A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that some sections of this teen-centric educational site cost money to access. (SAT prep materials are $23; AP exam guides are $17.) However, there's plenty of free content to help kids learn about literature, algebra, and other school subjects. Teens don't have to register to use the site, but they'll be able to save sample essays they're working on if they do.
What's it about?
SHMOOP's mostly-free materials, written by Ph.D. and Masters students from prestigious U.S. colleges, offer instruction on topics ranging from Shakespeare to pre-algebra. The content features a creative twist: Instead of using stuffy academic phrasing, the materials are written in a conversational tone. Information is also presented in a unique, quirky format. Pretend character profiles, for example, help kids learn about Greek and Roman mythology; teen drivers can cruise through a section that uses humor to stress responsible driving.
Is it any good?
Shmoop features educational materials to help teens understand a variety of topics, including biology, U.S. history, algebra, and calculus. The site's literature section covers classics; users can also access in-depth allegory, character, and theme info on modern reads like "The Hunger Games." The site's real strength, though, is in its presentation. Instead of just offering endless pages of content, Shmoop breaks subjects down in fun ways. Mythological character profiles list zany faux relationship statuses (Agamemnon laments that he "was married to Clytemnestra, but then she killed me... so yeah"). Virtual flashcards help teens memorize AP Spanish terms, and a lengthy DMV section weaves humor into its state-by-state rules of the road. And the site's learning resources are legit: Ph.D. and Masters students from schools like Stanford and Harvard write much of the conversational content, which is peppered with pop culture references. A separate section for educators includes resources for teaching civics, literature, and other topics, for a fee.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about ways to learn using digital tools. How do you use the Internet to learn new things or review what you've learned? For suggestions on using technology to improve kids' academic success, check out our School Performance Tips guide.
How is spending time using a site like Shmoop different from spending time online connecting with friends? What kind of time limits should you set on Facebook/Twitter/IM time?
How can you tell if information on a website came from a valid source, is just someone's opinion, or is information that hasn't really been researched?
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