Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Phonetic Zoo - A Review

Product: Phonetic Zoo Spelling Starter Set A

Price: $99

Company: Institute for Excellence in Writing

To Purchase: Level A

Age Range: 3rd grade and up

Other Products: Writing, Spelling, and Various Other Programs

Brief Intro:

Spelling is Sequential

When we look at a word, we see it as a whole, so the correct sequence can be missed. This is why most workbook spelling programs don’t work. Auditory input and then spelling the word out loud, letter by letter, ensures accurate storage of the correct sequence in the brain, which allows for correct retrieval and accurate spelling.

The Phonetic Zoo is a teacher-guided phonetically-based audio spelling program.

After a short introductory lesson, students independently take spelling tests until mastery of the list is achieved. Students learn spelling rules incrementally, which will help with future spelling, and personal spelling lists ensure that all a student’s spelling needs are addressed.
The spelling program is for students in third grade on up and consists of three levels (A, B, and C). If you are not sure what level to start with, take the Spelling Placement Test. Once you know what level, simply purchase the Starter Set for that level. It has everything you need to begin. When you are ready for another level, all you need to purchase are the Audio CDs Only. - from the website

In-Depth Look:
If you are interested in this program, take some time to look around the site. Learn what the program is all about and how it works. Then have your child take the spelling placement test, so you know which level to begin with. This page has a link to a video presentation by Andrew Pudewa introducing the program.
After your package arrives, you will receive the following items:
• 5 audio CDs (Level C has 6 CDs)
• Spelling and the Brain and Introduction to The Phonetic Zoo DVD with the following:
- Spelling and the Brain video seminar
- Introduction to The Phonetic Zoo video
- The Phonetic Zoo teacher’s notes PDF file
• Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and jingles
• Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings
• Zoo Cards, which serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards
The first thing I did was watch the DVD. The Spelling and the Brain video seminar stars Andrew Pudewa, the director of IEW, explaining how the brain works and how a child learns to spell. He gives some interesting facts about the process and why some programs/methods will work better than others. Andrew also does an introduction to the program, Phonetic Zoo. His daughter works through a lesson from start to finish, to show how a typical lesson will look.

Next, I introduced my daughter to the lesson 1 card, with its rule and spelling word examples. Andrew stresses that for every rule in the English language, there also exceptions. It is important to stress this to your child. They might not be as frustrated to find these "exceptions" which are included on the spelling lists. You have the child read and spell each word on the front of the card - out loud.
The next step is to set your child up with a CD player and headphones. Andrew says the headphones are a must. It cuts out all the distractions and involves the child more. The lessons are about 10 minutes. The speaker gives a short lesson and then lists the spelling words. Your child spells each word. Then the speaker lists the words again for your child to correct. She should retake the same lesson every day until she can get 100% two days in a row. Then, and only then, should she move on to the next lesson.
As a child masters each lesson, she earns a collector card (spelling zoo cards). Andrew suggests placing them on your child's wall to serve as a reminder of the rules she has learned.

I wouldn't say my daughter loves the program. But I definitely like it and am grateful that we were introduced to it. I plan to have my 12 year old continue using it on a regular basis. And my 8 year old daughter will start using it next year. The lessons are short (about 10 minutes). My 12 year old daughter can do the lessons independe
ntly. The principle is simple and effective. I like that my child keeps at it until she gets it, instead of moving onto a new lesson every week without truly mastering the list from the week before. I like that along with the rule, cards lists exceptions. So right along with learning words spelled "by the rules", my daughter is also learning ones that "don't play by the rules".

In my opinion, this is a great program with lots of potential. Your child may not beg to use it. But
I think you will be glad that they did!

Read other reviews here.

Disclaimer: I rece ived the Phonetic Zoo products 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, December 24, 2010

Merry CHRISTmas

May your family have a blessed and merry CHRISTmas.

And please remember the reason for the season. God gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, for the sake of all sinners. Accept His gift of salvation and forgiveness, even today.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Great deals from TOS

Are you looking for some last minute Christmas gift ideas for your homeschooling family and friends, or maybe for yourself? TOS has some amazing deals going on. The hardest part will be choosing which deal to buy!

Which will you choose? A, B or C?

Go check it out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tiny Planets - A Review

Product: Tiny Planets Online Game

Price: No Charge

Company: My Tiny Planets, LTD.

To Play: Tiny Planets

Age Range: 4 - 12 years old

Other Products Available: Books and TV Shows

Brief Overview:
From award-winning TV programming to brain games to lesson plans to community fun, Tiny Planets offers an engaging experience for everyone in the family. And not only are the Tiny Planets sites infinite fun, they're safe and easy to use. - from the website

In-Depth Look:
I vaguely remember watching Bing and Bong on television a few times years ago. But I couldn't remember much about it other than the theme song (which is very catchy).

So when I began reviewing the site, I had no idea what to expect. It was all "like-new" to me.

I found the site a little difficult to navigate. But after a while, I got the hang of it. I always found it easier to go back to the home page and click the links from there.

As you can see in the screen shot, the home page has several planets. You click on these to go to the different areas. I found this to be the simplest way to navigate the site.

