Educational Apps for Kids – Early Elementary

FREE educational apps

A few months ago, my generous grandma gifted each of my daughters an iPad. While I do my best to limit our screen time, we definitely love technology in this house and we were so stoked! My children and I are constantly learning new things from our devices, and while we adore reading books, sometimes it’s nice to relax and simply watch a video or play a game. Most of the time my kids are on their ipads, they don’t even realize they’re learning!

When I sat down to fill up their ipads, I was blown away at a number of games and educational apps that are available for this age group. We’ve tried out and deleted quite a few apps since we first got them, so I thought I’d share some of our favorites that made the cut with you. All of these apps are free. We paid for the full versions of the last three apps on this list though, and I’ll explain why when we get there. Enjoy!
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Hoopla – This is my personal favorite app. We love listening to audiobooks and with this app and a library card (from a participating library) you can download them for free! They also have a wide selection of ebooks and music. We’ve only listened to the audiobooks though. Some of our favorites have been Frog and Toad and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. Reading to your kids has so many great benefits including their language and vocabulary, concentration skills, empathy, and they learn to love reading.

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Todo Math – This little app is a lot of fun and the kids don’t even realize they’re learning. As I scroll through the “Progress” page, I can see that my 4 year old is learning to recognize and write numbers, patterns, shapes, counting, and days of the week. My 6 year old has promoted to a higher level and is learning all of the above, plus numbers up to 100, addition, and counting money. This is all without purchasing the upgrade.

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Spanish School Bus for Kids – This is a great app for teaching kids basic words in Spanish. They go through a set of flash cards, separated by subject, then play a few games to test their knowledge.

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Aniscience – This is such a beautiful little app! They get to lead a little mouse through underground tunnels to see which animals are living down there or walk around above ground and learn about different plants. The upgrades on this one are tempting. You’ll see what I mean when you see the pictures. ❤

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Go Noodle – Get your kids moving with guided music videos! As a homeschooling family, I really appreciate this app because the kids can easily prop up the ipad and be entertained for hours. They have everything from the electric slide to calming meditations.

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Star Walk Kids – What kid doesn’t love to learn about space? My kids are just fascinated by this app!

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SkyView Free – We all love pointing this one to the sky at night and learning about constellations and where the planets are.

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Little Writer – I love this one because it teaches kids the proper way to write letters and numbers. You can even program your own words for them to follow. I put in each child’s name and picture, then it guides them by showing where to start the letter and which direction to go in to write it correctly.

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Bible App for Kids – My kids love listening to bible stories and this app is wonderful for getting their little minds involved in the story with tons of pictures and things for them to click on and play with. They’ve learned more about the bible from this app than I could have taught them myself. We love it!

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Simply Piano – A simple app for someone of any age to learn to play the piano. You can use it with or without an actual piano, but it’s especially awesome if you do have your own piano because it actually listens to you playing! The lessons are very short and you can do each lesson as many times as you need to before moving on.

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Galactic Genius with Astro Cat –  This one is a little confusing to me, but my 6 year old says it’s one of her favorites. There are a few free games on here that work on memory building and logic.

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Intro To United States, by Motessorium – Kids learn to recognize the shape and location of each state and the state animal.

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Marco Polo Weather – A really cute game that teaches kids about different types of weather, seasons, and plants.

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BrainPOP – The free version of BrainPOP has several videos available for each of these subjects- social studies, english, math, arts & music, health, and engineering & tech. We tried out BrainPOP Jr too, but they only had one movie of the week that was available without the subscription. While I would love for my children to watch and learn from all their videos, I can’t afford to pay for the upgrade on every app they have!

While I would love for my children to watch and learn from all their videos, I can’t afford to pay for the upgrade on every app they have! My kids have convinced me to order a few though. After seeing how much they were learning on the free versions, I gave in and paid for the full versions of these three apps:
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Quick Math Jr. – My daughter loves this app so much she convinced me to pay the $10 for the full version and I definitely don’t regret it. It was designed with genius’s who truly know how to turn learning math into a game that kids love! Kids travel to different islands where they learn various math standards and earn cute monster bodies and body parts to design their own little army of math monsters that hop around the screen. It begins with super simple math and progresses as your child masters each standard.

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Endless ABC – This is another really fun one. I think it has a lot to do with why my 6 year old is reading chapter books already! They learn letters, letter sounds, reading, and vocabulary by dragging the letter to its spot then watching a funny video about the word. So simple, yet so much fun!

