Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Mother of All App Recommendation Lists

For a really long time, people have been asking me for a list of my educational app recommendations. At long last, here it is. I'd love to write a blurb about each one, but that would take so long that it probably wouldn't happen. Maybe I will come back and do that bit by bit, but please feel free to ask questions in the meantime about specific ones. I'm happy to help.

In the end, it only took me a few hours.

Oh, and I asked my kids (other than the baby) their top five favorite "app folder apps" (those are the ones they do during school time). Their initials are by what they chose (yes, I fudged and let JW pick 6).

Initial Key:
MS: age 14, finishing 8th Grade
JW: almost 12, finishing 6th Grade
MA: age 10, finishing 4th Grade
Z: age 7, finishing 1st Grade
JA: almost 4, going into Pre-K

(I) requires internet (WiFi)
*JA* Farm Flip

iTooch  (either as in-app purchases or individual subjects)

Middle School/High School
*JW* DK Quiz
iTooch (either as in-app purchases or individual subjects)
Middle School Algebra (also available for 7th grade math)
Middle School Science (also available for 7th grade)
Wider Image (parental guid.) (I)

Thinking Skills
Where's My Water (and its variations)
*MS* TinkerBox

Ventura Educational Systems (link is to one app; click the developer to see more)
Splash Math (link is to 1st Grade, but there are 2nd & 3rd also)

Language Arts/Reading
Reading Comprehension (link to K-1, but there are several other levels)
Grammar Wonderland (link is to the lower of two levels)
Kids Reading Comprehension (link is to 1st Grade; there is also 2nd)
*JA* Starfall
Star Walk (I)

*MA* Art Set
Instagram (I)

Jesus Loves Me (memorization)
VersebyHeart (memorization)

Speech/Language Delay/Fine Motor

Board Games
(no pieces to lose, and a fun option for car travel and date nights out)
Ticket to Ride (there is also a "Europe" version)

Kindle app
Sandra Boynton (link is to one book; there are several)
iBooks (especially read-along)

History/Social Studies/Geography
*MS* Pocket Law Firm (const. amend.)
*Z* Google Earth (I)
World Book (this day in history)
*JW* Hitler's Germany (Hist. Challenge)

Management/For Mom
Toodledo (reading lists; assignment lists; etc.)
Mobicip (safe browser) (I)
Checkbook (for allowance)
Dropbox (I) (to transfer files like PDF's from the computer to the iPads) 
Pocket Prayer (prayer req. schedule)
Pinger (texting w/ the US) (I)
Cheerful Charts (sticker chart)
Pages (word processing)

Friday, January 4, 2013

My Source

Before we go any further, I have to give credit where credit is due. We would not have half (1/4, maybe even) of the fun, educational apps we enjoy, if it weren't for the Smart Apps For Kids blog.

Reviews by a dad, who tests out the apps (when age-appropriate) with his own children (and evaluates apps for older kids himself). Bonus: one of his children has an autism spectrum diagnosis, so there are personal-perspective reviews of special needs apps and notes when particular apps cover skills commonly addressed in therapy.

Subscribing to their Facebook page gets you their daily "Good Free App of the Day" (GFAOTD) posts. Some of these are always free, others are free for a limited time. App developers have clued into this site and will often intro new apps or big upgrades by making them free here to get the word out. We've gotten quite a few free apps this way.

Perhaps my favorite part of Smart Apps blog, though, is the option to sort their reviews by age-level. I use this almost exclusively to find apps for MS (almost 14 [ack!]), a hard age to find fun, educational apps for (not that they're not out there, just that not everyone and their [his/her] dog are talking/blogging about them). Be sure to check out their 12+ section.

One other section not to miss is their "Best" pull-down menu, which sorts reviews by 5-star, top picks, editor's top 10, reader's top 10, etc.

