Apple Camp ~ Making Movies Day 1

Through the homeschool grapevine ~ we learned of Apple’s “Youth Camps” offered during the Summer.  While it’s entirely possible employees told us when we purchased our iPads a year ago ~ it seemed like “news” when we heard it at the beginning of the Summer.

Not only are these camps free, but Apple does everything it can to ensure that you don’t have to spend a penny during the entire adventure.  Granted, you leave needing wanting  all of the technology you haven’t already acquired in previous visits to the store ~ but you don’t have to own anything except for some type of recording device (digital camera, smart phone, etc.)

Overall, it was an incredibly positive experience and we would highly recommend it to anyone.  Especially someone trying to determine if an Apple product will meet their expectations.  The registration process online was smooth & simple.  Someone from the store calls a week ahead of time to confirm that you’ll still be attending.  The store opens early to accommodate camp with minimal distractions and full access to the various products used throughout the week.

We were the first to arrive at 8:30 Monday morning (it’s a bit of a drive & unsure of traffic at that time of day, Mom opted to allow plenty of time for travel).  The store was open and the employees were ready for us.  Boy & Girl each received a bag containing a T-shirt, ear buds, and a lanyard with their name tag on it.  They were free to play on store iPads or Macs while waiting for the rest of the participants.  The class began with an introduction to the employees leading and a basic overview of what would be covered each day.  They then passed out a blank storyboard and encouraged the kids to think about what they wanted their films to be about.  Mom was impressed with how encouraging the employees were and that the kids were given plenty of time to develop their stories.  Each participant was then handed an iPad with Garage Band loaded onto it.  After a short overview of the basic features, the kids were let loose to play, compose, record, & create to their hearts content.  Once finished, an employee helped them save their compositions to the store’s computer.  Boy & Girl were given homework to shoot their footage and told that the final film length would be approximately 2 minutes.

While Boy & Girl were crafting in Garage Band ~ Mom and the other parents were treated to an introduction of iMovie on the Mac.  This program comes as an included feature on Macs.  We were told that a simple version can be purchased as an iPad app ~ though we haven’t perused that option yet.

That afternoon, Girl came up with the wild idea that she wanted to finally finish the Cuddle Monster kit her Grandparents gave her to create the star of her film.  So, Mom & Girl spent 3 hours designing & sewing.  (who says technology doesn’t spur on other interests?)   Boy was absolutely thrilled to have Dad record him playing around in one of his Minecraft worlds.  Though, he took the “2 minute” time limit to heart as his limit of video.  Due to editing options and features on iMovie, Mom would strongly encourage a few extra minutes of footage to play around with.

Learn more about Apple Camp adventures from our Day 2 post.



Chicktionary is a virtual “Boggle” game created by blockdot.  Currently priced at $1.99 it provides hours of word-building fun and addictive little clucking noises.

How it works: Select “Play” from the opening menu.  Choose the desired “Puzzle Pack”.  Then select “Speed Play” or “Traditional Long Play”.  Speed Play allows you to pack in as many words as you can in 3 minutes.  Long Play allows you to challenge yourself to finding a certain number of words in 2 minutes in order to win ribbons.  8 words will earn you a white ribbon & 1,000 points, 13 words will earn a red ribbon & 3,000 points, and 19 words garners a blue ribbon and 10,000 points.  If you don’t make it, you lose out on bonus points, but still get to keep playing to fill up the egg carton.

Whichever you choose, Speed or Long Play, you are greeted by a row of chickens each bearing a letter on their chest.  Above them sits an egg carton.    Below the chickens is the “word building” area.  Each chicken tapped, places it’s “letter egg” below to build a word.  When a word is completed, tap “Enter” and those eggs will be placed in the carton above.  Each egg carton has a certain number of 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 letter word spots.  Each word length is worth a set number of points: 100 points for 3-letter word, 200 for 4-letter word, 400 for 5-letter word, 800 for 6-letter word, and 1,600 for a 7-letter word.  Filling the entire egg carton with words earns you a bonus and a cute little chicken dance.

Each level includes 100 games.  The first level has ads along the top.  Additional ad-free levels are available as in-app purchases for $0.99.

Scoring can be connected via Apple’s Game Center or Facebook, but is not necessary.  The menu offers the chance to “brag about eggchievements” or “challenge a friend” ~ these both launch our e-mail program to send a note regarding play.  It’s not really a head-to-head match.

