As a homeschool mom, I’m often looking for ways to mix things up for my kids so it doesn’t get boring. Our Amazon Echo is often playing music or keeping track of our grocery list for us from our homeschool room, but when I realized how many educational skills for Alexa there were, I was floored. Wow, I’ve been missing such an opportunity!
So, starting tomorrow my kids’ homeschool routine is going to start with a little “morning time,” just like it would in a traditional classroom. Alexa might be giving us a fun science fact, a new word of the day, or drilling us on some math facts before we dive into our books. Maybe we’ll even engage in some friendly quiz competition to see who gets to pick what we have for lunch!
If you’re ready to get started too, here are 20 educational Alexa skills for homeschooling.
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When you start the Math Facts skill you can choose from addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Once you get five answers correct, you’ll get a little fun celebration. This skill is best for very early learners, as you can’t customize which facts to drill (for example, you can’t specify the 6 times table) and many reviewers say the questions are pretty easy.
Math Mountain is a more challenging math quiz game. You’re given 7 questions that range from addition and subtraction to ratios and percentages. One wrong answer, and you lose the game. But you’re given three lifelines to help you climb the mountain successfully. One fun feature is that it will record your high scores for a month, so you can check each day to see your ranking.
1-2-3 Math asks kids addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication questions at easy, medium, and hard levels. You get one point for each correct answer, and if you need to take a break and come back then the game will save your progress. It keeps track of your scores and ranking, but the scores reset every day.
In The Queen’s Mathematician, a game designed for kids ages 6-8, students need to use their math skills to rescue the kidnapped queen. It combines math fact drills but also asks students to solve word problems, stretching them just a bit more than some of these other skills do.
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If your child is fascinated by what’s happening in outer space, then enable the NASA Breaking News skill, which will give quick, brief updates on what’s new in the world of space exploration. Another fun NASA skill is the NASA Mars feature, which can tell you exactly what the Curiosity rover is doing at the moment or answer general questions about Mars, like why it’s red.
The Animal Game skill is a little more fun than educational, but it’s a great way to give the kids a little break without totally losing their attention. Your child can choose an animal and play a 20-questions style game, getting Alexa to guess it. At the end of each round, she’ll give you fun facts about animals. If your kid is an animal lover, this could be a fun way to start science each day.
The Curiosity Daily briefing gives you an under 10-minute briefing on science, technology, and life hacks. Topics range from outer space, deep sea life, anatomy, and more. This is best for older kids with a longer attention span or kids who are really, really into science-y stuff.
Related: 44 cool things you can do with the Amazon Echo: From productive time-savers to just plain fun
English Language Arts
Bamboo Books is a fantastic app to help kids develop their reading comprehension skills by listening to stories then remembering details later during a Q & A section following the story. If you have Fire tablet, you can turn it on first then ask Alexa to run the story in show mode and read along with visuals as you listen! This is a fantastic tool for emerging readers.
If you’re looking for more support on the technical side of English, then Bamboo English is perfect for kids ages 5-11. Its word games cover vocab, grammar, spelling and phonics in addition to reading (but we recommend Bamboo Books more for reading comprehension support). If you have a big family, you’ll love that you can customize up to 6 profiles for each child to learn at their own pace.
I love the creative storyplay behind Master Swords, a spelling game for kids of all ages. It goes like this: your uncle’s sword has been stolen, and you have to defeat a host of fantastical bad guys (goblins, orcs, zombies, and more) by spelling words correctly because, “words are your greatest weapon.” (Yes they are, kids.) The three levels—easy, tricky, and masterful—make the game playable for young elementary age kids up to adults.
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Amazon Storytime is a collection of more than 100 stories targeted for kids ages 5-12. You can choose the Audible feature (which is a single narrator) or the Amazon Rapids feature (which is a cast performing the story). You can request a new LEGO story or an interactive Ripley’s Believe It or Not story, or just one that’s funny, silly, or sad. Just remember: if you’re using this one at bedtime, set the timer. It will read one story after another until you tell it to stop.
If you’re ready to test your vocabulary, check out the Word Game skill. This is a player vs. player game that challenges your word knowledge. There are different types of games, from scrambles like “What 4-letter word describes a jungle king: N-L-O-I?” (Lion is the answer, obviously.) It’s a little harder to hear it than see it though!
For your teens who are starting to think ahead to standardized tests, the SAT Word of the Day skill will give them one challenging vocabulary word each day with the definition, spelling, and usage in a sentence. Even those of us who aren’t cramming for the test but just want to expand our vocabulary can use this too.
The Magoosh Vocabulary Builder was created by experts who prep students for the ACT, SAT, GMAT and GRE tests, so you can rest assured the words you’ll get quizzed on here are ones you need to know. I like that this one, instead of just being a “word of the day” type alert, actually helps you progress through levels as you study.
History, Geography & Civics
One downside to some Alexa skills is that the content tends to repeat, but we love that National Geographic Geo Quiz adds 6 new geography questions every single day. It has a mix of easy and challenging questions, so it might be better to have your older and younger kids team up to work together to answer them.
In the Kids News skill, you’ll get a very short and sweet news story updated each day that’s appropriate for kids. It might be an update about a new zoo installment or a new Star Wars movie or a fun science discovery. They’re definitely on the lighter side (and might be considered fluff) but they’re kid-appropriate and read in Alexa’s voice.
If you say, “Alexa, what happened on this day in history,” the This Day in History skill will give you a fun update provided by the History channel. You can also ask about specific dates, in case you want to know what happened on your birthday or some other important date for your family.
The History channel’s Ultimate HISTORY Quiz game tests your knowledge with three daily questions about a wide range of historical topics, from ancient history to world wars to US presidents and more. You can upgrade and buy new packs of 50 questions in the app.
Britannica’s Guardians of History is an engaging, historical romp through history, as you go on a time-traveling mission to Ancient Greece to stop time from unraveling. You’ll experience many different historical periods in a exciting storytelling format while also solving challenges and problems in each one. It reminds of those old Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books meets Encyclopedia Brown.
If your kids are working on learning their state or world capitals, then the State Capital Game or World Capitals Quiz will help them drill their facts without you around. Don’t worry, they’ll only think Alexa is more fun than you are for a little bit.
Could you please consider doing something like this for Google home devices?
Great idea, thanks Lisa! – Eds
Oh my gosh, Thank you thank you thank you. This is very useful information. I appreciate you reminding us all to think outside the normal box. Just goes to show we never stop learning.