Friday, May 27, 2011

Apologia, "Read For The Heart", TOS Review

I am writing my final review for the TOS Homeschool Review Crew. This is my second year on the Crew as well as my second year homeschooling. I find it a rather nice coincidence that my final review is of  a book. This is no ordinary book, let me assure you. First, it is a book about books, written by homeschool graduate Sarah Clarkson.  Second, it is a book I have had my eye on for some time now. I am new to homeschooling, but I LOVE reading and by now, you know my motto is "Readers are Leaders". This has got to be the single best resource I have found for our family on this subject!
Let me tell you some more of the details about the book and along the way I will explain how I used the wisdom found in this book in our own homeschool. This softcover book is 384 pages in length and covers various topics such as the authors life as an avid reader and how she was given living books in her own homeschool career. Sarah has a beautiful way of writing and teaching through her words, she does an excellent job of conveying her passion for reading and books through her writing and it is contagious. She even offers parents tips on how to foster an atmosphere of reading inside our own home. 
Sarah Clarkson, in her book "Read For The Heart" ($17.00), provides information on over 1,000 books filtered through a Christian world view. Each individual book includes a review along with cautions regarding any questionable content. She also divides the selection of books by age and topic. She reviews her top picks for Children's Literature, History and Biography, Poetry, Spiritual Reading, Picture books, Music art and Nature. At the end of the book Sarah has included several appendix's; Caldecott Medalists; Newbery Medalists; Historical Fiction etc...
I felt like I had a mentor walking me through a giant library and pulling books off of the shelf for me to take home and use. I did indeed do just that. I read Read For The Heart over a few days time. The book showed up at my door at the perfect time. I was planning our curriculum for next year and the various topics I hope to cover. I selected many of the books she suggested and I now have a list that I take with me to used book sales.  This book is a must have for every homeschooling family. I am also thrilled to have been able to read this book and look forward to reading future books from this author.
My fellow TOS Crew Mates also reviewed this book, so you can check out what they thought.

I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Eagle's Wings Educational Materials, TOS Review

I love science. It is my favorite subject to teach because there are so many ways to teach a lesson that goes beyond the worksheet. I was sent Considering God's Creation, a creative biblical approach to natural science for grades 2-7. The set included a teachers manual and a 270 page workbook along with a CD. The set retails for $29.95. If you have additional students you can purchase additional copies of the student workbook for $13.95. I was sent the set to review and I was so impressed with the material, I ordered two more copies of the workbooks to use with my three daughters. we have been spending sunny spring time afternoons outside doing the lessons together. I have used this as a bible study as well. The kids enjoy it.

The curriculum requires very little preparation on my part, offers clear instructions and is hands on. I also do not need to purchase an expensive lab kit. If additional material is needed, it is household items, such as glue sticks, crayons, scissors, eggs, a flashlight etc.... The curriculum contains enough lessons to allow for one lesson a week for an entire school year. We decided to break it up into two lessons per week and include bible time with it. Each lesson contains games, experiments, poems, songs, arts and crafts projects, notebook pages and of course, Bible references. If you have children that have a natural bend towards science, the curriculum also offers optional resources titled "Digging Deeper" and "Additional Resources Suggestions" at the back of the book. You do not need to purchase the additional resources however to use the curriculum.
I think my favorite part of the lessons so far have been the evolution stumpers.

Very rarely have I found a product that I have reviewed that has become a part of our regular curriculum. Even more rarely have I purchased additional materials to use with a product that I have been sent to review. This product is a keeper! It is exactly what I wanted in a science curriculum and since the curriculum is teaching all about God's Creation; The Universe, The Earth, Non-Living things (Rocks and Minerals), Weather, The Plant Kingdom, The Animal Kingdom, Animal Anatomy & Physiology, and of course Man: Made in Gods Image it fits in perfectly with our course of study. I HIGHLY praise this product and encourage you to check it out! Please don't take my word for it, head on over to the TOS Crew Blog to see what my fellow Crew Mates thought.

I was sent this product at no expense to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pearson Education, Grade 1 Social Studies, TOS Review

Please don't tell my Charlotte Mason friends, but my homeschool now has a text book. I am only slightly joking. As a  newer homeschooler I got the impression that  "text book" use was something only done in the dark corners of the homeschooling households. I don't typically use textbooks but as a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given "Social Studies, All Together" by Scott Foresman, published by Pearson Education found HERE to review. The student edition costs $43.47.

