iPad Apps of the Week

We are in the middle of a very hectic week. You know the kind of week when you and the kids are in and out of the car every single day. Homeschooling works great with hectic schedules though because it is quite easy to school on the go. Between audio books and the iPad I feel like we actually get a good deal accomplished even if the kid’s written output for the week seems to be lacking.

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Because we are in the car so much this week I decided to download some new apps for the kids, and I discovered some gems that I want to share with my readers. The first app that I found is Mystery Math, and I have to say this is my son’s new favorite math game. This is a wonderful game that combines a fun story with math problems. The basic idea is you are trying to save all the fireflies that have been captured, and along the way you collect numbers and solve problems.

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Mystery Math keeps my son’s interest, which is no easy accomplishment. Because he is interested he readily solves all the math problems. The graphics are wonderful, the game is fun to look at for both kids and adults, and the math problems can be set to make it challenging for your student. The game is recommended for ages 6-12 and is $2.99, and I think this is a good price for the quality of the app. Any child who needs to cement their math facts in a fun setting would benefit from this game.


The next app that I found this week is a poetry app that I got for the twins called Poems By Heart from Penguin Classics. It is a free app, but to get any real use out of it you need to buy a poetry pack. Each pack includes four poems, and the poems are rated for you from easy to very hard. Each pack costs $0.99, so they are not too expensive. We started out with the adventures pack which includes Jabberwocky, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Owl and the Pussycat, and The Charge of the Light Brigade. Later we added the Gothic pack.

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The idea of this app is to memorize these poems. There is an overview of each poem which you can read, or you can have it read to you in either a female or male voice. After listening to the poem you can move on to learning it.

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This is a great app to use for memorization work and poetry studies. The only drawbacks to this app is that there is not too many poems to choose from and that the voice readings, while perfectly acceptable, are lacking somewhat in their interpretation  Otherwise we all love this app. It is a fun way to learn poetry whether you are at home or on the go.

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Another great app we discovered this week is BBC Earth WondersMy youngest son loves nature and animal videos, so I decided to buy this app for him. This app, priced at $3.99, is beautiful, and I find myself watching the videos and looking at the pictures as much as him. The clips come from various BBC shows such as Planet Earth, and they are all in HD, as are the photos.

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This app looks great, and it’s interface is wonderful. My son is especially fond of Explore the Globe where you can rotate the globe and pick on areas of interest. You can also search by theme.

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The only downside to Earth Wonders is that you have to download the video files, and the files take up a good deal of space. This app is probably best used on a newer iPad or iPhone because of this. The reviews for this app seem to be either positive or negative, and I am guessing the difference in opinion is caused by whether you are using it on a newer iPad or not.

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Finally, just for fun, we all downloaded the app Action Movie FX this week. What can I say about this app? Well it is not educational, it is somewhat violent, the kids are wasting a good deal of time on it, and we all absolutely love it. It is nice to make videos together and to laugh about it together. The app is free, if you want to buy additional packs it is an extra $0.99 per pack. It is recommended for ages nine and up due to mild cartoon/fantasy violence.

Autry and iPads, part 2

My daughter is having so much fun with the iPad mini she received for Christmas. She especially enjoys Sketchbook Pro‘s new time-lapse feature, and I thought I would share one of her creations:

Also, my daughter declared this week that she is “one of the biggest Lord of the Rings nerds on the planet”, and so she just had to record this song on Garage Band, another of her favorite apps.

She wasn’t very happy with it, saying that her voice was too cracky and flat that day, but I still think it is amazing that she recorded the main part along with all the chords in the background.

iPads are a tool for learning in the 21st century, and for my daughter they are a tool for creating!

Five Essential Items for Homeschooling

If you had to choose five items only to homeschool with what would you choose? My friends and I were discussing this the other day, and it got me thinking about what my favorite tools are in our homeschool. So without further ado, here is my list:

1. An Ipad

Seriously, I don’t know what I would do without it. We use it for the educational apps, to watch videos, to look things up quickly, and to listen to music. We also use it to read books with the Kindle and Nook apps. It is an invaluable tool.

2. Apple TV

I know, more technology, but I love Apple TV! The kids and I watch or listen to various podcasts throughout the day, from CNN Student News, to the Rachel Maddow show, to Coffee Break French and many more. The Apple TV can also mirror your iPad (if it is not a first generation), and this is a great feature. The twins have been enjoying A Midsummer Night’s Dream via Shakespeare in Bits, and it is so much better to experience it on the television.

3. A piano

I found our old piano at an estate sale of a former teacher. It was much loved by her in her classroom for many years, and it is well-loved in our home. Someone is always on the piano in this house, either practicing, creating their own songs, or just messing around. I wouldn’t want to homeschool without a piano.

4. A Wonderful Used Library Bookstore

Some books I picked up at the bookstore last week. Total cost $1.50

Amazon is great, as is Barnes and Noble, Rainbow Resource, and a host of other sites at which to get homeschool books. However I do not have an endless supply of money, nor do I always want to order my books online. Sometimes I don’t know exactly what I am looking for, and I want to peruse a bookstore looking for the next great book. Hence the used library bookstore, a favorite haunting place of mine and the kids. We are lucky in that we live in Southern California. There are many used library bookstores around us, and most of them are full of gems.

5. Nature

I wouldn’t want the kids to grow up without spending a good deal of time outdoors in nature. It is a blessing to have all the technology that we do, but I feel this needs to be balanced with time in the natural world. We are very lucky to live in a community that believes in preserving outdoor space for all to enjoy, and we are even luckier to live right on a nature preserve. Add to this the fact that the ocean is a mere ten minutes away, and these kids are surrounded in nature. For this I am forever grateful.

What’s on your list? I would love to know.

Photography Apps

Autry has recently gotten into photography, and she discovered a new app for her iPod that she loves. It is called Camera Plus, and she is having so much fun taking and editing photos.

According to Autry, Camera Plus has many great features that let you take better quality pictures. You can crop your pictures, add borders, and mess with various effects. Autry’s favorite effect is vintage camera.

I haven’t used Camera Plus, so I can’t say anything about it. I have a camera app that I love already, King Camera. This is my go to camera app on my iPhone. I have been using King Camera since last summer, and I have no complaints with it. I like the camera features and the editing features. The developers of King Camera have some tutorials on their web page that would be good for anyone who wants to learn more.

A photo I took and edited on King Camera

I also discovered Postcard On The Run a few days ago. I haven’t had much time to mess around with this app, but I am excited about it. Basically you can take a photo and then turn it into a postcard with just a few clicks. How cool is that? The kids and I will definitely be utilizing this app the next time we go on a vacation.