Thursday, August 4, 2011

Joyce Herzog's Choosing and Using Curriculum Review

During one of the Heart of the Matter Online Homeschool conferences I had the pleasure of hearing Joyce Herzog speak on Special Needs and Homeschooling. Since we're friends on Facebook I saw that she needed people to evaluate and review the two of her books - Joyce Herzog's Guide to Choosing and Using Curriculum - and the Companion resource ebook with links - I jumped at the chance. The Guide to Choosing and Using Curriculum is in print form and the companion book with links is in ebook format.

This is probably the best resource I have found for adapting and modifying work
for my very differently-abled learners. I don't remember learning to read - I
just always have and have loved it. I found it very hard to try and teach a child who has dyslexia and processing issues. I soon realized that I didn't even know phonics!

This book gives practical tips and ways to approach helping him with his
reading. It also gives me new ideas for sparking interest in reading for all
three boys. It was harder to come to terms with having kids that dislike reading
than it was coming to terms with their special needs!

Some main things that I really really loved Chapter by Chapter:

Introduction/Chapter 1 - Love the questions to ask yourself when evaluating a curriculum as well as tips for convention attending. I hope to attend an in person next year because I love the online conventions. (The Fall Heart of the Matter Online Conference starts Monday and there is still time to get a ticket.) There are questions to ask a curriculum writer that will help you decide if their curriculum is right for your kids.

Chapter Two - Curriculum Types and Comments - I love the way each method is broken down with the advantages/disadvantages and the consideration for the special needs learner. I found the most valuable parts were the suggestions on how to maximize each approach to work with special needs kids fir each homeschooling method. If you tend to collect curriculum like me or by necessity do the eclectic thing this helps a great deal to use what you do have. As she states several times - there is no one size fits all curriculum for ADHD or Autism or Dyslexia. We must find ways to modify and tailor the curriculum to what our kids need. I had no idea where to start but this book gives me places to start and ideas to use.

Chapter 3 - Which One is Me? - This has descriptions of different types of homeschoolers. I found these descriptions very accurate - sometimes uncomfortably so! I go from 'Average Homeschooler' to 'I don't know what to do with Johnny' several times during a school year.

We did not plan to homeschool - the school system made it impossible for us to
leave our boys in it. It's been a constant state of trying to catch up as they refused to recognize our oldest's dyslexia. The suggestions and tips are very helpful because after five years I still feel inadequate to the task before me. Yet, I know God doesn't call the equipped - He equips the called.

Chapter 4 - Education Styles - This chapter goes into how each Education Style actually looks in the homeschool. The subject she uses is the topic of ducks. The illustration was spot on and really helped me understand the different homeschool methods and how they are applied.

Chapter 5 -Grade Levels - I found the history and explanations very helpful. It is very hard to get out of the idea that because a child is a certain chronological age then he/she should be at ____ grade level.

Chapter 6 - Getting Back to Basics - This chapter talks about the very basic things we wish to teach our children.

Chapter 7 - What Can They Do By Themselves? - A very nice list of tasks that a child should roughly be able to perform independently at certain age range. Since I don't have typical developing kids and I don't know what 'typical' development looks like I found this very helpful.

Chapter 8-Start Your Year Off Right - Tips for preparing for your school year. I love the line 'Read aloud to your children until they are old enough to read
aloud to their children. So often I feel I shouldn't be reading to them because
they are X age.

Chapter 9 - Take a Snapshot of Your Child's Progress - So often progress is very slow and so hard won that we miss the achievements and focus on what we haven't gotten done. This chapter gives tips on how to see the trees for the forest.

Chapter 10 - Infant and Early Childhood Training - I skimmed this as my kids are well past this age. :)

Chapter 11 - Bible, Spiritual, Religious and Character Training - A wide selection of links to materials and book suggestions that are available for this area of study.

Chapter 12 - Points to Consider When Choosing a Math Curriculum - I skimmed this - as we found programs to fit each of the boys mathwise but I liked the questions to ask yourself when evaluating if a curriculum is a good fit for your child.

