Without a doubt, my very favorite subjects to teach are history and geography. Ben would probably say he prefers science, but that’s only when we’re doing hands-on science experiments. If we are reading great books, watching educational videos, or dressing up in character, the focus is almost always on history. And, of course, the study of history always leads to the study of geography. They simply and beautifully go hand in hand.
I will warn you that our iPad and Kindle Fire are filled with apps for these subjects. Some were free, some were not, but if I list them here, they are among our favorites and get used quite often.
From historical timelines and maps, to fun games and activities to reinforce learning, the options for learning more about history and geography with your iPad are endless. Not every app is created equal though. Expensive doesn’t always mean high quality, and free doesn’t always mean low quality. We have purchased apps that were a dud and downloaded free apps that get the most use of all.
I hope that the following list will encourage you to use your iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch for a fun, hands-on way to inspire your students.
Wonders of Old Timelines Ancient, Medieval, New World, and Modern World — iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($4.99 each) It is a proven fact that timelines help cement historical facts for students and adults alike. Seeing the progression of time in the form of a timeline will allow your student to gain a better understanding of the flow of history. Maps are included so that students can see where events happened as well.
Timeline Builder — iPad ($6.99) Timeline Builder is a unique and robust app that allows the user to create custom timelines with beginning and ending dates of their choosing, adding events where they want with the ability to manipulate image size and placement. TimelineBuilder is ideal for children, teens and families studying any time period in history, science or literature. It is ideal for genealogists to record family lines and progression; for project managers, marketers or any other professional that needs to keep a running timeline of events.
Presidents vs. Aliens — iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($0.99) Presidents vs. Aliens makes learning about the presidents fun! As you learn presidential facts, quotes, nicknames and historical events, you can use your knowledge to help the presidents defeat the aliens. Fling the presidents at the aliens to knock them all down. Use the many special objects and “Executive Powers” to increase the fun!
Early Jamestown — iPad (Free) An interactive textbook exploration of the early days of the Jamestown settlement and the state of Virginia. Enjoy the rich interactive graphics and the engrossing story of a key moment in the history of the United States. Embedded videos chronicle the beginnings of the Jamestown Settlement, the first permanent English colony in North America. Clicking on key words provides definitions and pronunciation for academic vocabulary used in the text.
Embedded assessments allowing students to check their understanding.
Word of the Day delivers an 18th-century word and definition each day. Work words like “tippling” and “allarums” into conversation and delight your friends.
Photo of the Day displays a photo from the restored Historic Area. Linger over elegant landscapes and intimate details in this daily snapshot taken by our staff photographers.
Fact of the Day shares things you never knew and things you’ve forgotten about 18th-century history. Facts from daily life and national politics shine a new light on the colonial era.
Today in the 1770s pulls from the headlines of 200 years ago. Check each day for a news item either mundane or momentous and keep up with the pace of 18th-century Williamsburg.
American Civil War Gazette — Kindle Fire (Free) With the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War upon us, this simple app and widget will unfold the news headlines and events of the war in real time, on the anniversary of their occurrence. This app re-creates the experience of what it would have been like to read headlines and news stories unfolding day-by-day, much as the BBC or New York Times widgets do for news today. American Civil War Gazette incorporates articles from both Northern and Southern newspapers. However, with the advantage of hindsight ACW Gazette attempts to have the stories appear on the date (and time where possible) of the actual events rather than on the actual date of publication, which often was several days after the actual event. The app offers multiple stories each day; the widget is live and updates every 30 minutes.
*United Kingdom history
Knowledge Quest Map Trek Ancient World ($7.99) Map Trek: Ancient World mobile application is a historical atlas and geography encyclopedia in one. Map Trek allows you to teach geography alongside history. This is a resource that any parent or student can use with brilliant success, even if you don’t remember a thing from your history or geography classes in school.
