Monday, December 13, 2010

TOS Review - Aleks Online Math Program

As a member of the TOS review crew my family was given a free trial of one month.

I had been looking at Aleks for a long time because my youngest - the math whiz - is very hard to match in terms of curriculum. Aleks did not disappoint. He really liked the variety and the short lessons and the way the concepts were presented.

Aleks stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces. It's made for kids in grades 3-12. The instruction is tailored to the individual child. You can use it in different ways - worksheets, games that teach math facts, quizzes and online work that provides full explanations.

Setting up the Master account was easy - it would have been easier if I had carefully read the directions but Aleks customer service quickly combined my Master Accounts for me so all three of my students were under one Master Account. (click on the images for a bigger picture)

From the Master Account page the parent can view student attendance/progress reports and quiz results. It will tell you exact what problems the student missed or had trouble with.

Once you have your Master Account set up then each Student needs to complete an assessment. Then the student will see this:

The student can then choose an area he needs to work on and gives a summary of what they already know. My youngest LOVED this because he likes variety. He could work on different areas in the same day. I loved that I could also print out a worksheet for him to do if we needed to go somewhere and the guys needed to work without the computer.

This program is really wonderful for kids like mine who need repetition but don't like the monotony of it. They don't even realize they are repeating information. The visuals are nice and not overwhelming on the page. The only thing that would make this better would be a text to speech option for dyslexics like my oldest. The oldest really liked the explanation part of the program - the concepts were laid out in a manner than he could understand them.

My middle son really liked the whole program. It was easy for him to follow and the introductions of new concepts was much easier for him than we've found with other math programs. I can't say enough about the visuals this program provides and how big of a help they are to learners like my boys.

This 2 minute video provides an overview of Aleks. Pricing can be found here. The price for one student is $19.99 per month - $99 for six months and $179.95 for 12 months. Family discounts are available for 6 month or 12 month terms. More details here.

My experience with Aleks and their customer service was wonderful. They responded promptly to any inquiries and provided a ton of information.

This product was a true winner for all of my boys. We will be extending our membership as soon as the funds are available. To try it out for your own family click on the link below for a free 1 month trial.

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

To read what others had to say about this product please click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Monday, November 22, 2010

TOS Review - Bright Idea Press-A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

As part of the TOS Review Crew I was allowed to chose a product from Bright Ideas Press to Review. Currently we are using All American History Vol I and in the past have used Christian Kids Explore Biology and Mystery of History Vol I from this company. Bright Ideas Press is one of my favorite homeschool publishers and I had my eye on 'A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers' for quite some time.

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers consists of 32 weekly lessons covering six eras of music and 26 Composers. It is hard to summarize the wealth of information in this study. To get an idea of the content of this study a sample can be found here.

This is available in two formats - the CD Rom version is $29.95 plus shipping and the Paperback version is $34.95 plus shipping.

My oldest was very happy when this came in the mail. I immediately put the CD Rom in my computer to see how I could blend this in with our regular study. In the Teacher Introduction is a suggested schedule which I chose to follow.

On the first day we listened to the suggested piece of music, read the lesson and filled out the notetaking pages (Oldest really liked the layout of these pages and did not find the text overwhelming).

The second day we again listened to the suggested piece of music, completed the time line (this worked in well as we use a timeline for both history and science) and the 'Composer Info-Card'. Oldest really liked these and they make great reference materials. We also located the Composer's place of birth on the map. Again, this blended quite nicely as we do a lot of map work in our studies. I want my boys to have a better grasp of geography than I do.

On the third day we listened to the selections again.

We have recently started memorization work and this program fit into our schooling seamlessly. There are directions for 'folderbooks' which are similar to lapbooks. We did not use these as the cards worked well for us.

I printed the cards on cardstock - manual duplexing them so we had a card with information on both sides. We then printed out the illustrations and cut them out and glued them on the correct card. There are also instructions for games that I plan to use in the future: Composer Memory, Composer Bingo and Composer Go Fish. My oldest really loves music and games and this product seemed like it was written especially for him.

We covered the Ancient Music to Music in the Middle Ages and then Oldest begged to skip to Ludwig van Beethoven. We read the book 'Beethoven Lives Upstairs' last year and since then has loved all things Beethoven. (I think his favorite piece of music is 'Ode To Joy' which he can play on our piano quite well) I believe we will probably go back to a more chronological method after this and work our way through the rest of the study.

If you are searching for a way to incorporate music into your homeschooling this study is a great way to accomplish that. There are a lot of materials to choose from. This is a very complete program and is well laid out and easy to follow.

To see what others on the TOS crew have to say about this and other Bright Ideas Press products click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Friday, November 19, 2010

TOS Review - KB Teachers - Premium

As part of TOS Review Crew I was given a trial subscription of KB Teachers to try out. I love websites such as these and was eager to explore this one. There are two subscription levels and I was given a 2 year Premium trial. They have a 30 day free trial and then the price is $29 for 1 year or $49 for 2 years for premium access. They have all sorts of worksheets for ages K-8 though some of the history and science worksheets could easily be used for older students.

The site is well laid out and easy to navigate. In fact there is no search bar because the company believes you should be able to find whatever you are looking for in three clicks of the mouse.

They offer worksheets, clip art, workbooks and activity guides. The subjects cover Seasonable topics, English (including handwriting worksheets), Math activities, Science, Biology, and Social studies (including maps).

