Life at Warp Speed

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Educational Tech Picks March 6, 2015

This is the October 2014 column that I wrote for my co-op’s newsletter. I realized that I should share these gems with all of you as well! So, I will be posting up my other past columns when I have some more time. I just love finding interesting and sometimes unusual educational resources online that can be leveraged for homeschooling. Keep in mind that these are not necessarily Christian resources and as always please preview and decide for yourself if a particular resource is appropriate for you and your family to use. These resources may be of interest to families that supplement on the weekends, after school, or summer vacation.

ABC Jesus Love Me: Free                                                                                             Grades: Toddler to Pre-K
If you have littles in the house that are chomping at the bit to do “school” just like their older siblings and have no time to pull something together, then (AJLM) is my solution for you! AJLM is a great free biblically based, play based curriculum designed to take you from ages 2 to 5. Each year has a 36 week plan covering literature, music, character, Scripture, pre-math, pre-reading, and age-appropriate concepts and skills. This is a well-laid out curriculum with an intentional progression leading you to being ready for formal schooling at school age.

I really appreciate the way the AJLM lays out each week beginning with the supplies that you need to have on hand. Then you are given a good overview of learning objectives for the week. This is followed by a list of all the different activities and links to all the printable resources. If you scroll all the way to the bottom you will find a schedule grid with everything scheduled over 4 days.

I must say that you should not to feel compelled to use everything which might be challenging for those who are compulsive box checkers. Depending on your situation, this might feel overwhelming to you. Feel free to pick and choose what is most important to you or even slow this down and work over a whole year rather than 36 weeks schedule.

Magic School Bus Science Lesson Plans: Free                                                                                       Grades: K-3

Homeschoolbelle has made her Magic School Bus DVD series lesson plans for the primary grades. She has pulled together a schedule that takes you through each episode with suggested books to read, a project or experiment that you can do, related Brain Pop videos, and writing assignments  from about the topic. This is such a fun way to do make science interesting and accessible for younger children.

VocabularySpellingCity: Free. ($29.99 for premium access for full features. ).

Spelling City is available as an app for Apple, Droid, and Kindle users. It is also available online as well. This is a pretty fun way to practice and test spelling words though various games and activities. The premium membership does give you many more features that expand this to be a good vocabulary resource as well. The annual family premium access is for up to five students.

There are literally thousands of user created spelling lists in their database. Their spelling list search function is rather underwhelming though and not that effective to narrowing down what you are looking for. The trick though is that you either have to know the user’s account name or the list name. I have been able to find lists for most common homeschool spelling curricula (SWR, on Spelling City with a little key word searching of the Spelling City forums (forum, spelling city, ). Sometimes, when my hands are busy with making lunch or dinner, I will run the practice test and have my son write out his spelling on paper the SWR way…cursive with all the markings. It does free up some time as I can have him work on spelling and vocabulary while we are en route somewhere on our iPad. We really enjoy using it.

I was able to organize a way for our co-op to take advantage of the special pricing by having parents share access to a teacher account. If you can get enough people together and organize it, it is a great deal at about $2 per student for 12 months.

The Online Engineering Academy: ($400-$550)                                                                       Grade: High School
I just love this concept that meets a real felt need for high school students that are interested in engineering. This is something that is very challenging to provide to students without going with a college level course which usually requires calculus as a prerequisite. This is a great resource for families seeking to provide their high school students a good bridge and solid foundation for future collegiate level study in engineering.

The Excellence in Engineering Education Initiative Foundation in partnership with Auburn University has made this elective credit, four-year engineering curriculum available as an online course. These courses are taught by an engineer that is also a high school teacher and has teaching assistants who are graduate engineering students who worked through this curriculum as high school students.

The pacing and design of these on-demand courses reflects math skills that follow a traditional college preparatory progression of math that culminates with Calculus in their senior year. So, students, on a progression ending with pre-Calculus, should consider starting this series a year behind so that they are able to work successfully through the course. 



My Story – Book Maker for Kids – on sale for $0.99 December 26, 2014

Filed under: Homeschooling Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 5:36 pm
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My Story – Book Maker for Kids on the App Store on iTunes.

This is a really wonderful app that I (um…and my son) have been playing with for the past year. It is a really great story telling app for children. You can create your very own e-storybook with your personal illustrations or photos and text plus add your child’s voice reading the story out loud. It was great to use this to create our own stories out of spelling words we were working on. You may want to create your own leveled readers for your child to illustrate and record themselves. I really love the feature that allows you to share these stories as well via social . They have made some awesome improvements over the original app. My Story is normally $3.99, and it is currently on sale for just $0.99! A bargain. Really don’t miss out on this one.

Recommended for pre-K to 2nd.