The Hardcover book covers a wide range of topics such as History, Economics, Science and Technology, Geography, Culture, Citizenship, Government, and National Symbols. So, while I still rely on living books to teach my children about the above mentioned topics, I will use this book as a reference. My husband and I were flipping through the pages of the book when it arrived and were impressed with the glossy photographs. We both said that the book manages to touch on many topics, although briefly. At the end of each lesson, there are review questions to check your student for comprehension. I have used this book quite a few times since it was sent to me.  For example,  we were doing a unit study on Mexico a few weeks back and I looked up in the glossary any possible "Mexican" topics, and we discussed them after reading about them. It allowed us to study a bit more than I had planned and that is always a good thing!

I think it would make a good addition to supplement any homeschool. Don't just take my word for it, check out what my fellow Crew Mates had to say Here

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mad Dog Math, TOS Review

As a relatively "new to homeschooling" mom, I have made several observations about my two oldest daughters.  Homeschooling has allowed me to work so closely with them that I can list their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, likes and dislikes, as if I was talking about myself. My two oldest daughters share a bedroom and the way they maintain their personal space speaks volumes about their unique personalities. My oldest has her bed made every morning, allowing no wrinkles in the sheets. My other daughter might make her bed, if she could find it.......
Imagine an invisible line drawn down the center of the room, one side is neat and orderly, the other side is a mess!
My oldest daughter is very creative. She has an ability to design her own toys or create her own artwork just by using things she finds around the house. My other daughter is very relational and personable, she is every ones friend and is very warm and caring. When we open our home to other families, the children, regardless of age, seek to play and spend time with her.
I am sharing all this with you to say that as different as they are, they do have some things in common, one of them being a strong aversion to math. Neither child is a "math whiz" and they both groan and complain when it comes time for math drills. I understand their frustration, when you are good at something, I think it is easy to enjoy it.  Math is one area where they both could improve and one way of doing that is by practice.
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was able to review a math facts product found HERE called Mad Dog Math.

The program is great and very user friendly. It is math drill software that can  be downloaded; you can choose a one or two year license ($19.99 and $29.99 respectively), or a perpetual license ($39.99) and download the software immediately.

 It requires about 10 minutes per day of use to improve in math skills. Right now my daughter is working on level one. She is given 20 addition problems starting at 0-3 and has the goal of completing them in under two minutes with less then 2 wrong answers. Once she can accomplish that, she is given a "2 minute Club" sticker and will continue to improve her time then moving onto subtraction and eventually doing multiplication and division. each level is to be used over the course of a school year as a supplement to the child's math curriculum.
We both like the program. It is very simple but effective. It isn't flashy with lots of distracting sound effects. It provides immediate feedback for the student so they can see what problems they did not answer correctly. The program was developed by a math teacher/ school administrator and the quality of it shines through. I plan on having my daughter continue the program till our license runs out, and then we will decide if we will purchase the program. I am leaning towards purchasing it because it can also track other children and is good for children in k-5th grade, which is suitable for all my school age children.
Please don't just take my word for it, check out what my fellow crew mates thought of the program HERE

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Institute For Excellence in Writing

There are many products offered to us as Homeschool families. Some are nice, but not necessary, some are low quality and really not necessary, some are  great and would go on a "wish list" that every homeschool mom has somewhere. Then every once in a great while, a home school mom stumbles upon an absolute "must have" in her homeschool and the Institute For Excellence In Writing or IEW is that product.

Prior to my exposure to IEW, I did not think it was possible to teach someone the art of  writing. I really thought that some people just have a natural way of stringing words together to make a story entertaining and interesting. I figured that as a homeschooling mom, I would cover the basics in writing, styles, etc.. through our language arts curriculum and either my children, with practice,  would become writers, or they wouldn't. I guess looking back now, that is a pretty bleak outlook. As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent Teaching Writing/ Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack, Level A  it costs $239.00 ( perfect for children working at the Elementary Level). They also sent me a Portable wall ($7.00), which is handy for a quick reference of writing models and word lists.

So, why all the hype? This is a quality program that is very user friendly and walks the teacher through the lessons as well as  clear and understandable instructions for the students. The teacher discs are a wonderful tool to help you begin to implement the program. The instructor, Andrew, is knowledgeable and is a pleasure to watch. Even if you are not yourself a great writer, this program will equip you as the teacher with everything you need to teach your students. The lessons for the student are laid out very nicely. Once I watched the first few discs of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, we were able to begin. The Student Writing Intensive lessons run about 45-60 minutes long, depending on the session and typically we would watch the Lesson on Monday and use the rest of the week to work on the writing assignment. The writing assignment would directly apply the lesson that was just taught. There is also plenty of opportunity for review and reinforcement.

Each lesson has a chart that lets me know what is to be watched on the student DVD, the viewing time, the handouts for the lesson and the optional handouts if I think more reinforcement is needed. The company also offers online support for teachers, so you always have help when you need it. I LOVE that we can "attend class" with a great instructor without leaving our home,  that I can customize a writing assignment based on our own family experiences and really make the stories our own.