Since my oldest was covering the weather in science I first went to the weather and climate worksheet section. Oh it was wonderful! All three of mine are quite visual learners and there were graphic organizers galore! The stages of a tornado was a big hit and we loved the combination of writing a description and drawing at the same time! They also have a similar worksheet for hurricanes.

The illustrations on the worksheets are detailed and wonderful. The pages are not overwhelmed with text or pictures - there is a nice balance. This works well because my boys get overwhelmed at too much on one page.

For the middle son - the Astronomy workbook was a good pick. He is familiar with The Big Bang Theory, though we do - as a family - follow creationism. The site is not heavily into evolution - at least not in my observation but the content is there if that is a concern. I don't think it would be a problem to skip worksheets that do not fit into your plan. We used them as a springboard for discussion.

For youngest I used the Plants: Intro to Biology worksheets. He is studying plants on a basic level. Again, I found many resources to go with our other work. The Photosynthesis worksheet really helped him to grasp the way plants make their own food.

I was happiest with the Ancient Egypt activities. We went to K Bears website and though it was a little difficult to find the Egypt section it was well worth it.
We went to the links on Pharonic Egypt as that is the time period we are currently studying. There is a wealth of information there and it was easy to find the answers to the worksheets there.

I highly recommend KB Teachers as a supplement to your current curriculum. There are many activities - journal prompts, worksheets, graphic organizers - that will enhance whatever you might be studying.

I am looking forward to using the Thanksgiving materials in the upcoming weeks. There is something here for every homeschooling family in my opinion.

Please head over here and see what other TOS crew members have to say about this product

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

TOS Review - The Write Foundation

As part of the TOS Review Crew, I had a chance to try out a level from The Write Foundation. The Write Foundation is a writing program with three levels:

Level #1 - Sentence to Paragraph Writing - suggested ages are 11-13.

Level #2 - Paragraph Writing - suggested ages are 12-15.

Level #3 - Essay Writing - suggested ages 14-17.

There are several options for ordering.

Package # 1 is the complete level package - Lessons 1-30 Instructor manuals - spiral bound, Student worksheets and an additional resource CD. The price is $100 plus tax and/or shipping.

Package # 2 - Includes the above materials for Lessons 1-15 only $65. plus tax and/or shipping.

Package # 3 Includes the above materials for Lessons 16-30 for $65 plus tax and/or shipping.

You may also order additional worksheets for $25 plus tax and/or shipping. Worksheets are reproducible only for your family use. If this were being used in a co-op setting then each student would need to order their own copy of the worksheets for use. The worksheets are not stand alone and the teacher manual and CD are required to complete the program.

Optional but highly recommended are Mindbenders. This page speaks about their use with the program. We did not use these with the program when we tried it but I can see the benefit if I had differently abled learners.

Samples can be found here. There are samples of all three levels and I highly recommend reviewing all of these before making a decision on a level for your learner.

Since I have three very reluctant writers I chose to try Level #1 - Sentence to Paragraph Writing.

The Instructor's Manual states from the beginning that assignments - other than some specified exceptions - should be typed. This was appealing as my boys all struggle with the mechanics of handwriting and are pretty adept at keyboarding. From there the objective and requirements of implementing the program is laid out along with a definition of terms used in the materials. It is recommended that one lesson be introduced weekly with the remaining days of the week for completing the assignments.

There are suggestions for Daily Schedules: 5 Day and 10 Day - a Classroom setting and an alternative schedule to stretch the course out for two years instead of one.

The first lesson in Level I starts with organizing notebooks. It is suggested that a binder with 8 tabs labeled with:

1. Assignments
2. Checklists
3. Word Lists
4. Class Notes
5. Reading List
6. Graded Work
7. Semester Worksheets
8. Mind Benders (if used)

The notebook should be set up prior to the first lesson. We did not set up the notebooks but I can see how this would be necessary in a co-op setting.

At the top of each Lesson Sheet are a list of supplies needed for the lesson. For Lesson 1 the student notebook, the worksheets 1-6 from the student worksheet packet are needed to complete the lesson. The student also needs highlighters of six or more different colors, a thesaurus and a dictionary.

We did one worksheet a day - the introduction on Day 1 and worksheets 1 & 2 and then Day 2/worksheet 3 and so on. The Mind Benders immediately gave my boys trouble - mostly because I didn't fully grasp how they work Since they were optional we left them out after that. Since we didn't set up the notebook I gave them a basic overview of what we'd be covering for that week and on Day 2 we went over the Sentence Writing Worksheet Checklist along with the Teacher Presentation for the day. We followed that pattern for the rest of the week.

(The Teacher Presentation sheets are on the resource CD along with Checklists, Games, Grading Sheets, Reading List, Syllabus, and Supply List. There are also Weekly Assignment Sheets and Writing Lists.)

The boys did like the highlighting of different parts of sentences but they did not like typing up to ten sentences a lesson. I had a lot of trouble adapting the teacher instruction - which seems to be written for a classroom/co-op setting more so than a homeschool. After the Mind Bender disaster, we dropped the use of those but we only managed one more lesson before I could just not engage them.

This is truly not a reflection on the product. The instructions are quite clearly laid out and would be wonderful for use in a co-op setting and I'm sure would be much easier for children without the language weaknesses with which my children struggle. I believe a large part of the reason we weren't quite successful with this product was due to my failure to comprehend and adapt the curriculum for my particular students.

