When kids visit the computer lab after school, they're usually there to finish homework and pass the time productively, so you want them to access the best tools possible. These math, reading, news, and reference websites can help kids practice skills, find facts, and explore cool topics. And if you have a kid who's clamoring to get on the computer as soon as the last bell rings, these sites can satisfy the hankering for screen time and offer educational opportunities – all at once! (Some of these sites have a subscription fee and offer special packages for schools, but most are available for home use, too.)
Starfall.com, grades K–2, free-to-try, $35/year for more content
As one of the best early-reader sites around, Starfall.com has activities, videos, and solid phonics practice to get kids reading. Kids work at their own pace and have access to different kinds of text to help them foster a lifelong love of reading.
Khan Academy, grades K–12, free
Step-by-step videos and practice exercises make this a deserved staple in the academic website hall of fame. Every type of math is covered here in addition to computing, science, and history. Though it's best when kids already understand the concepts and just need help with the nitty-gritty, this resource gives kids access to independent, self-paced learning.
IXL, grades K–12, $9.95/month
With both reading and math practice, this site adapts to your kid's progress without a lot of distractions. It's mostly focused on drills, so it's best for kids who already understand basic concepts but still need feedback.
BrainPOP Jr., grades K–3, free-to-try, $9.45/month
With videos and games about language arts, math, and more, this is a good site for kids to explore either for targeted practice or just for fun. Because it has lots of audio, nonreaders and beginning readers can navigate easily.
Arcademic Skill Builders, grades 1–6, free, more customization for $20/year
Fun games, multiplayer mode, and helpful feedback let kids play as they learn with this set of games. Kids won't care that the games are aligned to national education standards, but parents and teachers will!
BJ Pinchbeck's Homework Helper, grades 2–12, free
From geography to mythology, this site offers a wide variety of topics and links so kids don't have to wade through a confusing Google search results page. It's possible to navigate away from the original links to other places on the web, so it's best used with some guidance.
Newsela, grades 2–12, free
This site is all about making current events accessible to every reader. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, Newsela offers the same article at different reading levels so kids can get the information they're interested in without unnecessary frustration. There's also an annotation feature for kids doing research and a Spanish section.
Digital Public Library of America, grades 5–12, free
If your kid needs some very specific information, a time line, or a primary source, this is the site to use. Though it's not little-kid-friendly, its resources are deep and wide. Here, kids doing research can practice using a search tool effectively and receive tons of search results that might be hard to dig up on the internet at large.
Google Art Project, grades 7–12, free
Budding artists can look through thousands of pieces of fine art and curate their own collections. The accompanying lessons and activities round out the experience and let kids interact with the art in different ways. From Monet to Warhol, this resource covers a lot of ground and can inspire all manner of makers.
Shmoop, grades 9–12, $24.68/month
With everything from test prep to CliffsNotes-style guides, this site not only delivers the goods but serves it up with a spoonful of sarcasm, making it more amusing for teens to use. And even though the content is humorous, it's all written by folks with advanced degrees, so it's both appealing and accurate.