There’s An App For That!

It’s September, which means school is officially back in session just about everywhere, including in our home.  I don’t write often about our day to day life as a (mostly) homeschooling family, but I hear a couple of the same questions enough that I thought I’d write a few posts on them.  They are questions about how we spend our days and what resources we utilize, and the answers might be beneficial for many families, whether homeschooling, public-schooling, private schooling or just passionate about learning.

“What are some of your favorite websites and apps for learning?”

I’m fairly certain we could not homeschool without our local public library or the Internet.  As much as we love things like nature walks and the increased opportunity for outdoor time that homeschooling affords, we are a family that embraces technology as a valuable learning tool.  I’m going to share a list of some of our favorite websites and apps.  This list is by no means exhaustive, but I hope you find something on it that inspires you too! 


Khan Academy
Khan Academy is incredible.  I cannot sing its praises enough.  It is absolutely free, covers a wide variety of subjects, and allows you set up an individual learning program complete with instructional videos and interactive practice exercises that help you reach mastery level.  It’s now being used in schools across the country to “flip the classroom,” allowing students to watch instructional videos as homework, freeing up valuable class time with an instructor to apply the lessons learned.  My kids use it primarily as a supplement to their math curriculum but I’ve watched videos on everything from balancing chemical equations (which I never really understood) to art history. 

Brain Pop/Brain Pop Jr. 
These short animated films offer an introductory level lesson on a large variety of subjects.  Each video is accompanied by additional options like writing prompts, comics, or quizzes.  Engaging for elementary aged students.  Subscription required. 

Apparently there is more to YouTube than kitten videos!  Who knew?  Our favorites this past year have been Crash Course (John and Hank Green’s vlog series on a variety of topics, we particularly dig the World History videos), Smarter Every Day and Numberphile

Netflix offers a decent selection of documentaries.  America: The Story of Us is a great series for older students interested in American history, How the States Got Their Shapes is a fun way to supplement memorizing the names and locations of the fifty states by introducing kids to the quirks and oddities that make each state unique, and Netflix offers countless nature-based documentaries as well.  Netflix does change its offerings on a fairly regular basis though, so don’t get too attached to any one series or watch fast!  Subscription required.

GameEd Academy’s Minecraft Homeschool 
Have a Minecraft addict on your hands?  Don’t let the homeschool part of the name scare you away, this site can be used by any student interested in using Minecraft as a platform for learning.  Last year, the boys took classes on things like medieval castles and cannons or the seven natural wonders of the world that combined reading, videos and Minecraft for building and constructing models of what they learned. 


Code Combat
Code Combat teaches coding (Python or Java) through a video game.  Your student has to code their way through the levels of the game in order to advance, and it has been a big hit with our new middle-schooler.  You can play the first 100 levels for free, and after that it requires a subscription.

Code Studio 
Code Studio houses, the originator of the Hour of Code. It offers free courses in computer programming for elementary and middle school children that allow them to work in groups or independently. Students can start on an introductory level, using a drag and drop method of coding.

Created by the MIT media lab, Scratch teaches basic programming concepts that allow you to create your own games or stories to share in the Scratch online community.

Foldit’s tagline reads “solve puzzles for science” and that’s exactly what you are doing.  A collaboration between the University of Washington’s Center for Game Science in collaboration and the UW Department of Biochemistry, Foldit seeks gamers to apply their puzzle-solving abilities to protein-folding quandaries faced by scientists.


Dance Mat Typing
An animated approach to teaching the basics of keyboarding to young kids.  My kids grimaced at some of the characters, but it improved their keyboarding significantly over the course of the last year.

Foreign Language

A great supplement to foreign language instruction, you can download this app and practice a number of languages on the go.


This app teaches the basic concepts of algebra through illustrations before introducing numbers.  It’s fun and kids want to keep unlocking new levels by solving the puzzles (which are really just balanced algebraic equations). 

Times Table Lab
A fun and easy way to practice multiplication facts on the go.  My kids don’t relish memorizing math facts, but this is a step up from flashcards! 

Language Arts

We use Overdrive to access our public library’s extensive database of digital books and audio recordings.  There are other options out there for audiobooks (like Audible) but this one is free, and our local library has a great selection.   

We have a monthly subscription to Spotify’s mobile service and I was surprised to find a decent number of audio recordings of stories and books available, from re-tellings of Shakespeare to Sherlock Holmes. If you listen from home, no subscription is needed.

And there you have it … a few of our favorite websites and apps.  I’d love to hear from you, what websites and apps does your family love for learning? 

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