So, now you know. I don't, actually, spend all day researching educational apps for my kids. It's the cold, hard truth.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Educational Apps: iPhone, iPod Touch *and* iPad

Um, it's been a while. Yeah, quite a while, but I've been promising to do a blog post (okay, it will be quite a few posts, I'm sure) of our favorite educational apps. I'm going to plunge in. No promises as to how often I'll get to it, but I gotta start somewhere, right?

I found images for each of the apps I wanted to review in the "iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad Apps" section of our iTunes. That means this first post will be for apps that work on all three of those types of devices. I'll move on to iPad-only apps later, since they're in a different section.

 The images are click-able links to the app's page at Apple, if you're interested in looking at them further.

Cute, free app that shows the kids around the Grand Canyon. We have several other by this company (also free), but I haven't looked at them yet.

This was one of MA's favorite apps to play on my phone for a long time. Teaches nutrition through a game involving getting the right foods onto a conveyor belt in a certain period of time.

Games that work through the skills needed for learning to read. A great next step when kids have the letter sounds down. Several levels moving from just putting letters in their places to having to put them in left-to-right, an important pre-reading skill.

US coin literacy, from learning what each coin is and its value to making change.

We bought almost ever Dr. Seuss app available when they were on sale for Geisel's birthday a couple of years ago. Classic stories with interactive elements and, as all good read-along apps, these highlight the words as they're being read, so pre-readers and early readers associate the spoken words with their written counter-parts. (No link imbedded in the image, as there are multiple apps. Search for "Dr. Seuss" in the app store, and you'll find them.)

Interactive, multi-player drawing app. Fun use of art and an intrinsic motivation to improve drawing skills.

Built-in algorithm to review concepts based on whether they were answered correctly or not. I bought this early on in our app purchasing for MS to use with his Arabic vocabulary. Maybe not the best one on the market still, but it was one of the few, at the time, that could accommodate Arabic lettering.

 Kid-safe, pre-selected videos (pulled from places like YouTube). Not all-encompassing, but nice to have a set of safe options. Requires internet connection.

Cute story for the preschool/early elementary app. Bonus: Australian accent.

Soothing bedtime story.

One of our bedtime story options. Mercer Mayer for the next generation.

An absolute necessity in the realm of educational apps. We're collecting classic children's books currently. It's also good for early readers and other books with color illustrations.

Fun math fact practice that simulates an old-fashioned tilting wooden marble maze. (The link is to the lower level app, but there is a high level one, which covers multiplication and division, as well.)

 Fun review of preschool skills

 MA's favorite math skill review app

Yes, Minecraft, educational. Well, primarily the creative mode, but also cooperative play/creation when playing with siblings. Yes, there are zombies, and yes, there is some killing (at least in survival mode), but this app has been an opportunity for Z to shine in his creative skills and build relationship with (and impress :-) his siblings when they play together, so I'm calling it educational.

Another bedtime story favorite. We're loving this digital version of a generational family favorite.

Guide to basic computer programing that MS is enjoying, filling the more difficult-to-fill niche of educational apps for the teenage set.

Word-compatible app for creative writing on the iPad (usually with our external keyboard).

 Best app/game for learning the US states and facts about each one of them e.ver.

Learning US presidents involving aliens. What more could you want?

 Best app/game for learning the world's countries and facts about each one of them e.ver.

Annoyingly catchy song, water safety facts. It's a toss-up, but I think the water safety facts wins out.

Excellent series of apps for teaching basic skills (reading, 'rithmetic, etc.) for several levels from Toddler (really, Pre-K) through 2nd grade. (The link is for 1st grade.)

A nod to JAK. An app for one of his favorite shows. Too many in-app purchase options for my liking, but what comes with the original is enough for him.

We use this exclusively on the iPad, but it's what the kids use to fill in PDF workbook pages, like the Story of the World tests/quizzes that I bought in digital format this year and any scanned workbooks, like Wordly Wise. They e-mail their completed pages to me for corrections. Yes, we're all Jetson-like in that way.

