Mandarin Resources for On-the-Go: “Miao Mi” App Now Available

My daughter is preparing to take the AP exam in Chinese Culture and Language in May. My son will follow her example a couple years later. I am thereby always searching for quality Mandarin resources that provide practice in her second language as well as keep her interest.

A few months ago, I shared a delightful Mandarin resource for families learning Chinese, Miao Mi Educational Programs, a subscription service available through Amazon Prime Video. It has provided a fun way to integrate Mandarin language into our home – even for my teens!

miao miI am happy to announce that Celestial Tiger Entertainment has also launched a Miao Mi app. Now parents can easily immerse their young children in Mandarin language-learning just by using their tablets – perfect for an on-the-go lifestyle like ours.

The Miao Mi app features award-winning shows and games that reinforce language learning. It provides access to more than 500 videos including “Star Babies” and “Pleasant Goat” – popular children’s programs in Asia.

Children and parents with no prior exposure to Mandarin can easily pick up the unique sounds of Chinese just as well as those from Chinese-speaking backgrounds. The programs on the Miao Mi app offer an immersive experience for children at different stages of Mandarin language learning.

“We created ‘Miao Mi’ to give parents a wide range of entertaining and educational programs and games to help give their pre-schoolers a head start learning this increasingly vital global language.” ~ Todd Miller, CEO of Celestial Tiger Entertainment

Available on the App Store and Google Play, the Miao Mi app is free to download, and $5.99 per month to subscribe. A 7-day free trial is available.

To download the “Miao Mi” app, visit the App Store for iOS.  “Miao Mi” is also available in the United States through Amazon Prime Video on Amazon Channels for $5.99 per month. A 7-day free trial is available. For more information, visit www.miaomi-tv.com.

The Gryphon Wifi Router Kickstarter Ends Soon ~ Reserve Yours Today

A few weeks ago, I discussed how our family is struggling with balancing our internet time. As my kids become more independent, the time they spend online – for academics, entertainment, gaming, and social media – has increased dramatically. Not only does it affect their mood, but it pulls them away from activities that they had previously enjoyed.

It isn’t just the kids. In the past, I would curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book and enjoy listening to Jeffrey play the piano as Geneva quietly worked on an art project at the coffee table. I find I do this less often now because I am constantly drawn to my smartphone, specifically to social media. Admittedly, Spider Solitaire pulls me in a great deal as well.publications-for-gryphon-640x337

I have received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing this product.  All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

We have had long talks about this during our family meetings and have vowed to make a change. One strategy we have recently decided upon is to turn off our wifi from 7p.m. every evening until 10a.m. the following morning. This is a big adjustment and we are still hearing groans and arguments from both our teens.

Another strategy that we are very excited about is the Gryphon Wifi Router. In just 2 weeks, Gryphon is more than 75% to the funding goal on Kickstarter and has been featured in some awesome publications! Here are a just a few:

San Diego Tribune
Wall Street Journal
9 to 5 Toys
Curbed
Uncrate

If you have not reserved one, it’s not too late. Go grab a Gryphon on Kickstarter now (www.gryphonconnect.com).   They are extending the early bird special for this week only, the deadline is November 6th.  Help us reach our goal and everyone will receive 1 FREE year of intrusion detection and whole house malware filtering ($49 value).

Parental Controls Made Easy with the Gryphon High Performance Wifi Router

Since we moved back to Oregon, I have returned to the public school classroom as a substitute teacher. At 14 and nearly 12 years of age, my kids are old enough to be left home alone for several hours at a time on occasion. I have no fears that they may catch the kitchen on fire while trying to make a grilled cheese sandwich. I am confidant they know what to do in the event that they may injure themselves. Even more so, their grandparents are just a couple miles away and check up on them regularly.

Parental Controls Made Easy with the Gryphon High Performance Wifi Router @EvaVarga.netI have received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing this product.  All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Online Safety

There is an added danger today, however, that my parents did not have to contend with when I was a child and my mother returned to the workforce … the Internet. The digital age brings a wealth of information and conveniences, but we cannot ignore the risks it poses for the family. Most children are exposed to the Internet at the age of 6, and 70% of children see inappropriate content by accident. The average family has 10 Internet-connected devices and counting, creating new security threats and vulnerabilities. However, the existing parental control tools are too complicated to use and expensive with annual subscriptions.

Honestly, the content itself is not the only concern. In our family, the biggest frustration we have is with finding balance. According to a report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit focused on helping families and educators navigate the world of media and technology, teens in the United States spend about nine hours using media for their enjoyment. The report found that tweens spend about six hours, on average, consuming media.

When my son was younger, he would spend hours playing the piano each day. It was his passion. “I want to become a concert pianist,” he exclaimed regularly. Now that he has discovered YouTube and social media, I have to remind him to practice piano. He now dreams of receiving a silver play button when his subscribers reach 100,000.

gryphon_wifirouterWhile I admire his dedication to his new interest, I am very frustrated. He is sometimes so wrapped up in making his next video or battling against hackers on his Minecraft server that he neglects his other responsibilities. My husband and I have tried numerous strategies to help him find balance and develop better study habits. It is honestly, both time consuming and exhaustive.