Chapter 13 - Comparison of Math Programs - I really appreciate the side - by - side comparisons of programs through out this book. It really helps when you are trying to weigh your options.

Chapter 14 - Points to Consider When Choosing a Reading Method - Again, a great list of things to question when deciding if a program will work for your individual child.

Chapter 15 - Comparing Seven Popular Learn-to-Read Methods - The breakdown of the various learn to read methods is VERY helpful for the parent of struggling reader. I wish I had this break down back when I was wondering what could I possibly use to help oldest read and that I could effectively teach.

Chapter 16 - Comparison of Reading Programs -

Chapter 17- How to Interest a Child in Reading - This is one of those - 'Where have you been all my life' - chapters. I think coming to terms with having three kids who don't like to read was harder to come to terms with than their autism. I spent much of my childhood (and adulthood) with my nose in a book and to not be able to share that joy with my kids is hard. I had no idea what might spark an interest and now I have new things to try.

Chapter 18 - Teaching Reading Comprehension - I found it very hard to teach this as it was something that came naturally to me my entire life. This provides me with a guide and methods to use.

Chapter 19 - Teaching Discernment in Literature - Very timely chapter as my kids are getting older and need to be wise about what they are reading and what it is actually saying to them.

Chapter 20 - Developing Written Expression - Writing is a nightmare here. I have used just about every program on the market. I was glad to see this chapter.

Chapter 21 - Looking at Language Arts - A very informative list of what is out there for language arts.

Chapter 22 - Comparison of Handwriting Styles - I skimmed this as we have used one particular program for years and it works well. Still - the side by side helps very much.

Chapter 23 - A Few Unique Books to Consider - These are resources I had not heard of before but are now on my needs list.

Chapter 24 - Geography, Science and History Resources - Lists the various programs available and a brief summary of each.

Chapter 25 - Tips for Teaching History - This chapter is going to be copied, laminated and at my fingertips at all times during teaching history. The tips - the questions to provoke thought and discussion are very valuable and helpful.

Chapter 26 - Adapting Materials for Special Situations - The most important chapter for me. So often I realize things need to be adapted but have no idea on how to proceed. I'm putting this in my teacher notebook because I need to go over it again and again. This is a list of ideas on modifying or adapting work for your child. There are so many of these that I felt like I should have thought of already and did not. This chapter is being copied and posted at my desk to remind me of how to change how to get information into the child when the current method isn't working.

A few examples: Do half the problems. Read to your child if you need to do so, provide the child another way to demonstrate what he knows - a project, a film, an oral presentation, etc. Highlighting and other visual aids - mini offices for example.

Chapter 27 - Testing - A chapter I skimmed. In NC we are required to administer a standardized test yearly. I use the CAT 5 and the only reason we do it is because it is legally required. The chapter does remind you to examine the point of the testing and what the testing can tell you or even if it is helpful. All of our kids had been evaluated before we started our homeschool journey - (except for the dyslexia) - and we found that the 'labels' helped us a great deal to understand why they do the things they do.

Chapter 28 - Special Help for Our Very Special Students - These are specific suggestions for various special needs as well as resources for support or more information on each.

I found the text very readable and the layout and illustrations very nice. The print copy is only 12 and it is a book I will refer to again and again.

The companion book is wonderful. I like this in ebook format. I appreciate being able to click and go to a
link. I like the way the links were broken down and grouped. It was easy to find
what I was looking for.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of these two books by the author for the purpose of my honest and truthful review. I received no other compensation for this review and my opinions and thoughts are my own.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

TOS Review - Eagle's Wings - Considering God's Creation



I have had a wonderful year serving on the TOS Review Crew. It's hard to believe but this is my last review as a crew member. I've had the privilege of trying so many great products and it has helped me learn what will and will not work in our homeschool.

I was very happy to receive Considering God's Creation by Eagle's Wings for my final Review. I had seen samples before and it looked like a great program. The Teacher's Manual, complete with audio CD and a student book are available for $29.95. Extra student workbooks can be purchased for $13.95. Eagle's Wings also offers other products - History, Bible, Phonics, Geography and Math. For a full list please click here.

