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School in a Book: Religion and Spirituality

Spirituality feels complicated: cultural, nuanced. And it is. I understand that. But the basic tenets of the major world religions are actually fairly straightforward, and it is these that I seek to present here. Please note that this treatment is highly simplified and does not represent all adherents of the given faith. Other religions with over one million adherents that aren’t discussed here include Falun Gong (a 20th-century Chinese religion similar to Buddhism that incorporates meditation and qigong exercises), Sikhism (a 15th-century Indian religion that follows the teaching of Sikh gurus and rejects religious certainty), Korean shamanism, Caodaism, Bahá’í Faith (a nineteenth-century Middle Eastern religion that seeks to unify all world religions), Tenriism, Jainism, Cheondoism, and Hoahaoism.



Rank of Christianity in terms of number of followers worldwide: Number one

Holy book of Christianity: The Bible. The Catholic Christian version of the Bible includes additional sections, and Mormons have an additional holy book called The Book of Mormon.

Concept of God in Christianity: There is one all-knowing, all-loving, everywhere-present, all-powerful, gender-neutral God, who created the universe.

Notion of life after death in Christianity: Salvation–that is, eternal life in a place of bliss called Heaven–comes to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Others go to Hell after death.

Other basic tenets of Christianity: Humans are sinful and in need of redemption. Jesus Christ, the sinless son of God, came to Earth to preach faith in Him and to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. In addition to faith, Christians should practice love, charity, self-sacrifice, humility, morality, prayer, Bible reading, sexual abstinence prior to marriage and monogomy thereafter, and other good works.

Origins of Christianity: Christianity began with the life of Jesus Christ, who lived in the first century AD in the Middle East. His followers spread the faith widely over the following several centuries. From these early Christians, Catholicism developed, which appointed a Pope as its leader. Then Orthodoxy and Protestantism split off from Catholicism, in that order. Protestants divided into many different sects, including Methodist, Anglican and Lutheran Christianity. Later, Mormonism split off from Protestant Christianity with even greater changes.


Rank of Islam in terms of number of followers worldwide: Number two

Holy book of Islam: The Quran, which is the verbatim word of God revealed to the prophet Muhammad, plus the sunnah, the other teachings of Muhammad, and the hadith, the record of Muhammad’s life.

Concept of God in Islam: There is one God, with Muhammad as the messenger of God. God is merciful and all-powerful.

Notion of life after death in Islam: Muslims go to a blissful Heaven, and non-Muslims go to a place of eternal punishment.

Other basic tenets of Islam: Islam is the final expression of a faith that pre-existed and was partially revealed through Adam, Abraham, and Jesus. Therefore, it is considered an Abrahamic faith like Judaism and Christianity. Muslims must practice the five pillars of the faith, which include (1) recitation of the creed, (2) daily prayers, (3) almsgiving, (4) fasting during Ramadan and (5) making a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime. They also must follow sharia law, which is more specific and lengthy and includes guidelines on clothing, relationships, finances and more. Most Muslims belong to either the Sunni or the Shia sect, with the major original difference between them being who they considered the proper leader of their faith after the death of Muhammad. Muslims also believe in angels.

Origins of Islam: Islam was started in the early seventh century in Mecca by the Prophet Muhammad. It spread in Europe through war and coercion, and in Africa through trading relationships.


Rank of Hiduism in terms of number of followers worldwide: Number three

Holy books of Hinduism: Hindu texts are many and varied. They are not considered absolutely true. They are divided into two categories: the Shruti and the Smriti. The Shruti are the oldest traditions and include the four Vedas. The Upanishads are the parts of the Vedas that discuss meditation and philosophy and are the foundation of Hinduism. Of the Smritis, the Hindu epics, especially the Bhagavad Gita, and the Puranas are most important.

Concept of God in Hinduism: Varies by tradition. Some traditions teach the existence of multiple deities (dualism) while others teach of a single supreme being that is reflected in all other beings (the divine in all/non-dualism). Hindu gods are depicted in art and stories. Various incarnations of the same god are called avatars.

Notion of life after death in Hinduism: Reincarnation, called samsara. Hindus desire liberation from samsara through moksha (enlightenment).

Other basic tenets of Hinduism: Dharma (the path of rightness) is considered the foremost goal of a human being. It includes religious duties and moral virtues, but it is also equated with the eternal, unchanging truth. According to Hinduism, achieving dharma allows people to be in harmony with their true nature and with the world. Other Hindu goals are artha, properly pursued economic prosperity; kama, aesthetic pleasure; and moksha, liberation from suffering (enlightenment). Hindus also believe in karma. Hindu monks are called sanyāsī, sādhu, or swāmi. Religious rituals are observed mostly at home and are not mandatory. They include yoga, chanting, meditation and more. Hindus recognize four social classes: the Brahmins (teachers and priests); the Kshatriyas (warriors and kings); the Vaishyas (farmers and merchants); and the Shudras (servants and laborers). They believe in non-violence, respect for all life and vegetarianism.

Origins of Hinduism: Hinduism is a fusion of various ancient Indian cultural ideas and tradition, with no single founder. It began to take its current form between 500 B.C. and AD 300. It is widely practiced in India and parts of Southeast Asia.


Rank of Buddhism in terms of number of followers worldwide: Number four

Holy books of Buddhism: Numerous and highly varied. Some are based on the words of the Buddha, like the sutras, while others were created by ancient Buddhist schools, like the tantras.

Concept of God in Buddhism: There is no creator God or supreme being in the Universe.

Notion of life after death in Buddhism: Reincarnation. This cycle of death and rebirth, which is affected by one’s karma, can be escaped through nirvana (enlightenment).

Other basic tenets of Buddhism: Meditation, mindfulness, nonattachment, compassion, lovingkindness and virtue; taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (the way) and the Sangha (teachers and fellow travelers); the Four Noble Truths; and the Noble Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are: suffering is universal; suffering is caused by desire and attachment; suffering can end; this happens through the Noble Eightfold Path (right understanding, right thinking, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration). There are two main schools of Buddhist thoughts: the Theravada and the Mahayana. They differ in their recommended approach to nirvana and more.

Origins of Buddhism: Buddhism was founded between 500 and 400 B.C. in India by Siddhartha Gautama, later known as the Buddha, who as a wealthy but unhappy young man who became enlightened while sitting underneath a Bodhi tree. Buddhism is prominent throughout Asia.


Holy book of Confucianism: The Analects of Confucius

Concept of God in Confucianism: None. Confucianism is sometimes considered a religion and sometimes considered a philosophy.

Notion of life after death in Confucianism: None.

Other basic tenets of Confucianism: Kindness; manners; rituals; morals; respect of elders and family; moderation.

Origins of Confucianism in terms of number of followers worldwide: Confucianism was founded by Confucius, a government worker-turned-philosopher who lived around the time of Buddha (551-479 B.C.) in China. Confucius taught his philosophy to his subordinates at work before quitting to travel and teach only. His teachings became the state philosophy during the Han Dynasty in China, which liked Confucius’ emphasis on strong central government and respect for authority.


Holy book of Taoism: The Tao Te Ching, the I Ching, the Daozang/Treasury of Tao, and the Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). The Daozang is a collection of over 1500 texts written up to the Ming dynasty, and is considered the Taoist canon. The Zhuangzi is an important, beautiful, lighthearted description of the ideal sage written by Master Zhuang (Zhuangzi) (c. 369-301 B.C.).

Concept of God in Taoism: Various gods exist but none are supreme, and all are subject to the Tao. (Most Taoist gods are borrowed from other cultures.)

Notion of life after death in Taoism: Unclear. The soul is eternal, but there is a regular afterlife and an enhanced one.

Other basic tenets of Taoism: Taoists are naturalists. They believe in the interconnectedness of all things; acceptance of contradiction or paradox, called Yin and Yang (concepts originated in the I Ching); and the pursuit of harmony through virtue. They also believe in fortune telling, honoring deceased spirits, and more.

Origins of Taoism: Taoism (sometimes called Daoism) began with the writing of the Tao Te Ching, likely by the teacher Laozi around 500 B.C. (This is close to the time of Buddha and Confucius.) The Tao Te Ching was influenced by an ancient divination text, the I Ching (Yi Ching), which as the oldest Chinese classic text was compiled around 800 B.C. Like Confucianism, Taoism became prominent during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.-AD 220). It might have developed as a reaction to that more authoritarian philosophy.


Holy books of Shinto: The Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, written in the 8th century.

Concept of God in Shinto: There are many gods, spirits and essences, all with unique roles and purposes.

Notion of life after death in Shinto:

Other basic tenets of Shinto: Shinto emphasizes the importance of performing rituals for the purpose of connecting with the past.

Origins of Shinto: Shinto is the traditional religion of Japan. It is a collection of animistic folk mythologies. Practices were first codified around 700 B.C.


Holy book of Judaism: The Torah, which is part of the Hebrew Bible, and additional oral tradition found in later texts like the Midrash and the Talmud. Texts are open to interpretation by rabbis and is a highly scholarly and intellectual endeavor.

Concept of God in Judaism: Orthodox Jews believe in one all-knowing, all-loving, everywhere-present, all-powerful, gender-neutral God, who created the universe. Other Jews believe that belief in God is a matter of personal choice.

Notion of life after death in Judaism: Unclear and controversial.

Other basic tenets of Judaism: Jews, particularly Orthodox Jews, practice a complex, laborious array of rituals dating to the time of Abraham. They believe that by doing so, they are keeping the Covenant (the law of God given to the Jews by which they earn God’s favor). Among these practices: not working on Sundays; not eating pork or shellfish (eating kosher foods only); and celebration of Jewish holidays. Conservative and Reform Jews take a more lenient approach to Jewish law.

Origins of Judaism: Abraham, a man who lived in the Middle East, had a son, Isaac, who had a son, Jacob, who was the father of twelve sons, who founded the twelve tribes of Israel. These tribes, who lived around 1200 B.C., later became known as Jews, or the Jewish people. Later, Christianity and Islam developed from Judaism. Jews have been persecuted throughout history and repeatedly forced to leave their nation, Israel, yet they have largely maintained their ethnic and cultural identity. About 43% of Jews reside in Israel and another 43% reside in the United States and Canada.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints/Mormonism

Holy books of Mormonism: The Bible and The Book of Mormon

Concept of God in Christianity: There is one all-knowing, all-loving, everywhere-present, all-powerful, gender-neutral God, who created the universe.

Notion of life after death in Christianity: Salvation–that is, eternal life in a place of bliss called Heaven–comes to those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. Others go to Hell after death.

Other basic tenets of Christianity: Humans are sinful and in need of redemption. Jesus Christ, the sinless son of God, came to Earth to preach faith in Him and to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sin of the world. In addition to faith, Christians should practice love, charity, self-sacrifice, humility, morality, prayer, Bible reading, sexual abstinence prior to marriage and monogomy thereafter, and other good works.

Origins of Mormonism: Mormonism is a branch of Christianity, with the same historical development, until the 1830s, when Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni and given the Book of Mormon to transcribe.

Alternative Spirituality

Holy book(s) of alternative spirituality: None. Modern spiritual thinkers read modern spiritual-but-not-religious authors like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie, and Esther Hicks, plus Buddhist authors like Pema Chodron, Ram Daas and more.

Concept of God of alternative spirituality: God is the one, unified something that makes up everything in the Universe. As such, God is part of everything, including each person. God is sometimes called the creator, the force, the all-that-is or simply the universe. God is good and loving.

Notion of life after death of alternative spirituality: Reincarnation, another afterlife including the experience of oneness with the Divine, or unknown. There is no Hell, but there is no one clear and correct path to a happy afterlife.

Other basic tenets of alternative spirituality: Sin does not exist. Though people often judge poorly or act out of fear, they are naturally and fundamentally good. Onesself is one’s only spiritual authority. Meditation and mindfulness are helpful. So are various healing modalities, such as Reiki. Discovering one’s highest self is a priority, as is practicing love and non-judgment. Truth is often relative and experiential and may be discovered through the law of attraction; divination/clairvoyance/mediums; angels, spirits and ghosts; near-death experiences; deathbed revelations; intuition; and more. Enlightenment or something akin to enlightenment is the goal of many modern spiritualists.

Origins of alternative spirituality: Alternative spirituality includes Buddhist Modernism, some new religious movements (NRMs), spiritual-but-not-religious ideas, New Thought spirituality and New Age spirituality. It primarily refers to belief systems that originated during the twentieth century. Alternative spirituality evolves rapidly as new spiritual teachers, channels and authors become known. It is largely influenced by Buddhism and Hinduism.

School in a Book: Prehistory


The Beginning of Time

The Big Bang: The theoretical beginning of the universe during which a large force of energy resulted in a huge explosion of matter. Rapidly, the matter cooled and expanded, forming stars, planets and everything else in the Universe. The approximate date of the Big Bang is 14 billion BCE.

The formation of Earth: 4.5 billion BCE. Oceans formed around 4.4 billion BCE.

The formation of the first living organisms (microorganisms): Approximately 4 billion BCE.

LUCA: Last universal common ancestor. 3.5 billion BCE. LUCA is the most recent living organism that survived to evolve into all current life on the planet.

Hominid: The great apes that eventually evolved into humans. The first hominids lived approximately 7 million BCE.

The Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic Eras

Homo habilis: The first human species. They evolved in East Africa from an unknown, extinct great ape around 2.5 million BCE. They were the first great apes to use stone tools and they had larger brains than their ancestors.

Homo erectus: The human species that evolved from Homo habilis around 1.5 million BCE and migrated out of Africa to Asia. These humans walked upright and were the first animal to use fire for cooking (around 1 million BCE). Around 500,000 BCE they started hunting with spears, building shelters and creating more complex tribal communities.

The Neanderthals: One of the most successful subspecies [?] of the Homo erectus [?]. They evolved around 250,000 BCE in Africa and migrated across Asia and Europe after the Sahara desert became passable [when?]. They mated with Homo sapiens, but went extinct around 25,000 BCE.

Homo sapiens: The modern-day human species. They evolved around 200,000 BCE in Africa and were highly successful, migrating across Asia and Europe along with the Neanderthals. They were the first apes to speak in a complex way. They led other related species in the complexity of their societies and technology. Around 25,000 BCE they began performing ritual burials and making clothing, artworks, jewelry, advanced tools, boats, ovens, pottery, harpoons, saws, woven baskets, woven nets and woven baby carriers.

Cro-Magnons: The Homo erectus subspecies [?] who, around 25,000 BCE, replaced the Neanderthals. Like the Neanderthals, they mated with Homo sapiens. From them, Homo sapiens inherited larger brains.

Early modern humans: The group of Homo sapiens [subspecies?] that evolved around 40,000 BCE and settled that last two habitable continents: Australia (using boats) and North America (using a land bridge connecting modern-day Alaska to Asia).

Last Glacial Age/Last Ice Age: The most recent Ice Age (of many throughout the history of the earth). It lasted from about 2.5 million BCE to about 10,000 BCE. During this time, a land bridge formed between Asia and modern-day Alaska, which humans used to cross into the Americas. The land bridge formed because much of the world’s water was locked up in huge ice sheets and could not flow freely. From the Alaska area, humans settled North, Central and South America.

The first farms: People began raising crops in Mesopotamia, in an area called the Fertile Crescent in the Middle East, around 10,000 BCE. Just prior to this, animal husbandry had begun. Some of the most important crops were barley and wheat, but other grains and vegetables were also grown.

The first towns: The ability to cultivate land and use it as a reliable food source led to a decrease in the nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle and the formation of the first towns. Town-based Mesopotamians built religious sites, smelted copper, developed writing, built irrigation channels, invented the wheel (which was only used for pottery until later) and much more.

The Neolithic Revolution: The move from a nomadic hunter-gatherer way of life to a town-based, agriculture-based way of life. The revolution occurred at different times in different places throughout the world; however, the change was seen on all continents in the span of several thousand years, despite no known contact between some of them. Note that the Neolithic Revolution is also called the Agricultural Revolution, though the Second Agricultural Revolution of the 1800s that helped bring about the Industrial Revolution is sometimes also called the Agricultural Revolution.

The settlement of Europe: Around the same time that the agricultural revolution began, Caucasians settled Europe for the first time.

Sumer: The first human civilization. Sumer was built in Mesopotamia along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers around 5,000 BCE. It was made up of a collection of individual city-states featuring ziggurats (pyramid-like centers of worship), a more advanced form of writing called cuneiform, scribes, accountants and much more. The people of Sumer are called Sumerians.

Cuneiform: The first complex written language. It was developed and used in Sumer after approximately 3,000 BCE and used pictographs. Its use triggered the beginning of recorded history.

Hieroglyphics: The second complex written language. It was developed and used in Egypt shortly after cuneiform was developed and, like cuneiform, used pictographs.

School in a Book: Classic Fiction: Older Kids and Adults

Did you ever wonder what the best thing in the world is? Well, pay attention, because I know the answer: it’s reading. Reading is the best thing. Here is my list of the best books in the world that aren’t true, besides the ones in my classic children’s literature list.

Classic Poetry

  • The Book of Margery Kempe, Margery Kempe (1300s–1400s)
  • The poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt (1500s)
  • The poetry of John Donne (1600s)
  • The poetry of John Hopkins (1600s)
  • The poetry of William Blake (1700s)
  • The poetry of William Wordsworth (1700s–1800s)
  • The poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1700s–1800s)
  • John Keats
  • Lord Byron
  • The poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1800s)
  • The poetry of Edgar Allen Poe (1800s)
  • Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman (1800s)
  • The poetry of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1800s)
  • The poetry of Robert Browning (1800s)
  • The poetry of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1800s)
  • The poetry of W.B. Yeats (1800s–1900s)
  • The poetry of Robert Frost (1800s–1900s)
  • The poetry of Emily Dickenson (1900s)
  • Sylvia Plath
  • W.H. Auden
  • Langston Hughes
  • The poetry of Ezra Pound (1900s)
  • Eight Sonnets, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1900s)
  • The poetry of E. E. Cummings (1900s)
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, T. S. Eliot (1900s)
  • The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot (1900s)
  • A Child’s Christmas in Wales, Dylan Thomas (1900s)
  • The Song of Hiawatha, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Introductory and Intermediate Classic Fiction

  • The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli (1500s)
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan (1600s)
  • Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe (1700s)
  • The Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders, Daniel Defoe (1700s)
  • Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift (1700s)
  • The Swiss Family Robinson, Johann David Wyss (1700s)
  • The Sufferings of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1700s)
  • Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott (1800s)
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • Emma, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • Mansfield Park, Jane Austen (1800s)
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving (1800s)
  • Rip van Winkle, Washington Irving (1800s)
  • Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1800s)
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas (1800s)
  • The Three Musketeers, Alexander Dumas (1800s)
  • The Hound of Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle (1800s)
  • Stories of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle (1800s)
  • The Last of the Mohicans, James Fennimore Cooper (1800s)
  • The House of Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1800s)
  • The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne (1800s)
  • The Professor at the Breakfast Table, Oliver Wendell Holmes (1800s)
  • Great Expectations, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens (1800s)
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (1800s)
  • Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (1800s)
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • A Journey to the Center of the Earth, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • From the Earth to the Moon, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • Around the World in Eighty Days, Jules Verne (1800s)
  • Little Women, Louisa May Alcott (1800s)
  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain (1800s)
  • Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain (1800s)
  • The Awakening, Kate Chopin (1800s)
  • Captains Courageous, Rudyard Kipling (1800s)
  • The Time Machine, H.G. Wells (1800s)
  • The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1800s)
  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (1800s)
  • Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson (1800s)
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (1800s)
  • The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Howard Pyle (1800s)
  • The Gift of the Magi, O. Henry (1800s)
  • Dracula, Bram Stoker (1800s)
  • The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James (1800s)
  • The Golden Bowl, Henry James (1800s)
  • The Way of a Pilgrim, Anonymous (1800s)
  • The Pilgrim Continues His Way, Anonymous (1800s)
  • Les Miserables, Victor Hugo (1800s)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo (1800s)
  • Moby Dick, Herman Melville (1800s)
  • The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde (1800s)
  • Lady Windermere’s Fan, Oscar Wilde (1800s)
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde (1800s)
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux (1900s)
  • The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane (1900s)
  • Twelve Men, Theodore Dreiser (1900s)
  • The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford (1900s)
  • The Ball and the Cross, G. K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Innocence of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Man Who Was Thursday, G. K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Wisdom of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton (1900s)
  • The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann (1900s)
  • Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann (1900s)
  • The Call of the Wild, Jack London (1900s)
  • To Build a Fire, Jack London (1900s)
  • White Fang, Jack London (1900s)
  • Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson (1900s)
  • A Room with a View, E. M. Forster (1900s)
  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton (1900s)
  • The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton (1900s)
  • And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie (1900s)
  • Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie (1900s)
  • The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Agatha Christie (1900s)
  • The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck (1900s)
  • The Lord of the Rings series, J. R. R. Tolkien (1900s)
  • The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (1900s)
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley (1900s)
  • Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley (1900s)
  • Our Town, Thornton Wilder (1900s)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (1900s)
  • The Once and Future King, T.H. White (1900s)
  • Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (1900s)
  • The Lord of the Flies, William Golding (1900s)
  • The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger (1900s)
  • Dune, Frank Herbert (1900s)
  • Twelve Angry Men, Reginald Rose (1900s)
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury (1900s)
  • Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut (1900s)
  • Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut (1900s)
  • The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut (1900s)
  • On the Road, Jack Kerouac (1900s)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote (1900s)
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain, James Baldwin (1900s)
  • A Separate Peace, John Knowles (1900s)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee (1900s)
  • The American Dream, Edward Albee (1900s)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee (1900s)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera (1900s)
  • The Princess Bride, William Goldman (1900s)
  • Rabbit, Run, John Updike (1900s)
  • The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (1900s)
  • Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller (1900s)
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker (1900s)
  • The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton (1900s)
  • Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card (1900s)
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1900s)
  • Walden Two, B.F. Skinner (1900s)
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1900s)
  • The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allen Poe (1900s)
  • The Tell-Tale Heart, Edgar Allen Poe (1900s)
  • Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse (1900s)
  • Siddhartha, Herman Hesse (1900s)
  • My Antonia, Willa Cather (1900s)
  • O Pioneers!, Willa Cather (1900s)
  • A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • Jacob’s Room, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf (1900s)
  • Sons and Lovers, D. H. Lawrence (1900s)
  • Women In Love, D. H. Lawrence (1900s)
  • Lady Chatterly’s Lover, D.H. Lawrence (1900s)
  • Long Day’s Journey Into Night, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • The Iceman Cometh, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • Desire Under the Elms, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • Morning Becomes Electra, Eugene O’Neill (1900s)
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • A Movable Feast, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • Men Without Women, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (1900s)
  • The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand (1900s)
  • Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand (1900s)
  • Anthem, Ayn Rand (1900s)
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison (1900s)
  • Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison (1900s)
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou (1900s)
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tennessee Williams (1900s)
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams (1900s)
  • The Glass Menagerie, Tennessee Williams (1900s)
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus (1900s)
  • Catch-22, Joseph Heller (1900s)

