Sunday, January 30, 2011

iHomeschool

As homeschoolers we know the important of introducing our children to technology. To do so, most of us at least have computers at home. On them you can find games, educational software and productivity software. But homeschooling can also be done while using a Nintendo DS, the Wii, the iPod or iPhone. Allow me to present to you some of the ones I’ve discovered so far.

Nintendo DS

Nintendo has been on the market for many years but not until a couple of years ago have I realized the possibilities to use it as a homeschool tool. Yes we do have games to go on it but we also have some educational titles. Have you ever looked into Brain Age I and II as well as Flash Focus? These games are quite interesting in training your brain and eyes. Since the apparition of these games, you can now find a multitude of “brain” type games on the market from various companies. Also, I would like to present you some of the other interesting games I have discovered over the past year that might be of interest to you.

My Spanish Coach helps you to learn Spanish while having fun. You will learn Spanish vocabulary, grammar and sentence structures while you go through a series of games. There are over 1,000 interactive lessons and you can learn 10,000 words and 700 phrases. You can also test your pronunciation by recording your voice using the built-in microphone.

Learn Geography is all about the world. I recently discovered this game for the Nintendo DS and decided to get it. You can learn more about the continents and the cultures around the world. It is a perfect tool to learn worldwide geography for grades 2 to 8.

Math Play will put your math skills to the test as you go through a variety of difficulty levels. It covers addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. This little game is perfect to revise what your child has learned during a math lesson!

Spelling Challenges is based on a spelling game show. You will need to compete in 11 different games and as your spelling improves you will advance to different levels. There is over 100 difficulty levels and more than 25,000 words to spell. This game is perfect for parents and kids.

Zoo Tycoon 2 is simply fantastic! What else can I say about this very popular game? The child builds his own zoo with animals, habitats, and many features. He will learn to manage a zoo by making money, hiring people, building restaurants, stores and much more. My oldest son really enjoys this game.

CrossworDS is a great way to expand your vocabulary! Not only will you find crosswords in this game but you will also find word searches and anagrams. You will also find more than 1,000 crossword puzzles. It is a great way to spend time while waiting at the dentist or doctor’s office.

Civilization Revolution will allow you to travel through history from the dawn of man to the space age and beyond. You will be among the greatest leaders of history and battle to win territory, conduct diplomacy, discover new technologies and build an empire. This particular game is a bit similar to Zoo Tycoon 2 but is geared for 10 and up.

BrainQuest 3&4 and 5&6 are fun games to test the knowledge of the appropriate grades. Each game contains about 6,000 questions on subjects like Math, Science, History, Geography and English. These particular games can be used as tests in your homeschool in an innovative way.

Smart Boy’s Gameroom is a fun little game that will help your boy age 3+ to build thinking skills. In this game, you will find a coloring section, a find the differences, become a train conductor, match the sounds, play piano, do puzzles, play a counting game, practice drawing, find matching pairs, play instruments, and more. Also available on the market is a Smart Girl’s Gameroom which probably contains similar games but with a “girly” theme.

Wii

Wii Fit doesn’t need any presentation I think. Many of you have probably heard of it. Well Wii Fit Plus is the 2nd version of the popular weight loss/control game that goes on the Wii. Use the Wii balance and play fun games that will tone you at the same time. Wii Fit Plus has new exercises to do, new training games, new features that will allow you to track your progress more easily as well as a customize workout area. My boys don’t have to lose weight but they love the balance games and the competition between them. It is quite entertaining to see them go through the games in the multiplayer feature. Why not consider this as the PhysEd part of the day?

Wii Music will introduce your kids to 60 different musical instruments and show them how they work. They can also become very creative and make their own music with a band.

Endless Ocean is a favourite in our household. In this game, you will discover the beauty of the ocean , the creatures that lives there and you will learn about scuba diving at the same time. This fun game gets you searching for sunken treasures and you have various tasks to perform on the boat as well. The graphics are simply stunning and you can’t help but think about the Creator behind it all.