Please head over and see what other TOS crew members have to say about this product here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Download n' Go - Terrific Tigers

I love it when an opportunity to review something dovetails into a study we're already doing. That was the case with Terrific Tigers.

Terrific Tigers is yet another great Unit Study by Amanda Bennett and part of the Download N' Go series. Middle was starting the chapter about cats in Apologia Elementary Zoo III when we got this unit. It's available for only $7.95 here.

He loved it! The videos were great and I think all of the boys had to take turns watching them. Over and Over. There's something very interesting about Tigers and this unit study really helps you understand these animals well.

The five day study has lots of videos, the Tiger of the Day and book recommendations for each day.

Day # 1 - What is a Tiger?

Day # 2 - Getting to Know Tigers.

Day # 3 - Where are the Tigers?

Day # 4 - The Science of Tigers

Day # 5 - Cool Things About Tigers

As part of our Zoo III study we are doing lap n' note. Download N' Go provided us with plenty of things to add to our notebook - Our Tiger Word Dictionary - our Tiger of the Day Chart and one of our favorite leaning tools - a Venn Diagram comparison of house cats and tigers. There are many more lapbook and notebook components of this study - these are just a few! Another big hit was the Tiger puzzle. We just printed it on cardstock and are keeping the pieces in a library pocket in our binder.

I love that the videos are safe. I don't have to worry about my kids seeing something I'd rather them not see. Middle loved that there were so many to choose from.

We did not use the coloring pages much but they are a wonderful resource. My oldest likes the riddles in this unit. Take a look at the sample located here for an idea of the material available in this study.

I believe the Siberian Tiger was voted the most popular though I personally like the Bengal Tiger best. Now I have to explain that no, we cannot have our own pet tiger named Hobbes (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) and perhaps we could try to find one to sponsor in a zoo. So Terrific Tigers has launched us into another area of research - how to aid efforts to preserve some of God's most beautiful creatures.

I cannot recommend this particular study enough. The information could easily keep you studying well past one week.

(My apologies are in order for the original short post. I had inadvertently scheduled my draft and we had a crisis with the boys services and an allergic reaction to a new medicine on my part which resulted in more chaos around here than usual. This draft was nowhere near what I wanted to say about this product.)

Leave your email in the comments section for a chance to win a free copy of Terrific Tigers. I'll draw a winner on Monday as it's a birthday weekend for the oldest boy. Remember - members of the Download N' Go or The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew or TOS affliates are not eligible.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this unit study for the purpose of review. This is my honest opinion. Please remember all families are different and your results may vary. I received no other compensation for this review.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Westvon Publishing - Product Rave

I stumbled upon Westvon's impressive product line some time ago, probably during a Currclick sale. I was amazed at the versatility of the products and have collected most of their products.

One of my favorites is Study Starters. Like my boys - I often don't know where to start with a subject. The product is available in e-book form, CD or spiral bound.

These worksheets provide an outline type form that helps you to shape a study. There are sheets for States, Animals, Minerals, Rocks, Music and so much more. A complete list of topics, as well as a sample, can be found at the above link.

We use a lot of Westvon's products - Happy Scribe Copybooks, History Scribe, Bible Scribe, GeoScribe and History Scholar. I also use pages from The Master Planner in my planning. Currently they have a great sale on all of their products at Currclick. Their products have really helped my reluctant writers with their history, science and handwriting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

TOS Review - Digital Frog

We received one of The Digital Field Trip Series DVD's from Digital Frog for Review. The cost for a Home License on this DVD is $125.00 and can be ordered here.

On this DVD there are three field trips: The Wetlands -The Rainforest and The Desert.

Also on the DVD are Student and Teacher Workbook pages for each field trip.

With this DVD the student can take a virtual field trip. There is an option to have the text read to the student and I found that helped my dyslexic son a lot. The virtual field trips are easy for the student to navigate and there are check points and signs that give additional information to the student if they are clicked on.

The field trips are very thorough - defining climate and weather for each area as well as the types of animals one can find in the habitat as well as the human impact.

My first suggestion would be to choose the area you would like to study and do a 'Quick Tour'. This will explain how to navigate your way through each lesson. In order to access the worksheets for each study you do need to go to My Computer - right click on the DVD drive and open folder. This will show you the files on the DVD and allow you to access the student and teacher files which come in PDF, Word and RTF (Rich Text File) formats.

My boys are still trying to see all there is to see on this DVD. I believe it will be a wonderful supplement to any biome study and well worth the price.

To see what others on the TOS crew have to say about these products click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

TOS Review - LanSchool Technology

As part of the Review Crew for The Old Schoolhouse Crew I was provided with a free trial of LanSchool Technology. The company offers a free 30 day trial of the software and one home license is $99. That includes free updates and technical support for three years.

Oh my... Where to begin... I highly suggest the product tour located here.

LanSchool Technology enables the networking of all computers in a home or classroom setting. (The home license is good for up to three monitored computers - pricing is available for schools and classrooms as well) It allows the teacher to control all of the computers in the network - turn them off or on, monitor websites and keystrokes, limit websites or block certain websites, allow or block certain applications, send text messages between the 'teacher' and 'student' computers, and so much more. For a full list of capabilities check out the product brochure here.

