Terri's Take... » Technology /blog Living a Proverbs 31 Life in a Romans 1 World... Sat, 12 Jul 2014 08:30:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Our Favorite Apps /blog/2014/04/our-favorite-apps/ /blog/2014/04/our-favorite-apps/#comments Fri, 18 Apr 2014 23:32:29 +0000 /blog/?p=1817 rain2It’s Springtime! And while I would rather have my kids out playing under the apple blossoms or even in the Oregon rain puddles, we often find ourselves trapped in the house or the car and need to accomplish something educational (well, the outdoors is loaded with great educational opportunities, but there are times when we need something more measurable). We are trying to hold onto some semblance of school around the Johnson household through the end of May at least, but we are needing to change things up a bit in order to keep everyone’s attention.

I’m excited to share some of the fun things we are doing to keep school interesting, but first, I promised that I would share our favorite educational mobile apps as Part III of the Teaching With Tech series. So, you’ll have to wait until next week’s blog post for ideas that do not involved anything technical (of which, there are many!).

Teaching with Tech, Part I – Favorite Educational Youtube Videos

Teaching with Tech, Part II – Mobile App Best Practices

These are the apps that we use on a daily, weekly or regular basis. They are listed in no particular order, except that we listen, read and memorize the Bible first. Oh, one other thing… these links are all apple because we have an ipad, but if you have an android, just search through the Google Play store.

Our Top 12 Mobile App List:


1. Bible.Is or YouVersion for Bible memorization and Bible read-through.

2. Classical Conversations for Cycle 2 memory work

3. BrainPop for general (random) educational information.

4. StarWalk for finding/learning about stars and planets in the night sky

5. Frog Dissection for odor-free and gross-out free frog dissection for high school Biology class

6. Spelling City for weekly spelling lists

7. Letter School and Wet-Dry-Try for handwriting and letter practice

8. World Book for events that happened on this day in history.

9. Helpful aids such as Dictionary and Calculator

10. Kindle and iBooks for reading fiction and nonfiction

11. Quest Magazine for learning fun things from history

12. Timeline Builder for assembling our history timeline.


Great news! Timeline Builder has just finished undergoing a major revision and will be updated in the app store by May 1st. To celebrate, we are reducing the price to $3.99 until April 29th. Get version 2.0 now and then receive the upgrade (version 3.0) free when it becomes available around the end of April or beginning of May. Here are some of the fantastic upgrades that you will appreciate:

Font selection – choose from a large selection of fonts for timeline titles, events and descriptions.

Color selection – choose from a large selection of font colors for all of the above too.

Event title wrapping – add as much information to the title now as you want as the text will wrap rather than expand to the sides of the screen.

Higher resolution retina graphics for today’s crystal clear, ultra-sharp retina devices.

Better control over box closure, so that it doesn’t happen by accident when typing in a description.

More date format choices.

Updated for iOS 7.1


Question: What are your favorite apps, either Apple or Android?

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Mobile App Best Practices /blog/2014/04/mobile-app-best-practices/ /blog/2014/04/mobile-app-best-practices/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 23:23:02 +0000 /blog/?p=1809 Part II of Tech Series

(Read Part I on Favorite Youtube Videos here)

I am probably a lot like you. I have a love/hate relationship with technology! I’m the gal who has oodles of bookshelves with books that I cannot bear to give away. I love the smell of books, both new and old! My school cabinet is loaded with curricula in all subjects and blank spiral notebooks ready to be filled in with freshly sharpened pencils.

I would rather hear the squeals of children jumping on the trampoline or sliding down the zip line in the backyard, than the cacophony of sounds emitting from the computer speakers.

I feel greater joy when I find my children reading to each other or listening to an audiobook together than I do when I find them playing a video game on the computer in the living room.

But I have to admit that I love my tablet and the educational apps we use for homeschooling. They make my life simpler and the kids think they are extremely fun. Mobile apps are also exceedingly affordable. A couple dollars spent in the app store can deliver a boatload of information for the kids and a quiet 15 minutes a day for mom.


