Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vocabulary Cartoons - A Review

Product: Vocabulary Cartoons

Price: $12.95

Owner: New Monic Books, Inc.

Age Range: 3rd-6th Grade

Other Products:
SAT Word Power I & II
Picture Speller for Young Writers
Unofficial SAT Word Dictionary
Coffin's Patch
Teacher's Resources

Brief Overview:
"Vocabulary Cartoons are mnemonics designed for learning new words. Memory experts say that memory aids are the best way to remember just about anything" - from the back cover

In-Depth Look:

I am a big fan of mnemonics. Mnemonics assist the memory. They have helped me remember things since my school years. I know that in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. I can recite the planets in order, because 'my very educated mother just showed us nine planets'. Now, my children know that Roy G. Biv is more about the colors of the rainbow than about a man's name.

As soon as I opened up the book, Vocabulary Cartoons, I knew that I would like it. It is adorable and educational. Easy to read. Easy to use.

Here is an idea of the format on each page. (from page 139)


(dee LEK tuh bul) adj.

pleasant, delightful, savory, delicious

Sounds like: LICK THE BOWL

(Here you would find a cute cartoon picture of a family sitting at a table, licking their bowls clean.)

"Granny's pudding was so DELECTABLE, the family LICKED THE BOWL."

The guests said the dinner was DELECTABLE.

All the frozen dinners look DELECTABLE in the grocery store, but sometimes the food is not as good as it looks.

There is nothing that smells more DELECTABLE than bacon frying on an open campfire.

The setup is nice and sharp. The pictures are cute and help the definitions sink in, especially for visual learners. I enjoyed flipping through it and reading the funny sentences for each cartoon. I even learned a few new words. Now please, no teasing if you already knew them. But I now know Jocular and Neophyte. A review page is included after every 10 words. Your child can match words to definitions and then fill-in-the-blanks for the missing vocabulary word in each sentence.

My daughters were not as enthusiastic as I was. My oldest said that she would rather just learn the definition, plain and simple. I am surprised at this, because I like it a lot.
It is a resource that I plan to keep and use in our homeschool journey.

Depending on your tolerance, there are some cartoons that you may not enjoy as much . . . a vampire, a UFO, a ghost, a monster under the bed, and cavemen are some of them.

Free sample cartoons.
Complete word list. (221 words)

To read other reviews, click here.

Disclaimer: I received this book free of charge, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Schleich Animal Figures - A Review

Product: Schleich Animal Figures

Price: Prices Vary depending on figurine

Age Range: Ages 3 and up

Other Products Available: Over 500 action figures and accessories are available

Company: Schleich GmbH

Where to Purchase: Store locator

Brief Description:
Schleich figures are "precision engineered by a German master craftsman who works on the finest details for up to six weeks . . . the figurines are all painted by hand - meaning each toy is absolutely unique . . . they are durable and safe while exceeding global safety standards," Mary Ludovico, Marketing Director.

In-Depth Look:
I have always admired the Schleich figures. The quality, the detail, the colors . . .so life-like and accurate. Something about them just makes me want to hold them and admire them. The craftmanship, I guess.

So, how cool is it that Schleich sent me 7 figures for a review? Super cool! These are the ones that I received. Click on each picture for more information.


Przewalski's Horse

Dartmoor Pony

Swabian-Hall Piglet

Indian Elephant Calf

Gnu (Wildebeest)

Gnu Calf

I was pleased with the quality of these animal figurines. They feel sturdy and durable, like they are meant to last a long time. The detail is impressive, very life-like and accurate.

My 8yo and 11yo daughters thought they were adorable. And being big animal lovers, they wanted to claim them as their own to keep on their dressers. My 22 month old daughter also immediately wanted to claim them as her own. She loved carrying them around in her little purse. Pulling them out to show everyone and then putting them back into her purse to carry around some more. She had great fun with them.

I did some looking around on the Schleich website. I liked a lot of what they had to say. Their high opinion of the importance of play. Their commitment to safety. Schleich seems like a high-quality company. I was, however, disappointed to see that the toys we received were stamped "Made in China".

I am a big fan of the Schleich toys. They make wonderful gifts. They are fun to collect and to play with.

Disclaimer: I received these animal figures free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

To read other crew members' reviews, click here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Think on these things

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things," Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Pyramath - A Review


Product: Pyramath Card Game

Price: $6.95

Company: I See Cards

To Purchase: Pyramath

Age Range: Elementary to Adult

Other Products: Educational Games

Brief Overview:
Pyramath is an educational card game designed to reinforce the basic math skills of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. It can be played solo or against another player.

