Top Apps & Platforms for Traveling Kids

by Janelle Schroy

The perfect recipe for building an incredible forward-thinking education.

Some say school as we once knew it is now over. Education has been flipped on its head in the last few years–both by covid and by the new opportunities and efficiencies we gain by leveraging technology.

In some cases. iPad-based tools are now replacing real-life teachers. And here’s the kicker — studies show that learning on iPads is looking like it is a more efficient, engaging, and dynamic way for kids to learn.

Surprising? Hardly.

Self-Directed Learning

Furthermore, self-directed learning (SDL) is having a moment––and we hope it’s one that’s here to stay.

Instead of, or alongside, the traditional subjects: math, English, science, social studies, music, art, and PE, kids are also being encouraged to explore or identify what their interests truly are.

When they realize there is something they love (music, dogs, ice skating, horseback riding, robotics, cooking, etc.), they are encouraged to shift some major learning time to exploring more about their passion.

The idea is that as they pursue what matters most to them, they also happen to be tapping into traditional subjects such as reading, math and history.

This makes a lot of sense.

This is where iPads take the cake.

On an iPad, whole world of learning at our fingertips in just a couple of strokes. Gone are the days of hours at the library trying to find the perfect book using Dewey decimals or encyclopedias.

Let’s say my kid wants to learn about endangered tigers, so she logs into her EPIC app, speaks the phrase “tigers” into it, and up comes 40+ books about tigers, all appropriate for her age and reading level, and they are delivered instantly in front of her. She picks one and starts reading.

It takes seconds to access that vast amount of learning. And she didn’t need me to find it for her, teach it to her, or take her to the library.

If it’s too challenging of a read, she has the option to have the “read-to-me” voice function read it to her, while the words which are being spoken are highlighted real-time as they are being read aloud. This is furthering her third grade level reading skills either way.

Through her reading, she’s empowered to go make a YouTube video about tigers which encourages kids to protect her favorite endangered species.http://adventurefamilyjournal.com/media/8996ceaaf8f0d5cffd43dc95f40970d9Learning in Seattle, USA | Copyright Janelle Schroy

Why Use iPads?

An iPad is a touch screen device, and thus it’s much easier for kids to use than a laptop and a mouse.

Plus, the app store is chock full of incredible apps (or shall we say a super fun curricula?!) which can be accessed sometimes for free, or for a couple of dollars.

Buying an iPad and stocking it with the right educational tools is far cheaper than funding a teacher’s salary, books, and all the time, effort, gas and headache that comes with taking kids to school day after day, year after year.

Plus, there is great freedom in kids learning more efficiently so with all their extra time, they can get out in the world and have some experiential, real life adventures.

It’s a symbiotic relationship: Real Life Learning / iPad Based Learning / Repeat.

Over 70% of my children’s educations are gained by experiences during traveling, and we supplement that learning with deep dives into iPad-based learning and also in learning communities like Kubrio.

This dynamic combination is how we can travel the world full-time as a family of six and I have no doubts about the level of education our kids are receiving. We don’t need to travel with suitcases of books for learning materials––it’s all on the iPad!

No More Planning, Lesson Prep or Grading

What if, as an unschooling, homeschooling, or worldschooling parent, you were able to stop trying so hard to organize all the curriculum, stop taking your precious time to plan the lessons, deliver them, create projects, grade papers and exams.

What if you just stopped. Then tried a different way.

What if you could just stock up an iPad with the right tools and let your kid get on with learning in a far more engaging and fun way? Could you do that? Just let go of the past traditions and embrace technology in best possible way?

Seriously, what if you had to do no lesson prep, give no more grades, stop all the requirements, just let your kids learn in a more self-directed way!

Stocking the Right Tools

You might be asking this question about now:

What tools / resources could I put on the iPad?

Think of your kid’s iPad as a shelf. On it are a carefully, cleverly curated set of tools which they use in pursing their interests.

Consider loosely organizing the interests into LEARNING BUCKETS of your choice.

Ours look like this:

  • GLOBAL STUDIES — This bucket covers history, geography, current events, politics, and cultural learning. This is not sequential, and can be absorbed in any order.
  • WORLD LANGUAGES––This bucket includes the practice of both our mother tongue [English] and the ongoing study of various languages specific to where we travel: [French, Spanish, Greek, Italian, German, Japanese]. Languages requires a progressive tool which build in a sequence.
  • STEM —This bucket includes all kinds of interesting areas of science, technology, engineering, architecture and math. It also covers coding, 3D Modeling and animation.
  • THE ARTS–This bucket includes exploring all forms of arts and music. We carry the kids’ instruments with us on our travels and have bi-monthly lessons with our music teachers on Zoom. Kids play music composed about or in the country where we are traveling, creating an immersive learning experience that connects music to a place.
  • HEALTH & WELLNESS–This bucket includes everything to do with physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. Most of our physical work is done as we travel through hiking, swimming, climbing and many other sports. Then there are habits and rhythms such as nutrition awareness, journaling, yoga, prayer and meditation.