Advanced Classic Fiction

  • The Illiad, Homer (700s BCE)
  • The Odyssey, Homer (700s BCE)
  • The Oedipus Plays, Sophocles (400s BCE)
  • The Aeneid, Virgil (20s BCE)
  • The Metamorphosis, Ovid (10s CE)
  • Beowulf, Anonymous (1000s)
  • The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri (1300s)
  • The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer (1300s)
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Anonymous (1300s)
  • La Morte Darthur, Sir Thomas Malory (1400s)
  • Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes (1500s)
  • The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser (1500s)
  • Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Hamlet, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Othello, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare (1500s)
  • Utopia, Sir Thomas More (1500s)
  • Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • Faust, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • Volpone, Ben Jonson (1600s)
  • The Alchemist, Ben Johnson (1600s)
  • The Bourgeois Gentleman, Moliere (1600s)
  • The Misanthrope, Moliere (1600s)
  • Tartuffe, Moliere (1600s)
  • Paradise Lost, John Milton (1600s)
  • Paradise Regained, John Milton (1600s)
  • The Beggar’s Opera, John Gay (1700s)
  • The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope (1700s)
  • The Dunciad, Alexander Pope (1700s)
  • Candide, Voltaire (1700s)
  • Tom Jones, Henry Fielding (1700s)
  • Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding (1700s)
  • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Lawrence Stern (1700s)
  • Don Juan, Lord Byron (1800s)
  • Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • The Brothers Karamozov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • Notes from the Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1800s)
  • War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy (1800s)
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1800s)
  • The Seagull, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • The Three Sisters, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • The Cherry Orchard, Anton Chekhov (1800s)
  • Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert (1800s)
  • Sentimental Education, Gustave Flaubert (1800s)
  • Sartor Resarus, Thomas Carlyle (1800s)
  • Pere Goriot, Honore de Balzac (1800s)
  • Dead Souls, Nikolai Gogol (1800s)
  • Vanity Fair, William Thackeray (1800s)
  • The Small House at Allington, Anthony Trollope (1800s)
  • Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope (1800s)
  • Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev (1800s)
  • The Mill on the Floss, George Eliot (1800s)
  • Middlemarch, George Eliot (1800s)
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (1800s)
  • Tess of the D’ubervilles, Thomas Hardy (1800s)
  • A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce (1900s)
  • Ulysses, James Joyce (1900s)
  • Finnegans Wake, James Joyce (1900s)
  • Dubliners, James Joyce (1900s)
  • The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (1900s)
  • The Trial, Franz Kafka (1900s)
  • The Castle, Franz Kafka (1900s)
  • As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • The Bald Soprano, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • The Lesson, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • Jack, or the Submission, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • The Chairs, Eugene Ionesco (1900s)
  • No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre (1900s)
  • Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre (1900s)
  • Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett (1900s)
  • Endgame, Samuel Beckett (1900s)
  • The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • Light in August, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • Sanctuary, William Faulkner (1900s)
  • All My Sons, Arthur Miller (1900s)
  • A Doll’s House, Henrik Ibsen (1900s)
  • Hedda Gabler, Henrik Ibsen (1900s)
  • The Wild Duck, Henrik Ibsen (1900s)
  • Miss Julie, August Strindberg (1800s)
  • Androcles and the Lion, George Bernard Shaw (1900s)
  • Pygmalion, George Bernard Shaw (1900s)
  • Swann’s Way, Marcel Proust (1900s)
  • Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham (1900s)
  • Sister Carrie, Theodore Dreiser (1900s)
  • An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser (1900s)
  • Main Street, Sinclair Lewis (1900s)
  • Babbitt, Sinclair Lewis (1900s)

Additional Classic Fiction

  • The Orestia Trilogy, Aeschylus (400s BCE)
  • Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus (400s BCE)
  • Medea, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • The Bacchae, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • The Trojan Women, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • Hippolytus, Euripedes (400s BCE)
  • Lysistrata, Aristophanes (400s BCE)
  • The Frogs, Aristophanes (400s BCE)
  • The Clouds, Aristophanes (400s BCE)
  • Odes, Horace (20s BCE)
  • The Golden Sayings of Epictetus, Epictetus (100s CE)
  • Cur Deus Homo, Anselm (1000s)
  • The Decameron, Giovanni Boccaccio (1300s)
  • Mabinogion, Anonymous (1300s)
  • Orlando Furioso, Ludovico Ariosto (1500s)
  • The Schoolmaster, Roger Ascham (1500s)
  • Tamburlaine the Great, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • The Jew of Malta, Christopher Marlowe (1500s)
  • The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster (1600s)
  • Life is a Dream, Calderon de la Barca (1600s)
  • Pensees, Blaise Pascal (1600s)
  • Absalom and Achitophel: A Poem, John Dryden (1600s)
  • Oroonoko: The Royal Slave, Aphra Behn (1600s)
  • The Bassett Table, Susana Centlivre (1600s)
  • The Way of the World, William Congreve (1700s)
  • Pamela, Samuel Richardson (1700s)
  • Fantomina, Eliza Haywood (1700s)
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Women, Mary Wollstonecraft (1700s)
  • Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth, Susanna Rowson (1700s)
  • The Charterhouse of Parma, Stendhal (1800s)
  • The Red and the Black, Stendhal (1800s)
  • Mr. Midshipman Easy, Captain Frederick Marryat (1800s)
  • The Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce (1800s)
  • Looking Backward, Edward Bellamy (1800s)
  • The Virginian, Owen Wister (1800s)
  • The Pit, Frank Norris (1800s)
  • The Octopus, Frank Norris (1800s)
  • Nana, Zola (1800s)
  • Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana (1800s)
  • What Every Woman Knows, J.M. Barrie (1900s)
  • The Petty Demon, Fyodor Sologub (1900s)
  • The Three-Cornered World, Natsume Soseki (1900s)
  • Kokoro, Natsume Soseki (1900s)
  • I Am a Cat, Natsume Soseki (1900s)
  • The Pastoral Symphony, Andre Gide (1900s)
  • The Seven Who Were Hanged, Leonid Andreyev (1900s)
  • The Life of Man, Leonid Andreyev (1900s)
  • The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (1900s)
  • Tender Buttons, Gertrude Stein (1900s)
  • Giants in the Earth, O.E. Rolvaang (1900s)
  • The Key, Junichiro Tanizaki (1900s)
  • The Horse’s Mouth, Joyce Cary (1900s)
  • The Sea of Grass, Conrad Richter (1900s)
  • Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak (1900s)
  • Snow Country, Yasunari Kawabata (1900s)
  • The Sound of the Mountain, Yasunari Kawabata (1900s)
  • Too Late the Philanthrope, Alan Paton (1900s)
  • God’s Little Acre, Erskine Caldwell (1900s)
  • Across Five Aprils, Irene Hunt (1900s)
  • Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (1900s)
  • The Ox-Bow Incident, Walter van Tillburg Clark (1900s)
  • The Assistant, Bernard Malamud (1900s)
  • The Fixer, Bernard Malamud (1900s)
  • The Caine Mutiny, Herman Wouk (1900s)
  • The Heart is A Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers (1900s)
  • A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess (1900s)
  • The Ballad of Peckham Rye, Muriel Spark (1900s)
  • A Day No Pigs Would Die, Robert Newton Peck (1900s)
  • Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya (1900s)
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard (1900s)
  • All the King’s Men, Robert Penn Warren (1900s)
  • Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler (1900s)
  • Green Mansions, William Henry Hudson (1900s)
  • The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sarah Orne Jewett (1800s)
  • Little Lord Fauntleroy, Frances Hodgson Burnett (1800s)
  • You Know Me Al, Ring Lardner (1900s)
  • The Out of the Silent Planet series, C.S. Lewis (1900s)
  • You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, John Ciardi (1900s)
  • No Longer At Ease, Chinua Achebe (1900s)
  • The Seven Story Mountain, Thomas Merton (1900s)
  • The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (1800s)
  • The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins (1800s)
  • The Egoist, George Meredith (1800s)
  • The Man Without a Country, Edward Everett Hale (1800s)
  • Modern Love, George Meredith (1900s)
  • The Rise of Silas Lapham, W. D. Howells (1800s)
  • The Heart of the Matter, Graham Greene (1900s)
  • The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene (1900s)
  • Pale Horse, Pale Rider, Katherine Anne Porter (1900s)
  • The Light in the Forest, Conrad Richter (1900s)
  • Black Spring, Henry Miller (1900s)
  • Johnny Tremain, Ester Forbes (1900s)
  • The 42nd Parallel, John Dos Passos (1900s)
  • Nineteen, Nineteen, John Dos Passos (1900s)
  • Three Soldiers, John Dos Passos (1900s)
  • Death Be Not Proud, John Gunther (1900s)
  • The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest J. Gaines (1900s)
  • The Vicar of Wakefield, Oliver Goldsmith (1900s)
  • You Can’t Go Home Again, Thomas Wolfe (1900s)
  • Dangling Man, Saul Bellow (1900s)
  • Herzog, Saul Bellow (1900s)
  • Everyman, Anonymous (1900s)
  • The Way of All Flesh, Samuel Butler (1900s)
  • Far From the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy (1900s)
  • The Return of the Native, Thomas Hardy (1900s)
  • The Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad (1900s)
  • The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder (1900s)
  • Giant, Edna Ferber (1900s)
  • Books by Isaac Asimov (1900s)
  • Lost Horizon, James Hilton (1900s)
  • Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein (1900s)
  • The Maltese Falcon, Dashiel Hammett (1900s)
  • The Citadel, A. J. Cronin (1900s)
  • Magic, Inc., Robert Heinlein (1900s)
  • Waldo, Robert Heinlein (1900s)
  • A Death in the Family, James Agee (1900s)
  • Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee (1900s)
  • Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes (1900s)
  • The Tin Drum, Gunter Grass (1900s)
  • The Beautiful and Damned, F. Scott Fitzgerald (1900s)–
  • My Name is Asher Lev, Chaim Potak (1900s)
  • The Chosen, Chaim Potak (1900s)
  • The Promise, Chaim Potak (1900s)
  • I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, Hannah Green (1900s)
  • A Lesson Before Dying, Ernest J. Gaines (1900s)
  • Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene (1900s)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1900s)
  • At the Bay, Katherine Mansfield (1900s)
  • In a German Pension, Katherine Mansfield (1900s)
  • Red Roses for Me, Sean O’Casey (1900s)
  • The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster (1900s)

School in a Book: Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary

I have a basic working Mandarin vocabulary–what I call “traveler’s Chinese.” Though it’s one of my life goals to become fluent or close to it (mostly because it would be so much fun), I also feel that this basic level is extremely valuable in its own right. Once you get past the language basics and talk to some natives who–surprise!–actually understand you, the groundwork has been laid; you become confident. After that, you have fun with it: talk to people you meet, ask them to explain things, practice a bit here and a bit there. A decade or so later, you’re ready to visit the land of your chosen second language and make a lot of progress in a relatively short amount of time.

A note on the list: There are four tones in Mandarin Chinese. Fortunately, they’re not hard to master; just do an Internet search to hear them and practice. One more tip: At first, don’t worry about grammar too much. Get the main verbs, the main short words (“because,” “with,” “and,” “very,” and the time- and distance-related vocabulary) and the whole introductory conversation basics, then move on to your nouns–food, body parts, etc. When you practice, make as many mistakes as you can possibly make, grammar-wise; just get yourself understood. That’s the goal.

Conversational Basics and Common Phrases

Hello: Ni3 hao3
How are you: Ni3 hao3 ma
What is your name: Ni3 de ming2 zi jiao4 shen2 me
My name is: Wo3 de ming2 zi jiao4
First name: Ming2 zi
Family name: Gui4 xing4
How old are you: Ni3 ji1 sui4 le
I am __ years old: Wo3 you3 __ nian2
Good morning: Zao3 an1
Good afternoon:
Good evening: Wan3 an1
Yes: Shi4
No: Bu4 shi4
Please: Qing2
May I: Ke3 yi3
Thank you: Xie4 xie4
Excuse me/I’m sorry: Dui4 bu4 qi2
You’re welcome/I don’t mind: Mei2 guan4 xi1
No problem/I don’t care: Bu4 yao4 jin3
Where are you from: Ni3 lai2 zai4 na3 li3
I am from: Wo3 lai2 zi4
I speak __: Wo3 shuo1 __
Do you speak __: Ni3 shuo1 __ ma?
U.S.A.: Mei3 guo2
American: Mei3 guo2 ren2
English: Ying1 wen2
China: Zhong1 guo2
Chinese (person): Zhong1 guo2 ren2
Chinese (Mandarin language): Pu2 tong2 hua4
Chinese (Cantonese language): Guang3 dong1 hua4
How do you say: Wo3 zem2 me shuo1
What does this mean: Shen2 me yi4 ci2
Say it again: Zai4 shuo1 yi1 ci4
May I ask: Qing2 wen3
Can you please: Ni3 ke3 yi3
Nice to meet you: Hen3 gao1 xin1 jian4 dao4 ni3
Be careful: Xiao4 xin1 (yi1 dian3)
Hurry up: Kuai4 yi1 dian3
Wait a moment: Deng3 yi2 xia4
I am ready: Wo3 zhu3 bei4 hao3 le
Both are fine: Shen2 me dou1 ke3 yi3


To be: Shi4
To go: Qu4
To want: Yao4
To use: Yong4
To need: Xu3 yao4
To know: Zhi1 dao4
To like: Xi3 huan1
To love: Ai4
To live: Zhu4
To be born: Chu1 sheng1
To die: Si2
To sleep/go to bed: Shui4 jiao4
To wake up: Xing3 lai2
To cook: Zuo2 (fan4)
To read: Kan4 (shu1)
To practice: Lian4 xi3
To make/do: Zuo3
To look at: Kan4
To see: Kan4 dao4
To look for: Zhao3
To walk: Zou3 (lu4)
To run: Pao3 (bu4)
To go to work: Shang4 ban4
To finish work: Xia4 ban4
To rest: Xiu2 xi3
To play: Wan2
To sing: Chang4 ge1
To smile: Wei1 xiao4
To laugh: Da4 xiao1
To hug: Bao4
To cry: Ai1 hao4; ku1; bei4 qi4
To dance: Tiao4 wu3
To swim: You2 yong3
To take pictures: Zhao4 xiang4
To go shopping: (Qu4) guang4 jie1; gou4 wu4; mai3 dong1 xi1
To go to the bathroom: Shang4 ce4 suo3
To take a shower: Xi3 zao3
To wash hands/face: Xi3 lian2/shou3
To ride (a bike, etc.): Qi2
To ride (a car–no movement): Zuo4
To visit (someone): Bai4 fang3
To visit (something): Can1 guan1
To leave: Zou3
To wait: Deng3 (dai4)
To stay (there): Liu2 zai4 (zhe1 li3)
To stay home: Dai4 zia4 jia1 li3
To stand up: Zhan4 qi3 lai2
To sit down: Zuo4 xia4
To find: Zhao3 dao4
To pay: Fu4 qian2
To break: Sui4; lan4
To fix: Xiu1
To take: Na2
To listen: Ting1 (shuo1)
To lay down (something): Fang4
To lay down (body): Tang3 xia4
To meet (regularly): Peng4 dao4; peng4 tou2
To meet (past or future): Kan4 jian4
To show/indicate: Zhan3 shi3
To mistakenly think: Yi3 wei2
To try: Shi4 yi1 shi4
To taste/experience: Chang2 hang2; chang2 yi1 chang2
To guess: Cai1 yi1 cai1
To translate: Fan1 yi4
To hate: Hen4
To put on/wear: Chuan1; dai4
To change clothes: Huan2 yi4 fu2

Time Words

When: Shen2 me shi2 hou4
How long: Duo1 jiu2
Early: Zao4
Late: Wan2
Soon: Hen3 kuai4
Not soon: Hen3 man4
Always: Zong3 shi4
Never: Cong2 lai2 (mei2 you3)
Again: Zai4
Often/usually: Jing1 chang2
Sometimes: You3 shi2 hou4
Still more (time): Hai2 (you3)
Daytime: Wan3 shang4
Nighttime: Wan3 shang4
Day: Tian1
Morning: Zao3 shang4
Afternoon: Xia4 wu3
Time: Shi2 jian1
Hour: Xiao3 shi2; zhong1 tou2
Minute: Fen1 zhong1
Second: Miao3 zhong1
This week: Zhe4 zhou1
Next week: Xia4 zhou1
Last week: Shang4 zhou1
Before/earlier: Yi3 qian2; zai4 shi1 qian2
After/later: Yi3 hou4; hou4 lai2; dai1 hui3
At the same time: Tong2 shi2
First: Di1 yi1
Second: Di1 er4
One time: Yi1 ci4
The first time: Di1 yi1 ci4
Midnight: Ban4 ye4
Long (time): Jiu2; chang2 shi2 jian1
A while: Yi2 xia4
Future: Wei4 lai2
Ever: Guo1; ceng2 jing2

Size and Amount Words

How much/how many: Duo1 shao1
More: Bi3 (jiao4) duo1 de;
Less: Bi3 (jiao4) shao3 de
A little: Yi1 dian3
A little more: Duo1 yi1 dian3
Most: Zui4
Some: Yi1 xie3 de
Only: Zhi2 you3
Still more (amount): Hai2 you3
Almost: Cha4 bu4 duo1
Not enough: Bu2 gou4
Not quite: Bu2 tai4
Too (much): Tai4
Size: Da4 xiao3
Short (people): Ai3
Short (stuff): Duan3
Tall (people): Gao1
Long (things): chang2
Wide: Kuan1 kuo4 de
Deep: Shen1 de
Empty: Kong1 dong4
Amount: Deng3 yu2
Enough: Gou3 le
None: Mei2 you3 yi1 ge
Both: Liang3
Both/all: Dou1; quan2 bu2 de
Another one: Zai4 yi1 ge
Equal: Deng3 (yu1)
How many?: Ji3 ge
Another: Bie2 de
One or two: Yi1 liang2 ge
Either one: Bu2 lun4 . . . dou1 (hao1)
Only: Jiu4
Pound: Bang4
Kilo: Gong1 jin1
1/2 kilo: Jin1
Still more: Hai2 you3
Others: Qi2 ta1 de
Every: Mei3 yi1; mei3 ge
Each: Mei3 yi1 ge
The whole (one): Zheng3 ge4
The whole (time): Suo3 you3 (shi2 jian1)
Everything: Yi1 qie4 dou1; shen2 me dou1; suo3 you3 shi4 wu4
Something: Xie1 shi4
Nothing: Mei2 you3 dong1 xi1; mei1 you3 shi4
Everybody: Mei2 ge ren2; ren2 ren2
Anything: Wu2 lun2 shen2 me
Somebody: Yi1 ge ren2
Nobody: Mei2 you3 ren2
Anybody: Ren4 he2 ren2; shen2 me ren2
Everywhere: Mei3 ge di4 fang1; dao4 qu4 dou1
Somewhere: Yi1 ge di4 fang1
Nowhere: Mei2 you3 di4 fang1
Anywhere: Ren4 he2 di4 fang1

Direction and Location Words

A direction: Fang1 xiang4
A location: Fang1 wei4
Here: Zher4
There: Nar4
High: Gao1
Low: Di1
Beside: Zai . . . pang2 bian1/lin2 jin4
Between: Zai4 . . . zhi1 jian1/zhong1 jian1
Ahead: Zai . . . qian2 fang1/qian2 mian4
Over/above/on: Zai4 . . . shang4 mian4; gao1 yu2
In: Zai4 . . . li3 bian1
Under: Zai4 . . . xia4 mina4
The top: Zui4 shang4 mian4; zui4 shang4 bian4
The bottom: Di3 bu1; zui4 di3
Side/limit: Bian1
Behind: Zai . . . hou4 mian4
Both sides: Liang3 bian1
This side: Zhe4 bian1
That side: Na4 bian1
Central: Zhong1 yang1 de
Inner: Li3 bian1 de
Outer: Wai4 bian1 de
Right: You3
Left: Zuo3
Center: Zhong1 jian1
Close/near: Jin4
Far away: (Yao2) yuan2
To travel forwards: Ziang4 qian2 zou3
To travel backwards: Ziang4 hou4 zou3
On the corner: Zai4 jiao3 luo4
One block: Yi1 kuai4 zhuan1
To turn right: Xiang4 you4 zhuan3
To turn left: Xiang4 zuo3 zhuan3
To go straight: Zhi2 zou3
North: Bei1
South: Nan2
East: Dong1 fang1
West: Xi1 fang1
Easterner: Dong1 fang1 ren2
Westerner: Xi1 fang1 ren2

Other Small Words

This: Zhe4 ge
That: Na4 ge
But/nevertheless: Ke3 shi4; dan4 shi4
If: Ru2 guo3; yao4 shi4
Which: Na3 yi1 ge
Although/even though: Sui1 ran2
Therefore: Suo3 yi3
Will: Hui4; jiang1 (yao4)
Should: Ying1 gai1
Because: Yin1 wei4
Anyway/regardless: Qi2 shi2; bu4 guan3
Also: Ye3; you4
Probably: Huo4 xu3; ke3 neng2
In addition: Ling4 wai4; hai2 you3; chu1 ci3 gi4 wai4
Instead of: Er4 bu2 shi2
Not so: Bu4 ran2
To: Qu4 (location); gei1; zi1 (time)
From: Cong2; lai2 zi
Of: Shu3 yu2
For: Wei4
(Word at end of a question): Ma
(Word at end of a completed statement): Le

Numbers and Money Words

1-10: Yi1, er4, san1, si4, wu3, liu4, qi1, ba1 jiu3 shi2
11: Shi2yi1
20: Er4 shi4
Hundred: Bai3
Thousand: Qian1
Ten thousand: Wan4
Million: Bai3 wan4
Billion: Yi4
1/10th yuen2: Yi1 jiao3
1/100th yuen: Yi1 fen1
To barter/exchange: Huan4
Passcode: Mi4 ma3
Number one: Yi1 yao4
1.00: Yi1 dian4 ling2 ling2
Money: Qian2
The cost: Jia4 ge2
Debit card: Jie4 ji4 ka1
Credit card: Xin4 yong4 ka3
Receipt: Shou1 ju4

Family Members

Husband: Zhang4 fu1; lao3 gong1
Wife: Qi1 zi; lao3 po2
Mother: Mu3 qian1; Ma1 ma
Father: Fu4 qian1; ba1 ba
Parents: Fu4 mu3 qian1
Son: Er2 zi
Daughter: Nu3 er2
Older brother: Ge4 ge
Younger brother: Di4 di
Older sister: Jie3 jie
Younger sister: Mei4 mei
Grandparents: Ye3 ye3 nai3 nai4
Grandmother (mom’s mom): Wai4 po2
Grandmother (dad’s mom):  Nai3 nai1
Grandfather (mom’s dad): Wai4 gong1
Grandfather (dad’s dad): Ye3 ye


