App Central: Our Favorite Learning Apps and How We’re Using Them

App_CentralThere are many apps on my device. I’m happy to inform you very few are games. Why is this? Our learning apps take up the bulk of our space, and we couldn’t be more pleased with this decision. Today, we’re sharing our favorite learning apps and how we use them in our adventure called homeschooling.

Grab your reading glasses, we’ve got quite the list! And each one is well-used…

Calculator + – While a standard calculator app came pre-installed on my device, Calculator+ far outshines any other we’ve come across yet. We use this with Algebra helps and Geometry. It’s a lifesaver.

Dictionary (Merriam-Webster 1828) – We own a physical dictionary, but having a dictionary app on my device is a help while on the go. We’re big believers in looking up new words when we come across them, searching out new vocabulary is always a treat. The app includes a word of the day and weekly challenges.

Hiking Project – As we’re continually looking for new places to hike, this app is a lovely resource to have on hand.

Garden Answers – Simply take a photo of the plant you’re looking at and this app will identify it for you. Garden Answers is helpful for those of us who are not experts and/or desire immediate answers without time for much research.

Aniscience – An adorable science app for littles, discovering laws of nature and basic plant and animal species. It’s too cute for words, and a great app for beginners.

Snapseed – We use this photography editing app on a daily basis. The options available are incredible and help the children explore creativity while learning the fundamentals of good photography.

Splice – While used less often, Splice is helpful for making photo/video collage of our adventures. We create quick slides to share with family and friends, learning skills such as Ken Burns effect, slide transitions, and more.

Stop Motion – The title tells you what the app is for, but it doesn’t explain how fun this app really is. Stop Motion is a great tool for the kids to explore film making.

Podcasts While not directly an app for learning, and a pre-loaded app on the device when purchased, this app has proven to be instrumental in learning. There are so many excellent podcasts to enjoy. HERE‘s our current list, which keeps growing continually!

LibriVox – While I’m sure most of you have heard of this app before, we would be remiss in not mentioning it. We use LibriVox quite a bit, downloading reads for the road or to listen to while making meals.

Red Herring – I am not a big player of games, but when I find apps which help feed the mind as well as entertain, I’m hooked. Red Herring is a visually basic game; there are no bells or whistles. What you will find is a challenging word association game which will stretch the knowledge of your vocabulary. Given a list of words, can you determine how to categorize them properly based on what they have in common?

KAMI 2 – Here’s another game which is not high on graphics, but excellent on mind bending and thinking outside the box. You’re given a geometric image and a pallet of colors. You then have a limited number of “taps” to clear the board so the entire image is now one color. It’s more challenging than you think. As a bonus, players can create their own geometric images to challenge friends and family.

Word Cookies – I’m sure by now everyone has heard of this game. We’re addicted and are constantly one-upping each other to see who’s on the higher level. On the off-chance you haven’t heard of this game, each level consists of cookies shaped like words which you need to string together to complete the word list. Each level has new letters and an entirely new set of words which you need to find.

Capitals – Another fantastic word game. Capitals is a two-player game which has you building words using letter tiles in order to clear the board and dominate your opponent.

Piano Tiles 2 – I had reservations about this game at first. How could tapping piano notes be at all beneficial. I was entirely wrong. Piano Tiles 2 – not the original version – consists of only classical music, which the children learn by tapping their device screens. My children now know more about classical music than I, and will quiz each other frequently to name the piece within a certain number of notes. My favorite feature is the history given on each piece, including composer and country of origin.

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System/Galactic Genius with Astro Cat – I bought the book. Then discovered there was an app. The rest is history. This entire Astro Cat series is genius.

First 5 – This Bible app was recommended by another homeschool mom, and I’m so glad I took the time to download it. It’s a great start to the day.

Bible (YouVersion) – This app was another recommendation, and I love it. There are many Bible study courses you can download for free, along with Bible reading plans. My current plan is 5x5x5 Discipleship Journal. I’m not going to lie… My favorite thing about this app is the ability to select audio; I can have the Bible read aloud to me all throughout the day while doing mindless chores or cooking meals.

Whew! Looking back, this is quite a long list. I’d tell you this is all I’ve got loaded on my kids’ devices, but that wouldn’t be true. Right now, I’ve an entire folder dedicated to chemistry apps for the coming school year. It’s becoming an addiction these free apps. There are many more which come and go, along with apps for purely entertainment value.

For the most part, the apps we download are meant to stretch the mind as well as entertain. While I’m not opposed to playing games, I wish to limit the amount of time blankly staring at a screen. The above list helps keep learning fun, increases our skill, and adds to the adventure called homeschooling.

