People always ask me if and how I use tablets in our homeschool.
The first answer is yes! We definitely make use of our tablet as it provides a change from the normal daily work.
One of our favorite things to use tablets for are eBooks. There are a huge variety of eBook options for all grade levels, as well as beginning reading and narrated versions for those who aren’t reading quite yet.
As a matter of fact I’m highly considering using BJU Press Literature eText books for my 7th grader coming this year. Many curriculum vendors are moving to digital options for text books. They’re less expensive than regular text books and a lot easier to take with you if you’re reading somewhere other than home.
As far as using tablets in our daily homeschool, we mainly use them as a supplement right now. I typically allow my kiddos the chance to play on the tablet after their core work is complete. They’re allowed to play for about 15-20 minutes a day. However for my preschooler I will often put the games in her workbox drawers as part of her daily lesson. We don’t use it every day, but I do find they provide a nice change to our normal routine.
To help get you started using tablets in your homeschool, here is a list of some of our favorite educational iPad apps:
Favorite Educational iPad Apps
Of course I don’t consider this totally educational, but I have learned to like the concept behind MineCraft, and it’s definitely become a favorite of my kiddos. I have to admit that this one makes me motion sick, so it’s hard for me to look at for a long period of time. But my kids have built amazing creations using this app. They have whole towns with quite intricate architectural structures, farms, animals, and they seem to know their way around really well!
So for creative thinking MineCraft scores big here! I do however limit their time allowance of this as it’s one of those addictive games that they can play for hours on end. There is both a free and paid version of this app currently available.
Apps for Elementary-Aged Students
Sight Word Bingo by ABCya.com is a fun and engaging way to practice reading and sightwords. It is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and is based on the Dolch Sight Word List. The creators suggest this app for children ages 5 and older depending on reading level. There are also some gaming skills required to play as well. This app also includes spelling practice and a few other word game choices.
We also have Math Bingo by the same company and love it as well. The concepts behind both Sight Word Bingo and Math Bingo are similar. In each you are either read a word or a math problem. And then your student selects the word or answer from their bingo card. Once they get a row completed they’ve won.
Math Blaster HyperBlast
We, and by we, I mean both the kids and me, love the Knowledge Adventure Apps. They have a few different apps available, and Math Blaster HyperBlast is probably one of my kiddos’ favorite apps. It’s a fun, fast-paced math game that my kids quite enjoy. And don’t worry, if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad, you can play online at MathBlaster. You can choose your skill level and activity, which makes this game great for multiple age levels!
The game itself has your student driving a space craft, and as they go they have to fly through the correct answers to problems given to them. This game works on hand/eye coordination, as well as math skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Another fun math game we enjoy is Times Table Lab by Simulant. Times Table Lab is a timed math game, so it encourages them to memorize their times tables by making them pick the correct answers before time runs out.
As they play the game, numbered balls drop down. The player then drags the numbered ball to the correct spot on the times table grid. Each correct answer gives the player a point. The game is over if 5 balls are stacked on the screen, or the player runs out of “wrong” answers. Levels go from a 5×5 table all the way up to a 12×12 table which makes the game challenging for a variety of ages.
Apps for Preschool and Kindergarten Students
When the Teeny Tot was about 2-3, one of her favorite apps was Shape Builder by Murtha Design. They have both a paid app and a freebie, ShapeBuilder Lite. The app includes several different shape, letter, and number puzzles for your toddler to build.
Each puzzle has silhouettes of the shapes that are to be placed there, so it’s a great way for younger children to put some of their logical thinking skills to work! Once they’ve completed the puzzle, the real image is revealed to them along with a congratulatory message. The puzzles have a variety of skill levels, so they can get more challenging as your child gets used to moving the pieces around.
Another app I really like for younger kids is First Words by Learning Touch. It features 174 word games including animals, vehicles, colors, shapes, and common words from around the house.
You can also choose skill levels. The one below is a beginner level to help your preschooler practice matching the letters. And you can choose harder levels where students have to create the words on their own without the helping tiles.