This is a real bargain. It is a life and earth science program written from a Creationist point of view that spans grades 2 to 7 though it is easily adapted for any age. We used it as a supplement to our regular curriculum but this could be used as a stand alone program as well. It does not have to be followed in the order it is presented. It uses hands on approach to each topic through the use of notebooking pages, crossword and word search puzzles, pull out charts and foldables. It works well for a hands on, visual or audio learner (thanks to the songs on CD).

The topics covered are:

The Universe: Stars and Planets
The Earth
Non-Living Things: Rocks and Minerals
The Plant Kingdom
The Animal Kingdom
Animal Anatomy and Physiology
Man: Made in God's Image

Each topic has several subtopics for a total of 36 lessons.

The first two things I pulled to use were the parts of a plant and the parts of a cell. Both of these were areas my oldest was struggling in. The illustrations and the analogies in the cell chapter - (example comparing the cell membrane to a 'guarded wall') - helped cement these concepts in his head. He is a weather nut and I promised him we would work on that section when he finished cells and plant parts. (My oldest is fourteen but dyslexic and only reads on about a 8th grade level.)

My middle son was all about the crossword puzzles and and the star slides activity. He loves space and planets and these notebooking pages and activities were well laid out and he could work independently.

I will probably be using this as my youngest son's main Science curriculum in the fall. It's visual and hands on plus it's easy to use for short lessons.

The Teacher's Manual is well laid out. It tells you how many lessons the topic will span, materials you will need to complete the lesson and suggestions on how to dig deeper with a topic of interest. These include suggestions for DVD/Videos, books, experiments and research topics. Some lessons include suggestions for vocabulary words and Bible readings. My boys didn't get much out of the songs and the audio CD which comes with the Teacher's manual. An auditory learner most certainly would benefit. This is a quality product at a very good price. It's nice to go out reviewing a product I can recommend with no reservations.


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.

Monday, May 16, 2011

TOS Review - Bright Ideas Press - WonderMaps

Wondermaps Logo

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I was given access to Bright Idea's Press Wonder Maps for review. Wondermaps is available from Bright Ideas Press for $49.95 at the above hyperlink. It is available via download or CD. The license is for installation on two computers and a back up. This also includes updates to the program.

This is the latest in a line of great products by this vendor. Earlier this year I had the privilege of reviewing 'A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers' so I was thrilled to be picked for this review.

Geography is an important part of our homeschool. I don't want my boys wondering where Chile is for example. My middle son is a huge golf fan and we usually look up player's countries during a tournament.

Wondermaps made it easier to do this and opened our eyes to new ways of exploring the countries of the world.

opening page

This is the main screen. You can see some of the many ways to pull up the map you need or would like to look at.

You can also look them up this way:



And when you decide how to look them up you are in for a treat:

There are over sixty world maps, over sixty US maps and over 125 historical maps which includes 25 biblical maps. It has all the maps needed to complete any of Bright Ideas Press history programs - The Mystery of History series and All American History.

It requires Adobe Reader v 9 or higher - which is a free download from Adobe.

The versatility of this product is it's largest strength. Operating on a 'layering' design the user can chose what to include in the map to print - or to simply view. This makes it a cinch to make not only student maps but teacher key maps as well.


You can turn on and off labels such as: lakes and rivers, territorial boundaries, mountain ranges, state and country names, capital names and locations and city locations. And that isn't nearly all. The biblical maps are perfect for use in home school or Sunday School. You can make the maps color or black and white.


The Teacher's Guide is packed with information on how to use this product. Also included is this great tutorial video. This helped me get off to a fast start with the program.

This product could easily be used as a stand alone resource or as a supplement to ANY history curriculum. I could not recommend it more. Now if you'll pardon me I have to go look up Ireland for the golf boy. :)

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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

TOS Review - Yesterday's Classics

As a member of the TOS Review Crew and a self confessed book junkie I was lucky enough to be chosen to review 'Yesterday's Classics'. Currently they are running a special sale - 225 ebooks in either Kindle or Epub format - for $99.95. The sale through May 31st then the collection will return to the regular price of $149.95.

