Kids Educational Software: Cheap, Free, And Resources

Buying good kids educational software on a budget, free programs for the asking, research tips, differences of new and older versions, stamps of approval.

If you have looked at computer software in general lately, you know prices are falling. Educational software seems to be the exception. Why? Good old supply and demand. More parents are taking a part in their child's education. Many parents are homeschooling. Others have realized that their child needs some additional tutoring beyond what they are being offered in school. Is it possible for parent's to do this without going broke and to also purchase programs worthy of furthering along their child's educational needs? Yes! Following this list of rules will not only help you find some outlets, but will give you some ideas on decision making once you have the software in front of you.

First Rule

Do not assume inexpensive or even free means the programs are not good. Several companies online offer "˜free for the price of shipping' software. Better yet, some of these do not even require a fee to join, just to become a member. My favorite is Lightspan.com. This sight is specifically for educators and parents. Each month members can log in and check the list of new software titles they have available totally free. You pay a small shipping fee per product, generally under five dollars. A look at other sights for educators or homeschoolers often will turn up similar offers.

Second Rule

Do not be afraid to ask. By this I mean, if you see a sight online that offers programs to educators free, inquire if they can also make the offer available to parents. NASA and other government agencies have several programs on space, oceanography, and other suitable subjects perfect for high school students. I filled out their request form, stated I was a homeschooling mother and in a few weeks time had two very educational programs for my daughter to supplement her Junior year with. They cost me nothing more than a few minutes of my time.



Third Rule

New does not always mean better. How many times have you walked by a bargain bin in your local software store, heading straight to the regular shelves, to be shocked by a price tag of $50 or $60 or even more, for a program to help your toddler learn his ABC's? What is the difference between the program on the shelf and the one in the bin? Many times the only difference is the year it was produced and a few "˜media enhancements'. Dollar for dollar, going with the discounted one is usually a perfectly acceptable choice. Your child has no way of knowing that the newer program is sporting penguins while he is working with owls. Both most likely teach the same fundamentals, just the bells and whistles are different. This brings us to the next rule"¦

Fourth Rule

Read the box. I know this sounds basic, but how many titles have you purchased by just looking at the colorful picture on the front of the package? Are these actual screen shots? Maybe you even did a quick scan of the writing on the back, only to get the program home and realize the software is nothing like you imagined it to be. Reading the outline thoroughly will give you a good idea of what to expect. This is a good way to compare features from an item listed as "˜new and improved' to the one discounted because it is last years box. What is different? If the major differences are cosmetic in nature, go with the older versions.

Fifth Rule

Do check the program's reviews. Then ask friends, neighbors, teachers, and anyone who you can corner that may be the least bit knowledgeable about the title you are considering. Check the packaging for any "˜stamps' of approval. "˜Children's Software Review' is one such stamp of approval. The site behind this stamp is an unbiased (they do not sell software, they review it) opinion of the title.

Sixth Rule

Research, research, research! Know what you are buying as far as the product version goes. I recently purchased my teenaged, homeschooled daughter a program on anatomy.

Everyone I asked, everywhere I read, all pointed to a program called A.D.A.M. as a perfect choice. I decided to look online to see what the program offered, age guidelines, etc. After looking at several software sights that sell products, I was very confused to say the least. I was expecting a few choices; this year's version, last years' version, but I had no idea they also made different "˜in house' versions. The program comes in versions suitable for the whole family, even the younger members, all the way to a more advanced program for medical students! Because I looked around though, when I finally made my decision, a special Student version, not only did I know what I was buying; I was able to save over $50 by going with an older version.

Final Rule

Once you have completed your purchases, take some time and review the programs yourself. Becoming familiar with them will allow you to help your children get the most education they can out of the software, and what better way to get a perfect deal than that!

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