Gryphon Wifi Router

When I learned of Gryphon, a powerful yet convenient approach to online safety, I was immediately intrigued. This new WiFi router is just what we have been looking for – an easy to use product that addresses many of our parental concerns about Internet safety and device time management.

Gryphon combines a high-performance WiFi router and a simple-to-use smartphone app, making it easy for parents to manage the connected home from anywhere. Now that I am working part time away from home, this is a huge comfort to us. Using our phones, his father and I can make a few adjustments and limit access to the internet when we are away.

Gryphon Online Safety from Pure Cinema on Vimeo.

 Even more, all the security features are built directly within the router itself, eliminating the need to install additional apps on your connected devices. Setting up the Gryphon router takes just three steps and a simple tap with the Gryphon app. As parents, we may grant access to specific websites, restrict internet access during various times of the day (such as during sleep and homework), and monitor our connected home devices like thermostats or cameras to prevent hacking. This can be done on your smartphone from anywhere.

gryphon_mobileapp

There’s a Gryphon App, Too

The app even features a social collaboration tool, so you can work together with fellow homeschooling parents to create a safer Internet for everyone, by recommending and rating specific websites. Wow!

The people behind Gryphon have worked hard over the last year on the design and the software platform and they have launched a Kickstarter campaign today for the final production of Gryphon.   You can go to www.gryphonconnect.com to find out more about the product and the campaign.

 

Atomidoodle: A Game App to Unlock the Periodic Table of Elements

Just prior to Thanksgiving, I downloaded a new app called Atomidoodle for our iPad. It looked both educational and fun. We were driving up to Oregon to see family and in the rush to pack and load everything into the car, I neglected to tell the kids about it.

After gathering with family at my brother’s house, the kids went home with their Grandma for the night. We picked them up the following day and drove home. The drive takes about 5 hours and often, the kids will engage themselves in reading, practicing their Mandarin, and playing games or reading iBooks on their devices.

atomidoodleThe next week, I sat down on the couch and called them over to share with them the new app I had downloaded. Much to my surprise, they had already discovered it. “Atomidoodle! I love that game,” my daughter exclaimed. “I found it on the iPad when we were at Grandma’s house and I played it a bunch. It is so fun!”

We received the Atomidoodle app in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product.  All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information. 

My daughter doesn’t play video games very often. Hearing her speak so highly of the game, I couldn’t wait to play it myself. I asked her to show me and I quickly discovered what she enjoyed so much. We have since enjoyed playing together (taking turns) on several occasions.

I love that she is learning as she is engrossed in a game. Trying to collect all the elements in the periodic table is also a great challenge to keep her motivated.

atomidoodle_game

Within the game, there are pathways that the little atom travels upon. The goal is to move the number of atoms requested to the final destination before time runs out or the atoms crash into one another.

As each atom pops out of the generator, you direct it along its route to divide (using the fission widget) or combine (using the fusion widget) the atom to create different atoms.

Let’s say the game asks for a 5-Boron atom. If 5-Boron comes through the portal, you can lead it directly to the end of the route. However, if anything else arrives, you have to keep it moving along the course.

When an atom is directed to the fission widget where atoms are split as evenly as possible. Even numbered atoms are split exactly in half whereas odd numbered atoms are split as close as possible (9-Fluorine, for example, will be split into 4-Beryllium and 5-Boron).

Conversely, the fusion widget combines atoms. If the game asks for a 5-Boron atom, you’ll need to join smaller atoms together. Direct two 2-Helium atoms into this widget will result in 4-Beryllium. Direct a 1-Hydrogen to the widget together with 4-Beryllium and you’ll create the 5-Boron atom you need.

While the game aspect is so very fun, it is also educational! Each time a goal is reached, you unlock one of the elements on the Periodic Table of Elements. Fun facts and trivia are revealed along the way.

The game keeps you on your toes! As you race the computer to achieve your goal, target goal will change mid game. As you advance, the game board also changes and the atoms are generated more rapidly.

atomidoodle_trivia

Atomidoodle, a gaming app by Hero Factor Games, provides kids a fun and engaging way to learn about the periodic table and practice their math skills. It is a simple, yet action-packed puzzler based on the Periodic Table of Elements.

Created by a husband and wife team who have enjoyed playing video games since their childhood, Atomidoodle is fast paced, mentally stimulating, and hard to put down.  Due to their lifelong love of video games, they know how to weave positive content into exciting, challenging, and rewarding gameplay, so that kids are enjoyably edified!

The latest release includes hundreds of interesting trivia facts. Atomidoodle is a virtual chemistry notebook come to life with speedy atoms, challenging mazes, and colorful doodles.