Best: Zui4 hao3 de
Better: Geng4 hao3 de; bi (jian4) hao3 de
Worse/worst: Geng4 huai4 de; bi3 (jiao4) huai4 de; bi3 (jiao4) cha4 de
The same: Yi2 yang4 de
Different: Bu4 tong2 de
Big: Da4
Small: Xiao3
Clamorous: Da4 shan1
Loud: Chao3 nao4
Quiet/peaceful: An1 jing4 de
Old (people): Lao3
Old (things) jiu4
Young: Nian2 qing1 de
Weak: Ruo4 de; shou4 ruo4
Strong: (Qiang2) zhuang4 de
Heavy: Zhong4 de
Light: Qing1 de
Light/bright: Deng1
Soft: Ruan3 de
Hard: Ying4 de
Wet: Chao2 shi2 de; shi2 de
Dry: Gan1 (zao4) de
Clean: Gan1 jing4 de
Dirty: Zang1 de
True: Zhen1 de
False: Bu4 zhen1 de
Cheap: Pian2 yi4 de
Used: Er4 shou3 de; yong4 guo4 de
New: Xin1 de
Stinky: Chou4
Handsome: Ying1 jun4
Pretty: Piao4 liang4
Beautiful: Mei3 liang3
Broken: Sui4 le; lan4 de; huai4 de
Bright: Ming2 liang2 de; xing3 mu4 de
Dim: Bu4 liang2
Well-organized: Zu3 zhi1 de; zheng3 li2 de
Works well: Zuo2 de hen3 hao3
Doesn’t work: Mei2 zuo4
Happy: Gao1 xin1; kai1 xin1
Sad: Bei1 shang1; shang1 xin1 de
Hopeful/to hope: Xi1 wang4 (de)
Surprised: Chi1 jing1 de
Angry: Sheng1 qi4 de
Jealous: Du4 ji4
Afraid: Hai4 pa4
Excited: Xing4 fen4
Nervous: Jin3 zhang1 (DE??)
Worried: Dan1 xin1; zhao1 ji2
Embarrassed: Diu1 ren2; gan1 ga4
Bored: Wu2 liao3
Famous: Zhu4 ming2; you3 ming2
Popular: Liu2 xing2
Unpopular: Bu4 de ren2 xin1; bu4 luo3 xing2
Shy: Hai4 xiu1
Outgoing: Kai1 fang4
Nice: Hao3 de
Mean: Huai4 de
Friendly: You3 hao3 de
Scholarly: Hao4 xue2 de
Smart: Cong2 ming2 de
Stupid: Ben4 de
Rich: You3 qian2 de
Poor: qiong2
Funny: You3 mo2 de; hua1 ji4 de
Interesting: You3 qu4
Unique: Tu4 bie2 de
Ordinary/common: Pu2 tong1 de; ping2 chang2 de
Rare: Xi1 you3 de
Important: Zhong4 yao4
Complicated: Fu4 za2

Food Words

Food: Fan4; shi2 wu4
Fruit: Shui3 guo3
Vegetables: Shu1 cai4
Apple: Ping2 guo3
Banana: Xiang1 jiao1
Orange: Ju2 zi
Grape: Pu2 tao2
Carrot: Hu2 luo2 bo1
Peas: Wan1 dou4
Cucumber: Huang2 gua1
Spinach: Bo1 cai4
Broccoli: Ye1 cai4
Cabbage: Da4 bai2 cai4
Onion: Yang2 cong1
Corn: Bao1 gu3; yu2 mi3
Cauliflower: Hua1 cai4
Tomato: Xi1 hong2 shi4
Celery: Qin2 cai4
Green pepper: Qing1 jiao1
Red pepper: Tian2 jiao1 hong2 jiao1
Rice: Mi3 fan4; fan4
Noodles: Mian4 tiao2
Bread: Mian4 bao1
Chicken: Ji1 rou4; ji1
Fish: Yu2 rou4; yu2
Tofu: Dou4 fu1
Pork: Zhu1 rou4; zhu1
Egg(s): Ji1 dan4
Meat: Rou4
Beef: Niu3 rou4; niu3
Hamburger: Han4 bao3 bao1
Milk: Niu2 nai3
Alcohol: Jiu3
Beer: Pi2 jiu3
Wine: Jiu3
Potato: Tu3 dou4
Soy sauce: Jiang4 you3
Sauce: Jiang4
Oil: You2
Sugar: Tang3
Dessert: Tian2 shi2; tian2 dian3
Wheat: Mai4
Cookie: Bing3 gan1
Seafood: Hai3 xian1
Steak: Niu3 pai2
Beans: Dou4 li3; dou4
Shrimp: Xia1
Berry: Jiang1 guo3
Lettuce: Sheng1 cai4
Green vegetables: Qing1 cai4
Green beans: Ji1 dou4 ji1
Beverage: Yin3 liao4
Water: Shui3
Ice: Bing1
Sweet: Tian2 de
Salt: Yan2
Salty: Xian2 de
Spicy: La4 de
Sour: Suan1 de
Fresh: Xin1 xian4 de
Menu: Cai4 dan1
Fork: Cha1 zi
Knife: Dao1 zi
Spoon: Shao2 zi
Bowl: Wan3
Chopsticks: Kuai4 zi
Cup: Bei1 zi
Plate: Pan2 zi
Wok/pan: Ping2 guo1; guo1
Caffeine: Ka1 fei1 yin1
Coffee: Ka1 fei1
Decaf coffee: Two1 ka1 fei1 yin1 de ka1 fei1
Bottle: Yi4 ping2
Spices: Xiang1 liao4; tiao2 wei4 pin3
Cheese: Nai3 lao4
Pizza: Pi1 sa4
Snack: Dian3 xin1
Salad: Sha1 la1
Fast food: Kuai4 can1
Butter: Huang3 you2
A dish: Cai4
Soup: Tang2

Personal Effects

Pencil: Qian1 bi3
Pen: Bi3
Paper: Zhi3
Scissors: Bi3 ji4 ben3; ben3 zi
Tape: Zhao1 dai4
Computer: Dian4 zi3 (ji1 suan4 ji1)
Glue: jiao1 shui3
Map: Di4 tu3
Cards: Ka1 pian4
Letter: Xing4
Calendar: Ri4 li4
Stamp: You2 pian4
Envelope: Xin4 feng1
Cell phone:
Sign: Biao1
Light/lamp: Deng1
Clothes: Y2 fu2
Shirt: Chen4 shan1
Pants: Ku4 zi
Sweater: Mao3 yi1
Shoes: Xie4 zi
Skirt: Duan3 qun2; qun2 zi
Hat: Mao4 zi
Coat: Wai4 tao4
Socks: Wa4 zi
Underwear: Nei4 yi1; nei4 ku4; duan3 ku4
Bra: Wen2 xiong1; xiong1 zao4
Pajamas: Shui4 yi1
Shorts: Duan3 ku4
Jeans: Niu3 chang2 ku4
Blanket: Bei1 zi
Hairbrush: Shu1 zi
Comb: Shu1 zi
Handbag: Shou3 ti2 bao1
Purse: Qian2 bao1
Towel: Mao2 jin1
Shampoo: Xi3 fa1 shui3
Conditioner: Zhe1 li3 shui3
Soap: Xiang1 zao4; fei2 zao4
Lotion: Ying1 yang3 shuang1
Toothpaste: Ya2 gao1
Toothbrush: Ya2 shua1
Suitcase: Xiang1 zi; lu3 xing2 xiang3
Toilet paper: Ce4 zhi3
Garbage: La1 ji1
Garbage can: La1 ji1 xiang1
Air conditioner: Kong1 tiao2
Heater: Dian4 nuan3 qi4
Keys: Yao4 shi2
Batteries: Dian4 chi2
Clock: Zhong1
Camera: Zhao4 xiang4 ji1
Wallet: Qian2 bao1
Glasses: Yan3


Color: Yan2 se4
Red: Hong2 se4
Blue: Lan2 se4
Yellow: Huang2 se4
Green: Lu2 se4
Orange: Ju2 se4
Purple: Zi3 se4
Pink: Fen3 hong2 se4
Black: Hei1 se4
White: Bai2 se4
Gray: Hui1 se4
Brown: Zhong se4/ he1 se4
Silver: Yin2 se4
Gold: Jin1 se4

Body Parts

Body: Shen1 ti3
Head: Tou3
Mind: Si1 xiang3
Face: Lian3
Eyes: Yan3 jing1
Ears: Er3 duo1
Mouth: Kou3
Lips: Zui3 ba1
Nose: Bi2 zi
Hands: Shou3
Feet: Jiao3
Fingers: Shou3 zhi3
Toes: Jiao3 zhi3
Legs: Tui3
Arms: Shou3 bi4
Hair: Tou2 fa1
Back: Bei4
Neck: Bo2 zi
Skin: Pi2 fu1
Stomach: Du4 zi
Butt: Pi4 gu3
Poop: Fen4 bian4
Pee: Niao4

Travel Words

Car: Che1
Bus: Gong1 gong4 qi4 che1
Taxi: Chu1 zu1 che1
Motorcycle: Mo2 to2 che1
Plane: Fei1 ji1
Ship: Lun2 chuan2
Airport: Ji1 chang3
Bus station: Gong1 gong4 qui4 che1 zhan4
Train: Huo3 che1
Train station: Huo3 che1 zhan4
Bus stop: Gong1 gong4 qi4 che1 zhan4
Culture: Wen2 hua4
Foreign: Wai4 guo2
Foreigner: Wai4 guo2 ren2
To travel: Lu2 you2
Overseas/abroad: Hai3 wai4
Nation: Guo2 jia1; guo2 min2
Native language: Ben3 zu2 yu3
Trip/journey: Cheng2
Passenger: Cheng2 ke4
Hometown: Jia1 xiang1; ben3 guo2
Fare: Fei4 yong4
Hotel: Fan4 dian4; lu2 guan3


Where: Zai4 na3 li3; nai4 nar3
Place: Di4 fang1
Supermarket: Chao1 shi4
Small market: Cai4 shi4 chang3; shang4 dian4
Park: Gong1 yuan2
Library: Tu2 shu1 guan3
Street: Jie1 dao4
Bank: Yin2 hang2
Hospital: Yi1 yuan4
Building: Jian4 zhu4
Elementary school: Xia3 xue2
Middle school: Zhong1 xue2
High school: Gao1 zhong1
College: Da4 xue
Gym: Jian4 shen1 fang2
City: Cheng2 shi4
Church: Jian4 tang2
Temple: Miao4
Post office: You3 ju2
Bar/nightclub: Jiu3 ba1
Movie theater: Dian4 ying3 yuan4
Theater: Ju4 yuan4
Outdoors: Wai4 mian4
Indoors: Li3 mian4
The zoo: Dong4 wu4 yuan1
Great Wall: Chang2 cheng2
Art museum: Bo4 wu4 guan3
Apartment building: Gong1 yu4

Rooms and Furniture

Room: Fang2 jian1
Bedroom: Fang2 jian1; wo4 shi4
Bathroom/toilet: Ce4 suo3
Kitchen: Chu1 fang2
Living room: Ke4 ting1
Dining room: Fan4 ting1
Bed: Chuang2
Window: Chuang1 (hu4)
Wall: Qiang2 bi4
Chair: Yi3 zi
Desk/table: Zhuo1 zi
Couch: Chang2 sha4 fa1
Pillow: Zhen3 tou2
Closet: Zha3 wu4 fang2
Door: Men2
Home/house: Jia1
Apartment: Fang2 zi

Nature Words

Weather: Tian1 qi4
Hot: Re4
Cold: Leng2
Warm: Nuan3 he de
Cool: Liang2 kuai4
Spring: Chun1 tian1
Summer: Xia4 tian1
Fall: Qiu1 tian1
Winter: Dong1 tian1
Sun: Tai4 yang2
Moon: Yue4 liang4
Stars: Xing1 xing1
Land: Lu4 di4; tu3
Sea/ocean: Hai3 yang2
Wind: Feng1
Rain: Yu3
Snow: Xue3
Clouds: Yun2
Cloudy: Yin1 tian1 de
Storm: Feng1 bao4
Grass: Cao3
Flower: Hua1
Tree: Shu4
Bush: Guan4 mu4 cong2
Nature: Zi4 ran2
River: He2 liu2
Lake: Hu2
Beach: Sha1 tan1
Mountain: Shan1
Fire: Huo3
Sunny: Qing2 lang3
Rainy: Xia4 yu3 de
Temperature: Wen1 du4
Animal: Dong4 wu4


Doctor: Yi1 sheng1
Nurse: Hu4 shi4
Waitress: Nu3 zhao1 dai4; fu2 wu4 guan2
Waiter: Nan2 zhao1 dai4
Salesperson/shopkeeper: Shou4 huo4 yuan2
Driver: Si1 ji1
Manager: Jin1 li3
Supervisor: Zhu2 guan3
School principal: Xiao4 zhang3
Cook: Chu2 shi1
Janitor: Men2 wei4
Writer: Zuo4 jia1
Secretary: Mi4 shu1
Librarian: Tu2 shu1 guan3 li3 yuan2
Scientist: Ke1 xue2 jia1
Soldier: Shi4 bing1
Journalist: Bao1 jie4
Minister: You2 di4 yuan2; mu4 shi1
Singer: Ge1 shou3
Artist: Yi4 shu4 jia1
Dancer: Wu2 dao3 jia1
President: Zong3 tong3
Government official: Gong1 wu4 yuan2
Tutor: Jiao1 jao4
Boss: Lao3 ban3
Interpreter: Fan1 yi4
Cashier: Shou1 ying2 yuan2
Garbage collector: qin1 jie3 gong1
Police officer:
Housekeeper/housewife: Bao3 mu2; (jia1 ting2) zhu2 fu4
Computer programmer:
Business owner:

Activity, Entertainment and Celebration Words

Game: You3 xi4
Sports/exercise: Yun4 dong4
Ball: Dan4; qui2
Basketball: Lan2 qui2
Football: Gan1 an1 qui2
Baseball: Lei qui2
Soccer: Zu2 qui2
Volleyball: Pai2 qui2
Ping-Pong: Ping1 pong1 qui2
Badminton: Yu3 mao1 qui2
Competition: Bi4 sai4
Song: Ge1 qu3
Team: Huan2 dui4
To skate: Bing1 chang3
To see a movie: Kan4 dian4 ying3
Birthday: Sheng1 ri4
Christmas: Sheng4 dan4 jie2
New Year: Xin1 nian2
Spring Festival: Chun1 jie4
Happy birthday: Sheng1 ri4 kuai4 le
Merry Christmas:
Happy New Year: Xin1 nian1 kuai4 le
Congratulations: Zhu4 he4
Celebration: Qing4 zhu4
Holiday: Jia4 qi1
Vacation: Jia4 re4
Present/gift: Li3 wu4
Wedding: Hun1 li3
Funeral: Chu1 bin1

Sickness Words

Death: Si3
Life: Shen1 ming4
Sick: Bing4 le
Sickness: Ji2 bing4
Pills: Yao4 pian4
A cough: Ke2 sou4
A cold: Gan3 mao4
Fever: Fa1 shao1
Flu: Liu2 xing2 gan3 mao4
Stomachache: Du1 zi tong4
Headache: Tou2 tong4
?: Ban2
?: Shen1 bing4
To hurt/ache: Tong4
Tired: Lei4

Miscellaneous Words

Word: Zi4
Character: Xie1 zi4
New word: Sheng1 zi4; dan1 zi4
Sentence: Ju1 zi
Phrase: Ci2 zu3
Pronunciation: Fa1 yin1
Grammar: Yu2 fa3
Language: Yu3 yan2
Story: Gu4 shi4
Number: Hao4 ma3; hao4
Phone number: Dian4 hua4 hao4 ma3
Address: Di4 zhi3
Driver’s license: Jia4 shi2 zi2 zao4
Passport: Hu4 zao4
Age: Nian2 ji4
Literature: Wen2 xue2
Math: Shu4 xue2
History: LI4 shi3
Science: Zi4 yan2; ke1 xue2
Art: Yi4 shu4; mei3 shu4
Music: Yin1 yue4
Politics: Zheng4 zhi4
Government: Zheng4 fu3
Physical education: Ti3 yu4
Sign: Biao1 zhi4
Wood: Mu4 tou2
Plastic: Su4 liao4
Electricity: Dian4
Electric: Dian4 de
Machine: Ji1 qi4
Action/movement: Xing2 dong4
Problem: Wen4 ti3
Plan: Ji4 hua4
Idea/concept: Zhu2 yi4
Level: Shui2 ping1
List: Dan4 zi
Stress: Ya1 li4
Feelings/emotion: Gan3 jue2
Attitude: Tai4 du4
Mood: Qing2 xu4
Personality: Ge4 xing4
God: Shang4 di4
Classmate: Ton2 xue2
Relationship: Guan1 xi4
Friendship: You3 qing3

School in a Book: Chemistry

“So that’s what stuff is.” That’s an important thought. It could be a breakthrough moment in one’s education. Don’t underestimate young children’s ability to grasp many basic chemistry concepts, either; the earlier they start thinking about the big questions, the more interested and less intimidated they’ll be by them later on.

Like most other subjects, science is best learned through conversation. Experiments are great, too, but they’re not always necessary. If like me you have little kids who can’t yet handle close proximity to anything magnetic, explosive or filled with water, choose a few scientific concepts to talk about per day, and send the older kid to a more hands-on science class. (Video demonstrations, like those on YouTube, are great, too.)

That said, if you can manage it, there’s a huge number of great science project ideas out there, and hands-on stuff is definitely a great memory aid.


Chemistry: The science of matter, including what it is and how it’s made

Chemical: Substance. This word is usually used when the chemical’s molecular structure and chemical properties are being discussed. Of course, the word “chemical” is also used to refer to inorganic, human-synthesized combinations of elements; however, this is a colloquial usage.

Matter: Anything that is made of particles, takes up space (has volume), and has mass. Matter is one of only two “things” in the universe. The other is energy.

Mass: A measurement of something’s absolute heaviness that doesn’t change when the forces (such as the gravitational force) change

How to measure mass: One liter of water has a mass of one kilogram. Anything we measure the mass of, we compare to the mass of one kilo of water. If the water were on the moon, and we compare it to a book, the number ( plus or minus the kilo of water) is same as it would be on earth.

Density: The measurement of something’s mass per unit of volume. Dense objects are heavier than other, less dense objects that take up the same amount of space.

Particle: A bit of something that is still the original thing and not something else

The three states of matter: Solid, liquid and gas

Solid: A substances with definite shapes and volumes

Liquid: A substances with definite volumes but varying shapes. This category includes gels and other plasma-like substances.

Gas: A substance with no definite shapes or volumes. Because there is a great deal of space between the molecules in gases, they can be compressed. (However, sometimes, when gases are compressed too much, they turn into a liquid, such as liquid nitrogen.) Note that air is not a gas, but a mixture of gases. The various gases aren’t chemically bonded to each other, and can be separated without breaking any chemical bonds.

Atoms: The building blocks of molecules. Each atom is made up of a nucleus containing protons and neutrons with electrons spinning around it. They also contain other subatomic particles and a great deal of empty space. (The space between subatomic particles in an atom is relatively similar to the space between heavenly bodies in the Universe.) Atom types are determined by their chemical properties, which are determined by the number of protons in the atom. Also, since each element contains only one type of atom, each atom type corresponds with one element type. Note that whereas molecules can be easily split through everyday chemical reactions, atoms require extraordinary amounts of energy to split them. This is called atomic fission, and it is the basis of nuclear power. Also note that a sheet of paper is about one million atoms thick.

Subatomic particles: The incredibly tiny pieces of matter that make up atoms. They include protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, and more. They cannot be separated from each other without using extraordinary amounts of energy.

Nucleus: The center part of an atom

Protons: The positively charged parts of an atom. These are located inside the nucleus. The number of protons in an atom is what determines the atom’s chemical properties and, therefore, its type. An atom’s type corresponds with its element and its placement on the Periodic Table of Elements. For example, the oxygen atom has eight protons. Its atomic number is eight. When only oxygen atoms bond together, they create more of the oxygen substance. This substance is called the oxygen element, because it is the pure form of oxygen. When oxygen combines with other elements, its chemical properties change and it becomes part of a different kind of substance. 

Neutrons: The parts of an atom that contain no charge. These are located inside the nucleus.

Electrons: The negatively charged parts of an atom. These are located outside the nucleus and spin around it.

Quark: The most well-known of the indescribably small particles that make up protons and neutrons. Like other subatomic particles, its existence is theoretical, as it is not directly observable in any way. Its behaviors are described in theoretical physics.

Element: A substance that contains only one kind of atom

Isotope: A different form of the same atom, with different number of neutrons. It has different physical properties but chemically it is the same.

Molecule: Any chemically bonded group of atoms, whether atoms of the same type (which form an element) or atoms of different types (which form a compound). Molecule bonds can only be broken through chemical change. 

Compound: A material that contains two or more elements that are chemically bonded together. The atoms of the elements can’t be separated by physical means and the end product has different properties from the original elements. For example, a baked cake, whose molecular structure has changed through heat.

Mixture: A combination of ingredients that are not chemically bonded and can, therefore, be separated through physical means. For example, cake batter, which is a simple combination of ingredients that have not experienced molecular change.  

Periodic Table of the Elements: A chart listing each known element, organized by these elements’ atomic numbers

Atomic number: The number of protons in an atom, which indicates the atom’s chemical properties and, by extension, its substance type (element). The number of protons in an atom is the same as the number of electrons in an atom. 

Mass number: The total number of protons and neutrons in an atom

Chemical bonding: The joining of atoms to create molecules. Atoms share electrons to form molecules. They do this to fill their outer shell and thus become more stable.

Chemical reaction: When the atoms in substance(s) rearrange to form new substances. Example: Baking a cake. Heat and electricity are often used to break the bonds.

Chemical symbol: The letters that represent the atoms of a particular element

Chemical formula: CO2, H2O, etc.

Ion: An unstable atom or molecule whose net charge is either less than or greater than zero

Enzymes: Catalysts that speed up chemical reactions in living things

Covalent bond: A chemical bond formed when atoms share electrons. Each atom still has its proper total number, but some of its electrons are attracted to the other atoms and stick there. Most non-metal elements are formed with covalent bonds.

Double bond: A chemical bond formed when atoms share two electrons each with each other

Ionic bond: A chemical bond formed when an atom gains or loses electrons

Metallic bond: A chemical bond between metals where free electrons travel between them

Electrolysis: Separating individual elements in a compound by passing an electric current through it when it is molten or in a solution

Salt: Any metal and non-metal bonded together. Salts have a crystal structure. There are many different kinds, not just table salt.