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The Human Body by Tinybop – This one was a little odd to me at first, but I’ve learned to appreciate it! It encourages little minds to think and understand the body and its processes. While it doesn’t actually teach any facts, it teaches by allowing kids to just play and explore the body. They can see what happens when food is digested, grow nails, put together a skeleton, view organs and see how they work. It’s very interesting and has encouraged quite a few discussions on the human body.

 

Well, there they are! There are so many great educational apps out there. If you have a favorite that isn’t mentioned on this list, please comment with the name. I’m sure my kids would love to check it out! Thank you!

Erin

 

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The Handbook of Nature Study – Free Online Ebook

img_1609.jpgSweet Fennel we found on the side of the road in San Onofre, California.

Hi friends! I just wanted to come on quickly to share a link with you. If you’re into Charlotte Mason’s style of homeschooling, you may have seen or heard about this book, The Handbook of Nature Study. Lately I’ve been seeing it show up in every third photo on my Instagram feed. I can’t help but be curious about a book that’s over 100 years old and still so popular! After finding out today that all copies at our charter were taken, I hit the internet. I’ve had good luck in the past finding free versions of books on Hoopla and openlibrary.org, and thankfully tonight was no different!

Click here to read the book online for free!

or

Click here to read another version. (Same text, white pages, and updated photos.)

I also just came across this blog while researching the book. Looks like she’s done all the work for you and has her lesson plans ready to be downloaded.

Enjoy!!

 

Erin Fuentes

 

Read for free

 

Simple DIY Graduation Caps for Kids

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I can’t believe the end of our first year of homeschooling has come! My feelings on this subject are comparable to the ones I have about having children; while time seems to have flown by, I can’t fully remember life before homeschooling. What on earth did we do all day? It’s funny how you don’t realize how much free time you have until a few years later when you’re looking back at your previous life of freedom, wishing you had taken advantage of all those moments you could have been napping or eating chocolate.

While all the schools around us are doing their end-of-the-year festivities, we’re over here trying to hit all of our favorite spots as much as we can before the onslaught of children happens. Actually, my kids truly love a full park. It’s their introverted mom who prefers it empty/safe from potential kidnappers. (Have you seen all those videos of kids being snatched from their moms at the store? SCARY.) Anyway, the girls got to watch some preschoolers practicing for their graduation ceremony a few days ago and it immediately stirred up some feelings of discontent in my 5 year old. “I never got to have a preschool graduation!” Me: “Well considering you never went to preschool…..” Betsey: Tears. Me: “It’s okay, we can have our own graduation party tomorrow, okay baby?” Remind me to stop blaming their grandma for their spoiled attitudes.

So this morning I grabbed a few supplies we already had on hand and put together some pretty darn cute grad caps for my miniature homeschool alumni. We were still missing some party food so we jumped online and decided to test out these snickerdoodle cookies. They turned out delicious and I had two very happy little girls!

How to make you own cap

What we used:
scissors
ruler
3 pieces of construction paper
glue stick
tape
yarn

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Making the cap:
First, I measured the short side of the construction paper (mine was 9 in) and marked along the long side where I need to cut to make a perfect square. Cut two pieces of construction paper into large squares and glue them together with a glue stick. (Liquid glue would also work, just spread it thinly.) This gives the top enough strength to stay flat while the tassel hangs off the side. Set it aside.
Next, fold the third piece of paper the long way and cut along the fold. Glue the ends together to make one long piece. Wrap it around your child’s head to measure the right size and tape it together. Set it aside.

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Making the tassel:
Grab your yarn and cut a 6 inch piece and a 20 inch piece and set them aside; you’ll need these shortly. Holding the end against your palm with your thumb, wrap the yarn loosly around your hand. Stop wrapping when you have enough for your tassel to look the way you want it to. I wrapped mine about 40 times. Take your 20 inch piece and poke it through the top. Carefully pull the whole thing off your hand and tie the top in a knot. Now tie the 6 inch piece around the tassel and tie in a knot. One of the best tricks I learned for this part is to wrap the knot three times instead of two. It makes it tight and strong. Go ahead and cut the bottom. Trim as desired.

Finishing up:
Grab the top of the cap and use scissors to poke a hole in the middle. String the 20 inch piece through from the top, measure where you want the tassel to hang, then tape the end to the inside. Cut the excess.
Place the top of the cap down and connect the last piece with tape on the inside.

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And there you have it! An adorable DIY graduation cap for your little one.

Easy DIY graduation cap

Congratulations grads!