I could go on all day about how valuable this product is, but I think you should head over to their website and watch a few of their video clips about their program. Also, head over to the TOS Blog and see what my fellow Crew Mates thought of this program.

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent IEW at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Monki See TOS Review

Everyone loves a monkey, especially children.  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent a DVD titled Monki See, Baby's First Words, Volume 1. I was also sent a book from the same Company titled "Know your Monkey".  Both products are geared for children ages 0-4 years old.

We read the book first, and my 5 year old, 2 year old and baby enjoyed the colorful pictures and the simple language.  I liked the fact that since this is a "learning how to read" book, that the texts were separated from the pictures. I was able to point to the words while reading out loud.    As I am sure you know by now, my motto is "Readers are Leaders", in my opinion, any time spent reading to your child, is time well spent.

Next we watched the 30 minute DVD, (which costs $19.95). According to the company we are supposed to watch the DVD daily 5 days per week, for a month or so. Optimally, the child should view the video around 20 times or more if they like. We have watched the video about 13 times now, and my 2 year old and 5 year old really enjoy it. I will have to keep you posted  as to our progress as time goes by.  The purpose of the books and the DVDs is to teach your young children how to read and introduce them to the written language at an early age.
According to the company: Babies love the MonkiSee Baby DVDs because they are entertaining and fun to watch. Parents love the MonkiSee Baby DVDs because babies learn so much from watching them. Babies learn necessary preschool skills such as body parts, first words, letters, colors, shapes, numbers and much more. The MonkiSee Baby DVDs expose babies to written and spoken language without any distractions. When language is presented to your baby in this manner, you will quickly discover that your baby can read.

My Opinion: If you are looking for a quality DVD to play while you are busy cooking dinner or need to distract your young children while you are getting other chores done, then this might be what you are looking for. It will never replace quality time engaging and talking to your child.

Monki See also has other DVDs and books available at their website. If you would like to see what my fellow Crew Mates thought of this product click HERE.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

TOS Mothers Day Special Offer

Have you heard about all the gifts we're giving away just for subscribing to our magazine?
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You’ll receive hard copy books, DVDs, subscriptions to learning sites, CDs and more. CLICK HERE to see what we’ve got for you.

And hey, have you heard about our new subscriber-only benefit called the Teacher's Toolbox? This is ABOVE AND BEYOND the 19 free gifts you'll receive if you are within the first 5,000 two-year subscribers. Teacher's Toolbox is our brand new password-protected site which is FULL of resources for TOS subscribers only! Believe it or not, you'll also get ALL of our digital back-issues on this site! You'll be reading for WEEKS!

PLUS TOS is throwing in a 20th BONUS GIFT => a John Taylor Gatto E-Book entitled Hammering at the Walls of Public Schooling AND MP3 recording of him speaking on the topics of "Open Source Education" and "Everything You Know About Institutional Schooling is Wrong!

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*The 19 Gifts Promo is open to U.S Subscribers only

Friday, May 6, 2011

Kregel Publications: Circle C Beginings TOS Review

I have a daughter who is 7 years old and has really taken off with reading this year. She really enjoys it and I am thrilled. I am sure you know by now how I feel about books, I love them! It brigs me joy to have my children sit down with a good book and read it. I also love having a "real" book with actual pages to turn, I would choose that any day over an e-book.  As a member of the TOS Crew I was sent the book titled "Andi's Indian Summer" (sorry for the lack of pictures but my computer would not allow them to come up for some strange reason)  written by Susan K. Marlow, published by Kregel Publications.

The book is cute and my daughter really enjoyed reading it.  The Circle C Beginnings introduces the spunky main character "Andi Carter", a young girl who is eager to  grow up and experience the exciting wild west of the 1800's. The books are suitable for children ages 6-8 and can be found HERE. The soft covered book is 80 pages and cost $4.99. It took my daughter about 4 days to read the book and she did not have a hard time following and comprehending the text. In addition to an entertaining story, the reader is offered a section in the book titled "a peak into the past" and it explains that the story was based on events that happened during this period in history and offers a bit of historic background. There is also a website that has free coloring pages, learning activities and puzzles.

The other titles in the Circle C Beginning Series are "Andi's Pony Trouble"; "Andi's Fair Surprise"; and "Andi's Scary School Days". Check out what my fellow Crew Members thought, as each member got one of the above mentioned books click HERE.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was sent the book at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Latin's Not So Tough! Level 2 TOS Review

I am amazed at how much of our language is rooted in Latin. In fact, many English words (especially science related) have roots in Latin. My husband and I have been debating about teaching our children a second language. Actually, the debate is how many other languages should we teach them, and specifically, which ones in order to be competitive in a global market. Another consideration is, what age do we begin, do we learn it as a family and which language will be most used and helpful to our children.