Stack the States — iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($1.99) Stack the States makes learning about the 50 states fun! Watch the states actually come to life in this colorful and dynamic game! As you learn state capitals, shapes, geographic locations and more, you can actually touch, move and drop the animated states anywhere on the screen. Carefully build a stack of states that reaches the checkered line to win each level. You earn a random state for every successfully completed level. All of your states appear on your own personalized map of the United States. Try to collect all 50! As you earn more states, you begin to unlock the three free bonus games: Pile Up, Puzzler and Capital Drop. Four games in one!
Stack the Countries — iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($1.99) Stack the Countries makes learning about the world fun! Watch the countries actually come to life in this colorful and dynamic game! As you learn country capitals, landmarks, geographic locations and more, you can actually touch, move and drop the animated countries anywhere on the screen. Carefully build a stack of countries that reaches the checkered line to win each level. You earn a random country for every successfully completed level. All of your countries appear on your own personalized maps of the continents. Try to collect all 193! As you earn more countries, you begin to unlock the free bonus games: Map It! and Pile Up! Three games in one!
Learn the World — iPad ($1.99) Take the ultimate trip around the world while engaging in brilliant, animated activities to test your knowledge of world country maps and statistics. Learn the World is a fun, new and creative app that will expand your understanding of World Geography through highly educational activities and fact exploration.
Kids Maps — iPad ($1.99) Kindle Fire ($1.99) This app is great for your younger kids, preschool-2nd grade — Kids Maps makes geography fun for kids with interactive map puzzles. This app features a puzzle map of the United States, with fun facts for each state. Your little geographer must drag the state shape to its correct place on the map. Kids Map features colorful graphics, easy-to-use drag & drop functionality, and encouraging messages for kids. This app helps kids develop hand-eye coordination along with color and shape recognition skills. They’ll also learn the state abbreviations. A hint system points kids in the right direction, and states can appear in alphabetical order or randomly. A guided tutorial helps kids learn how to use the interface.
GeoBee Challenge — iPad HD ($1.99) iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch ($1.99) Kindle Fire ($1.99) Do you have what it takes to be the next National Geographic Bee Champion? Find out the fun way with GeoBee Challenge. Explore the world while testing your smarts. Now bigger and better…with beautiful maps from National Geographic.
• Multiple Choice Round: Answers come from a library of more than 1,300 National Geographic Bee questions.
• Map Challenge Round: Zoom, pinch, and tap your way to find spots on an interactive map from a catalog of 1,000+ locations.
• Bonus Rounds: Include compelling National Geographic photographs where you have to locate what’s in the photo on the interactive map…only we don’t tell you where the photo was taken or what is in the picture!
Google Earth — iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch (Free) Ben’s favorite app ever! Fly around the planet with a swipe of your finger with Google Earth. Explore distant lands or reacquaint yourself with your childhood home. Search for cities, places, and businesses. Browse layers including roads, borders, places, photos and more. Visit the Earth Gallery to find exciting maps such as real-time earthquakes, planes in flight, hiking trails, city tours, and more. Use the new “tour guide” to easily discover exciting new places to explore. With a quick swipe on the tab at the bottom of the screen, you can bring up a selection of virtual tours from around the globe. With new 3D imagery, you can now fly through complete 3D recreations of select cities, including San Francisco, Boston, Rome, and others. With every building modeled in 3D, you truly get a sense of flying above the city.
National Geographic World Atlas — iPad ($0.99) Unlike other map applications, the National Geographic World Atlas HD utilizes our highest resolution, press-ready images, providing you the same rich detail, accuracy, and artistic beauty found in our award-winning wall maps and bound atlases. The app is preloaded with 3 different styles of world maps, down to country-level detail. With an internet connection, you can continue zooming through continent-level maps into detailed Microsoft Bing maps – close enough to see your home!
I hope you find at least some of these apps useful for your own homeschool. Since most of them are free for the downloading, you won’t lose anything by giving them a try.