To get a full listing of all the wonderful books that are included in this collection click here. These files are free of DRM or other restrictions so for the low price above you may put them on as many devices as you wish. In fact we will be purchasing another Kindle for the sole use of putting these and any other ebooks for school on it.

We have both a Kindle and Ipod so I checked out the collection in Kindle and Epub format. This impressive collection contains book recommended by the curriculum we currently use and many that will make excellent supplements. Right away I noticed that the formatting is much better than the free books I had downloaded from other sources. Another great feature is that the table of contents are hot linked - meaning you can click on the link and go right to the chapter you're looking for.

We primarily used it on the Kindle for several reasons. The main reason was that our oldest is dyslexic and Kindle has text to speech enabled for some ebooks. I was delighted to discover that the ones we checked out from Yesterday's Classics had this feature. Also on the Kindle the user can make notes or highlight sections of text.

The instructions made loading these onto the Kindle and the Ipod a breeze. The information file had the books listed in a variety of different ways - sorted by Level, Genre, Author and Title, by Genre, Author and Title, by Title, and by Author.

There was also a list of books and descriptions as well as a price for those available in print form with pricing. This made it very easy for me to determine which books would work for which child and with which study.

Here are a few of the titles we've read so far:

The biggest problem is getting the boys to share the Kindle. Middle is a nature lover and he's all about the Science books. The Oldest will now actually do his literature assignment because when he gets tired he can use the text to speech feature and his retention of what he reads is better.

I'm looking forward to using these to finish out our school year and to enhance our new year starting in the fall. I feel the product is well worth the price. If I had not been lucky enough to be chosen for this review it was on my 'to buy' list. It is a true bargain. The tech support was prompt and friendly. The instructions were quite clear and easy to understand.

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.

Monday, April 4, 2011

TOS Review Crew - GoGo Kabongo

As a member of the TOS Review Crew my youngest got a trial subscription to GoGo Kabongo to try out.

GoGo Kabongo is a colorful website devoted to strengthening a child's pre-reading skills through games of various types. The recommended age levels are 4 to 7 years old.

Kids get to create their own avatar in order to explore the learning games. Colorful characters guide the student through the levels or habitats. The first habitat - Laughter Lake - is free. Additional habitats are $4.95 each - with no subscription fees. If you sign up now you can get Galaxy Gardens free for a limited time.
Kabongo home

In the Treehouse
you can create your own avatar in the Avatar Maker, use the Comic Book Creator, play in the Skate Park or use the Map to access the habitats.

The above image is the Map used to navigate to the habitats. There are three with three levels each:

Twister Top
- which contains the games Crazy Maze, Desert Dash, and Design a Door.

Galaxy Gardens
- where you can play Photo Safari, Robo Bobo (Robot building was something my youngest liked a lot!) and Rocket Racer.

Laughter Lake - has Scuba Dude, Critter Sizer, and Going Buggy.

My youngest did not like the characters and refused to play the games more than once. This is not unusual for him and is not a reflection on the product. We are currently unable to determine his actual reading level but I'm sure it is higher than the target group. He is easily bored and does not like to do anything more than once. Therefore this review was mostly based on my playing around on the site. It is easy to navigate and we just had a few minor hiccups - badges not appearing - that were resolved by refreshing the screen.

The games are just challenging enough without being too hard and therefore discouraging. When my middle son was younger he would have loved a website such as this. I can see how it could teach visual-spatial skills along with spelling and other necessary skills. In fact it could have helped any of my guys in their weaker areas of attention, visualization and working memory to name a few. I would recommend it for any child in the target ages but especially a child who has visual tracking and working memory issues.

Here is a nice chart that shows the skills the website is designed to teach and a progress report is emailed weekly so you can easily keep track of your child's progress.