In-Depth Look:
The basic idea is to start with a row of cards 7 across. One player works on one side and the other on the other side, attempting to finish their pyramid first. You can also play alone.
You must use 2 adjoining cards to make a math equation that can be solved with the card that you draw. For example, if you have a 2 and a 9 side-by-side, you can play a 7 between because 9-2=7 . . . you can play 1 because 9+2=11 (cards only go up to 9, so you only play the last number of double digit answers) . . . you can play an 8 because 9x2=18 (again only playing the last number of a double digit answer).

My 11 year old was able to easily play. My 8 year old needed assistance to be able to compete with her sister. My husband and I also played each other and I thought it was fun. To make it a more balanced playing field and possibly less frustrating, you can always adjust the rules. Perhaps, don't allow multiplying and dividing if younger children are playing.

This game takes speed drills and adds a little fun to it. It could definitely be used to increase computation skills and speed.

As a little bonus, the cards have the numbers written in English, Spanish, Chinese, Roman and Arabic. The cards also have the numbers printed in both directions so that both players can easily read the numbers.

I like the game and find it to be fun and helpful.

Disclaimer: I received this card game free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

To read other crew members' reviews, click here.

Friday, September 10, 2010

America's Math Teacher - A Review

Math Essential
Product: America's Math Teacher

Price: $195/year for a family
(Try it for free with a sample of video lessons and printable exercises)

Instructor: Rick Fisher

Where to purchase: Homeschool Membership

Age Range: 4th-Algebra (soon to include Algebra II)

Other Products Available: School Memberships

Brief Overview:
America's Math Teacher is an online math curriculum and tutor wrapped in one. Mr. Fisher has made videos to cover the topics from 4th grade to Pre-Algebra. The topics are supported by printable exercises and online supplements. The courses align with the NCTM.

In-Depth Look:
This program states that it can be used as a curriculum or as a review/tutorial boost. There are a boat-load of lessons available on the site.

The first step would be for your child to take an evaluation; this will show you the best place for them to begin. Your child can pick one of 4 paths: Basic, Advanced, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra 2.

Once the child picks a path, they can watch tutorial videos online (free samples here). Next they print out worksheets for extra practice (free samples here).

Written worksheets

At any time, children can increase their basic fact recollection by using Speed Drills either online or on worksheets.
online speed drills

After watching the videos and honing their skills, quizzes and exams are available online. Students can email the results to parents, teachers, etc and also print out a certificate of completion if they pass.

So what did we think? The videos are thorough and detailed. The instructor draws lots of pictures to help illustrate the concept. My children (11yo and 8yo) were bored with the videos. But keep in mind, the purpose of the videos is to educate, not entertain . . . and each video is kept rather short, which should help a child stay focused. It is very easy to pick just the right video as they broken up into categories with descriptive titles. View some of the samples and decide for yourself.

What about the worksheets. Well, my children didn't care for these either. But I did appreciate the variety. Speed drills, word problems, a variety of equations. Again, it helps to view some samples.

The speed drills definitely help with instant recall of basic number facts (+, -, *). The speed drills are on the worksheets, but they are also available online. We enjoyed the online version more than on paper. You pick the function. The computer picks the number. Race the clock to finish as fast as you can. At the end, you will see your speed score. Your speed score is your number of tries plus your total time in seconds divided by 10. The lower your score, the better. I found these fun to play with.

Final verdict: If you are in the market for a math tutor . . . one available 24 hours a day/7 days a week, this could be what you are looking for. $195 / year sounded like a lot of money to me, but broken down it only comes to $3.75/week for a tutor that is always there, whenever your child needs a little help.

Disclaimer: I received a membership to this website free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

To read other crew members' reviews, click here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Math Tutor DVDs - A Review

Texas Instrument TI-84 Calculator Tutor

Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1

Price: $26.99/Each
Each DVD comes with a money-back guarantee


To Purchase:
TI-84 Tutor
Pre-Algebra Tutor

Age Range:
Upper Middle School - College

Other Tutor DVD Categories Available:
Basic Math
Mental Math Secrets

Brief Summary: sells a wide variety of math tutorial DVDs, covering most any math subject ranging from toddler to college prep. The TI-84 Tutor is a 3-disc set with a run-time of 8 hours, covering even the most advanced features of the calculator. The Pre-Algebra Tutor is a 2-disc set with a run-time of 5 hours, starting with real numbers and ending with order of operations.

