Category Archives: Technology

9 Homeschool Apps We Wouldn’t Be Without

favourite homeschool apps

This week the Homeschool Help team are talking about our favourite homeschooling apps.

I find it hard to believe it’s less than three years since I got an iPad for my fortieth birthday –  around the time we started homeschooling. Back then hardly any of us even had smartphones (I was very attached to my little Nokia) – hard to imagine now!  Over the years we’ve tried lots of educational apps.  Most come and go but a few have become an invaluable part of our homeschool routine.

Here are nine of our favourites.  They’re all available on Android too unless I mention otherwise.


It can be difficult for children to grasp the relative gaps between historical events, especially as they move between learning about civilisations thousands of years apart to significant twentieth century events crowded into single weeks. Timelines use space to give a sense of these relative gaps.

I’d always intended to make a huge timeline to pin up around the walls but it was one of those things I never got round to. Then I discovered Knowledge Quest’s Timeline Builder which allows you to make as many timelines as you like at the touch of a few buttons.

composers timeline using TimeLine Builder - best homeschool apps

Putting events on a timeline is simple. Children can choose their own images – photos of their own work, or pictures from the internet – to illustrate each event. We have timelines covering history from the beginning of time to the present, ancient times, and the Middle Ages. We also have timelines showing artists and composers – it’s interesting to see who overlapped with whom. As the children get older, I’d like us to read more biographies as part of our homeschooling – Timeline Builder will serve us well in that, too.

Knowledge Quest are working on an Android version of Timeline Builder.


KenKen – We use this Japanese puzzle – whose name, KenKen, means “cleverness” –  as part of our living maths routine. It’s a great way to practise arithmetic and logic. J(8) and I are big fans (I do the puzzles for fun).

ken ken math puzzle - best homeschool apps

Math Blaster Hyperblast – J(8) suggested I add this one to the list. He’s an avid gamer, and is very unimpressed with most educational “game” apps. Math Blaster Hyperblast is an exception. Not that he’d play it in preference to Zelda Skyward Sword, but apparently the game element is sufficiently fun to make the maths practice worth it.

Geoboard – We haven’t played much with this app yet, but I’m planning some living maths lessons using it, like finding the area of parallelograms.  I’m mentioning it here because it’s already proved its value, saving us the space and cost of a physical Geoboard!

Geoboard isn’t available in Android yet, but there is a web app.

geoboard maths app - best homeschool apps

geoboard math app - best homeschool apps

Foreign Language

Memrise – The app format of the flashcard learning site Memrise works slightly differently from the website and complements it nicely. You can follow all the same courses and enjoy the same cute gardening icons, plus you can download a course to work through offline (I’ve just been learning Norwegian on the beach).

memrise app - best homeschool apps

I love how Memrise combines the latest neuroscience research with a collaborative community for multi-sensory, fast, fun learning. (Do check the content of each course before your child uses it, though.  The “Norwegian for Friends and Family” course I’ve been following contains some adult vocabulary.)

Spelling Test – We don’t use spelling tests as part of our language arts routine, but we use the Spelling Test app to help learn foreign vocabulary.  Its advantage over Memrise is that you can test yourself on any words you choose – just use the “record” function to record yourself saying an English word, then enter the foreign word as the spelling – or vice versa.

spelling test - best homeschool apps


I know the YouTube app isn’t much different from the web version, but it gets a place in my list because we use it on our iPads so often.  “How are glaciers created?” “Let’s look on YouTube.” What does a Zen garden look like? How does Norwegian sound?  Let’s play some Grieg. What’s the best bubble wand for the biggest bubbles? Let’s find a catchy seven times tables song. How did Erastosthenes measure the Earth? Can we watch Horrible Histories? How is glass made?

What did homeschoolers do before the internet?


We listen to so many audiobooks that we’ve gradually made our way up to Audible’s twenty-four books a year membership scheme. We listen to the books on our iPads/iPods using the Audible app.  Each book works out at less than £4.50. We don’t spend money on curriculum, so I see our Audible subscription as a valuable investment.

Audible allows you to listen to the books you’ve purchased on up to three mobile devices so C(9), J(8) and I can listen separately to any of our books. We usually listen to new books in the car together, C and J listen to their own books throughout the day and particularly at bedtime (usually repeat listens of books we’ve previously enjoyed together), and I often listen to my monthly Book Group book while I’m walking the dog or preparing meals.

audible - favourite homeschool apps

The Audible app lets you wirelessly download a book to your device and remove it when you’ve finished listening, to conserve storage space. It automatically saves your place, plus you can insert bookmarks, and you can rewind fast or in 30 second sections (the latter is so useful. I always used to end up rewinding too much and having to repeat big chunks).

As well as membership books, Audible has frequent member sales when classic children’s books are available very cheaply – C(9) is listening to Black Beauty at the moment.  I know a lot of these are also available free online, but some books my kids listen to so often I don’t mind paying a small amount for the convenience of being able to have them on our individual devices at the touch of a button.

We often listen to the first book in a series together and then get the remaining books from the library – we did this with the recently with the Eragon and Percy Jackson series, for example.

audible - best homeschool apps

J(8) has mild dyslexia so audiobooks expose him to even more literature than I could by reading aloud. He’s recently discovered that the app allows him to play books at 1.5x, 2x or 3x speed. I’ve read that training oneself to listen fast is a useful skill if you have dyslexia – another Audible bonus!

Apps for Mums

I’ve talked before about how much I love the list app Clear and how I’ve used MealBoard to plan our family menus for years.

