Homeschooling with Google Slides

Homeschooling with Google Slides

Episode 7: Homeschooling with Google Slides

Google Slides offers all benefits of Google Drive apps like easy collaboration and access anywhere you have wifi. Listen to episode 2 on Google Drive for more info on all the Google Drive apps.

Some features of Google Slides

Google Drive does have fewer features than many of the slideshow programs available, but it should be able to do everything you and your children need it to do. Here are some features I often use:

  • Import from other slideshow programs like Powerpoint and Keynote
  • Download in powerpoint format or as a pdf
  • Create animations
  • Insert videos
  • Instert shapes and lines
  • Create transitions from one slide to the next

    Start teaching your children to use it in a simple way when they are in elementary school.

    It is easy to figure out how to use Google Slides, but if you would rather your children learn it as part of a course, FundaFunda Academy (the sponsors of this podcast) offers 2 classes that include a module on Google Slides.

    They have a 4 module unit study web-based unit study on all the Google drive apps as well as a full year (1 credit) Computer Applications class, both which include a module on Google Slides.

    When your children are ready to go further with Google Slides, here are some more ideas.

    1. Turn the slides into a video

    To do this add the voiceover extension and when you are done choose to “publish on the web”. Now you will have a video to share with others

    2. Create graphic-heavy documents

    Google Slides is ideal to make simple flyers and posters. First, change the document size (Go to “File” – “Page Setup” – “Custom” and then enter 8.5 X 11 or whatever size you need). When you are done, download the slide as a png, jpg, or vector file.

    3. Produce Timelines

    Select “Insert diagram” and then “Timeline”

    4. Create comic strips

    Make a table with the number of rows and columns you want. Then use callout shapes to make your comic strip.

    5. Make Infographics

    Find icons from places like the Noun Project

    6. Write “Choose your own adventure stories”

    You can do this really easily by creating links that go from one slide to another. And of course, it is easy to add graphics and videos so all students will enjoy a creative writing project like this. You can also use it instead of a more typical written project in any subject.

    If you found this useful, please subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

    Contact Meryl via email on or connect with her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

    Homeschooling with Google Slides

Homeschooling with Google Forms

Homeschooling with Google Forms

Episode 6: Homeschooling with Google Forms

Google Forms is great for moms (and dads) to use it to create self-graded quizzes and for surveys. You could use it to collect responses to questions like “what field trip your homeschool group might most want to go on”, and “which date works best”.

But it is even more useful for your children to use.

It is easy to figure out how to use Google Forms, but if you would rather your children learn it as part of a course, FundaFunda Academy (the sponsors of this podcast) offers 2 classes that include a module on Google Forms.

They have a 4 module unit study web-based unit study on all the Google drive apps as well as a full year (1 credit) Computer Applications class, both which include a module on Google Forms.

How your children can use Google Forms

Google Forms are great for students to use for research projects. They allow students to learn how to

  • design good questions without bias
  • do data collection and analysis
  • validate the data people enter
  • decide on the population sample they will send it to

Although you want your high school students to be able to do all these things, you can start introducing your younger children to Google Forms and just use some of the features. Sit with your elementary age children and together create a simple survey to send to family and friends. This will help them learn what to do and as a result, they will be ready to do it on their own by high school.

Some of the features of Google Forms they should learn to use

  • Design the form – There are some basic selections of colors, fonts etc
  • Question type – What type of question will be most appropriate (multiple choice, checkbox, sliding scales, choose from a list, text or grid)
  • Validation – Must the field be required? Is there a range that respondents should be limited to? A specific format of the answer should take?
  • Branching dependent on previous answers – Google Forms allows one to specify different paths dependent on what has already been entered
  • Summary of response – this provides all the answers to each question including graphs where appropriate
  • Export to Google Sheets (click on green button on the response page) – In Google Sheets they can now manipulate the data to obtain statistics, more graphs and charts etc.

Be sure to incorporate Google Forms into your homeschool so that your children learn how to conduct online surveys. Help them send it out to an appropriate sample of people. And teach them how to interpret and manipulate the data they collect.

If you found this useful, please subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

Contact Meryl via email on or connect with her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

Homeschooling with Google Forms

A Techie History Contest

A techie history contest

Episode 5: A Techie History Contest


National History Day is one of my favorite contests because it combines 2 things I love – history and technology.

