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Archive for August, 2012

In considering how to approach a series of posts to share all the amazing apps I have found to load onto the two iPads we are using for homeschooling this year, I had planned to categorize them by type or subject (Math, Language Arts, Music, Checklists, etc.). However, life here in our home has been so crazy this summer as I try to plan, clean and organize for our upcoming year while living life with five children (including a toddler) and a new puppy. Needless to say, blogging is not at the top of my list of priorities!

So I thought of a different approach, one that will also help families that are already using an iPad or iPod touch. After all, it’s unlikely that anyone will clear out all the apps they already have, and if someone were to obtain EVERY app I feature by the end of my list, you would find a 16G device full to the max (ask me how I know).

I will start out listing my very favorite educational apps…the ones that I am most excited about using this year, whether they are completely obvious, required a long and arduous search, or were something I stumbled upon quite by accident.

So here we go…

1. Paperless

Once again…I love lists! This is my very favorite app, and has little to do with education, but I wouldn’t be without it! Try out the lite version to see what you think…I opted to upgrade to the full version so I could have as many lists as I like, in a beautiful format, with or without check boxes, and full email capability (which comes in very handy when I want to send my husband the grocery list!). And since I can password protect it, I can keep this app on the children’s iPads as well as my iPhone, even though it has everything from Christmas gift ideas to what curriculum we will use this year, meal ideas and home improvement projects, and what to pack for our vacation. Now I rarely forget an item or an errand, because my phone is almost always nearby, which is more than I can say for a piece of paper and a pen!

 

2. Chore Pad HD

When I first received the iPads and started figuring out what apps to choose and how we were going to use them for school, I joked around with a friend that “it won’t clean the toilet for me, but there seems to be an app for just about everything else!”

I was wrong.

Use Chore Pad HD to create your own list of chores for each of your children…you can even create one for yourself! The children check off the chores as they are completed, earning stars towards a reward. You determine the payout and the required number of stars, such as 25 for a bowl of ice cream or half an hour of television. Then you sit back and watch the magic! And don’t be afraid to get really creative about what a “chore” might be! We have everything from unloading the dishwasher to “respectful attitude” and “attentive during lessons”…I LOVE THIS APP!

 

3. Art Database

This app resolved a huge frustration I had as a Charlotte Mason home educator who desperately wanted to do Picture Study but felt constrained by the difficulty of locating materials. Last year I used sets of picture postcards by several different artists, but even that was expensive and not all were appropriate for viewing by young children. And then there was the 4×6 size…difficult to see detail and gain a full appreciation for masterful works of art. Yet in years past I had even more trouble procuring coffee table books from the library or pulling up pictures online. This stunning app has enabled us to do Picture Study to a degree that I never before dreamed could be possible. For $9.99 you can access ALL the works by ALL the artists in the database (and it is comprehensive, I assure you!). You can pull the pictures up through a network connection or download individual images. For artists with a penchant for painting women déshabillé (ahem)…I downloaded appropriate images to a folder in Dropbox. For others, such as Monet or Turner, I leave the whole catalog up on the app so that the kids can browse through the paintings whenever they wish. With the ability to mirror the iPad’s screen onto our widescreen television, we will finally be able to experience the works of the masters in vivid color and crisp detail, and yet I even enjoy scrolling through the works of the Masters on my iPhone. I cannot recommend this app highly enough!

 

4. Happly

I still love this app, even though it has been temporarily removed from our devices because David figured out a way around it and out onto the internet unrestricted. Happly is supposed to be a child-safe internet app, and I so very much like the setup. Articles, YouTube videos, websites, games, and images all carefully selected for age-level appropriateness and showcased in a fun and interactive display. Parents set up a passcoded account for themselves and an account for each child. They can determine what categories are accessed and add their own content as well. However, some articles are linked to a website, and some websites link to others or to Google. Once out onto the Google site, your child can get anywhere on the internet, so be warned. The creators of Happly are aware of the issue and are working on the problem. I am going to play with deleting all of Happly’s content and adding just my own, but that is a little labor intensive and since new content is added all the time, it will continue to be an issue until safety protocols are put into place. Very cute idea, though, and my children thoroughly enjoyed it for many weeks and will hopefully have the opportunity again soon.