I even had a horrid time trying to register. If I didn't have to review the site, I probably would have given up. But I also finally figured that out. See the cadet wings in the top right corner? You go there and pick a ship. You then can pick a user name from randomly selected ones. We went through dozens before my children found ones that they liked. It was frustrating to them, not to be able to pick their own names like on most sites. But it is for security reasons. Children are not allowed to enter any actual data on the site. Not even during chats. Kids can only select from the provided options. Frustrating for children at times, especially older ones. But much safer. But back to registering. Once you pick a spaceship, you go straight into a game. You have to complete this mission and THEN you get to select your password. Never saw that before. Never had to play a game, before I could finish registering my child. After you are done, you must create a parent account and add your children to your account and now they can play.

You only have to register for the MY TINY PLANETS part of the site. Other areas seem to be open to all. Without registering, you can access the Tiny Planets books, TV episodes, lesson plans, and games.

The TV episodes: Your child can watch 1 episode for free. It is cute. The rest, well you have to pay for keys to unlock them.

The Books: Again, your child can watch 2 cute books for free. The rest, well you have to pay for those too.

I am surprised that they would charge to see the books and TV episodes.

One of the planets is for Tiny Planets Learning. I like this one. It is free and you don't need to register. The site has full color, adorable worksheets for the letters and numbers. Perfect for the preschool age.

Another planet is Tiny Planets Lab. This site has approximately 30 games. It doesn't require registration and it is free. The games are simple. Maybe for the 7-to-10 year old age. Some of the games are very similar to each other, basically only changing the graphics. Your child earns stars for playing and can use these to buy things. But only a small percentage of items can be bought with these stars. Lots of items require you to buy keys to pay for the items. (Most online games are like this. But usually the percentage of free items is a little higher than this.)

The most popular part of the site (at least for my kids, ages 12 and 8) is the My Tiny Planets site. This is the part that you have to register for. You pick from the preselected user names and choose your spaceship color. Bing and Bong are your space guides. Along the way, you will meet other players that can request to be your friend. As I mentioned before, there is no free chat. Your child can only select from off the list. This is to protect your child. Players also receive their very own "passport". It shows about "you", your stuff, and your field journal.

Drive your spaceship through space. Drive through space rings. Shoot at stars. Warp into other galaxies to play games where you can earn stars and compete for high scores. Stop at shops to purchase items (some with stars and some with purchased keys).

Cadets can also design their own planet and spaceship. My kids love "personalizing" things in their games. They can find "secret research items" hidden in landscapes. They "identify and describe" them and then they get logged in their journal.

It is fairly easy to navigate through space. But I would prefer a map where I could see everything at once. You can only see a portion of the game area at a time.

The game aims to give your child an appreciation for our tiny planet and to encourage them to take care of it.

My kids liked it. It is free to play, so go on over and give it a try.

Other reviews are here. (once available)

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wits & Wagers Family Edition - A Review

Product Name: Wits & Wagers Family Edition

Price: Prices vary depending on retailer.
Approx. $19.99

Where to purchase:
Available through several online stores, including Target, ToysRUs, and Amazon.


Other Games Available from North Star:
Wits & Wagers
Say Anything

Age Range: 8 and Up

Brief Intro:

Wits & Wagers Family simplifies the rules and scoring system of the popular Wits & Wagers. Now families and kids can get into the Wits & Wagers action! First, every player writes down a guess to a fun question. Then players try to score points by choosing which guess is closest to the right answer without going over. That is it!

In-Depth Look:

As a part of the TOS Crew, we never know what kind of products we will receive. Last year, we received several math products. Well, not several. A LOT. Both in book form, ebook form and online gaming form. Let's just say that my daughters were "MATHED OUT" by the end of the year. So to actually get a product that is just for fun, is a blessing indeed. And that is just what "Wits and Wagers Family Edition" is all about. Having fun.

I always hesitate when I pull out the instruction sheet for a new game. Some are so complicated, you would need to be a rocket scientist to figure it out. So it was a sweet relief to see that these directions are short, sweet, and simple. I read it once and got it.

You read a question. And everyone writes their guess of the answer on the answer sheet. (All answers are numbers.) Then everyone places a token on the answer they think is correct. (You can place it on your answer or on another player's.) Be careful though, think like Price Is Right. Your answer can't go over. You score points for guessing the closest without going over and also for placing tokens on a winning answer.

It is fun and simple. Guessing is encouraged, even necessary most of the time.

This is the family edition. All the questions that I saw were family friendly.

Our group consisted of an age range of 8 to 67. All of us enjoyed it. Some of the questions are geared towards an adult's interest/knowledge. Some of the questions are geared more towards a child's interest/knowledge. But most of the questions are just general knowledge, that everyone will find interesting . . . but no one could possibly know the answer to. That is where the fun comes in. You just guess and try to get the closest.

It was a bit harder for my 8 year old. But not so hard that she didn't enjoy it. She begged to play again.

I enjoyed it. My family enjoyed it. And we gained a little bit of trivial knowledge along the way. :) I recommend this game.

Other reviews are here.

Disclaimer: I received Wits & Wagers Family Edition 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, December 10, 2010

Good Morning, God - A Review

Product: Good Morning, God

Created by: Author, Davis Carman
Illustrator, Alice Ratterree

Price: $14.00

Age Range: 1 to 8 years old

To Purchase: Book
Corresponding Coloring Book ($4.00)

Other Products Available:

Apologia has lots and lots of homeschool and parenting resources, as well as curriculum.