Our show sponsor, FundaFunda Academy also combines these two in their web-based unit studies on World War 2. These are delivered online, use online resources and incorporate techie projects. Until Friday 26th October, you can enter a giveaway to win two web-based unit studies.

An overview of National History Day

National History Day begins at the school level, but usually, homeschoolers can bypass this and go straight to the regional contest. The winners of that move on to the state competition and those winners attend the National History Day Contest in Washington DC during the summer.

National History Day is for students in 6th through 12th grade, but the information in this episode will also be useful for parents with younger students.

The contest always has a theme – this year it is Triumph & Tragedy in History. Within that theme, students can select any topic that fits. It can cover American or World History.

There are 2 parts to the contest: research and presentation. Both of these contain techie elements.


Students need to gather a variety of source material, both primary and secondary sources. At the regional level, I suggest they have at least 15 – 20 different sources.

Some places they can find sources are:

  • the library: students need to learn to find books in their local library and also how to request books from interlibrary loans
  • the library website: you will be amazed at the resources you get free online with a library membership. You are likely to get Kanopy (a video streaming website with thousands of documentaries), newspaper archives, databases and digital collections.
  • online search: this is a good opportunity to make sure your children know how to search effectively and how to identify credible sources. Also show them Google Scholar, a search tool, which filters only academic sources
  • Library of Congress website
  • Experts in the field: teach your children to craft a professional email to ask experts about the topic

Once students have a number of sources, they need to learn how to use online tools like Easybib to create a bibliography and citations.


After students have done their research, they must choose one of 5 different presentation categories. They can work alone or in a group.

1. Paper

While presenting the research as a paper isn’t very high tech, students will need to use a word processor, know how to do a word count, correctly lay out the paper etc.

2. Performance

Once again word processing skills will be needed to produce the script and bibliography.

3. Exhibit

In this category, the visual appearance of the text is important. Students will also need to use fonts and colors well. Exhibits are created on trifold boards.

4. Website

Students use Weebly to create websites for the National History Day contest. They will need to know how to use hyperlinks, insert interactive elements, upload files, and include videos.

5. Documentary

Students can use any video editing software (including whatever comes free on their computer) to create a documentary on the topic. This category will stretch a student’s techie skills as they need to know how to edit video and audio, insert photos and provide their own narration.

You will find a LOT of help on the National History Day website, and you are also welcome to reach out to me. All my own children participated in this contest and 3 of them reached the National level. A number of my students have achieved this as well.

If you found this useful, please subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

Contact Meryl via email on or connect with her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

A Techie History Contest

Special Thanks to Our Network Sponsor – Change is in the Air Movie

This story embraces the imperfections that make us human, offers a way to set ourselves free and asks us all to take a good, long look at the wild birds in the sky.

Watch the trailer here!

Homeschooling with Google Docs

Homeschooling with Google Docs

Episode 4: Homeschooling with Google Docs

If you are new to Google Drive be sure to listen to episodes 2 (Homeschooling with Google Drive) and 3 (Homeschooling with Google Sheets) which will give some context to what is covered in this episode – Homeschooling with Google Docs.

Google Docs is a spreadsheet program and I love using it.

One reason I love it, is that it is good to use when I am collaborating with others on something. You might be wanting to collaborate with other homeschool moms, or you might be working on something with your children. I have planned trips together with my kids using Google Docs.

If you work together on a Google Doc you know that everyone is accessing the same version. Once you share the document with others, you don’t have to email the latest file to each other. You automatically have the latest one!

My favorite way to use Google Docs in our homeschool was to get my children to use it for their essays and other assignments.

There are a number of benefits to getting your children to use Google Docs:

  • Children need to learn how to use a word processor as this is what they will use in college and the workplace
  • Google Docs is easy to learn to use
  • All work is saved automatically
  • It is easy to go back to previous versions
  • If your children don’t have great handwriting, this is much easier to read than a handwritten paper!
  • You can make comments right in the document which your children can read and then make changes

How to learn to use Google Docs

Google Docs is easy enough to learn just by clicking around the menu options.

However, if you would like your children to have more formal training, our show sponsor, FundaFunda Academy, offers a 2-semester Computer Applications online class (worth a full high school credit) and also a 4 module Google Drive Unit Study. The latter includes a module on Google Docs.