My three top picks are Spanish (we live in NJ and have a very high Spanish speaking population here) and we debated between Mandarin  and Latin. Mandarin may be very useful to our children because over half of the worlds' population speaks it and this could be very beneficial to our children in a business regardless of profession. As a science nerd, Latin is one of my top choices. I see the value in teaching our children Latin, because it will benefit them in their studies, especially if they continue in a career path with a heavy science/ health background.  So, I was excited to review "Latin's Not So Tough!", created by the Company
 Greek 'N' Stuff .

 I was sent Level 2, which focuses on a thorough review of the Latin Alphabet, dip thongs and special consonant sounds. There are also 50 Latin vocabulary words. The target age for this level is 6-7 year olds. Older students would benefit from starting at level 3. The student has a workbook that is consumable and must use the flashcards to practice the sounds of the Latin Letters. The program offers many hands on activities to cement learning. I am impressed with this curriculum. It is teacher friendly and if a child is reading well, it can be done independently with teacher supervision. 

I also like the companies teaching philosophy: “Our teaching methodology incorporates a gradual, yet consistent, exposure to Greek or Latin. Each year, after reviewing previous concepts and vocabulary, the student then expands his/her knowledge of the Greek or Latin language (in much the same way that English grammar is commonly learned).”

My only hesitation with this program and teaching it to such a young child, is that if your child is not reading well, it could be very confusing. I do think the quality of the material warrants high praise. So here is my advice. If you have a strong reader, and you wish for your child to study Latin (they may have a God given bend towards the sciences), then strike while the iron is hot and begin the program. If you do wish for your child to study Latin but they are struggling, my advice would be to let them get a good grasp their own language first, then begin at level 3.

The price of the products I received are:
Latin's Not So Tough level 2 workbook: $18.95
Latin's Not So Tough Level 2 "Answers Only" key  $4.00
Latin's Not So Tough, pronunciation CD Level 1-3 $10.00

My fellow Crew members reviewed many different products from this company, so check out the TOS Blog found HERE.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I was given this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Science Weekly, TOS Review

I LOVE science, I can remember riding in the back of my parents station wagon and talking to them about what I want to be when I grew up. I always said that I wanted to be a scientist. I did actually choose a career path in the science field, eventually receiving my Masters Degree in Science with a Major in Community Health Education. I am a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) in my pre-mommy life and I love teaching the topic of Science to my little budding scientists.
Our home offers the perfect setting for real hands on science, which in this day and age, we Americans need to teach  a solid science foundation to our children in order to compete globally. We live at the end of a dead end on a lake in the woods so we are able to pull from nature and our surroundings just about anything we need  to teach on a science subject.
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent an instructional module from Science Weekly found HERE. I thought the content was fine and I thought it was great that this material will work for a large family. The topic is the same for children in pre-k through 6th grade, just the depth of understanding is different. That makes teaching everyone together much easier. Plus the material is easy enough to follow for the student, so my daughter was able to do the work with me nearby, not necessarily hovering over her.
The topic we covered was fractions, which didn't strike me as very "sci ency" since we had covered the material in math. But the information was given in clear easy to read lessons and was a good review. Each Module offers Teaching Notes with an informational background (little to no prep time is necessary). The teaching notes also offers an answer key and additional resources to round out the weekly topic.

The cost for the material is: $19.95 per student per year for 15 issues (this is if you have less than 20 people who can subscribe). If you have a co-op and can gather 20 or more students you can get a "classroom rate" of $4.95 per student for 15 issues.
I know in the homeschool scene there are many moms who feel very confident teaching writing and fine arts but almost skip science altogether, if you fall into this category, check this product out. You can visit the site and download a free sample issue and see if this might be a good fit for your family. I would also consider using it as a supplement to a unit study or for folder work if a child isn't feeling well or you are traveling but don't want to lug around teaching manuals and books.
Click HERE to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Science Weekly.

I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kinderbach TOS Review

We bought a piano off of Craig's List about 3 years ago with a dream that one day our family would grow to be competent piano players. I can't read music, so this goal is a lofty one, especially when you consider our oldest child was 6 years old at the time. I had visions of snow falling outside and a crackling fire while family members took a turn playing  Christmas Carols and we all sang along. I am still clinging to this vision as my older daughters began piano lessons this past winter, but my third daughter, age 5 wasn't old enough to participate. I certainly am unable to teach her anything music related but I did want to encourage her in her desire to tickle the ivories. I had used Kinderbach, found HERE last year as a review with TOS and I kept coming back to it in my mind. I was thrilled when they gave me another chance to use their product and review it.