In-Depth Look:
I had the privilege of reviewing 2 of the Math Tutor DVDs last year on the Crew. They were 2 impressive titles called Young Minds Numbers and Counting and The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor. You can read my reviews on these DVDs here.

You can view a short clip of the TI-84 and the Pre-algebra . . .
TI-84 Tutor DVD sample - 18 minutes
Pre-Algebra Tutor DVD sample - (5min, 8 min, 4min)

The instructor is Jason Gibson. He has quite an impressive resume. Learn more about him here.

I reviewed the TI-84 DVD set first. It has been about 20 years since I have used a scientific calculator. So I was pretty much viewing these lessons as a beginner. As such, I was a bit intimidated, expecting this to be "over my head". I was glad to see that it starts out with a simple overview, giving a brief introduction of the basics. Then it goes into the mode menu, explaining when to use each kind and what difference it makes. From there, the instructor, Jason Gibson, takes one function at a time and walks you through it. A huge calculator is displayed on the computer screen (you can see how this looks in the demo video) and Mr. Gibson demonstrates step-by-step how to perform the functions. Using several examples, he clearly shows how it is done. Just grab your calculator and follow along. Actually, you don't even really need to have a calculator with you to use this program. I learned a lot just from watching. But I think you will retain the information better if you "calculate" along with Mr. Gibson.

If you would like to see what topics are covered in the 37 sections, click here.

I found Mr. Gibson to be easy to listen to and understand. His directions were easy to follow. As I mentioned, I learned a lot just from following along. I found this quote on his site and can see that it is true.

"What really matters is if the instructor can take a complex topic and assume the student knows absolutely nothing about the task at hand and take him/her from zero knowledge to expert in step-by-step chunks" - Jason Gibson

I highly recommend this DVD set to anyone needing to learn or brush up on their TI-84 calculator skills.

Next I reviewed The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volume 1. I was very interested in this one, since my 11 year old is quickly approaching this math class. I was eager to see what it covered and how it might benefit my daughter.

The set has 9 sections, starting with Real Numbers and ending with Order of Operations. To see the whole list, click here. The first thing Mr. Gibson does is try to put the student at ease and remove any fears they may have about learning pre-algebra. I like the way he encourages the student to just listen and watch and take it all in for now, the same way your child observed and learned new things when they were 2 years old. He assures the student that it won't be a lecture; but instead, they will be learning through watching many examples.

Mr. Gibson works on a marker board. The camera stays zoomed in on him and the board. So there are no flashy colors or distractions. You can see an example in the demo clip.

According to the back cover, "Pre-Algebra intimidates many students primarily because it is the first time that the student uses letters (variables) in math. Pre-Algebra can also seem challenging to most students because of the heavy use of unfamiliar definitions and special symbols not used before (exponents, etc)." Mr. Gibson takes the time to thoroughly define and explain these things, using lots of examples, to help take away the "scary" factor. He doesn't rush; he shows you and then he shows you again.

As before, I found Mr. Gibson to be pleasant to listen to. He is easy to understand; it is easy to follow along with what he is saying. No bells. No whistles. Just lots of teaching, so that your child can do lots of learning.

So what is the verdict? I will certainly hold on to this DVD set until my daughter starts pre-algebra. This set may very well be the "miracle cure" that gets my daughter through her fear of any math equation involving a letter, instead of a number.

I have been very impressed with all of the Math Tutor DVDs that I have reviewed. You can read my review on the other 2 DVDs here.

Disclaimer: I received these DVDs free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

To read other crew members' reviews, click here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

2010 TOS Homeschool Planner

Sell Sheet designed by Kimberly L. @
Independent contractor and TOS affiliate.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Labor of Love Subscription Sale

Homeschooling is a labor of love. The Old Schoolhouse magazine understands this. That is why I turn to them for inspiration, encouragement and new ideas. I have subscribed to some magazines in the past that didn't "fill me up". I no longer subscribe to them. But TOS is one of the few that meets my homeschool and mothering needs. TOS is a keeper. If you haven't tried it yet, this is a great time to do it.

Here are some details:
The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is extending an extraordinary
subscription offer to homeschool families. Receive a one-year print subscription for just $7.95 or a one-year plus current issue subscription for $12.95. One-year subscriptions start with the winter issue. The one-year plus current issue starts with the fall issue. Only 5000 of these special subscriptions are available from August 31 through midnight on September 15. Once the 5000 are gone, they'’re gone!

Hurry and grab this crazy price today!

Want to learn more:

Disclaimer: I will receive Expo to Go in exchange for this ad. I am a TOS affiliate and member of the TOS Crew.