  • Draw paths through tricky mazes, and get atoms safely to the goal
  • Use fission (division) and fusion (addition) to create new atoms
  • Think fast to avoid explosions
  • Discover the elements and complete the Periodic Table
  • Unlock hundreds of facts about the elements
  • Eye-catching, hand-drawn artwork

Atomidoodle is available for iPads on iTunes and is now also available on Android tablets as well! You can grab it on the Google Play store.

Stay connected with Hero Factor Games

 

Exploring Fan Fiction with Wattpad

I recently shared a short fan fiction piece my daughter wrote and not surprisingly, her grandmothers were not familiar with the genre. The writing of fan fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the vast majority of the writers and readers in this genre of fiction are teenagers.

What is Fan Fiction?

One of the fastest-growing literary genres is fan fiction, a term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.

Writing fan fiction involves the creation of stories and books around already existing characters from a previously published work of literature or other art form (television, movies, etc.). This type of story cannot be published for profit as the characters belong to the original author.

Writers of fan fiction are technologically savvy, having grown up in the internet age. They have thereby discovered ways in which to share their work with others – not for profit – but to develop a fan base and to get feedback on their writing.

fan fiction

What is Wattpad?

Wattpad is a place to discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.

When my daughter first approached me to ask about downloading “Wattpad”, I was skeptical. “You already have an e-book reader app, Sweetheart.”

“Yes, but this one has more than classic books, Mom. With Wattpad, you can share your own stories and read the stories that other kids write. My friend K told me about it and she says there are a lot of great fan fiction stories.”

My daughter is not a reluctant writer. She has always enjoyed the craft and completes assignments without complaint. Wattpad, however, has inspired her to write more frequently.

In the past, she seemed to only want to write stories about cats – akin to the popular Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Now, she has expanded her repertoire, exploring human characters and emotions.

Writing Fan Fiction

Students can learn a great deal about the fiction writing process from writing fan fiction. The advantage of writing fan fiction is that the characters are already familiar to both the writers and most likely to the readers; therefore, young writers can concentrate on manipulating the plot as they are already familiar with the characters and settings.

Students can also create new characters – as my daughter has chosen to do with her Harry Potter fan fiction, “The Special”. The main character in her story is Aira, the twin sister to Scorpius, and the only daughter to Draco Malfoy.

Homeschool With Wattpad

With Wattpad, students can write stories and publish them chapter by chapter. Along the way, others can comment on their work, allowing the writer an opportunity to change things, delete things, and make improvements immediately.

Wattpad stories are free. Whether you’re online or off, use the devices you already own to carry an entire library wherever you go. The interactive, social aspect is one component that makes it such an appealing app for youth.

 

 

 

Apps for Nature Study

Have you ever been on a walk with your kids and they spot a cool insect that you have never seen before?  Have you ever looked at a tree and wondered to yourself, “I wonder what type of tree this is?”  Next time you’re out walking in nature, enhance your experience with great iPhone apps for nature study.

There are apps available to help you find nature, navigate through it, and learn more about it during your outings.  Whatever your interest, apps for nature study abound.  Here are a few of our favorite apps for nature study.

  • nature apps

    EveryTrail – Find great trips and hikes in your area; an interactive map uses GPS capability to show the path you are taking. You can post pictures and videos along the way and share via social networks.

  • NatureFind – NatureFind will help you find nature centers, gardens, zoos, museums and so much more. It also keeps you informed on upcoming events at these venues.

  • My Nature Animal Tracks – Helps you identify the animal, interactive maps show you where the animal can be found in North America, sound files of each creature’s vocalizations, a nature journal and more.

  • Leafsnap – Uses visual recognition software to identify tree species from photos of the leaves. Location data is sent to database so scientists can track how the numbers and ranges of trees are changing over time.

  • Arbor Day Tree Identification Guide – This is a mobile version of the Arbor Day Foundation’s award winning field guide.

  • Project Noah – Helps you identify an unknown plant or animal, see what kinds of plants and animals have been spotted near you, and contribute to ongoing research projects.

  • Audubon Insects and Spiders – A field guide with 500+ descriptions and photos, a journal to track your findings, & a reference section with tips on finding insects and how to start your own collection.

  • iBird – A must have for any avid bird watcher; audio songs and calls, maps, and information on habitats and behaviors. Share your own photos via social networks.

  • Rockhound– Let Rockhound know where you are, and it will tell you what rocks, gems, and minerals you may discover there. There are pictures of each rock to help you identify what you find.

  • Meteor Counter – As you tap the keys, the app records critical data for each meteor you observe: time, magnitude, latitude, and longitude, along with optional verbal annotations.

  • SkyView Free – Take a photo of the sky and then tap to find out more. Change the date to see what the sky looked like long ago, or what it will look like in the future.

Do you have a favorite iPhone app for nature study that I have neglected to include here?  Leave a comment and let my readers and I know.  :)