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

~ Matthew 6:22-23

Your Turn!: Share your favorite learning apps with us so we can partake in the fun!

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Verse by Verse

VersesBoth in our homeschooling and our daily living, our children have been highly encouraged to study and memorize Scripture. It is not enough for them to rely on our knowledge and memory, they need to be reading for themselves.

There are several reasons we believe our children should be memorizing scripture, and many fun ways we can encourage this daily habit. One of the newest methods we are incorporating into our learning day is through apps for our devices. And one of our favorite apps is Verses.

Verses is a fun, interactive app which helps you memorize Scripture and keep track of your progress. You can memorize quickly and easily with fast-paced memory games. Helpful topical passage lists written by pastors, teachers, and authors, allow you to find the right passages to memorize to go along with your homeschooling lessons. Verses uses a series of memory games including ABSORB the verse; MEMORIZE the verse; and RECALL the verse. It’s simple, easy, and fun to use! Verses App

I love the basic design of the app, free of distracting pop ups and unnecessary stickers. It’s clear what the goal is, Scripture! I also appreciate keeping track of our progress. One fun feature of the app is connecting online with friends. Together, we can encourage one another in our memorization of the Word of God. Altogether, this app has been a lovely addition to our day.

As Christian homeschoolers, the main focus of our learning is to encourage our children to draw closer to God. We establish a foundation for our learning, constantly build on that foundation, and, prayerfully, establish a pattern for a life. We want our children to view all learning as a means of better knowing their Creator, and drawing closer to Him each day. Through study of Scripture our children gain a deeper understanding of our Lord and Savior.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Joshua 1:8

📢 Chime In!: Share with us your favorite way to memorize Scripture with your children!

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Rosetta Stone for the Littles?

I admit it. Sometimes I like to take the easy road. Who doesn’t? On occasion, it seems like a good thing to let someone or something else do the teaching so I can take a moment’s break and rest my vocal chords. So, when I spotted a new Spanish program made for the littles in my house, I jumped on the concept and took off running.

Letter SoundsRosetta Stone has created eight, adorable, episodes with themed characters from the “It’s a Small World” attraction at Disneyland. In each episode, we find ourselves discovering a new country. We learn about the food, customs, crafts, and culture of each; along with a few, fun, Spanish words mentioned during each episode.

It seems Rosetta Stone is using these episodes as a catalyst for their newest line of apps, created by Rosetta Stone Kids: Lingo Word Builder, Lingo Letter Sounds, and Arcade Academy.

Here is where inspiration struck. Rosetta Stone is pretty well-known for their curriculum, apps are always convenient and usually fun, and my little will be starting Spanish next year anyway. So, why not give them all a shot?

The initial download for each app was free. I downloaded all three and, during rotations the next day, sat down to do some learning with my son.

Lingo Word Builder – Word Builder includes a few basic games, which make use of your device’s built-in microphone in order to assess your child’s pronunciation. The first game was on Spanish words, which mostly focused on direction and placement. The second was in English and focused on building words. Each game adds toys to your “toy box”, where children can practice saying the name of each toy.

Lingo Letter Sounds – Letter Sounds functions primarily the same as Word Builder. Children can match capital letters with lowercase letters in the first game. In the second game, children learn Spanish words by picking one of three categories to learn from: “dance”, “throw”, and “jump”. Again, each game adds toys to your “toy box”, where children can practice saying the name of each toy.

Arcade Academy – Arcade Academy appears to be made for slightly older children, including several games to increase their knowledge of the Spanish language. There are various missions for them to complete, while learning word phrases and sentence completion.

Word Builder

While all three apps did come with a few included levels, we quickly learned we would need to purchase additional levels in order to continue.

My son always enjoys being on a device. (I think boys come inbred with the need for gaming.) However, as both mommy and teacher, I found these apps a little wanting. Letter Sounds and Word Builder were a little too easy in the English department for my big guy; perhaps these would be best for PreK students. However, the Spanish sections of each game seemed too advanced.

While I will keep these apps on my device for back-up or to entertain the kiddos during outings, I think I am back at square one. While taking the easy road is nice, sometimes you just need to do things the old-fashioned way; person to person. So, starting next year, little man and I will be going through the same Spanish curriculum I covered with his sisters. They did fabulously with our previous program; I’m sure he’ll do the same. No; I won’t get that moment’s break, but he’ll definitely be learning a great deal more and that is the goal.

Have you tried Rosetta Stone Kids; what was your opinion of their apps? Which Spanish apps do you recommend?

