Saturday, May 29, 2010

Lobster Network - A Review

Product: Lobster Network

Price: FREE!

Owners: Optimized Consulting Inc.

To Sign-Up:

Brief Overview:
From the Website - LobsterNetwork is a social networking utility that helps you keep track of your stuff and, if you choose, to advertise it within communities of like-minded people or friends. You can use it to borrow a movie from your friend, and it will help you keep track of the loan. Or you can lend your items out to other people. Similarly, you can use it to buy, sell, trade, or give items out to other people. Some people even use it as an off-site inventory list for insurance purposes.

In-Depth Look:
I was introduced to a new website with a new concept. The site is called Lobster Network. The name is an acronym. You can read the acronym at the top of my post. It will give you a pretty good feel for what the site is all about.

It is free to sign up and free to use. You can then invite others to be your friend. You can start or join communities and begin adding inventory.

You can make your inventory visible to just you, your friends, or your private or public communities. The choice is yours. Then you can choose the purpose of your listing...for your own personal inventory, for sale, for trade, wanted or free.

There are so many practical uses for this application.

You can use it to keep a list of your inventory for insurance purposes.

A member could create a community of their neighbors. Then have all the members list the lawn and garden tools they have available for loan.

A child could make a wish list for Christmas, birthdays, etc. and then add relatives as friends on the site so they can access it for gift ideas.

Book lovers could make a community and list all their books. It would be similar to a library with books on loan...or as a used bookstore, if the books are listed as for sale.

Our TOS Crew made our own community to list homeschool products that we are willing to loan or sale. Homeschooling can be expensive. And this idea can be a huge help to our budget. There is a series of science DVDs that I have wanted for over a year. But right now, the price is out of my budget. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of my fellow crewmates has the DVDs and is offering them on loan.

I like the idea of this and see great potential. I also like that I control who sees my inventory. Great idea!

Read other crew reviews.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review this product as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Andrea Carter & the Trouble with Treasure - A Review


Product: Andrea Carter & the Trouble with Treasure

Price: $7.99

Author: Susan K. Marlow

To Purchase: Kregel Publications

Brief Overview:
From the website -

When innocent horseplay temporarily lands Andi and her friends in jail, they decide that a trip into the mountains will leave their troubles far behind. Accompanied by big brother Mitch and armed with a map showing old gold diggings, they can't wait to strike it rich. What could be better than two weeks of camping and horseback riding?

But instead of gold they find heaps of trouble -- trouble that leaves Mitch gravely wounded. Andi needs help fast. But who can she trust? And what good is a bag of gold when her beloved brother lies near death in the middle of nowhere?

In-Depth Look:
Susan K. Marlow is a freelance editor, teacher and homeschooling mom. She speaks at young author conferences and teaches writing workshops for kids.

She has written a series called Circle C Adventures. And this book is the 5th in the series. Book 6 will be out in August 2010.

The series is set in the 1880s in Fresno, California. This is one of my favorite time periods. Our family has enjoyed reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder series and several other books during the pioneer era. So, I was super-excited to discover that this book was set during the same time period. Not to mention, the fact that the author is a fellow homeschooler. Super cool.

There were other factors that made this a good fit for my family. The main character is a 13 year old girl. My oldest is close in age at 11. Horses are a big part of the story, especially Andi's mare Taffy. My girls are fascinated with horses.

The story is about a ranching family named Carter. The main character is Andi and she lives with her mother, sister and three brothers. Her father died a few years back in a ranching accident. The tale follows Andi on her adventures and more than a little bit of trouble.

Andi learns the consequences of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being guilty by association. She learns that desperate times call for desperate actions. That being brave means to be scared and yet do it anyway. To treasure the things (or people) that really matter in life. I appreciate juvenile fiction books that portray characters with good values and strong morals. Stories that have a lesson to be learned. Also, I like that Andi reminds us on several occasions that God is a "very present help in trouble". Her faith and prayers set a fine example.

I had my daughters rate the book on a scale of 1-10. My 8 yo gave it a 7. My 11 yo gave it an 8. I like the story and would enjoy reading the rest of the series.

I just have to mention an added FREE bonus. Each book has an enrichment guide (unit study) available as a free download. What a great bonus. I was super thrilled to see this.

Read more reviews here.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review this product as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

U.S. Gov & Politics AP Exam Prep - A Review

Product: U. S. Gov & Politics AP Exam Prep

Price: $14.98 (Current sale price of $11.24)

Company: Cerebellum Corp

Where to buy:

Other products available:
Many educational multimedia products on various topics.