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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

TOS Review - Artistic Pursuits

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I had the opportunity h review Artistic Pursuits Art Curriculum. We used Book 1 for Grades 4-6 - The Elements of Art and Composition. It is available for $42.95 here. There are also lots of sample pictures from the book on this page so you can get a general idea of what a lesson looks like.

I appreciated the supplies needed list in the front of the text. Not only was it clear about when certain supplies were needed - by unit - it also had pictures of the needed supplies. This helped me get the proper item.

I also appreciated the What Parents Want to Know section. This section explained the aim of the curriculum, how each Unit was structured and suggestions for scheduling. Their suggestion is two classes per week - 1 hour each - to complete the book in one year.

The next section introduces the student to the aims of the curriculum:

1. Learn to observe the world around you - to really see it.

2. Learn WHAT to look for.

3. Learn to focus on one element of art at a time, while drawing, and block out others.

and they lay out The Elements of Art:

Line - Value - Form

The Lessons themselves have four parts:

Explore Your World - This uses real world experiences to help the student learn to 'see' the world from an art perspective.

Make a Drawing - The student tries to make their own drawing based on the objective of the lesson.

Something to Try - This encourages the student to try different techniques while drawing.

Final Project - Self explanatory.

These are accompanied by illustrations that really work well for my non artistic visual learners.

My boys do not like to draw and this is not a reflection on this book. They did however - enjoy learning about how to 'see' art and the history behind some of the artists and paintings featured in the book. We learned much about an artist making good use of the space on their paper, line and shape and how they are used to enhance detail in art, texture, shading, shadow, contrast and so many terms they were not familiar with that the text did a great job of showing and telling.

For the first time the boys want to go on a field trip to the local art museum to put into practice what we've learned through this book. They are such perfectionists that I did eventually give up on the actual drawing part of the lessons but I tried a few of them myself and the directions are clear and easy to follow.

In the back of the book is a helpful 'Evaluation Sheet' to assist in grading the lessons in this book. From the perspective of a non artistic parent this helped me a lot.

I highly recommend this curriculum for anyone looking to introduce art in their homeschool.

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.

Friday, February 18, 2011

TOS Review - Kid Scoop

As a TOS Review Crew Member I was given a chance to try out Kid Scoop's Reluctant Reader Solution. Since we have three of those in our house - only one is currently identified as dyslexic - I jumped at the chance. The information page that includes pricing and the basis for the program is located here.

Kid Scoop offers a Reluctant Reader Solution package - 365 worksheets and 12 month subscription to their Kid Scoop News for the low price of $97 per year. This is a money back guaranteed program that is quickly delivered to your email box after purchase.

The worksheets consist of mini unit studies on 60 different subjects of high interest. I used Christopher Columbus with Oldest, Golf for Middle and Immunizations with Youngest. These are in black and white and come in PDF form. Oldest was studying Columbus so it dovetailed well with his history lesson - map activities, math exercises, proof reading/editing, puzzles and the always popular word search.

Golf had many different math exercises that Middle really needed. He loved the word search and the jokes and riddles on the pages.

I chose Immunization for Youngest because he needed a booster at his well check and I needed help convincing Mr. Logical. The study filled the need and went with his Science study of the Human Body. It talked about the science behind Immunizations and how the body reacts to them. Again, the Word Search was a big hit.

My only complaint would be that the pages are a bit too cluttered for people who are easily visually overwhelmed. We preferred the black and white worksheets to the Kid Scoop News. While bright, vivid colors are attractive to most kids mine are easily visually overstimulated. I am as well and I had a little trouble navigating both the website and the Newsletter online. It was much easier to download the monthly newsletter and read it on my computer.

I will continue to use these units as they make a very nice supplement to our studies. It did raise the interest level of my kids - Middle wanted to do the entire golf unit in one day. I liked the way math word problems were woven into the subject as my boys struggle with ordinary word problems. Tying them to an interesting subject made all the difference in their comprehension.

You can also sign up for 30 days of tips delivered to your email here. There are also other offerings at this link - a website for kids and a newsletter for parents.