I couldn't believe how simple it was to install. My 'teacher' computer runs Windows 7. My 'student' computers run Vista and XP. I was up and running in the few minutes it took to install on each computer with no issues at all. And since the software is user friendly it was easy to figure out how to use it.

My favorite part of this was the ability to display my laptop screen to the other two computers at the same time. This eliminated all of us crowding around one laptop to watch a video or read a lesson. I also liked the ability to 'turn off' a computer if someone didn't heed 'break time is over and school is now back in session'.

I also could write on the screen or underline a sentence on the display and my kids could then see it on their computers. The ways that this could be used in a classroom or home school setting are practically endless. I was so thrilled with this product I sent a link to a friend of mine who is on the board of a small private school which provides all students with netbooks. It is a product I will be make room for in my homeschool budget. I've only just begun to discover the ways we can use it in our studies. I highly recommend this product.

To see what others on the TOS crew have to say about these products click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Friday, October 1, 2010

TOS Review - Zoe & Sozo Publishing -Foundlings

As part of the The Old Schoolhouse Crew I received a book from Zoe & Sozo Publishing for review.

Foundlings is Book 1 in their Peleg Chronicles by Matthew Christian Harding. Book 2 - Paladins - is also available on their website(with free shipping!), Amazon or Barnes @ Noble. Each book is $11.95. The third book in the series is tentatively scheduled for release by May 2011 with unit studies and lapbooks anticipated for the following year. The site is full of information - not only on the series but on the historical and Biblical context of the story.

My boys do not care for any sort of fiction but we did read the story aloud as part of our literature lessons.

As the site clearly states this book contains no magic, no humanism and no evolution. Set in the time period following the Tower of Babel, our heroes - and there is at least one character that the reader can easily identify with - are followers of the 'God of Noah'. This makes them a target for those who worship other gods - The Dragon Priests - in fact the story opens with Lord McDougal - one of our two main heroes - being cursed by the only mention of a witch in the story. McDougal is the sole survivor of his family and is accompanied by his faithful servant and shield bearer - Fergus Leatherhead. McDougal is a good-natured brave giant and follower of God. He feels duty bound to help other followers of the God of Noah and Fergus is pulled along on his adventures somewhat reluctantly.

Our young hero is named Thiery. He is also a follower of the God of Noah. He is targeted by The Dragon Priests. They consider the followers of the God of Noah good sacrifices to their false god. Thiery's companions include Oded, Suzie and his wolf, Horatio. After escaping an attempt on his life by the Dragon Priests, Theiry winds up in a cave reading the Book of Job and thus deepens his faith in the God of Noah.

McDougal and Fergus wind up saving the life of a dwarf named Gimcrack who tells them of Thiery. Mc Dougal is convicted that he must go to Theiry's aid.

I found this story charming and even though the boys never did quite get interested it is no reflection on the writer. Fiction does not interest my fact based boys. I am planning on ordering the second in the series as this story ended in a cliff hanger and I really would like to know what happens next. The story is fast paced without being rushed and the descriptions are vivid without being tedious. The story was quite Biblically based.

I highly recommend this series for anyone - young or old - (the suggested age is 10 and up) who enjoys this type of fiction.

To see what others on the TOS crew have to say about this product click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

TOS Review - Math Tutor - Pre Algebra Vol I and Texas Instruments TI-84 Calculator Tutor

Since I have one headed into Pre-Algebra and another obsessed with all things calculator I was thrilled to be chosen to review these DVD's. We hadn't officially started school when we got these so our viewing was here and there.

Math Tutor - Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 is available for $26.99 here.

Math Tutor - The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor is the same price and available here.

The Math Tutor website is very easy to navigate. They have sample videos and a full listing of what is on each DVD. Their product line covers Basic Math through Calculus, Physics and Probability and Statistics. The site also offers worksheets for Basic Math, Algebra 1 and Algebra II.

My oldest really loved the Pre-Algebra Vol I. Jason, the instructor, has a pleasant voice and engaged him easily. (This is a tough thing to accomplish) My oldest was riveted to the first section - even though it was about an hour in length. I liked the way Jason explained concepts and that there was no special text to buy in order to use these DVD's. Though my oldest isn't quite at Pre-Algebra level yet he got a lot out of this DVD and we will be using it in the future.

Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1 consists of two DVD's - about 5 hours in length total. Disc 1 covers Real Numbers, The Number Line, Greater Than, Less Than, Equal To, Absolute Value, Adding Integers and Subtracting Integers. Disc 2 covers Multiplying and Dividing Integers, Powers and Exponents and Order of Operations.

Given the fact that my son asks to watch more of this DVD daily and retains so much of what he learned we will be using this series to supplement his math studies in the future.

Even though none of my children are at the level for The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator DVD I did let my calculator obsessed 8 year old watch part of this DVD. He now wants one of these calculators for Christmas. Since he's the child who knows square roots already he'll get one. Then he can watch the rest of the DVD. We do not have a calculator of this type but when we do get one I am sure - based on our viewing - that we will be able to use it and get the full use of it.

This set is 3 DVD's with 37 sections covering all of the functions of this type of calculator. A full list of the topics covered can be found here.

I highly recommend both of these products. They are especially helpful to someone like me - who is not math oriented but has at least two kids that are very math oriented.

