iPad Schooling: How I Schooled my Children on an iPad for A Year

Let’s start from the very beginning….

Back in 2014, my husband and I decided to leave the rat race, rent our home, take our 2 young children out of private school and travel Europe in an RV so we could spend quality time together. With 7 over-sized, overweight bags and literally no travel “plan” we headed to the airport in July to begin our journey. Upon check in, we were told we had to lighten our load by 50lbs to make the weight limit or pay an additional $450.

We had one bag that weighed exactly 50lbs, filled with school books we purchased to “worldschool” our preschool and 1st grader for an entire year. My husband looked at me and said, “Just leave the books behind.” “All of them?”, I said?  You see, that bag contained over $800 worth of study books, workbooks, flash cards, and journals and I couldn’t see us part with that kind of investment which I would not use on return. But I had a choice, miss our flight to the Netherlands or ditch the bag…the Netherlands won.

A week into our trip we were all settled into our comfortable RV in Amsterdam and I decided to let the world-schooling begin! But with no books or workbooks and me having absolutely NO knowledge in teaching, this was going to be quite a challenge.

Our First Family dinner in our RV was in Edam, Netherlands 🙂

What we did have were iPad mini’s which we bought for the kids to keep them busy if and when needed (long train rides, airplanes, etc.). So, I decided to spend a day looking for and researching the best “apps” on iTunes that would help me create a personalized iPad curriculum for my children. What I found was an overwhelming library of wonderful programs.  Here are the apps I initially downloaded and used for the first half of our year:

Pre-K/Kindergarten
Hooked on Phonics – Reading
Dreambox – Math/Algebra
Handwriting Without Tears – Handwriting
The Foos – Coding
Learning Games Money – Counting Money
Minecraft – Geometry/Creativity
Sight Words – Pre-K

1st Grader
EPIC – Reading
Dreambox – Math/Algebra
Rosetta Stone – Spanish/Language
Cursive Writing – Handwriting
Brain POP – Interactive Videos (Science/Technology)
The Foos – Coding
Learning Games Money – Counting Money
Minecraft – Geometry/Creativity
Sight Words – Pre-K
Planet Geo – Geography
The Human Body – Science

Our main concern was that we didn’t want our children staring at an iPad screen for too long, so we arranged breaks of 15 minutes to 1/2 hour into their study sessions. During these breaks, they would write in their journal or read before returning to complete a lesson.  Here’s what a typical day of iPad schooling looked like for my 1st grader:

A TYPICAL WORLD-SCHOOLING DAY (*denotes iPad use)

9am – *Dreambox (Math)
10am – Journaling, Foreign Currency, Reading, Mapping
11am – *Rosetta Stone (Spanish)
11:30am – *The Human Body (Science) – for 15 minutes
12:00pm – Lunch

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It was important for us to switch from iPad to either reading or writing every 1/2 hour or so…

Most afternoons were spent either hanging out at our campsite enjoying nature or exploring the new city we were in, visiting museums, parks, monuments, or local events and restaurants which the kids enjoyed the most.  Each night, they would journal what they learned that day and then pick a book to read to us at night.

We iPad Schooled while driving between cities...

We iPad Schooled while driving between cities…

Here’s the thing. For the first 2 weeks it was tough getting them to focus on any studying, period. But after the kids got used to the routine. they just started iPad schooling themselves after breakfast. I would check online reports on how they are progressing (available on certain apps) which gave me a sense of relief. Some days, homework was done in a park, or in a cafe, in the lobby of a hotel or in the RV so just knowing we only had to carry a journal, book and iPad was easier. The kids really enjoy doing their lessons on the iPad and would do it on their own with little or no help from me, their teacher. They learned how important the iPad was to them, and funny enough you will not see them playing games or anything else on it in the evenings since they now associate their iPad with school. It’s no longer one of those “brain drain” devices (with the exception for summer when we take off all the applications and let them watch movies on it).

Six months into our iPad schooling, we decided to visit a Sylvan Learning Center in Dubai to do an assessment test to see if my children were keeping up with the rest of the US public school testing scores. We visited a center and took the 2 hour test. A week later, we were called back and the results were not what we expected.

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Visiting a Sylvan Learning Center in Dubai, UAE for testing!

My daughter just started the 1st Grade and was apparently reading at a beginning 2nd grade level. She was also at the beginning level math for 2nd Grade (a whole year ahead!).

My son was still in Pre-K, but we tested him to see if he was anywhere near the beginning stages of math and reading. He also was progressing at a mid-Kindergarten level, both in math and reading!

It’s now been a whole year of iPad Schooling and both kids are reading and doing math at a more advanced level than expected. A year ago, if you told us this was possible, we wouldn’t have believed you! An important thing we learned from our experience worldschooling is that our son has difficulty with visual perception and has hand wringing. His handwriting app on iTunes has does wonders in helping him to develop this skill. We also now know he’s a lefty and we are working with someone who is designing a handwriting app for left handed children – he will be helping test and advise on development of the app.

iPad/iTouch schooling at the airport :)

iPad/iTouch schooling at the airport 🙂

We are currently back in Hawaii for 5 months and are planning our next world adventure beginning January 2016.  As I start preparing for the new school year 2015-2016, I feeling quite confident our luggage and its weight won’t be a problem this time around.

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