Homeschool Discoveries

Sharing a few things I've discovered along the way…

Tech Tuesday: “Teach Me…” Apps March 20, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:32 pm

I usually might wait and see if an app “stands the test of time” as far as how well my kids like it before I would share it here, but I am so impressed with the “Teach Me…” series of apps by 24×7 Digital! I just couldn’t wait to share about these apps!

I’ve seen Carisa at 1 plus 1 plus 1 equals 1 mention these apps several times in her posts and in her list of favorite iPad app, so I have been meaning to check them out for a while.

There are currently 4 “Teach Me” apps — Toddler, Kindergarten, 1st Grade and 2nd Grade.  I purchased Toddler, Kindergarten and 2nd grade for $0.99 each.  Trust me, these apps are a bargain.  Some apps at this price point offer a few minutes of entertainment, but these apps have a lot of content.

Each app presents educational material that gets progressively more difficult as the student advances along with rewards that get more complex with each app.

The toddler app covers shapes, colors, numbers and letters — typical toddler and early preschool material.  This is right where Mr K is at right now.  He knows all his colors and all but the more difficult shapes, but is just beginning to consistently know letters and numbers.  The rewards are simply stickers to post on a sticker scene, but Mr. K loves it!

The Kindergarten app is starting out almost a bit too easy for Mr. E, but he is enjoying it anyway and is proud that he can ace most questions in an app meant for the “grade level” he technically won’t start until next fall.  The Kinder app has basic math operations, with visual cues to help out (problems like 1+2 and 2-0), as well as K-level sight words and basic phonics.  The rewards get a step more complex as well, with coins being earned, which can then be spent on stickers.

Finally, Miss M tried the 2nd Grade app for the first time today.  The 2nd grade app involves spelling, sight words, “speed math” (basic math facts) and “long math” (more difficult multi-digit adding and subtracting). The level is right on for all but the sight word reading (Miss M is an excellent reader — way above grade level).  So far the spelling is pretty easy, but she needs all the practice she can get! While the Toddler and Kinder apps involve touching a correct answer from a selection of choices, the 2nd grade app asks the students to write answers using their fingertip (or, I suppose, a stylus would work – we may try that!).  It’s a great idea, but sometimes it missed what letter or number Miss M was trying to enter.  It’s hard to write neatly with your finger tip! The 2nd grade app has more complex rewards including not just the stickers, but a virtual aquarium, photo booth and more where the “coins” users earn can be spent.

I highly recommend this entire series of apps if you are looking for an all purpose, level-appropriate educational app.

I’m linking up with Tech Tuesday at Sunflower Schoolhouse!


Top Ten/Tech Tuesday: We love free Audiobooks! March 6, 2012

Filed under: Books,Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 1:21 pm
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Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

(I’m linking up with TWO linky parties today…if you just want my “top ten list” of free audiobooks we’ve enjoyed, just look to the bottom of the post!)

Audiobooks are a great way to pass the time or multitask. While our audiobook listening has diminished somewhat ever since Miss M learned to read on her own, we are still sure to stock up our Mp3 player with books before a long trip.  Miss M still also occasionally likes to listen to audiobooks while folding her laundry or just to relax. When Miss M was in Kindergarten and 1st grade, her attention span was much longer than her ability to read on her own, so she listened to several long audiobooks those two years!

The boys haven’t been big fans of audiobook listening so far, but I would like to try again to find some books they might enjoy (it’s been a while since we tried listening to one all together).  They are each getting a bit older and Mr. E in particular is getting to that same point of having a bit longer attention span to perhaps enjoy a longer audiobook.

While many audiobooks are available for purchase on sites like amazon, the price for an audiobook is often higher than the price for a regular book! Of course libraries have offered books on cassette tape or CD for years, but we (as I am sure is true of many families these days) have no convenient devices for playing cassette tapes, and even CD listening is more of a challenge than it used to be — most of our CD listening devices have broken and we haven’t replaced them!

Luckily we’ve found two great ways to get MP3 format audiobooks for free — our library and websites offering public domain audiobooks.

Most the audiobooks we’ve listened to have come from, a site dedicated to organizing volunteers to make recordings of books in the public domain.  The recordings are then available as free downloads.  Librivox is a great site, but can be challenging to browse if you don’t have something specific in mind.  I just realized recently that lists most (or maybe all?) of Librivox’s audiobooks as well as a few others in a much easier-to-browse format. also gives links to ebooks in various formats, just in case you decide you would rather read it yourself instead of listening. Ipad/Iphone apps are available to help interface with these free audibooks as well, but to be honest I haven’t tried any of them yet, since we don’t find the iPad to be our preferred device for audiobook listening.

