14-day free trial, but if you sign up for a subscription, the first month is currently free (or it was when I looked on March 11, 2015).

Sign Language

See Sign Language under Special Needs

Test Preparation

College Entrance Tests
Magoosh®

Improve your test scores on the GRE®, GMAT, TOEFL®, SAT and ACT. Magoosh gives you lesson videos, practice questions – with direct links to relevant explanations – and friendly tutors. It is designed to work well on multiple devices for study on-the-go.

Method Test Prep

Improve your ACT or SAT test scores with Method Test Prep, which offers online self-study, teacher-led classes and tutoring for individuals and small groups. At the website you will find good, free information on their blog. They also have free study guides: Go to Method Test Prep and click “Resources” (at the top right).

Health

Emotional Health and Stress Reduction

A stress management instructor told me once that the opposite of stress is death. Not all stress is bad; it is part of the process of learning and growing. When we are overwhelmed with it, however, it clouds our thinking and literally makes us sick. Learning how to take a step back, calm ourselves, and practice techniques of relaxation are important life skills that help in all areas of living as well as in academics.

Besides the links below, see our “Recommended Books, Games” page under the heading, “Misc: Health, Emotions, Self-Direction.”

HeartMath, LLC

HeartMath has relatively inexpensive biofeedback devices that work with iOS or PC, online courses, books and audiobooks. They also have experience using their programs with children. From the beginning, they have incorporated research into what they do. I have seriously considered taking their course for trainers, as they have what looks to be a very good, direct, secular approach to teaching stress management and relaxation to children as well as adults. Personal coaches are also available. Be sure to check out the free resources on their website.

Physical Health

Better Seating
BackJoy® SitSmart

Available in both adult and child-sized versions, BackJoy® SitSmart naturally relieves back pain by optimizing your sitting posture. It is a portable device that you place on top of your existing chair.

By the way, I have written a blog post on seating here.

Lab Testing

Did you know you can order lab tests yourself in most US states? Parents of kids with autism, ADHD, and other conditions sometimes order nutrition, toxin, or other tests themselves because their doctor is reluctant to search for causes that may be controversial. (Some of these kids refuse to eat more than a handful of foods, so nutritional status may be a concern regardless of any other health condition.) A handful of states – New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and perhaps Massachusetts and Maryland – require a doctor’s requisition (which at least one lab is getting around by having their in-house doctor write it for you). Below I have listed several labs; you can find more via a search engine (e.g., Google, Yahoo, or Bing). For blood tests in particular, these companies usually have an arrangement with a network of local labs, such as Quest or LabCorp. You buy the test(s) online, print your requisition, and take that to the lab listed on their site. It is a good idea to figure out where that lab will be before deciding to order, as a different company may use a lab closer to you.

Life Extension

Life Extension features research, supplements and blood tests to improve health and prevent disease. As a long-time member, I have found their site to be a good place to start personal research, as they write for the non-technical but health-conscious public and list extensive references at the end, a big help if you want to go to the original sources. Their customer support and products are excellent too. Although their primary focus is on adults, much of their information – as well as blood tests – are applicable to children also.
The Life Extension Foundation, with which they are affiliated, was founded in 1980 and is highly regarded by most alternative health practitioners.

PersonalLabs

Tests include a good selection of blood and urine tests, a few stool tests, and a DNA genome saliva test. When you get to the PersonalLabs checkout page, try entering the promotion code “PERS2NA10” to get a discount (which worked on November 24, 2015).

Walk-In Lab

Walk-In Lab has a wide selection of tests and test panels, some of which are relevant for children. These include vitamin deficiency and wellness panels, allergy tests, and various tests for minerals (including iron, copper and zinc). There are also a number of tests aimed at adults, including hormone tests for men and women.

Special Needs (Physical, Cognitive or Emotional)

Adaptive Equipment and Education Aids

National Autism Resources®

Focused on the needs of those on the autism spectrum, National Autism Resources has over 1400 tools and technologies from multiple vendors. Categories include products for calming, oral needs, sensory and occupational therapy, academics, classroom support and accommodation, social skills, toys, visual materials (including communication pictures), and more. Some of these products would also be helpful for children with other disabilities.

Yoropen®

Boashen (Johnson) Liu, one of the co-founders of Yoropen Inc., invented this pen after watching the difficulties of his twin daughters, both with Cerebral Palsy, as they struggled to use conventional straight pens. Like many ergonomic tools, the Yoropen is more comfortable for most of the rest of us, too.

Sign Language

Sign language is not only useful for communication with and among the deaf, it also helps many speech-impaired individuals communicate more effectively even if their hearing is fine.

Let’s Learn Sign Language

This deck of over 160 cards, sold by National Autism Resources Corp (mentioned above), helps teach basic signs to children. Non-fluent teachers and parents will appreciate the clear illustrations with directional arrows. While young children enjoy the movements of sign language and may benefit in various ways (as you will see if you search online for “baby sign language”), children who lack the motor control needed or have other difficulties with normal speech but who have enough coordination for hand gestures benefit tremendously. Signing allows them to communicate their basic wants and needs (and more quickly than any other non-vocal method). Read more about Let’s Learn Sign Language at the vendor’s site.

