Review Archives - Eva Varga

January 27, 20154

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.


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, 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


December 2, 20147

naturestudycurrclick We had an amazing time in the Galápagos last month. We are still processing the images we captured (we took over 14,000 pictures and video clips). I know that the experiences we shared will be a part of our curriculum for months to come – there was just so much to take in. Undeniably, we will remember most the incredible wildlife of the islands.

We have been using nature journals in our homeschool from the very beginning and my children are both adept at recording their observations and sketching things of interest. As their skills have improved, I have been looking for something to instruct them on the finer points of art.

Art and Nature Study with CurrClick

Knowing of the vast resources available on CurrClick, I browsed the collection for materials specifically for instructional books or activities to help integrate art and nature study in our homeschool curriculum.

Creating Textures in Pen & Ink with Watercolor by Claudia Nice was the perfect tool. She does a wonderful job reviewing the tools of an artist (ink, watercolors, the color wheel, acrylics, brushes, etc.).

imageOne chapter is devoted to the seven distinct texturing techniques: contour lines, parallel lines, crosshatching, dots or stippling, scribble lines, wavy grain lines and crisscross lines. This was the perfect lesson to connect our observations in islands with art techniques.

“Thick tangled foliage, flowing water, soft rabbit fur, weathered wood and the leathery folds of elephant skin could all be depicted with the stroke of a pen.” ~ Claudia Nice

The example illustrated in the text was a pelican; what luck! I thereby asked each of the kids to read the chapter independently, choose a bird from our trip Photostream, and then to practice each of the seven techniques in their nature journals.

currclicknaturestudyAnother fun resource that I found on CurrClick was Cranberry Dissection from the Kitchen Science Nature Study series by Roots and Wings Homeschool.  I grew up in Bandon, Oregon where cranberries are a major agricultural crop.

A few years ago, we had the opportunity to observe how cranberries are harvested. Cranberry Dissection is a fun and simple activity that guided us through the physiology of the fruit. What I loved best was the inquiry activity, “The Cranberry Bounce”.
For Thanksgiving, my dad had brought up a bag of fresh organic cranberries from the bogs we had visited previously (he volunteers each year to help harvest the cranberries).  The kids and I thereby spent some time bouncing cranberries as we awaited our turkey dinner.

Sorting the berries by hand is a hard, tedious process. Most growers today use devices that tumble and bounce the berries. The freshest berries bounce along the conveyer, but the damaged, poor quality berries do not bounce and are left behind.

12 Days of Christmas CurrClick Giveaway

Christmas is right around the corner and I am delighted to share with you the wonderful giveaway happening at CurrClick. For the next 12 days, some friends and I are partnering with CurrClick with the 12 Days of Christmas Homeschool Freebies and Resources.

Each day will bring a new post with how we use CurrClick in our homeschool. Then, we’ll share the love with you by giving you a new freebie each day, plus an opportunity to win a CurrClick gift certificate!

Start with this freebie:Penguins

From December 1 through December 3, you can download this Penguins lapbook for FREE with the code CC12Days2.

Then visit each of the participating blogs for another wonderful freebie from CurrClick and register to win a $20 CurrClick gift card. There will be 12 freebies and 12 gift cards given away in all! 

The giveaway begins Dec 1st at 1:00 am and will end on Dec 16th at 10:00 pm.


Enter here and at the end of the 12 Days Of Homeschool Freebies and Resources, we’ll draw 12 names for 12 $20 gift certificates!


November 15, 20141

We have integrated art projects and sketching into our homeschool curriculum for years but I haven’t always been consistent. Recently however, my kids have developed a stronger interest in art, particularly my daughter.

She spends hours watching tutorials on YouTube. She has also created several original My Little Pony characters (are your kids into MLP, too?!) and enjoys drawing the mythical creatures from Harry Potter and Percy Jackson.

This post contains affiliate links

artworkshopsIt has become clear that they desire more in-depth instruction than I can necessarily provide. So we’ve begun a quest for art courses and mixed media workshops taught by professionals.

Earlier this fall, both kids enjoyed a mixed media art workshop at a local studio. In the course, they had the chance to play with Gesso for the first time and try out techniques that even I hadn’t tried. They both loved it!

When I discovered the online art workshops available at Flourish and shared the course description with my daughter, she jumped at the chance to enroll. “I really want to take this class, Mom. I can make many gifts for Christmas!”


We were given free access to “Winter Wonderland”  in exchange for our honest insights about how this course is working for our family.  

 The Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop that begins in December will integrate a variety of art techniques. Students will create 20 beautiful handmade gifts to give, ideas for Christmas cards, and simple homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments.