Organic compound: A compound that includes carbon. All living things contain organic compounds, and many can be made artificially. They are used to create fabrics, medicines, plastics, paints, cosmetics and more.

Fermentation: A chemical reaction that produces alcoholic drinks. It is caused by fungi, which produce enzymes.

Metal: An element or an alloy that is shiny in appearance; conducts heat and electricity; and remains solid at room temperature (except mercury). Some, like iron and nickel, are also magnetic. Note that the definition of the term “metal” is not exact, and changes as its application changes. Some non-metal elements become metals at very high temperatures.

Alloy: A mixture of two or more metals

Semiconductor: A semi-metal element

Carbon monoxide: A poisonous gas formed when fuels burn in a place with limited air (oxygen), such as an engine.

Oxygen: The element that helps plants and animals release energy from food. In the human body it is one of the most important things the blood sends the cell. As blood flows over body cells, oxygen and other nutrients are “let in” and waste products are deposited into the blood. It is the third most abundant element in the universe.

Hydrogen: An element that can form compounds with most other elements. Water is formed when hydrogen is burned in air. It is the most abundant element in the universe. (Helium is the second.)

Carbon: The element that occurs in all known organic life. It is the fourth most abundant element in the universe and is found in more compounds than any other element.

Soluble: Able to dissolve in liquid

Insoluble: Unable to dissolve in liquid

Solution: The liquid that results after dissolving something into it

Evaporation: Water vapor that is breaking free from the rest of the liquid

Condensation: The water vapor that collects back into drops on a solid. It comes from the air.

Water vapor: The gas that forms when water evaporates

Corrosion: The damaging chemical reaction that occurs when metal comes into contact with oxygen. The damage happens because oxide forms on the metal.

Acid: A chemical found in various substances that donates protons or hydrogen ions and/or accepts electrons. These chemicals taste sour when found in liquid solutions.

Base: A chemical found in various substances that accept protons from hydrogen ions. This can neutralize acids. Combining acids and bases produces water and salts.

pH: A measure of how acidic or basic a liquid substance is. A pH of 7 is neutral, containing no acid or base chemical. A pH higher than 7 indicates the presence of a base chemical and a pH lower than 7 indicates the presence of an acid chemical.

pH scale: The 14-point scale used to measure whether a liquid solution is basic, acidic or neutral.

Endothermic reaction: A chemical process that absorbs heat

Exothermic reaction: A chemical process that emits heat

Oxidation: A chemical reaction in which oxygen is added, causing a substance to change in some way. An example is the presence of rust in metal exposed to water.

Reduction: A chemical reaction in which oxygen is removed

Oxidation-reduction (redux) reaction: A chemical reaction in which one substance undergoes reduction, causing another to undergo oxidation. This happens because the substance undergoing reduction donates electrons to the other substance.



The scientific method:

School in a Book: Computer Science

Computer science just isn’t a specialty anymore. Most companies create and/or manage several websites and computer programs, meaning that if you want to be successful in business, it’s helpful to understand these common terms.


Computer Hardware

Parts of a computer: A computer is made up of memory, including applications, an operating system (OS) and a kernel stored on microchips and/or the hard drive; a CPU; and an imput/output (I/O) unit connected to a power source.

How a computer works: When the computer is turned on, some of the microchips immediately reads some of their memory, which then attempt to make connections with other chips. Together they run the EFI (extensible firmware interface) which starts the computer, then passes the control over to the boot loader. The boot loader is a program that initializes the hardware, loading the first sector of the hard drive to the memory. After this, it loads the operating system (OS), the kernel, the computer settings and the shell. The shell presents the login screen to the user. After the user logs in, the OS tells the driver to start talking to the hardware. After the user opens a program, the driver detects the clicks and talks to the kernel. The kernel then passes the information to the shell. The shell interprets it, then communicates it to the program. Finally, the program interprets it and the program is launched.

The program loads the needed threads and processes into the RAM. Threads are run and interrupted on a regular basis according to how many time slices they’re allotted. (One time slice = 1/30th of a second.) The system clock tells the OS when to stop each process, which is done after each time slice, no matter what. Each time this happens the OS checks to see if the program’s time is up or if it has more. It adjusts priorities and may switch to a different process. This activity is done in kernel mode, a mode in which the program isn’t allowed to control anything. After this, the OS switches back to user mode and gives control back to the program. Computers running with multiple CPUs must share the kernel between them. Mistakes in this management can lead to crashes.

Software and hardware: Hardware are the physical components of the machine. Software, also called applications or programs, are computer-readable instructions and data that live in the computer’s memory. The core part is the executable file (.exe), which talks to the OS using calls. The program also contains lists of needed DLLs and other code for use by the application.

Hard drive: The physical place in the computer in which memory is located

Central processing unit (CPU): The place in the computer that loads instructions from memory, parses (interprets) them, then executes them. It performs all of the logic of the computer and is compared to the brain of a human.

Operating system (OS): The software that runs all the basic operations of the computer so every program doesn’t have to recreate the wheel. It provides a secure, reliable environment and grants applications access to inputs, outputs, memory, system software like drivers, and networking features. Importantly, it also schedules processes (start, interrupt and stop commands when more than one application competes for time on the CPU). The most common OSs are Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s OSX (and the more popular IOS, which is used for mobile devices), and various OSs by Linux (an open-source software creator group), including Android.

Parts of the OS: System clock; a file system; a user interfaced called the API that includes a set of calls or methods app programmers use to interact with the OS; algorithms, stored process for services.

The shell: The OS’s user interface (the part of the OS that the user sees and interacts with)

Memory: Applications, programs and other data and instructions located on the hard drive disc and/or microchips. There are three types of memory: internal, external and virtual. Internal memory is ROM (long-term stored read-only memory, usually unalterable, containing system-level instructions), RAM (fast copied temporary memory located on the hard drive disc or in microchips which is lost when the computer is shut down), and cached (super-fast copied temporary memory located on the CPU, also lost when the computer is shut down). Virtual memory is also located in the internal memory but is made up of addresses that point elsewhere in the memory for the purposes of convenience and security. External memory is located on external hard drives, USB keys, etc. Memory is stored in strings. It can be written to (changed), or read (retrieved, fetched, loaded).

Pointer: An object that contains the address of each piece of memory

The leap section: The place in memory that stores dynamically allocated variables needed by a program

The stack section: The place in memory that store info in stacks, with the lowest addresses (oldest) on bottom, like cafeteria trays

Buffer: A place in memory that receives and holds data until it can be handled by requested processes. Each process can have its own set of buffers. Each buffer has a predetermined length and data type

The kernel: The part of a Windows computer that loads drivers, handles hardware, enforces security, enables network communication–anything the application needs permission to do, even just opening MS Office. (Accessing memory is not included in this.)

Service: A background process run by the OS. (Example: system clock, firewall, window update checks.)

Kernel mode: The mode an application goes into when it is accessing the computer’s kernel. A program can only go into kernel mode when allowed and only run the kernel code, not its own code at all.

User mode: App mode in which the OS can be accessed through an app can switch back and forth from kernel to user frequently.

Native system services/executive system services: OS services that are callable from user mode.

Kernel support functional routines: Subroutines inside the OS that are callable only from kernel mode.

Four events that transfer control from an application back to the OS: I/O interrupt, system clock interrupt, system call, process page faults, a deadlock

Computer architecture: The way the parts of a computer interact with each other, including which parts of the memory are able to communicate with which other parts and in which order. There are many different working computer architectures.

Virtualization: Hosting one or more remote OSs

Virtual machine: A remotely located package of software that presents itself to the local machine as a complete separate machine. Virtual machines are highly convenient for purposes of testing code, working on a networked machine with network privileges, and on other occasions when a second or different computer/operating system package is needed.

Database: An organized collection of data, usually stored electronically. If available on the Internet, it can be accessed through servers.

Windows API: Application Programming Interface. The set of functions (almost like a language) programmers use to talk to the OS. Thousands of callable functions exist relating to everything the OS is responsible for. (Examples: Create message, get message.)

DLL: Dynamic Link Library. A program’s library of functions that are callable by programs.

Cookie: A small text file with various fields that is stored in the web browser and/or on the client’s computers. Normally, it is used to manage a session (keeping a user logged in across multiple pages, etc.).

Session: All of the applications running on a single user ID between login and logout

Computer Programming

Program/application: A set of instructions to be executed on a computer, usually with a particular use. To program software is to create the program’s source code using a programming language of choice.

Programming language: A set of standardized rules for coding that results in functional source code. There are many programming languages, including C# and C++. A script is a language that is Internet-appropriate, like JavaScript.

Binary code/machine language/machine code: A language made up entirely of 0s and 1s, which are the only units a computer can directly work with (execute on its CPU). These true/false or 1/0 binary choices are also called boolean expressions. All other programming languages are made into source code, then finally parsed (interpreted by the computer) as binary code by a compiler. (A decompiler turns machine readable code/binary back into source code.)

Data: Information, often represented by symbols and measured in bits (binary digits–0s and 1s) and bytes (units of bits–historically eight bits). A kilobyte (KB) is 1,024 bytes. A megabyte (MB) is 1,024 kilobytes. A gigabyte (GB) is 1,024 megabytes. A terabyte (TB) is 1,024 gigabytes. A kilobit (kb) is 1,024 bits. A megabit (Mb) is 1,024 kilobits. A gigabit (Gb) is 1,024 megabits. A terabit (Tb) is 1,024 gigabits.

Command: A computer instruction. Many commands put together make up an algorithm, a complex logic-based instruction set that play a specific role in the application. Commands and data together make up computer code, the set of instructions forming a computer program that is read and carried out by a computer, which is used in turn to make up computer programs.

Procedure/function/subroutine: An independent code module that fulfills some concrete task and can be reused by the program. Procedures perform operations without returning data and functions do return data. A procedure might be part of an object in object-oriented programming.

Process, thread, job and multi-processing/multi-threading: A single iteration of a procedure is a process. It contains everything needed for that instance. In turn, processes are made up of threads. A group of processes that are performed as a unit for a single goal is a job. Multi-processing/multi-threading is running more than one process simultaneously in the same program using a single CPU, which schedules these processes to occur successively but seamlessly.

Objects and object-oriented programming: Object-oriented programming is a popular way of designing software by making them out of objects (files, data units, independent procedures or a procedure/data object that perform a particular function) that interact with one another

Hacking: Sometimes, cleverly solving a programming problem and sometimes, using a computer to gain unauthorized access to data

Bug: Any kind of error in a software program. It may cause a program to unexpectedly quit, to be vulnerable to attack, or to work improperly. The process of removing bugs is called debugging. Reviewing programs to find bugs and other problems is called testing.

Crash dump: A record of a program’s slate system memory at the time of a crash. A crash dump can be analyzed to figure out why it occurred.

Deadlock: A conflict of needs and allocations that stops all computing

Computer Networks

Network: A group of computers that talk to each other and share resources through one or more shared computers called servers. A virtual private network (VPN) is network that allows users to connect to remotely.

Local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN): The two types of computer networks. LANs are smaller than WANs and include WiFi and ethernet. WANs are larger and include the Internet.

Server: A computer that provides information to other computers or allows other computers to connect to each other, usually remotely over the Internet or in a smaller computer network. The main server in a group is called the domain controller. The manager of a domain (or any group of users) is called an administrator. Servers talk to individual computers called clients. Some computers have both a server side and a client side. A network that is managed with administrators, passwords and the like is called a domain. A proxy server is a backup server used on corporate networks to protect against web attacks.

Internet: The global collection of computer networks and their connections, all using shared protocols to communicate

Internet 2: A second, higher-speed Internet that is used to send very large files, such as research data between universities

Protocol: Rules to standardize processes in networks. They are used on both the sending and the receiving ends of the communication.

HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol): The set of rules for transferring files (text, graphic images, sound, video, and other multimedia files) on the Internet. HTTPS is HTTP, but with encryption.

Uniform Resource Locator (URL): An Internet address that is used by the browser to look up the IP address of the server and the server’s name so that it can talk to that server and retrieve the page’s HTML

Packet: Small chunk of information that has been carefully formed from larger chunks of information in order to more efficiently communicate over a network. If not encrypted, packets are vulnerable to capture. Packets might be distributed over multiple routers according to which is currently available.

Router: A machine that captures and sends on data packets. Many routers are involved in most Internet communications.

Switch: A smart hub/router that connects network segments, thereby routing packets more efficiently

Modem: A router used on a small scale, as between private homes or small networks

Bandwidth: The maximum rate of data transfer across a given path


Cyber security: Practices, including web development and application development practices, that mitigate Internet exploits

Computer vulnerability: A mistake or oversight in computer code that exposes the program to attack. A client-side vulnerability exists in the client (end user) computer and a server-side vulnerability exists on the server.

Computer exploit: An attack on a local computer or many local computers that either damages it or allows the attacker to make use of it in any way without permission

Firewall: A network device used to filter traffic. Usually between a private network and a link to the internet. Prevents unauthorized incoming traffic, but ineffective when user initiates communication.

Three most common types of computer exploits: Exploitation of browser vulnerabilities, exploitation of email application vulnerabilities, and social engineering (gaining compromising information by exploiting human vulnerabilities)

Cryptography: The process of encrypting (scrambling) plain text messages, that are then sent and unencrypted/decrypted on the receiving end with the use of a text key.

Piracy: The illegal copying, distribution, or use of software

Direct memory access: Writing directly to RAM without going through the hard drive, as when a network file system is doing a transfer, over the internet.

Active directory: A directory service that contains a database that stores security info about objects in a domain, inc users, computers, security IDs, etc.

School in a Book: Social, Emotional and Life Management Skills

You probably already have most of the skills on this list, at least to some degree. Treat this checklist, then, as a gentle reminder not to pass by the couple of things you haven’t quite nailed yet.

Note that this list does not include skills mentioned in other sections of this book or those generally possessed by people under the age of six, such as memorizing one’s address and phone number. My attempts at comprehensiveness, though well-meaning, are usually futile.

Life Management Skills

  • Managing time and tasks, including: creating short-term and long-term to-do lists; time-on-task estimating; padding time-on-task estimations; and breaking large projects into small steps
  • Keeping ongoing to-do lists and short-term goals lists, with steps to achieve those goals
  • Listing and working towards long-term life goals, dreams and plans
  • Managing money, including: budgeting, calculating interest, avoiding debt, calculating the highest affordable mortgage payment, saving for retirement, investing in the stock market, filing taxes and organizing financial records
  • Cleaning the home, including: washing laundry; washing dishes; dusting; cleaning the bathroom and more
  • Performing simple household maintenance tasks, including: changing lightbulbs; testing and changing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors; cleaning the roof and gutters; mowing the lawn; maintaining a yard; fixing leaky faucets and unclogging the toilet
  • Cooking and baking, including: two soups or stews; two stir-fry sauces; muffins; cakes; roasted chicken; and grilled steak
  • Organizing one’s living space
  • Learning basic self-defense techniques
  • Maintaining a car, including changing the oil, checking tire pressure, checking fluid levels and scheduling regular tire changes and other maintenance
  • Applying basic first aid skills, including CPR
  • Caring for children
  • Using public transportation
  • Sewing
  • Writing formal letters and emails
  • Typing
  • Memorizing emergency procedures in various settings, including knowledge of using a fire extinguisher
  • Maintaining good hygiene, nutrition and exercise habits
  • Preventing disease, including STDs
  • Using responsible and healthy sexual practices
  • Visiting doctors and dentists regularly
  • Purchasing a house
  • Holding family meetings
  • Maintaining safe and secure Internet practices, including an understanding of online source verification
  • Choosing and purchasing insurance for home, health and car
  • Gardening
  • Recycling, reusing and caring for the environment
  • Using the Microsoft Office suite and other important computer programs
  • Interviewing for jobs and job shadowing
  • Knowing federal and local laws
  • Driving a car
  • Avoiding addiction and understanding the effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Registering to vote and choosing who and what to vote for
  • Doing community service work
  • Planning and budgeting for trips
  • Planning and hosting parties
  • Traveling locally and globally, if possible
  • Using basic tools, including: hammers, screwdrivers, power drills, hand-held sanders, knives, pliers, wedges and wrenches
  • Doing home improvement projects: painting, building simple furniture items, installing hardware and more
  • Building a fire
  • Using a directional compass
  • Making a sun dial
  • Making a water filter with sand, rocks, clay and charcoal
  • Listening to educational podcasts and audiobooks
  • Memorizing important poems and passages
  • Writing longhand letters to friends
  • Making a family tree
  • Starting a small business
  • Holding a garage sale

Interpersonal Skills

  • Making friends
  • Cultivating healthy relationships
  • Communicating effectively, including: listening actively; restating the other person’s message; and calmly resolving conflict
  • Avoiding and de-escalating conflict
  • Using good eye contact
  • Using good manners
  • Shaking hands firmly
  • Projecting vocally when appropriate
  • Saying “no” without further explanation
  • Enforcing healthy boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others
  • Asking questions
  • Talking to strangers
  • Making casual conversation/small talk
  • Crafting a convincing and logical argument
  • Speaking in public
  • Telling a joke
  • Forgiving and apologizing first
  • Accepting and learning from other cultures, family types and gender identities
  • Responding to anger or unkindness without defensiveness, but instead with simple statements of fact (such as “I don’t agree” or “That’s interesting,”) questions (such as “Why did you do that?”) or kindnesses (such as, “Are you okay?”)
  • Using simple consequences instead of physical force or emotional abuse (for example, “If you do that, I am not going to play with you right now,” or, “If you are rough with my toys, I will take them away”)

Self-Care Skills

  • Spending time alone
  • Engaging in long-term projects and hobbies
  • Labeling emotions
  • Separating fact from emotion
  • Using self-calming strategies like deep breathing
  • Doing self-guided cognitive therapy/reframing (writing down upsetting irrational thoughts and replacing them with rational ones)
  • Journaling about difficult memories and moments, then rewriting the story in a way that is healthy, helpful and self-compassionate
  • Maintaining healthy exercise and nutrition habits
  • Maintaining spiritual/grounding practices such as meditation (observing one’s own mind with nonjudgmental acceptance) and mindfulness (observing the present moment with nonjudgmental acceptance)

Personal Qualities to Develop

  • Love
  • Generosity
  • Healthy attachment
  • Respect for differences
  • Confidence
  • Dignity
  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Morality
  • Loyalty/commitment
  • Hope, optimism and positivity
  • Personal responsibility
  • Willingness to work hard
  • Acceptance of hardship
  • Toughness and survivalism
  • Independence
  • Creativity/imagination
  • A sense of personal identity/uniqueness
  • Purpose
  • Cultivation of one’s best self

School in a Book: Geography

There are many ways to reliably embarrass yourself in life. One of them is to reveal your lack of knowledge of the whereabouts of continents, oceans, nations and cities. Of course, one of the easiest ways to commit locations to memory is to visit them, even briefly, so you can associate unique sights and other sensory experiences (even emotion) to a point on a map.


Latitude lines/parallels: Imaginary lines running horizontally around the globe. They are measured in degrees, with the equator at 0° latitude, the north pole at 90° north and the south pole at 90° south.

Longitude lines/meridians: Imaginary lines running vertically around the globe. These meet at both poles. They are measured in degrees, with the prime meridian at 0° longitude (at Earth’s axis), and the farthest extensions at 180° east and 180° west.

Geographic coordinates: The two-number combination that gives a location’s latitude and longitude

Hemisphere: A hemisphere is half the Earth’s surface. The four hemispheres are the Northern and Southern hemispheres, divided by the equator (0° latitude), and the Eastern and Western hemispheres, divided by the prime meridian (0° longitude) and the International Date Line (180°).

Equator: The imaginary line around the center of the earth that we measure as zero degrees latitude. The Sun is directly overhead the equator at noon on the two equinoxes (March and Sept. 20 or 21). The equator divides the globe into the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The equator appears halfway between the North and South poles, at the widest circumference of the globe. It is 24,901.55 miles (40,075.16 km) long.

Prime Meridian: The imaginary line down the center of the earth that we measure as zero degrees longitude (0°). It runs through the Royal Greenwich Observatory in Greenwich, England and divides the globe into the Western and Eastern hemispheres. The Earth’s time zones are measured from it.

International Date Line: The imaginary line located at approximately 180° longitude that, by convention, marks the end of one calendar day and the beginning of the next. It bends around countries to avoid date- and time-related confusion.

Tropic of Cancer: The imaginary line located at 23°30′ north of the equator. The Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Cancer on the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere (June 20 or 21). It marks the northernmost point of the tropics, which falls between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

Tropic of Capricorn: The imaginary line located at 23°30′ south. The Sun is directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn on the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere (Dec. 20 or 21). It marks the southernmost point of the tropics.

Arctic Circle: A line of latitude located at 66°30′ north, delineating the Northern Frigid Zone of the Earth.

Antarctic Circle: A line of latitude located at 66°30′ south, delineating the Southern Frigid Zone of the Earth.

Map projections: Distorted representations of the relative locations on Earth that allow for two-dimensional map making.

Mercator projection: The most famous map projection, which shows the far northern and southern areas of Earth as much larger than they are

Pangea: The most recent single, unified “supercontinent” to have preceded the current continental forms on Earth

Types of water bodies:

The six landforms of Earth: Mountains, hills, valleys, plateaus, plains, deserts

The seven continents (in order of size): Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australasia/Oceania. Note that some people consider Asia and Europe as one continent that they refer to as Eurasia. Also note that the Middle East is considered part of Asia and is sometimes referred to as Asia Minor.

The seven oceans: North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Southern Sea, Arctic Ocean

Important seas: The Mediterranean Sea; the Caspian Sea; the Gulf of Mexico

Important rivers: The Nile River (in Egypt); the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (in the Middle East); the Bosphorus and Dardanelles; the Yellow River and the Yangtzse River (in China); the Mississippi River (in the U.S.)

Important lakes: The Great Lakes [more]

Important mountains: Mt. Everest (the highest mountain) [more]Important mountain ranges: The Alps; the Andes; the Rockies; the Alpines; [more]

Important deserts: The Sahara Desert (in Africa); the Gobi Desert (in Mongolia and China); the Mojave Desert (in the U.S.); the Antarctic Desert (in Antarctica); the Arctic Desert (in the Arctic); and the Arabian Desert (in the Middle East)

The five climate zones of Earth: Arctic and antarctic (in the far north and south); north temperate and south temperate; and tropical (the middle of Earth on both sides of the equator)

Important world landmarks:

The four U.S. time zones: PST (Pacific Standard Time); MT (Mountain Time: PST plus one hour); CST (Central Standard Time: PST plus two hours); EST (Eastern Standard Time: PST plus three hours)

The five regions of the U.S.: The West Coast/West, the Southwest, the Midwest, the Southeast and the East Coast/Northeast

The approximate current number of countries in the world: 195

The approximate current population of the world: Eight billion

The three most populous nations: China, India and the United States

The five biggest cities on Earth: Tokyo, Japan; New York, NY; Seoul, South Korea; Mexico City, Mexico; and São Paulo, Brazil. (All have over 20 million people.)