My daughter Mary, age 5 was thrilled when we began the first lessons, often asking for more than one a day. The program offers short video teaching segments that often include a game and fun characters. I did have to print out the workbooks, coloring pages, etc... to go along with the lesson. According to the website product description:
KinderBach breaks down the various tasks and techniques of playing the keyboard and separates them into child portions.  For example:  Before playing a song, rhythm, note identification, note placement, and music patterns are presented as different items through discussion and games.  Learning is gradual and child-paced.  In addition KinderBach uses fun characters to teach ideas, making the process entertaining.

The best part is, they offer a free trial, so you will be able to get a very good idea of the product before you purchase. If you choose to use the online program the cost is $7.99 per month or order the DVDs for $40.45. The product is recommended for children ages 3-7.

We love this product, my daughter Mary really enjoyed it, and I think it is offered at a reasonable price. Please take a look at what my fellow Crew Mates had to say: HERE

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given this product to use at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Artistic Pursuits TOS Review

As a former preschool teacher and mom to 2 pre-school aged children, I was ecstatic when I was sent the Artistic Pursuits preschool art curriculum titled "The Way They SEE It" (A book for every parent about the art children make). You can check out the book HERE and see the other great products this company produces.

This spiral bound book is 73 pages and offers 29 art projects. The book is divided into three Sections:
Section One: The Nature of Children's Artistic Development
Section Two: Use real world examples to point out Artistic Ideas
Section Three: First Skills

I LOVE this book and for $42.95, I think it is money well spent! The book offers recipes for art material such as finger paints, and play-dough. I found that I had most other materials necessary to use this book on hand, such as crayons, water colors, markers, paint, finger paint, paper and clay. This book is perfect for children ages 3,4 & 5, however, my seven year old enjoyed the lessons as well. I really enjoyed the parent discussion that teaches us parents the process and methods to help us understand our children's art better.

This book requires no previous knowledge of art concepts (good thing because I have NONE!) and no rigid schedule needs to be followed. These projects can be used whenever you are looking for an engaging activity to do with your children.

One of the first lessons that we did together was called "Discover Art Project" we studied a beautiful flower picture and I discussed the details found in it, then we used our water colors to make our own bouquet of flowers. The little kids loved it and so did I, we spent a nice time together talking and being creative.  I can't wait to continue on through this book, especially as spring and summer approaches and we can head outside to use God's creation to create beautiful art.

The TOS Homeschool Review Crew reviewed several different age levels of these books, so check out THEIR SITE to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Brill Kids Aesop's Fables TOS Review

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review Little Reader by Brill Kids. They have recently come out with another product titled Brill Kids Aespo's Fables. The books are "specially designed to teach your young child to read." These books are beautiful and glossy, they cost $37.50 per set, and come in the following titles:

•The Lion and the Mouse

•The Fox and the Grapes

•The Boy Who Cried Wolf

•The Turtle and the Rabbit

•The Fox and the Crow

My  five year old and two year old love reading with me so they loved these stories. Each book has a flap on the right side of the book and each book has the text on the left side with the picture on the right. As you read the story, cover the picture and have the children study the words as you read them outloud. After you have read the text, then uncover the picture and explain, with the help of the picture, the text again.

The company also offers these stories in digital format to be played back using the Little Reader Software.

These books, combined with the Brill Kids Little Reader computer program will have children recognizing words and sounding out new ones, all steps to reading fluently. As I have said in previous posts, readers are leaders, and any time spent reading to a child is time well invested. Check out what my fellow TOS Crew Mates thought of this product HERE

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given this product for free in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reading Kingdom TOS Review

My seven year old daughter is reading chapter books but as a newbie to the homeschool scene, I was reluctant to put our phonics program away. She is in "first grade" and phonics should go up to the end of 2nd grade, right?  Oh boy, do I have a lot to learn about teaching to their skill and not the curriculum. Ok, I am sure that is a typical newbie mistake right?

Well as January was looming and the joy and festivities of the Christmas season were now just a memory, it was time to get back to the table and back to school. I was loath to continue on with phonics, as was my daughter. She was reading the words before she even coded them and we would then go on to code the words because I was afraid she would miss a reading "rule".  Talk about laboring in vain.

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given a free subscription to an online reading program called "Reading Kingdom". The program was created by literacy expert Dr. Marion Blank.

As you can see above, Reading Kindgdom teaches many more skills then just phonics. It seemed to be exactly what we were looking for. Since the program is geared to children ages 4-10 and will teach Letter Sounds, Reading, Spelling and Typing up to a third grade level, I sigend my two duaghters up, ages 7 and 5. The program suggests a school-age student use the program 4-5 days a week and preschoolers use the program 3 times per week. Depending on the skill level, the program takes 12-15 months to complete and each session usually takes about 10-15 minutes to do.

