Thursday, November 29, 2012

iPad apps – Winter 2012 :)

Looks like it’s time to update the list of GOOD vs GREAT apps for the iPad!  I did a series of posts back when we first got the iPad and everything was brand new, but since that time we’ve “invested” in a few very worthwhile apps and have pushed many of the ‘fun but useless’ apps out to the curb in hopes of getting more LEARNING time out of the iPad!

First off, though, let me share about this wonderful NEW thing that the folks at Apple have added to the newest IOS update.  GUIDED ACCESS.  Yes, if you know what this is, you’re probably already jumping up and down saying “I’m so glad!!!” and if you don’t already know about it, well, I’ll get to the point! :)  Under Settings go to the “general” section on the left side then select “accessibility”.

Here there are many NEW settings including a “learning” section.  Under learning it says “Guided Access”.  This setting allows you to triple click the home button and LOCK the iPad in to a specific app!  This means that that app you turned on for your 3 or 10 or hey, 17 yr old, will STAY on unless they 1)learn your code and can input it properly (4 digit “unlock” code that you set!) or 2) they learn this next thing that I’m going to tell you.

I love guided access and it gives more independence to using the iPad for learning, because when I walk away I know the kids haven’t switched over to Pandora and made themselves a new Phineas and Ferb music station.  Yes, it’s happened.  However, one night as I was turning on the guided access so that my daughter would be STUCK doing her school work when she turned it on in the morning (hahahaha…), I actually, truly, got it STUCK.  As in, the home button stopped working.  At all.  I tried powering the iPad off and that didn’t work either.  The little note saying “triple click…” blah blah came up, but my triple click did nothing.  So, google helped me and holding down BOTH the power and the home buttons for a few seconds ultimately powered-down the iPad and I was able to turn off guided access upon rebooting.  *sigh*.  Hopefully that doesn’t happen too often (that was the first time after about a dozen uses of guided access…).

Another neat new feature is the Hyperlink feature!  Kristopher’s teacher updates the website DAILY and puts his homework online.  Awesome feature.  But aside from navigating there regularly, I didn’t just “see” it.  Now, you can go in to Safari and click the little box with an arrow coming out of it at the top near the address bar.  Click “Add to home screen” and it will create an icon on the iPad that will bring you directly to that website.  Awesomely handy for my 8 yr old to look up his homework daily! :)

ABC Wee Sing:  I think this is Lynae and Brianna’s favorite app!  It has an option to explore the ABC’s with letters and saying their letter name.  You also explore animals where each animal is drawn (cartoon style) with a musical instrument, and the letter they start with- one for each letter of the alphabet.  Clicking the letter or the animal or instrument will tell you the name and sound of that item for instance, click the letter “A” and it says “A, the alligator plays the accordion”.  Click the “instrument” circle and it plays a sample of what the accordion sounds like.  Click the “animal” circle and you hear what an alligator sounds like!  This is pretty interesting when you get to Yetta the Yak playing the Yuachin (sp?).  Cool to hear what that sounds like!

This last part is actually my kids’ favorite!  It’s the ABC song… however… it’s available to play several ways.  It can just play it and you listen, and it shows musical notes dancing by each letter as it’s sung.  The fun way is to “play along” and it brings up the alphabet and says “press go to begin”.  Then, it plays the music and YOU select the letters (they are displayed in order) and try to put them at the appropriate places in the music.  Each letter is “sung” so it will fit correctly together in the music.  For some reason, this is a challenge and a big HIT with the girls!

Monkey math:  This is still one of MY favorites, and teaches kindergarten level math skills such as patterning, numbers,  adding, subtracting, and gives ‘prizes’ for skills that are reached.  Brianna loved it last year and now it’s appropriate for Lynae’s learning level!

Special Words: This is the most money I’ve spent on an app (over $10, I believe maybe it was $13?) but it was WELL worth it.  This was designed by the group Down Syndrome Education International.  It is the “See and Learn” program on an iPad!  You choose to match pictures of objects to pictures, or words to pictures, or pictures to words, or words to words!  It is customizable as well to add in your own pictures and words as well.  This gets your kids READING!! :)  (this is an app I frequently “lock” the iPad on to with the Guided access feature!)

Special Numbers: I admit, I purchased this because of my high hopes since I really like Special Words.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time on it however it is similarly customizable and works on counting, matching numbers, number order, same/different, how many, and more.  I am looking forward to exploring this one more, and again… it was similar cost to the first but one that I believe to be a good investment since I know the research and design that went in to the whole program!

Clean Up: This app is still one of Brianna’s favorites and it helps a child with making categories.  This was redesigned after we originally bought it an now shows instructions at the beginning and “how to” play.  There is a shopping cart, toy box, and closet picture and an item is shown at the top.  You drag and drop in to one of the three pictures to categorize it. Quick moving if the child wants it to be, and the instructions have about a 3 second delay then repeat. “where do the pajamas go?” (wait 3 seconds and repeat).  It can get annoying if a child walks away from it, but if they need reminders of what they’re doing, it’s great! :). 
These are just a few of the kids’ favorites.  My great plan is to get more of our favorites posted again over the next days, so we’ll see how well that happens! :)  For more app reviews go to

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Celebrating Jesus’ Birth in a Santa Filled World…

Without letting go of “Santa” all together!