Erin Fuentes

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*Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Benefits of Homeschooling with a Charter

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Charter schools are popping up all over the place. You may have seen one and wondered what makes it any different from a regular school? Charter schools are free, public schools for TK-12th grade that are not associated with a school district. They are funded by and accountable to the government entity (state, county, or district) that granted them their charter (a contract written by a legislative power granting specific rights and privileges to an organization.) All it has to do to keep its doors open is uphold the academic, financial, and organizational promises it made when it was granted its charter. These independently run schools are great options for someone who doesn’t want to send their student their assigned local school, wants smaller class sizes, or prefers the various teaching styles not available in regular public schools.

Our charter school offers a wonderful home study program. I can’t imagine trying to do this without all the amazing help they have given us! Some of the benefits we’ve received include:

  • Monthly meetings: Our Educational Facilitator (sort of like a school counselor) helps me plan each month ahead of time by putting together a checklist of what I plan to teach and helps me come up with ideas when I’m not sure which direction to go in next. I know this isn’t preferable for some people, but her knowledge and support have been SO helpful and I appreciate the fact that she respects my position as a teacher and mom and goes along with all the random subjects we choose to study! Although I don’t use tests with my children yet, I’ve appreciated our EF doing assessments with my daughter because it’s a huge confidence boost for her and proves to me how much she really is learning from home.
  • Free Curriculumand educational materials: We have access to a resource center full of a variety of curriculums and almost any educational materials you can imagine. Books, games, puzzles, manipulatives, globes, posters, microscopes, you name it. And the best part- I get to look through everything before we commit. Also, there’s no limit to how many consumable items (items that don’t need to be returned, like workbooks) that we can take home. If my daughter moves beyond her grade level in a certain subject or we realize that it’s just not a good fit for her, we can simply walk in and choose a better option without having to purchase another curriculum. We also get to borrow books and games until the end of the school year. We love the library, but this definitely beats their three week rental period and late fees!
  • Funds: In addition to free curriculum and educational materials, we are allotted a certain amount of EU’s, or $$$, that can be spent on authorized vendors. Some of our options include swimming lessons, rock climbing, tai kwon do, pottery, music lessons, dance classes, horseback riding, art supplies, tutoring, and even monthly subscription boxes like Tinker Crates and Raddish Kids. My kids (and my wallet) have LOVED this!
  • Field Trips: Kids like to get together with other kids! I happen to work in a daycare that I can take mine to, but many don’t have that opportunity. Field trips provide you the opportunity to take the kids out, maybe make some new friends, and learn something while you’re at it. Some of ours have included The LA County Fair, Medieval Times, a huge multischool event with the Anaheim Ducks, concerts, and museums.
  • Events: While there are outside events out there for homeschoolers, our charter school makes it very easy to get the kids involved in talent shows, science and art fairs, and school dances.

While the support our charter offers us is definitely appreciated, the main advantage is obviously a financial one! Charter schools do such a wonderful job of making sure you have everything you need to teach your children all the subjects of life.

Here’s what we got from our last Amazon order of the year. Yes, we really like art supplies!! This will definitely keep us going until the beginning of next year. Yay! If you’re interested, links to the items we ordered are listed below.

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If you’re interested in ordering any of the above items, please use the links provided so I can receive a small payment from Amazon at no extra cost to you! Thank you so much for your support. 🙂

Apple Barrel Acrylic Paints

Bug Bingo

Bird Bingo
 
Hello Nature
 
The 50 States

Prismacolor Colored Pencils

Honeysticks 100% Pure Beeswax Crayons

Sago Brothers Air Dry Modeling Clay

Gel Pen Trio

Glitter Glue

Crayola Markers- The Big 40

Paint Brush Set

What I learned in our first 6 months of homeschooling.

 

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Our decision to homeschool was made about 5 years ago. I was working as a caregiver for children with special needs and had an infant. After speaking with the families I worked with and spending months researching the topic, my husband and I agreed to stop vaccinating our daughter just before her first birthday. In California, religious and personal exemptions are no longer available upon entering public school or childcare. You either keep up with the vaccine schedule or you homeschool.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but our decision to homeschool was one based on fearIt was our last resort, our only option.

Fast forward 5 years to summer 2016. Betsey is 5 and ready to start kindergarten, but I hadn’t even thought about enrolling her in school. In a panic, I called the local school district to find out the current situation on exemptions. I left a message but never received a callback. It’s funny how God works isn’t it? Amazingly, I wasn’t freaking out about the fact that my daughter was supposed to start school in a few months and I had virtually no plan!