My daughters both started with the keyboard and mouse training, this gets them familiar with the keyboard and using the mouse. Both girls were able to finish quickly (within 1 week). Next they were given a skills survey which then analyzes the child's preformance and will give more practice to areas that need it. Obviously my 7 year old is farther ahead in the program then my 5 year old.

My seven year old has been going through level one of  the "Introduction to Reading and Writing"  which includes practice seeing sequences and recognizing letters. My 5 year old has just begun level one.  There are 5 levels in this section. At the end of this program, my children will have read 36 books.
I am sent progress reports to my email and can check on them at any time. Parents/ teachers are asked not to "help" so that the program assess the skill level of each student.

We LOVE this program. I have officially packed up my phonics curriculum for both children. I have noticed improvement in reading with my 7 year old and much less frustration from both of us since we don't have to dredge through phonics. She can read real books and spell the words and get feedback right away. We will continue till the program is finished and I will know for certain her reading level.

My 5 year old is a bit frustrated with the program. If she does not pay close attention to the session and she makes one mistake, it will have her do the entire problem over again. Also, if she takes too long to click on certain keys, it will tell her she is to "try again" or "watch" then try again. The length of each session is just right. She usually has a 10 minute session and by the end she is "done" for the day with it. Hopefully the issues with the program will be tweaked by the programmers.

Subscriptions to Reading Kingdom are $19.99/month with no monthly minimum, or $199.99 if you purchase a 12 month subscription. If you have multiple children using the program, the cost per each additional child in your family is $9.99/month
I think this price is fantastic, considering the cost of preschool is $180/ month where I live. I also like the use of the computer. I have a newborn baby as well as a 2 year old, so independent learning is very high on my list right now.

I plan on using Reading Kingdom with my other children as they reach the appropiate age to use it. If you want to see what my other crew mates have to say about this program head on over to the TOS Blog.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this item at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Academic Success For All Learners TOS Review

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent a reading program created by the company "Academic Success For All Learners" found HERE. The program is called "Reading for All Learners Little Books" and is based on research that began over 30 years ago. According to the company the program directly addresses the five essentials of reading instruction:
1- phonemic awareness
2- phonics
3- fluency
4- vocabulary
5- comprehension

The program consists of 141 decodable readers or "Little Books"  each book is made up of two parts. The first part is an introduction to new sounds, new words and word practice. The second part of the "Little Book" is direct application of the new sounds and words by reading a story. The stories are cute and include many animal characters.
The program is used for children reading at a K-3.6 grade level. Each set costs $30.00 and includes Little Book sets, Success Certificates, Learner Progress Tracking Charts and the instructor guide. There are also videos available to view on you tube titled iseesamdotcom

I think that the price is great for the quality material that you get with this program. My children enjoyed the stories and even though they did use flashcards along with the program it was way more enjoyable then the phonics program we had been using. They felt much more accomplished because they had an actual "book" to read (with help from mom!) I also think this program is great for large families since the materials are not consumable. The website offers other products from this company such as a spelling program as well as a math program.

If this sounds like a program you might be interested in using, check out the you tube page as well as the website which offers other videos. You can also visit the TOS Crew Blog found HERE to see what my fellow Crew Mates thought of this program.

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Math Rider TOS Review

My oldest daughter HATES math facts and math drills. When she needs to complete a math facts worksheet, her joy all about disappears. When she gets the 100 facts and gets "timed"  it is difficult to even talk to her. We are working on having a right attitude while doing work we don't enjoy, and knowledge of basic math operations up to number 12 is not an option. So when I received the down loadable math game called "Math Rider" to review for the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was hopeful.
You can check out and purchase Math Rider HERE for $37.00. Math Rider was easy to download from the website and we were able to begin playing right away. My daughter was given a quest and she was able to pick her level of difficulty ( we chose the "easy" level to begin with). She was then given basic addition facts from 0-12 to answer, if she answered correctly, her horse would clear the hurdle. If she answered incorrectly, her horse would stop at the hurdle, the program would then say the problem out loud and then the game would continue giving her the missed facts more frequently.
The game offers 4 basic math operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Each operation requires four quests to complete before mastery is achieved. The horse speeds up or slows down depending on typing speed and how fast the facts get answered.
She never felt pressured from being timed and she didn't get frustrated if she missed the question because it would just give her the answer, so she never felt like a failure. It took Emily about 15 minutes to finish one quest. I don't know if that is a normal amount of time or not, but I would have her do one quest per day.
As a parent I liked the fact that I could access her results and see how she is doing. She will be continuing with this program even though our review period is over. I see her practicing her basic math facts and she is gaining the skills she needs to improve her knowledge, without the drudgery of a fact worksheet.

