Sunday, August 30, 2009

Maverick Books: Hank the Cowdog

Soooooo....... apparently I have been living under a rock for a while, or maybe it is because I live in NJ, the most populated State in the US and live no where near a ranch or cowboys or, maybe it is because I have three little girls, but I had NO IDEA there was any such thing as "Hank The Cowdog." If you are like me and find yourself saying- "yes I live under a rock too, what is Hank The Cowdog?" please read on.......

Maverick Books, Inc. Publishes the Hank The Cowdog books (54 so far: one paperback book costs $4.24) and products which include audio Cd's (on sale now for $3.00 each), a TORNADO board game (price $12.99 on the website) a spin off of one of the books- ha ha- no pun intended- and several other products. You can check out the website at and view for yourself the full product line.

I was sent three products from Maverick Books and the Hank the Cowdog product line to review. The first product I began reviewing was the book (#8 in the series) The Case of The One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse. I read to my children every day- I am an avid reader and my children are beginning to enjoy chapter books, so this was something that I looked forward to reading out loud to them. We started reading the first few chapters and my girls enjoyed the story. We had taken a long car ride one day, so I took with me a second product that I was sent to review; "Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog". The girls found the songs and stories on the CD funny. and they really enjoyed listening to the characters' voices especially since we had been reading about Hank and his buddies on the ranch for the past several nights. There is one story on the Cd which is from the book we were reading. The girls listened to the story of the "Poisoned Bacon Grease" in the car. That night, we were up to the same chapter in the book. I read it to them and they were giggling the whole time. The story was so much more significant to them once they heard the Cd and were able imagine all the characters speaking the way they did on the Cd.
If you are new to the Hank The Cowdog product line- buy the Cd's along with the books to really grab your children.

Hank is a lovable character but totally clueless as the "self appointed Head of Ranch Security" along with his Deputy Drover. Together the duo talks in circles and usually end up confused and completely off topic! The other characters in the story add to the fun and chaos. As a mom of four children I have a special place in my heart for "Sally May" the mom. The story is fun reading for the whole family. Normally I would have passed right over this type of product line because I have three little girly girls and really didn't expect them to embrace Hank the way they did.

The final product that I was sent to review was the TORNADO board game. The game was enjoyable for all of us, and I think our favorite product. We love playing board games at Camp Corbett! Maverick books describes the TORNADO game very well so I am going to quote them "Hanks TORNADO game is a wild, fast paced race and chase game. Each person gets a Hank, Drover, and Junior the buzzard game piece, and it's a race to see who can get their pieces around the board and and safe to their home spaces first. There is a cassette tape with 30 minutes of excerpts from hanks 25th story, "The Case of the Swirling Killer Tornado." the excerpts tell a story that fits with the game."
My 7 & 5 year old picked up on the games rules after only one game. They can play it with each other and not have any problem, the rules are easy to understand. I like the fact that the game does not take too long to play so we are able to play it in the evening to wind down and I don't have to worry that it can take all night. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the 30 minute tape that comes with the game was hard for us to hear. The sound quality was not that great. That being said, I haven't used my tape player in about 5 years so, it may have been a malfunction on my part. We really have been playing the TORNADO game approximately three times per week since we got it and it is very portable; when it folds up the game board becomes a container for all the pieces.

Overall the Hank the Cowdog products are clean wholesome fun for the entire family. I can't wait for my little boy (who is one) to get a bit older, I see some Hank adventures in his future!
Happy Trails friends............

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Web Design For kids (...and curious grown-ups!) Review

As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given a product by Click Drag Solutions titled: Web Design for Kids (...and curious grown-ups!). I have to admit, I was a bit intimated by this product, basically because I am not too computer savvy and would rather be cooking than learning all about basic HTML. I am happy to report, that I was very pleased with the DVD and felt much more computer literate after viewing it. My children are too young for this particular product (the website gives the age range of 8- adult) and since I was never taught this material, I used the product as a student would.

I would suggest watching the DVD on a TV screen and following along with your own computer. The DVD is 1 hour and 22 minutes long covering 7 chapters. At the end of each chapter the "Teacher" Brian Richardson (who is actually a middle school Computer Literacy Teacher) asks the viewer questions to review and if at any point you don't understand what was just taught, simply go back and watch that chapter again. Brian Richardson has two students in the DVD who are at computers following along with his instructions. He answers their questions and even has them change some parts of the HTML code to demonstrate how important attention to detail is when creating the web page.

As a mom, I can see the value in having my children learn this skill as they get older. Also, as a business owner, I see how this DVD can be a very valuable tool in creating a web page for a business without spending a lot of money hiring someone to design a web page for me. The pace of the DVD was perfect for me as it walked me through step by step the basic lines of HTML Code; Colors, making the subject stand out; creating stand alone tags; designing backgrounds; how to use Fonts and Paragraphs and how to incorporate pictures into the web page. The DVD has the viewers use the computer software called "Notepad" and "Internet Explorer" which every computer that operates in Windows has, so there is no need to purchase any extra software.

