Tag Archives: Apps

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

How To Make Sure Your Kids Eat Healthily When You Don’t Enjoy Cooking

making pancakes

I don’t really like cooking. Sometimes I feel guilty about this – surely taking delight in serving up delicious home-cooked meals is a natural part of being a good mum? Then I remind myself that just because my own passions happen to lie elsewhere doesn’t mean I love my kids any less.

It seems unlikely that I’m the only homeschooling mum who feels this way, so this post is for anyone else out there who’s trying to make sure their children eat a healthy, balanced diet while spending the minimum amount of time in the kitchen. I’ll share my tips, and I’d love to hear yours.


When it comes to cooking, I want:

1. To make sure my family eat regular balanced meals

2. To provide access to healthy snacks

3. To make sure we all eat the better part of our five portions of fruit or vegetables a day

4. To encourage healthy eating habits for life

5. For my children to be able to cook for themselves by the time they leave home

Cool tools

Being very absent-minded right-brained and with a slightly crazy schedule, I need all the help I can get when it comes to getting food onto the table.

Apps are life-savers for the organisationally-challenged, and one in particular – MealBoard – has made a huge difference to me when it comes to cooking for my family.  (MealBoard isn’t available for android phones, but Food Planner seems very similar.  Or you could use an offline menu-planner, if you’re organised enough to keep track of paper.)


I’ve used MealBoard to plan my menus and shopping lists every week for the last three years. It cuts down the amount of time I have to spend planning our meals to about ten minutes a week – yay!

You do have to invest a bit of time at the start, loading your favourite recipes onto MealBoard. You can do this manually on the phone or a computer, or you can import recipes from fifteen different websites, including AllRecipes and BBC Good Food.

Balanced meals and family favourites

You can group recipes into your own categories. I categorise by:

  • food type (poultry,  pasta …)
  • meal type (lunch,  snacks, side dishes, crockpot meals …) and
  • people  (C(9)’s favourites, J(8)’s favourites …)

This means I can easily pull together a week’s worth of balanced menus and make sure everyone gets their favourite dish from time to time. I can plan crockpot meals for days we’re home late, and meals that require more preparation for less busy days.

MealBoard Screenshot - homeschool menu planning

Shopping lists

Once you’ve loaded your recipes, MealBoard lets you create a weekly shopping list at the touch of a button.

MealBoard Screenshot - homeschool menu planning

If I notice I’m running low on something mid-week – flour, say –  I can add it manually to my MealBoard shopping list.

Recycling menus

If you’re really clever, you can use MealBoard to cut down menu-planning even more by using templates. You can save and re-use as many menu plans (each up to a month long) as you like. So you could rotate two monthly menus, or save menus by month to reflect seasonal preferences.

I don’t use this function so much, perhaps because my kids’ tastes are still changing so our menus are gradually becoming more sophisticated. (Hey, did I just use the word “sophisticated” in a post about me cooking?)

Grocery Shopping

I do almost all my food shopping online at Tesco.  This does mean I sometimes miss out on tempting seasonal produce, but it does mean less waste and saves a huge amount of time.

I create my week’s grocery list on MealBoard, add in “My Usuals” stored on the Tesco website, and make sure I schedule delivery for when everyone’s around to help put away.

Teaching the children to cook

Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither of my children has shown much interest in cooking so far, but I’m encouraging them in small ways. C(9) makes her own sandwich for lunch most days, and she can also poach, boil and scramble eggs.

J(8)’s favourite lunch is rice and peas, which he can make but only by standing on a stool to reach our microwave, so I’m waiting until he’s a bit taller to expect him to get his own lunch daily!

Learning to cook at our home education centre
Learning to cook at our home education centre

The children also cook at our weekly home education centre visits, and – strangely – their French class!


When we switched to a low-gluten, sugar and dairy diet to help with J(8)’s sensory processing issues, pancakes (made with gluten-free flour and goats milk) became a favourite homeschool snack.

Both children enjoy making a bowl of pancake batter, and C(9) will even cook the whole stack for us to enjoy together while reading aloud. We serve our pancakes with fresh fruit, ham and sometimes a drop of agave nectar.

Muffin tin lunches
Muffin tin meals make food fun

To answer the frequent cries of “I’m hungry!” I make sure there’s always plenty of fruit available – usually apples, satsumas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, melon and mango or pineapple.