Series of apps that simulate a variety of real-life situations, like a hair salon (the app the link takes you to). Mainly fun & silly with a little learning thrown in.

Fun critical thinking app in which you have to direct water through an increasingly difficult maze of obstacles to get Swampy his shower.

Same as above but with Phineas & Ferb characters, specifically Perry. (There are several other variations, as well.)

A very cool chronology of videos (starting with the first ever recorded sound, so audio, too) by year. Educational and a trip down memory lane, since it includes commercials, movie trailers, etc., from your high school and college years, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Google Docs settings

Okay, my Google Docs (where I put our lists) settings apparently defaulted to "private." I've made them public again (which is why I use initials in the first place), so everyone should be able to access them without permission.

Summer Lists

I've had a couple of requests to see the kids' summer lists, so I thought I'd share them here.

They're working really well for us and have been a huge blessing. Hopefully, they can be helpful jumping off point for others.

These are modified/expanded/pared down versions of the lists we had during the school year. When we head back into homeschooling in the fall, they'll get yet another revision.

Morning Lists
Daily Lists (We're doing a semester-long study of Texas in the fall, and we're trying to get ahead on our reading, both to take advantage of the library and to have some school under our belt, so we can take some time off when the baby is born, hence the two blocks of "Read TX Books" on the list.)
Bedtime Lists
Weekly Lists

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stateside '11 Playlist

My Stateside '10-'11 Playlist was getting a little bulky, so I subdivided. The Stateside '10 Playlist is still available, and here's what I've gotten so far in '11 (well, the non-kiddie stuff, at least; I didn't include "The B-I-B-L-E").

1. Shekinah - Jaye Thomas & Cory Asbury: There are no words.
2. Dance - Tim Hughes: Okay, so I picked this one up from The Journey, our 1st-4th grade worship service, but it's still an amazing call to active worship.
3. I Refuse - Josh Wilson: An exhortation to get involved, rather than just observe hurting people around you. (The video on this one is well worth looking up on YouTube.)
4. NY2LA - PressPlay: A funky, fun dance song of faith. Guess you just have to hear it.
5. Children of God - Third Day: We're all adopted. All of us. (The YouTube video on this one is not optional. It's a must-see.)

Friday, December 31, 2010

These are a few of my favorite apps . . .

Sing with me! "When the dog bites, there's an app for that! When the bee stings, there's an app for that, too!"

Hey, it's a modern-day interpretation.

Finally getting around to doing a blog post of my favorite/most useful apps. As always, it'll take me a while, because I have to get it just so. But I'm a little under the weather today, so I think it's a good use of sitting-on-the-couch time.


Olive Tree BibleReader: I have had an electronic Bible since I got my first PalmPilot almost eight years ago. It makes so much sense for a mom with little kids (one less thing to carry on Sunday morning), and it makes it easy to copy whole sections of Scripture into my notes (on the same device). Plus, I can easily carry multiple versions. The thing that endears Olive Tree to me even more is their Bible Reading programs. A built-in feature allows you to choose to read the Bible chronologically, from beginning to end or by the "M'Cheyne" plan. I chose the M'Cheyne plan. What? You don't know what the M'Cheyne plan is? Well, I confess, neither did I. It's a set of four readings a day that take you through the Old Testament in a year and the New Testament and Psalms twice each year (read about it here). What I like is that it's four small chunks, so, if you get interrupted (not that I ever do), you have a convenient stopping place. Plus, it better fits my attention span these days than long passages would. And Olive Tree feeds it to you one chunk at a time, takes you to the next passage as you finish one, and keeps track of it all for you. I'm actually finally going to read through the entire Bible in a year!