Largest country by area: Russian Federation

Smallest country by area and population: Vatican City

Country with the highest life expectancy: Japan

Country with the highest gross national product (GNP): The United States

How to read a map:

How to calculate time zone differences:

School in a Book: Art and Craft Skills

Like freedom and fun, creativity is an inborn need. If you haven’t discovered this need in yourself, it’s possible you haven’t yet found your medium. It’s also possible that this checklist of art and craft skills will pique your interest.

Fine Art Skills

  • Drawing: chalk, charcoal, crayon, marker, oil pastels, pen, pencil
  • Painting (with acrylic paint, oil paint, watercolor on canvas, glass, fabric, human body, plaster, wood, walls with brushes, sponges, hands, stencils and more; this includes murals)
  • Sculpture: wood, wax, stone, metal, clay and mixed media
  • Performance art: Dance, theater, music
  • Collage, fresco and mosaic
  • Conceptual and installation art
  • Multimedia art, including recycled material art

Applied Art Skills

  • Architecture
  • Carpentry/woodworking
  • Building (go-karts, playground structures, garden trellises, etc.)
  • Ceramics/pottery
  • Film making
  • Culinary art
  • Glass blowing
  • Lighting design
  • Landscape architecture
  • Graphic narratives/Comics/Cartooning
  • Photography
  • Printmaking
  • Fashion design
  • Model making
  • Collecting
  • Scrapbooking
  • Textile arts: Crocheting, sewing, knitting, macrame, weaving and more
  • Graphic design/electronic art (creating brochures, magazines, etc.)
  • Website creation
  • Digital printing
  • Video game creation

Easy Crafts for Children

  • Clay/Play-Doh modeling
  • Braiding and weaving
  • Making wrapping paper
  • Beading
  • Making bean-filled heat packs to heat in the microwave
  • Making greeting cards
  • Making bound books
  • Making Christmas ornaments
  • Weaving paper baskets
  • Making masks
  • Making paper chains
  • Making edible necklaces and Christmas strings with popcorn or apples
  • Making mobiles
  • Making hand and finger puppets
  • Making miniature villages or people from various materials
  • Plastic bag painting (putting paint and small objects in a plastic baggie and shaking)
  • Coloring
  • Stamping
  • Making leaf and hand prints and rubbings
  • Gluing and taping with recycled materials
  • Hole punching and tying string
  • Making egg carton treasure boxes
  • Making stick and popsicle stick art, such as a flower pots or a birdhouse

School in a Book: Classic Songs and Musical Artists

You know how out of the blue one day you hear a song you used to love and you think, I can’t forget this again. I have to write it down. You start to wonder how many other great songs you’ve let slip from memory. Then you have kids, and you start actively seeking them out so you can pass them on. This list is a good jumping-off point for that process.

It’s highly unlikely that all your favorite songs are listed here. But there are a lot of great ones, and many that you’ll hear here and there throughout your life. Listen to them at the YouTube links provided, absorbing the style of each artist and thinking critically about what you like, what you don’t like, and why. No need to memorize song titles, but a working recall of most of these artists will help you immensely in your many enjoyable music-related conversations to come.

This list is a work in progress; check back for updates.

Important Classical and Modern Instrumental Composers

  • Johann Sebastian Bach (Toccata and Fugue, the Brandenburg Concertos)
  • George Frideric Handel (the Messiah, the Hallelujah Chorus)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven (Moonlight Sonata, Fur Elise)
  • Johannes Brahms (Hungarian Dance No. 5)
  • Frederic Chopin (Spring Waltz)
  • Antonin Dvorak (New World Symphony)
  • Edvard Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite)
  • Mendelssohn (Hebrides Overture)
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (the Magic Flute, the Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni)
  • Robert Schumann
  • Franz Shubert (Serenade, Symphony 8)
  • Johann Strauss (On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz)
  • Igor Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring)
  • Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Swan Lake, the Nutcracker, the 1812 Overture)
  • Giuseppe Verdi (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves)
  • Vivaldi (The Four Seasons)
  • Richard Wagner (The Ride of the Valkyries)
  • Sergei Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf)
  • Philip Glass (Glassworks)
  • Hans Zimmer (Interstellar, Time)
  • John Williams (Star Wars theme)
  • Thomas Newman (American Beauty soundtrack)

Important Operas

  • The Magic Flute, Mozart
  • Don Giovanni
  • The Marriage of Figaro
  • La Boheme
  • Carmen
  • Madame Butterfly
  • Falstaff
  • The Barber of Seville

Important Musicals

  • Annie (Tomorrow, Maybe)
  • The Wizard of Oz (Somewhere Over the Rainbow)
  • Pinocchio (When You Wish Upon a Star)
  • Footloose (Footloose)
  • Grease (You’re the One That I Want, Summer Days)
  • My Fair Lady (I Could Have Danced All Night)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (Sunrise, Sunset; Tradition)
  • Singin’ in the Rain (Singin’ in the Rain, Make ‘Em Laugh)
  • Oklahoma! (Oklahoma!, Oh What a Beautiful Morning)
  • West Side Story (I Feel Pretty)
  • Little Shop of Horrors (Da-Doo, Skid Row)
  • Beauty and the Beast (Beauty and the Beast, This Provincial Life, Be My Guest)
  • The Little Mermaid (Kiss the Girl)
  • The Sound of Music (Spoonful of Sugar, Edelweiss, Sixteen Going on Seventeen, My Favorite Things, Do-Re-Mi, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious)
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s (Moon River)
  • South Pacific (I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair, Bali Ha’i)
  • White Christmas (White Christmas, Sisters)
  • Annie Get Your Gun (Anything You Can Do)
  • Guys and Dolls (Sit Down, You’re Rocking’ the Boat)
  • Cats!
  • Other Disney musicals

Important Folk Songs, Spirituals and Christmas Carols

  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • America, the Beautiful
  • God Bless America
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • You’re a Grand Old Flag
  • The Air Force Song
  • The Marine’s Hymn
  • When the Saints Go Marching In
  • Amazing Grace
  • How Great Thou Art
  • I’ll Fly Away
  • Kumbaya
  • He’s Got the Whole World
  • Swing Low Sweet Chariot
  • What a Friend We Have in Jesus
  • This Little Light of Mine
  • Happy Birthday to You
  • Oh, Susanna
  • Coconut
  • Banana Boat Song (Day-O)
  • Home on the Range
  • You Are My Sunshine
  • My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  • Ain’t We Got Fun?
  • Someone’s In the Kitchen With Dinah
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad
  • You’ll Sing a Song
  • Down By the Riverside
  • Lavender’s Blue
  • Where, Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
  • How Much Is That Doggy In the Window
  • Alouette
  • There’s a Hole in the Bucket
  • O Holy Night
  • Jingle Bells
  • Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • The First Noel
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas
  • Oh Come All Ye Faithful
  • Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • We Three Kings
  • Away in a Manger
  • Silent Night
  • What Child Is This?
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Joy to the World
  • Angels We Have Heard on High
  • I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • Jingle Bells
  • Frosty, the Snowman
  • Let It Snow
  • Holly, Jolly Christmas
  • The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting)
  • I’ll Be Home for Christmas
  • I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
  • Deck the Halls
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Important Children’s Songs and Artists

  • The Alphabet Song
  • Rock-a-Bye Baby
  • Ba Ba Black Sheep
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Star Light, Star Bright
  • Hush, Little Baby
  • Skidamarink
  • Knees Up Mother Brown
  • Down by the Bay
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Frere Jacques
  • Lollipop, Lollipop
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • Skip to My Lou
  • The More We Get Together
  • This Old Man
  • The Ants Go Marching One By One
  • Are You Sleeping, Brother John?
  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Five Little Monkeys
  • Ring Around the Roses
  • Old McDonald
  • Three Blind Mice
  • Nick Nack Paddywack
  • Pop Goes the Weasel
  • Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush
  • Hey Diddle Diddle
  • Jack and Jill
  • London Bridge Is Falling Down
  • She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
  • This Little Piggy
  • Little Bo Peep
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence
  • A Tisket a Tasket
  • Little Boy Blue
  • Old King Cole
  • Little Miss Muffet
  • The Muffin Man
  • Over the River and Through the Woods
  • The Farmer In the Dell
  • Baby Bumble Bee
  • Do Your Ears Hang Low?
  • John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt
  • Ring Around the Rosey
  • Pat-a-Cake
  • This Little Piggy Went to Market
  • Where is Thumbkin?
  • Here is the Beehive
  • Peter Piper
  • Hush, Little Baby
  • Pop Goes the Weasel
  • Are You Sleeping, Brother John?
  • Five Little Ducks
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • I’m a Little Teapot
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It
  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • Old MacDonald

Important Popular Artists

1920s, 30s and 40s

  • Billie Holiday (Blue Moon; God Bless the Child)
  • Doris Day (Dream a Little Dream of Me; Que Sera Sera; Perhaps, Perhaps)
  • Frank Sinatra (My Way; Fly Me to the Moon; New York, New York; That’s Life; I’ve Got the World on a String)
  • Bing Crosby (Christmas album; Swingin’ on a Star; Let Me Call You Sweetheart)
  • Sammy Davis Jr. (I’ve Gotta Be Me; Candy Man)

1950s and 60s

  • Elvis Presley (Can’t Help Falling in Love; Love Me Tender; Blue Suede Shoes; Hound Dog; Jailhouse Rock; Don’t Be Cruel; All Shook Up)
  • Otis Redding (I’ve Been Loving You too Long [to Stop Now]; [Sittin’ on] the Dock of the Bay; Try a Little Tenderness; I’ve Got Dreams to Remember)
  • Bill Withers (Just the Two of Us; Lean on Me; Ain’t No Sunshine)
  • Ella Fitzgerald (Cheek to Cheek; Dream a Little Dream of Me; It Don’t Mean a Thing [If It Ain’t Got That Swing])
  • Nina Simone (I Ain’t Got No/I Got Life; Sinnerman; I Put a Spell on You)
  • Etta James (At Last; Something’s Got a Hold on Me)
  • B.B. King (The Thrill Is Gone; Every Day I Have the Blues)
  • Louis Armstrong (What a Wonderful World; Cheek to Cheek; Unforgettable)
  • Miles Davis (Blue in Green; So What)
  • John Coltrane (A Love Supreme, Parts 1-4; Naima)
  • Duke Ellington (It Don’t Mean a Thing [If It Ain’t Got That Swing])
  • Muddy Waters (Mannish Boy)
  • Sam Cooke (A Change Is Gonna Come; What A Wonderful World/Don’t Know Much About History)
  • John Lee Hooker (Boom Boom)
  • Chuck Berry (Johnny B. Goode; No Particular Place to Go; Maybelline; Roll Over Beethoven; Sweet Little Sixteen; You Never Can Tell)
  • Bobby Darin (Dream Lover)
  • Buddy Holly (Everyday; That’ll Be the Day; Peggy Sue)
  • Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers (Why Do Fools Fall in Love)
  • Frankie Valli (Big Girls Don’t Cry; Walk Like a Man; Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)
  • Jackie Wilson (Lonely Teardrops; [Your Love Keeps Lifting Me] Higher and Higher)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis (Great Balls of Fire; Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On)
  • Patsy Cline (I Fall to Pieces; Walkin’ After Midnight; Crazy)
  • The Drifters (Under the Boardwalk; Save the Last Dance for Me)
  • The Everly Brothers (All I Have to Do Is Dream; Bye Bye Love; Wake Up Little Susie)
  • Four Tops (Reach Out [I’ll Be There]; I Can’t Help Myself [Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch]; Baby I Need Your Loving; Walk Away Renee)
  • The Isley Brothers (Shout, Parts 1 and 2; This Old Heart of Mine [Is Weak for You])
  • The Righteous Brothers (Unchained Melody; You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’)
  • The Ronettes (Be My Baby)
  • Fats Domino (Blueberry Hill)
  • The Shirelles (Mama Said; Will You Love Me Tomorrow)
  • The Spencer Davis Group (Gimme Some Lovin’)
  • The Staple Singers (I’ll Take You There; Respect Yourself; Let’s Do It Again)
  • The Supremes/Diana Ross (Baby Love; Where Did Our Love Go; Stop! In the Name of Love; You Keep Me Hanging On; You Can’t Hurry Love; I Hear a Symphony)
  • The Temptations (My Girl)
  • Roy Orbison (Only the Lonely; Oh, Pretty Woman)
  • Little Richard (Good Golly, Miss Molly; Tutti Frutti; Long Tall Sally)
  • Dion (Teenager in Love, The Wanderer, Runaround Sue, Abraham, Martin and John)
  • Paul Anka (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
  • Wilson Pickett (In the Midnight Hour; Land of a 1,000 Dances; Mustang Sally)


  • The Beatles (All You Need is Love; Come Together; Hey, Jude; Let It Be; Yesterday; Yellow Submarine; Ticket to Ride; While My Guitar Gently Weeps; With a Little Help From My Friends)
  • John Lennon (In My Life; Strawberry Fields Forever; Imagine; Happy Christmas [War Is Over])
  • Aretha Franklin (Respect; [You Make Me Feel Like a] Natural Woman; Chain of Fools; I Say a Little Prayer)
  • Bob Dylan (Like a Rolling Stone’ Blowing in the Wind; Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door; Mr. Tambourine Man; The Times They Are a-Changin’)
  • Cat Stevens (Wild World; Morning Has Broken; Cat’s in the Cradle; Where Do the Children Play; Blowin’ in the Wind)
  • John Denver (Take Me Home, Country Roads; Annie’s Song; Rocky Mountain High; Home Grown Tomatoes)
  • Willie Nelson (On the Road Again; Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys; Always on My Mind)
  • Johnny Cash (Ring of Fire; I Walk the Line; Hurt)
  • Simon and Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water; Scarborough Fair; Mrs. Robinson; The Sound of Silence)
  • Peter, Paul and Mary (Puff the Magic Dragon; Blowin’ in the Wind; If I Had a Hammer; Lemon Tree; We Shall Overcome; Leaving on a Jet Plane)
  • The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun; Close to You; Yesterday Once More; Rainy Days and Mondays)
  • The Grateful Dead/Jerry Garcia (Workingman’s Dead; Uncle John’s Band)
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience/Jimi Hendrix (All Along the Watchtower; Purple Haze)
  • Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee; Piece of My Heart; Summertime)
  • Joni Mitchell (Both Sides Now; Help Me; Big Yellow Taxi)
  • The Doors/Jim Morrison (Light My Fire; People Are Strange; Riders on a Storm; Break on Through to the Other Side)
  • The Eagles (Hotel California; The Long Run; Take It Easy)
  • The Byrds (Mr. Tambourine Man; Turn! Turn! Turn!)
  • James Taylor (Five and Rain; Sweet Baby James; You’ve Got a Friend; Carolina in My Mind)
  • Neil Young (Cortez the Killer; Rockin’ in the Free World; Sugar Mountain)
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) (Have you Ever Seen the Rain?; Bad Moon Rising; Proud Mary; Who’ll Stop the Rain; Down on the Corner)
  • Lou Reed (Walk on the Wild Side; Perfect Day)
  • Sonny and Cher (I Got You Babe)
  • The Beach Boys (California Girls; Surfin’ USA; I Get Around; Good Vibrations)
  • The Jackson 5 (I Want You Back)
  • Nancy Sinatra (These Boots are Made for Walkin’; Bang Bang)
  • Joe Cocker (With a Little Help From My Friends; You Are So Beautiful)
  • Al Green (Let’s Stay Together; Love and Happiness; Take Me to the River)
  • Curtis Mayfield (People Get Ready; Superfly)
  • James Brown (Get Up [I Feel Like Being a] Sex Machine; I Got You [I Feel Good])
  • Elvis Costello ([What’s So Funny About] Peace, Love and Understanding)
  • Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get It On; I Heard It Through the Grapevine; Ain’t No Mountain High Enough; Mercy Mercy Me)
  • Sam & Dave (Soul Man)
  • Sly and the Family Stone (Hot Fun in the Summertime; Family Affair)
  • Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (Cruisin’; You Really Got a Hold on Me)
  • Kool and the Gang (Jungle Boogie)
  • Gloria Gaynor (I Will Survive)
  • Bee Gees (Stayin’ Alive)


  • Barbra Streisand (The Way We Were; You Don’t Bring Me Flowers; Don’t Lie to Me)
  • Bette Midler (From a Distance; I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today; Wind Beneath My Wings)
  • Billy Joel (Piano Man; New York State of Mind; We Didn’t Start the Fire)
  • Bob Marley (Don’t Worry Be Happy; Three Little Birds; I Shot the Sheriff; One Love)
  • Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.; Dancin’ in the Dark; Streets of Philadelphia)
  • Cyndi Lauper (Girls Just Want to Have Fun; True Colors; Time After Time)
  • David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust; Let’s Dance)
  • Dolly Parton (I Will Always Love You; 9 to 5)
  • Gladys Knight (Midnight Train to Georgia; I Heard It Through the Grapevine)
  • Guns N’ Roses/Axl Rose (Paradise City; Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door; Welcome to the Jungle; November Rain)
  • Kenny Rogers (The Gambler)
  • Moody Blues (Nights in White Satin)
  • Jimmy Cliff (I Can See Clearly Now)
  • Madonna (Vogue; Like a Virgin; Material Girl; Like A Prayer)
  • Pink Floyd (Money; Another Brick in the Wall Part 2)
  • Prince (Kiss; 1999; Purple Rain)
  • Queen/Freddie Mercury (We Will Rock You; We Are the Champions; Bohemian Rhapsody; Another One Bites the Dust)
  • The Ramones (Blitzkrieg Bop; Sheena Is a Punk Rocker)
  • Luther Vandross (Love the One You’re With)
  • Lionel Richie (Easy; Stuck On You)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd (Sweet Home Alabama)
  • Led Zeppelin (Stairway to Heaven)
  • Michael Jackson (Thriller; Bad; Black and White; We Are the World; Billie Jean)
  • The Bangles (Walk Like an Egyptian, Manic Monday; Eternal Flame)
  • Steppenwolf (Born to Be Wild; Magic Carpet Ride)
  • Stevie Nicks (Talk to Me)
  • Stevie Wonder (I Just Called to Say I Love You; Isn’t She Lovely; Signed, Sealed, Delivered)
  • The Animals (Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood; The House of the Rising Sun)
  • The Clash (Rock the Casbah; London Calling; Should I Stay or Should I Go)
  • Patti LaBelle (New Attitude; On My Own)
  • Neil Diamond (Sweet Caroline)
  • Roxette (She’s Got the Look)
  • The Rolling Stones ([I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction; Paint It Black; You Can’t Always Get What You Want)
  • The Police (Message in a Bottle; Every Breath You Take; Roxanne)
  • The Who (Baba O’Riley; I Can See For Miles; Won’t Get Fooled Again)
  • Tina Turner (What’s Love Got to Do With It; Proud Mary, Simply the Best)
  • Journey (Don’t Stop Believin’)
  • Nat King Cole (Unforgettable; When I Fall in Love; Mona Lisa)
  • Natalie Cole (Unforgettable; This Will Be [An Everlasting Love])
  • Ray Charles (Georgia on My Mind; Night & Day; Hit the Road, Jack; I Got a Woman)
  • Tony Bennett (Fly Me to the Moon; I Left My Heart in San Francisco)
  • Diana Ross (I’m Coming Out; Endless Love)
  • Van Morrison (Brown Eyed Girl; Gloria [Them])


  • Whitney Houston (I Will Always Love You; Greatest Love of All; I Have Nothing)
  • Celine Dion (The Power of Love; My Heart Will Go On)
  • Eric Clapton (Tears in Heaven; Wonderful Tonight)
  • Elton John (Can You Feel the Love Tonight; Rocket Man)
  • Eminem (Slim Shady; Without Me; Not Afraid; Godzilla)
  • Mariah Carey (I Don’t Wanna Cry; Hero; Vision of Love; Emotions)
  • Nirvana/Kurt Cobain (Smells Like Teen Spirit; Come As You Are)
  • U2/Bono (Beautiful Day; With or Without You)
  • Alanis Morissette (Ironic)
  • Phil Collins (Another Day in Paradise; In the Air Tonight)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (Under the Bridge)


  • Beyonce (Crazy in Love; If I Was a Boy)
  • Adele (Hello; Someone Like You)
  • Justin Bieber
  • Sam Smith (Stay with Me)
  • Macy Grey (I Try; Stay)
  • Amy Winehouse (Rehab)
  • John Legend (Glory; All of Me; Ordinary People)
  • Lil Wayne (Lollipop; How to Love)
  • Drake
  • Kanye West (Gold Digger; All of the Lights; Jesus Walks)
  • Jay Z (Forever Young)
  • Dr. Dre
  • 50 Cent (In Da Club)
  • Snoop Dogg (Gin and Juice; Drop It Like It’s Hot)
  • Tracy Chapman (Give Me One Reason)
  • Lee Ann Womak (I Hope You Dance)

School in a Book: Physical Education and Recreation Skills

No one is saying you need to become an all-star. But learning the basics of a wide variety of sports helps you understand your options and, almost certainly, find something you will enjoy long-term.

For each of the activities below, learn the basic rules of the game, experience playing the game multiple times, and learn proper form for as many of the skills involved in the game as possible. (This is particularly important with swimming and running.) YouTube videos are an invaluable resource for this.

Physical Education Skills


  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Baseball/Softball
  • Football
  • Basketball
  • Hockey
  • Badminton
  • Tennis


  • Swimming
  • Running
  • Roller Skating
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Sledding
  • Dance (including square dancing, line dancing, ballet, jazz, tap, swing, ballroom, rumba, hip hop, salsa, and tango)
  • Parkour
  • Billiards/pool
  • Snorkeling
  • Gymnastics
  • Yoga
  • Rock climbing
  • Martial arts
  • Diving
  • Weight lifting
  • Wrestling
  • Snow skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Water skiing
  • Wake boarding
  • Surfing
  • Sailing
  • Rafting
  • Golf
  • Table tennis/ping pong
  • Pickleball
  • Cricket
  • Wiffleball
  • Skateboarding
  • Surfing
  • Frisbee golf
  • Lacrosse
  • Jump roping
  • Wrestling
  • Canyoneering
  • Horse riding
  • Polo
  • SCUBA diving
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Shooting
  • Archery
  • Raquetball
  • Squash
  • Handball
  • Hang gliding
  • Paragliding
  • Kite flying
  • Rodeo sports
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Rafting
  • Rowing
  • Auto racing
  • ATV racing
  • Dune buggying
  • Go-kart racing
  • Aerobatics
  • Parachuting
  • Foosball


  • Hide and Seek
  • Capture the Flag
  • Tag
  • Sardines
  • Dodgeball
  • Kick the Can
  • Obstacle Courses
  • Frisbee
  • Keep Away
  • Scavenger hunts

School in a Book: Biology and Genetics

I remember learning basic biology in school. It was a long time ago, and yet, most of this stuff stuck. It’s everywhere, after all–in the news, in other books. And yet, after creating this list, I was struck by the fine delineations, especially regarding the differences between genes, genetic traits, chromosomes, alleles, and DNA. Interesting review here.