KidZui

KidZui logoJust recently the kiddos and I came across this fun, computer browser for kids. Think YouTube, gaming central, and browser all in one … then you have KidZui!

I’m really enjoying the fact that my kiddos can be on KidZui without me hovering over their shoulders, wondering if something inappropriate is going to pop up. They are free to search, watch, and play anything available on the browser; no hidden dangers are lurking in the corners.

Bonus feature: Lots of educational games, information, maps, guides, and more!

So far the kids seem to be enjoying it, all their favorite games are available like Club Penguin and Disney. They also like access to videos, which include lots of fun creature and animal antics. 

FYI… this app does seem to be geared toward smaller people; think ten and under. 

Screen Shot of KidZui

(Personal Note: I wonder why there aren’t more apps geared toward big kids? When our babies were littler, we had JumpStart. JumpStart blew everything else out of the water, it was that awesome. Now a-days, JumpStart is on the 3D commercial bandwagon and have lost their educational pull. Unfortunately, no one has risen to take their place. What a bummer! My oldest, “T”, still likes to play and would have kept using JumpStart well into high school had they not changed the format. Do they just assume bigger kids hate learning games or do they just not care any longer?)

Is there an educational app you would recommend? I’m all ears (or eyes, in this case)! 

3, 2, 1… Blast Off

Retro_eblast_Flyer

A flyer for Ayars Animation’s newest app, written by my oldest daughter and illustrated by my husband!

One of the many benefits of homeschooling, is learning your child’s strengths and teaching them how to use them. It is always a pleasure to help my children discover their gifts and how to implement them in daily life.

My oldest daughter has the gift of words. She can tell a story so beautifully, setting the stage and creating a mood. For quite a long time now, her goal has been to become a writer.

My husband illustrates children’s book apps for Ayars Animation and often gets the task of writing the stories for them as well. On his latest app, “T” was pulled in to help out. She lent her gift and helped him create a simple app that focuses on teaching preschoolers all about numbers.

While the app was written and illustrated back in May, the animation was only recently completed. I am very proud to announce that their app is now available on iTunes! (If you happen to be on iTunes today, you can download the app for free! But hurry, that offer ends today.)

I am very proud of her. Not because it is on sale, not because people will buy the app (although I hope they do); I am proud because she had a goal and she stuck with it. She knew what she wanted and she made it work.

She very diligently completed the task given to her, taking into account what other people thought. She wrote, revised, and finished. She can now proudly say that she has accomplished at least one part of her goal… she is now published.

While it may seem like only a small goal and very few people may actually purchase it, it is special for her.

With this project under her belt, she is now trying to focus her attention on a more complex project. (Writing this little app was fun, but very simple.) Her ultimate goal being to write a children’s book and have her father illustrate it.

I truly believe that our methods of homeschooling have afforded her the time, ability, and drive to reach these goals. It is very exciting to see the possibilities.

What gifts do you see in your children and how are you helping them to reach their goals?

An Apple a Day

Little Man PlayingAs I mentioned in a previous post, media is limited in our home. Our children are only allowed TV and “free play” on devices from Friday evening until Sunday evening. Even then, they are limited to how much time they get. At times, it can become a little hard to uphold these rules; especially when we develop mobile apps.

My husband is part of Ayars Animation, a small company based in California that develops apps for Apple mobile devices. To date, they have completed four apps and are working on a fifth. Their first app was the classic story, Jack and the Beanstalk.iPod

Working with Ayars Animation has been loads of fun for him. He was mainly hired to handle the illustrations for the apps, but it has become much more. Now, he has become instrumental in helping to develop future apps and the fine tuning of details.

The Tree I SeeOne side effect of developing these apps has been that we are constantly testing them out. Our children are often called upon to check for “bugs” and crashes. While the kids have a blast with helping out their pop, they are taking in a little more media than we often would allow.

It also means that they are being exposed to the world of Apple. Our children know their way around any Apple device that is placed in their hands and can sync any handheld with a desktop. They know iTunes like the back of their hands and, unfortunately, are up to date on the latest and greatest kid apps available. Pirate Puzzles

We now have a large assortment of learning apps, strategy apps, game apps, and book apps; our collection growing larger every day. The minute their friends get a new app, the kids are anxious to try it out.

Cozmo's Day OffAs it is the school year, I still refrain from allowing them to play with media during the week. However, testing does need to be done. We are trying to find a balance between the two; helping out Pop and yet not have media overkill. It isn’t always easy, but we are learning as we go.

However… It is Sunday and the house is filled with the sound of technology. Now, can someone tell me how I am supposed to get the Angry Birds theme song out of my head?