Our library system also offers free audiobook downloads.  I’m guessing that this service is offered by many libraries!  Most of the audiobooks are available to be “checked out” for a limited period of time, after which they are electronically “returned”, and no longer available on your device.  Because of this system (sometimes called “DRM” or digital rights management), these library audiobooks won’t work on all devices — but they do work on computers and many MP3 players, smartphones, and the iPad/iPhone are supported.

Not sure where to start? Here are 10 free audiobook titles we’ve enjoyed (in no particular order):

  1. Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  2. Marvelous Land of Oz
  3. Raggedy Ann Stories
  4. Raggedy Andy Stories
  5. Our Island Story
  6. The Bobbsey Twins
  7. Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore
  8. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm
  9. The Secret Garden
  10. Five Little Peppers and How they Grew

Happy Listening!


Tech Tuesday: Apps We Like for Math February 28, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:49 pm
Tags: ,

Math facts and other math skills are a natural fit for practice on the iPad.   Miss M practices her math skills in many ways — regular RightStart math lessons, RightStart math games, practice worksheets from RightStart or elsewhere and of course on the iPad.  Here are a few apps we like:

For basic, no frills, math facts practice we like Math Drills.  This app allows for multiple users and customization for each user of the difficulty of each type of problem.  Want your student to practice on only more difficult adding problems, a full range of subtraction problems or only 2’s and 3’s facts in multiplication? It’s a cinch to set that up.  You can also customize the number of problems that will be offered for un-timed review, timed practice or a test.  I found this to be well worth the $1.99 I spent on it!

Skill Builder Numeracy is a free option (at least as of this writing) for no-frills practice with fewer customization options and no differentiation between users that we used before purchasing Math Drills.

For math fact practice with lots of fun included, my kids really enjoy HyperBlast and Doll House math.  HyperBlast lets the user ride through a tunnel shooting aliens, avoiding obstacles, and other challenges.  There’s a brief break in the arcade style action every few minutes to answer a few math problems.  Dollhouse math lets kids buy dolls and items for a doll house after completing a few math problems.   There’s more “fun” than practice in these apps, but it’s always nice to sneak in a few extra math problems here and there with the fun!

Number Math is a great app for practicing other numeracy skills, such as greater than/less than, skip counting and number order.   This app is free as of this writing, and features multiple levels of difficulty for each skill.

The only app for time telling that we’ve tried so far is Jungle Time.  I read a lot of favorable reviews for this app, but it was not as much of a hit with my 7 year old.  She found the interface for entering the time a bit difficult to use — there were many times when she knew the correct answer, but accidentally entered the wrong time anyway.

Do you have any apps you love for math practice?

I’m linking up with:


Tech Tuesday: Finding Great Educational Apps February 21, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:09 pm
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When we got our iPad last fall, it didn’t take me long to realize that finding good educational apps in the app store can be a frustrating experience.  I felt like I was wasting a lot of precious time sorting through page after page of apps, while finding few that would meet our needs.

I feel very fortunate to have discovered a great site — Apps for Homeschooling.  Site owner Jennifer has reviewed dozens of apps, maintains a page of free and sale price apps that is updated regularly, and regularly does give-aways or “tosses” for promo codes that can be used to get free apps.   This is really not just a site for homeschoolers — anyone looking for educational apps for their kids will find this site useful.

If you like Apps for Homeschooling on Facebook, you’ll see almost-daily alerts to these free and on-sale apps, as well as having the opportunity to jump in on promo-code “tosses”.  Even when you do find apps you like for your iPad, iPhone or iPod, it’s easy to be tempted to spend way too much money buying them all.  🙂   By checking the Apps for Homeschooling site or reading Jennifer’s posts on Facebook, I have gotten many, many apps for free or for a very low price.

Another site I recommend is Digital Kindergarten, a blog written by a Kindergarten teacher who uses iPads in her classroom.  Check out the two pages she mentions in this post for a long list of apps she finds useful.

I also take note when bloggers I already enjoy share about their favorite apps Carisa at 1+1+1=1 and Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler both share lists of apps they like.

As I mentioned in my first Tech Tuesday post, I have a Pinterest board dedicated to homeschool tech, including several links to posts or sites with lists of educational apps.  I’ll keep adding more as I find them!