 

5. Felt Board

My children have spent hours creating scenes with this adorable app. There are numerous backgrounds, figures and “props” (such as animals, trees and flowers, household items, etc.) to choose from, and each can be re-sized, so you can make people at various heights, big trees and small trees (think perspective!), a flock of birds, etc. Items can “stick” in place with the glue function, or be moved around, or a combination of both. With a button for snapping a photo that stores directly to the Photos section on the device, your child’s work can be preserved and even printed, posted to a social network, or emailed to a faraway friend. I knew this app was for us when my 5 year old created a scene from Treasure Island after a morning reading session. Perfect for narration or just plain, creative fun for ages 2 to 102!

 

6. Art Set and Art Rage

We probably don’t need to have both of these apps, but there are features of each that we love. A full selection of realistic papers, media so rich and vibrant that at times you feel as though when you touch the screen you could pull away with your finger covered in oil paints. Pen, pencil, pastels, marker, charcoal, and many forms of paint…all with customizable line thickness, pressure, and the ability to smudge and blend. A glorious array of color, and of course the ability to save and share. My children have created some amazing works of art on these engaging applications!

 

7. Peterson Birds of North America

This was a “stumble upon”. While poking around the App Store on Earth Day (no, I wasn’t really aware of the day), I came across this fantastic app that was featured for 99 cents as part of a focus on nature and outdoor applications. Sorry to say, it’s a lot more than that on a day to day basis, but I would still contend that it’s worth every penny! Gorgeous pictures of hundreds if not thousands of birds, all with links to maps and information, each with a sound recording and a top-notch journaling setup to catalog your sightings. Within 48 hours of downloading this app, my children and I identified a bird that we had never even heard of before! We were uncertain at first, as we kept staring at the male through our windows and checking the app to match up markings. But then we spotted the female a few minutes later and shortly thereafter heard the birdsong that matched the sound recording. We were enthralled! I do believe that young ornithologists were birthed in that moment! A great addition to Nature Study materials.

 

8. Stack the States

Though this app may fall in the “obvious” category, as it’s top-rated and easy to find in the Educational category, I will still put in a plug for it and list it amongst my favorites. There was a time where guilt ran deep because my children knew little to nothing about states and capitols. We had actually done a bit of studying on the subject…they knew the names of the states and maybe a few capitols, but hand them a blank map and you could watch me burn with shame in two seconds flat. Not that filling in a map of the U.S. is the hallmark of homeschooling excellence…but nonetheless I felt like this was a gap in our learning. Now my five-year-old can fill in all the states…which also means he can read nearly all the words this app throws at him. I had no clue he could read to this extent or was capable of such amazing memory recall until I watched him interact with this application…we had just come off of “the cat sat on the mat” this past school year! This app is fun, engaging, and even covers trivia such as landmarks, state birds and flags, and other fun geography facts. A definite winner in my book! We also have the “sister” app Stack the Countries, which is of course more of  a challenge, though my older children do enjoy it.

 

9. Classical Music I: Masters Collection Vol. 1

We love to study classical music and composers. This app makes it so easy, featuring 120 of the best-loved classical pieces plus information about each composer. Students can mark favorites with a heart, and although the full version (which allows the entire piece to be played instead of a clip) is $4.99, once again I can say that the extra cost is worth is worth every penny. There is also a Volume 2 available with a more extensive selection, but Volume 1 is comprehensive enough to kick off your Composer Study in style!

 

10. Freefall Money and Freefall Spelling

I love these adorable apps, and so do my kids! The design is so attractive and cute, the layout and function of the app is excellent. Children are presented with three different tasks (add the coins and enter amount, drag and drop in the piggy bank to add up to correct amount, group the coins into correct amount) and they earn fish for their tank. Then they get to have fun feeding the fish and cleaning the tank. The spelling app works similarly with drag and drop or enter modes. You can also customize the spelling app with your own list of words, even adding your own pictures.  These are obviously geared towards lower elementary age groups, but we all unabashedly admit to having fun on these apps, myself included!

There you have it. My very favorites, which alone make the iPad an amazing home education resource. The rest are icing on the cake, and will hopefully be featured here soon. So keep checking back!

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