Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lesson Planet Review

Lesson Planet is a really awesome website, found here: http://www.lessonplanet.com/

As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent a three months subscription to this site for the purposes of the review. I live in what the HSLDA would label a "green light state". That means that I do not have to keep detailed information on my homeschool curriculum. I also happen to use a "package" curriculum, as a new homeschooler, I wanted to be sure I covered "everything" necessary this past year. I also have a Masters in Health education, so if the need ever arose for me to write a lesson plan, I was able to do so. I am so glad I had the opportunity to review this site, because I don't think I would have ever stumbled on this little gem otherwise.

Lesson Planet offers: 225,000 online lesson plans and worksheets to search through.

The search-engine site began in 1999 and was designed specifically with educators in mind. It is an advertising free site, relying solely on member support. Memberships are available for teachers, homeschoolers and even an entire school district.

Lesson Planet provides numerous ways for teachers to refine and narrow their searches for online curriculum resources, including:

*Searching by keyword, grade level and overall rating
*Clicking the Narrow, Related or My Recent Searches keyword options
*Browsing for reviewed resources by Subject, Calendar or Theme
*Exploring relevant State Standards, matched to each member’s state
*Utilizing Advanced Search to narrow by duration, method, technology, and more

Lesson Planet has a 10 day free trial to allow teachers and parents to try the site with no obligation. After the free trial, membership is only $39.95/year, which is very reasonable considering the amount of time you save by not having to put together the lesson plans or resources yourself.

I like that you can go beyond the lesson plans with this site. For example, my daughter is studying the pioneers this week, when I checked out that time period in history, so many great ideas came up to "stretch" the lessons and make them so much more interesting then I could possibly do on my own. It is with a look and a visit to the site and try the 10 day free trial.

Friday, April 23, 2010

"Super Star Speech, Speech Therapy Made Simple" Review

My four year old daughter, Mary, has a bit of a hard time saying the letter "S" sound clearly, it often is articulated as a "TH" sound. It is not a major concern for me at her age, since she otherwise has excellent speech. When the opportunity came up for me to review "Super Star Speech", Speech Therapy Made Simple as part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I selected the manual with her in mind.

I had owned and operated a Child Care Center and at one point I had 63 students enrolled in my program. I often had speech therapists visit a few children at the school as part of an early intervention offered by the public school system. I was often amazed at how simple the speech therapy was. Typically, the therapist spoke clearly to the child and engaged them in conversation, modeling proper pronunciation. They would often play games or tell stories. Now, the children who had the speech therapy did not have major speech delays or medical conditions resulting in the need for the therapy, just minor speech issues. I often wondered, if the parents just spent time talking to their children, how much can be simply corrected?

Super Star Speech is a parents answer to minor speech problems. Deborah Lott, a Speech Language Pathologist, created Super Star Speech, found here: http://www.superstarspeech.com/

The manual contains:
*An articulation test that assesses speech sounds in all word positions and compares errors to developmental norms.
*Specific instructions and tips for teaching every sound.
*240 picture cards.
*Games and activities for enjoyable practice and drill.
*Reproducible lesson plan forms.

I loved the information and activities and games provided in the manual. I haven't had to formally sit Mary down and "do speech" I have taken the tips offered and used them during normal conversation. I would recommend checking out the website if you have any speech concerns and see if they offer any products you may find useful.

Monday, April 19, 2010


I have three children who are either: learning how to talk; learning how to form shapes, letters and numbers; or learning how to read. I am thrilled to find a non-consumable teaching product that I can use with all three. As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent an Uppercase DVD titled "Alphabet Beats" by the company The TV Teacher.

The DVD contains all the letters in the Alphabet broken down into individual letter chapters (the dvd will not continuously play). Each letter chapter is 5 minutes in length and is led by "Miss Marnie", a charming teacher who loves writing her letters. Each chapter has a visual demonstration and a letter chant to teach proper letter formation. It also contains 8 vocabulary words (LOVE THIS)! The pictures are nice to look at and each chapter can be viewed and then reviewed at your choosing. The company does not recommed watching more than 2- 3 new letters per day as that can become confusing for a young child.

Each Alphabet Beats DVD (uppercase or lowercase) costs $35.00 and can be purchased from www.thetvteacher.com . I have also purchased the lowercase DVD to add to my preschool curriculum for our family. I was impressed with my 4 year old and her improved writing after viewing the Uppercase Alphabet Beats. She is forming about 5 letters very well and we will continue to use this until she can master the remaining letters. All my children enjoyed viewing the DVD, my 8 year wanted to know if they make a DVD for cursive handwriting! My 2 year old enjoyed the DVD and I love that he is passively being introduced to the Alphabet.