What sites have you found to help you discover great apps?

I’m linking up with Tech Tuesday @ Sunflower Schoolhouse!


Resources for Learning the US States February 16, 2012

Filed under: Books,Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 8:18 am
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Miss M is in the middle of her first big memory work project right now — learning the names and locations of all 50 states in the USA.  Our homeschool co-op does a geography challenge each year in May, and this is the challenge for students in second grade.  Miss M wanted plenty of time to prepare, so we started this in January.

The starting point for Miss M’s memorization efforts has been “The Little Man in the Map” by E. Andrew Martonyi.  Little Man in the Map gives readers memory clues in rhyme to remember the shape of each state.  It’s really quite clever.  The “little man” is made from the line of states from Minnesota down to Louisiana (Minnesota is the hat, Louisiana is the boot…can you see what the states in between might be?).   The “little man” comes to life and provides other clues — such as Tennessee and North Carolina being a table, with the four states beneath as legs.  So far this has been a really helpful method for Miss M to remember each state, and she has memorized more than half so far!

We’re reinforcing this learning with lots of fun games on the iPad and computer:

On the iPad, Miss M’s favorite app for state practice is Wood Puzzle.  Wood Puzzle has a practice mode and a quiz mode and involves dragging states to the right spot on the map.  It also has a mode for state Capitals.

We also have iTeachStates and TopoUSA.   Iteachstates has a few different modes, including dragging the states to the correct position and a multiple choice quiz.  TopoUSA involves helping a little plane fly to the correct state.

There are many other state geography games and learning apps available in the App Store.  One I’ve heard several friends say they like is “Stack the States”.  To be honest, I’ve been waiting to see if the full version would ever be available for free (I got the other state apps for free by downloading them on a day when they happened to be available with no charge).  Perhaps some day soon if it doesn’t go on sale I’ll drop the 99 cents for it so Miss M can try it.  🙂

Our site of choice for practicing states on the computer is the USA Geography section of Shepherd Software, a site with many free educational games for kids.  This site has practice games for learning states, capitals, and other geographical features such as lakes.  Games are available at several levels of difficulty.

If you are looking to practice with traditional paper maps, check out the free printable maps for the USA (and the rest of the world) at Education Place.

We may also consider purchasing a board game or two for additional practice.  I have 10 Days in the USA and Scrambled States on my Amazon wish list.

Do you have any favorite resources for learning the US States?

I’m linking up with this week’s Tech Tuesday @ Sunflower Schoolhouse!


Tech Tuesday – A New Meme! February 7, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 11:02 pm
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I’ve been thinking about writing a series of posts on “techie” stuff we use in our homeschool.  I love reading about great iPad apps and educational websites on other blogs, so I am excited to share some of the discoveries we’ve made.  I was also thinking that “Tech Tuesday” or something similar would have quite a ring to it as far as blog memes go.  Well Honey at Sunflower Schoolhouse was kind enough to start just such a meme after I suggested it in the comments on her blog!

I’m linking up with her Tech Tuesday meme and plan to do so on a regular basis.

We got an iPad late last September.  It is such a wonderful tool for learning (and for fun!).  I asked each of my kids what his or her most favorite app is:

Miss M (age 7.5) said:”My Horse” — An app that simulates having a horse that you can feed, take care of and even take to horse riding competitions. It’s perfect for my horse-loving daughter. This is an app the potential for in-app purchases, but of course those need the parent’s password (and I am not sure that Miss M even realized until recently that it was possible to buy things). It hasn’t been a big deal for us. She is able to enjoy it without spending any real money.

Mr E (turns 5 next month) said: “Red Birds” (aka Angry Birds) 🙂  This one is a classic, and needs no explanation!  My boys love to run around the house pretending to be “red birds”.  The only problem with this is that they want Miss M to play the role of the pigs in the Angry Birds game.  That usually does not go over well!

Mr K (just turned 3) said: “Robots!” (aka Toca Robot Lab).  Toca Boca makes many innovative apps for kids, and Mr K enjoys all of Toca’s apps that we have purchased so far.  The Robot Lab involves constructing a robot from a selection of parts, then maneuvering this robot through a maze of sorts.

I’m not surprised that each of them picked an app that is mostly “for fun” — but they do all have more educational apps they enjoy too, and I’ll be featuring some of those in future Tech Tuesday posts.

I started a new Pinterest board for techie stuff today too.  I *think* you can see this even if you aren’t a member of Pinterest.

Do your kids have favorite apps or websites we should check out?