I’m a big fan of the Brave Writer lifestyle, which involves a lot of cakes and cookies. Given my non-fondness for cooking, if it weren’t for our family’s dietary restrictions I probably wouldn’t bake our own – but even I can see that a warm home-baked cake on the table is much nicer than a shop-bought one. When I’m organised, I make a cake on a Sunday for us to enjoy over poetry teas, read-alouds and free-writes throughout the week.

poetry teatime
Poetry teatime with home-made gluten-free sugar-free  lemon cake

Our food routine

Fruit on a stick
Fruit on a stick

Breakfast – everyone gets their own (sugar-free) cereal, usually oat cereal or oatabix with goats’ milk

Mid-Morning snack – fruit or (gluten & sugar-free) pancakes

Lunch – C(9) makes her own sandwich. I make soup for myself and rice with vegetables for J(8)

Afternoon snack – fruit. If I remember, I get out the bamboo skewers. (What is it about eating  it off a stick that makes food more fun?)

Dinner – as dinner time approaches, I check MealBoard to see what’s on the menu. (I love how this makes me feel like someone else has done the planning for me.)

We eat all together at the table whenever we can. At weekends, my lovely husband (who likes cooking about as much as me) cooks a roast on Sunday and pizza, fajitas or burgers on Saturday.

Pancetta & veggies to serve with pasta - quick and nutritious - my kind of meal!
Pancetta & veggies to serve with pasta – quick and nutritious – my kind of meal!

I’d like to enjoy cooking.  I’ve tried many times over the years to inspire myself into getting better at it, but nothing seems to stick. It’s not that I dislike anything in particular about the process, it’s that there are so many other things I want to be doing instead.

During one of my attempts to enjoy cooking more,  I excitedly told my friend Diana (a mum of three, whose gorgeous meals cooked from scratch leave me in awe), “I’m learning to cook!”. She commented politely that in the twenty years she’d known me, I’d repeatedly described myself as “learning to cook”, and all the while I’d been managing to put food on the table. So perhaps I should acknowledge myself for what I do achieve!

More food for thought

Muffin Tin Monday – fun and creative meal and snack ideas

It’s Not About Nutrition – a blog about encouraging healthy eating habits. I’ve subscribed for a while and I like the message

Jamie’s Food Revolution –  A cookbook for beginners that even I can follow. (The UK edition is Jamie’s Ministry of Food)


More from the Homeschool Help team

For more inspiration on the subject of juggling cooking and homeschooling, check out these posts from the other members of the Homeschool Help team.

Cooking Tips For The Homeschool Mom  Savannah at Hammock Tracks says “Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, there are ways to conquer the “What’s for dinner?” question without calling Dominos!”

Nutritious Meals, Quick! Hwee at The Tiger Chronicle shares 3 simple tips that have helped her prepare nutritious family meals every day

Realistic Meal Planning For Homeschool Mums Nicole at One Magnificent Obsession on how to avoid eating at Chik Fil A every night

Strategies For Cooking Healthy For A Family Julie at Highhill Homeschool shares 5 strategies for preparing healthy meals when time is an issue

Plating Up Erin at Seven Little Australians says the key for her family to successfully juggling cooking is organisation

Hippie Method: Food Philosophied Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl writes about how she makes easy, delicious (relatively) healthy food from scratch – almost every day

Coming up from the Homeschool Help team

Next week the Homeschool Help team will be talking about homeschool co-ops – why? or why not?




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!

Rebooting Mummy (The Joy Of Meditation)

Tonight's Sunset (well it's kind of meditative)

When I think of meditation, a part of my mind conjures up images of kaftan-wearing hippies sitting cross-legged, fingers making little “o”s in the air, chanting “om”.  Another part of my mind says “BORING!!”  Which is odd, given that I’ve been enjoying meditating for many years and been interested in altered states of consciousness my whole life!  I guess my default images are a testament to how the practice of meditation has generally been regarded in our society.

As a child of eleven or so I borrowed library books on hypnosis (which I tried out on my little sister; according to one book, as a sleep-talker she made a good subject).  At fifteen I would sit cross-legged in my bedroom facing the wall, chanting “nam eh oh oh ren geh key oh” (I got the words from an article in teen magazine “Just Seventeen”) – this was maybe the closest I’ve ever come to the stereotype; my mother and siblings still giggle about it.   But object of ridicule or not, it worked for me – I would focus on my latest crush being at the pub that night, and there he would be! 😉

In my twenties I briefly toyed with “watching the breath” as recommended by a Buddhist friend in Spain – that one was NOT for me! – before I discovered the joy of guided meditation, beginning with Shakti Gawain’s classic Creative Visualisation (on cassette!).

