Agnitus ipad App


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We’ve been using the Agnitus App a while – since last year sometime.  It’s basically a touch enabled fun educational app for kids aged 2-7.  It used to be free but just when it was getting good they suddenly went subscription only.  Anyway we subscribed.  There are a lot of apps out there but what I liked about Agnitus (I’m getting to the things I don’t like or don’t understand) are the fact that there are lots of different very interesting educational ‘games’ within the app and these keep updating either to new levels or replaced by apps that keep pace with my son’s development, knowledge and skills.  They are very relatable with bright colours, sweet cartoons and a friendly learning buddy ‘Icky’.   I can also monitor his usage in my spare time – see where his time has been spent, see how he compares to other children and how well he ‘tests’ at these games. I can edit his collection of apps if I think he is just doing the ‘easy’ ones.  I don’t do that though. For instance I can see my son overwhelmingly prefers maths – over 350 minutes spent across all apps, 250 of those minutes went just on maths.  The categories change but include things like literacy, balance, memory, spatial awareness, quantity, daily routines, visual scanning (whatever that means). My son is really above average at visual scanning.  Proud!  Maybe this means he’ll be good at looking for bacteria under a microscope!

Who knew visual scanning would take me all the way to Harvard!

Who knew visual scanning would take me all the way to Harvard!

Which brings me to the things I don’t like about Agnitus.  They grade your child!  My three year old son spent 1 minute on science and got a C. Really? In a whole 1 minute?  I guess they are appealing to every kind of parent, not my kind.  Also I’m highly skeptical about Agnitus’ ability to teach skills.  I’m not an expert though.  The tagline used to be ‘Agnitus, games for learning’. Now it just says ‘Agnitus’.  Perhaps some regulatory body questioned its claims to teach.  For example  the tracing letters exercise which my son aced, brought him no closer to tracing letters in the real world.  If fact, it may have built some resistance as tracing was a lot easier on the iPad requiring less finger exertion.  Muscle strength in the hands is a huge part of fine motor skills so its not a small thing.  Likewise, he found it quite easy to treat Agnitus like a video game  and ‘score’ with random hits and also just enjoyed treating it as game not actually thinking about the content.  – ignore the creepy lobotomised mom video intro!


But I have stuck with it because it is somewhat educational and it does interest him and it may give me a half an hour to do something else.  As he has gotten older – he’s almost four, I’ve noticed him using it more and more as an educational tool than a dartboard.  We do some games together and he is better at some of them than I am!  I think it has reinforced things I have taught him and perhaps even added to what he knows, although he still treats it as a game and so scores lower than I think his actual knowledge deserves.  It is also showing me where his self directed exploration takes him and that reinforces what I choose to do in homeschool.  It has shown me we can do a lot more with maths and shapes because this sort of thing he really likes but literacy and anything to do with handwriting has to be a lot more fun because he’s not so naturally inclined this way.  He loves reading though and loves being read to by the Agnitus talking books.

I’m not sure what else is out there that might have more value for money but I think I will stick with it because it really suits my needs as a homeschooler who already spends a lot of time ‘teaching’ my son 1-2-1. I don’t feel guilty about this screen time and it seems to be becoming more beneficial as time goes on.  I’m a little excited to see how the app keeps pace with my 4, 5 even 6 year old son.  The signs are good.



Phonics – the jolly way or the hard way

I confess I am easily influenced, so when I heard Amaru’s peers in nursery were doing phonics I ran out and bought this.


Learn to read in 20 easy lessons – yeah sure – if you’re an older child maybe but my three year old wasn’t having any of it and we did it every day for a few months and then I just let it go. He was very cooperative and would happily recite but he didn’t really get it. After every lesson it was back to square one. It wasn’t just that it wasn’t working but it wasn’t very child friendly. A huge book with black and white pages with letters on them and the odd graphic.

So I left it for a few months and then I ordered the Jolly Phonics system.


It was expensive but sometimes you get what you pay for – in this case a little valise full of fab workbooks, a story book, a dvd songbook, a video, a games CD, a phonics poster and there may have been a toy or some pencils or something too. Anyway every time I take out this valise, my son almost wets himself with excitement. It’s really something to see. He will beg to do these phonics all day long. The activities he will want to do again and again. One which was decorating an ‘S’ – we used sssand- and he had to do this 4 different times. Its the kind of thing that also engages my 20 month old. He doesn’t get that it’s phonics, he just enjoys colouring, singing, reading etc.

So no idea if he’ll be reading soon or not but jolly is the operative word. Even I’m having fun! If you buy this new, photocopy all the pages as you move through the book so you can resell it later or reuse it with a younger child. Note: this is British phonics. If we all had American accents I might have tried hooked on phonics.

To Train Up a Child

I was a little surprised at the controversy over this book and I’m almost afraid to mention it because I know it evokes strong emotions in parents.