Grammaropolis – Just $0.99 (normally $12.99) for full in-app features right now! August 23, 2014

Filed under: Homeschooling Apps,Middle School,Upper Elementary — lifeatwarpspeed @ 10:31 pm
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Grammaropolis on the App Store on iT


Grammaropolis is running a Back to School  deal for their app. This is an award winning app that teaches grammar in a really fun and interactive way. There are fun games and songs to teach your child how to use grammar properly. It doesn’t have to be a deadly dull subject anymore. Even better, you get assessments on how your child did on the quizzes so you can gauge mastery.

I think that someone set the price incorrectly in the Apple Store, so I would recommend jumping on this now. Just scroll down after your purchase your free trial app in the app store and click on in-app purchases. Currently the full upgrade is just $0.99. This is a major bargain since I have seen the website subscription runs $20 annually or $40 for forever access. The full app is also listed at 50% at $5.99, so don’t click on that one by mistake. Download the free version, open the app, click on one of the greyed out sections, and then upgrade with the in-app purchase feature.

Hurry and don’t miss out on this fabulous deal!

Recommended for grades 2 and up.




Massive List of 2014 Summer Reading Programs June 29, 2014

Filed under: Bookshelf,Things to Do with Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 1:02 pm
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Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge.

This year’s Read Under the Stars Challenge invites students to help Read for the World Record. A free online program designed to motivate and excite your children around reading books this summer. The Summer Challenge is an easy and fun way for kids to log the minutes they spend reading as they earn rewards. You can also organize your local school group to read together to see how much your school reads together.

Book Adventure | Free Reading Program.
Sylvan’s Learning Centers. Book Adventure is a fun, free way to motivate your child to read! Kids in grades K-8 can search for books, read them offline, come back to quiz on what they have read, and earn prizes for their reading success. Program is on-going.

Summer Reading – Barnes & Noble.

The Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program: Imagination’s Destination is here to help you on your way, encouraging you to read books of your own choosing
and earn a FREE book, simply by following these three easy steps:
1. Read any eight books this summer and record them in this Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Imagination’s Destination Journal. Be sure to let us know to whom you would recommend each book, and why.
2. Bring your completed journal to a Barnes & Noble store between May 20th and September 2nd, 2014.
3. Choose your FREE reading adventure from the book list featured on the back of the journal.

Store Events | Pottery Barn Kids.

Summer is the perfect time to instill a love of reading in your child. From now through July 31st, read all the award-winning books on one of our recommended lists and qualify for fun prizes. Just a note, you don’t actually have to read this specific book list, I spoke with the staff last summer, and you can substitute books on the list for books that your child enjoys reading. It was a tough sell last year to get my son to read those mermaid, princess and ballerina books on last year’s list. You can find the summer reading list here:

Half Price Books – Feed Your Brain Summer Reading Program.

For kids 14 and under:

  1. Read for at least 15 minutes each day for a month. (Grown-ups may read aloud to kids who are still learning.)
  2. Add up your minutes and have your parent or guardian initial each week.
  3. Once you’ve read 300 minutes, turn in your completed reading logto earn your $5 HPB Bookworm Bucks reading reward for the month.

We’ll award one top reader per age group each month with a TOP READER prize – a $20 HPB Gift Card!*

Reward Your Kid With Rewards Calendars | Chuck E. Cheese’s.

How about free tokens on their next visit to Chuck E. Cheese’s? Print out our free rewards calendar to get started.

Download and print out the calendar. Mark the days off with a pen or sticker as your child accomplishes their goals. Bring in the completed calendars to Chuck E. Cheese’s and receive 10 free tokens as a reward. This is an on-going program that can be used to reward a wide variety of goals.

Soar with Reading – a joint project with JetBlue and Random House Children’s Books.

This is not a traditional summer reading program sponsored by Jet Blue. Your child gets an opportunity to help donate Magic Tree House books to needy children during each entry period. Your child will have to draw on their knowledge of geography and the clues given by Mary Pope Osborne to figure out where Jack and Annie are travelling for their next adventure. Each correct entry will be entered into a drawing for a free airline flight for two and hotel accommodations.

Make reading fun with our Summer Reading Program | TD Bank.
Hey kids in grades K-5, participating is easy:

 Read 10 books this summer.

  1. Print out the Summer Reading Form
  2. Write down the names of the books you’ve read
  3. Take the form to the nearest TD Bank
  4. Receive $10 in a new existing Young Saver account

    Random House | Junie B. Jones |.

    Even though this is not Junie B. Jones is not my cup of tea. Here’s an opportunity to get a free book.

    Sign up your child today for the Junie B. Jones Kids’ Reading Club! New Reading Club members will receive a FREE Starter Set* including Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus—the first book in the New York Times bestselling series—and a Junie B. checklist bookmark. Starter Sets available only while supplies last.

    Mensa For Kids.