To see what others on the TOS crew have to say about these products click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I am at Heart of The Matter Online Today...

Please check it out here.

Also if you entered my drawing for the Pizza party unit - leave me your email address in the cocomments so I can notify the winner. Sorry - this is my first give away.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Download N Go Review - Pizza Party

Pizza Party is one of the many great Download n' Go Units by Amanda Bennett. You can purchase the e-book for $7.95 in The Old Schoolhouse Store or at the Download n' Go Store.

Boy did we love this one! With a pizza shop right down the road we have pizza quite often and it was easy to interest the boys into studying the hows and wheres and whys about Pizzas.

Day 1: What is Pizza?

I have three boys. The responses were pretty much what one would expect.
Oldest: The best food in the world.
Middle: My favorite food.
Youngest: Food, duh!

Needless to say we learned a lot more about what is Pizza than that!
I really wanted us to make a pizza but it's been so hot here that the oven is on hiatus until at least October.

The boys liked learning about Italy - especially after I explained that the Super Mario Brothers had Italian names.

Day 2: The Story of Pizza

We learned more about Italy and I loved that we could study an artist - Leonardo DiVinci and Italian Cooking music. We looked at the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. The boys all were interested in The Last Supper as Dad was in our church's Easter program where the men did a live action portrayal of the painting.

On Day 3 we talked about the Types of Pizza. The best place to discuss this is CiCi's Pizza - which has a great buffet with all kinds of pizza. Types like Ham and Pineapple or a dessert pizza that tastes like apple pie. I had pictures but some young soul has taken my patch cord and I'm unable to upload them. Hands down, CiCi's is their favorite place for pizza and they loved that it counted as 'homework'

We listened to some of the works of the Italian composer Vivaldi. The oldest was interested - he's the musical guy - but the others were not.

Day 4 was about The Science of Pizza. The middle boy is very into astronomy and was happy to learn more about Gallieo. We talked about yeast and unleavened bread and discussed some verses relating yeast in the Bible.

We ended the week by having a pizza celebration. We played a game on my Ipod touch - Pizza Math - which uses pizzas to cover fractions. We had Little Cesar's for dinner and watched the video links included in the lesson.

So far, this was my favorite and I'm sure it was the boy's favorite Download n' Go. Tying learning in with one of their favorite foods was a sure winner.

You can read more reviews of Pizza Party here and you can also enter to win a free download of Pizza Party by leaving me a comment, 'liking' Download n' Go on Facebook, following Download n' Go on Twitter or do all three for even more chances to win. Just let me know how many of those you did in your comment. I'll draw winners on Tuesday!

Disclaimer: I was provided this product free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no other compensation for this review. Please remember all families are different and your results may vary.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

TOS Review - Vantage Learning - My Access! Home Edition

We used Vantage Learning's My Access! Home Edition for a month in order to review the product for TOS Review Crew. Available for $99 for a 12 month subscription for up to 3 students or 6 students for $129.95, this is a guided writing program. The site includes a demonstration video as well as a parent manual and student manual. The program is for ages 8 - 18 and the assignments are broken up into age ranges - 8-10, 11-14, and 15-18.

My children are reluctant writers to put it very mildly. I knew that getting them to use this would not be easy - we hadn't 'officially' started school yet and they have a horrible time with fleshing out a topic. Registering and setting up the accounts was very easy. The site is easy to navigate and it is very easy to find help if needed.

I set up the oldest easily. The format is engaging and easy to navigate. The student is in training to become a reporter. In order to do this the student must learn the steps in the writing process and the grading rubric that is used with My Access!. Each step is re-enforced with a short quiz to make sure the student is comprehending the lesson.

Topics are listed by age levels - each level has a wide variety of topics - covering the different types of writing - informative, narrative and persuasive. The student can opt to go through the tutorial before the pre-writing process or start writing immediately.

The student types in their draft and then submits it for review. The program displays a graph - showing the student's progress and what they need to work on. My Revision plan is displayed and the student is lead step by step through the revision process. Optional are tutorials that help the student understand the need for revisions and what they might have left out of their essay. Drop down menus help the student revise his draft until it is polished into a product that meets the rubric requirements.

My oldest got very frustrated when we got to the actual writing part. This was harder to navigate and even though he could click on things for explanations he did not understand what the program was trying to tell him. He is dyslexic and any reading is difficult for him. The writing area doesn't operate the same as a word processing program and if he tabbed instead of using the indent button all of his work vanished. Unfortunately he refused to finish and the battle was not worth it.

We also had some intermittent connection issues that added to his frustration. I do believe this was our cable modem and NOT My Access!. My son, however, associated it with the program and I was unable to persuade him to use it further.

I experimented with the program myself in order to give a fair review of the product. The problems my son had are not typical of most learners - my son has dyslexia as well as autism and this makes both the process and the act of writing very difficult for him. The problems he had have nothing to do with the actual product.

I would highly recommend this product for a student who needs help polishing their writing into a finished product. It is well put together and easy to use. I believe it is well worth the price and if I had differently abled learners it would be on my must have list.

To see what others on the TOS Crew have to say about this product click here.

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given use of this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Week 2 - I need a Staples button...

Started week 2 of our new school year and I think I want one of those Staples' 'That was Easy' buttons. I wonder if I haven't made things more difficult than they should be. School got done - math and spelling and grammar went quickly - science for the middle and youngest and we watched a DVD about Jamestown as an intro to our American history unit. No one fussed or balked or refused to do any work.