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.

Friday, February 11, 2011

TOS Review - The Curiosity Files - Zombie Fire Ants

As part of the TOS Review Crew I was given a copy of their new Unit Study series - The Curiousity Files for review. After discussion with the boys we chose 'Zombie Fire Ants'.

There are currently nine different studies in this series and they are currently bundled into a money saving package of all nine for $46.00. It includes - Blue Diamond, Dung Beetle, Puffer Fish, MRSA, Red Tide, Blue-Footed Booby, Cidica Killing Wasp, Quicksand and Zombie Fire Ants. You can also purchase them individually. These are geared for ages 8-13 but could be beefed up for older students or adapted for younger students easily. The studies cover Bible, Geography and of course, Science. There are plenty of Language Arts activities to choose from.

We had a blast with Zombie Fire Ants. I have always said I would ask God just what His purpose was in creating fire ants. They are the opposing side in a war over our back yard that we fight every spring, summer and fall. Sadly there were no ants to look at while we were conducting this particular study because of the unusually cold weather we've had in our area.

As the mother of three who are easily overwhelmed by too much text on a page - I appreciated the layout of the information section of this study. It was well balanced with pictures and broken into several sections for easier reading.

(I also loved showing my middle son that fire ants can - in fact - form a ball and float on water. We had a spirited debate about that and the picture provided in the study proved it.)

The boys decided that the phorid fly should be imported to North Carolina immediately so we don't have to use fire ant killer this year. Plus, I think they really want to see headless ants wandering around.

We did the Question and Answer section together - giving all of them a chance to respond. As usual - the more gross and strange the topic, the more the boys retained. I was happy that I didn't have to do much adapting to this section - it challenged them just enough.

The 'Fire Ant Week' section was a God send. My youngest has a horrible time with days of the week and using the theme to work on this skill made my job much easier.

In fact we wound up using all of the pages that had math activities on them. It goes so much easier when it's an interesting topic.

As a writer I loved the analogy of the zombie fire ants wandering around with a direction like a run on sentence does. The boys - who are allergic to writing - weren't as impressed. They did like correcting the sentences - they just didn't like writing them.

I liked having a vocabulary list and the spelling activities. I liked the use of puzzles to reinforce certain concepts. Word searches are always a good thing in our school. We did the map activity, and the lapbook components we used to lap and note in our science binders.

I cannot stress enough how much I liked the tips for making this study more friendly to hands on learners. It really made me think of ways I could use this that would not have occurred to me. We poured over You tube for Zombie Fire Ants videos.

We spent about a week on this study be with all of the information given we could have easily gone longer and branched out into different areas from it. There is a lot of material here and it's an excellent deal for the price.

Since we liked the layout and the content of this study so much I believe we will be using more of The Curiosity Files. In fact I think Dung Beetles may be the next in line. Remember, for our boys the grosser and stranger the better!

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.

Friday, January 28, 2011

TOS Review-TenMarks

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I received a six month trial subscription for two of my boys to TenMarks. TenMarks is an online math instruction program that works through worksheets and videos. Each student does a quick assessment to determine placement here.

I would also recommend watching this video. It gives you a nice overview of how this program works.

I am not a math person - that is the understatement of the decade - so finding a math program that works for my two very math oriented kids is a challenge. The non-mathy child is quite happy with his curriculum, the oldest is easier to find math products for but the youngest.....

A little background, my youngest taught himself multiplication at five and square roots at seven. His favorite toy? A calculator. Seriously. He wants a graphing calculator next. Did I mention he's nine?

Right away he took to TenMarks. He liked the variety. He liked only having one worksheet per day. He liked having the option to do all off his worksheets in one day and ask for more. He's a hands on learner with a little visual thrown in so the videos, the graphics and the multiple choice were perfect for him.