Seven characteristics of living things: Respiration (usually air respiration); reproduction; movement; digestion of both water and nutrients); metabolism; death; and cell-based structure.

Common name: Name commonly used for a species of animal or plant

Scientific name: Official name of an animal or plant. This is usually in Latin and made up of the genus and species names, but sometimes also contains the name of the sub-species.

Classification/taxonomy: The organizing of things into groups according to their shared features

The eight levels of the taxonomy of living things: Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. (Many species are also divided into subspecies called races, breeds or varieties.)

Species: The taxonomic level at which all the members can mate and reproduce offspring of their kind

The two domains of living things: Prokaryota and eukaryota

Prokaryote: A living thing whose cells have nucleuses. (The plural form is prokaryota.)

Eukaryote: A living thing whose cells do not have nucleuses. (The plural form is eukaryota.) 

The five kingdoms of living things: Bacteria, archaea, fungi, protistas, plantae and animalia

Bacteria: A type of single-celled organism that exists everywhere on earth. Most types have not been studied.


Fungi: Living things that lack chlorophyll and feed on living and dead things, including mold, yeast and mushrooms. Fungi are not plants, but they are plant-like. They grow in damp, dark places. Some fungi are helpful, as yeast and cheese mold. Others are poisonous to animals and plants.


Protozoa: Single-celled eukaryotes that feed on organic matter

Amoeba: A type of protozoa, fungi, algae or animal that can change shape, usually by extending out pseudopods (fluid-filled sacs in the shape of arms or tentacles)

X characteristics of plants: A living thing that gets energy from the sun,

3 characteristics of animals: A distinct orientation (i.e., a top and a bottom); symmetry; mobility; and a reliance on living, biological organisms for energy. Note that mobility is different from movement in that it is wider in range. For example, a plant may move closer to the light and grow roots, but it doesn’t wholly move and the movement takes a long time and is distance limited.

The human taxonomy: Domain: eukaryota; kingdom: animalia; phylum: chordata (since they have a stiff rod that supports the body); class: mammalia; order: primates; family: Hominidae; genus: Homo; species: Homo sapiens.

Habitat: The natural environment in which a species lives and thrives

Life cycle: The stages of growth and development of living things. This is different for different species; for example, frogs have a tadpole stage and caterpillars have a cocoon stage.

Generation: All members of a species bearing offspring around the same time

Male: Boy offspring; fertilizes the egg

Female: Girl offspring; produces the egg(s) and sometimes births the offspring

Sexual reproduction: Reproduction involving two parents, one male and one female

Asexual reproduction: Reproduction involving only one parent. Algae, mosses and some ferns use asexual reproduction because they don’t have flowers. Other ferns alternate using sexual and asexual reproduction.

Vegetative reproduction/vegetative propagation: When a plant can reproduce itself by itself asexually. Examples: plants that grow from bulbs (like tulips), from runners (like strawberries), from tubers (like potatoes), from cuttings and even from just a few cells (as in a lab). Note that for growing from cuttings, the cutting might need to stand in water and grow roots first before being planted in dirt.

Fertilization: Adding DNA to the egg that starts its growth

Mating: The pairing of opposite-sex animals that results in fertilization

Fertilization/conception: The union of a human egg (ovum) and sperm, usually occurring in the fallopian tube of the mother after sex

Embryo: The newly conceived form of life between the fertilized egg (zygote) stage and the fetus stage

Fetus: The unborn baby who is past the embryonic stage (about nine weeks into the pregnancy)

Ovulation: The release of eggs from the ovaries

Food web: A series of interlinked food chains. Creates interdependence.

Food chain: A series of plants and animals that use each other for food. It starts with a plant that gets food from the sun, then continues with the animal that eats that plant and so on.

Excretion: The elimination of metabolic waste

Homeostasis: Biological equilibrium, when a living thing’s internal conditions (such as temperature and mineral levels) are steady

Decomposition: The natural erosion of dead organic materials

Dormant: Still alive but not actively growing; for example, a seed. 

Germination: The waking up of a dormant seed

Metabolism: The set of life-sustaining chemical reactions in organisms

Internal respiration: The movement of oxygen from the outside environment to the cells within tissues, and the transport of carbon dioxide in the opposite direction.

Aerobic respiration: Internal respiration that uses oxygen

Anaerobic respiration: Doesn’t use oxygen

Cell respiration:

Cell: Smallest unit of living matter, but still visible under a microscope. (Try looking at a thin slice of onion membrane.)

Mitosis: Cell division resulting in two genetically identical cells, each with a set of the same chromosomes. Happens when the nucleus of the cell divides.


Cytokinesis: The second stage of cell division in which the cell plate forms to divide the two cells

Enzymes: Macromolecular biological catalysts. Enzymes accelerate chemical reactions.

Thermogenesis: The process of heat production in organisms

ATP: Adenosine triphosphate, an organic chemical that provides energy to drive many processes in living cells, e.g. muscle contraction, nerve impulse propagation, and chemical synthesis.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR): The rate of energy expenditure per unit time by an animal at rest

Calorie/kilocalorie: A unit of energy. A calorie is the amount of heat energy needed to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius at a pressure of one atmosphere, and the kilocalorie is the heat energy required to raise the temperature of one kilogram (rather than a gram) of water by one degree Celsius.

Parasite: Living thing that feeds on other living things and also uses them as their home

Host: The living thing that homes and feeds a parasite

Evolution: The long series of changes that happen to all living things

Extinction: The dying out of a species

Mass extinction: The large-scale dying out of many species (and biodiversity) on earth. Happens due to major weather changes brought on by major events, like an asteroid hitting the earth.

Natural selection: The natural process by which some species adapt and survive and others die out

Artificial selection: The human-controlled process by which some species change and survive and others die out

Adaptation: The process by which a species changes over time to adapt and survive


Genetics: The study of genes and heredity

Gene: The instructions inherited from parents that tell the body how to develop a particular characteristic or characteristics in the body (what qualities that characteristic will have). They are in every cell of the body (except red blood cells).

Genetic trait: A single trait that is expressed due to the instructions of the related gene. There can be multiple traits expressed by a single gene.

Heredity: All the traits passed from parents to their offspring

Genome: All of the genetic material of an organism (DNA or RNA)

Gene map: Shows the arrangement of the genes on a chromosome

Chromosome: The bundles that hold all of the individual genes. They are stored in the cell’s nucleus. Humans have 46 chromosomes: 2 sets of 23. Each chromosomes holds many, many genes.

DNA: Dioxyribonucleic acid. The chemical makeup of the genes. Always in a paired double strand and in the shape of a double helix.

RNA: Ribonucleic acid. This molecule reads and regulates genes. Sometimes called a messenger.

Nature versus nurture: Heredity versus environment. Both produce characteristics of an individual living thing, but how they interact is usually often unknown.

X and Y chromosomes: The chromosomes that determine gender. Everyone has one X chromosome, but males have a Y and females have a second X.

Dominant gene: The gene in the gene pair (the allele) that dominates the recessive one, and therefore gets expressed in the organism. Most genes are either dominant or recessive.

Recessive gene: The gene in the gene pair (the allele) that does not dominate the other. The recessive gene is expressed only when there are two associated recessives present, one from each parent. 

Co-dominance: Occurs when the contributions of both genes are visible in the organism

Allele: One of the two associated genes in a gene pair

Homozygote: Both of the alleles of a gene (both copies of a gene) are the same

Heterozygote: The alleles of a gene (both copies of a gene) are the same

Carrier: An organism that has a recessive allele for a genetic trait but does not display it. Can pass the allele onto offspring, who will express it if they inherit the same one from both parents.

DNA profiling/genetic fingerprinting: Determining an individual’s unique DNA code, usually by sampling a particular section of it

Genetic engineering/modification: The direct manipulation of an organism’s genes using biotechnology

GMO: Genetically modified organism

Gene splicing/ recombinant DNA (rDNA): DNA molecules formed in a lab bringing together genes from separate organisms

Cloning: Producing genetically identical individuals of an organism either naturally or artificially. In nature, many organisms produce clones through asexual reproduction.

Hybrid: Subspecies made by crossing two species

School in a Book: Botany and Zoology

Ahhhh … smell that fresh air. That’s the smell of you on a walk in a park with your kids, naming the trees and flowers you pass, then explaining sexual versus asexual reproduction.


The eight parts of a plant cell: Cell wall; cell membrane; cytoplasm containing chloroplasts, chromoplasts, other organelles and the nucleus; a large vacuole containing water, sugar and other dissolved substances

Photosynthesis: The process green plants use to make food from sunlight. Steps: 1. Leaves, roots and stem take in water, sunlight and CO2. Chloroplasts in leaf cells contain chlorophyll which absorbs sun’s energy. Energy is used to combine H2O and CO2 to make carbohydrates and oxygen. Some of this can be stored as starch. The carbs and oxygen are then used to release energy, CO2 and water. At night, there is only respiration using stored energy. In daytime, photosynthesis is faster than respiration, so more energy is stored.

Root: The part of a plant that absorb water and nutrients from the ground and anchor the plant

The four parts of a root: The primary root, the secondary roots, root hairs, and the root cap

The four types of roots: Fibrous roots (many equal-sized primary roots); advetitious roots (roots that grow out of the stem, like the hairs on an onion bulb); aerial roots (example: ivy); prop roots (example: a carrot)

Stem: The part of a plant that transports nutrients. Stems include trunks, vines and central points of grasses.

Leaf: The part of a plant that makes food. Leaves have veins and holes on their undersides to let in water and air. These can open and close. Note that leaves include pine needles.

The three parts of a stem: Buds (small growth that becomes a new shoot or a flower); shoots (new stems that grow off the main stem); main stem

Vascular tissue: The part of a plant that carries food and water throughout leaves, stems and roots

Bark: The dead protective tissue on the outside of a tree. Bark is formed in a living layer underneath the current layer after that layer gets pushed out by the new rings that are forming. It has tiny raised openings that provide oxygen and CO2 exchange, and it protects the tree from disease and helps hold in moisture. Since it can’t grow, it peels off and new bark is formed underneath.

Heartwood: The oldest rings of the tree which can no longer transport water

Sapwood: The newer rings of the tree which can still transport water

Annual ring: A single layer of thickening of a tree trunk, which takes one year to form

Seed: The part of a plant that holds the embryo. Seeds can grow in the dark because they get their energy from their energy storage, not from the sun.

The three parts of a seed: An embryo, a food supply and a protective coat.

Seedling: A small, newly-grown plant whose seed structure is still visible. Seedlings grown in the dark are different from those grown in the light. They grow taller to seek light, but are often weaker structurally.

Flower: The part of the plant that enables reproduction by containing male and/or female sex cells (gametes). Some plants contain both types of flowers and do not need to cross-pollinate with others. Others have only the male or female flowers, and need to be cross-pollinated with another plant of their genus or species.

Petal: The part of the plant that produces nectar to attract insects needed for pollination

Stamen: The male part of the flower, which contains pollen

Pistil/carpel: The female part of the flower, which contains ovules and can trap pollen

Anthers: The male part of the plant, which makes pollen

Ovaries: The female part of flower, which contains eggs that are pollinated by anthers, then grow into fruit, which in turn produce seeds

Fruit: The part of the flowering plant that holds the seeds. Fruits include nuts, succulent fruits, berries, pods (like pea pods), kernels (like wheat kernels) and more.

Cone: The part of a conifer tree that hold the seeds. Cones start out open, then after pollination, close up. When the seeds are ripe and the weather is warm and dry, the scales open and drop the fertilized seeds so they can find dirt to grow in. The cones then remain on the plant for a year or so. Note that conifers have male and female flowers and self-pollinate. Seeds are dispersed through animal excrement, wind, water and catching on animal fur.

Pollination: The transfer of pollen from the male part of a plant to the female part of the plant

Growth season: One year of a plant’s life

The five types of plants, in terms of their lifecycles: Annuals (die out except the seed each year); biennials (die in two years); herbaceous perennials (roots live many years but above ground parts die each year); woody perennials (most of parts above and below ground live on); ephemerals (very short lifecycles)

Tropism: A plant “sense”

Autotropism: The ability of a plant to make one’s own food

Geotropism: The ability of a plant to sense gravity. Plants grow away from gravity, even if the soil is upside-down.

Phototropism: The ability of a plant to sense light

Thigmotropism: The ability of a plant to sense touch

Deciduous tree: A tree that loses its leaves each year

Evergreen tree: A tree that does not shed its leaves all at once. Evergreens have tough, waxy leaves (needles) that don’t lose as much water as regular leaves.

Angiosperm: A plant that produce flowers

Gymnosperm: A plant that does not produce flowers; instead, they have naked seeds on their leaves

Hydrophyte: A plant that grows in water. These include algae, seaweed, lily pads and more.


The nine parts of an animal cell: Cell membrane (no cell wall like plants have); cytoplasm; organelles, including mitrochondria, which convert substances into energy for the cell, vacuoles, which house fats and liquids, the nucleus, which controls everything that happens in the cell, and the Golgi complex, which stores and distributes the substances that are made inside the cell (the warehouse). Cell also has centrioles, ribosomes to build proteins, and lysosomes. Note: See a picture of cell division to view these stages. Also note that different cells specialize according to their job.

Tissue: Cells of the same type combined together to do a particular job

Organ: Tissues of different types working together to do a particular job

System: Organs of different types working together to do a particular job

The three main body structures of animals: Most have a fluid-filled cavity and a skeleton to hold the cavity in place and allow for movement. All have an outer layer to enclose their bodies, which can be skin, an exoskeleton, a cuticle, scales, shells, prickles, fur and more. Animals also have a part or parts of the body to provide for locomotion, such as fins, flippers, wings, legs, etc.

Biped: Animal with two legs

Quadraped: Animal with four legs

Vertebrate: Animal with a backbone

Invertebrate: Animal with no backbone (as a snail)

Arthropod: Animal with an external skeleton/ exoskeleton (as a grasshopper)

Warm-blooded: Animal that can regulate its body temperature

Cold-blooded: Animal whose temperature changes with its environment

Herbivore: An animal that eats only plants

Carnivore: An animal that eats only meat

Omnivore: An animal that eats both plants and meat

The four types of animal communication: Body language, such as preening or dancing; making noises, such as using vocal cords or rubbing body parts together; sending out chemical messages through pheremones or by spraying; and changing color.

Parts that animals use to sense their environment: Eyes; ears; specialized body parts for sensing balance; specialized body parts for sensing water pressure and currents; whiskers; tentacles; taste buds; parts for detecting electric pulses given off by other creatures (sharks do this). Note that birds may be able to sense Earth’s magnetic field and use it for migration, too. Also, animals detect gravity.

Two types of animal reproduction: Animals either lay eggs (before or after fertilization) or give birth to live young

Larva: The form some animals take before beginning metamorphosis

Pupa: A hard shell that forms on larva inside of which metamorphosis occurs

Metamorphosis: The total restructuring of an animal’s body, sometimes inside a pupa or cocoon

Hibernation: A period of inactivity in some animals that includes the slowing of the metabolism

Migration: The large-scale movement of a species from one place to another

Echo location: The ability of some animals, such as bats, to locate solid objects by emitting sound and hearing the echo come back to them

School in a Book: Spanish Vocabulary

Lots of people will tell you that learning a new language is easy. And it can be . . . but it usually isn’t. The problem isn’t with the actual difficulty of the language, though. The problem is that we don’t practice.

Unless you live among native speakers, it’s a problem that’s not easily remedied. My suggestion: every few months (more if you’re in a hurry), play some audio recordings of words with translations or children’s music in the car on repeat. Language learning is not an all-at-once thing; you’ll need lots of time and repetition to let it sink in. If possible, be casual about it, but be consistent.

If you’re a person who enjoys reading and writing, copy your word lists onto flash cards or foldable lists. Personally, I spend countless hours writing and rewriting my lists when in full-on language learning mode.

You can also make games out of your vocabulary words–all kinds of fun games. At the end of this post I provide a story you can tell your kids that incorporates practice and repetition (theirs or yours).


Hello: Hola
Good morning: Buenas dias
Good afternoonL Buenas tardes
Good evening: Buenas noches
Goodbye: Adios; chau
What is your name?: Como se llama?
My name is …: Me llamo; mi nombre es …
Pleasure to meet you. Mucho gusto.
How are you: Como esta (for a less familiar person); Como estas (for a more familiar person); Como esta usted (for a formal situation or older person)
Where are you from: De donde viene
I’m from …: Soy de …
See you later: Hasta luego.
See you tomorrow: Hasta ma­nana

Almost-Free Words

Important: Importante
Interesting: Interesante
Perfect: Perfecto
Excellent: Excellente


Thank you very much: Muchas gracias
You’re welcome: De nada
Execuse Me: Disculpe; perdoname; con permiso
Goodness: Caramba
Please: Por favor
I’m sorry: Lo siento
Forgive me: Disculpe
Help me: Ayudame
Danger: Peligro
Forbidden: Prohibito
No smoking: No se fuma
Fire: Fuego; incendio
Emergency: Emergencia
Hurry up: Appurase; rapido
For sale: Se vende
For rent: Se alguila
Look: Mira
Stop: Pare
Watch out: Cuidado
That’s fine: Esta bien
Go away: Dejeme
Bienvenido: Welcome
Oops: Opa (an expression from Greek)
True: Verdad
Of course: Por supresto
It’s okay/don’t worry about it: Tranquila; no se preculpe
Are you sure: Seguro
What do you mean: Como
How do you say: Como se dice
At what time: A que hora
Qual es: Which is it

Small Words

Me, I—mi, yo
You—tu (familiar) usted
They, them; ellos o ellas
Because—por que
Actually—-En verdad
The—la, e, los, las (depending on gender)
In—por, en
a—un, una
maybe—quisas o tal vez
She-he—-ella, el
Her’s/his.—la , le
Your—tu (familiar form)
Yes/no —si y no (shaking one finger is the most common form of no in South America—the index finger)
Therefore—por lo tanto
Of the —del
Like/similar to—paracido
Here—(different words used depending on distance aqui, aji, alla)
Together —-conmigo, contigo (familiar)


To be—Ser (permanent): soy, son, es; estar (less permanent): estoy, esta
To do—hacer…hago, hace
To feel—Sentir sineto , sienta
To be there—hay
To want—querer, quiero, quiere, quieres
To like—Gusta, me gusto, se gusta
To go (irregular verb) voy, vas, viene,
To live—vivir—vivo, vives, viva
To eat—comer como, comes, come
To drink—For non-alcoholic beverages: Tomar: tomo, tomes, tome; For alcohol: Beber …bebo, bebes, bebe
To cost—cuesta
To carry/transport—Llevar
To Exit—salida( noun)
To Arrive:—Llegar, llego, llegas, llega
To park: Estacionar
To Wait: Esperar, espero, espero, esperamos
To speak: Hablar, hablo, hables, habla
To say—digo, dices, dice
To stay put—quedar, quedense (command form)
To Help—ayudar, ayudo, ayudas, ayuda
To be able/capable—Puedar, puedo, puedes, puede
To understand—entender entiendo, entiendes, entiende
To comprehend—Comprender, comprendo, comprendes, comprende
To Hope—Esperar, espero, esperes, espere
To know/be acquainted with (person) Conocer, conozco, conoces, conoce
To know (facts) Saber, se, sabes, sabe
To charge/exchange—Cambiar, cambio,
To travel—viajer, viajo, viege
To close—Cierrar
to find—encountrar
to wash—lavar, lavo (clothes)
to clean—limpiar, limpio,
to buy—comprar, compro, ustead compra
to sit—sentar
to smoke—fumar
to take—tomer
to walk—cambiar-=–cambio, cambias, cambia
to search for—buscar, busco, buscas, busca
to see—ver veo, ve
To give—dar, doy, da
To pay—pagar, pago, paga
To sign—firmar, firmo, firme
To need—necesitar, necesito, necesita
To cook—cocinar cocino, cocina
To reserve—reservar,
To confirm—confirmar
To take a photo—sacrar una foto
To Call—llamar, llamo
To accept—acceptar, acepto
To sleep—dormir,duermo,duerma
To work—trabajar, trabajo, trabaja
To think—pensar, penso
To believer—creer, creo, cree
To stop—parar
To return—volver
To sell—vender,vendo, vende
To exit—salir, salgo
To come—venior, vegno, viene
To lose—perder, pierdo, pierde
To win—ganar, gano, unstead gana
To study—estudiar, studio
To dance—baillar, bailo, bailas
To sing—cantar, canto, canta
To play—jugar..juego, juega
To hate—odiar
To love—-amar, encantar, encanto, encanta


Slow—despacio o despacito
Good—bueno, bien
Bad—mal, malo
Handsome—guapo (word also means hard working in some contexts)
Hot—caliente (refers to heat, piquante refers to spicy)
The same—mismo
Necessary—necesito (this is a verb, not an adjective) Necesito eso, or necesita eso (you need this)
Not necessary—no necesito
Second hand—segundo

People and Animals

Everyone—todos las personas
No on—nadia
Children—ninas, ninos
Uncle/aunt—tio, tia
Men/man– hombres, hombre


Pair of glasses—lentes
Parts—partalores, partes
Garbage cans—basero
Everything—qualquier cosa


19 —diecenueve
20 —viente
80 —ochenta
1 million—un million
101—cineto uno
1100—mil cien
1300 mil trecientos

Days and Months


Question Words

What is it—que es esto
Where —donde esta
How much—cuanto?
Who is it?—quien es
Why—por que
Why not—por que no
What time is it? Que hora es?