Some favorite features of Google Docs

Under ‘File’

  • You can choose to save the document in a variety of formats including docx (WordPress) and pdf

Under ‘Edit’

  • find and replace makes it easy to change a word or phrase used repeatedly in a document

Under ‘Insert’

  • you can insert images / tables / charts (but graphic heavy presentations are easy to do in Google Slides)
  • headers / footers for each page

Under ‘Format’

  • you can create columns

Under ‘Tools’

  • Voice to Text
  • spelling checker
  • word count

Under ‘Add-ons’

  • Easy Bib – creates citations automatically once you input info about your source
  • You can also add many others including a thesaurus, a rhyme finder and one that provides the text of Bible verses

If you found this useful, please subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

Contact Meryl via email on or connect with her on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook.

Homeschooling with Google Docs

Homeschooling with Google Sheets

Homeschooling with google sheets

Episode 3: Homeschooling with Google Sheets

Google Sheets is one of the Google Drive apps and if you aren’t familiar with all the benefits of those apps, listen to my previous episode. In this episode, you will learn some of the applications for Google sheets in your homeschool.

Google Sheets is more limited than many spreadsheet programs – which is actually a good thing if you or your children are just starting to use them. Google Sheets is nice and easy to learn to use.

Learning to use Google Sheets

This podcast is sponsored by FundaFunda Academy and they have a web-based unit study on all the Google drive apps which includes a module on Google Sheets. It is aimed at 6th – 12th grade, but parents can learn alongside their children!

You can also use the “Help” in Google Sheets or find videos on Youtube to show you what to do.

So, I will leave you to learn the basics on your own, and in this episode, I am just going to give you ideas on how you can use Google Sheets in your homeschool.

A fun way to start out: Battleships

To start with, you can practice using Google sheets by playing a game of Battleships against your child (or get 2 of your children to play against each other). Each will need a computer. You can follow the instructions here:

Spreadsheets are essentially rows and columns and are really great to use for

  1. Lists: spelling lists, sign up sheets etc
  2. Tables: create weekly schedules with daily activities / chores
  3. Calculating totals: as you add / change value, totals are magically adjusted. Use it for
    • Tracking community service hours for your children
    • Budgeting for you and your children
    • Trip planning
    • Homeschool curriculum purchasing planning / Christmas shopping planning
    • Rewards system/payment for chores etc

Other things to know about Google Sheets


  • In Google sheets, one can use formulas and functions. This can be helpful for students to be familiar with before they learn to program
  • Click on Explore at the bottom right corner of a page in Google Sheets, highlight some cells containing data, and you will be provided with statistics and also graphs!
  • All the information collected from Google Forms is stored in Google Sheets making it easy to manipulate

If you found this useful, please subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.


Special Thanks to Our Network Sponsor – Change is in the Air Movie

This story embraces the imperfections that make us human, offers a way to set ourselves free and asks us all to take a good, long look at the wild birds in the sky.

Watch the trailer here!

Homeschooling with Google Sheets

Homeschooling with Google Drive

Homeschooling with google drive

Episode 2: Homeschooling with Google Drive

In this episode, you will learn what Google Drive is, why you should be using it and how to use it in your homeschool.

What is Google Drive?

Google Drive is essentially an online filing system. In addition, it is integrated with a number of apps which makes it even more powerful. You do need a Google account to use it. You can find it at

Why use Google Drive?

  1. You get 15GB free storage to use across Google Drive, Photos and Gmail
  2. You can sync it to your other devices
  3. It provides an way to transfer large files between people. When my online students create videos that are too big to submit in the Learning Management System we use, I tell them to upload to Google Drive and then share the link
  4. It is easy to share files. Just click on the share button and either use enter an email to share with a specific person or provide them with the link. The latter method is useful if you want to share something with a large number of people
  5. Storing files on Google Drive frees up space on your hard drive
  6. All the Google Drive apps include an autosave feature which means you can’t lose you work if you forget to save
  7. The Google Drive apps make collaboration between people easy. It is very easy to work together on a document. My high school children and I would share documents we kept updated with their activities and achievements so either of us could update it.
  8. The Google Drive apps allow you to recover earlier versions of your documents. Just to the right of “help” at the top of the screen, you will see “All changes stored in drive” or “last edit made on …”. Just click on that and in the righthand side of your screen you will see all your versions and you can choose the one you want to revert to.
  9. Changing the content of a shared document or file means that everyone with access to the file automatically has the latest version
  10. It is in the cloud so you can access it anywhere you have internet. You don’t need your own device. You can log in on anyone’s computer to access your files.