I liked the flexibility of the program. As the parent I could change the order of the modules, pause the program, the worksheet reminders and probably many things I don't know I can do with it yet. TenMarks has top notch customer service. They always responded promptly to any emails I sent and patiently walked me through changing the curriculum around to suit my oldest - whose math abilities are all over the place. It also let me know he wasn't doing the work he claimed he was doing thanks to the worksheet reminders. It was easy to communicate with TenMarks via the Feedback tab on the right hand side of the webpage.

TenMarks has a VERY flexible pricing structure. You can sign up for a free trial for seven days. If you like the program it is available for $10 per month, $49 for six months and $89 for twelve months.

Again, this is another product on my must have list. I highly recommend TenMarks. The product is great and the customer service cannot be beat.

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.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

TOS Review- Lifeway Christian Bookstores-Bible Dictionary

As part of the TOS Review Crew I received the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids from Lifeway Christian Bookstore to review. The product is $14.99 and can be purchased here or at a local store. Use the store locator on the Lifeway Christian Bookstore website.

This is a must for any homeschool library in my opinion. You can take a peek inside here. You can also download a sample.

I had a lot of trouble reviewing this product. Mainly because I could not pry it away from my kids! My middle would take it to bed to browse over, my oldest would take it to look up something for school and I'd lose him for the rest of the day! Even the youngest - who is not into books - loved browsing through the entries about animals in the Bible.

This is more than just a Bible Dictionary with pictures. It has Reconstructions that are great for visual guys like mine who need to be able to 'see' what something might have looked like during Bible times. The illustrated charts and maps were immediately bookmarked for future use and quick access. The pronunciation guide was a big help to my oldest - who is in remediation for his dyslexia and needs encouragement to try and sound out words on his own.

One day I noticed my middle son with his Bible in one hand and this book in the other. Upon closer inspection I realized he was using the scripture references in each entry to read about them in his Bible. That alone was enough to sell me on the product.

The age range is listed from 5-10 years but my oldest is fourteen and enjoyed it also. The illustrations and pictures are so nice I think all ages could benefit from this resource.

So I highly recommend this resource for anyone and I'm sure it would also make a wonderful gift. Now if I can just get our copy back from those pesky kids.....

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.

Friday, January 21, 2011

TOS Review - Speekee/Lingua4LTD

As a member of the TOS Review Crew our family was given a free trial to Speekee - Spanish for children - Online. Speekee is a Spanish teaching program that is available online or via DVD (though a PAL compatible DVD player is required). They offer at two week trial and then it is $7.95 per month. There is also an available option for regular schools here. The age range is approximately 2-10 years of age though my eleven and fourteen year old thought it funny and interesting.

There are ten videos staring Speekee - a purple puppet that speaks Spanish and interacts with Jim and several kids in various scenes. Closed Captioning translates the Spanish spoken into English so that kids learn as they follow along.

The videos combine songs and skits - each with a different location. Each video has suggested activities and worksheets that can be used along with the program. The videos are approximately 20 minutes long. My boys said it was like a Spanish version of Sesame Street and liked it very much. It is an immersion type program and I mostly just let them watch it and we would occasionally use some of the suggested activities. They really liked being able to watch it on our TV via our Wii. (Using the internet channel on the Wii, I went to the website, logged in and selected a video. I could not figure out how to get the closed captioning to work so we watched the ones they'd seen before.)

I found it a great way to start our school day and we watched some of the videos more than once. I think it would have helped my boys more if I had found it when they were younger. English is pretty tough for my guys and a new language would have to be introduced like this and even then it would be hard for them to grasp.

I would highly recommend Speekee for anyone wanting to introduce their child to Spanish. We will probably continue our subscription past the review period so that we can finish all of the activities.

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.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

TOS Review - Virtual Nerd

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I received a premium trial subscription to Virtual Nerd to evaluate the product.

Virtual Nerd
is an online higher Math and Science step by step video tutorial program. IT is primarily for grades 7-12. Using a speaker and writing out concepts on a whiteboard - the student is able to absorb the information through two learning modes at once. They offer both a Basic and a Premium account. Basic is free for everyone. Premium service is free for educators (For public/private schools only). The price varies depending on the plan you choose. $5 per day, $19 for one week, $49 for monthly recurring and $129 for 3 weeks. These are flexible to allow for the various ways to utilize the product.

