Homeschool Discoveries

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

I is for iPad April 17, 2012

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:41 pm
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I’ve been participating in Blogging Through the Alphabet, hosted by Marcy @ Ben and Me.  It has been great fun trying to think of something related to homeschooling (since  this is a homeschooling blog, after all!) for each letter of the alphabet.  I feel like this letter “I” is a bit of a lazy effort, since “iPad” is not a real word, and I’ve already written a lot about how we use our iPad.

But since it happens to be a Tuesday as I am writing this, I wondered if I could challenge myself to think of TEN ways we use the iPad for homeschool. (Then I can link up to Top Ten Tuesday!).

1. Let’s start with the obvious — educational apps/games.  I think there’s probably got to be an app out there for pretty much any subject to teach or review. Apps for Homeschooling is a great resource to find educational apps.

2. Occupying the boys (ages 3 and 5) while I try and focus with Miss M (age almost 8/2nd grade).  While I prefer the boys to play quietly, or work on their own while I do the subjects that require my one-on-one attention with Miss M (like those tough math lessons on 4 digit subtraction!), the reality is that some days they are running in circles past us while pretending to be “Angry Bird Clone Trooper Jedi With Really Loud Guns and Light Sabers!” On those days, sometimes it is “iPad to the rescue” to provide a few minutes of peace and quiet.

3.  I love reading ebooks on my iPad, and I also use it occasionally to read aloud to the kids.  With the wealth of free public domain ebooks, free and inexpensive kindle finds or an ebook checked out from the library, there are so many options available!

4. I came up with a new option for Mr. E, my budding reader, last week — an easy-to-read Kindle book on the iPad! I was recently tipped off to The Literate Child, a page you can “like” on Facebook to receive notifications of free children’s books for Nook and Kindle.  Mr. E enjoyed the novelty of reading a book himself (with a bit of help from me) on the iPad.  I’ve also let Miss M read a Kindle book on the iPad on occasion.

5. Dance party! While I have had great aspirations of setting up playlists to listen to particularly appropriate educational songs or Bible songs I would like the kids to learn, that has not actually happened.  What has happened is we have put on an a Pandora station for a quick dance break, soothing background music, or even music by which to play some variant of “musical chairs.”

6.  On our “Family Science Nights,” my husband often pulls out the iPad to show pictures or videos of something he would like to illustrate, especially for biology related topics.  Wikipedia is a great source for all kinds of science-related pictures.

7. Would you believe we don’t seem to have a stand-alone calculator in our house? When Miss M’s math curriculum called for a calculator we first tried using my phone,which proved to be a bit small for her.  The iPad, however, was a nice over-sized calculator once we had a calculator app installed!

8. We’ve had the iPad on hand to use in place of a paper atlas during history lessons.  We only have a simple, free world map program currently.  However, I have often wished we had a nice, historical atlas to refer to! Maybe that will be a future purchase. For now our free world map app is enough for me to remind Miss M of the location of Britain or Japan.

9.  Of course, the iPad works just as well as a computer for doing research on various books, curricula or projects we might like to utilize in the future.  I love how easy it is, though, to hand it to the kids to show them various ideas (for, say, art projects they might like to do).

10. Finally, I like having a quick way to document and share things we are doing during our school day.  I try and take a lot of pictures on my camera, but it takes multiple steps to share those photos (take the card out, import into a folder on the hard drive, export to a smaller size, etc).  Up until recently, my phone was too slow and clunky to do this easily.  But, with the iPad handy, I can easily snap a quick picture to share with friends and family.

This list doesn’t even include ways I have thought of using the iPad but haven’t actually tried yet: for audio books, as an electronic replacement or supplement to a paper planner, or using an ebook version of a textbook!

Have you used an iPad in any other ways in your homeschool?