    Earn a commemorative certificate in recognition of your outstanding achievement and get an Excellence in Reading T-shirt, too!
    The Mensa Foundation recognizes and encourages education, gifted youth and lifelong learning through programs like the Mensa for Kids Web site and other activities. To encourage the joy of reading, the Foundation has developed the Mensa for Kids Excellence in Reading Award Program!


Fuel for School Free Books.

This is also not a traditional summer reading program, but a program to give away free books. You need to collect free book codes on specially marked packaged of Kellogg’s products. Go online to the linked website and enter your free book code and choose your free book. You can choose to donate the book to your school’s library or receive it to enjoy on your own.

Fizz, Boom, Save for College Promotion : ScholarShare College Savings Plan.

The Reading Makes Cent$ Promotion is open to legal residents of the State of California who are at least 18 years of age or older and are the parent or legal guardian of a California student of any age through grade 8 during the 2014-2015 school year and who is participating in a public library Summer reading program in the State of California. Enter the promotion by completing the entry form between  May 26 – August 4, 20143. Forms are available at your local library. Sponsored by the ScholarShare College Savings Plan.

Of local interest to San Diegans, your child can earn free admission to the San Diego Fair for reading 10 books. You can download a reading log here:

Homeschool Buyers Co-op: Homeschooling discounts, resources, and free curriculum..

This is a reading contest that is available to any member of Homeschool Buyers Co-0p. You don’t actually have to be a homeschooler to sign up for free membership with the co-op and purchase discounted curricula and materials. You can enter your child’s reading activity as frequently as every day. You get one entry for every one of reading your child completes until September 2nd. There are weekly drawings for different prizes like an Amazon gift certificate, and for a grand prize of a brand new iPad Air.

Always, sign up for your local library reading programs. Happy reading this summer with your kids!


P.S. If you are at a loss for picking good books for your kids to read, check out my blog about Good Literature here:


Spelling Millionaire 2 – free for limited time December 20, 2013

Filed under: Apps,Homeschooling Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 12:23 am
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Spelling Millionaire 2 on the App Store on iTunes.

Are you tired of tedious, boring spelling practice with your kids? Change things up with this fun “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” approach to spelling to make practice fun. There are four different levels to play: normal, expert, fast and kids.

This app is currently free for a limited time (normally $0.99).

Great for anyone 8 and up.



McGraw Hill Grammar, Phonics and Math apps – free for a limited time. April 18, 2013

Filed under: Apps,Homeschooling Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 1:59 pm
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iPad Apps, iPhone Apps, Mac Apps, Deals and Discovery at App Shopper – Search Results 1 to 19 of 19 in All Categories for “McGraw-Hill School Education Group”.

Today’s app shout out is for the McGraw-Hill (curriculum publisher) series of math and language arts apps for the iPhone or iPad. They are currently offering a number of their math and language arts apps for free download. These fun little games are great for helping kids practice math facts and skills. There are a variety of math apps available to cover early math through division, multiplication and fractions.

Highly recommended for students K through 3rd grade. Grab it now while they are free.



Happi & The Word Thief app – Free for a limited time! March 31, 2013

Filed under: Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 7:51 pm
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Happi & The Word Thief for iPad on the iTunes App Store.

This is a pretty fun spelling adventure game for kids 5 to 9 that has gone free! This app is normally $2.99. You have to try to find all the hidden words before the Word Thief finds and steals them. Find the words and rescue words from the Word Thief to earn your detective’s badge. This app has three levels of difficulty. It also adapts to your child’s mastery of words and will increase the challenge accordingly.

Spelling is often a tedious language arts skill to drill and learn for young kids. This app is a pretty good way to makes spelling practice a lot more fun.

Recommended for ages 5 to 9. It can be used with younger gifted learners as well.





Build A Word app – Free for a limited! August 17, 2012

Filed under: Apps,Homeschooling Apps,Kids — lifeatwarpspeed @ 3:33 pm
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App Store – Build A Word – Easy Spelling with Phonics.

Don’t miss out on this phonics/spelling by @REKS. I have had the express (free lite) version for over a year, but I have been holding off on making an in-app purchase for the full version since I really like FREE! My patience has paid off. This app is normally $2.99, but it is available for a limited time for free download.

@REKS does such a good job of introducing and building on phonemic awareness and spelling skills. There are multiple word lists. Three modes of play: learning, practice and test. I really like that they don’t stop short with letter sounds, but they also have digraphs and blends which are very important for mastering phonics.

I really also like all the features embedded in the app to customize your learning experience like switching cases and color coding of consonants and vowels a la Montessori style. I also like that they feature option that are friendly to special needs learners like being able to remove the background to minimize distractions or high contrast display for visually impaired learners. You can also switch between tap or drag style of play. Best of all, there are no intrusive ads or in-app purchase prompts.

Highly recommended for ages 4 and up. This can be used with younger advanced learners if they are interested.



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