Educational Value:  Words, lots of words.  As eggs are placed below the chickens, a little square lights up telling you when a word has been made.  This is especially helpful for beginning spellers (or Dad & Mom just plopping letters in desperately trying to fill the carton).  If the player hits enter and the letters don’t form a word, all the letters return to the chickens and there’s a softly clucked, “Uh, oh”.  Players can use their fingers to drag the chickens & rearrange them to help joggle the brain for creating more words.  Shaking the iPad will also jumble the chickens.  There’s also two “hints” available for each game.  “Beak Sneak” will fill in a letter from each spot to give a clue as to what word can be built.  “Free Bird” will automatically fill in a word.  Any word in the carton can be tapped and (provided you’re connected to the internet) you can get the definition.

The speed is fun for a challenge, especially to Dad & Mom.  Boy & Girl can create quite a few words as well.  Though, Girl prefers to take her time.  Generally we play the Long Play and Boy & Girl enjoy being able to take their time building words.  Even if the the assigned number of slots for a specific word length are full, we can continue to build words of that size and accrue points.  If you’ve already built a word the word “duplicate” will light up.

Drawbacks:  We would still recommend this app to others, but there are a few things we would change if we could:

  • Our biggest complaint is with the “definition” feature.  When clicking the word to get the definition, it’s actually plugging the word into the bing search engine.  The game warns you that it is going to close (game is saved though!) and Safari is launched.  The first entry is not always a definition.  For example, when looking up “camel” the first listing was actually an ad for Camel cigarettes.
  • We wish there was a “clear” button.  When misspelling a word or realizing you’ve already spelled the word, if you want to start over you either have to click each letter egg to send it back to it’s chicken or hit “enter” and hear the “uh, oh” from the chickens.
  • We’ve found a few words that will be acceptable in one game, but not the next.  For example “toon” was allowed in one, but would garner the clucked “uh, oh” in another.
  • Because additional levels are in-app purchases ~ they are not available across devices.  For everyone to go “ad free”, it would mean separate costs.

Free Colors for Draw Something

McDonald’s is offering 5 free colors in Zynga’s “Draw Something” app to promote their Spicy Chicken Bites.  Launch the “Draw Something” app.  Scroll to the bottom and click “Shop”.  Under “colors!” the first option is the “i’m lovin’ it” pack.  Free through July 19th.

*** Update ***

Well, that was certainly disappointing.  Not only did the offer expire on the 19th ~ so did the colors.  They’ve disappeared from our palettes.  <<sigh>>

Math Monkey

Normally, we like to own and use an app for several months before posting a review.  However, this time we were asked by Aadel over at Natural Family Today to review an app for them.*

Math Monkey is an app by Math Game Time.  We weren’t familiar with this site before now as most of their games are on the net using Adobe Flash.  Flash doesn’t work on iPads.**  We’re very intrigued by their offerings and will definitely spend more time exploring their online games with our PC…but that’s another post for another blog.

How it works:  Aptly described as “educational Angry Birds“, Math Monkey provides an addictive mix of math, trajectory, and strategy.  4 themed levels include: Jungle, Underwater, Outer Space, and In the Air.  At the top right is a math problem.  At the bottom left is a gorilla with a slingshot.  Throughout the rest of the screen, there are 3 possible answers. The goal is to have the gorilla shoot cupcakes at the correct answer.  Players use their finger to pull back the slingshot and aim.  When you lift your finger, the cupcake takes flight!

The four levels provide practice in the basic mathematical operations.  Each level has 10 questions.  We have 5 cupcakes to slingshot at the correct answer.  Answering the question on the first shot earned us a “golden” cupcake.  Second – silver, third – bronze, fourth & fifth – colored, and if all are missed the cupcake is grey.

Educational Value:  Jungle provides several double-digit plus single-digit problems.  Underwater covers subtraction, including both double minus single and double minus double.  Outer Space single times single then progressing to double times single.  In the Air mixes single divided by single, double by single, double by double and even triple by double.

  • There’s a “hint” button that will remove one of the incorrect answers.  If we hit a wrong answer with a cupcake (either due to miscalculating trajectory or the solution), the hint button disappears.
  • There’s a different background music for each level.  Striking the correct answer gives a pleasant “bing” and “Good Job” appears on the screen with the color cupcake achieved.  Hitting the wrong answer (or missing altogether) will result in a buzzer sound.  Missing with all the cupcakes gives a little smashed cupcake and “Fail” on the top right corner and large in the center of the screen is “Try Again”.   There is “Cupcake Scoreboard” for each level which shows at a glance which color cupcake was achieved for each question.
  • As we progressed through the levels, we found more objects blocking the cupcakes from a straight trajectory to correct answers.  This often meant creative cupcake launching to arc the path or a bank shot off the objects.
  • Boy appreciated being able to skip straight to whatever level he was interested in without having to complete the previous levels.
  • The questions are randomly generated.  So, question 1 is not always the same.  This means that we could play through several times and still have more practice.
  • We like being able to go back and retry a number (though it may not be the same problem) to improve our standing in a level.