Another app introverted mums might enjoy is BrainWave, which plays soothing white noise combined with sounds designed to induce calm, creativity, energy or one of twenty-seven other moods. I use it if the kids are being noisy and I want to write, to block out computer sounds while I’m cooking,  to help me memorise foreign vocabulary, or in those moments when I just need to de-stress!

brainwave - best homeschool apps

Do you use apps in your homeschool? What are your favourites?


For more views on apps, head over to:

The Tiger Chronicle – Technology: A Few Considerations. “A few things to consider with regards to using technology for education purposes.”

Highhill Homeschool – Educational Ways to Use an iPad.  “My husband actually created an iPad educational app to help with multiplication.”

One Magnificent Obsession – The iWorld of Homeschooling: Favourite Apps! “The iPhone and iPad have completely changed how we homeschool!”

Hammock Tracks – Twenty free learning apps

Every Bed of Roses – My favourite apps and websites for learning

Seven Little Australians and Counting – If I had an iPad

Barefoot Hippie Girl – NOT Techie Homeschoolers. “Despite all the technology our family is surrounded with, we are still basically book, paper and ink home schoolers.”

 Collage Friday

Disclosure: This post contains two Amazon affiliate links. We paid for and enjoy the books I mention.

I’m appreciatively linking up here:

Teaching with technology

apps to get a right brained mum organized

Apps to Help a Right-Brained Mum Get Organized

apps to get a right brained mum organized

I am not a naturally organised person. I have great ideas, a huge zest for life, and an insatiable love of learning, but the trade-off for my out-there right-hemisphere-dominant brain is that it’s not always  easy for me to stay focused on the day-to-day jobs involved in running a household.

When my mum takes my children somewhere, I’m in awe at how it takes her at most a quarter of the time it takes me to pack a bag, load the car and get going.  Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that on the way out the door I’ll pause as I pass the printer, to scan a few pieces of my daughter’s artwork; or have to run upstairs three times for a jacket (the first two times coming down empty handed after turning off the bathroom light, putting away a pile of socks, or plucking a few stray eyebrows); or feel the need to hunt for a couple of the books I’m in the middle of (you never know which you might want to read in the five minutes waiting to see the doctor); or reaching for the landline phone in an effort to locate my mobile phone (in my handbag).

People like me shouldn’t try to multi-task – but try telling that to my wandering mind.

Luckily, I’ve always been fascinated by tools that help compensate for scatter-brain tendencies.  I got straight A’s at school thanks to Tony Buzan’s memory systems.  My vacation packing-list procedure is incredibly sophisticated (excessively so, but that helps engage me).  And now – oh glory – there’s an app for everything!


When my friend Sarah told me about the list app Clear, it just sounded too simple to be useful. But once I had figured out the multi-touch swipe gesture system and entered a few lists, I was hooked.  Here’s why Clear is a life-saver for someone like me:

Multiple Lists in One Place

I’ve long since seen the value of lists for recording an idea the moment it pops into my head (before something else pops in and replaces it, three seconds later).  But if I put everything on one list, it soon becomes too long and boring to check, and multiple paper lists quickly get lost.

Being able to have multiple named lists in one place (and on my phone which is always with me) means I always have the appropriate list to hand.

Clear - apps to help a right brained mother get organized

For example, we spend a large part of Tuesdays and Thursdays out of the house doing homeschool activities that require various pieces of clothing, books, food and other supplies. So I have my Tuesday list (“Take to Home Ed Centre” and my Thursday list (“Take to French”). When a puppy joined our family a few months ago, I was easily able to add the unfamiliar dog items onto my lists so that Harvey’s needs were also met during his days out with us.

The lists are great for travel. Most spring and summer weekends we visit our house at the coast, which I love, but keeping track of what food, clothes and toiletries were in which house used to be a challenge.  Now I have “Take to Coast” and “Leaving Coast” lists, plus “Packing up Coast” to remind me to lock the balcony doors, clean the loo, and set the dishwasher before heading inland for the week.

Clear - apps to get a right brained mother organizedOther lists I have right now include; “November birthdays”; “Project supplies” (all those bizarre things you need for homeschooling, like red cabbage, electrical tape and popsicle sticks); “Errands” (for when I’m in town); “Home Ed Ideas”; “Ikea wish list” (to focus me during my occasional visits to the Ikea marketplace and stop me coming home with a dozen more picture frames I won’t use); “House Quick Wins” (5 minute decluttering jobs); and “Boring Stuff” (my Christmas presents list – shhh!).

Crossing Off and Reinstating List Items

One of the reasons Clear works so well for lists you use regularly is because when you swipe an item as completed it remains, greyed out, at the bottom of the list, ready to be reswiped into play the next time you need to refer to the list. Which means I don’t need to start from scratch remembering what I have to take out with us every Tuesday. Meanwhile one-off items can be permanently deleted by swiping in the other direction.

Other Useful Functions

The ability to have multiple lists in one place and to delete and reinstate items are the two most important features of Clear for me, but there are other little touches that make the app a pleasure to use. Lists and list items can be re-ordered, renamed and colour-coded, for example.

User Fallibility

Of course, I still have to remember to check my lists – right up until the last item is swiped off. And while I remembered to take dishwasher tablets, teabags and the kids’ travel clocks to Center Parcs a few weeks ago – I forgot to pack my coat. “I’m surprised you made it to the car without your coat!” remarked my husband (who knows my lack of tolerance for English November weather).  “I thought my coat was in the car!” I replied. (It’s okay, there’ll soon be an app for that.)

I’m loving the new right-brain friendly world order!

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