Visual Encyclopedias and Reference Materials

Books covered in my Instagram live today
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Over on Instagram, one of my IRL (In Real Life) friends asked me about illustrated/visual encyclopedias for teaching various subjects. I went ahead and did a live today (7/22/20), but that story will expire after 24 hours. So, I thought I would do a little write up to help introduce parents to the most well known kinds of these encyclopedias within the homeschooling world. (Well known to me, anyway, after 8 years of doing this.) I haven’t included all of the books I went over in my live, because I don’t think they’re necessarily relevant? But if I hear that you guys would like me to include them, then I will come back and update!

I mentioned in my story, many if not all of these can be purchased second hand. You can find them on ebay especially, as well as or a local thrift store, curriculum swaps, homeschool classifieds (especially in facebook groups), as well as occasionally in your local library book shop. Many of these, especially DK, are available at the library. So that is a solid option if you only need them for a unit study or a shorter period of time.

I do want to acknowledge that the following 3 history encyclopedias should be accompanied by additional resources in order to be truly comprehensive. Although I have seen historical inaccuracies & whitewashing of history in similar titles, I have not seen that in these 3 in particular. That does not mean that they don’t exist there, I just have not come across them (yet.)

(An example of a historical inaccuracy I found in a book that is not listed here was a page that discussed Ghana. In the book, it said that Christianity was the original religion of the Ghanian people. This is obviously false. African civilization predates Christianity, and African people have had their own traditions and religions for thousands of years before Colonialism came on the scene.) As a homeschooling parent, and even as a schooling parent, it is our duty to be on the lookout for inaccuracies such as these.

Additionally, I believe that all of the resources in this post are secular. If I am incorrect, please feel free to let me know. There is nothing wrong with using faith based resources if that is your intent. Unfortunately, however, many materials, especially historical materials, are marketed as being secular when they in fact contain an abundance of primarily Christian influence or content. This is due in large part to the history of homeschooling, which arose largely from a movement of Christian families that were among the first to establish curriculum purveyors. (Unschooling, which began in the 1970s or so, has been typically secular, but as unschoolers, they do not use curriculum usually, and thus there is no “secular unschooling curriculum,” if that makes sense.)

Homeschooling continues to become increasingly ideologically diverse, but the Christian companies were pioneers in the market, and so their influence is many times traceable within new business models, in my opinion.

These are a giant version by DK, they are topic specific as well– we have the Animal! & Dinosaur! versions for this year.
This is a series of books. We have only purchased 1-2 so far. I know Costco carries them.
This is one of the spines for our Wonders of the Animal Kingdom curriculum (Blossom & Root) this year ahhh!
I checked this one out from our local library, it was so cute!
Another one of our WAK books for this year! I have seen these on Instagram for a while, but was reluctant to purchase them without a specific purpose!
These are by super specific topic, and your library absolutely has them. There are probably hundreds of different ones. TONS of information.

We got this little guy from the thrift store a few years ago. Usborne has all sorts of illustrated & internet linked encyclopedias.

This is one of my favorite books that we have. Someone told me about it on Instagram last year, thanks friend (can’t remember who)! Apparently this is a series! School like mine, food like mine, etc. I will definitely need to investigate that!
This contains a lot of social studies information beyond just maps.
This Atlas is legit. I asked my dad to buy us a good one for reference purposes. My older kids especially do a lot of map work, and the other Atlases (like the one previously listed) don’t have the level of detail that we need.
So this series is similar to the DK, but it’s by Knopf. If I had to guess I would say there was probably some kind of merger or acquisition because the books are so similar, but I have no clue. These are also prevalent in libraries!
This is a new to me book. The artist is on Instagram, a very cool follow. This is one of the main books for the Steph Hathaway Designs shark unit study. One about frogs & one about cats are listed in my search results. Additionally, my 6 year old informed me that we had in fact checked this one out from the library last year as well! So a lot of these books are out there if you don’t want to commit to purchasing them!

So those are the main titles that I wanted to cover. The Flying Eye, Julia Rothman & Welcome to the Museum books are relatively new on the book market– as in within the past 5 years. There are many other additional titles within those serieses that I didn’t cover (one about Space & one about Botanicum) come to mind.

I hope this post is helpful, feel free to let me know if there are any other titles that you think are worth mentioning to those looking for visual kinds of resources!

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