What are the Google Drive Apps?

How to organize your files in Google Drive

Just as with a physical filing system, you can create folders. And then you can create folders within folders. You could have one folder for “School”. Under that folder, you could have a folder for each child. And in each child’s folder, you could have folders for each subject.

Once you have high schoolers you can add a college folder which has more sub-folders for information about colleges, one for scholarships, one for the documents needed to submit to the applications. You just need to find a solution that works for you.

You can have top-level folders for all the major areas in your life you will use this for. For instance, I have one for my online classes, one for vacations and one for Science Olympiad (which I coach).

How to save your files in Google Drive

Once you have your folders created, you can either use the integrated Google Apps to create documents in the folders, or you can upload files from your hard drive.

Of course, if you realize you want to move a document to a different folder, it is very easy to do that!

If you use Gmail, you can save attachments directly from your email. At the end of the email, look for the Google drive icon. Click on that icon instead of downloading the file to your hard drive.

There is a Chrome extension called Save to Google Drive that makes it really easy to save files while browsing the web. You may want to download a document from a website you visit or a class you or your children are taking.

Open the file in your browser. Then click on the Chrome extension and the file will be automatically downloaded into the folder you designate. You designate this folder when you set up the extension and then everything will go to the same folder. (Call it ‘Downloads’ for instance). You just need to remember to go to that folder and move the document to the correct destination.

If you have never used Chrome extensions before, here is a video to explain what they are and how to add them to Chrome.

Online tutorials on Google Drive

If you would like your children to learn to use Google Drive, take a look at FundaFunda Academy’s web-based unit study which also covers how to use Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Slides and Google Forms. In fact, you can learn along with your children!

If you found this useful, please subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

Homeschooling with Google Drive

Introducing the Homeschooling with Technology Podcast

Welcome to the Homeschooling with Technology Podcast

Welcome to episode 1 of the Homeschooling with Technology podcast.

My name is Meryl van der Merwe and I am a South African. My father bought us a personal computer when I was a teen and I both gamed on it and learned to program. I went to college to get a B.A.  but during the vacations, I earned money running programming camps for children.

After graduation, I got a job with Shell SA programming in their payroll department. I got married and around the time our first child was born, we started our own computer company and created a Fixed Asset Register software package which I programmed.

Our family kept growing and my children and I would game together. We would play Kings Quest, Carmen Sandiego, Oregon Trail. You can still find some of these old games here:

My children started helping me in the children’s clothing factory outlet I was running at this time by creating flyers and advertisements for the business and helping operate the computer in the store.

Then we moved to America and I started homeschooling. Obviously, I began homeschooling with technology!

I taught our children to program when they were in elementary school and some of their assignments were done online. But they didn’t just use technology to do their schoolwork, they also made money with tech. One started creating websites as a business when he was 10 years old. One did all the layout and typed up recipes for someone who was publishing a recipe book and one did computer repairs.

And of course, they gamed. In fact, I often assigned them games like Civilization for “homework”.

Now that my children have left home I still use technology for homeschooling other peoples’ children – both in my co-op classes and in my online classes. At co-op we play games like Kahoot and I use QR codes and anything else that will engage the students in their learning.

If you are worried that technology is beyond you, don’t be. Vicki Davis, an educator and podcaster says: “Innovate like a turtle”. What she is saying is, just do a little bit of something that is new at a time. Just take one idea from each show and try to implement it.

Alice Keeler, another educator has this great quote: “The only difference between “I’m techie” and “I’m not techie” is the willingness to click on stuff and see what happens.” So go ahead, click around on websites and new software. You aren’t likely to break anything (just stay away from spammy looking links!)

What can you expect to learn about in this podcast?

    • Tools to help you organize your life in general and especially your homeschool. Many of these are tools you can also teach your children to use
    • Sites that will enhance your lessons – games, interactive websites, simulations etc. In fact, here is one you might want to try. I mentioned earlier we loved planning The Oregon Trail together. Well, you can play that original version online now at
    • Techie skills your children need before they leave for college, and how to easily incorporate them into your homeschool

If you find any great techie resources you think I may not know about, please share them in the comments. And if there are any topics you would like me to cover, let me know that too!

Be sure to subscribe to the Homeschooling with Technology show wherever you listen to your podcasts!

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Welcome to the Homeschooling with Technology Podcast