I’m a newcomer to the Surface team at Microsoft and to the Seattle area. My family and I moved here over the summer. Now that school is quickly approaching my two girls are starting to get nervous. The big debate is whether kids in Seattle learned different things than kids in Chicago. To help ease their nerves we’ve started doing evening jam sessions with a handful of education apps on our Surface RT to dust off the summer cobwebs.

Since I’m sharing my Surface with two pre-teens I’ve set up separate user accounts to prevent sibling warfare and give them each a sense of independence. The rule is for every 3 games you load, you have to add something educational. It puts them in the driver’s seat of their self-guided summer tutoring sessions so they’re less likely to complain about ‘mom’s picks.’ The separate accounts also give me peace of mind. I don’t have to worry about grabbing my Surface and facing a home screen that suddenly looks like a princess invaded my device.

We’ve been at it for a week now. The girls have found a good routine. They each do 15 minutes after dinner and then head outside to play. School starts soon and I’ve seen signs that they actually are looking forward to finding out exactly what kids in Seattle know. Check out a few of their favorites:

iMath: Pick a level and the math subject you want to practice and off you go. It’s for kids who like to see instantly how they’re doing. I like the fact you can track progress over time so I can reinforce that their efforts are paying off.

BrainPOP: Featured Movie. My kids like the quirky character who stars in this app most likely because it feels like entertainment instead of learning. The subjects range from science to math to history and language. There is something for everyone. They like to watch together and then take the quiz as a team.

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U.S. Presidents: is a winner with my fifth grader. She has a dog-eared paperback book about U.S. Presidents she purchased in a Washington DC gift shop that she likes to flip through as a reminder of a trip to the nation’s capital a few years ago. This is a memory game that tests your skills by matching pictures of presidents with facts about when they served in office.

Bing: Not a traditional education app, but we’ve used Bing to help give our kids a sense of local history. So far, Bing has helped us discover the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. It’s a hidden gem in the city that offers insight into how Seattle was shaped by gold fever.

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While the apps on Surface are helping us regain our confidence before starting school there is another app that is making perhaps an even bigger difference. We’re using Skype to stay in touch with our pals in Illinois. We’ve had virtual playdates where old friends are online and tea parties and silly faces make the miles disappear.

Surface is great for families. Go to Surface.com to check it out for yourself.

Kristen Batch
Senior Manager - Surface