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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.”
Disclosure: This post contains two Amazon affiliate links. We paid for and enjoy the books I mention.
I’m appreciatively linking up here: