Google can be the most valuable source of your education. Simply make it a point to Google-search at least one thing a day. You could start with some of the things I mentioned in the introduction. For example, who is IBM—a company that built computers around a hundred years ago? Google it. What is this LTE network that Verizon is working on? Google will direct you to a webpage that will thoroughly explain it.

Google Docs is the Google product/service I use most often and like best. Google Docs is a full office suite—online! It functions as a word processor (like MS Word), as a spreadsheet program (like Excel), and as presentation software (like PowerPoint), all in one. It offers a few other tools such as drawing software and a formula calculator, but a few things make it unique. First, it’s free: all you need to do is set up a Google account. Second, it’s online. This can be both good and bad, but mostly good. Since you work on everything and save it all online, you don’t have to worry about running out of hard drive space or installing the correct software or updates. 

Also, you don’t have to worry about saving a file to one computer and then not having it on another or bother with carrying thumb drives everywhere. For instance, I can start a paper for my literature class on Google Docs from my computer at home and then go to school and pick it right back up from the classroom computer and finish it—without having to worry about keeping track of multiple copies of the file or accidentally leaving my document at home. As a matter of fact, I am writing this entire article on Google Docs! Obviously, Internet service to access your files is required to use Google Docs, so this could be a problem if you don’t have an Internet connection available at the time that you need to get to your assignment.

Google Calendar is a pretty handy, simple tool, especially for use by teachers. Google Calendar is great for scheduling events. With this tool, you can set up a reminder system (it’ll send all users who are involved an email reminding them of the event, etc.), schedule homework assignments, keep records of what’s been finished and when, etc. It can keep the homeschool mom (and/or her kids) on track.

Google Maps. Yep, I even threw Google Maps in here. Why? Because it’s the ultimate geography tool. Seriously. Google Maps is powered by an extremely informative, fast engine. You can view and zoom in on any location in the world. Go ahead; punch in your home address. You’ll likely see your house and maybe one of your kids outside!

Google Maps’ satellite view displays the geography of the entire world from the eye of a satellite and labels everything accurately. Even better is Google Earth, which is a program that can be installed on your computer and/or smartphone. Google Earth uses the Google Maps engine but adds a lot more information about the places you’re researching. There are little dots on just about every landmark on the globe, linking to a website or wiki page! So if I look up the Eiffel Tower on Google Earth, not only will I get a visual of what it looks like and where it is, but I’ll also get links to a dozen websites and Wikipedia articles about the Eiffel Tower. I’m reading about how it was made, when it was made, every little random fact right here. Very interesting. I literally learned just about everything I know about geography from Google Earth.

Everyone’s heard of YouTube, right? YouTube is a site that hosts a huge library of videos, some of which are quite educational. You could probably get an entire college education from all the “how-to’s” on YouTube! As a matter of fact, some of the research for these two articles was done on YouTube. Try searching, “how to make raisin bread” on YouTube or “how to program an iPhone app in Xcode” or “how to hack a home network” or “how to do long division.” I guarantee you’ll find what you’re looking for and you’ll be well informed on the subject after just a few videos. As parents, be sure to monitor your students’ use of YouTube, since, unfortunately, YouTube also hosts a great deal of undesirable content that could be harmful to your students.