Outside The Box Homeschooling

A site to help moms teach their "outside the box" kids.

Are iPads an economical option for homeschooling?

I truly believe that iPads are a great investment for homeschooling. The initial investment may seem daunting, but there are a few things to consider.

The iPad3 has just been released. When the iPad2 released, Best Buy had an incredible sale on the first generation iPad. We unfortunately missed the sale, or I would have picked another one up. Sis saved up to buy her own. This can be a great opportunity to teach your kids about finances and saving to make large purchases. We were able to find her a 64G iPad on Craigslist for $550 including the cover and screen savers. They are very easy to return to factory settings. The initial owner has to do this for you using their Apple ID and password, so I was comfortable that it was not stolen. The economy has provided the frugal shopper with some killer deals if they take the time to look for them. They also provide a portable homeschooling tool at a fraction of the price of a laptop.

Games and apps are extremely economical for the iPad. We have purchased several for $1-$5 that other parents have commented run $45 for a Nintendo DS. Many apps are free. These are great for providing educational variations to your homeschool day, and are easy to take along to appointments. Kindle has so many free books that my library is overflowing. I will note that the Kindle library doesn’t work in the iPad app.

Publishers generally run their promotions in e-book or download format. I have received more free curriculum than potentially the cost of both iPads. Anything that is published in pdf format works perfectly on the iPad. These include ebooks, unit studies, and actual textbooks are now being published as well in pdf and iPad app formatting.

I am not sure how to place a value on the space and reduction in mess that an iPad saves. I can download worksheets and some workbooks, which they can complete on the iPad without having to print them. By doing digital workbooks and notebooking, there is an additional saving in ink and paper.

I have been very happy with how well the iPad has fit into our homeschool. I am very frugal, ok a penny pincher, and have been pleased with this investment. I find that I really enjoy teaching off the iPad, and it allows me to use e-book and pdf formatted curriculum without being gathered around the extremely ancient iMAC that was given to us by my husband’s IT friend. He was tired of removing viruses from our PC that plagued us homeschooling.

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Frog Dissection by Emantras Inc


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Here’s another “Outside the Box Homeschooling” way to use an iPad app.  I love the frog dissection app by Emantras Inc.  This app has amazing information, animation, and educational value.

  • Part one is an animation of the frog life cycle.  You can scroll your finger over the egg causing it to develop through the different stages until it reaches the young frog stage.
  • Part two is entitled:  All About Frogs.  It covers classification, appearance, eating and living, special senses, life cycle, digestive system, organs, ecosystem, and a comparison between frogs and toads.
  • Part three compares humans to frogs.
  • Part four gives detailed directions for the wet lab process in dissecting the frog.
  • Part five is a quiz covering the information.
  • Part six is a 3D virtual frog dissection simulation.  For those of you who don’t want to actually dissect the frogs, this is pretty awesome.  We used this part during our frog dissection for directions.  It was much easier to follow than the illustrated directions.
  • Part six includes great animated videos of frog life.
  • Part seven covers different types of frogs. When you click on the type of frog, it allows you to turn it all around, so you can get a 360 degree view of it.  Pretty cool.
  • Part eight contains two interactive activities on the digestive and respiratory systems.  The app says that they will be adding more interactive activities soon.
  • There also is a button that says, “Start Dissection”.  This section walks you step by step through the dissection process with very clear written and animated instructions.

This app is one of the more expensive apps I have purchased.  I believe it runs around $8.  (Once you have purchased an app, it no longer tells you the cost.)  I will have to say that it is a thorough study of frogs and constitutes a complete unit study.  It does also have a secular world view.  We teach Creation Science at our house, but I also expose my kids to other views and we discuss why we believe or do not believe certain ideas.  The quality of this app was so incredible, I felt is was worth the discussion.  We used it as a unit study in conjunction with the frog dissection kit from homesciencetools.com.  My children thoroughly enjoyed this unit study and the dissection lesson. (*****)