Brief Intro:
Good Morning, God is a story about a four-year-old boy as he goes through a week with his family. This book is designed for children age one to eight years old. Ideally, this book will help your child fall in love with our heavenly Father by thinking about Him from sunrise to sunset. The hope is that this book will introduce children to the simple and wonderful ways we can worship God daily and inspire them to enjoy the Lord with their entire being all through the day. The prayers for each day are meant to encourage your child to consider his or her relationship with Jesus and respond with childlike faith. - from the website

In-Depth Look:

Apologia Press sent us a cute little book titled, Good Morning, God. This is a sweet little story about a 4-year old boy and his relationship with his family and God. It follows him through 8 days, Sunday to Sunday. Each day follows a predictability that young children love. In the morning, the young fellow wakes with lots of energy and says a prayer to God. During the day, he enjoys a fun activity and his parents teach him a lesson. The lesson isn't mentioned, only implied by the picture. At night, the boy says a simple prayer that gives us thoughts to ponder, and then says good night to the day and to God.

The lessons he needs to learn will give you cause to chuckle. And your younger children will be able to relate.

The prayers, though short and sweet, will be very important reminders for your young child, as he learns more about his loving Savior.
- Jesus dying for our sins.
- Asking Jesus for forgiveness.
- Thanking God for being the giver of life.
- And more

The pictures are precious, showing a loving family interacting and spending precious time together. Half the pages are full-color and half are simple black-and-white sketches. A nice combination that you don't usually see.

As a bonus, the back of the book includes a list of activities for each day.
- A drawing or other suggested activity
- A Bible reading
- And some questions to ponder.

As to be expected based on the age recommendation, my 12-year old was not very interested in the book. Although she did think the pictures were nice.

My 8-year old liked it very much. She was able to read it aloud to us without any assistance. And she asked if the book could be hers. :)

This is a very cute book. As a bonus, you can purchase a coloring book to go along with the book for only $4 each. Get one for each child, who still enjoys coloring. They can color the related pictures while you or an older sibling read the book aloud.

This book would make a wonderful Christmas gift.

Read other reviews here.

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

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Master Ruler - A Review


Master Ruler Workbook - $15.95

Master Ruler Standard - $9.95

Master Ruler Metric - $9.95

Marvels of Measurement Poster - $10.00

Master Innovations, LLC

Where to Purchase:
Master Rulers and Workbook
Marvels of Measurement Poster

Age Range:
Elementary and Up

Other Products Available:
Master Clock
Master Fractions
Master Angles

Brief Overview:

A multi-layered ruler that allows your child to see and understand measurements in a much more simplified way. Great innovation.

YouTube Video explaining the system

In-Depth Look:

When you hear about a course for measurements, you probably think "big deal". Right? You take the ruler and you measure the lines. Well, then I took out these rulers and began looking them over . . . and I think they are a "big deal". What a unique concept.

The Master Ruler has 5 layers. Hopefully you can tell a little from the picture above. If not, check the video.
Layer 1 - inches - lined in RED
Layer 2 - 1/2 inch increments - lined in BLUE
Layer 3 - 1/4 inch increments - lined in GREEN
Layer 4 - 1/8 inch increments - lined in RED
Layer 5 - 1/16 inch increments - lined in PURPLE

Combine these with the workbook and your child will gain a better understanding of measurements and how the the different ones relate to each other. This will also lead to a better understanding of how fractions work.

Imagine a line that is 2 inches long. Flip through the layers of the ruler and quickly see that 2 inches is also -

4/2 inches
8/4 inches
16/8 inches
32/16 inches

The workbook gives practice in improper fractions, adding/subtracting fractions with uncommon denominators, finding area/perimeter, conversion, rounding, reducing fractions, and more. The workbook is small, only 24 pages long. But it is packed full of information. This would be a quick supplement to your current math program to help enforce measuring and fraction skills.

The rulers will come in handy long after the workbook is done. They are the handiest little gadgets to have around. I am very impressed with them. It makes it so much simpler to measure in different increments without all the other numbers adding to the confusion.

I like this product and recommend it.

We also received the Marvels of Measurement poster. What a handy-dandy poster it is.
-Inch - 1/2 inch - 1/4 inch - 1/8 in - 1/16 in
-gallon - quart - pint - cup
-pound - ounces
-mile - feet - yard
-pound - ton

Love it!

To read other reviews, click here.

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine is extending an extraordinary
subscription offer to homeschool families. U.S. and Canadian residents
can receive a one-year print subscription and a FREE Homeschooling
with Heart tote bag, FREE Schoolhouse Planner of your choice, and FREE
E-Book: Cranberry Christmas for just $19.95. One-year subscriptions
start with the winter issue. It makes a perfect gift for yourself and
a friend. There are a limited number of tote bags available from
November 24 through midnight on November 29-once they're gone, they're gone! Hurry and grab this tremendous value today! It's over $80 in
free gifts--one of them the gorgeous Cranberries & Cream tote bag

I can't speak highly enough of the TOS Magazine. It is one of my absolute favorites. Receiving the latest edition in my mailbox is like a small taste of Christmas morning to me . . . a present just waiting for me to unwrap it and start reading. The magazine alone is worth the money. To get all of these free gifts too . . . well, that is just icing on the cake.