Here is how we use mobile apps in our homeschool. These are my best practices learned over 4 years of iPad use:

  1. 1. Password-protect the tablet or smart phone. I don’t want my children on a mobile device without my knowledge. Password-protecting the device allows me to keep track of who is using it and for what purpose. Another family practice is that any device that can access the internet stays in family rooms.
  2. 2. Use the built-in timer function, if necessary. If the app is game-like, then your child might get carried away and spend more time on the tablet than you would prefer. Set a timer for 30 minutes to alert you both to the lapse of time.
  3. 3. Organize your device for educational success. Place your favorite educational apps on the front page and file games and other “fluff” in folders on successive pages. Folders both condense and tuck away apps that you would rather not draw your kids’ attention away from the apps that you believe have greater educational value.
  4. 4. Use apps strategically. We always work on our Bible and other memory work on the iPad before watching videos, for example. We also get all bookwork completed before pulling out the ipad.

A little thought and organization goes a long way toward using mobile apps successfully for school. Ask your friends what their favorite educational apps are and don’t be afraid to spend a few dollars on a highly recommended 4 or 5 star app. But the great news is that there are many free ones of great value to choose from as well. Apps can help make school fun, but should only be part of the whole school experience.

Question: What are your best practices for mobile app use? How do you use them most effectively in your home?

Watch for Part III where I share the apps we use in our home on a daily or weekly basis.

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Teaching with Technology /blog/2014/03/teaching-with-technology/ /blog/2014/03/teaching-with-technology/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 00:31:38 +0000 /blog/?p=1791 My family is really loving my preparation for a session that I will be presenting at a few upcoming conferences, specifically Teach Them Diligently in Nashville, TN; Christian Heritage in Bellevue, WA; WHO in Puyallup, WA and OCEAN in Portland, OR. This is why my family is having so much fun…

I am watching recent uploads to some of my favorite educational YouTube channels. Ya, you heard that right… YouTube… the website that I have a love/hate relationship with. Truly, you can find some amazing stuff on YouTube, but you can also find seriously atrocious stuff and navigating your way around it can be challenging. To help my family navigate, I subscribe to my favorite channels; “favorite” videos that I want my kids to watch and turn safety mode “on.” While none of these things truly safeguard your kids from harmful videos on YouTube, my presence does. So we enjoy these videos together.

Would you like to know about some of my favorite YouTube channels? Here are a few… (And be sure to subscribe to my blog updates to the right, if you haven’t already done so.)

1. Spangler Effect – Steve Spangler Science videos are appropriate for all ages. Big science is great fun for everyone. Occasional swear words are bleeped out. Some favorites are…

Water Rockets

Hydrogen Peroxide

2. Mr. Zoller – These social study themed videos are appropriate for kids of all ages. Very informative, but interesting and keep kids’ attention.

Geography of China

Thirteen Colonies

3. Crash Course – These videos are for kids who are a little older, say junior high and high school. A very captivating and fun way to learn some more difficult subjects, such as science and literature.


The Odyssey

4. HistoryTeachers – These are music videos using popular music with new lyrics that teach on topics in history. Very fun, but some have mature(ish) themes, such as beheadings, affairs, etc.

French Revolution

King Henry VIII

5. History Supersizers – Learn about the food and lifestyles of people who lived in a different time. Occasional swearing is bleeped out.



6. Nerdy Nummies – While not educational in the same way as the above, many of these baking ideas are taken from school subjects, such as…

Pi Pie Pops

Science Beaker Cake

7. Kahn Academy – Not a YouTube channel perse, but a great resource for learning a whole spectrum of subjects, from Ancient Rome to Genetics.

Tour of Ancient Rome

Punnett Squares

I hope that you have fun with these. Please list your favorite Youtube channels below in the comments box. Who knows, maybe they will make it into my recommendations during my live (and recorded) presentations. And be sure to subscribe to your right for blog updates in the future.) Thanks!

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Ancient Egyptian Fashion /blog/2013/12/ancient-egyptian-fashion/ /blog/2013/12/ancient-egyptian-fashion/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 18:11:11 +0000 /blog/?p=1691 Egyptian-Fashion

Ever wonder how men and women dressed in Ancient Egypt. The January issue of Quest Magazine delves into this topic, providing beautiful photos and descriptions of the most common Egyptian clothing worn during the height of the Ancient Egyptian empire. This issue is filled with all kinds of fun and thought-provoking articles that you and your kids will really enjoy. What did Cleopatra really look like? If Cleopatra lived today, would we think she was beautiful?