Brief Overview -

From the website - Light Speed Advanced Placement videos reviews the 30 most tested topics, provides tips and strategies on passing the test, and gives insightful advance on writing the short-response answers. This is the first program of its kind, so go paperless and use this test-prep video to pass the exam! Digital Workbook included with handouts, quizzes, and activities to reinforce the topic before and after the video.

Here is a sample video from the website.

In-Depth Look:

When I heard that I was receiving a DVD to prepare for the U.S. Govt and Politics AP Exam, I wasn't thrilled. My daughters are elementary, so I didn't feel like I needed this. In fact, I thought it was going to be very boring. But I popped the DVD into the player, to see what it was like. I found myself watching the entire thing. It was interesting; it was enjoyable; it was helpful.

The DVD starts with a small section on the multiple-choice questions of the test. Then with answering the essay questions. Then it covers "30 in 30", covering 30 different topics related to U.S. government and politics in 30 minutes. Some of the topics covered are
- Policy Making
- Civil Rights & Civil Liberties
- Fourteenth Amendment
- Separation of Powers
- And lots more

The speakers were pleasant to listen to. Several students take turns explaining the facts. It helps break things up and hold our attention. They all speak clearly and are easy to listen to. Every time a new topic is introduced, there is a buzzing sound. I think this is to alert us and grab our attention back. But I found the buzzing sound very annoying. That was the only thing in the DVD that I didn't care for. The colorful graphics were cute and entertaining. And even if you aren't preparing for the AP, I think this makes an awesome quick overview. Or a good review for someone who hasn't studied U.S. government or politics in a while.

A CD is also included. It starts with a read-along covering the information on the DVD. Then it provides a practice test. The test consists of
True or False
Free Response
Know your articles and amendments
Fill in the Blank

Although it is intended to be a practice test for the AP exam, I think it would also make a good test at the end of a U.S. Government class. It could be used as a part of a unit study on politics. The uses don't have to be strictly AP based.

I didn't use this in prep for the AP test. So I don't feel I can honestly tell you that this will help you prepare. I don't know what the AP test is like. But I do believe that the Cerebellum company knows what it is doing and I am impressed with the final product. If you watch this DVD, you will walk away with a deeper understanding of the U.S. government system and a deeper appreciation of the founding fathers.

I watched this with my 8 and 11 yo daughters. It was too advanced for my 8 yo. Some of it was too much for my 11 yo also. But the DVD did have her asking questions. I enjoyed the refresher course.

Read more reviews of my fellow crewmates.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review this product as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Friday, May 14, 2010

TOS Expo Vendor Hall

If you're researching or buying homeschool curriculum, you have to check out the Vendor Hall at the Schoolhouse Expo! It's open to everyone. Browse through companies such as Rainbow Resource, WriteShop, Apologia, Latin Road/Phonics Road, Multiplication Shake, Go Phonics, and MANY MORE!

Latin Road/Phonics Road has freebies in their booth. Rainbow Resource has a free shipping offer. Spears Art Studio has a free CD. Real Science by Gravitas has a 25% discount coupon.

There is just so much to see. Stop by and meet the virtual hostess from each company, browse their selection, and look for "conference specials".

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ideal Curriculum - A Review

Product: Monthly Preschool Curriculum Kits

Price: $30/Download per month
$55/Print Version per month

Company: Ideal Curriculum

Where to Purchase: Order Page

Other Products Available:
Kits on various subjects such as Math, Calendars and Science.

Brief Overview:

The Level 1 monthly kits thoroughly prepare young children for academic learning.
  • Each skill area for reading, writing, math, oral language, and science is developed in a sequential, systematic way and tracked by short assessments.
  • All activities are based on games, songs, and play so they are appropriate and fun!
Ideal Curriculum is so convinced that you will LOVE the preschool kits that they are giving you a free trial!

In-Depth Look:

Ideal Curriculum has created a 9-month preschool program, covering math, literature, language, social studies and science. Each month is centered around a different theme. I received month 1, Transportation. Units 2 - 9 may be pre-ordered and should all be available by the end of the summer.

You can order a print or downloadable version. I received the download, containing 6 folders: music files, print files, read files, teacher manuals, overview and "read me". Everything downloaded and displayed without any problems, including the music files.