How about some freebies while you wait? Here are some great free homeschooling resources.

Disclaimer: I will receive a $20 TOS coupon for posting this ad. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers - A Review

A Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

$29.95 - CD-Rom Book
$34.95 - Paperback Book

Melissa E. Craig and Maggie S. Hogan

Bright Ideas Press

To Purchase:
Guide to Composer's

Age Range: Grades 4-8

Other Products Available

Brief Intro:
This course provides a close-up look at famous composers, their music, and their times, with special attention to character traits and Christian testimony (or lack thereof). Even the musically challenged will enjoy this course! It’s perfect for grades 4-8 but is easily adaptable for younger and older students. Minimal teacher prep will return maximum enjoyment! (from the website)

For more information, click here. Sample pages are also available.

In-Depth Look:

When it came time for the TOS crew to review products from Bright Ideas Press, they gave us a few choices. I decided to review this book about composers. It was a topic that I feel my children could benefit from. So I decided to give it a go.

I have heard, as most of you probably have too, that exposure to classical music has an impact on brain development, especially in younger children. Some even suggest playing classical music while you are still pregnant with your baby. Recent studies show that taking music lessons improve brain development and memory. So, I wanted to make classical music more a part of our lives and our curriculum.

So far, I hadn't done much about it. I did buy a CD that introduces children to the classics. And every now and then, I turn on the classical station in the car. But not much more progress had been made. That is why, when this book was suggested, I picked it.

When the book arrived, I was glad to see it. It has a pleasing appearance: nice size, paper-back, two-tone pages, musical notes in the borders. Its appearance invites you to open it up and visit a while.

It is designed as a full year's curriculum, 32 weekly lessons. It is also designed to cover one composer over 3 days.

Day 1 -
*Listen to the recommended selections. (2 or 3 times the first day)
*Read the lesson.
*Fill in the note-taking pages or answer the Student Review Questions.

Day 2 -
*Listen to the recommended selections again.
*Fill in the Composer Info-Card.
*Color in the timeline.
*Match the composer to his place of birth.

Day 3 -
*Listen to the recommended selections again.

The composers are divided into the musical time periods, from Baroque to Contemporary. The composers bios are each a few pages long (most are 3 to 4). Students will learn about the composer's childhood, marriage, children, whose music they were influenced by, who was influenced by their music, what they were best known for, their faith in God, and other interesting facts.

Some examples:

- Chopin had this to say of England, "Their orchestra resembles their roast beef and their turtle soup; it's strong, it's famous . . . but that is all."

- Despite the fact that Verdi produced biblically themed operas, we know he did not have a good opinion of Christianity.

- A classmate of Debussy described him as "uncommunicative, not to say surly; he was not attractive to his friends."

So you see, you learn not only about the composers' music, but also about their lives. This adds interest and depth to the study, in my opinion.

I like the extra stuff, in addition, to just reading the lessons. It helps make it more interesting and helps the facts to stick.

Some of the extras:

- Links to YouTube videos of the composers' compositions.

- Review pages for each composer, usually 10 questions. Fill in the blanks, multiple choice, true or false, etc.

- Coloring sheets. Extremely nice, detailed pictures of the composers.

- Bingo and Jeopardy! game forms

- Directions for making a Folderbook. Kind of like a lapbook, but more simple.

- Lots of great resources for a more in-depth study of some of the individuals covered in the book.

- Useful websites for more information.

- Composer Cards. These are really cute and can be used in the folderbook.

- Illustrations for the composer cards.

So this book is so much more than just the lesson. It is a well-rounded classical music curriculum. I am impressed with it and plan to continue using it.

The recommended age is 4th - 8th grade. But I think it is a bit much for 4th. It is a lot of information ( dates, new vocabulary words, unfamiliar cities and names). I don't think my 3rd grader is going to retain much of it. But I think it is worth it to expose her to the information and then return to it again in a few years. My 6th grader will get more out of it now, and then will get a review in a few years.

Would you like to read more reviews?

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

TOS Magazine Sale

Put 2 and 2 together and save up to 60% on a one-year sub

On Monday, November 15, the price for a one-year U.S. or Canadian print subscription to
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine is $10.

On Tuesday, November 16, the price goes to $12.
On Wednesday, November 17, the price is $14.

Each day they will add $2 until Saturday and Sunday, when the price is $20. At midnight PST on Sunday, November 21,
the price goes back to its regular level.

Plus, every 12th customer to purchase a subscription gets a tote bag.
Every 14th customer to purchase a subscription gets a copy of the E-Book: The 2010-2011 Schoolhouse Planner.
Every 16th customer to purchase a subscription gets a $25 gift card to the Totally TOS category in the Schoolhouse Store.
This excludes Molly Green and Download N Go.

As an added bonus, the highest ticket of the day on Monday, November 15 through Wednesday, November 17, will win
a $200 gift card to the Schoolhouse Store. This can be used for any company in the Store,except
Download N Go.

So, put 2 and 2 together and shop early! The earlier you grab your one-year new or renewing
subscription, the better the price you'll pay. Plus, you could receive one of the bonus gifts.
Or, you might be the highest ticket of the day!

