Youngest Spelling Bee Contestant Uses Tech!

The news is aBUZZ about a 6 year old homeschooler who has qualified for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I love the fact that she’s homeschooled! Score another point for homeschool!! But this blog isn’t necessarily about homeschooling. It’s about utilizing technology as a learning tool. Lori Ann’s mother has done this beautifully! Lori Ann’s favorite way to study her spelling words is using spelling

Spellingcity has all kinds of games that help make learning to spell fun. Parents and teachers can even set up spelling lists that are tailored to what their students are learning. I’m sure this feature was a great help in preparing Lori Ann to qualify for the National Spelling Bee.

Congratulations to Lori Ann! Kudos to your mom for embracing technology as one of the many ways for you to learn!


If you haven’t gotten on the e-reader bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? Sure many of us prefer the feel of a real book in our hands. However, e-readers can do so much more than just let you read e-books these days.

You can search the internet, play games, check your mail, watch movies and more! If you have a Kindle and an Amazon Prime membership, then you can even borrow books from the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. You can also borrow e-books from public libraries.

There are tons of classic books that you can get for your kids for free. Another really cool feature of the Kindle Fire is that if you child doesn’t know the meaning of a word in the e-book they are reading, all they have to do is tap the screen. The device will automatically access the included dictionary and then show a popup with the definition of the word.

If you child is one who has trouble reading on their own, such as those with dyslexia, they can choose to have the device read the book to them as they read the words.

Beyond all this is the added benefit of being able to clear your bookshelves!

Guest Post from Aurora Lipper

Last week I posted about science e-camp. This week I’m pleased to share a guest post from the teacher of these e-camps herself!


Since 1996, Aurora Lipper has been helping families learn science. As a mechanical engineer, university instructor, pilot, astronomer, and rocket scientist, Aurora can transform toilet paper tubes into real working radios and make laser light shows from Tupperware. Learn enormously valuable teaching strategies and get your hands on impressive science projects through our science programs. Visit our website to download your free copy of the Science Activity Guide at

Did you have a teacher that really had an impact on you? Remember the excitement? Or the thrill you felt when you taught something to someone else and they really got it?

I am going to share with you two major keys you need to unlocking your child’s fullest potential. Once you know, you can then focus on solutions. Perhaps you’ll find that you are already on track, and this may reaffirm that you are headed in the right direction.

What’s the first key? Making an impact.

In today’s world, we’re so inundated with information that in order to really teach something new, you need to get someone’s attention. Think about food commercials. Advertisers first focus on getting you hooked, catching your eye – before they ever deliver their real message. And that’s what you need to do when teaching science.

You’ve got stack the deck with things that inspire natural curiosity. Hand them a bucket and ask them to tilt it completely sideways without a single drop of water coming out. (When you hand them the bucket, don’t touch the handle. Just hand it over from the bottom. Let them make that jump themselves.)

How do you know when you’re doing this right? You know you’ve made an impact when your kid’s entire body says, “WOW!”, complete with the eye bulge, slack-jaw, blank stare that accompany this universal state of brain-pretzel. So how do you do that?

Easy. Just do the opposite of what they currently expect from you. If you’re as neat as a pin, slosh a bit of water on the floor while slinging a bucketful around your head, asking them what they know about g-force and physics. If you’re shy about electricity, poke a paperclip and a penny into a juicy lemon and ask them to stick their tongue on both contacts, because you’re not sure what will happen.

Get and do things that are different enough to get their brain pumping and to put the fun back into it for you, too. If you’re planning to demonstrate the reaction of baking soda and vinegar (which produces carbon dioxide gas, the same stuff you exhale), first ask your kid, “Have you ever burped before?”

The second key: Never give away the ending.

How often in textbooks or classrooms have you seen this one? Every detail in the project is outlined step-by-step, leaving no room for questions, speculation, or new ideas. No scientist in their right mind will design, set up, and execute a scientific experiment if they already know the ending!

This mistake often has the undertone of being in a rush. Learning takes time, and it needs to go through different stages to make a lasting impression. Just as a farmer can’t plant crops too late in the season, then try to rush them to grow, certain aspects of learning takes time.

For real learning that lasts, your child needs to focus on activities that allow the natural process of discovery, wonder, and exploration. During this process, questions formulate, ideas flow, and true learning takes place from the inside out. Short-cutting this process (by outlining exactly what to do and how to do it) will kill your child’s passion for science, which is defined as “the effort to discover and understand how the physical world works”.

When a kid asks, “Do you think this will work?” remember that it’s just a test. What they’re really asking is, “Can I try it?” To which you can confidently answer, “I don’t know. Try it!”

To continue our example of the baking-soda-and-vinegar reaction: After you’ve asked your child about burping, show them the chemical reaction and ask them about the bubbles they see rising out of the cup. (Solid, liquid, or gas?) Then casually ask, “What if we do this again, but this time put the lid on?”

These keys apply to many other subjects in their own way. Few of us ever had a class or mentor to teach us how to teach, or how to make the biggest impact on a child’s education. Do whatever you have to in order to do it right. Read books, get online courses, find a mentor, get a good educational coach, and model a successful teacher.

E-Camp? What a great idea!

As a geek family, we are always finding innovative ways to learn. It’s even better when it turns out that we don’t have to spend any money to utilize the resource. Such is the case with the resource I just saw posted on the Time4Learning Facebook page!

This one is for a science e-camp that I can totally see my kids getting excited about. Supercharged Science is hosting this e-camp. There will be videos and science experiments that our kids should be able to do independently while learning about things like electricity and physics. Don’t worry, I’m sure our children will not be standing out in lightening storms with a kite and a key!

Registration starts May 15th but you can get added to their early registration list. They will then e-mail you a link for registration when it opens.

By the way, I’d like to say what a fantastic idea e-camps are!!

Can Technology Help People With Autism?

As the mother of a child on the spectrum and as a person on the spectrum myself, this is a subject that piques my interest. Many kids who have autism are unable to speak. Others who are higher functioning have trouble expressing their emotions and/or understanding the facial expressions of the people around them.

Autism Speaks in conjunction with Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism have launched an initiative to develop free apps to help people on the autism spectrum. They are calling this initiative Hacking Autism. Their first app is called Mihi. It is a simple app for iOS that helps kids relate their feelings. There are more apps (some free and some not) available on their site.

There are more organizations that are working to make life easier for people with ASD. A simple web search brought up this Autism Resources site. Here’s a link to yet another site, Technology for Autism Now.

One of the best ways that children on the spectrum learn is through interactive lessons. There are a lot of ways to accomplish this type of learning but my favorite is Time4Learning.

Thanks to technologies like these, I can see a bright future for my son and others with ASD!