The overview file breaks down all the skills your child will learn in each subject over the next 9 months. For example, month 3 has a science theme of weather and month 9 has the math skill of number recognition.

The "read me first" file lists everything that will need to be printed for the current month. The other items will either be listened to or viewed on the computer screen.

Of course, the music, print and read files are self-explanatory. The music file in Month 1 has 5 songs and 1 sound bingo game. My children used to play sound bingo when they were younger and they enjoyed it. The print file in Month 1 includes workbooks, activity sheets and assessment pages. The read file has 4 cute, full-color booklets. You could print these, but I think they are short enough to enjoy on the monitor.

There are 3 teacher guides: math, literature and science. The books are very detailed and thorough. They are intended to be used on the computer. But I would print them out. It is a matter of preference and I prefer to have the manual in my hands. A nice thing about the computer version, though, is that the index is click-able...bringing you directly to the page you are looking for.

The manuals suggest weekly schedules to help keep you on track for the 9-month schedule. Each lesson is broken down into sections...
"Why this lesson is important"
"Direct Teaching Lesson" - with approximate time required
"Practice Throughout Your Day" - to reinforce the learned skills
"Assessment Questions"

The skills start out very basic and simple, then build upon that. Little by little, over time. The program is very hands-on and active with things like freeze dance to practice listening skills and name hide-and-seek to create name recognition. Lots of creative learning ideas are included to work with the different learning styles.

What I Like:
*The program is thorough and well-laid out.
*The activities work for different learning styles and active youngsters.
*It is a complete package, covering all subjects.
*The printables are colorful and appealing.

What I Don't Like:
*The program is very scripted (which may be a positive to some)
*Since it is geared towards a preschool class, some activities may need to be adjusted for just one or two children
*The price seems a tad expensive, mostly for the print copy.

My 11 and 8 year olds are too old for this program and my 1 year old is too young. So I looked over the program on my own. And then tried to think of it in terms of what I used for preschool when my two older daughters were preschool age. I used lots of hands-on activities and manipulatives. I also occasionally bought those boxed kits that came in the mail once a month, because I liked the idea of themes. And also because it was fun to get something new to use every few weeks.

I think I would have liked using this program. I like the themes and the variety of activities. But I would have adapted it towards our needs and style. I doubt I would have followed the guide too closely, but would have gone with what worked best for us.

I don't think I could have justified the price though, knowing all of my other less-expensive options. However, if you compare it to the price of an actual preschool and then decide to "do preschool" at home, it would be quite a bargain.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review this product as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Read other opinions and experiences here.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Beeyoutiful Hairshine - A Review

Product: Hairshine

Price: $15.00

Company: Beeyoutiful

Purchase: Beeyoutiful Hairshine

Other Products Available:
Assorted natural health and body products

Brief Overview:
Hairshine is a spray-in detangler and conditioner. It can also be used for sunburns and insect bites.

In-Depth Look:

Beeyoutiful is a company that uses many natural products in their own families and wishes to also offer those to their customers. Their goal is to help others "obtain and maintain good health".

The company offers many natural products for the immune system, women's health, men's health, hormone support, children's health, skin and hair products, and more.

As part of the TOS Crew, I received a product called HairShine. HairShine is multi-purpose. It is a leave-in conditioner and detangler. It can be used on sunburn and insect bites. The spray can also be used as an all-over body spray.

I have serious winter skin. My hands get so very dry and chapped. I misted the back of my hands with the spray. I liked the way it made my hands feel, refreshed and a little tingly. My skin also feels smoother.

My 11 yo daughter has very long, thick, tangly hair. It is very difficult to brush and the tangles are constant. So we gave HairShine a try. I had to spray a lot to get through all of her hair. It did work well. Better than 2 of the other 3 brands that I have tried.

I also tried it on my 8 yo daughter's hair. Her hair is shorter and much less likely to tangle. So brushing her hair isn't much of a struggle. However, I did notice that her hair felt very smooth and soft after using HairShine.

What I Like:
HairShine is multi-purpose.
It is all natural.
It works.

What I Didn't Like:
It is very expensive at $15 a bottle. I currently buy mine at the Dollar Store.
The citrus smell is very strong. I can tolerate it, but my daughters complained.

"Do not use Hair Shine before you hit the sun—the sweet orange essential oil may actually increase photosensitivity in some people."

Read more reviews here.

Disclaimer: I was asked to review this product as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.