Awaken: I was happy with using the Clock app that came with my iPhone for an alarm clock. Until I had an infant sleeping in a hammock on the other side of my bedside table where my phone sat each night. I needed an app with a variable volume. ML found me Awaken. I have fallen in love (with the app; I was already in love with ML). I now go to sleep each night with my phone on Awaken (plugged in to charge), set to the old-timey flipclock setting that takes me back to my childhood alarm clock. It wakes me up by gradually increasing the brightness of the screen and gradually increasing the volume of a song of my choice. Ahh. (And we use the "sleep timer" function in our boys' room to let them fall asleep to music but not have it playing all night. It fades out after two hours.) Oh, and if you shake the phone while it's on clock mode in Awaken, it flips to a candle/lightbulb option, so you can see your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Handy. (I still use the Clock app as a timer for various things around the house, like Wii time. It's very useful for that.)

CalenGoo: We used to love iCal (which comes installed on the iPhone and we used for a long time on our computers), but it got too glitchy. Plus, we needed an app from which we could "invite" people to events, i.e. each other. Rather than sharing calendars, we prefer to send invites, so we see events as they're created (as opposed to just looking at the calendar and discovering you have dinner with someone that night). At the time, CalenGoo was the only Google calendar app with that function (there may be others now).

2Do: Again, we got this app so that we could send to-do items to each other. Recently, it seems to have lost that functionality, but I'm invested, and I like all the ways I can sub-organize things like shopping lists, etc. (and ML's moved on to a to-do app that works better for him, anyway).

AwesomeNote: Way better than the note app that comes on the phone. Much more subdivisable (my spell check says that's not a word, but *I* say it is). I synch AwesomeNote with Evernote on-line, so I have a back-up. Plus, that allows me to cut and paste things from my computer (like recipes and patterns) to Evernote and then synch AwesomeNote, so they appear on my phone. This is where I take sermon notes, keep birthday party plans, make notes as to what is to be included in my funeral and what possible names we've ever talked about for future children (or pets), etc. It's a large percentage of my brain. That and 2Do.

FemCal: I'm not going to go into much detail on this one. As my grandmother would say, it's a ladies app. Well, my grandmother wouldn't have said that exactly, but . . . feel free to research it, if you want. Suffice it to say, I use it daily.

VIP's (apps that I use often and/or are extra-specially-useful when I do):

YNAB: Standing for "You Need a Budget," this app synchs with a program ML uses to keep track of our finances. It's been great. And trust me, finances not being our strong suit, we've tried a lot of programs. I use the app to enter any cash transactions I make, so he sees them. And I can access our budget and see how much we have to spend in any given category. Yep, I always do that. Mm hm. Okay, so I'm working on using this one more (I'm not an outrageous spender, I just do better with limits, and I need to make more use of my access to those boundaries).

myLite: A free app that I use relatively often as a flashlight. 'Cause I don't have one of them fancy iPhone 4's with that thar built-in flash/flashlight opshun.

AllRecipes: Having used, I built up a stockpile of saved recipes in my "Recipe Box." This app allows me to access those and look for new ones (like Cheese Grits!). I don't use the main screen "Dinner Spinner" option, though.

Netflix: ML uses this one much more often than I do (watching something while doing a repetitive task like data entry), but I recently discovered the beauty of being able to let ZL watch a favorite show while I teach an after-school study session at the kids' school. Nice to have more choices than just what we own in iTunes.

SpellDown: You type in your kids' spelling words, it looks up a voice pronunciation on-line and quizzes your kids. While you drive them to school on the day of their spelling test. Or earlier in the week, even. A must for parents with more than one kid with a spelling list.

VerseByHeart: The only app I found that allows you to enter your own verses (as opposed to preloaded ones) and quizzes you (by having words missing or having you put the words in the right order). Many times, I've handed the phone to my kids in a store line (or, okay, in line to say their verses) to review what they're memorizing.

Mad Libs: Kind of expensive, as far as apps go (above and beyond the basic free one), but by far, the best $3.99 I've ever spent on an app. The kids spend hours playing it, and I even consider it educational, because they're reviewing parts of speech. Win/win. I'm just kicking myself for not knowing that there were new modules out that I could have given as stocking stuffers.

That's all she wrote, folks. What are some of your favorite apps? I'm always looking for new ones.