I have three reviews due in the next week and have made good progress on all but one of them. Tonight I have two meetings at church and then a meeting at SSI in the morning. Praying that one goes well. It would have been easier if they had told me what they needed to begin with.

My grandmother gifted me with her collection of family pictures and the letters sent to the family during one of my great uncle's tours of duty in World War II. I want to scan the photos and transcribe the letters. They are a window into a time that is very important.

Trying to force myself to blog more frequently and not just when I need to review something. Thrilled to see that the Temple Grandin movie did well at the Emmy's. This HBO movie is not to be missed. It was excellent on so many levels.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Our first day of the 2010-2011 year

We had a good first day - Math U See for the older two - Saxon for the younger. Shurley Grammar for all three. Apologia Zoo III for the younger two, Apologia General for the oldest. Tapestry of Grace Year I Unit 1 for two days a week and TOG Yr 2 Unit 3 for two days a week and catch up on Fridays. The older two will start with Institute for Excellence in Writing next week. Plus we will be adding all the great stuff I'm reviewing for TOS.

Today went well - started at 10 am (my boys are at their best later in the morning) and we were done by 1 pm. Only the youngest grumbled and then stopped when he realized it wasn't that hard after all.

Day 1 done - 179 more (approximately) to go. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review: Download N Go - Rollercoasters

When I heard that Download N Go was looking for people to review their product I jumped at the chance. Amanda Bennett is well known for her Unit Studies and I had a Download n' Go unit that the boys really loved.

Since Download N Go studies are meant to be covered in a week it was perfect for the gap week we had before starting our regular school year.

The entire Download N Go series is available in The Old Schoolhouse Store. Roller Coasters is available in e-book format for $7.95.

There is an introduction to the topic by Amanda then you find the daily objectives, book suggestions - our library didn't have these but I found others that worked just as well - then a short intro to lapbooking. We've been lapbooking or lap n' noting for awhile now but it was still interesting to read.

Day 1 was about defining a roller coaster. My kids have only seen them on TV. (In my 43 years I never found the need to ride a roller coaster but then I'm the one who is scared of the Ferris Wheel). They loved the videos. All of mine are 'special learners' and hands on and visuals help them retain so much more than just plain text.

Day 2 covered The History of Roller Coasters which I found interesting - my boys are not really history buffs. They did like learning how they came to be and are clamoring to go on one. I think it might be time for Mom to call in her brother aka The Brave.

Day 3 talked of People and Places of Roller Coasters. I really loved the way that physics is worked into the lesson and my boys learned without realizing it. This was also covered more in Day 4 - Science Secrets of Roller Coasters & Rides. We learned about laws of motion and played with slinkies - a bit hit as the youngest in particular - loves any excuse to try one out. The boys wanted to know what a Ferris Wheel was and I can see a trip to the county fair in our future this fall. Hopefully Dad will brave the scary rides or maybe Uncle The Brave.

Due to family illness we didn't get to cover Day 5 - Goodies & Gadgets of Roller Coasters in much depth. We also didn't get to the lap n' note I wanted to do or take pictures.

This was my second use of Download N Go in our homeschool and I can say that it was VERY enjoyable. I will certainly reuse this study in the future and I will be using other units. We run on a 9 week - one week off schedule and these are great for any gaps we might encounter. The variety of activities really helped my boys gain a better understanding of the topic.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this Download n' Go Unit Study for the purpose of review in exchange for my honest opinion. I received no other compensation. All families are different and your results may vary.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Join me at Heart of the Matter Online Today!

Come read about the homeschooling I thought I'd be doing this summer and how God homeschooled me! Homeschooling in a Sea of Change

Monday, July 19, 2010

Review- ‘Travel The World!’ The Old Schoolhouse Planner June 2010 Planner Module

This is product from The Old Schoolhouse could not have come at a better time for our school. We’re going to be starting a study of Ancient History this fall and this unit study is a perfect overview for them to get their bearings.

In addition to The Old Schoolhouse Planner – which contains all the forms you need and then some – you can purchase monthly modules that are unit studies focusing on one main theme for $7.95 in The Old Schoolhouse Store. The theme for June 2010 is ‘Travel The World’. It’s available at The Old Schoolhouse store – just click on the link and it will take you there. It comes in E-book format which I love because I can print only the pages we need.

It starts off with a nice overview of geography – the definition and then a quick summary of the geography of the earth. Then it covers the oceans and the continents. I love that it has a little bit of this and that – a song which will help eldest remember the continents, lapbook components, tons of web links, puzzles and coloring pages.

We used this for a week. Oldest enjoyed the word searches, Middle enjoyed the maps to label and color. The youngest actually sat still long enough to color the continents.

One of the things that impressed me the most was the age range – there were activities ranging from K to High School. It was a good fit for the age range of my three – 8-11-14. The boys also liked the conversational style of the text.

I would highly recommend this module to anyone needing an introduction to geography or a refresher course. The variety of activities means something for everyone.

If you'd like to read more reviews about this product click here to check out reviews by my Crew mates!

Disclaimer/Disclosure: I was given this product for the purpose of obtaining my honest opinion. I received nothing else. This is my honest opinion. Please consider that every family is different and results may vary.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy - yet Sad......