Green—verde (careful in using this description, though: some things that are green are considered dirty, i.e. pornography or a “green” magazine)


Department store—almacia
Country—campo (refers to terrain/geography)
Exchange store—casa de cambio
Parking lot—estacionamonte
Bus stop—parade de autobus
Mall—cinto commercial
Shoe store—zapateria
Police station—comisaria
Post office—el correo
Place—lugar, parte, locale
School—escuela secendaria (secondary school); escuela escuela primaria (grade school)

Body Parts


Foods and Drinks

To eat—comer
Drink –beber o tomar
Miner water—aqua mineral
Soft drink—gaseosa
Bottle of wine—una botella de vino
Red/white wine—tino /blanco vino
Cold veggie soup—gazpacho
Pineapple—pina o anana
Ice cream—helado
Milk shake—batido de leche
Espresso—un expreso
Butter—mantequilla o Manteca
Steak—chursasco, carne
BBQ—churrasco , churro
Roast beef—rosbef
Mashed potatoes—pueredo papas
Potatoes—papas (careful to use las papas because the word is feminine. El Papa refers to the pope)
French Fries—papas fritas
Chicken breast—suprema de pollo
Soysauce—salsa d soya

Restaurant Words

Plate—un plato
Cup—una taza/copa
Teaspoon—una cuchariva
A can —una lata
Box—una lajo
A jar—un pomo
Menu—la carta
What is today’s special?—Cual es el plato del dia
I’dlike to order—quisiera pedar
Bill—-la cuenta
Fast to go—comida para llevar
Fast food—comida rapida


Where/there—aqui, aji
Here is—aqui tiene
One block—una cuadrenta
Opposite from—frenta a
Next to—junto a
In Front—frente
In back—al antes
Everywhere—en todas partes
No where—ninguna parte


Month—la mesa
Morning—la manana
Later—despues, lluego
Every day—todos las dias
1:00—una hora
1;15—la una y quince/cuarta
1:30—uno y media
1:45—cuarto al dos
1:01—la una y una
The end—el final


That’s all—eso es todo
Half kilo—medio kelo
A bit of—un poco de
Too much/too many—demasiado
Not enough—no bastante
A little—poco, poquito

Money Words

Travelers checks—chequs de viajero
Exchange rate—cambio
Small change—suelto
Signature—la firma
The payment—le debo
Credit card—tarjeta de credito
ATM—el cajero

Nature Words

Mosquito—los mosquitos

Medical Words

Doctor—-El Doctor
What’s wrong>–Que le pasa
I’m sick—Me siento enfermo
Headache—dolor de la cabeza
Flu—la gripe
It hurts here—me dula aqui
I feel dizzy—tengo mareos nauseas
Stomach ache—dolor to estomacho
Backache—dolor de espalda
I feel—siento
Vaccinated—vacundo (a)

Travel Words

Business trip—viaje de negocios
Baggage cart—carnto para maletas
Room—cuarto, habitacion
Single bed—habatacion con una sola cama
Private bath—bano privado
Oceanview—vista del mar
Car—auto, coche
Ticket—boleta, pasaje
Roadmap—mapa de carreteras, plano de ciudad
One-way ticket—billete de ida
Round-trip ticket—billete de y vuelta
Tourism/tourist—turismo, turista

Miscellaneous Words

One more time—ulta vez
County –pais (refers to actual country, not a general description)

“The Spanish Backyard” Story and Game

Harriet and Toby were just regular kids, living in just a regular house. Still, they had what many people don’t: they had a wonderful backyard.

Sometimes their yard was a wide, deep ocean. Other times it was a space station. But Harriet and Toby’s favorite times of all were when the yard became a magical kingdom far away, where anything they spoke in Spanish appeared.

The catch: they had to speak the sentence properly three times in a row.

One day, Harriet and Toby were hungry. They were waiting for their parents to finish cooking a large meal. So, they decided to make food appear in their yard–every kind of food they could imagine.

What do you think Harriet and Toby asked for? What would you want to make appear?

Note to teachers: Here, have your students make sentences with the word list you’re working on currently. Change the scenario to fit the types of words you want to practice. Each time the student gets the sentence right, draw what they said or say, “Look! It’s a …”

Harriet and Toby continued playing The Spanish Backyard until the sun was all the way down.

School in a Book: Music

You’ve heard the term “music appreciation.” While appreciation classes vary widely, they usually cover a historical overview of the subject, a sampling of the subject in question, plus a smattering of basic terms and technical knowledge–exactly the sort of overview this book seeks to offer. (Samplings can be found in the Resources section of this book.)


Orchestra: A large group of musicians playing together on a variety of instruments, usually representing all four instrument families

The four families of instruments in an orchestra: Woodwind, strings, brass and percussion

Woodwind instruments: Instruments made of wood whose sounds come from the player’s vibrating breath as it moves through it. Woodwind vibrations are caused by a reed in the instrument.

Stringed instruments: Instruments whose sounds come from the movement of strings

Brass instruments: Instrument made of brass whose sounds come from the player’s vibrating breath as it moves through it. Brass instrument vibrations are caused by the player’s lips.

Percussion instruments: Instruments whose sounds come from a player hitting, scraping or shaking it Note that a piano is both a wind and a percussion instrument.

The four main vocal ranges, highest to lowest: Soprano, alto, tenor and bass

Octave: The collection of notes between two successive notes of a kind (e.g. the notes between middle C and the C following it). Each octave is double the frequency of the one below it in the scale.

Scale: The collection of notes that make up one or more octaves in the same key

Key: The use of scale in actual music, named for its first note. Most musical pieces are produced in a single key, with all of their notes coming from that key’s notes.

Tone: A sound produced due to a single frequency

Pitch: A note’s perceived sound frequency, which might be slightly higher or lower than its tone

Note: A notation representing the pitch and duration of a musical sound

The four main types of music notes: Whole, half, quarter, eighth

Flat: A lowering of a note’s pitch by a semitone

Sharp: A raising of a note’s pitch by a semitone

Rythmn: Music’s pattern in time

Beat: A individual unit of time that, with others, forms a rhythm; the basic unit of measurement of a rhythm

Tempo: The overall speed of a piece of music

Harmony: The sound of two or more notes heard simultaneously

Resonance: The amplification or expansion of a sound

Timbre: A subjective description of a sound’s quality or uniqueness; the various qualities of a sound that make it recognizable. For example, Whitney Houston’s voice is different from Bette Midler’s voice due to many variations in smoothness, roughness, lightness, intensity and more.

Accent: A momentary emphasis or stress on a particular note or rhythmic detail

Crescendo: A growing sound

Forte: A louder, stronger sound

Encore: The return to the stage of a performer for an additional, unlisted piece

Mezzo: Halfway, as in mezzo forte (half loud) and mezzo soprano

Staccato: A briefer, more detached sound

Legato: A drawn out sound

Reprise: A repeated section

Movement: A segment of a piece of music that is set apart in some way from the rest of the piece. A movement is often performed separately, and named separately, from the larger work.

Aria: A segment of a piece of music that is written for one voice, usually with orchestral accompaniment and set apart in some way from the rest of the piece

Overture: The orchestral introduction to a musical composition. An overture also serves as a piece in its own right.

Coda: A piece’s tail or closing section

Acoustic music: Music that is produced by instruments rather than by electronics

Virtuoso: A performer of exceptional ability or artistry

Music synthesizer: A computer-run machine that generates electronic sounds and modifies sound input in a variety of ways

Amplifier/amp: An electronic device that works with a mechanical loudspeaker, turning low voltage signals into higher ones that can be heard over the speakers

Bass speaker/woofer: A loudspeaker designed to produce high voltage low frequency sounds

Music History

Prehistoric music: In prehistoric times, early hominids and humans sang, hummed and whistled. Later, they made flutes and pipes out of bone and percussion instruments out of wood and rocks.

Music of ancient times: In ancient times, as today, music was used for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons.The oldest known song, as well as the first known musical notation, was written in cuneiform, indicating the importance of music to early civilizations. Greek music included double pipes, the double-reed aulos, a plucked string instrument, the lyre, mixed-gender choruses and more. Roman music included harps, lyres and trumpets and featured simple melodies without harmony.

Music of the Middle Ages: In medieval times in Europe, many of the musical advancements were made by Roman Catholics in monasteries and abbeys. Though the human voice was still central to most works, a wider range of wind, brass and percussion instruments came into use during this time. Complex music was viewed as an exclusive art form and usually performed for religious purposes.

Plainchant: A type of religious music in which sacred texts are sung in a monophonic manner with minimal instrumental accompaniment

Gregorian Chant: A more elaborate type of medieval religious chant, possibly developed by Pope Gregory. It is known for the haunting sound of the open, perfect fifth and its move toward polyphony.

Polyphony: The use of complex vocal melodies and harmonies

Monophony: The use of simple, single-line melodies without harmony

Renaissance music: The music from a golden period in music history from approximately 1400 to 1600 when musical conventions were challenged, opera was created, a polyphonic style was developed, and the four families of instruments were established. During this time, music moved from an exclusive, religion-centered art to an art of the people, appreciated and created everywhere.

Opera: A vocalist-central form of classical music which was established late in the Renaissance and peaked during the Classical period. Operas feature solo singers accompanied by orchestras.

Baroque music: An ornate musical style that began with the creation of opera around 1600 and flourished until the mid-1700s. Featuring multiple simultaneous melody lines, baroque’s challenging technical elements enabled musicians to display the full extent of their talents.

Music of the Classical period: The sleeker, more singable, less ornate and less contrasting music that began in the mid-1700s until being surpassed by the romantic style in the mid-1800s. Many Classical pieces feature the early piano instead of the harpsichord, which significantly altered their effect.

Music of the Romantic period: The emotional, dramatic music from approximately 1850 to 1900. Romantic music was more experimental and more contrasting than classical music and often made use of a larger orchestra.

Music of modern times: The music from the year 1900 and beyond, which evolved from two disparate forms: folk and classical. Modern music often includes choruses and verses, easily singable melodies and a single vocalist. However, it also often incorporates a variety of instruments, complex harmonies and other creative elements, such as electronic sound.

Important modern musical genres: Country, folk, electronic music, funk, hip hop, jazz, Latin, pop, punk, reggae, rock, metal, soul, R&B, polka, classical, modern classical/instrumental, world, big band and religious music

Important Baroque era composers: Bach, Handel and Vivaldi

Important Classical period composers and works: Mozart and Beethoven

Important Romantic era composers and works: Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Chopin, Brahms, Verdi and Wagner

The influence of Mozart: Mozart was extremely versatile, creating masterful music in every popular genre of his time

The influence of Beethoven: Beethoven redefined and refined classical music and bridged the gap between the Classical period and the Romantic period

School in a Book: Classic Literature: Children’s

The School in a Book curriculum isn’t just for adults. As soon as children can follow a simple plot, they can begin booking it down this list. They can also enjoy adapted versions of many of the books for adults–even the Iliad and the Odyssey. (I also discuss with them many of the simpler concepts in the science lists.)

A few notes on reading to your kids: If you like, just read. Good syntax and rhythm is an education in itself. However, you might want to incorporate reading comprehension into your experience. You can do this by asking your child to summarize the story or to tell you what they think it means. Both of these tasks prepare them for competence in writing, an activity that depends on clear thinking and good organization. Some education professionals say that most college students can’t correctly identify the main points of a given text; don’t let this be your kid. (Older kids need to start outlining texts in writing as soon as they’re ready.)

By the way, shortcut-takers like me can scout out fun video versions of these stories on YouTube and elsewhere on the internet. Sometimes, I cue up five or six and pat myself on the back for providing my young children with such a great educational head start.

Classic Children’s Stories:

Classic Children’s Books:

Classic Middle Grade Books:

  • The Wrinkle In Time series, Madeleine L’Engle
  • The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
  • The Harriet the Spy series, Louise Fitzhugh
  • The Phoebe the Spy series, Judith Griffin
  • The Encyclopedia Brown series, Donald J. Sobol
  • The Ramona series, Beverly Cleary
  • The Nancy Drew series
  • The Anne of Green Gables series, Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Chronicles of Avonlea series, Lucy Maud Montgomery
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series, C.S. Lewis
  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
  • A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
  • Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll
  • Black Beauty, Anna Sewell
  • Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Patterson
  • Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White
  • Heidi, Johanna Spyri
  • Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Patterson
  • Lassie Come-Home, Eric Knight
  • Paddle-to-the-Sea, Holling Clancy Holling
  • Paul Revere’s Ride, Henry Longfellow
  • Peter Pan, James Barrie
  • Peter and Wendy, James Barrie
  • Pinocchio, Carlo Collodi
  • Pipi Longstocking, Astrid Lindgren
  • Pollyanna, Elanor Hodgman
  • Stuart Little, E.B. White
  • Summer of the Monkeys, Wilson Rawls
  • The Bears’ House, Marilyn Sachs
  • The Boys’ Book of Survival, Guy Campbell
  • The Dangerous Book for Boys, Conn and Hal Iggulden
  • The Daring Book for Girls, Andrea J. Buchanan and Miriam Peskowitz
  • The Door in the Wall, Marguerite de Angeli
  • The Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • The Scarlet Pimpernell, Emma Orczy
  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, Hugh Lofting
  • The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  • The Trumpet of the Swans, E.B. White
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
  • Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls
  • The Yearling, Marjorie Rawlings
  • Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, Judy Blume
  • Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself, Judy Blume
  • Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, Judy Blume
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
  • James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl
  • Matilda, Roald Dahl
  • The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery

School in a Book: Classic Films

I am not a film buff. Still, I don’t want to miss out on the movies that even today, inform our shared cultural conversation. There’s a lot to learn here about love, hope and coming of age–and about writing an awesome screenplay, too.

Classic Films for Older Kids and Adults

  • A Face in the Crowd
  • Airplane!
  • An American In Paris
  • Annie
  • Annie Hall
  • Babes in Toyland
  • Babette’s Feast
  • Bandolero
  • Barcelona
  • Barton Fink
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s
  • Bright Eyes
  • Brother Sun, Sister Moon
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Cabaret
  • Casablanca
  • Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors
  • Das Boot
  • Doctor Zhivago
  • East of Eden
  • Hannah and Her Sisters
  • Godspell
  • Frankenstein
  • Cries and Whispers
  • From Here to Eternity
  • How Green is My Valley
  • How the West Was Won
  • Igby Goes Down
  • Il Dulce Vita
  • It Happened One Night
  • Lolita
  • Love is a Many-Splendored Thing
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Mutiny on the Bounty
  • National Velvet
  • Night of the Living Dead
  • North by Northwest
  • Oklahoma!
  • Oliver!
  • On the Waterfront
  • Orchestra Rehearsal
  • Jesus Christ, Superstar
  • Les Miserables
  • Lil Abner
  • Radio Days
  • Planet of the Apes
  • Platoon
  • Rear Window
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • Roman Holiday
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Sophie’s Choice
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Strangers on a Train
  • Suspicion!
  • Taxi Driver
  • The 39 Steps
  • The African Queen
  • The Bells of St. Mary’s
  • The Birds
  • The Exorcist
  • Wild Strawberries
  • The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  • The Importance of Being Earnest
  • The Lady Vanishes
  • The Last Days of Disco
  • The Lives of Others
  • The Lord of the Flies
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much
  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallance
  • The Music Man
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • 8 ½
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps
  • The Three Faces of Eve
  • The Train
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • The Unsinkable Molly Brown
  • Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Vertigo
  • West Side Story
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • You Can’t Take It With You
  • Zelig
  • The Silent World
  • The Sorrow and the Pity
  • Stop Making Sense
  • Salesman
  • Sans Soleil
  • Scared Straight!
  • Nanook of the North
  • Man with a Movie Camera
  • Jaguar
  • In the Land of the Head Hunters
  • Harlan County U.S.A.
  • Gates of Heaven
  • Night Mail
  • Night and Fog
  • Primary
  • The Arrival of a Train
  • The Atomic Cafe
  • The Times of Harvey Milk
  • Titicut Follies
  • Triumph of the Will
  • Ben Hur

Modern Classic Films for Older Kids and Adults

  • American Beauty
  • American Psycho
  • American Splendour
  • The Absent-Minded Professor
  • Raise the Red Lantern
  • Wild at Heart
  • A Scanner Darkly
  • Being John Malcovich
  • Clockwork Orange
  • Clue
  • Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
  • Fight Club
  • Pleasantville
  • The Truman Show
  • Naked Lunch
  • Moonstruck
  • Gummo
  • High Art
  • Four Rooms
  • Jackie Brown
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Kill Bill Volume I & Kill Bill Volume II
  • M
  • Man on the Moon
  • Memento
  • Lost Highway
  • Parenthood
  • Pi
  • Primer
  • Psycho
  • Requiem for a Dream
  • Summer of My German Soldier
  • Run Lola Run
  • Sabrina
  • Saturday Night Fever
  • Secretary
  • Swimming Pool
  • The Following
  • The Gladiator
  • The Princess and the Warrior
  • To Live
  • True Romance
  • Adaptation
  • Mulholland Drive
  • Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight

Classic Children’s Films

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Return to Oz
  • The Princess Bride
  • Alice in Wonderland
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
  • Labyrinth
  • The Neverending Story
  • Goonies
  • The Karate Kid
  • Star Wars: A New Hope
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (original version)
  • Ghostbusters (original version)
  • The Muppet Movie (original version)
  • The Lord of the Rings series
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series
  • The Harry Potter series
  • The Anne of Green Gables series
  • The Anne of Avonlea series
  • Bambi
  • Sleeping Beauty
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • The Lion King
  • Cinderella
  • Aladdin
  • The Little Mermaid
  • Snow White
  • Pinocchio
  • Dumbo
  • The Sound of Music
  • The Swiss Family Robinson
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Benji
  • Old Yeller
  • Winnie the Pooh
  • The Red Balloon
  • The Jungle Book
  • Totoro
  • Spirited Away
  • Finding Nemo
  • Frozen
  • Moana
  • Babe
  • Freaky Friday
  • Big
  • Home Alone
  • Home Alone 2
  • Matilda
  • Wall-E
  • The Sandlot
  • Enchanted
  • Tangled
  • Pollyanna
  • The Apple Dumpling Gang

Classic Christmas Films

  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • White Christmas
  • A Christmas Carol
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • A Christmas Story
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol

Modern Classic Documentaries

  • 13th
  • A Lego Brickumentary
  • Amanda Knox
  • Being Elmo
  • Lake of Fire
  • Bowling for Columbine
  • Chernobyl (TV series)
  • Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey
  • Exit Through the Gift Shop
  • Food Matters
  • Food, Inc.
  • King Corn
  • Sicko
  • Free Solo
  • Going Clear
  • Grizzly Man
  • Herb and Dorothy
  • Hoop Dreams
  • How to Survive a Plague
  • Icarus
  • Iris
  • Jesus Camp
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi
  • Lake of Fire
  • March of the Penguins
  • Planet Earth
  • Shirkers
  • Sour Grapes
  • Spellbound
  • The Barkley Marathons
  • The Rachel Divide
  • Three Identical Strangers
  • Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman
  • Trekkies
  • Waiting for Superman

School in a Book: A Ridiculously Concise K-12 Review

Twelve years of elementary and high school plus extracurricular studies leaves us with a lot of information. Too much information, sometimes. Since we can’t retain everything, our brains have to pick and choose. And sometimes they make pretty bad decisions. We might live with our in-depth understanding of the oboe forever, say, but can’t recall whether Alexander the Great lived before or after the Roman Empire. If we don’t want our most important knowledge areas to fade out, then, we do well to periodically review the basics.

That’s where School in a Book comes in.

For each subject listed below, I’ve written a knowledge checklist of sorts: a collection of essential terms and other information. It’s not a textbook; instead, it’s an overview, a handy guide to help you strengthen your weak points and gain a wider perspective of the topic.

Finally, please note that the below sections are part of a work in progress; for now, mistakes and omissions remain.

School in a Book Sections

Essential Knowledge: Chemistry

Essential Knowledge: Physics

Essential Knowledge: Astronomy

Essential Knowledge: Biology and Genetics

Essential Knowledge: Botany and Zoology

Essential Knowledge: Anatomy and Medical Science

Essential Knowledge: Geology, Ecology and Meteorology

Essential Knowledge: World History Overview and Timeline

Essential Knowledge: Prehistory

Essential Knowledge: History of North and Central America – This section to come

Essential Knowledge: History of South America

Essential Knowledge: History of Europe – This section to come

Essential Knowledge: History of Africa – This section to come

Essential Knowledge: History of the Middle East – This section to come

Essential Knowledge: History of Russia

Essential Knowledge: History of India

Essential Knowledge: History of China

Essential Knowledge: History of Japan – This section to come

Essential Knowledge: History of Australia and Oceania

Essential Knowledge: Geography

Essential Knowledge: Punctuation and Grammar

Essential Knowledge: Writing

Essential Knowledge: Literary Analysis

Essential Knowledge: Arithmetic and Measurement

Essential Knowledge: Algebra and Geometry

Essential Knowledge: Philosophy

Essential Knowledge: Logic and Rhetoric

Essential Knowledge: Psychology

Essential Knowledge: Sociology

Essential Knowledge: Political Science

Essential Knowledge: American Government

Essential Knowledge: Religion and Spirituality

Essential Knowledge: Music

Essential Knowledge: Art and Architecture – This section to come

Essential Skills: Science Skills and Projects

Essential Skills: Art and Craft Skills

Essential Skills: Physical Education Skills

Essential Skills: Social, Emotional and Life Management

Essential Resources: Classic Literature: Children’s

Essential Resources: Classic Fiction: Older Kids and Adults

Essential Resources: Classic Nonfiction

Essential Resources: Classic Films

Essential Resources: Classic Songs and Musical Artists

Essential Resources: Educational Games

Supplemental Sections

I just couldn’t help myself: Here, additional advanced sections to be compiled for a supplemental edition of this book.

Essential Knowledge: Statistics and Research

Essential Knowledge: Computer Science

Essential Knowledge: Technology (This section to come)

Essential Knowledge: Mandarin Chinese Vocabulary

Essential Knowledge: Spanish Vocabulary

How to Use This Book

Subject-specific suggestions for memorizing and applying the lessons in this book can be found in the brief overviews provided. Here are a few other general tips:


As you peruse the lists in this book, you will find many facts you already know. This is a good thing. If you have the book in print form, you might want to mark your retained facts as you go. There’s a saying in psychology: “Shrink the change.” The more facts and lists you master, the more encouraged you’ll be to move on to more challenging areas. (Check marking also prevents you from wasting time re-reading old-to-you material.)


Almost all of the material in this book is available in multiple forms somewhere on the Internet. Because websites change constantly, linking to recommended Internet resources isn’t necessary or even very helpful. Most terms you search for will yield a wide variety of accurate, well-stated, brief and even entertaining articles, videos and tutorials. No longer under copyright, classic books and stories are freely available as well. When working with my children on these lists, I often find relevant videos on YouTube–one under-ten-minute video per term or story. I queue up five or six in separate tabs, and my kids are fully engaged with free, educational material for an hour.


The most difficult part of this book to write was the history section. Timelines feel natural, yet I avoided this presentation as much as possible since they don’t facilitate memorization. (Question: The year 1789. Answer: ???) Instead, I arranged the information in the same way the other lists are arranged, with recognizable names and other terms followed by their “definitions.” If you can buzz down a list, identifying each of these with your hand covering the explanations, you’ve mastered that section. Better yet, create your own flash cards. The act of writing the information will help you retain a surprising amount of it.


Unlike many other textbooks, this book has very little filler. Everything here is meant to be both understood and retained. Don’t just read over the definitions to determine whether or not you “get it”; quiz yourself on them. It’s always interesting to notice how much harder it is to bring something back to mind than to simply understand it.

School in a Book Advantages

Finally, since I love lists so much, here’s another one for you: the eight main advantages of this book.

But first, two disadvantages: While much of the information presented here is straightforward and ready to memorize, the Essential Skills and Essential Resources lists require further research, reading and practice. In addition, School in a Book is, unapologetically, a generalist, liberal arts curriculum. It is a straightforward, basic overview of each topic–nothing more. It goes without saying that there is more to life than fractions and the Mayflower, so take these basic concepts and use them to build yourself into a great generalist … then branch off from there in the directions of your choice.