Each week through December, the instructor will email a link to a private eCourse with tutorials for four projects. The best part is that we can work at our own pace. We will receive access to this course for one full year.

We are really excited for this course. We know it will be the perfect way to celebrate the holidays. I can just see us sitting down to do art together with a pot of tea and plate of cookies beside us.

If you would like to join us, register today! Classes begin Monday, December 1st!

Early Registration price = $36 (through November 30th)
Regular price
 = $48 (beginning December 1st)

For more information or to register, visit Winter Wonderland: Mixed Media Workshop today.

August 19, 2014

We live in an information age. Strong typing skills are critical to success – regardless of what career path students may choose to take as an adult.

I’ve tried numerous typing programs over the years and my son has always dreaded typing lessons.  He whines and complains all the while and has never moved beyond home row.

When I learned of TypeKids‘ pirate adventure storyline – I knew I had to give it a try.

I was given a free membership to in exchange for a thorough review.  I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product. All opinions expressed are true and completely my own.

TypeKids1 is an online typing course for kids, recommended for children 8 years and up. However, younger children who know how to read and are computer savvy can do well with TypeKids, too.

The course consists of 30 lessons, each taking approximately 25 minutes.  Ideally, the course should take about 10 weeks to complete, and your child will be typing faster and more accurately by the end of those ten weeks.

Kids learn to type by following the story of a pirate adventure. Each lesson has multiple exercises which are broken up by the video story and the opportunity to play games. The games continue to reinforce the touch typing that the child has learned so far.

My son has congenital nystagmus. As a result, small fonts and type are sometimes difficult for him to see. He thereby struggled a little in the beginning when the lessons were random sets of letters.

As he has become more independent academically, he is also more adept at verbalizing what troubles him. He stated that the font size was perfect and the text was clear; he simply had to move slowly to ensure accuracy.

This is true of everyone learning to type, I assured him. I strongly believe that the graphics, fun games, and engaging storyline encouraged him to continue.

TypeKids2 is an intelligent touch typing course – the program automatically detects which letters need more practice, and then instruction is adjusted accordingly. This means your child receives completely INDIVIDUALIZED typing instruction.

As the lessons progressed, and actual words were used, my son became increasingly motivated.  Because he is able to read, he was thereby able to move a little faster as he pictured each word in his mind.

As he moved beyond the basic lessons, he exclaimed, “This is really fun, Mom! Typing isn’t so bad after all.” He loved finding aeronautical words in the text and would gleefully point them out to me.

One of the things that I love about is that it issues a progress report to me, the parent, via email when he completes the lessons. Whereas most other programs issue reports only to the child. This simple form of accountability alerts me of his strengths and weaknesses.

  • Consists of 30 on-line lessons.
  • Each lesson takes approximately 25 minutes to complete.
  • Instructions are given in the form of a video demo with audio narration.
  • Retail price of the entire course is $89.95, just $3 per lesson!

July 3, 20149

Like many families, the new school year brings new challenges and new opportunities.  Here at Academia Celestia, we begin each new academic year in July. We are excited for the new academic year and the changes it brings.

In addition to the usual changes, 2014 marks a significant change in our homeschool.  My daughter will be entering 7th grade and though her brother is two years younger, we do many of our subjects together.

This year we will begin our history cycle over. We will revisit ancient times and begin to map the world by heart. We will also dive more fully into literature and begin using a new writing program.

This post contains affiliate links, please read my disclosure policy for details.

homeschool planning

Staying Organized

While we approach our schooling in a relaxed way, I rely upon my  Well Planned Day planner to keep me organized.  This year, I also purchased student planners for each of the kids so I’m hoping they will become a little more independent in this regard.

The Well Planned Day planner is designed with an easy-to-use format that will assist you in setting goals, logging academic and extracurricular activities, and ensuring that all of your days are productive. The tool I use the most is the weekly schedule where I can organize our week with class assignments, weekly priorities, dinner menu, and notes.

At the start of each new month, there is also a space where I list the books the kids are reading independently. Additionally, there is a space where I can make note of field trips and enrichment activities in which we plan to take part.

One component that I had not previously used is the report cards.  At the back of the book, there are report card forms printed on card stock that I can use to document each child’s progress through the academic year.  As transcripts will be important come high school, I will begin assessing the kids more regularly and giving grades.

In honor of our new academic year, I will be giving away a My Blog Plan planner book for free. 

This daily planner was designed by Rebecca Scarlata Keliher for the Home Educating Family Association – the same company that makes the Well Planned Day that I love so much. Whether you’re a seasoned blogger or just getting started, you’ll want My Blog Plan to help you stay motivated and on track.

