Here at the River Houses we recommend six standard reference books for every homeschooling family—not children’s books, but family books that can serve both parents and students, that can support any curriculum you may choose to follow, and that can help to make you a better teacher. Five of these books are permanent volumes that should last for many years, but the sixth is one that must be renewed each year: the annual World Almanac and Book of Facts, now available from Amazon.com in its 2018 edition:
The annual World Almanac makes an ideal Christmas or New Year’s gift for your students, and my own copy of the 2018 almanac arrived just shortly before the holidays. It’s advertised as the 150th Anniversary Edition, attesting to its enduring value across many decades.
Modern almanacs are really one-volume desk encyclopedias, packed with information about everything from science and technology (page 277; did you know the top speed of a reindeer is 32 miles per hour?), to world history and geography (page 647; did you know the average depth of the Indian Ocean is 12,800 feet?), to artists, entertainers, and notable personalities (page 173; did you know Robert Penn Warren was the first Poet Laureate of the United States?), and much, much more.
If you have a fact-devouring student—and many students go through a fact-devouring stage—there’s no better entertainment than the annual World Almanac. (Did you know the island nation of Tuvalu has a population of only 11,052?) And for general reference questions on almost any subject, the World Almanac is almost always the best place to start.
To get the most out of your almanac, notice that the major sections are marked with black tabs along the book’s fore edge, and that these tabs are labeled on the back cover: “Special Features, Year in Review,” “Economy, Business, Energy,” “Health & Vital Statistics,” and so on. And while open-ended browsing of the almanac can be endlessly interesting, be sure that your students also know how to use the comprehensive alphabetical index at the end of the volume when they are trying to locate a specific piece of information.
We regularly refer to material from the World Almanac and Book of Facts in our River Houses postings, and starting next week our page references will change over from the 2017 edition to the 2018 edition. Add a new 2018 almanac to your homeschool library and join us as we teach and learn our way through the new year.
¶ Note that the World Almanac and Book of Facts is available in both paperback and hardcover editions. The paperback is slightly less expensive, but it’s also reduced in size making the type exceedingly small for grownup eyes, although your young scholars may have no trouble with it. I always use the hardcover edition.