Educators love to debate the relative merits of a generalist versus specialist education. My feeling is that life is long and learning is an innate human need; however, humans don’t innately know what they should specialize in. By establishing a wide knowledge base as early as possible, areas of interest present themselves more readily.


The book’s biggest advantage, I think, is a hidden one: By reading the entire outline of a topic in one sitting, you’re able to feel, maybe for the first time, that you truly understand it. Here’s a metaphor I like: If a physics textbook is a detailed travel guide to the world of that subject, the School in a Book physics checklist is a physics map. By reading the checklist all at once, you’re able to see the bigger picture: physics has to do with energy, motion, gravity, electricity, magnetism, light, sound and nuclear forces. Understanding this builds confidence as well as competence.


School in a Book won’t waste your time. Enough said.


I know, I know: memorization is out of fashion these days. But let’s not take our emphasis on critical thinking and creativity too far. If thinking skills are the toolkit, facts are the raw building materials. It’s impossible to arrange an interesting proposal, plan, article or analysis–or even have a fluent conversation on a topic–without the facts–the building blocks–in hand. (Okay, it’s possible, but we all know what that looks like and it isn’t pretty.)

The very best way to use School in a Book is as a tool for memorization. This is the stuff you’ll want to know–to retain–for the many efforts, decisions and conversations to come in your life.


You might be surprised at how much you don’t know about the world, even if you’ve completed twelve or more years of school. I was. (Okay, that’s not quite true. I knew how badly I needed help.) Our minds don’t always pick and choose well. They might record every word our favorite teachers say, but almost nothing from certain entire textbooks. Here, discover what you missed on the days you slept in, as well as what you forgot.


Though this resource purports to be an elementary through high school educational reference text, the checklists were designed to cover 101-level college material (and, in a few cases, levels higher than this). This is because I believe that college 101 classes are generally meant to catch up incoming college students on the subjects they should have learned in high school, but didn’t.


I love organizing. I love brevity, too. Almost in a romantic sort of way. Other books spread out the essential knowledge between pages of description, introduction, images, callouts and the like. School in a Book eschews such inefficient use of space in order to provide extremely easy access to a broad range of information. The book can be used as one large checklist that you work through at your own pace. In addition, lists are organized by type of learning required: Essential Learning, Essential Skills and Essential Resources. When facts, books and skills are all mixed together, the checklists become much harder to work with. Studying facts requires different mental and environmental preparation than does practicing a skill or reading a book.


I hope that you find these terms and lists as useful as I have, but if you don’t, wait a few years. By mastering the School in a Book material, you’ve paved the way for an easier high school and college experience. You’ve also obtained a good knowledge foundation that will serve you well your entire adult life.

Don’t believe the rumors: you can be a generalist and a specialist both. Why not? Life is long, and learning is life. Be curious. Be unafraid. Read nonfiction every day. Watch documentaries. Find a passion (or six). Be great.

Oh, and have lots of fun while you’re doing it.

School in a Book: Astronomy

Everyone loves space. Why? I don’t know. It just sort of blows our minds, I guess. The following will give you many of the main astronomical terms and ideas, but do also read The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene and Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. There’s also a great memoir by Scott Kelly of living on the ISS for a year called Endurance, as well as many excellent space documentaries.


Space: All of the area outside the earth’s atmosphere. Space has no air. Its temperatures vary from far below freezing (such as areas blocked by planets to the rays of stars) to far above boiling water (such as areas not blocked from the rays of stars).

Universe: All of the billions of galaxies in existence. The Universe is held together by gravity and, at the same time, slowly expanding. It is mostly empty space, with matter like stars and planets at distances from each other that are comparable to the distances of particles in atoms. This is why collisions are infrequent, despite the many and varied paths taken by celestial bodies.

Star: A ball of very hot gas in space. Stars can be white, red, yellow or blue.

Sun: The only star in Earth’s solar system. It is medium-sized: one million times the size of Earth and ten times the size of Jupiter. On its surface, the sun is 5,500 degrees.

Planet: A spinning ball of rock or gas that travels around a star (or a black hole) in an orbit. We can only see a few planets outside our solar system.

Moon: A mini planet that revolves around a regular planet instead of revolving around a star. The earth’s moon is dry and dusty with many craters. It takes 27 days for the moon to spin once, and 27 days for it to orbit once around the earth, which is why it doesn’t seem to be spinning. It is always facing away from us, so we’ve never seen the other side. People have gone to the moon several times. It takes about three days to reach the moon and each crew spent about three days there.

Solar system: A group of planets revolving around a single star or a group of stars, or a small group of stars revolving around each other.

Galaxy: A group of solar systems which orbit around each other. Many galaxies contain millions of stars. Sometimes galaxies cross paths and collide. It’s likely that most or all galaxies have a black hole at their center. Many galaxies orbit other galaxies, but not all. It is difficult to determine what galaxies orbit, if anything, due to the slowness of their movement and limitations of technology.

Star cluster: Groups of stars that form together

Galaxy cluster: A group of galaxies

Orbit: The circular path taken by a planet, moon, star or other celestial body. Orbits can be maintained indefinitely because the gravity that pulls the orbiting object toward another object is balanced by the orbiting object’s momentum, which seeks to keep the orbiting object moving in a straight line. In empty space, friction, drag and other forces do not exist, so the object’s momentum is never lost.

One day: The unit of time marking one spin of the earth on its axis, which takes approximately 24 Earth hours. The part of the earth facing the sun has light, and the other doesn’t. It takes 365 days for the earth to orbit around the sun one time.

Light year: The distance light travels in one year. It is used as a measurement of distances in space.

The nine phases of the moon: The views of the earth’s moon from the earth, which change in a 29.5-day cycle. The nine phases are: new moon (no light); waxing crescent moon (getting more visible and in a crescent shape); first quarter moon (half moon); waxing gibbous (getting more visible and in a lopsided circle shape); full moon; waning gibbous (getting less visible); last quarter moon (half moon); waning crescent; new moon.

Solar eclipse: A celestial event during which the sun is entirely obscured from view for a short time due to the path of the moon, which brings it between Earth and the sun

Lunar eclipse: A celestial event during which the moon is entirely obscured from view for a short time due to the path of the Earth, which brings it between the moon and the sun. At that time, the moon sits in the Earth’s shadow and no light from the sun illuminates it.

Solar wind: The stream of charged particles in the form of plasma that make the air glow at Earth’s magnetic poles, creating the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights).

Solar mass: The mass of our sun. It is used as a standard unit of measurement of space bodies.

Our eight planets, in order from the sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Gas giants: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune. Rest are rock. Jupiter is largest, Mercury is smallest. Jupiter has the Great Red Spot, a permanent gas storm. Saturn is very light, light enough to float in water.

The Milky Way: The name of the galaxy our solar system is in. It is about 100,000 light years across. It contains one star, eight planets, many moons, and an asteroid belt. The Milky Way doesn’t orbit anything, but other galaxies orbit it and Andromeda, the closest neighboring galaxy.

Andromeda: The nearest large galaxy to the Milky Way

The Local Cluster: The galaxy cluster our galaxy is in

Supercluster: A group of galaxy clusters

Virgo Supercluster: The supercluster our galaxy is in

Asteroid: A big lump of rock or metal in space

Meteoroid: Dust or small space rocks (house-sized to coffee-ground sized) in orbit around the sun

Meteor/shooting star: A meteoroid that burns up in a planet’s atmosphere

Meteorite: A meteoroid that hits the surface of a planet

Comet: A ball of dirty ice floating around space. When close enough to the sun, the ice melts partway and the solar wind blows a trail of gas and dust behind it, making a tail.

Nebula: Big cloud of gas and dust that stars are formed in

Pulsar: A collapsing star that instead of becoming a black hole keeps spinning faster and faster and getting denser as it collapses. It gives off waves (pulses) of electrons.

Supernova: A very large star that has reached the end of its life (and its supply of gas) and is exploding

Red Giant: A smaller or medium-sized star that is near the end of its life and has swelled up and turned red

White dwarf: A star that results from the Red Giant’s exterior gas burning off. After a time, it cools and fades away.

Binary star:

Neutron star:

Black hole: A supercondensed, superheavy ball of matter and energy whose gravity pulls in everything near it and from which nothing, not even light, can escape. Some are the remains of very large stars that, instead of dying, collapsed. Some black holes are only a few miles across, while others are several million miles across. Black holes continuously draw in more matter and expand due to their huge gravitational force.

Event horizon: The boundary surrounding a black hole that, once matter crosses, no escape is possible–it will be pulled into the black hole

The Big Bang: The (theoretical) explosion that created the universe. This explosion may have happened approximately 15 billion years ago. It occurred when all energy and all matter in existence somehow gathered into a tiny speck with virtually no empty space between particles, then, under this enormous pressure, suddenly exploded and became randomly distributed in space. As the matter cooled, gravity caused larger bits to attract smaller bits and form large stars and planets.

School in a Book: Physics

Of the hard sciences, physics is definitely my favorite. Biology is the most relatable and chemistry is possibly the most practical, but physics is the most philosophical. What is energy? What is matter? What is reality? How did it all begin? We’ll be debating these questions for a very long time.


Physics: The study of movement and energy. This includes the study of gravity, electricity, sound, light, magnetism, nuclear energy and more.

Energy: The invisible, indescribable, mysterious thing that allows for movement and work. Energy is not made of particles and doesn’t have mass or volume. We cannot directly observe it, but only understand it through its effects. Note that everything in the Universe is made of either matter or energy. Note also that energy cannot be either created or destroyed; in order to get energy out of a system, you must first get it from somewhere else and put it in to the system. (It can convert into a different form, however.)

Energy conversion: A change in the form of energy from one type to another. For example, during photosynthesis, sun energy becomes stored energy, then kinetic energy used for growth.

Energy chain: The chain reaction that occurs as energy is converted to another form, then that energy is converted to another form, and so on.

Energy storing materials: Energy is stored in wood, fuel, batteries, light, food, etc.—anything that releases energy when burned. (Remember, food isn’t turned into energy. It stores energy, then releases it from the food.)

The two fundamental forms of energy: Potential and kinetic

Kinetic energy: Energy that is currently active, such as wind energy and the movement of water.

Potential energy: Energy currently in storage, such as seed energy or the energy inside a full balloon. In order to have potential energy, the material must be in a position to be affected by a force, such as gravity.

Solar energy: The light and heat that radiates from the sun

Nuclear energy: The energy found in an atom’s nucleus

Radiant energy:

Heat energy: A form of energy that flows from one place to another because of a difference in temperature. It is really the motion of the particles that feel hot. (So in a way it’s kinetic energy.) Heat energy flows from hot to cool to even out, like air pressure moves from high to low and water flows downhill.

Chemical energy: Energy stored in the bonds of atoms and molecules. It is released in chemical reactions in the form of heat.

Electrical energy: The energy carried by electrons in an electric conductor.

Mechanical energy: The energy something has due to its motion

Thermal energy: The energy something has due to its heat levels (temperature)

Gravitational energy: The energy something has due to the effects of its gravitational field. Example: A raised hammer has gravitational energy that is converted to heat energy after it lowers and hits the nail.

Force: Any push or pull on an object. This includes the force of gravity, the force of a human hand picking something up, and much more. All objects not in motion still have forces acting on them at all times, but when not moving, these forces are canceling each other out. For example, in order to sit still I must hold my body upright in a way that perfectly balances the force of gravity on it.

The four fundamental forces in the universe: The strong force (the nuclear force that holds subatomic particles together), the weak force (gravity, which is much less powerful than the strong force), the electromagnetic force, and the weak interaction (the force responsible for the radioactive decay of atoms).

Gravity: The force everywhere in the Universe that pulls every object towards every other object simultaneously. This includes planets, stars, galaxies, electrons and even light. Gravity is what caused the planets to attract more particles and structures and grow larger. It holds heavenly bodies in orbit around each other, it causes the Moon to pull Earth’s water toward it, creating tides, and it gives things on Earth weight. The greater the mass an object has, the greater gravitational force it exerts.It is sometimes called the “weak force,” (referring to the four fundamental forces of physics) even though it is not actually a force at all.

Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity: Gravity is not a force. It is not energy. It is a simple result of the curvature of spacetime which in turn is caused by the uneven distribution of mass across the universe.

E=mc2: Energy equals mass times speed of light squared. This is the formula that Einstein discovered that shows the rate at which matter is converted into energy and vice versa.

Dynamics: The study of how forces affect movement

Velocity: Measurement of speed as well as the direction. Velocity changes when direction changes even when speed stays the same.

Terminal velocity: When something falls through gas or liquid it accelerates at a decreasing rate until it reaches its maximum constat velocity. This is terminal velocity. Happens when force of gravity equals air resistance to its falling.

Friction: The resistance of one surface to slide over another. Friction is everywhere. Without it nothing would stop moving. Wheels lose less motion to friction because they don’t have to slide at any time. Oil reduces friction. Friction causes movement energy to be converted to heat energy. The movement energy isn’t loss, it’s transferred!

Equilibrium: When forces or energies or systems are in balance

Inertia: The property of a stationary object to remain stationary and a moving object to remain moving unless acted upon by another force. (Including friction and gravity.)

Freefall: Any motion of anything where gravity is the only “force” (source of movement) affecting it. Objects in freefall are weightless because nothing is pulling it toward itself. (This is also why the weight of objects are different on different planets: there is a different amount of gravity working on the object.)

Weightlessness: Freefall, but not quite, because the object is inside of something, such as a spacecraft

Centripetal force: The “force” that causes something turn in a circle instead of in a straight line. It is not actually a force, but the net result of all the forces acting on the object that result in the circular movement.

Cohesion: When molecules of one substance are more attracted to each other than to the substance they’re touching. Ex: surface tension.

Adhesion: Opposite: Molecules are more attracted to substance they’re touching than to each other – ex: glue. Occurs often with liquids.

Diffusion: Molecules spread out to fill a space more evenly. Occurs often in gases.

Surface tension: Sideways and downward attraction on a liquid’s surface. Happens because molecules in water at top are more attracted to molecules in water below than to molecules in the air.

Fluid dynamics:

Turbulence: The uneven movement caused when an object moves through air or water

Drag/air resistance: Friction that occurs between air and any object moving through it. With no friction at all, objects falling toward the earth would fall at the same rate.

Air compression: The condition created when air particles are pushed closer together (as in a small space such as a tire or a balloon). When this happens, the particles try to escape and expand by pushing on the inside walls, causing visible inflation. Compressed air is an especially highly pressurized type of air.

Vacuum: An area of decreased air pressure that causes areas of higher air pressure to be drawn in towards it. When we suck or otherwise remove air from a container, we create a vacuum in that container. That vacuum, in turn, sucks air into it. Note that it isn’t the motion of pulling out air that causes a vacuum cleaner to suck, but the natural physical reaction of higher-pressure air to rush to fill (and thus balance out) lower-pressure air that causes this behavior.

Outer space has no air, so it is considered a vacuum. If a person went to space without a spacesuit, they would explode immediately as all of the air in their body pushed outward toward the vacuum at once. Spacesuits provide air pressure to prevent this.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: “A body at rest will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force.”

Newton’s Second Law of Motion: “The force acting on an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration.”

Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Example: A balloon full of air is let go. The air goes one way and the balloon goes another.

Electricity: The effect caused by the presence and movement of charged particles (specifically, the electrons in the charged particles)

Electromagnetism: The term denoting the entire force of electricity and magnetism, both of which occur between electrically charged particles. This force is commonly shown as a spectrum, with visible light in the center, which is known as the electromagnetic spectrum.

Electromagnetic wave: Air waves made of continually changing electric and magnetic fields that can move through solids, liquids, gases and even a vacuum.

Electromagnetic spectrum/radiant energy: All parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, whether or not they are visible to the human eye, including (in order): gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, visible light, infrared rays, radar, FM, TV, shortwave and AM.

Electric field: An area that surrounds an electric charge or an electromagnetic wave that exerts force on other charges

Electric current: A flow of electric charge

Conductor: An object or material that allows an electrical current to flow in one or more directions

Insulator: An object or material that does not allow an electrical current to flow freely or easily through it

Static electricity: Electricity created due to an imbalance of electrical charges that causes some charges to seek a path away from their present location

Magnet: A material or object that produces a magnetic field

Magnetic field: All the (invisible) space around a magnet that attracts iron. The field is strongest at the poles. The Earth is a large magnet, and has a magnetic field with two poles. It is strong enough that magnets will reorient to be parallel to the field, which is why compasses work.

The five properties of magnets: They only act on iron and iron-containing materials; 2. They have two ends, or poles (north-seeking and south-seeking); 3.They have a magnetic field; 4. Opposite pole attract, like poles repel (though both ends are attracted to iron); 5. Their magnetic fields pass through the other materials.

Magnetic north/south: The magnetic poles of the earth, which is a huge magnet. (These poles are slightly different from the geographical North Pole and South Pole.)

Ferromagnetism: The magnetic quality of certain materials (such as iron) that allows them to permanently attract or repel. (There are also many other materials that have a magnetic quality, but more weakly and not permanently.)

Light: A form of energy made up of electromagnetic waves

Visible light spectrum: The parts of the spectrum that are visible to the human eye/mind connection. Visible light is a very small part of the light spectrum.

Speed of light: The speed that light travels in a vacuum (over 186,000 miles per second). It is also the highest possible speed at which all other massless particles can travel including gravitational waves and electromagnetic energy. (Particles with any amount of mass can never reach this speed.)

Luminous: The giving off of light (as opposed to the mere reflecting of light) by an object

Light intensity: The measurable amount of light (or another property) present

Transparent: See-through

Translucent: Almost entirely see-through

Opaque: Not see-through

Umbra: The darkest part of a shadow

Penumbra: The faded part of a shadow

Color: The parts of light rays that become visible when light reflects off an object. The human eye can’t see the light rays that gets absorbed by the same object. Since every object absorbs light differently, objects reflect light differently, too.

Fluorescence: The property of some substances that cause them to glow when exposed to light. This occurs because the material is able to absorb high-frequency wavelengths, like UV light, which is invisible to the human eye, but then emit visible light from that absorbed light. UV light works best to create the glow effect because it is a high-energy frequency. Note that some energy is lost in the energy conversion process, so high-energy frequency is needed so there’s enough energy left after conversion to cause the glow.

Phosphorescence: The property of some substances that cause them to glow. Unlike a fluorescent material, though, a phosphorescent material doesn’t immediately re-emit the radiation it absorbs; instead, it can re-emit it up to several hours after the absorption. Examples include glow-in-the-dark paint or toys. The reason for this ability to hold the energy has to do with quantum mechanics.

Dispersion: For example, at sunrise and sunset light has to travel through more of the atmosphere before reaching your eyes. Blue is scattered before you see it, leaving lower frequency red and orange.

Prism: An object, such as a diamond or a piece of cut glass, that bends the white light that hits it, thereby splitting it and causing a rainbow to appear

Convex lens: A lens that is shaped like an upside-down bowl

Concave lens: A lens that is shaped like a bowl

Mirror: A piece of glass with a silver-painted backing behind it that causes all light to reflect back to the viewer

Converging lens: A lens that converges rays of light that are traveling parallel to its principle axis. This kind of lens corrects farsightedness.

Diverging lens: A lens that diverges rays of light that are traveling parallel to its principle axis. This kind of lens corrects nearsightedness.

Reflection: The bouncing of waves off a surface and back the opposite direction

Refraction: The change in path of a wave. We see light waves change path when we put a straw in a glass of water. The straw appears bended due to the changing of the path of light when traveling through air to traveling through water and vice versa.

Interference: The changing of a wave’s path resulting from an outside force

Diffraction: The splitting of light waves into two or more separate light waves when passing through small openings or encountering an obstacle

Constructive interference: The increase in a wave’s size due to interference

Destructive interference: The decrease in a wave’s size due to interference

Three types of heat transfer: Convection, conduction and radiation

Convection: Heat transfer through moving gases or liquids, such as ocean currents or warm air currents

Conduction: Heat transfer through solids using direct contact, such as a pan on a burner

Radiation: Heat transfer through the air or through space, such as the sun heating the atmosphere or a radiator heater heating a home’s air. The air does not have to be moving to transfer the heat energy.

Sound: The vibration that occurs in a hearing ear after sound waves contact it. Sound waves are only sound if they find a hearing ear. The sound waves bump the particles in the air and transfer the movement energy from particle to particle till it gets to the ear. (Note: Sound waves transfer movement energy while light waves travel as electromagnetic radiation. Sound will only travel through gas, liquid or solid, but not through a vacuum – no particles are there to transfer the energy. Light does, though, and thus it moves much faster than sound – 186,000mps rather than .2mps.)

Sound vibrationv/sound wave: Fast back and forth movements (waves) that produce sound

Sound wave: The wave pattern of sound vibrations

Tone: Any prolonged sound note

Pitch: A specific sound note (A, B-flat, etc.). It is made by tightening or loosening vocal cords, guitar strings, etc., thereby slowing down or speeding up the sound vibrations.

Sound intensity: The loudness of a sound

Frequency: The speed of a sound’s vibration. High frequencies =fast, low f=slow.
More tension = faster vibration = higher frequency = higher pitch.

Amplitude: Distance traveled from one side to another of the sound wae. More distance = louder sound.

How sound is made from voices: By passing air through the larynx and at the same time putting tension on the vocal cords. (To feel the vibration, touch the throat while talking.) Note that the human ear can only pick up 20 to 20,000 vibrations-per-second frequencies.

Infrasound: Sounds at frequencies below the ability of humans to hear it

Ultrasound: Sounds at frequencies above the ability of humans to hear it


Supersonic speed:

Subsonic speed:

Sonic boom: The sudden crashing sound that results when a noise breaks the sound barrier

Sound barrier:

Echo: Result of sound waves bumping hard surfaces and changing directions. Telephones change sound vibrations into electric signals. Same with cell phones, etc. Changed back to sound waves at the listener’s end.

Sonar: A way of bouncing ultrasound waves off far-away objects to determine their location

Theoretical physics:

The theory of everything: A theory that has not yet been found that explains how all of the different theories and laws (such as the law of gravity and quantum physics ideas) can work together in the same universe, even though they seem to contradict each other. The main two theories of everything are general relativity and quantum field theory. General relativity is the theory that all events are caused by gravity, while quantum theory discusses the interplay of the strong force (subatomic particles), the weak force (gravity) and the electromagnetic force. These theories are separately confirmed, but seem to contradict; it seems that even though they are both correct, they cannot both be correct. Since general relativity is used for large-scale problems and quantum theory is used for small-scale problems, their incompatibility is usually avoided.

String theory: The current favorite theory of everything since it attempts to marry general relativity and quantum theory by proposing that the four fundamental forces were, at the time of the Big Bang, a single force, and every particle in the universe is, at the smallest level, a pattern of vibrating strings with its own vibration pattern.