Today is the 11th birthday of my middle. I call him my birthday present. He was born the day before my birthday. It was a normal pregnancy and birth and though we had a bit of a scare when he first was born (blood sugar crash) he's beautiful and healthy.

And we are celebrating today - he got Wii Sports Resort and a Blue (his favorite color) Wii controller with Wii motion plus. He is one happy boy. A little disappointed that Phil Mickleson didn't win the US Open but he enjoyed following the tournament.

But first we had to get through yesterday....

Yesterday we had to say goodbye to a huge part of our lives for the past twelve years. Not only was he our Pastor - he was and is our dear friend - part of our family. We named our youngest after him. After thirteen years, our Pastor is going to another church tomorrow - on my birthday. Part of me is pouting and glaring at God much like one of my kids when something happens they don't like and another part of me is rejoicing.

Our Pastor is an amazing human being. He loves everyone. He promotes an environment where people are taken as they are - just like Jesus did. That is not to say that wrongs are glossed over and ignored. He preaches the Word of God and does not stray from it while infusing it with the love of Jesus. And he is one of the most humble people I have ever known. If it were freezing he would hand you the shirt off his back without a hesitation. He would give you the last bite of food he had. I am honored to have known him and his wife - who would take up a whole other entry as I strive to be her when I grow up.

He grew up as I did - in the deep south. Racial prejudice is still alive here I am sad to say. But he didn't think people should be judged as Martin Luther King Jr said - ' the color of their skin, but the content of their character.' He was and is shy. His own struggles growing up helped him - and later me - have compassion and understanding when our boys were diagnosed. He was there - for two births, three diagnosis, my surgery, the death of my father, the near death of my mother, four baptisms (me, the boys), and he renewed mine and my husband's vows. He helped us through hard financial times, rejoiced with us in happy times, taught me to love the Word of God and how to study it. Because of he and his wife I am a better person, a better Christian, a better mother and a much better wife.

It was with great weeping and wailing and gnashing of the teeth that we let him go yesterday after his last sermon. His official move is tomorrow. I pray the church that receives him and his wife know the jewels they are getting. I'm sure God is directing his steps and Pastor is merely following His call.

When I was little I didn't go to church much and when I did the Pastors terrified me. They seemed untouchable and didn't want to be bothered with the kids. Oh, I am so glad my boys had a Pastor who lived what Jesus said, 'Let the little ones come to me... and don't impede them...'

I love you my friends. God Bless, God speed. You are faithfully in my thoughts and prayers and I treasure the twelve years we spent together. Go, and be as the butterfly.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hot, Humid, Hazy…. Feels like August here….

I can’t get over how hot this week has been! Heat index near 100? We only usually see that type of heat in late July or August. Since we’re still waiting on my medical issues to get straightened out and it’s VBS – Vacation Bible School – week at our church – followed by Middle and my birthdays we’re doing some light schooling. I’m trying to digest the wonderful downloadable webcasts at Tapestry of Grace. So far I’ve watched Out of the Shrinkwrap and Lesson Planning 101. I have purchased and downloaded the other two but haven’t watched them yet. If you want to really get a taste of Tapestry of Grace I highly recommend the above titles. TOG can look overwhelming at first but it’s really a nice frame work that I find quite flexible. Each session is $7.00 and I believe there is a code to get one of them free. They will be adding new Teacher Trainings each month.

I am also faithfully reading and re-reading my The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew Manual. Yes, I got picked to be part of the Older Review Crew this year. I am very excited at the opportunity. The support is fantastic. I based a lot of my curriculum choices by reading the reviews of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I love the practical suggestions I gleaned for tweaking a product to use with my family. So I’m happy to be a part of it this year.


matthewnccaagolf2010  Middle son enjoying the NCAA Women’s Golf Finals. He and his Dad made a day of it – watching Perdue win their first title.


pelican  My Mother, Grandmother and Brother now live in Oak Island. My Mother – who shares mine and middle’s infatuation with Pelicans took this shot off the Oak Island pier.


We went to the beach Saturday for the first time in a long time. Oak Island was a less crowded beach than Wrightsville Beach – which is much closer. I suspect it has to do with the smaller waves and it’s a south facing beach instead of east. We examined a wriggly little fish from the surf – let him go – examined seaweed and kelp. Then we went back to grandma’s to grill and ride around in the golf cart.

Monday the heat arrived full force so we’re just trying to stay cool. Hope your week is going well!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Interesting conversation with the youngest...

I dropped oldest and middle off at Vacation Bible School. Youngest decided he didn't want to go this year. (I stepped into the Sanctuary for a few minutes before it started and it was sensory overload for me.)

On the way home he pipes up from the back seat:

Him: What day did I hatch?

Me: What?

Him: (patiently) What day did I hatch? You know, out of my egg.

Me: (thinking that this kid has really made a huge leap in his biology knowledge) You're a mammal. You were born.

Him: (exasperated sigh) I was not! I was hatched! I'm a chicken!

Me: (knowing it's useless to argue with an 8 year old Aspie but doing it anyway) No, you are not a chicken. I'll take you to Dr. B - he delivered you.

Him: Hatched me. Was Dr. B there?

Me: Yes, he delivered babies then.

Him: Was Daddy there?

Me: Yes, the whole time.

Him: That's silly. Rooster's aren't there when chickens hatch.