After initial use, Math Rider uses stats from previous games to customize the program. The goal of Math Rider is "maximum impact from practicing in minimum time, while keeping difficulty at an appropriate level".
After using this game, I think they have achieved that goal. The game is also good for multiple users, which is nice for a large family.

Math Rider is downloaded from the website to your computer and is able to work in windows, mac, osx, and linux. They even offer a 30 day risk free guarantee.

I am very pleased with this program. It is reasonably priced and user friendly. I notice an improvement in my daughters' math skills without additional grey hair, that is always a plus in my home!

Don't take my word for it, please check out what my fellow TOS Crew Mates have to say HERE

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was given this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Kidscoop TOS Review

What is worse then having a child who hates math? Answer: a child who isn't interested in reading. I am an avid reader and my motto is "readers are leaders". In my opinion, once a child can read and read well, the world will open up to them. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, some children just don't like reading. As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent the "Reluctant Reader Solution" to review along with the January edition of "Kid Scoop News" from .

Being on the newbie side of Homeschooling, was not a company that I was familiar with, but I am sure glad I know about them now. So far, in our homeschool, we have two fluid readers and one emergent reader. My children don't give me a hard time reading, but I can totally see us incorporating the Reluctant Reader Fun Sheets into our homeschool day. So what is the deal with this program? Let me share with you all the details and then I'll tell you why I like it and how I use it.

The Reluctant Reader Solution was created by Vicki Whiting with the goal of giving a child reading activities in a fun format to help them become enthusiastic, life-long readers. It contains 365 fun sheets which you can use weekly or group them by theme. The program suggests parents/ teachers use the "Ask, Do, Review Lesson Model". 1. Ask your child a question that he/she can answer by reading the fun sheet you selected.  2. Do- Once they answer the question, all the activities should pique their curiosity and they will want to begin working on the activities. 3. Review- re-ask the original question to reinforce comprehension as well as  "What did you learn from doing this page?"

The program was developed to meet  state standards. Since this month was February, we chose to review the Valentines themed fun pages. It is 6 pages long and the theme was "Valentines Fitness". The fun sheets contained "make your own good-for-you valentines day cards"  along with physical activity games. The kids were even able to proof read sentences that had a love/ heart theme to them. If you want to see what I am talking about  download a free sample HERE. Each themed fun sheet sells for $2.99 (for a download) or purchase the reluctant Reader Solution for $97.00 and receive 365 fun sheets plus 12 online issues of "Kid Scoop News"  ( $55 value). All the products are downloaded onto your computer to be printed out by you.

I was also sent the January edition of "Kid Scoop News" which contained 20 pages of fun activities plus information on a range of topics from Martin Luther King, Jr to science, math, grammar as well as recommended books and web sites. There was even a page for my youngest reader titled "Early Learners" containing rhymes, tracing, coloring pages. The pages are colorful and beautiful to look at.

So here is why I like this program. I can use the fun sheets to expand on a specific topic while using a unit study. I also use a work box system and these fun sheets are a great way to have my children engaged in school and doing independent work while I am with a sibling. If you have a child who is struggling or not too excited about reading, this program is one that I would encourage you to look into. The company offers a 365-day money back guarantee if you are not happy with the program. I would encourage you to check out the website

If you would like to hear what my fellow Crew Mates had to say, go HERE.

As amember of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this product at no charge in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Curiosity Files- "Red Tide" TOS Review

I have a Masters Degree in Science, specifically Health Education and I love any science based curriculum (especially one with a Christian world view).  As a member of The TOS Review Crew, I was able to review a really awesome unit study called "The Curiosity Files" The subject that I reviewed was "RED TIDES".  This was right up my alley and The old Schoolhouse once again created another quality product. The Curiosity Files are a unit study based curriculum that can stand alone or be used to compliment a science study. For example,  the "Red Tides"  unit is 93 pages that can stand alone as a unit or be a wonderful compliment to an ocean unit study.

The Curiosity Files are geared towards children ages 8-13 but can easily be adapted towards younger or older students. Currently there are 9 topics in the Curiosity Files and they cost $49 for a CD of the 9 studies or $46 for the E- Download. You can purchase them HERE from The Old Schoolhouse Store. Each study is between 80-100 pages.

Professor Ana Lyze walks us through the study with the goal "to educate children about subjects they would never find otherwise.To get them thinking creatively and give their minds some exercise." With these studies you will find out "everything you never wanted to know".

The "Red Tides" study contains awesome photos, Spelling and Vocabulary words geared towards Elementary children and another geared towards Junior High students.  There are word searches and crossword puzzles. Children are asked to write descriptive essays or persuasive essays. There is a quiz to see how much you have learned as well as lots of hands on activities.  It also contains a book list and many links to videos and articles to further the study. There is even a song that my younger kids enjoyed since  music is such a great tool to teach with!