I think I wasn’t shocked by anything in the book because I came from a family where physical chastisement was normal.  Sometimes it was unproductive and sometimes went a little too far – but that’s where I felt this book was good as it talks about how to discipline children in a way that isn’t lashing out in anger with whatever happens to be within arm’s reach and to really think about the whole sphere of discipline before it gets to physical chastisement.  I actually have found parts of  this book useful for disciplining my kids.

I can see how it could encourage child abuse – it depends on your interpretation. I think it goes too far in parts and potentially the tone is irresponsible as many parents are stupid, abusers and/or looking for a way to parent that doesn’t involve love, time, attention and thought.

This book isn’t for everyone but disciplining your children is a very personal and private topic.  I think the scrutiny and challenge this book has received has also been a good thing.  Children are vulnerable and in our evolved societies we should be looking out for their best interests.

Mudpies to Magnets – science curriculum


I’ve just started with Mudpies to Magnets and my first experiment failed to deliver so I’m not sure about some of these ideas.

we didn't win the Nobel Prize this year...

our air machine didn’t win the Nobel Prize this year…

Some are also very prep heavy or unsuitable  when you have an 18 month old running around.  However there are a lot of experiments in here (more than you could ever use)  so you won’t be lost for ideas and some of them will work I’m sure. Even my failed experiment generated an interesting conversation and so was not   in vain.  Plus it has a range of ages up to 5 so plenty of usage will be had I’m sure.

Selfish Reasons to have more Kids and other books about genetics



So… I’m obsessed about genetics.  I don’t know how this happened. I just watch my kids growing and become fascinated about who they are becoming and how I’m affecting that.  Selfish Reasons to have kids argues that I’m really not affecting their destiny as much as I thought.  That took the wind out of my sails a little. I mean homeschool is hard, you like to think you’re having an impact.  Since reading this book I’ve had to rethink my intentions a bit and make sure I’m still working on and improving my own life alongside homeschooling because if I can’t stop making it about them becoming x, y or z. this ship has sunk before its even left port. Oh and great book – although I STILL DON’T BELIEVE YOU!


Another book on genetics I’m still reading is The Son Also Rises – Surnames and the History of Social Mobility


What I find very interesting about this book is again the impact genes have on social mobility.  As my husband keeps assuring me – it’s all much of a muchness – but  I believe he thinks this way because he’s a Warrior not a Worrier.  This is another genetics book that blew me away – all about gender behaviour.  Mothers are just programmed to worry more about stuff that doesn’t matter.


If you know of anymore fascinating books about behavioural genetics, holler at your girl!



The Triple Package


Not obviously relevant to homeschoolers but living in a foreign country with kids who are mixed ethnically and culturally I find myself thinking a lot more about culture, race and ethnicity in the context of raising my kids.   The Triple Package  is a very thought provoking read, I’ve made reference to it more than once in my blogging here.  When you become responsible for your child’s education you start to think about what you want the end result to be,  what success is and what kind of person your child will grow up to be. It’s made me think a lot about these questions – things you just don’t have to think about so much when you send your child to school.

Amy Chua’s first book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ was pretty engrossing too.

Singapore Maths -Essential Math Kindergarten A




I’ve only just started using this Singapore Math workbook with my 3 year old but we both really love it! I have to pace ourselves so we don’t turn a good thing bad.  Never thought I’d say that about a math book but what I like is that rather than teaching what I’ve always understood to be ‘math’ (i.e rote learning and intimidating numbers) it engages young children with patterns, puzzles and activities to develop their understanding of mathematical principles. It encourages conversation rather than demanding ‘the right answer’.

Learn & Grow Curriculum



Don’t be fooled by the cheapo artwork. I’ve been using this for the past year and for the price (about $30) it’s been wonderful!

Learn & Grow covers the whole school year with a full day’s lesson for every weekday. It takes into account seasons and special events in the American calendar.

I don’t use it everyday but its a great backbone when you don’t have time to think of a lesson plan. The only drawback is some of the materials can be hard to get hold of  – especially if you don’t have access to the internet or an American toystore but for some this may be an advantage as coming without materials that you may not even need/use means it’s cheaper.  Great value for money and a lifesaver for me!

My homeschool bookshelf

I’ve been meaning to post my homeschool bookshelf for a while now and it hasn’t happened. Mostly because my bookshelf looks like this…


I can never remember/find any books!  I’m working on a more efficient bookshelf!  My books are increasingly online too.   The problem is that levy on imported furniture is so high you have to get most things made and carpenters here are like plumbers,  they earn so much they are difficult to pin down.


But I have over the past year read and accumulated many books that have been helpful to my lil homeschool.  I hope they are useful to you too.  You certainly don’t need a lot of books by the way. I think I just like reading.  I’ll try to add reviews as I go on. Feel free to add your comments too!