Want to catch your kids up before school starts?

Wednesday, August 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

If the education poohbahs are correct, the kids have lost a big chunk of learning since summer vacation began. Based on that premise – and noting that the school year is about to launch – we got online to see what is available to help them get up to speed on the basics. Here is a crash course on how to dredge up some of what they learned last school year. Consider it a late summer flush of the cartoons and music videos that may have clogged the academic pipes.

FlashCards Online


The main product here, FlashCards 2000, allows the creation of a set of flash cards for any topic from a home computer. The 2-megabyte download lets prospective buyers test-drive the software for 20 days before deciding whether they want to spend $25. It's great for beginning readers or for test preparation, and it's not just for kids. Graphics can also be put on the cards, then everything can be reviewed in a study mode, printed out on regular paper and even e-mailed to other registered owners. Granted, experienced users of word processors could work up their own system. But it took us no time with this program to make up a list of rhyming words to help a 5-year-old beef up his reading skills.

Education 4 Kids


Flashcards for Kids, aimed at kindergartners through eighth-graders, is an easy, friendly page to set up and navigate. Visitors can pick from addition, subtraction, multiplication and division (plus a combination of addition and subtraction problems), then choose the complexity of problems before getting started. Users can keep score, set the number of problems to work, time the session and work problems vertically or horizontally. Results bounce back quickly, but one word of caution: There is no link back to the home page, only to the flash card setup page.



Again, this is a free math setup that can handle many grade levels. One feature we liked, especially for younger kids not yet comfortable with keyboards, is a built-in numeric keypad for submitting answers by clicking the mouse. Options include limiting the size of the numbers in the equation, keeping score, varying the length of time to answer and repeating a problem after a wrong answer is given. The downsides? The hosts acknowledge there have been problems for visitors on Macintosh computers, and our PC, with a Netscape browser, had trouble with the window sizing and placement when the page refreshed.



The Words section has 15 educational games covering vocabulary, grammar and spelling in a free, not-so-serious format. Two areas that went above and beyond were the Spanish-to-English translation quiz called Translator Alligator and a nifty program to help kids learn the alphabet in American Sign Language. While the games aren't that sophisticated, a few hours here could certainly refresh spelling skills. The site also has sections for mathematics, science and culture, plus the Brain Bowl – a weekly current events game pits two players against each other or can accommodate a kid vs. parent match. Teachers can also set up homework quizzes for their young charges to log on and work, freeing the family dog from blame for lost assignments.



Bonus.com bills itself as a super site for kids, and parents might need to check whether Junior is playing one of the 80 educational word games or has drifted off to the hundreds of less high-minded distractions on the site. We were impressed with the sheer number of word games, which include scary story contests, crosswords, code puzzles and just about anything else you can dream up involving vocabulary and interactive programs. One of the coolest things is a Morse code translator that can put a sentence into code. Or a simple game of digital hangman may be just as fun. Most of what we found, however, is more suited for upper elementary and middle school kids. Some of the exercises made flash cards seem like child's play.

Sport Science at the Exploratorium


Getting a kid up to speed on the laws of physics doesn't have to be boring or tedious anymore. The Exploratorium does a bang-up job of explaining the basics of gravity, momentum and friction through sports such as mountain biking and skateboarding. Hey, if it works, it works. Other topics include how a baseball can curve, how muscles and tendons work while climbing a rock wall and exactly what makes a ball bounce. The site has also drawn in top names in sports to demonstrate many of the features – hockey players, mountain climbers and major league pitchers are just a few of the guests here. No more sleep-inducing talks about science, Dad.