Signing Savvy

A great resource, Signing Savvy uses high-resolution videos online to show American Sign Language, finger-spelled words, and other common signs of the USA and Canada. Since many signs include movement, this reference is more helpful than simple pictures. You can also save word lists and share them with others, as well as create quizzes and flash cards.

Parent and Teacher Help

Alternatives to Mainstream Education

Homeschooling
Home Learning Association

Not to be confused with various homeschooling organizations, most of which operate at the local or state level, the Home Learning Association is building an online community with resources and information relevant to homeschoolers across the United States (and beyond). They host a yearly online Expo that includes not only vendors but also talent-show videos, political discussions, a film festival, and more. I am listing this organization here but soon will also list it on our Links page because they act like a non-profit service organization even though they are not registered as a non-profit. One of their promotional methods is affiliate marketing – but even non-profits have some sort of marketing campaign, after all – and I will get a small commission if you use my link to their website to become a member. Here is an example of the line between socially-conscious business and non-profit organization getting fuzzy. There are additional organizations worth checking out on our Links page.

Lesson Planning

Curricula
Lesson Planet

Rather than creating their own from scratch, Lesson Planet compiles and catalogs resources found all over the web and incorporates teacher reviews to save you time finding just what you need. To that they add professional development technology courses and online storage. Select from more than 400,000 curriculum resources with a Lesson Planet subscription (billed annually). Try it free for 10 days. (Be prepared: this is one of those companies that wants your credit card information up front, so if you decide to cancel, do so before your trial period is over. That said, the subscriptions are very reasonably priced. They show you the membership plans and prices right after you sign up but before you enter your credit card.)

Practice Worksheets

As a trained Montessori teacher, I generally prefer a hands-on and project-based approach where work is recorded in journals and portfolios over fill-in-the-blank worksheets. However, I have found that even Montessori children enjoy ocassional worksheets, especially when they are fun, optional and personally relevant. In any case, there are many online sites full of worksheets and other tools to save teachers time and give them ideas. Many of the materials were developed by teachers and some are quite creative. Here are just a few:

GetWorksheets.com (Teachnology, Inc.)

With a low-cost yearly membership, GetWorksheets.com gives you access to over 50,000 worksheets plus lesson plans, organizers, templates, puzzles, and more (for only $29.99 as of March 21, 2015). Browse their free samples to see if they are right for you.

Materials for Classroom Organization

The Original Seat Sack ™ Company (O2 Teach™)

Seat Sacks are bags that fit on the backs of chairs. They are an especially great solution for classrooms where children move around a lot or work at tables instead of desks, or where they need to have more materials readily available than fits in the work space in front of them.

O2 Teach™ has expanded their product line to include all sorts of classroom organizers and other products to make teaching go more smoothly.

Training, Consulting and Adult Education about Children

Positive Parenting Solutions

Offering coaching and a video course, Positive Parenting Solutions also has a wealth of free articles and videos. Many pieces were written by Amy McCready, the founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author of If I Have To Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program To Get Kids To Listen Without Nagging, Reminding, or Yelling (Penguin, 2011). A regular contributor on The TODAY Show, she has posted a number of clips from her TV appearances.

Miscellaneous Materials and Services

Arts and Crafts Supplies

Hygloss Products, Inc.

Find craft paper, glitter, beads, buttons, stickers, calendars and more at Hygloss Products, Inc., a company which has been in business since 1950.

Therm O Web

Find adhesive products for paper, cards, sewing, quilting and more at Therm O Web, a family business that has been manufacturing adhesives for over 40 years. Beginning in 1989, they launched new products targetting the craft and fabric markets. Paper crafts products include: Zots, iCraft Adhesives, Tape Runners, Foam Squares, Sticky lines and more. Sewing and quilting products are best known under their HeatnBond line, including HeatnBond lite, Fusible Fleece, StichnSew, and SpraynBond, along with many more.

Montessori

Montessori Services

I love Montessori Services because their products are of high quality even though they frequently cost less than at other high-quality sites. I have been burned by overly cheap materials at discount sites (including ordering a “thousand chain” that only had 250 beads and getting puzzle maps that seriously warped in less than a year). By contrast, Montessori Services has beautiful, long-lasting products. The company is trustworthy with great customer service.

Multi-Media (Audio, Video, Photography, Computer Graphics)

Osmo®

Osmo is more than just a fantastic tracing application. See my blog post about Osmo for more information. Osmo is available from Amazon, Apple iTunes, and from Osmo itself.

BorrowLenses

If you have a project that requires special photography, video or audio equipment, you do not need to buy it. Rent it instead from BorrowLenses.

Parties and Celebrations

Tiny Prints

Create a personalized card quickly and create as many copies as you want for multiple recipients. Customizable templates include invitations for a child’s birthday party or baby shower, announcements for a birth or a graduation, personalized thank you notes and many other sorts of cards. Use your own wording and photographs to make them unique to you. In a hurry? Tiny Prints can mail them for you.

Textbooks

Knetbooks

Save money by renting your textbooks from Knetbooks, or sell them your used textbooks. They have two current promotions, both with free shipping: $5 off orders over $75 (use code RENT75) and $6 off orders over $100 (use code RENT100). (Please double-check that the code got entered if you use my link. You may have to type it in manually at the site.)

 
 

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