There is copywork in script and print and even a board game to print out and play (our favorite game!!!).
I love when we actually apply information, especially with my children ages 5, 7 & 9. We can take the facts given and then apply them with the activities (a great way to get the younger ones to understand the concept and help make it relate-able for them). For example, we discussed the sea and the food chain and what comes from the sea. We made a food chain ect... but we took it a step farther and looked through our pantry for food that contained ingredients we just learned about. LOVE THAT!! That is just one example of the many hands on activities contained in this study.

The kids even make their own file to put their completed work in called "snippets". I could gush on all day about this study, I was very impressed and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys doing unit studies with their children and using lots of hands on activities to drive home the topic. Don't just take my word for it check out what my fellow Crew Mates had to say HERE

As a member of TOS Homeschool Review Crew I was given this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Maestro Classics Review "Peter and the Wolf"

 There are a few things I know I am not capable of teaching to my children. One is art, my stick figures look just like my daughter drew them (she is 5). The other one is music, I have never played an instrument. I have no clue how to read music either. I love listening to classical music but I have no knowledge of the "great Composers".  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent the CD of "Peter and the Wolf" from Maestro Classics. You can find Maestro Classics on the web at

Maestro Classics produces a Stories in Music series with conductor Stephen Simon and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. This series is an award winner and it is easy to see why! Each CD set includes a classic story set to beautiful music recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. It also includes educational tracks which teaches the listener how the music was created and about the composers life.
The CD comes with an activity booklet to allow the children to apply their new knowledge and round out the lesson.

We listened to "Peter and the Wolf" in our living room gathered around the fireplace on a cold and snowy evening. We turned the lights low and popped popcorn and began to listen to the beautiful music. First we heard what instrument represented each character, then we heard the story set to music. After that we were taught about Prokofiev's life, the original composer of "Peter and the Wolf". Then we listened again to the music of "Peter and the Wolf". Each time we heard the music we were brought to a deeper level of understanding and we grew in appreciation of the music. I LOVE Maestro Classics and their Stories in music series is a fantastic addition to any listening library. Each set is only $16.98 and includes the CD, story, activity booklet and extra tracks. You can also purchase 3 sets for $45. These make great gifts, in fact they do offer gift sets of "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel" & "Casey at the Bat" for $24 each.. You can purchase the CD's online at their website or by phone 888-540-2811.

The website also allows you to listen to samples of the Cd's and I strongly encourage you to visit it and spend some time listening. Click on this link HERE to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about this product.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Math Facts NOW! Review

Right before the holidays, I was sent a math program to download and use with my 7 & 9 year old daughters,  called Math Facts Now! 2.0 The website can be found HERE .  I was impressed with the program right away. It had everything I wanted in a math drill program without using flash cards. I am pleased with the fact that Math Facts NOW! isn't flashy but it is customizable to fit the needs of your students.

Once I downloaded the program (which was easy to do compared to other products that I have had to download to my computer) I was able to customize the facts that I wanted each child to practice. For example, my 7 year old is learning how to add 1 and 2 to a number up to 10 as well as double facts using addition and subtraction. This is what I selected for her to be drilled on. I also was able to pick the number of problems I wanted her to complete in a specific session. I chose 200 problems, but looking back, I should have gone with fewer problems (maybe 20!) and I will need to change that for future lessons.

I also chose how much time they have to work on a certain problem, initially I chose 8 seconds but upon actually  using the program, we had to increase the time since she is still new at finding the numbers on the keyboard and typing it in and hitting return. I was also able to customize how many times my daughter would need to repeat a specific problem if she answered incorrectly or did not answer it in the time allotted. I chose to have her repeat it three times.

The program will also remember which problems the student is having trouble with and will repeat them more frequently. I am also able to view and print out a list showing me where the areas of weakness are. As a reward for completing a session, I chose to allow them to play the wii for 15 minutes if they did not get any errors (we are still waiting for this reward, but in time it will come!)

My two daughters used the program, they found it easy to follow, but groaned at the actual "math" part of it. I think it is a great way to practice their math facts and plan on having them continue using this a few times per week.

The Math Facts NOW system requirements are as follows: It can run on windows 2000; ME; XP; Vista; and Windows 7. You will need to have 4.5 MB of free hard drive space to use this program. The program costs $15.95 to download directly from the website or you can purchase the CD-Rom for $15.95 + $3.95 s/h.

I liked this product a lot, I felt that $15.95 is a reasonable price for a quality program like this. It is functional, and you can use it with as many children in your home as needed and you can customize it for each child. Don't just take my word for it, check out the TOS Homeschool Review Crew to see what my fellow reviewers thought of this product, click HERE

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I was sent this product at no cost to myself in exchange for an honest review.