Also, best-selling author Susan Wise Bauer explores the distinction between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period. Learn how laundry was done for hundreds of years, what medieval cooks were serving up and how to become an inventor like Thomas Edison.

Sound fun? Download Quest Magazine for ipad today. No ipad? No worries! An Android version is coming very soon.

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What did Cleopatra Really Look Like? /blog/2013/12/what-did-cleopatra-really-look-like/ /blog/2013/12/what-did-cleopatra-really-look-like/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 16:09:32 +0000 /blog/?p=1682 Renaissance artists portray her barely clothed. 20th century films characterize her as slim and sultry with soft facial features (Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra on the cover). The profile of Cleopatra as imprinted on old Roman coins display a prominent Roman nose. Not especially pretty by our modern standards.

So, what did Cleopatra really look like? We’ll display this topic along with several others in January’s issue of Quest Magazine scheduled to hit the Apple Newsstand on January 1st. But you can start your free trial today:



Question: Which article sounds most interesting to you?

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Help us determine the topic of our next magazine /blog/2013/12/second-magazine/ /blog/2013/12/second-magazine/#comments Fri, 13 Dec 2013 01:22:09 +0000 /blog/?p=1658 This past September, we had the privilege of publishing our first magazine. While we have produced books, ebooks, maps, timelines, apps and courses, we had never published a magazine. The learning curve was somewhat steep, but it was fun to learn the process and figure out how to get ourselves on a schedule so that we can consistently publish content each and every month.

The magazine we decided to publish is called Quest Magazine: The Ultimate Way for Kids to Learn History. It is a magazine for kids and families to learn and enjoy history together. It’s interactive too, which makes it even more fun for the kids. Currently it is published exclusively on Apple’s Newsstand, but next month we will be launching the Android version (and the crowd cheers!).



And here’s the incredible part – last month Quest Magazine reached #1 in the app store in its category. How exciting that was for us!

Now, we have the option to publish a second magazine. We aren’t sure which direction to go. A companion magazine to Quest covering the subject of science would be nice. Maybe something like this… Knowledge Magazine: Family Science from a Christian Worldview.

However, we also have a passion for small business. I mean really small, like “micro” business. You know, the kind of business that you can (should) start from home and grow as you have the time and money. It’s a backward concept in today’s world where new start-ups pitch ideas to investors, get large amounts of funding and then start big. These businesses are either wildly successful or crash hard.

We believe in starting a business because it promotes the kind of lifestyle you want to enjoy at this time in your life, rather than waiting until you retire. Businesses that allow you to spend time with your family while you still have kids at home. Businesses that start small, in a spare room or garage, with little to no debt are a joy to work in. They grow as they succeed, expanding from a solo entrepreneur to a virtual team who all work remotely and live satisfying lives free from long commutes, angry bosses and strict office hours. These are the kinds of businesses we love to help people start and grow.

So, another possibility for our second magazine would be to provide articles on this theme. It could be general for all microbusiness owners or geared especially toward women. Women are starting businesses at a faster rate than men and yet most business magazines are written primarily for a male audience.

Frankly, I devour business magazines. I just love them! But it would be fun to provide a science magazine for families too, which leaves us undecided. So, would you please chime in if you have an opinion? Here are the three choices at this time:


So please use the form above to vote on the topic of our next mag and leave us any ideas you would like for us to consider in the comment box below. Thank you!

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Quest Magazine for iPhone / iPad /blog/2013/09/quest-magazine-for-iphone-and-ipad/ /blog/2013/09/quest-magazine-for-iphone-and-ipad/#comments Mon, 16 Sep 2013 23:00:02 +0000 /blog/?p=1567 It’s HEEEERE!

We are so excited to bring you more of what you love in a format that you will really enjoy! Last week, we announced our new history magazine for kids and families available to you through Apple’s newsstand. This magazine is NOW AVAILABLE and you can enjoy one month FREE on us.