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Meet Sis

It occurred to me today that I have been missing a great opportunity. I happen to have a ten year old at my disposal who uses the iPad and the apps everyday. She also happens to be a pretty decent writer. What does every homeschool mom look for? Learning experiences that we can count as school. I was pretty impressed with my idea, so I would love to hear you weigh in on how brilliant it really is. My thought is to enlist her to help me review apps. It will provide you with an inside look as to how the kids really like the apps, and we as parents can weigh in on their educational value. Most of the ones that I really like are the ones that provide the features we need, but are easy enough for my kids to use without becoming frustrated. These are the true five star winners in my book. So I look forward to reading what she really thinks, and counting it for writing. Oh, by the way, this kid had an opinion while she was still in the womb… So don’t be afraid that she won’t tell you exactly what she thinks!

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ReadMe by 8interactive

ReadMe is one of my favorite apps for read alongs. The app is free and comes with a few included books. You then can buy additional collections. It is a great bang for the buck. Typically, you can buy an average of 10-15 additional books for $0.99. They have quite a few series to choose from.

What do I love about these besides the price? They have a setting to either have the app read to the child, or have the child read it for themselves. The person reading the books uses all sorts of great voices. These are not volunteer readers that are dull and boring, and these books have amazing graphics to go with them. Each book is truly adorable and could used with either boys or girls.

My only complaint with this app is that I would prefer that it highlights the words as they are read. All in all, that is a pretty minor complaint and I think this is one of the best read along apps for the price. (*****)

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I would love to hear reader input…. Here’s your chance!

Reader interest is important to me. There are millions of ideas spinning around in my head. I know what I like to read about and what interests me, but I would love to hear more from you!

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Guest Blogs

In the near future, I will be adding a section to feature some really awesome homeschooling families. All of our families are different and have great ideas that we all might like to incorporate. If you would like to have you family featured, please let me know. I love hearing about all the great ideas. I would love to feature someone who is currently using the workbox system.

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Daily Focus by Alpha Omega Publishers

After reading this morning’s Daily Focus, I thought I would highlight this resource that has been a blessing to me. The Daily Focus is a short, morning devotional that comes right to your email box. It is written specifically for the homeschool mom. I have found that the topics speak right to my heart and minister to me in a way that other devotionals don’t. This one deals with the homeschool everyday life that meets me right where I am.

My older daughter uses Monarch Math by AOP, so I was able to sign up for this devotional on their website for free. I haven’t seen a price anywhere, so I do believe anyone can sign up with them. Since I have an account, it is a bit hard to see if it works without one. The site recognizes my email address. Please comment if you have any problems. I hope that this resource blesses your family as much as it has mine. It really is a great Daily Focus and sets the tone for the day.

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Lapbooking tutorial

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Wondermaps by Bright Ideas Press

Although Wondermaps currently does not download to the iPad, it is still one of my favorite homeschool products.  At our home, we approach geography primarily by the FIAR or similar Charlotte Mason method.  As we read literature, we look at the settings and map them.  If a character is from a different country, we would map this country, state, etc.  A journey can be mapped by placing push pins on each location and connecting them with a string on the world map. We then add maps to our lapbooks and notebooking as well. Using this method to teach geography can be extremely frustrating if you can’t find a good map to accompany a literature book.  Even the ones that accompany many of the unit studies are distorted or don’t photocopy well from their study guides.  I was continually searching for a decent map on the internet.  Typically, it was a lengthy process that did not result in finding the exact map I had been looking for.  If it was a historical map, that was even a greater challenge.  This is where Wondermaps comes in.

As the name implies, Wondermaps is indeed wonderful.  Once installed on your computer, you have access to all the maps included in The Mystery of History and  All American History textbooks by Bright Idea Press. You also can choose world or United States maps.  Once you click on the desired buttons, it gives you the option to then select from sub-categories.  After selecting your desired map, it will display as a beautiful, color map.  Along the sidebar, are different items you may or may not want on your map.  If you do not want it to be colored, just deselect that option.  If the intention is to test your child on the capitals or major cities, deselecting the city names leaves only the locating dots on the map.  Terrain texts can remain on the map or be removed.  You are able to customize that map to meet your needs.  I am thrilled that I can print them in color or black and white.  This program is a dream for any teacher.

