The new YouTube Gaming app and website kicks off today, August 26! It is likely to be a huge hit among teens and preteens, so why not take advantage of your homeschooler’s avid interest in video gaming by integrating the new platform into your educational goals for this homeschool year?
The apps and extensions I most appreciate in my homeschool are those which help keep me organized. And one of the most incredibly useful programs I’ve discovered in the past few years is the free tool Symbaloo.
The idea behind Symbaloo is to help organize and easily access the sites and programs we use most frequently. AND, as an even bigger bonus, we can then share our Symbaloo “webmixes” with others – – which comes in amazingly handy when homeschooling 1 or more students.
Get started with Symbaloo
If Symbaloo is brand new to you, I recommend watching their introduction video.
Then, it’s as easy as setting up your account and starting your very first webmix. For more tutorials on Symbaloo specifics, explore their YouTube Channel.
Top three ways I find myself using Symbaloo for homeschooling
To Get Answers Quickly
No matter what we’re studying, and no matter what curriculum we’re using to study it, my kids are always going to
have questions that aren’t answered in the text. So to prepare for that, I’ve created some Symbaloo webmixes to make it easy to follow our curiosities about everything from when Legos were invented to where Beatrix Potter was born. For example, my “reference tools” webmix is full of kid-friendly sites where we can get quick answers to questions that pop up as we’re going through a lesson. (By the way, Legos were invented in 1932 and Beatrix Potter was born in Kensington, London!)
2. For Unit Studies
One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is when we do unit studies. Instead of following a defined curriculum, we are able to take a given subject or theme and explore it until every one of our curiosities about it is exhausted. We do several of these each year to “spice up” our homeschool experience, and usually my children will vote for the subjects they want to cover. I’ve created Symbaloo webmixes for each of these units, including ones for nocturnal animals, computer coding, World War 2, and the rainforest. Spending just a little time getting those webmixes set up saved me hours of frustration as we studied each unit in detail. Plus, because Symbaloo makes it so easy to share webmixes, my kids can explore all the resources I’ve collected on their own time as well!
3. For Safe Surfing
Young kids are excited to learn on the web, but my youngsters aren’t allowed to just surf freely without boundaries. Symbaloo takes care of that. By creating webmixes of sites and games that I know are free of adware, commercial messaging, and phishing, they are able to access fun and educational internet content without accidentally landing on a site that is inappropriate for them.
Top Symbaloo Webmixes for Homeschool
One of the most exciting things about Symbaloo is that if you don’t have time to create your own webmixes, it’s unlikely you need to. You can let others do that work for you by searching through thousands of publicly shared webmixes by keyword in the Symbaloo Gallery. Some of my absolute favorite homeschool webmixes are:
As if it weren’t easy enough to use Symbaloo, let’s take it one step further and talk about using Symbaloo on a Chromebook. The Symbaloo Bookmarker extension, available in the Chrome web store, allows you to add sites to your webmixes right from where you are.
In our last post we featured an infographic showing all the different ways that you can use Google Drive in your homeschool. Some of you may have looked at that infographic and thought, “That sounds great, but I’m not that computer savvy myself.” So I thought I could spend a couple of posts on tutorials for how to do some of these things we suggested.
So for this post we will learn how to make a simple form using Google Forms. Your very first step is opening the form maker in Google Drive. You will click on the red button that says, “NEW”.
You will not immediately see the forms option until you click on the “More” option. Once you do, Google Forms will be the top option. After you click on that, you will see a page that looks something like this:
Choose your form settings in the first set of options at the top of the page. I have already given this the name, “Simple Form”. Now we need to decide what questions we are going to ask and what type of questions to use.
Here I have entered my question and chose multiple choice for the question type. Keep adding as many questions as you need.
When you are finished adding items, you will click on the “View Live Form” button at the top of the page.
As you can see, you also have the options to change the theme, where you can select from several pre-set themes, or view the responses to your form from the people you have shared it with. I hope this very simplified tutorial has given you the confidence to try making a few Google Forms for yourself to enhance your Chromebook for homeschool use.
Who wouldn’t want to be a roadschooler? Learning not by reading or hearing about the world, but by experiencing it for yourself. Having new adventures daily. Creating memories to last a lifetime. It’s hard to think of very many downsides to the roadschooling lifestyle, except perhaps that space is at a minimum. Whether traveling by car, van, or RV, a roadschooler has to carefully consider what items are necessary, and what items can be left behind. That’s exactly why a Chromebook makes an incredibly smart choice for any roadschooling family.
Here are three reasons why every roadschooler should own a Chromebook:
Chromebooks take up less room than the average textbook. And yet they hold the ability to access the information of all the textbooks in the entire world! The average chromebook is approximately the length and width of a standard piece of paper and is less than an inch thick. And yet, it includes a full-size keyboard! That means it could fit easily in a backseat cargo holder, an underseat bin, or even in a large glovebox!
Chromebooks will last the better part of a day’s drive. On a single charge, most Chromebooks will stay powered for 5-7 hours, which means that your homeschool student could complete a couple online courses, write a blog post, play several online games, and edit dozens of trip-related pictures without ever having to plug back in.
Each student can have a separate account on a single Chromebook. One of the greatest features of Chromebooks is the ability to create multiple user accounts and easily switch back and forth between those accounts. When you do that, the bookmarks and profile settings of each distinct user are remembered, so it’s like having a separate computer for each child – – no need to pack multiple computers!
If you are a roadschooler, and are considering a Chromebook, definitely explore our Online Store to find the Chromebook that best fits your needs. Also, bookmark each of these amazing roadschooling resources:
So hopefully you are convinced that Chromebook is an excellent tool for homeschooling. But what if you are homeschooling a child with special needs? There are plenty of wonderful apps for special education.
Birdhouse for Autism helps you keep track of your child’s appointments, therapies, meltdowns, sleep and wake times and everything else related to raising a child on the spectrum.
Ameba is a sensory app that creates visual stimulation. Anyone who has lived with an Aspie or an Autistic knows why this is necessary.
Speech Therapy App helps you to encourage your child to speak by showing them a graphic and giving an audio cue.
EARLYThree is another Chrome extension. This one is an Autism screening tool to help detect autism in the first 3 years.
Touch Autism has a variety of apps to help with very practical issues that spectrum kids deal with such as learning how to use proper manners, learning to take turns, and knowing how to behave around strangers.
Reading Friends gives help and motivation to kids who are struggling to learn how to read.
I hope these few apps and extensions will help you as you wrangle the day to day challenges of raising and teaching a special needs child. If you know of more apps that are not listed here, please feel free to contact us to share those. We may be able to compile them to make another future post.
I had fun doing a Google Hangout over at SecularHomeschool.com’s recent on-site “Block Party,” and this is the YouTube video of that broadcast. Google Drive is SUCH a great tool for homeschoolers, and integrates beautifully into a Chromebook.
You can block specific websites or just restrict special ones. You can also review your user’s browsing history. Please keep in mind that all of this is still in Beta which means there may still be bugs to be worked out and hiccups along the way.
How Do You Set This Up?
You will click on the status area where your account picture is. Log out, then click on the three vertical dots which you will most likely find at the bottom of your screen. This will open up a dialog box which allows you to choose a name and password for your new Supervised User account. After this is done, you should receive an email confirming your new account and inviting you to manage the settings.
Peace of Mind
The peace of mind you will gain from taking the few minutes to set this up will be invaluable. It is all too easy to accidentally find inappropriate content on the internet. And there are some predators who purposely target children via the world wide web. One can never be too careful when children are using the internet.