We pulled up at home - DH right behind us and I inform him that he needs to tell our son he is not a chicken and did not come from an egg.

Him: Technically....

I then left for the library....

Multitude Monday

holy experience

Since being chosen for the 2010-2011 TOS Review Crew I am determined to start blogging on a more regular basis. Now that I have the house fairly organized it's time to start on my time. I have loved this meme for a long time and decided to take the plunge and start my own list of things to be thankful for.

1. A husband who is also my best friend.
2. A nice home that is cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
3. A fabulous church family.
4. Three amazing kids who inspire me even when they challenge me.
5. The little wiggly fish in the ocean this weekend. God made them perfectly tiny.
6. The baby mockingbird fledglings from last week who seemed to think I could protect them. (So far so good)
7. A day of rest.
8. My mother, brother and grandmother now live less than an hour away in a safe house.
9. My husband has a good job.
10. We have our curriculum for next year and are ready to go anytime.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Now that all the boys evaluations are done and after this week I will have my mother, grandmother and brother moved closer to where we live, we can pick up the pace with out schooling.

I finally took the plunge and bought Unit 1 of Year 1 from Tapestry of Grace. I've been looking at it over a year, wondering if I can make it work.

I downloaded the three weeks sample, discovered most of the books at my local library, took a week for my brain to recover from the information overload that comes from one's first glance at TOG DE and wow....

I think it's going to work well. I can still use the Charlotte Mason aspects I love - the nature walks, the living books, etc. I love the way it covers everything but science and spelling and math (though I have my own preferences in those subjects anyway).

Now if the pollen will just wash away....

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring is starting to peek out so it's planning time again...

It's finally starting to warm up here. My middle stood at a park with his worker in a gaggle of geese and brought home an unwelcome present on his boots. No matter - that's why we have soap and water - and wipes.

This means that it is time to start school planning. Despite the interruptions and upsets we're almost done with the stuff we've used this year. We've completed Apologia Astronomy, each boy has finished at least one level in Math U See and are pretty far into the next level, we're almost done with NC history and its time for the CAT testing required every year.

Next year I'm incorporating a lot more Charlotte Mason - shorter lessons - more subjects - including nature walks, Shurely English for the older two and First Language Lessons for the younger. We're going to use Apologia Botany for the spring and summer and then Zoo I. The oldest will be using Apologia General Science. Then we'll start All American History Vol I.

I just need time to sit down and write out our plans. Since we're done with evaluations for the time being I hope to do that this weekend or the next.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Uhm, isn't it supposed to be spring or close to it?

I am tired. Of whining, mostly my own. Tired of evaluations for the boys - over and over again - duplicates. Tired of being scared to eat something. Tired of seeing the nice people at the ER. Heck, they may be missing me as I haven't been there in almost two weeks now. Tired of it being cold.

But I am happy too. Happy that the sun is out today. Happy that Zondervan sent me a 'Busy Woman's Bible' to look over in exchange for a review. Happy to be participating in the churchwide 'Treasures of a Transformed Life' Lenten study. Happy I got to go to the Homeschool Refresher by HOTM online. Happy to have my HOTM article done before the deadline - for once. Glad to have found 'The President's Daughter' series at the library by Ellen Emerson White. Yes, technically its young adult fic but its good fiction.

It started with me looking for a book she'd written years and years ago called 'Friends For Life'. I really liked that book and its main character - Susan. (Susan happens to be the name of my best childhood friend. Her darling father passed on this week and my heart is breaking for her. He was a very fine man.) Google led me to a blog that said Susan (the character, not my friend) was back in Ellen Emerson White's latest book 'Long May She Reign'. The library had it. All 7oo plus pages of it. I love a good thick book.

I also liked Meg as much as I liked the returning Susan. White creates real characters - they whine, they get mad, they say ugly words sometimes but they are tough and strong people that are interesting to read about. Today I got the remaining books in the series from the library and can't wait to settle in a read them.

I'm also investigating using some Charlotte Mason in our school from now on.

As for the stuff I'm tired of... I have to keep remembering - 'This too shall pass....'

Pass soon. I'm ready for Spring!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Glad to be still here...

I had a stomach bug around Thanksgiving. I thought I had recovered quite nicely - despite having to go to ER due to dehydration. Not so fast.

Apparently this upset my GI so bad I have progressed from IBS to just plain mad BS. I have made three trips to the ER in the past five days and four total since the first of the year. I had an allergic reaction to one med and think I may be developing an allergy to yet another.

Which means I was not able to fully enjoy the first snowfall we've had around here in ages. Two of the three boys did enjoy it - playing in the snow here before going to a friend's house for a birthday party where they made huge snowmen in a field nearby.

This is the nicest kind of snow - it fell Friday night - big puffy flakes and most of the overnight and into the early morning. We lost power for about five hours but it was the middle of the night so we didn't really notice much. The roads cleared quickly and by late Sat afternoon it still looked nice but was on its way out. Today it will get warm enough to finish it off and since we won't go below freezing tonight everything will be fine in the morning.

Our new stuff came from Rainbow Resource. I think I'm in love with Shurley English and we all love the Apologia Elementary series. We're just waiting on Anatomy to be published and we'll have the whole series. Cole will start Apologia General Science. All American History looks like I'll have to tweak it some but I like it.

I think I may need to order Shurley English 3 for youngest. We'll see.