Immediately Girl (7yo) said, “I don’t like the name of this.”  When we asked why, she said, “Because that’s a gorilla throwing the cupcakes. Gorillas are apes, not monkeys.”  It seems a petty complaint, but these kinds of oversights annoy children who know better.  It’s also what incorrectly “teaches” children who don’t know there’s a difference.  (BTW ~ she’s just as critical of Curious George.)

  • It would have been nice if the arc of difficulty of questions would have been consistent.  In the Outer Space (multiplication) and In the Air (division) levels, the questions seem to get more difficult.  However, in the Jungle (addition) and Underwater (subtraction) levels, the difficulty increases only because the objects are placed to make it more difficult to strike the correct answer.  Frankly, we didn’t find the objects to be as much of a hindrance in the Outer Space and In The Air levels.  Mom has one question in  Jungle she still can’t pass because of obstacles.
  • Girl says she wishes that the “dots” were on the screen like in Angry Birds.  She’s referring to the fact that Angry Birds shows on-screen the complete trajectory of the last shot.  This facilitates making minor adjustments in aim for the next shot.
  • There is also numerical scoring for individual questions.  Yet, we couldn’t find any tally for each level or the entire game.  We wish there was a “scoreboard” somewhere in the app.  Or just ditch the scoring altogether.  Just seems like an undeveloped part of the program.
  • Given the sheer number of educational apps out there for $.99 or $1.99 ~ $2.99 seems a bit overpriced for the market.

*Full disclosure, the app was offered to us for free ~ but before receiving all the details, we just purchased it.

**It’s our understanding that there may be some workarounds to this.  However, due to the plethora of apps and the fact that we have a PC, we’ve never felt the need to investigate further.

*** Update: Natural Family Today and Math Game Time are giving away codes to this app for free.  To register, please visit: ***


In addition to gmail, we use Google Calendar.  We like that, not only can we view it online, it syncs with the built-in calendar app on all our devices.  This allows us to see what we have going on for the day, week, or month.  Mom is the family calendar manager.  So, she creates an event using her e-mail/log-in, then she “invites” the other family members to attend.  When Dad, Boy, &/or Girl accept an invite ~ it appears on their calendar.  Everyone has permission to view everyone else’s calendar (though a specific appointment can be made private if that were to be necessary). 

While we consider ourselves a fairly “under-scheduled” homeschooling family, there are a few events to keep track of.  Mom, Boy, & Girl go on field trips with the local homeschool group (Dad has been known to take the day off and join us).  Boy is in Scouts and has Den Meetings, Pack Meetings, and Achievement related activities to keep track of.  Girl meets with a friend twice a month for various crafting activities.  Then there are the usual family commitments like doctor & vet appointments, volunteering, vacations, and community events.  Being able to look out over the week or month helps us to prioritize other interests.

The only drawback we’ve found to this approach so far has been that when an event has invitees ~ it cannot be edited or deleted from the iPad app.  Mom has to go into the web-based version of Google Calendar.

Divisibility Dash

Divisibility Dash is a creation of Everyday Mathematics, which is a division of McGraw Hill.  Under full disclosure, we “purchased” this app during one of the promotions when it was free.  It normally costs $1.99.  Though, if you’re interested, keep your eye out as we’ve seen it offered free a few times in the year we’ve owned it.

How it works:  The player must create two-digit multiples using the globes that drop into the large screen.  The divisor is selected at random each time the player clicks the divisor button.  Each time the divisor button is clicked three more number globes drop.  The player can make as many multiples as they see.  Each time a multiple is made, the globes “explode” and any globes above them drop down.  If the player chooses incorrectly the globes “lock” and can no longer be used.  If globes reach the top, then the game ends.  The goal is to achieve the highest points possible in 20 turns.  Divisors are 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, & 10.  Number globes are single digits 0 to 9. 

Educational Value:  A definite workout of divisors/factors. 

  • Girl is not advanced yet enough in math to play this game on her own.  Though, she does enjoy watching Mom play & piping up when she recognizes a combination. 
  • Boy can play on his own but has not yet developed the skills to look at all the globes and strategize the highest number plays.
  • It’s nice that, until the very last turn, there is no time limit on determining a multiple.  The game will prompt you to push the divisor button, but doesn’t force you to the next one unless you’ve cleared all the number globes.
  • The last round is always a speed round.  The player is given 10 seconds to create as many multiples as possible.
  • Strategy ~ the secondary goal of earning the highest number of points challenges Mom to evaluate all the globes in determining which combinations are the most beneficial.
  • More strategy ~ sometimes in order to avoid the globes stacking to the top, we have sacrifice points and choose a lower multiple.