Currently the subjects covered are: Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II and Physics. Since my oldest is currently in Pre-Algebra we started and mostly concentrated on that. I highly recommend watching the intro video to get an idea of how this product works.

The subjects are broken down into many different concepts. Pre-Algebra is broken down into thirteen areas with sub menus beyond that. Once you watch a video you are provided with suggestions for another related video. You have the option to select one topic or to play all of the selections for a concept.

Oldest found the tutor engaging and he really liked the way concepts were written out and made visual for him. The way they break down things into steps and show the steps they will cover in a display to the right of the presentation really helped him stay patient. I didn't hear 'How long is this?' over and over again. (The video has a 'time bar' under the video that is also marked off with the various steps that will be covered as well as the total time of the selected video.)

The speaker's pace and diction were just right. The graphics were not overwhelming and the explanations - written and discussed were clear enough for my oldest to follow it. It was great that he could pause it, watch it over and over and come back and watch it again if he needed to do so. He has not gotten very far with Pre-Algebra so the concepts quickly became too hard for him. I let him watch them anyway - figuring as he progresses maybe he will remember seeing the videos.

Occasionally we would have trouble getting a video to load but it was rare. We used it on a PC running Windows 7 with the Firefox browser.

I briefly looked at the other subjects but since I struggled to finish Algebra I in High School the large majority of it was way over my head. Though I believe the price is a little steep if I were to use it now (for basically part of a subject) I believe it would be a worthwhile investment when my boys reach High School age.

Virtual Nerd is a very well constructed, innovative product and one that is certainly on my list to purchase when we reach that level. The pricing structure is makes this much more affordable and flexible to use. It is not a product I would need a year long subscription to - perhaps a day if we were struggling to understand a certain concept.

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.

Friday, January 7, 2011

TOS Review - See N Read©

As a member of the TOS Review Crew I received a package from See N' Read© Reading Tools. These products were designed to aid readers with focusing, visual tracking and retaining what they read. They were developed by a mother seeking to help her daughter who was struggling to read fluently. More information on the research behind it can be found here.

Enclosed were the Book sized See-N-Read© with the Memory Mark™ feature. This tool measures 5 1/2" x 3" and has a cut out window in the guide section that allows you to highlight or underline without moving your guide. This is also available in Document size which is 8 1/2" x 3". This product can be purchased as a single or in different quantities and packages. A price list is here.

I found the Memory Mark™ to be perfect for Bible Study. I could keep my place, not be overwhelmed by text all over the page and highlight or make a note without moving the tool. My kids liked using to to read their literature books but really didn't need to highlight anything.

Also in the package was the Document sized See-N-Read©. (8 1/2" x 3"). I had the boys use this one to follow along with worksheets and to keep their columns straight during their math work. They adapted to using it fairly quickly. I did not use this one nearly as much as they did. We will purchase more of these to prevent fighting over them. My boys are easily visually overwhelmed and this was excellent for helping them to focus on what they needed to do. A price list and the various bundles can be found here.

The eSee-N-Read™ works very well with computer based curriculum or books on your computer (I used mine with my Kindle computer application and various e-books I've downloaded.) The boys used it with their Switched On Schoolhouse Subjects. This is probably my personal favorite of the three products we tried though the boys would probably give the Document sized See-N-Read© the vote. You can set it up to start when Windows starts, minimize it, adjust the shading and many other things I probably haven't tried yet. It will give you tips if you wish on start up. For now it is only available for the PC but a MAC version is in the works. A single license is $29.99 and multiple licenses are available.

I thought these products would be wonderful for my oldest - who is dyslexic. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did he benefit from the products - the entire family did. In fact, I used the Memory Marker™ more than the kids. My husband liked the book sized for his reading as well. We will be buying the eSee-N-Read™ and at least one of each of the other products to be sure everyone in the family has one to use.

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.