I mentioned above that all the maps in the history books published by Bright Ideas Press are included.  This is a HUGE resource of historical maps.  I have spent so much time searching for historical maps to go with unit studies.  Where would you find a map of British India in 1753?  I just did, in three clicks.  A map of Lewis and Clarks expeditions.  They are all there.  It may sound silly to be so incredibly giddy over a mapping program, but this is an amazing product.  You can purchase this product from Brightideaspress.com for $49.95.  It comes in both a CD or download format.  This product is in my opinion the best $50 I have spent on curriculum, and is a product my children will utilize throughout their entire educational experience.

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Visual Latin

For those who don’t know, my background is in science and healthcare.  A few years ago, I was employed, traveling the country, teaching a review course for the dental hygiene, national board exam.  I have been a registered dental hygienist since 1998.  Currently, I work clinically 12 hours per week.  The most interesting thing that I learned while doing this job was the lack of test taking skills in the graduating students.  You would think that students graduating from such a rigorous, science program would have fabulous test taking skills.  Hummm… What was the problem?

My conclusion, after much pondering, was that they did not have a grasp of word roots.  They could not break down the words to make an educated guess.  Science is Latin based.  A grasp of Latin not only helps a student understand English, but it puts them so far ahead of other students when it comes to science.  On entering the dental hygiene program, by far the hardest part of the first quarter was that I felt like I was taking classes in a foreign language.  In fact, my good friend is from Romania.  She took many classes with me.  Even though English was a second language to her, science was easy.  Her first language is Latin based.  She wasn’t taking science in a foreign language.

From this premise came my resolve that Sis would take Latin.  At first I wasn’t concerned that she could speak it.  I was more interested in her ability to break down words.  I started with Word Roots by Critical Thinking Co.  At first she liked it.  It is in a workbook format.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, a workbook rebellion has been waged against me.  It was first begun by Sweet Pea, but soon joined by Sis.  I will agree that by the end of the first book, it was very difficult.  She began to hate Latin.

While reading a TOS Magazine article, I came across a review of a new program called “Visual Latin”.  It sounded promising, so I visited their website.  They had their teacher videos via YouTube.  They also provide it in two download formats.  One is for iPod.  The second is in HD for use on a computer.  My interest was sparked.  Look there…  Free trial lessons.  I could make sure it worked on the iPad before buying it.  The download button was pushed.

This program loads perfectly into GoodReader.  They are large files and won’t download on my 16G iPad, but will on the 64G.  You can easily try the free sample lessons to make sure it will work before you purchase the product.  Once it is downloaded to GoodReader, you will need to unzip the file.  Included in your file will be three videos, three worksheets, and the answer sheet.  We transfer the worksheets into Type on Pdf instead of printing them.  The student can then watch the videos and do the worksheets completely on the iPad.  Once it is downloaded, an internet connection is not needed.  I love this because it is a great subject for her to take along when we need to homeschool on the road.

Sis is excited to do Latin now.  It is one of her favorite subjects.  She thinks the teacher is funny and often times has to annoy me by reciting all his lame jokes.  Due in my opinion to both Latin programs, I have seen a huge jump in her ability to break down words.  She does very well on tests and has a wonderful grasp of the English language.  She is enjoying learning how to speak Latin.  Her goal is to figure out what her best friend’s mom is saying when she speaks Romanian.  To say the least, I am beyond pleased with this program.  It is exactly what I was looking for.

The only negatives that I have found with this product is that their website is hard to navigate once you purchase the download.  It will usually give you an error message when you try to download it.  I have figured out how to go back into the account and change the settings to get it to work.  It is a pain.  The other negative is that because of the file size, I can usually only download one or two lessons at a time.  We then unzip them, move files, and delete the zip file.  It does take a bit of knowledge working with an iPad to get it to work at times.  Overall, once it is downloaded, my ten year old is more than capable of moving the files and completing her assignments on her own.

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