You can purchase the DVD Web Design for Kids (...and curious grown-ups!) at the website or you can call them at 1-866-932-9122. They have a 24 hour call center. At the time I am writing this post, the DVD was being offered for a limited time for $19.99 (plus $3.99 shipping and Handling) that is 50% off the regular price of $40.00 (plus $3.99 for shipping and handling). I also wanted to mention that proceeds from the DVD go to charities listed on the website and are also named at the end of the DVD. So if teaching your children (or yourself) how to create a web page was one of your goals for this school year, I would choose this DVD.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Grapevine Studies: Beginner Birth of Jesus Books

As part of the TOS Review Crew I was able to review the "Beginner Birth of Jesus Books" by Grapevine Studies. My children are ages 7 & 5 so this study was perfect for them. This particular topic was a chronological study of the nativity of Jesus Christ. It had seven lessons covering Mary, Joseph, Birth of Jesus, The Shepard's, The Temple, The Wise Men, and Herod. I plan on pulling this back out right before Christmas to review it again and put the focus back on the Lord during the Holiday season.
According to the Grapevine teaching method the beginner program is different from the other Grapevine Studies Levels in that it "Teaches just the accounts of the major characters and events of the Bible." This method in my opinion was perfect for my children's ages. Even my 3 year old was following along! My children would listen to the Bible passage and then draw a picture representing that passage using a stick figure. Even the artistically challenged: read: me was able to make a beautiful picture. Even my 5 year old felt competent drawing the pictures.

At the end of each topic I would use the review questions to ask what they just learned. If they were not sure how to answer the review question, all they had to do was look at the picture they just drew and it helped them remember. They were able to explain the entire Birth of Jesus to my husband by sharing the pictures with him. The study also has a teachers manual which made preparation time minimal. The study is very hands on and held their attention. The kids loved it, and have asked for more topics, so it looks like we will be purchasing more subjects from Grapevine Studies. Who can say no to that?

This paticular Teacher Study (priced at $14.95 for a hard copy) comes with a Statement of Faith from Grapevine Studies; Teacher Goals; student goals and a supply list (minimal need for supplies). It also gleans the goals and key points for each topic. The student copies for this study were $7.95 for a hard copy. I visited the website at and was amazed to see the many products the company carried and many available as E-Books or hard copies. You can also contact them at 1-877-436-2317. They have different studies designed for ages 5- adult and Grapevine Studies teaches Foundational Bible Facts and leaves the application to the teacher so it can apply to a variety of denominations.
My family was richly blessed by this study. We will be ordering other studies from Grapevine Studies. My children loved it and I am grateful for a fun hands on way to teach the Bible.

Quarter Mile Math Review/ Barnum Software

As part of The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) Review Crew, I had the opportunity to review a product called Quarter Mile Math Deluxe. I was very impressed by this product! Your child/ student chooses either a wild riderless running horse or a fast dragster car. You choose a topic from a wide selection offered, typically one that your child may be having a hard time understanding. Then the games begin! Your child competes against their own best times in a fun game while reinforcing math concepts.
My 5 year old liked playing even though she has had little formal math training, she will be starting Kindergarten next week. I was impressed by the vast amount of topics covered by this game, because it not only covers math concepts but also letters and keyboarding. The parent decides what topic they wish to concentrate on. For example, my 5 year old is learning her vowels and consonants and they actually have a game where she had to type either v for vowel or c for consonant as a letter popped up on the screen. As she got each problem correct her horse would accelerate. The game would last for approximately a minute and at the end of the game, it would tell her how long it took her to finish. Then another game would start and she would compete against the horse that was in the previous race. She found this so exciting! She kept asking for more topics, so we were able to teach her the concept of any number plus one. She was learning addition and having a blast!!!
My second grader had fun with the < > (greater than, less than) topic. She enjoyed running each race and even though the graphics are simple, she found the game exciting because she kept tying to beat her previous time. I see this product as so very valuable to have as a teaching tool in the home, and not just for children who struggle with math concepts. This game is a great way for children to improve on math skills in a fun exciting way. The children can do those math drills that are so necessary for learning math without flash cards, and they can have a blast doing it.

Barnum Software makes the Quarter Mile Math product and can be found at or 1-800-553-9155. I reviewed the Deluxe version which covers levels 1,2 & 3 or students who are working on a K-12 grade level. The company charges for the Standard version of the Levels 1, 2, and 3 Bundle $89.95, the Deluxe version is just $2.95 per family per month. There are two other Deluxe version subscription options that are less expensive over time. But if someone pays $89.95, that's all they pay and they can use it forever. In my opinion, this is reasonably priced, especially for families who have a wide range of students working at different levels. This one program will cover them all for their entire school career. They do have a standard package which has three separate levels covering grades k-3, 4-6 & 6-9 respectively and are each priced at $39.95. The Deluxe version requires the Internet, but the students never need to go online. The standard package does not require the Internet.
This product is great and I can understand why Sylvan Learning Centers chose to use it for all of their US & Canadian centers.