Linking up with:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little BlessingsPhotobucket

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Collage Friday: Angry Birds Space and Other Causes of Extra Screen Time March 30, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 9:01 pm
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As I mentioned in last week’s collage post, I have my quarterly editing deadline on April 1st (or so…as close to that as possible, anyway).  While I don’t generally do much editing during the day unless I get a sitter for the kids (which I did do for two afternoons this week), I was still a bit more tired than usual from all my late nights of editing.  Between tiredness, trying to catch up with chores during the day that I might have otherwise done at night, and the purchase of a new Angry Birds game…We had more of this than usual:

At least a lot of it is educational!  Other than playing Angry Birds Space as much as I would let them, the kids enjoyed a show we just discovered on Netflix called How It’s Made, working on reading and spelling with Reading Eggs, and playing favorite educational iPad apps like ABC’s of God and the TeachMe series of apps (linked to my post about these apps).

Besides extra screen time, here are a few other highlights of our week:

1. Bowling as a family, a fun activity selected by Mr. E in honor of his birthday. (He turned 5 on Sunday!)

2. Miss M reading her “assigned reading” for the week outside — “The Minstrel in the Tower.”  I ordered it from the library what seems like months ago…but I guess they only have one copy and it took a while for our turn to come up!

3. Miss M rediscovered a number of picture books and easy readers this week in addition to her usual selections of chapter books.  She read all the books in the picture one morning before we got started with school at 9:15am!

4. All the pieces for the Horse lapbook are complete! I had hoped that I could help Miss M assemble the book today, but we didn’t quite get to it.  Maybe this weekend!

5.  Love this shot of the boys, still in their PJs, using their binoculars to watch a “working truck” dig a hole up the next block.  Too bad I couldn’t get the truck in the picture too.  We had a good time speculating as to why they were digging a hole in the grass near the road.

6. Some of the “regular stuff” we got done this week:

  • I finally got to pull out my Atlas of Discovery I happily found a while back at a book sale as we read about Magellan in MOH III.
  • Miss M worked on 4 digit subtraction problems with and without the abacus for math. She decided that 4 digit on paper is much easier than two digit mentally — I think I have to agree!
  • Early in the week, she dictated a “newspaper article” to me about last week’s tree stump painting project, which I typed.  I then had her copy it in her own handwriting — it turned into about 7 pages of her large-ish handwriting!  After finishing that yesterday, she still wrote her cursive Bible verse for the week today.
  • Mr E continues to make excellent progress in learning to read…we worked on the CH-TH-SH diagraphs in Phonics Pathways

7. Happy 5 months old today to Baby J! He’s 17 lbs now, and is learning to sit up on his own.

8 & 9.  Sometimes, a mama just needs a pastry.  Not knowing any pastry delivery services, we finished up school today in short order, and headed for a neighborhood grocery store where I could both grab a couple items I needed and treat all of us to donuts.  Aren’t the kids silly?  It was a bit chilly while we were eating outside the store – I think Baby J was a little cold!  After our treat, we went to a fundraiser rummage sale at a nearby church, then headed home for a fun afternoon…of more Angry Birds once the chores were done!

Have a wonderful weekend! I am looking forward to another weekend with a forecast in the 70s…hopefully I can get my editing done so I can get out to enjoy it!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

 

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

Filed under: Technology — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:32 pm
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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!
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Collage Friday: When Life Gives You Broken Eggs… March 9, 2012

Filed under: Weekly Highlights — kirstenjoyhill @ 10:36 pm
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Have you read the story or seen the episode of Thomas and Friends where Thomas drives too fast and breaks the farmer’s eggs? At the end of the story Sir Topham Hatt tells Thomas that all is well because he will eat scrambled eggs for breakfast (or was it omelets?).  I wonder if Sir Hatt got lots of dirt and straw in his breakfast.  I know that the floor in front of my fridge is not nearly clean enough to make breakfast from. 

Yes, Mr. K was feeling quite mischievous this past week.  The eggs on the floor were a bit of a “fail” on my part.  It happened in the evening and I thought both boys were upstairs with Tony.  I was relaxing on the couch, just me Facebook and baby J.  Eventually I became aware of a strange noise coming from the back of the kitchen (where our fridge and freezer “live”).  With dread, I made my way there and found Mr  K and the dozen or so broken eggs (a carton not in the picture was already completely empty).  He smiles and says to me. “I say YES to eggs!”