Let me preface this by saying—I have no issues with the man in the big red suit. My kids have been to “breakfast with Santa” in the past and every year we set out stockings in hopes that Santa will come and fill them with goodies and leave a gift under the tree too.

Where we differ from “Mainstream Christmas” is that we wholly believe that the holiday is to celebrate Christ’s birth, not to give gifts of “good cheer” and celebrate “holidays” that are man-made.

So how does Santa fall in line with a Christ-filled Christmas??

Santa, like Christian parents, celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ on Christmas day as well! It is because of the birth of Christ that we give gifts to our family and friends!

Here’s the thing…if you want Christmas to be about Christ—it’s going to have to be the parents’ job to make sure that your children understand that TRUE meaning of Christmas.

In decorating the house, it’s fun (and pretty!) to put up Christmas lights and a display outside. Have you considered a nativity scene or carolers instead of snowmen and Santa Claus? How about those Christmas stocking holders, do they spell out g-i-f-t-s on your mantle? Is your Christmas tree topped with a star or angel, signifying two main ‘parts’ of the Nativity scene? When you talk about the anticipation of Christmas is it about Santa coming and “what do you want for Christmas?” or do you spend more time on “Jesus’ birthday is coming soon” and “how should we celebrate His birth?”

Are your crafts revolving around reindeer and snowmen or do you have the Christ child in there too? Are more of your bedtime stories about the birth of Jesus or little elves in a workshop?

We try to find not just a BALANCE in our home, but a sure tilt to the direction of a CHRIST filled Christmas in our home! Sure, there’s our elf on a shelf that reports back to Santa, and there are reindeer on our stockings and some Santa snowglobes in our home. The kids anticipate Santa coming! But if you ask them why we celebrate Christmas, then those who can talk would hopefully be able to tell you that it’s Jesus’ birthday and we give gifts to celebrate HIM!!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!

It’s been a busy but great week this week with the Bedford Family!  Shelley, Robert, and their 8 children drove down on Sunday night and arrived early Monday morning!  We had a busy week ahead and found a good balance of “busy” and “down time” together!

Monday Shelley and I went for an afternoon grocery run after finalizing a ‘menu’ for the week for our families. The rest of the day the kids played and enjoyed getting to know the ‘new’ kids since our families last gathered together 3 years ago!

Tuesday morning Michael had to work, and Robert, Jakob (their oldest son), and Kristopher went to the War Bird Air Museum for the morning.  In the afternoon, Shelley and I took Emmett and Delaina to IKEA for some wandering and shopping in Orlando!  We left the men home alone to do dinner for the kids two nights in a row and they did great Smile.

Wednesday was an out-of-town day for us all as we headed over to Downtown Disney to walk the shops after a picnic lunch at a WINDY park on the river.  We did the fast-food thing on the way home.

Thursday was Thanksgiving so the day started early to get the Turkey in the oven and all the side dishes going!  We had a huge lunch together with our 17 children and the 4 adults!  In the evening we had several visitors stop in including friends of Shelley and Robert who they haven’t seen in 7 years!  At one point we had 10 adults and 21 children in the house.  BUSY but fun!  The Bedfords’ friends stayed for leftovers for dinner and we all enjoyed their visit Smile.

Friday was a bright and beautiful day again. Robert and Jakob went to the Police Hall of Fame in the morning then we all gathered our crews all together to go to the Hidden Acres Farm to visit Mrs. Patti Bryan who runs Walk on Water Ministries for some HORSE fun!  She knew we wouldn’t be able to make it to our usual Saturday horse riding so she offered to come out on Friday afternoon for our family to ride and also donated free pony rides for all of the Bedfords!  What a FUN time we all had!!  Two of Shelley’s children (she also has 5 adopted children, all with Down syndrome, and three biological “typically developing” children) ride horses on a regular basis for therapy, but the others rarely have an opportunity to ride.  It was a great ending to a WONDERFUL week with friends!

We brought pizza and home-made “snowman” cookies that the kids decorated (nutter butters dipped in white chocolate and decorated), and drinks out to the farm to feed all of our crew and the volunteers.  Horses, outdoors, friends, pizza, and cookies… FUN! Smile

Friday night we turned on 2 showers and raced to the finish line!  We managed to shower 13 children in just under 15 minutes! LOL  After the farm there was no avoiding a shower for everyone!!  Then it was time for packing up their things and putting their car together so they could pull out early this morning.  A late-night “goodbye” and an early wake-up call to finish up and see them off, and the Bedfords probably just now are arriving home.

Time to enjoy our weekend, get our crew back in their routines, help Kristopher make some progress on his school project, and get ready for the week ahead!


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