A few days after making that phone call, the name of the charter school I graduated from popped into my head. Hello! I called the school and got all the information I could on their home study program. I was nervous about their vaccine requirements, but as it turns out our charter is considered a “non-classroom public school” and vaccines are not required for home study or academy classes. I was so relieved and excited to start our new journey. The next month was spent putting together our homeschool classroom and back-to-school list. I was in OCD heaven!

I planned out everything we needed and where we’d get the best deals. I put it on the credit card because we needed all of it before the year began.

Have I mentioned yet that our third baby was due the week Betsey started school? HA! Again with the God humor. We got together with our EF (Educational Facilitator, like a school counselor) to map out our plan and pick up materials/curriculum for the first month. I didn’t have a preference for what we’d use so I let her decide what would be best to start with. We began our homeschool year two weeks early to allow time off when the baby came. I spent an entire Saturday putting together a detailed schedule with pretty color coated calendars complete with a lesson for each subject in each day’s box. It hurts a little to write that out because we spent approximately 5 minutes following that lesson plan. My sweet daughter’s excitement about learning had us crossing off 5 days of reading and math in the first hour. After a few days of doing a few assignments for each subject, I watched her excitement turn to exhaustion and frustration.

I learned quickly that asking my 5 year old to follow a lesson plan was a fantastic way to kill her love of learning.

I was so thankful to have learned that lesson before our new baby came! Our first few months of school were very minimal due to our new schedule and my lack of sleep, but I did my best to keep the kids excited with various crafts and activities that I found on Pinterest. Most days we worked on pages torn out of workbooks. I learned to let her work on one subject until she was ready to take a break or move on to the next. And if she was struggling to understand a concept, we’d get creative and work on it until she mastered it.

I had to let go of my expectations and be intentional in allowing her to feel like she’s in control of her learning.

Every moment until this realization was made I had been trying to control every aspect of our homeschool. I chose what we worked on, when we started, and what materials we needed to use. I was tired and overwhelmed trying to check off every box on the ‘what-your-kindergartner-needs-to-know’ page. I was bringing my newborn and 4 year old to Betsey’s morning swim lessons. Lessons that toward the end she didn’t even enjoy going to! Which brings me to my next revelation:

Realize when something isn’t working, and allow yourself to quit!

And when I say quit, I don’t mean at the beginning of next year, I mean as soon as you realize it’s not benefitting your family. In the beginning of the school year, Betsey was signed up for several weekly classes outside the home. Swimming, pottery, kids engineering.. She had a wonderful time in most of them but getting us all there on time was a major source of stress for me and ultimately led to grumpiness in all of us. Since freeing our schedule, we have had more time to dig deeper into what they’re learning and schedule the things we really want to be doing, like hiking with our nature group.

Our schedule isn’t the only thing that we minimized after the first few months. Over winter break I went through all the supplies. I threw away what we didn’t use at all and put out of sight the things we that don’t use often or need sitting out (construction paper, glue, paint.) This was huge because when a 4 year old sees scissors, she wants to use them; and she was eyeing those scissors multiple times a day for a good few months! We also purged their bedroom of all excess toys and have been working on replacing them with open-ended toys such as play silks and MagnaTiles.

My new approach to homeschooling is to keep it simple.

Kids are learning machines. Between the ages of 4 and 10, their brains are more than twice as active than adults’.  They are going to continue learning whether you provide curriculum or not. Their spongy little minds are constantly picking new ideas up and growing. It’s an incredible miracle to watch! I’m not saying our children don’t need our help to learn and grow, but that it doesn’t need to be something that causes anxiety. One of my favorite benefits of homeschooling is that there is no pressure to have certain concepts learned by a specific date. We get to take as long as we need to understand the concept and move on. If one of my children is curious about something unrelated to math or language arts, we get to put those aside a few days to allow them to explore their new interest. What a blessing!

In the last 6 months, I learned to rethink homeschooling. I no longer see it as our only option, but as the best option for our family. I’ve learned to appreciate the freedom homeschooling gives us and use it cultivate our relationships and interests. I see the world differently. My fears of my children growing up in this world have become dreams of hope and excitement for their futures. They get to decide what they like and have all the time they need to grow their interests into skills that will make them successful, no matter what direction they choose to go in. Again, what a blessing.

I’d love to hear your stories about how homeschooling has changed over time! Maybe your journey hasn’t changed much at all. Let me know in the comments!

-Erin

 

 

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