It wasn’t until I trained in neuro-linguistic programming and hypnosis, in my mid-thirties, that I began to understand the science behind these altered states. When we meditate, our brains are flooded with theta and alpha brainwaves, precipitating a state of profound body and mind relaxation in which the parts of of brain responsible for creativity, clarity, memory, insight and calm are stimulated. (See Resources below for a fuller explanation of the science.)

Meditation is now a key part of my life, all the more so since we’ve been a homeschooling, and my family accept my daily 15 minute mini-retreats as part of who I am.  In fact my children have been known to tactfully suggest “why don’t you go and meditate, mummy” when things are a little fraught  😀   I sometimes think they see meditation as a “Mummy reboot” button.  They’re probably spot on!


At the moment I love Esther and Jerry Hicks’ Abraham meditations CD, which contains four 15 minute meditations focusing on general wellbeing, financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing and relationships respectively. I just pop in my earphones, breathe, and let the soothing words and music wash over me – bliss!

Brainsync produce both guided meditations and music only products, available on CD or as MP3s. Kelly Howell has a deliciously soothing voice, and the music is specially created to induce beneficial brainwave states.  I’ve enjoyed using Brainsync recordings for a long time.

This short article  explains more of the science.

Back From Skiing

I knew on the journey home today that I’d a lovely week away skiing, but it seems even nicer now I’m luxuriating in the prodigal comfort of home.   The cases are unpacked, a second load of washing is on, my body, hair and spirit have been fully cleansed of the grubbiness of travel in a deep, hot bath.  Big J is feeding the children some much-needed vegetables, and while the rest of my little family enjoy the rugby, I am in My Room.

My Room is a space in the house which is all mine.  It’s a space, I realised while I was away, that I haven’t been making as much use of as I’d like.  I intend to change that.  More on My Room soon.

Meanwhile, some thoughts on the holiday, and coming home:

  • I love coming back from skiing holidays and realising that despite having eaten a ton of gorgeous (ie someone else cooked it) food, I haven’t put on a pound thanks to the enormous amount of energy I burned every day on the slopes.  Not that I’ve been foolish enough to step on a scales, of course!
  • I love that we all have lightly tanned faces (even through the Factor 50).  Noone else would notice it except on olive-skinned Big J and C, but I know that my own face is ever-so-slightly beiger than its usual white and pink 🙂
  • Thanks to free wifi in the hotel bar and Byline on my iPhone, I have read a lot of blogs this week! So much wonderful inspiration – home ed ideas, books to read, apps to try out, resources to investigate…  The children have already immersed themselves in Wizard 101, a free online game that one of the GeekDads was enthusing about.  I love Byline!
  • As well as other people’s blogs and my lovely family, three fantastic books kept me company: two (non-fiction) on my iPhone, one (fiction!) in paperback (I needed something for takeoff and landing 😉 )  More on these soon.
  • I loved that the children begged to go to the hotel’s kids’ club as often as they could, and both made friends there (yay, home educated and they can still “socialise”!)  And I’m loving even more having them back 🙂
  • I loved skiing by day and dining by night with my wonderful husband while the children did their thing.  Ooh the Byline posts we shared!
  • I had a great learning experience over the course of the week’s skiing.  I love learning – and learning about learning.  Again – more soon!

Modern Scrabble

My friend S has been trying to get me into the iPhone version of Scrabble,  “Words With Friends,” for months, but I’d been resisting (the old enemy perfectionism again.  People have run marathons waiting for me to take my turn at the board version).  But yesterday J (5) reminded me that we had started a game several weeks ago (played between him on our iPad and me on my iPhone) and asked if we could continue it.  And so began Scrabble-mania in our house.

Rarely have I seen J give so much sustained attention to combinations of vowels and consonants, eagerly arranging his letters into the words I suggest, his love of games and in particular scoring points overcoming his aversion to anything that smacks of that Curriculum subject “Literacy”. We played yesterday at home, in the hairdressers, and in the car waiting for C’s drama class to finish (J even put a word of his own down when I went in to collect her!), and carried on at breakfast this morning, when C joined in on her iTouch.  The three of us spent a large and happy part of the morning playing simultaneous multiple games with eachother in every possible permutation, while  I drank tea and indulged my perfectionism in the knowledge that this is how home ed is “supposed” to look.

I haven’t even been deterred by finding the game  – when looking for a link to insert into this post – listed under “Apps For Mums And Dads”!  Got to go now, S, my sister and my husband are all waiting for me to take my turn.

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