OffShore Tycoon is a game of a fishing company that has been passed down through 10 generations. You will have to gather fish from the ocean, process them and sell them to hungry customers. While you grow you will have the opportunity to make decision on when to change the boat, to keep up the demand, plan the next step and so on. This is a wonderful introduction on how to manage a business.

Winter Sports The Ultimate Challenge will introduce your child to winter sports and how to perform them. Similarly, the Summer Sports The Ultimate Challenge will introduce the child to summer sports. Both games are similar in their settings as there is a competition between the countries – a little bit like the Olympics.

Kabooki is a family game created by the creators of the Cranium board game. Come and join Creative Cat, Data Head, Word Worm, and Star Performer in a variety of activities. The best team wins the game. Included in this game are 3D glasses that you will need from time to time.

iPod and iPhone

Okay this is something I am still exploring but let me tell you that I am quite excited about what is available for the iPod Touch and iPhone. From geography to astronomy while going through math problems or spelling or grammar lessons, there are many applications that are interesting for kids of various ages. You can also find fun books for your toddlers. One company which I discovered through my contacts is Moving Picture Books that also have a couple of books about the Bible. 

On our iPhone/iPod, we have a variety of educational apps. I’ve created a folder for various topics like math, science, writing, and so on. In the Mathematics department, I strongly recommend iLive Math which has a variety of apps to choose from base don subjects like ocean, animals from Africa, animals from Asia and much more. KidsMathFun is quite interesting as well because their apps are grade specific.

For writing, the RhymeNow app is simply fantastic. I’ve installed this app on my son’s iPod and since then he plays with it in the afternoon trying to create fun rhymes. There are also apps on spelling as well as dictionaries and verb tenses. Recently, the company behind iLive MathiHome Educator – has just released a new app titled iLive Grammar Winter which will supplement your Language Arts and Science at the same time.

Science is another subject that can be covered with apps. From anatomy to chemistry, you can find anything even physics games and quizzes on various science subjects. My favourite app in the science department is the iBird Explorer Pro which allows me to identify the birds we encounter while camping. Being an avid ornithologist, I decided to invest more on this specific app.

Believe it or not, geography is also covered with apps. Want to be challenged? You can find quizzes on the subject. Maps can be found both historically and up-to-date. One interesting app I have discovered this past week is GeoWalk which allows your child to discover the world in a very interesting way.  I could go on and on for every subject that could be covered in an homeschool environment even Latin.

For French I’ve found a couple of interesting apps for my toddler. SmarKids French teaches the alphabet, numbers, colors, fruits, animals, vegetables, and many more objects that can be found in a house. French being our primary language I was quite pleased to discover this little app. Also for toddlers, there are a multitude of books to download including Dr. Seuss books.

The popular magazine Disney Family Fun also has an app you can download. In it you will find crafts to make with you kids. It also has many activities that can be done for various ages.

For fun, I highly recommend the Geocaching app but beware that it will work only on the iPhone 3Gs since it needs the GPD feature to work. We recently started using my husband’s iPhone to discover the joy of geocaching. The kids love it. I enjoy searching through nature and finding the little treasures left by others.

As you can see, homeschooling can use a variety of educational software and electronic games to deepen the knowledge of kids. In this 21st century, it is essential to use all the tools available to enhance the homeschool experience. My kids are using workbooks and books every day and they also get to play with other fun games. The key is not to overdo it. It is essential to limit the time spent on the PC and on electronic games.

Having said that have fun with the kids. Challenge them on the Wii or Nintendo DS. Play with them on the iPhone/iPod. Embrace the electronic age and discover a wealth or possibilities.

In a future post I would like to explore the possibilities of the iPad.

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Personal blog of a homeschool family. We love to travel with our RV when we can. Fishing, discovering new places, photography are some of our favourite activities!

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