Another great phonics app for younger kiddos is the Montessori Crosswords app. The consonant tiles are red and the vowels are all blue, making it easier for students to sort through all of the letters to select the correct one.
The app will read the word for you, and give you a picture of it. You can also tap on the “?” to get help if you need it. There are a variety of skills to choose from including simple CVC words, consonant blends, digraphs, and more. This app is a great way to help build phonics and spelling skills.
My last, but certainly not least, recommendation is for KinderTown. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time sifting through all of the zillions of apps out there these days. And KinderTown is a great way to find safe apps for your kiddos. You can search by age, subject, paid/free, and by device.
That makes it super easy and quick to go in and search for new games for your kiddos using your own specific search criteria. The app is currently free, and you can search for apps on the KinderTown website as well. You simply type in your child’s age, what type of device you’re using, and whether you want free, paid, or all app results.
You can also search by subject such as math, spelling, language, art, science, and social studies. I absolutely love this app as it makes finding fun and educational apps for my kids a breeze!
One of our most used apps to date is my Overdrive Media Console app. OverDrive allows you to connect to your local library via your iPad/Kindle and check out books electronically. You sign in with your library card like usual, check out your e-book, then when it’s due, your iPad automatically returns the book for you. And the best part is that it’s free! What a great resource for young readers to have at their finger-tips.
I will say that I normally search for the books myself, and then check them out to deliver to my table. I haven’t found a method for limiting search results from my library to children’s books and not adult books, so I just find it better if I help them locate books they’re interested in.
Here are some links to help you get started using your library online:
• How to check out a Public Library book to read on your iPad.
• OverDrive Media Console
• Kindle iPad App
Aside from the library app, we also have enjoyed several online book apps as well. Bright World eBooks is a new company that is just getting started, but we’re excited to try out. These ebooks are an interactive reading series that include 3D animated exploration, reading, vocabulary, and gaming. You can visit their website for a demonstration of the app.
They also have a record feature that allows children to read and record their own voices to help with reading fluency and comprehension. I love the concept for this new product!
Oceanhouse Media is another one of our favorite book apps. They offer a variety of classic books for younger readers including the popular Dr. Seuss series, the Berenstain Bears, and a Smithsonian series where kids can learn about all kinds of animals, science topics, and more.
My kids really enjoyed this series and the books will both read to you, as well as allow you to read on your own. The books are paid apps ranging from $1.99-$11.99 for a series.
Unfortunately in this day and age we need to be aware of online safety for our kiddos. PBS KIDS recently put out an article regarding online safety, and with their permission they agreed to let me share it with you to help make sure your children are safe when playing on tablets and other online devices.
“Before putting these interactive devices into kids’ hands for the bells and whistles of the newer version, parents should prep the devices for kids’ use with the following tips from PBS KIDS:
1. Sweep it: All devices should be cleaned of any content including personal files, credit card information, etc. before handing down to kids. Parents should clean all their browser “cookies” and perform an application sweep.
2. Secure it: There are parental controls on most tech devices that can turn certain features on and off. Settings on the iPhone, for example, that can be restricted include explicit song titles, Internet browser, YouTube, iTunes, and the camera.
3. Set limits: As with any new toy, parents should set expectations and limitations with their kids when the device is handed down, and should encourage other forms of learning and play beyond the screen.
4. Find the right apps for your child: A good app is the perfect combination of education and entertainment, and should be appropriate for your child’s age and stage of development.
5. Avoid apps that try to sell: Apps labeled “lite” or “free” often attempt to make money by trying to sell virtual items while a child is playing a game, or link to another related app that requires payment to download. Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.”
Erica Arndt is a Christian, a wife, a mom, and a homeschooler. She authors the homeschooling website Confessions of a Homeschooler, where she offers tons of free printables, resources, ideas, and homeschool curriculum. She likes to spend time with her family, and dabbles in graphic design in her *free* time. Feel free to drop by her site for a visit anytime!
Disclosure: I received some of the above iPad and iPhone apps free for review on my blog. The opinions expressed in this post were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.