If you are eligible for a bonus gift, you will receive an email from a member of the Schoolhouse Store team.

Patchwork Quilt Kit - A Review

Product: Patchwork Quilt Kit

Price: $11.99 (Regularly $14.99)

Company: Corps of Re-Discovery

To Purchase: Quilt Kit

Age Range: Approx. 8 and up

Other Products:
Various hands-on activities related to American Indian, pioneer and colonial, frontiersmen, and leather working. Check out the discontinued and special items category.

Brief Overview:
Enjoy making a doll quilt using the same techniques the pioneers did.
Kit includes coordinating cotton fabric, backing and batting, plus complete instructions. - from the website

The kits are manufactured in the United States.

In-Depth Look:
I have always thought quilting was such a neat skill. There is just something about a homemade quilt. There is often a story behind it. Scraps of cloth from a baby's first outfit, a daughter's Christmas pjs, or a son's favorite shirt. Pieces of their lives and their history transformed into a quilt to be shared for years to come.

For the past few years, I thought about learning how to make a quilt. But one problem is that my sewing skills are limited to very basic hand-sewn mending. Definitely nothing to brag about. And the other problem, I learn best by watching someone else do it . . . and I don't have any close friends or family that quilt (at least not to my knowledge).

So, when I received the quilt kit I didn't know if I was happy about it or not. I liked the idea of making a little baby quilt. But I wasn't so sure I could figure it out just using a small sheet of instructions.

My daughter has taken 2 hand sewing classes at our homeschool co-op. She has learned a lot and is at least my equal at it now. But the difference is she actually enjoys it. She offers to mend clothes, designs her own patterns, and was very eager to try the quilt.

So I considered having her make the quilt. But I didn't feel like I could do a fair review on the quilt unless I made it myself. And I decided that it would make a nice gift for my daughter's upcoming birthday.

The instructions were detailed enough. Step-by-step instructions. And some illustrations. The paper instructs you to sew a 1/4inch from the edge, not more and not less. Nice, neat, even. Which would be beautiful, but I don't have that level of sewing skill. It also suggests that you iron each patch that you sew. But, I hate ironing.

So, I decided to do it my way. And then see how it turned out and report it to you. I did mark the 1/4 inch border on each square, but I definitely didn't have nice and neat seams. They were kind of crooked and not spaced evenly. I also refused to iron between patches. I did this because I wanted to see if it would still turn out nicely. Because if I were to make a quilt in the future, I know the seams wouldn't be perfect and I would still hate to iron. :)

Well, I think it is coming along nicely. I have spent hours hand-sewing my quilt patches and it looks pretty. Not perfect, not professional. But pretty.

At first I didn't enjoy it. Did I mention that I don't like hand-sewing. (And I don't know how to sew with the machine.) But as I moved along with the project, I did get the hang of it and my speed increased. And even as an amateur, I now feel that this kit has given me the instruction and confidence I need to feel like I really can make a quilt. I don't know that I would ever make a full-size quilt. Not sure I have that much desire or patience. But I think I could make a baby-doll size quilt. I like the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. And I think they would make wonderful gifts for my daughters and nieces.

I like the concept of these kits. One, for anyone interested in learning how to quilt. Two, for the historical significance. It helps you to feel more a part of the "olden days". Corps of Re-Discovery offers several different kits from American Indian, pioneer and colonial, frontiersmen, and leather working. The kits include most everything that you will need. For the quilt kit, I received everything I would need except for the needles.

I highly recommend the kits from Corps of Re-Discovery. But I would suggest that you pick one that interests you. Such as not picking the quilting kit if you dislike hand-sewing and ironing. :)

Would you like to read more reviews? Some crew members received different kits.

Disclaimer: I received the quilt kit 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, November 5, 2010

Book Collector - A Review

Product: Book Collector


$24.95 - Standard Edition

$49.95-Pro Edition

You can try Book Collector for free, but it is limited to 100 books.

Company: Collectorz

Where to purchase:

Age range: Teen - Adult

Other products available:
Music Collector

Movie Collector

Comic Collector

Game Collector

MP3 Collector

Photo Collector

Brief Introduction:
Catalog your book collection, simply by entering the ISBN number either by hand or by scanning it.

In-Depth Look:
I have the opportunity to try out Book Collector from Collectorz. Collectorz offers several Collector Software choices, including for music and movie.

I found it simple to enter my books into the program. Simply enter the ISBN number. Book Collector will look it up for you . . . pulling a good bit of information and automatically entering it under your book's title. It looks very nice and "official".

-Front Cover


-Publishing Company

-Publication Date

-Number of Pages


-Brief Description

Some of the information is your personal stuff.

-Collection Status (In collection or For sale)

-Wishlist (Wanted or On Order)

-Not in Collection

-10 Star Rating Scale

-Title Sort (Enter an alternate title to help title sort the way you would like)

The file for each book has lots of genre categories to choose from or you can add one. I have added some - children/storybook, children/holiday. It also has a long list of subjects. The program will select some for you and you can choose some more. These work like keywords to help you search for different topics and see which books you have available on the particular subject. For example, "Friend for Little Bear" selects the keywords




-Juvenile Fiction/General

So if my family is doing a unit study on islands, I can search for "islands" on Book Collector and it will pull up a list of all the books that have the keyword of "island".