According to the website, the company will be releasing a DVD titled "Number Beats" in the summer of 2010. I sure hope they ask TOS Homeschool Review Crew to review that product, hint, hint.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Time 4 Learning Review

As part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew I was given a free 30 day membership to the Time 4 Learning website found here: https://www.time4learning.com/curriculum/index.html

I was asked to review the newly released Pre-K program, and I was more than happy to do it! I have a four year old and a six year old, so I was able to let both children use the program for the purpose of the review.

The Pre-K level of Time 4 Learning uses high-interest topics to keep young children engaged. Each topic offers a variety of activities from short videos, matching games, stories, puzzles, and other appealing activities. Young children will enjoy the colorful graphics and interesting characters.
My children enjoyed the program VERY much! I was impressed with the scope of topics and the ease of use. My children could navigate the site on their own and choose which topics they wanted to learn about. There are pictures next to each topic name so that even my non-reader knew the subject covered. Once a topic was completed, a check mark would appear over it. This gave my girls a sense of accomplishment.

I thought the site was great and was a useful teaching tool. There is also a parents forum where you can connect with other parents. One aspect I did not like, was the fact that this site is not a Christian site. I am very careful with what I have my children read/ watch and there are secular teachings like evolution (not balanced by creation), as well as, witches and sorcerers (this was in higher levels, I kept my eyes open during the preschool level and didn't find anything too objectionable). There is a thread on the parents forum for Christians and it lists all questionable material, and once aware of it you can decide if you choose to have your child use that particular lesson. I would LOVE for this company to come out with a Christian based curriculum, I think they would gain many more customers!

Time 4 Learning offers access to their pre-K to 8th grade programs on a month-to-month basis. The first child is $19.95 per month and each additional child is $14.95 per month.

Monday, April 12, 2010

All About reading- What Am I? Review

Earlier this year I was introduced to a great spelling program called "All About Spelling" and was given level one and two to review for the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. A few months later the company sent a reading book that would work to compliment the spelling program. This reader was titled Beehive Reader 1 (which, has since been renamed "Cobweb the Cat" same great book, different title), and coordinates with All About Spelling Level one.

This second reader was just released on April 1st, titled "What Am I?" and coordinates with All About Spelling Level two.

It can be used whether or not you use All About Spelling. Plans are in the works to introduce a brand-new All About Reading program late this year. All About Reading can be used as a stand-alone program, but it will coordinate perfectly with All About Spelling. After Level 1, each level of All About Reading will contain two readers. All About Reading will include decoding skills, fluency, comprehension, vocabulary, and lots of reading practice.
This second reader costs $19.95 and can be purchased here: http://www.all-about-spelling.com/
Once again, my daughter Jessica, who is my emergent reader, enjoyed the hardcover book. I think it makes her feel so special that one of her books is so well made, even though it is an early reader. She and I enjoyed reading the stories together. She is not all the way through the level one reader, so she required help with the second level reader. The characters are likable and the stories are funny and interesting.
I am grateful for the opportunity to review these products from this company. I am most likely going to begin using this program exclusively with my four year old daughter, Mary, as soon as I think she is ready to begin.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Critical Thinking Company Review

I'm nerdy, there I said it. I love the Internet with all the information flowing at my fingertips. I can look up how to make perogies and then price tickets to the Bronx Zoo for our field trip next week. I love researching and learning new things. One thing I love more than the Internet is real books. My favorite part, besides reading the book, is opening the book for the first time and hearing the satisfying crinkle of the binder. I love when I am sent a book to review and I can hold it and flip through it and smell that new book smell. Critical Thinking Company, apparently a well known name for all you seasoned homeschoolers, sent me a product titled "Language Smarts Level C" to review as part of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. The big new book showed up at my door and after I opened the package, smelled that new book smell and heard the first crinkle, I was ready to dive in.

My daughter Emily is in second grade right now, so this book was perfect for her. According to the company, the book I was sent is a "fun, mind building book to teach standards based language arts and develop critical thinking skills. It can serve as a core curriculum for language arts or as a supplemental resource." Topics include vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, reading, and writing skills. The teacher does not need to do any prep work and each section introduces a specific topic, followed by practice and then application activities. The pages are colorful and the activities are enjoyable.

The book is 320 pages and costs $39.99 and is full of activities. I chose the Rhymes and Riddles section of the book to use with Emily for the purpose of the review. She enjoyed it tremendously. I am looking forward to using the rest of the book over time with her. She enjoys language arts so this was an easy winner for her. The website, found here http://www.criticalthinking.com/
is worth taking a look at. Apparently many a homeschool mom has heard about this company and the selection of products they offer in many subject areas. I plan on looking through the catalog when I plan out our curriculum for next year to see what else we can purchase from this great company.