  • 376 Full Color Pages
  • Spiral Bound
  • 18 Month Planner: July 2014 – December 2015
  • Organize future blog posts
  • Many articles to help you develop a media kit, utilize guest writers, earn income from your blog, & more!

Enter the giveaway here!
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October 7, 20136

I am über-excited about the new Discovering Chinese Pro app by Better Chinese.  As most of my readers are aware, we have been using Better Chinese curricula for our Mandarin studies for years.  I even blog about our language learning endeavors for them.

Discovering Chinese Pro review

For the past several years, we have been using My First Chinese Reader and have been anxiously awaiting the release of an interactive iPad program. Discovering Chinese Pro is the answer. Easy to navigate, engaging animations, and a variety of practical language skill applications.

Each volume in Discovering Chinese Pro contains twelve lessons and each lesson begins with the goals outlined clearly.  Upon reading through the goals, each lesson begins with a short animation. The material is presented in several formats allowing students with different learning styles to choose the method that is best (with or without pinyin, with or without audio, and with or without English translations).  The student even has the choice to use simplified or traditional characters and can apply this option to specific words or the entire lesson.

Tabs across the top divide the lesson into sections that allow the learner to easily jump to the desired section:  Language Notes, Culture Points, Practice, Homework, and I Can.

Language Notes

The Language Notes section of each lesson introduces in more detail the new lesson vocabulary, additional required vocabulary, and proper nouns.  Here, the words are defined and the characters, pinyin, and parts of speech are shown.  Students can tap on an icon to hear each word spoken aloud. Within ‘Language Points’, students are shown how to combine different characters for phrases and example sentences can be heard. ‘Language Tips’ points out short cuts or more commonly used phrases.

Discovering Chinese Pro

Culture Points

True of all the lessons in the series, the tab Culture Points helps put the lesson vocabulary into historical and cultural context.  Here students are introduced to China with idioms and photographs – bringing the Chinese culture to life.  In anticipation of our trip to China, I had selected two lessons from Volume 2 to review, Lesson 19 “Shopping” and Lesson 24 “Trip to China”.  These tabs were very valuable to me, providing a better understanding of the culture of China.


The practice section is split into six parts – pinyin, characters, listening, reading, speaking, and writing.   In the pinyin section you can practice pronunciation of the four tones, pinyin identification, and pinyin dictation.  In the character writing section, several characters are introduced that correspond to the new vocabulary introduced in the lesson.  Here, students can see the story behind a Chinese character, watch the stroke order animation, and try it themselves.

The next four practice sections work on the students’ listening, speaking, reading (split into reading comprehension and reading challenge), and writing skills (split into grammar exercises and composition).  The activities and practice applications vary with each lesson – ensuring the students are engaged and have ample opportunity to practice their budding skills in varied contexts.  In the speaking section of Lesson 24 “Trip to China”, students were asked to interview a friend about his/her recent trip.

One of the things I liked best about the Practice section was the partner and group activities.  In Lesson 19 “Shopping”, students were asked to set up a flea market.  Working in small groups, they were to decide upon a name, what to sell, categorize the items, create an inventory, set prices, determine if bargaining is allowed, and finally create a poster.  In Lesson 24 “Trip to China”, students were asked to pick a destination from a list of overseas trips and to create an itinerary to potential customers. As a group assignment, tasks were to be divided between students (transportation, food, activities, etc.).  In both scenarios, the students were to present it to the class.


The homework section provides additional opportunities for the language learner to test his developing listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills.  The listening section has three dialogues. The reading section has two short passages with characters only, followed by a few comprehension questions.  The speaking section asked the student to record an oral narration of the lesson animation.  The writing section provides grammar practice whereby students follow a specific sentence structure or pattern as they compose sentences of their own.  In addition, a composition activity is provided that varies with each lesson. In Lesson 19 “Shopping”, the student was asked to compose an email response to a friend regarding what she bought at the store.

Each practice and homework section has a prompt box whereby the student can record their audio reply and/or type their composition.  If desired, images can even be added for a multi-media approach.  As I know even less Mandarin Chinese than the kids, I love that the students can email their tutor their work for review.

To learn more about Discovering Chinese Pro, visit the Better Chinese website.  You may also wish to watch their Discovering Chinese Pro Demonstration to see how to navigate this app more thoroughly.

I received the Discovering Chinese Pro app in exchange for an honest review. I am very pleased to be a part of the Better Chinese Blogging Team. All opinions are my own.  Please see my disclosure policy for more information.