Yes, it is a digital-only publication just for iPad and iPhone, but Quest Magazine will eventually be available through Android and Kindle as well. Stay posted for that…

September’s issue includes articles and gorgeous photos covering:

Animals in Ancient Egypt
Finding Your Way Around a Medieval Castle
The Legend of Erazem Luegger, Robber Baron
What to Wear: Scottish Kilts
Explore the Land of the Scots
Gaga Over the French Revolution
What They Found from the Titanic

Download your free app and 1st issue today! October’s issue is coming in just two weeks.

Link to Quest Magazine in iTunes Store

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Homeschool Programming /blog/2013/06/homeschool-programming/ /blog/2013/06/homeschool-programming/#comments Mon, 24 Jun 2013 04:10:49 +0000 /blog/?p=1391 Enter to win the first semester KidCoder or the TeenCoder computer programming course from Homeschooling Programming ($70-$90 value):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Pt 3 /blog/2013/02/keeping-our-kids-safe-online-pt-3/ /blog/2013/02/keeping-our-kids-safe-online-pt-3/#comments Mon, 18 Feb 2013 22:18:25 +0000 /blog/?p=1097 Read Part 1 here
Read Part 2 here

Yep, the world is going downhill quickly. Some would say that “it’s going to hell in a handbasket!” But frankly, our world has been on a collision course for disaster since the fall. We might say that there has never been a time like this, but on the other hand, there were some pretty awful times in history past too. You’ve read about the Greeks, the Romans, the Assyrians… They lived in some pretty twisted societies too. So, I guess it’s safe to say that there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon spoke truth, wise man that he was!

But still, my husband and I are working very hard (in this place, America, in this time, the 21st century) to keep our home a safe place, a sanctuary, for ourselves and our children, from the wiley ways of the devil and the corrupt world at large. We cannot insulate them altogether, but our children need to know that we are standing up for them, fighting hard to keep them safe and deliver them into adulthood not too stained by the world around them.

How can we keep words and images that are displayed so freely across the World Wide Web from splashing across our computers and devices?

We discussed computer use in the 2nd part of this 3 part series. This post is dedicated to mobile devices, which are a whole ‘nother animal. Here are 3 things to consider when purchasing, setting up and using your mobile devices in your home and beyond:

1. Ask yourself, “Is this a necessary purchase?” We have decided that we would invest in iphones and ipads – we have 2 of each – for our family. The phones belong to us parents and the ipads are shared among all family members. We create and publish educational mobile apps in our business, so we needed to know how they work, why anyone would want to use them for school, and what apps were needed in the educational app marketplace.

But, we do not buy personal mobile devices for our children. Our teens don’t need a smart phone. Our younger children especially do not. We do buy our kids their own “dumb” phone when they turn 16 and start driving (they pay for extra minutes/texts that run over the family plan). We want them to be able to make a phone call in an emergency. When our son turned 17, we asked him  whether he wanted a smart phone or not and he told us “no.” Honestly, he didn’t want to carry the Internet with no safe guards in his pocket. We are so very proud of him; he is wise beyond his years.

2. Protect your mobile devices. There are options here, but you want to consider one or more of these safeguards for your mobile devices. We have done all three at various times: a) disable the internet in settings; b) download a safe browser, such as Safe Eyes; c) password-protect each device and the restrictions you set up in settings. (Note: Three people in our family know the password – both parents and our adult daughter. The other 5 do not.)

We have decided that our kids don’t need to be on the Internet. They can ask permission to go online to research something, but we stay close-by when they do. 99% of the time, the Internet is disabled on our devices and they cannot change these restrictions without knowing the password. We also disable Youtube, iTunes, and the ability to download and delete apps. That way, a child cannot download an app from the App Store, play with it for a while and delete it, all without our knowledge.

We have installed safe browsers, such as Safe Eyes, but have not really needed it once we decided that the Internet was not a given on mobile devices. We prefer to simply have it disabled all together. That works well for our busy household that doesn’t always have time to babysit someone surfing the net on an ipad.

We also password-protect each device and set a timer, so that iphones and ipads are only used for a short period of time. This way, we do not have to worry about the possibility of a child wasting away a whole afternoon playing dumb games on the iPad because he “forgot” to tell us that he wanted to use it. He HAS to ask. Without permission, it’s a worthless screen.