What kind of things can you use this program for? Well, here are some ideas.
1. Insurance purposes
2. Keep track of books on loan to friends and family
3. Have access to the list so that you don't buy duplicates at the store
4. Organize by categories and keywords to quickly search for different topics
5. Make a wish list

I entered some books into the program and played around with the functions. It is a neat program with some cool features. It isn't something that I would use. I'm not that organized. :) But some people are. A friend of mine keeps all of his movies in a spreadsheet, so that visitors can choose the movie they would like to watch. Another friend keeps all of his video games listed in a spreadsheet so that he can easily see if he already owns a certain one. If you have a desire to do any of the these things, then this program is an easy-to-use solution. Very user-friendly with lots of automated features based on the ISBN.

If you would like to read what my crewmates thought, click here.

Disclaimer: I received Book Collector 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, October 29, 2010

Buckets O Fun - A Review

Product: Yuck

Chunky - $16.00 / 1 lb
Saucy - $18.00 / 1 lb
Snowy - $20.00 / 1 lb
Sticky - $20.00 / 1 lb

Company: Buckets-O-Fun

To Purchase: Yuck

Age Range: Elementary Age and Up

Other Products Available:
Products for outdoor fun, especially for large groups

Brief Introduction:
Yuck comes in 4 forms (Chunky, Sticky, Snowy, and Saucy). The product arrives in powder form. All you do is add the powder to water, stir, and watch what happens.

For some demonstrations, check out these YouTube Videos.

In-Depth Look:

When I learned the name of the company is Buckets-O-Fun, I felt pretty sure our review product would be something that my girls would enjoy. When the package arrived, we eagerly opened it to see what we got. The company had mailed us 4 samples of their yuck products. Also, they included a list of game ideas and an observation sheet for the experiments. Pretty neat, huh?

I carefully read over all of the instructions. According to the info sheet, the yuck will absorb water and expand. For this reason, it is very important that you don't ingest it and also that you don't put it down any drains (sink, dishwasher, washing machine). Well, this did make me a little nervous. Not that I thought my children would eat it. They are 11 and 8. (Our almost 2 year old was hanging out with Daddy.) My concern was how we were going to clean up ourselves and our kitchen and our utensils, if we couldn't use the sink or dishwasher to do so. And yikes, what if this slimy mess spills on my daughters' clothes and I can't run it through the dishwasher?

So anyways, yes, I began the experiments with a tad bit of trepidation. I began by moving everything off the counter that was of value. :) Then I stressed the "all-important Rule #1 -No washing it down the drain" and the "other all-important Rule #2 - No eating it" As the directions explained - "It absorbs water; need we say more?!".

We started with the Snowy Yuck. The powder resembles sugar. But almost immediately after stirring it into water, it looked so much like snow. It was pretty cool. One of the game suggestions is to use cookie cutters with the snowy yuck. I wanted to give this a try; it sounded like a neat idea. But our sample size was way too small for that sort of thing. We played around with some of the experiment ideas: trying to make a snowball, adding salt, and freezing it. I won't tell you what we discovered; I will let you try it for yourself.

Next we made the saucy yuck. It looks like powder until you put it into water. Stir and also immediately, you have a saucy mess. It is quite an interesting feeling!

Up next, the slimy yuck. I really didn't want to try this one. But I kind of had to, since it was sent as part of the review. Ha-ha. And since my daughters have made their own "slimes" in the past, I knew how much they would probably enjoy it. So, I took the plunge. And they aren't kidding! This stuff is sticky! It was fun to play with. My girls stretched it between their hands and in and out of the bowl. They even managed to blow bubbles with it in their hands. Pretty cool! Cleanup, however, was not cool. It is very sticky and you can't wash your hands in the sink. The directions tell you ahead of time that cleaning your hands is going to require a lot of patience. And they aren't kidding.

Lastly, we made the chunky yuck. This one isn't instant. It is a process of adding water, letting it absorb, and then adding more water as needed over a 24 hour period. This one was my favorite. It looked like ice cubes. Felt like jello cubes. Didn't stick to your hands and was easy to clean up.

The verdict: My kids had fun making it and playing with it. The kit includes neat game and observation ideas. They didn't enjoy clean up. It was a long and tedious affair to get it all wiped up and scooped off and thrown away. We used a lot of napkins and paper towels!

Suggestion #1: I highly suggest that you use disposable items. This is what we did. We used Styrofoam bowls, plastic spoons and paper towels. So everything went straight into the trash as we finished with it. This was a HUGE help! I can't imagine how we would have cleaned up the bowls and spoons well enough to feel confident putting them into the dishwasher after.

Suggestion #2: Do these experiments outside! Seriously, I can't stress this enough. Had we been able to do these experiments outside in warm weather with a water hose nearby, it would have greatly simplified matters. We could have simply hosed everyone and everything off once we were finished and been done with it. Much better. Word of warning though. The directions do warn that you don't want to just dump it into an area where people will walk because it is slippery. It does decompose; so, dumping it into a garden would be a good idea. Otherwise, hose it off into an "out-of-the-way" area. Simple, easy, done.