Stock up tools for each of your Learning Buckets. I’ve chosen a range of the best possible educational apps (after 5 years of researching and testing many, many apps).

Not all apps are created equal. You need to know which ones to pick.

My kids can choose from the rich banquet of tools on their iPads as they are pursing things that interest them. They do not have access to the internet, just the apps I’ve provided to them.

We are now exploring Türkiye which is the world’s largest museum. In addition to all the real life learning they gain in this crossroad of the world, the kids are spending 3–4 hours a day exploring within their Learning Buckets from 7–11 am. The rest of the day is free to explore ancient ruins, visit all the historical sites, hike, bike, boat, swim and play at playgrounds with other kids.

Short, compact learning on iPads mean FREEDOM for us as a family!
Read that again.

After our Learning Buckets, on any given afternoon, you might find our family riding horses in Argentina’s Andes Mountains, learning how helicopters work in Hawaii, eating crepes and visiting the Louvre in Paris, or scuba diving volcanos in Greece. And while we’re doing that, we are learning so much, and probably filming an episode for our family’s YouTube channel.

We can travel the world and never miss out on learning experiences we wouldn’t have had time for if we followed a traditional model of learning.

A Sneak Peek at My Children’s Favorite Learning Tools

OVER 40,000 BOOKS

EPIC — This is children’s book app with 40,000 books, audiobooks, read-to-me books, and educational videos, all in one kid-friendly space. Epic is on all four iPads, plus mom and dad’s phones, and it is hands-down the #1 resource we use every day in learning. Over 98% of America’s schools have put Epic on their students’ iPads or used it in the classroom for teaching tools. Epic is a treasure trove of books! GET THIS APP.

MILLIONS OF PAGES OF SHEET MUSIC

SCRIBD–This is a book platform but it also has loads of sheet music books which my kids use for their various instruments: piano, violin, ukulele, and flute. Their music teacher has a subscription to Scribd and so do we, so although he’s in California, and we are in a different country every month, we always have the same music books to work from when we zoom call music lessons. We also use Scribd to access more advance literature for our 12 year old, using their Newberry Award Children’s Literature List. GET THIS APP.

HUNDREDS OF SCIENCE & SOCIAL STUDIES LESSONS

BRAINPOP & BRAINPOPJR –I dare you to find a more robust set of incredible lessons in science and social studies (plus they also have other categories like art and music, technology and English). BrainPOP lessons are broken down into 5 minute animated videos which are accompanied by fun, supportive learning activities. Bar none, it’s the best. Over 300 million students have benefited from using this tool. That’s some serious impact. For $160 / year for the whole family, it’s a total win. GET THIS APP.

OVER 400 WORLD MAPS & GEOGRAPHY GAMES

SETERRA–Thanks to this FREE app, my kids are whizzes on countries, capital cities, and world features, as well as world flags and state flags (US). They could play for hours and now all that good geography is inside of them. P.S. I get to use the app too, just so I can keep up with their growing knowledge! GET THIS APP.

120 STRUCTURED ENGLISH LESSONS

READING EGGS–This is the most fantastic tool and it has taught all four of my kids to read, spell, and master reading comprehension with zero tears. It’s phonics, reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary and writing. It’s incredibly done, fully animated, aligned to US grade level standards, and automatically tracked. I get an email after every learning session telling me what my kids have learned that day and how they’ve progressed, along with how the kids’ learning measures against standards. (I love technology!) GET THIS APP.

10,000+ MATH LESSON VIDEOS WITH ACTIVITIES

MATH SEEDS–Why would a child ever use paper worksheets to learn math when they could have animated videos, songs, rewards, avatars, and virtual play spaces? This is everything kids need for math from pre-school up to 6th grade. That’s it. Nothing else! Imagine. It’s the same platform as Reading Eggs, so you get one, you get the other for free at approximately $70 / year for both. GET THIS APP.

KHAN ACADEMY–This app has over 10K math lesson videos done by real teachers, followed by questions and quizzes. We use it for our kids as theyage out of Math Seeds. This is the logical next step. It’s a fantastic FREE resource! GET THIS APP.

Conclusion

So yes, robots [ahem: iPads] are teaching my kids, and they are doing one heck of a job at it too. They sure beats the English Primer and Webster’s Dictionary which once held nearly all the lessons a kid was supposed to learn in their one-room schoolhouse back in the day.

Of course, I support what my kids are working on as needed, I help them draw connections, I have them narrate back to me what they learned, and curate learning experiences for them, like the clubs and bootcamps offered at Kubrio and Outschool, or virtual summer camps with The Met Opera.

But I don’t plan or teach any of the lessons. It’s all in the apps anyway, created by teams of animators, writers, researchers and educational experts. I want to spend my time exploring the world with kids, not planning and delivering lessons and making silly assignments.

This could change education forever. It means more freedom, more exploration, and more adventure for families.

Who wants to learn more?

Take the leap. Contact me to get my full PDF of best resources for online learning.

Email: janelle@adventurefamilyjournal.com
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