3. Do not download apps that have “back-door” entrances to the Internet or to Youtube. If you find that you have some, do yourself a favor and delete them. Our daughter inadvertantly found her way to some scary and disturbing sites through a science app that used youtube videos for how-to instruction. The app was great, but it provided a back-door entrance to a twisted and disturbing world, inappropriate for… well, everybody. (Sadly, I have had to delete some favorite apps, but my kids welfare is far more important to me.)

I have probably forgot some important tips for mobile safety. If you have any tips, please share them here. If we pool our knowledge, we become stronger and can better protect our families.

Please share this post, along with the other two, with your friends who have children. It is no longer a question of IF our children will be exposed to p**n, but WHEN. Let’s protect, supervise and train our children to make wise choices and not to flirt with danger. If you get too close to the fire, you will get burned. Sometimes badly and not all scars heal well.

But let us thank the LORD for his goodness, his forgiveness and his healing power. Nothing is impossible for the Lord. He can heal the wounds that come from early exposure to Internet trash. Praise the Lord! But let’s do our part to safeguard our homes. Our enemies are no longer invading marauders from neighboring kingdoms, but lurking evil just a click away. Fortifying our homes isn’t weakness or intolerance. It’s what parents do! Throughout the centuries, protecting our children is just what parents do.

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Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Pt 2 /blog/2013/02/keeping-our-kids-safe-online-pt-2/ /blog/2013/02/keeping-our-kids-safe-online-pt-2/#comments Wed, 13 Feb 2013 15:44:54 +0000 /blog/?p=1090 Read Part 1 here

Are you a mama bear? I sure am. If I think there is a threat to my kids, the hair bristles on my back and my eyes scan the field until I target the danger. Okay, so I don’t have hair on my back, but I can relate to that feeling of tension and defense. Can you?

When it comes to keeping our kids safe, the greatest danger right now is also one of our most prized conveniences – the Internet. Frankly, it would be extremely difficult for our family to live without it, especially with our business that relies on online sales. But we also love the Internet for school. It has become our encyclopedia, our dictionary, our photo album, our math tutor, our translator, our word finder, our stationary and our post office.

We live in a brave, new world and over the years, we have learned how to work with this beast that we have brought into our home.

Here are 4 ways to tame the beast in your home:

1. Keep computers public. We have both desktop and laptop computers at our house, as well as tablets and smartphones. While desktops don’t move, lapbooks and other devices obviously do. We have a rule in our home that laptops and portable devices must be used in public rooms. They may not be taken to bedrooms, closets or bathrooms. Our children also know that they are NOT to go online without a parent with them.

2. Use passwords and timers. We have password-protected all computers and devices in our house. Because of this, our children are forced to ask permission to use a computer, iPad or iPhone. We can then say “yes” or “no” depending on the schedule and whether or not this particular child has time allotted. We (either parent or our adult daughter) then enters the password and sets a timer for 30 minutes. (For children 12 and up, we expect them to keep track of the 30 minutes on their own). We use timers because we know how easy it is to fritter away a day in front of the computer.

3. Use filters and accountability systems. For children under 16 in our family, we have used software filters that filter out the garbage that can pop-up on the screen when using the Internet. Our favorites have been Safe Eyes and Covenant Eyes (links below). You can set the filter level differently for different children, such as E for younger children and T for teens. However, as our children get older, we understand the need to train them to make wise choices using an accountability system. Covenant Eyes provides accountability without filtering that allows an older teen or adult to make choices about what to view on the Internet, knowing that a full report will be sent to their accountability partner. (This is a great system for all men, in my opinion.)

4. Finally, make sure that you turn on “Safe Search” in Google or whatever is comparable in the other search engines. I am shocked by the trash that can show up in an innocent search for “duct tape crafts” or “parts of a flower.” Just turn it on to save yourself the shock and hassle.

Here are the links to Safe Eyes and Covenant Eyes:

Safe Eyes – http://www.internetsafety.com/

Covenant Eyes – http://www.covenanteyes.com/

Part 3 is coming, because we haven’t yet dealt with the issue of tablets and smartphones to the full extent that they need to be. These are trickier than standard computers and I’ll tell you why next time. Stay posted by signing up for email alerts to your right.

Question: What are your best tips for keeping your kids safe online?

Read Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Part 3

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