Some cool ideas:
We only had sample sizes so we weren't able to do these neat things. And the weather wasn't warm enough either. But there were some super-cool ideas that we would have loved to try. Put the yuck on a slip-n-slide and slide away. Fill a wading pool and splash around. Fill buckets with yuck and hidden treasures and start digging away. Doesn't that sound like so much fun? Great ideas for a summer get-together or birthday party.

To see other reviews, click here.

Disclaimer: I received Yuck samples 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, October 22, 2010

Brill Kids - A Review

Product: Little Reader Basic

Price: $149 (1 semester) / $199 (2 semesters)

Company: Brill Kids

To Purchase: Little Reader

Age Range: 1 semester - 6 months old / 2 semesters - 12 months old

Other Products:
Little Reader Deluxe
Little Math

Little Musician -
To be released soon

Brief Overview:
Ideal for babies and young children, Little Reader is the most effective learning system for teaching your child to read. At the heart of Little Reader is a revolutionary software system that delivers lessons in ways never before possible, making learning ENGAGING for your child, and EASY for you. - from the website

In-Depth Look:
I have a 23-month old daughter. We have been using this program together on a regular basis. The recommendation is to use the program for 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the evening.

It is intended to be a joint effort. Don't sit your toddler in a booster chair to watch it alone. Instead, sit there with your child and interact with her while watching the lesson.

Choose the day that you are on; then choose Part 1 or Part 2. The lesson will walk you through the steps as you click the mouse or press the spacebar (depending on the option you choose).

Let's take the example of the word: POINT. The screen will display and say the word: POINT. Then it will show a girl with her hand extended pointing and say something like, "Can you point?". Then the next clip is a short video of a girl putting her arm up and down in the "POINT" position, while asking your child to do the same.

Another example would be the word DOG. It will show the word DOG. The next screen shot is of a DOG and you will hear the dog bark. Next is a short video of a different dog.

An important thing to mention is that the software has a couple of pictures and videos for each word. So there isn't just one picture of a child eating. There are a few pictures of different children eating. Then the videos are more different children. Some are real people and some are cartoon-like people. This is important because you don't want them to only associate the word to one image. Eating isn't just when that one person puts food in his mouth. Eating is when anyone puts food in their mouth.

Same as with items like CAT. Little Reader uses more than one picture and video of different cats, so the toddler doesn't just associate CAT with that one little white fur ball in one picture.

Another key factor is to progress through the screen shots quickly. The instructions mention that this is important to the success of the program. During most of the lesson, this is up to you since you click to move to the next image. But during the review part, the lesson will quickly proceed through the words of the day on its own.

When it is time for my daughter and I to use Little Reader, I tell her it is time for her to do school and ask if she wants to. She says "Yes" and comes over and hops in my lap. We go through the lessons for that day a few times, because she enjoys it and asks for more. I stop before she is tired of it because I don't won't it to be a chore for her and I also don't know if it is just too much information at one sitting for her.

Does she enjoy? Oh yes! She sits still and watches and listens and interacts. When the program says, "Can you stand up?", up she stands.

When it asks, "Can you sit down?", down she sits. It is so cute when Little Reader asks her to laugh, because she does. It is funny because she isn't laughing because something was humorous. She is laughing simply because the lesson asks us to.

Is she learning? Yes! She has gotten to review and practice words that she already knows. She has learned some new words and their meanings.

Is she learning to read? I honestly don't know. It is too early to tell at this point. But I do think that she will learn to recognize these words in the near future.

I enjoy this program. My 23-month old daughter enjoys this program. I intend to continue using Little Reader all the way through the 2 semesters of lessons. I am excited to see the results. I look forward to hearing my little one read these words within the next year at the age of 2.

Please note: Little Reader is only compatible with Windows.

To see other reviews, click here.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

2010-2011 Primary Student Schoolhouse Planner - A Review

Product: 2010-2011 Primary Student Schoolhouse Planner

Price: $9.95

Company: This Old Schoolhouse

To Purchase: Primary Planner

Age Range: Grades K-3

Other Planners Available:
Secondary School Planner - $19.00 - Grades 4-6
Middle School Planner - $19.00 - Grades 7-8
High School Planner - $29.00 - Grades 9-12

Brief Introduction:
203 pages of forms, lists and helpful tips to help your K-3rd grade student get organized for the 2010-2011 school year.

In-Depth Look:
When I first heard that TOS was coming out with a Primary Student Planner, my first thought was "What would my 3rd grader do with a planner?" Sure, I can see why I need one. I have plenty of things to plan and organize and keep track of. But I couldn't see my 3rd grader needing or using one.

So, when I received my planner, I was eager to open it up and see just what all the fuss was about. Now I see that there is plenty to fuss about, 203 pages worth of things to fuss about.






The neat thing is that the forms are in a PDF file. Your child can't lose it. It is always right there on your computer. Your child can't run out of forms. He can always print another one. He also has the option of printing it out and then filling it in. Or, he can fill it out on the computer and then print it. I think that is a super neat bonus, especially for little ones who have barely mastered handwriting and aren't able to squeeze their letters into the spaces on forms.

I like the lists about Jesus very much. What a neat way to get an overview of His life on Earth. The planner has Jesus' miracles, parables and a timeline of events in His life.