You may notice in the picture that several of the eggs are perfectly broken, as if they were ready for the frying pan — so he was clearly very purposeful about what he was doing.  And, believe it or not, this was only one of several mischievous acts on the part of Mr K this week.  I’m still trying to decide if he is bored, testing the boundaries or going through some other new developmental phase.  But keeping up with Mr K definitely took more time than usual this week.

We did manage to have some fun and learning this week amidst the extra chaos:

1. Miss M had a really great collage idea that she executed almost entirely on her own.  She found a picture of a doll in an old Christmas toy catalog we had in our stack of magazines.  She then sought out similarly sized pictures furniture, food and even a dog.  Then she asked me if I could “use google to find her a blank room”.  Smart idea on her part! I found an appropriate looking picture of an empty room and she made her work of art!

 

2.  The boys did water colors while Miss M did her collage.  Mr. E says that his work is entitled “Millennium Falcon and Storm Troopers.”  🙂 This boy always has Star Wars on the brain these days.

 

3. Mr E and Mr K with a new-to-us dinosaur game passed along to us by our neighbors.  It’s kind of like “Operation” for dinosaur bones…and it even relates to what we’ve been talking about in science, since we have been discussing human and animal skeletons!

 

4.  Miss M decided that Mr K needed some “tot school” this week.  So, to be honest, I haven’t been doing a lot in terms of working on numbers, letters and so on with Mr K.  He isn’t chomping at the bit to learn this stuff most of the time, he only just turned three, and I have other priorities for him like getting to the potty on his own more frequently and not causing chaos everywhere he goes!  But he seemed to enjoy doing a letter coloring page and “letter hunt” with Miss M while she read him an appropriately themed story that she picked out.  Hmmm…maybe we are on to something here!

 

5,  Oh, column addition…both teacher and student wished we never knew you.  We only made it through about two and a half RightStart math lessons this week.  We’ve made the big shift in gears away from geometry.   Miss M struggled with not making small mistakes in the column addition problems, which led to answers I could see were so close, but not totally correct.  It was discouraging for her to have to retrace her steps to find her mistakes and she couldn’t always find them.  Attitudes may have been deteriorating on both of our parts by the end of the week.  I am glad to see that after the lesson that is currently half-finished we switch gears again to subtraction for a bit.  Maybe that will go better for us!

 

6.  Miss M working on her math while baby J keeps her company (I had been sitting in between them, and when I got up I thought they looked so cute together!).

 

7. Family science night around the iPad, while daddy shows the kids pictures of animal skeletons to discuss similarities and differences between various vertebrates.

 

8. Snack and a history lesson.  We don’t read over a meal or snack very often…because, to be honest, I am usually too hungry to read.  But I wanted to read a long lesson from MOH III on Leonardo DaVinci today, and some cinnamon/sugar biscuits seemed like a nice diversion.

 

9. A complicated afternoon play-date situation didn’t quite work out as we had planned it, but the end result was great — we ended up with five kids around the table building with toothpicks and marshmallows (and only a reasonable number of marshmallows were eaten, I think!) provided by a friend who hadn’t originally planned on staying to play at our house.

 

I’m hoping for a relaxing, not too chaotic weekend and looking ahead to a busy week next week that includes a water-main shutoff on Monday, Pi day on Wednesday, a woodwinds class for Miss M on Thursday and maybe some St. Patrick’s Day activities thrown in for good measure. Oh, and we were invited to go roller skating too.  We’ll see if we’re ready for all of that!

I’m linking up with Collage Friday @ Homegrown Learners and the Weekly Wrap-Up @ Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

PhotobucketWeird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

 

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 librivox.org, 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 booksshouldbefree.com lists most (or maybe all?) of Librivox’s audiobooks as well as a few others in a much easier-to-browse format.  Booksshouldbefree.com 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
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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!