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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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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Keeping Our Kids Safe Online, Pt 1 /blog/2013/02/keeping-our-kids-safe-online-pt-1/ /blog/2013/02/keeping-our-kids-safe-online-pt-1/#comments Fri, 08 Feb 2013 14:25:47 +0000 /blog/?p=1076 “She is clothed with strength and dignity; and she laughs without fear of the future… She carefully watches everything in her household… Her children stand and bless her.” Proverbs 31:25-28

The Proverbs 31 woman is a mama bear! She gets fierce when the safety of her family is threatened. Shhh… listen… can you hear it? Probably not, but there is a lurking evil at your door. He is a serpent and he is seeking to steal, kill and destroy. It’s time to wake up! We must protect our children.

While we may be raising the most innocent, respectful, God-honoring, parent-honoring, and virtuous children, the enemy has no favorites. He is attempting to take them all out. Not just some, not just those that aren’t well-supervised, but all.

While we may not watch sitcoms with adult humor and click away from the Superbowl Halftime Show… While we may opt for old classics, such as the Sound of Music and only use the computer for educational software… While we may have devotions nearly every day and attend church nearly every week… Still, the enemy has no favorites. He is ready to take out our children with no questions asked.

As Christian parents, our goal has been to raise Godly children, who choose right over wrong, make wise choices and put each other first. We have applied ourselves to take the “world” out of our children, but not our children out of the world. Satan doesn’t care about our lofty goals. He plays to win.

But so do we!

I have learned that while my kids may do everything right (not that they always do) when it comes to responsible TV and computer use, the Internet is a very destructive space. It is my job to keep them safe. We place a great load of responsibility and risk on their shoulders if we do not set them up for success.

Here are 3 ways to set your kids up for success online:

1. Pray for your husband and your children! Absolutely, number-one, ask the Lord to protect your family. Ask Him to give you wisdom in monitoring screen time in your home. He wants you to win this war!

2. Discuss the issue of internet safety with your husband. Get on the same team and work together to find solutions that work well for your family. He should also be the one, if possible, to discuss these issues with your growing boys.

3. Set-up safeguards. Determine the appropriate locations for all screens in your home, whether they are TVs, computers, tablets or smartphones. Determine the appropriate hours for using said screens and devices. Determine the best software, filters and accountability for your computers and Internet access.

The next post will be Part 2 in Keeping Your Kids Safe Online. I’ll share with you my best tips for setting your kids up for success on the Internet and your computers. With a home business and 7+ computers in our home, we have had to do our research and try out several solutions to find a good one for us. I’ll share the good, the bad and the ugly.

Sadly, they say that it is no longer a question of IF our kids will be exposed to garbage online, but WHEN. Let’s equip our kids to make the best choices possible with solid accountability that keeps them on track.

Ladies, let’s win this war!

Question: Is Internet safety an issue you have tackled with success in your home? What’s your #1 best tip?

Read Keeping Your Kids Safe Online, Part 2

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