I also love the list of Newberry and Caldecott book winners for the past 30 years. This would make a great book-reading list . . . one from each award list for the next 30 weeks. (Of course, I can't vouch for all of these books. No amount of awards can replace a parent's discretion.)

In my opinion, it would be beneficial for every student to know at least the ABCs in sign language. If a child ever needs to interact with a deaf person, she could at least spell out the necessary words. This is a much slower process, but in a pinch, it would do the trick. And guess where your child can find the ABCs in sign language. Well, in this planner, of course.

The timeline of inventions is so interesting. I found myself reading it just for the fun.

Neat stuff, huh? There are tons more inventions listed. This would make a great jumping off point into some interesting research. Have your child pick one topic a month to delve into deeper. They will have lots of choices. And one of them is sure to prick their interest.

The list of famous composers is another of my favorites. It lists the composer, his birth and death, his country, and one or two of their famous works. Another great jumping off point. Your student can pick a composer once a month to study in greater detail. They will probably find the famous works online on sites like YouTube. They can listen to the music while doing some research about these famous men. The Primary Planner has a similar list of famous artists, which will be just as useful.

A variety of journal templates are included. Once your student finds the one she likes, the sky is the limit. Her journal is only limited by her imagination. A journal of nature observations, a journal of hopes and dreams, a journal of daily events.

Okay, here is another favorite of mine. The templates for reports. These look sharp and are very helpful. They include a box for a drawing and questions to help summarize the learning.

There are so many more forms provided in the Primary Planner. But I have listed some of my favorites. In my opinion, this is an amazing resource. It will help your primary student get organized, learn some really cool facts, and feel like one of the "big kids" with their very own planner.

I received this Primary Planner, free of charge, in exchange for my review.

The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

The Art of Dairy Delights DVD Giveaway

Here is your chance to win a great DVD from Franklin Springs Family Media.

The Art of Dairy Delights

Broad Horizons School Blog

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Digital Field Trip Series - A Review

Product: The Digital Field Trip Series
(The Wetlands/The Rainforest/The Desert)

Price: $125 (licensed for home use only)

Company: Digital Frog International

To Purchase: Digital Field Trip

Age Range: "While not all topics/activities are suitable for younger children, the field trips support learning for grades K-12. See individual field trips for more detailed information on each." - from website

Other Products: Other Topics Available

Brief Overview:
A digital field trip to the wetlands, rainforest, and desert. Includes workbook materials for the teacher and the student.

For more information about each individual field trip:



In-Depth Look:

When I heard of the company Digital Frog, I thought of digital frog dissections. I think this is a wonderful idea. So much less gross and stinky. But what I didn't know is that they also make other educational CDs. One of these is the Digital Field Trip, the one that I received for review. Actually there are 3 field trips . . . the Rainforest, the Desert, and the Wetlands. I received the combo disc containing all 3.

I have spent some time going through all 3 field trips . . . exploring, reading, playing, and learning. It took me some time to figure out how to navigate the program, but I finally found that the easiest way is to click on "MAP" and see which items didn't have a check mark on them. Those were the items that I still needed to check on. I also found the display screen of the field trips to be way too tiny for my enjoyment. So I was relieved when I found the preferences section, where I could change to "FULL SCREEN". Ah, that was much better.

It is called a field trip and that is the first step of the journey. For example, on the Desert field trip, you pick from one of 5 deserts - the Saguaro West, Painted Desert, Death Valley, Black Rock or Big Bend. Find the place on the map. Then the panaromic view loads. You can survey the area and also zoom in and out. Click on the different posts along the trail to see all the sites. Interesting side notes are included, some of which are "clickable", like links that jump to individual animals inserted in the pictures. Below is an example from the Rainforest field trip. The left-hand corner is the scene that you view. The right-hand corner has the field notes, some of which are click-able. The bottom section shows the trail with all of the posts that you can visit.

This is just one small portion of the CD though. So many other things are included. You will need to use the map provided to be able to successfully navigate through it all. The map looks like a family tree, branching its way down from one thing to the next.

The sections are expansive and include so many topics. Some are informational. Some are interactive. Some are animated graphics with audio. A wide variety to help hold a child's interest and expand their knowledge.

Just a few of the topics on the Desert CD -
- Aridity Types
- Build-a-Desert
- Compare Homeostasis
- Animal Adaptations
- Rocks and Minerals

A few from the Rainforest CD -
- Rainforests of the World
- Biodiversity Screens
- Dependency Web
- Cryptic Coloration
- Soils & Decompisition

And a few from the Wetlands -
- Conservation
- Endangered Wetlands
- Bog Acidity
- Nutrient Cycles
- Photosynthesis

So as you can see, the CDs cover a wide variety of topics. It is a virtual field trip, but it is also so much more. I am going to include some snapshots to give you a feel for it.

This is one of the interactive screens.

This is an informative screen, with links to more details.

An interactive one from the Desert. So cute.

Once I got the hang of it, I found this to be both fun and educational. The field trips can be purchased separately. But the combo is the best deal, price-wise.

The company offers a DemoWare. This is a CD with samples of all of their products, including workbook samples. You can download it for free or have it shipped to you for $5.

To see other reviews, click here.

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