Drawbacks:  There are a few issues with this app that would cause us pause to recommend anyone purchasing it. 

  • Don’t see why they left divisors 4, 7, or 8 off.  Players could definitely create multiples of those using globes that drop.
  • There will be rounds where it isn’t possible to make a multiple.  For emerging math students, this can be a little disheartening.
  • There is something skewed with the algorithm.  There are times when the 10 divisor will drop 3 or 4 times in a row ~ however no “0” globes have dropped to allow the player to make multiples.  This can lead ending the game when the player had no incorrect calculations.  (This is especially frustrating for Boy who has a huge sense of “fairness”.)
  • If the player needs to switch to another app or turn off the iPad, progress is not saved.  The game will restart completely upon re-launching the app.

Sick week…

Carma over at Winging-it is encouraging fellow relaxed/unschoolers to blog about 7 Snippets from Unschooling.  Our first thought was that we’d love to participate, but Boy has been sick…and WAIT!  We don’t stop learning when someone is home sick.  In fact, it’s actually been a nice change from a heavy schedule of Field Trips and Scout activities.  Obviously, we’d prefer he not have come down with pneumonia ~ but the world does not grind to a halt.  So, true to our blog, we’ve chosen 4 times that the iPad has helped during recovery (plus 4 “unplugged” activities) ~ yes, we’re aware that’s 8.

1.  In the middle of the night, Mom took Boy to the Emergency Room.  Mom grabbed her purse and, of course, our iPads.  It allowed Boy to play games, Message Dad (including a picture he took of his hospital room), and watch a little Netflix in between procedures.  It’s nice to be distracted.  Whenever anyone did a procedure or mentioned something technical, Boy wanted to look it up on the net.   When Boy became too tired to play, Mom read downloaded books to him from her Kindle app.  (We enjoy the books on Ambleside Online & use NLHome’s site to find them all quickly)

2. For the worst days of the pneumonia, Boy spent a lot of time laying around doing very little.  Girl tried to cheer him up & they played quite a bit of Minecraft on their iPads.  (there’s a post in the works detailing Minecraft, but it’s a lot to cover, they keep releasing updates, and…well…Boy has been sick)  The picture above shows them camped out on the sleeper sofa in the living room.

3. Boy finally convinced Girl to use Draw Something.  Another game in our blog queue that helps with reading and hand-eye coordination ~ not to mention to artistic skills and imagination.  Girl may be an emerging reader, but her drawing skills are impressive.

4. Chicktionary was another favorite this week.  It allows Boy to work on his spelling while stretching his vocabulary.  Plus, the chickens make a really fun noise when you select a letter.

Okay now for a little “unplugged” fun…

5. Girl helped Dad rotate the tires on the Green Schoolbus.

6.  Dad tilled the compost pile and found A LOT!  Potatoes growing, worms digging, and a few other bugs that needed to be identified.

7. Sewing.  Girl asked me to repair a few stuffed animal.  Boy was interested in a few pointers in order to repair one of his favorite shirts.  He selected his color, threaded his needle, and did an excellent job.

8. Okay, this is half unplugged, half iPad.  Dominos.  Not only did they create various domino courses, they filmed them using the iPad and e-mailed them to friends who weren’t allowed over during the quarantine.

Check out what other relaxed & unschoolers are doing…

Unschooling Blog Hop | Homeschool Blog Hop

Your kids have e-mail?

Yes, our children have e-mail.  Just like anything else, e-mail is a tool.  It’s also a dominate form of communication within society.  Just as we train them to use the telephone with courtesy, we are doing the same with e-mail.  Additionally, this gives us plenty of time as a family to discuss any issues that can arise from it’s use.  We chose gmail because it was what Dad & Mom already had and were comfortable with.  It syncs nicely with the iPads, integrates with a calendar, allows Dad/Mom to receive a copy of every e-mail they receive, and we liked the level of SPAM protection.  These features may also be true of another e-mail program ~ we just saw no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Having separate e-mail has allowed each family member to have their own Apple ID.  This allows us to use a single iTunes account for purchases, share those apps across all our devices, yet each manage our separate data.  This comes in especially handy for using built-in apps that need to be device specific ~ like Messages and FaceTime.

It allows Dad, Mom, and grandparents to send links of interest.  Recently Boy (9) was very interested in learning various rules for driving.  After Mom posted about his interest to her friends on Facebook she received a link to the Driver’s Book for our State.  Mom was able to e-mail that to Boy and he can pull up the website & read over it anytime he likes.  Boy has also made short clips using his iPad or taken screenshots of an app he’s playing in and sent them to friends and family.  Girl has it and knows how to use it, she just prefers not to.  She likes Messages.