Sunday, April 25, 2010

Lesson Planet - A Review

Product: Lesson Planet

Price: $39.95/year
Site offers a free 10-day trial

Owner: Education Planet

Want to try it out: 10-day Free Trial

Brief Overview:
Lesson Planet provides access to teacher-reviewed online curriculum resources. The site gives you access to over 150,000 teacher-reviewed lesson plans and 75,000 worksheets.

In-Depth Look:

This site was developed to provide teachers with an easier way to sort through websites and find the lesson plans that they are looking for. One site, one search, tons of results.

For example, I searched for "Colorado Indians". Lesson Planet provided links to 398 lesson plans and 6 worksheets. The result gives a lot of information before you even click on the link. Here is an example:

PDF] Indian Children Learn by Doing
Grade Range
3rd - 5th
Rated 3.0/5 Stars.

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View

Students acquire information through the use of primary sources concerning how work is divided in the Colorado Indian tribes. They discover that Colorado Indian students learn through play and imitation of adult activities.

Language Arts, US History
Small Group, Individual
Internet Research
Key Terms
University of Northern Colorado
Lethia Lee, Bonnie Lavin
Assessment, Standards, Web Required
Denise Beasley

The site gives lots of options for narrowing down your search results. For example, I limited my search for "Indians" to "3rd-5th grade" with a 3-star rating and an essay format. Lesson Planet found 22 worksheets.

My favorite part of the site is the "Calendar". Pick a day on the calendar. It will list special things about that date in history. And then also suggest some related topics. I picked today's date, April 25. It is the day that Daniel Defoe published Robinson Crusoe in 1719. The related search is Daniel Defoe. Clicking on either will bring you to a listing of lesson plans and worksheets.

If you decide to try the 10-day free trial, remember that your credit card will be charged if you don't cancel before the trial period is up.

More reviews are here.

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

Super Star Games - A Review

Product: Super Star Games

Price: $3.50/each instant download

Company: Super Star Speech (Deborah Lott)

To Purchase: CurrClick

Other Products Available: Speech Therapy Materials

Brief Overview:

Deborah Lott has designed down-loadable games to help reinforce lessons that children are learning in various subjects (grammar, history and science) on a variety of topics (American Revolution, Inventors, Insects, Continents, etc.).

In-Depth Look:

Our family tried out The Insect Game and The Road to the Revolution.

The Insect Game is geared towards 2nd-6th grade. It will help reinforce your insect studies. Children answer questions. If they get the answer correct, they earn the insect part pictured on that card. If they already have that part, then they just don't get a part that turn. Same if they get the question wrong. The first player to earn all 11 parts completes their insect and wins the game.

The instructions suggest printing on card stock. I used plain printer paper, because that is what I had. Then I glued the insect parts onto cardboard and cut them out. Card stock would have been easier.

My 8 and 11 year olds enjoyed playing this game. Picture the Cootie game from our youth. Fun and you learn and reinforce some insect facts along the way.

The Road to Revolution game is geared towards 3rd-8th grade. The game comes with 48 multiple choice questions to help reinforce Revolutionary facts.

Players answer multiple choice questions. If they answer the question correctly, they roll a die and move that many spaces. We made small squares numbered 1-6 and then picked a card to determine how many spaces to move. Along the way, you may land on spaces with instructions such as "Boston Tea Party - 1775 - Take another turn". The first one to get the finish line wins the game.

I like that the questions are multiple choice. I like that the game had a "game board" feel to it with a race to the finish.

We store our game pieces in sandwich bags. I found the games easy to download, print, setup and to store. All the way around, simple and easy! I think the $3.50 is a very fair price.

Would you like to read more reviews? Some of the crew members also reviewed the Super Star Speech Therapy products.

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

Monday, April 12, 2010

"What Am I" Reader - A Review

Product: "What Am I?" - a collection of short stories
All About Reading Level 2 Vol 1
by Marie Rippel and Renee LaTulippe

Price: TBD (Book hasn't been released yet)

Company: All About Learning Press, Inc.

To Order: All About Spelling Website (Book is not yet available)

Brief Overview:
The "What Am I?" reader is a collection of 10 fully-illustrated short stories. It is Level 2, Volume 1 and it corresponds with the same sequence and word lists as All About Spelling Level 2, Steps 1-14.

In-Depth Look:
A few months ago, my family received the Beehive Reader 1 from AAS. My then 7 year old daughter claimed it as her own and fell in love with the beautiful book with its adorable stories. You can read my review about it here. So, I was happy to learn that we would be receiving their new reader, What Am I? hot off the press, before it was even available for purchase.

Once again, my now 8 year old daughter was happy to see it. The book is so adorable. This isn't your typical reader. It is hard back and has the look of a classic, even though it is only months old. I don't really know how to explain it; but this book is simply inviting. It draws you in, makes you want to curl up and read together.

If you use the All About Spelling program, this book will correspond with Level 2, Steps 1-14. If you don't use AAS, no worries. This reader can be used independently. My daughter reads it independently, reads it as part of her school lessons, and also listens to it as a bedtime story at times. It is that versatile (and enjoyable).

My 2nd grader can read it independently, well enough to understand and enjoy the stories. There are just enough difficult words to make it more challenging and expand her vocabulary.

The book has 10 short stories. All are fully illustrated, with charming black-and-white drawings. Some of the stories are silly. My girls giggle over them at storytime. Some have a little bit of facts mixed in. Most include an animal or two, of some sort. My daughter's favorite story is "The Bench".

I have reviewed both readers by All About Learning and love them both. I whole-heartedly recommend them both.

I will post some sample pages at the bottom. Aren't the drawings adorable?

If you would like some other opinions, check these out.

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




Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Terrestria Chronicles (Books 4 & 5) - A Review


Product: The Terrestria Chronicles (Books 4 & 5)

Price: $7.99 each
Entire series: $39.99

Company: Dunlop Ministries

Where to Purchase:

Other Products Available:
Terrestria Chronicles
Tales from Terrestria
Young Refugees Trilogy
Sherlock Jones Junior Detective Series
The 1,000 Mile Journey
Jed Series

Several FREE E-books are also available.

Brief Overview:
Travel back in time to a land of castles, princes, knights, lords and ladies. Along the way, you will be drawn into an allegory that points straight to King Emmanuel. There is NO magic or wizardry in this series.

In-Depth Look:

Ed Dunlop, the author of this series, has a heart to reach children for Christ. He has chosen to do this through crusades, summer camps, training seminars. His family has traveled in full-time evangelism since 1988. Mr. Dunlop also reaches people through the printed books for teachers and fiction for middle readers. A brief tour of the website shows just how much Mr. Dunlop loves the Lord and his passion for leading people to salvation.

He has a series called The Terrestria Chronicles. "The Terrestria Chronicles allegory series was written with a three-fold purpose: to honor Jesus Christ as King, to challenge young readers to love and serve Him, and to teach them to guard their hearts for Him. The focus of the series is always on the King."

These stories center around Prince Josiah, a young man recently saved from slavery by King Emmanuel (representing Jesus saving us from the bondage of our sin). He represents the growing Christian, not yet mature in his faith. He faces trials and sometimes he fails. Wiser, more mature Christians (such as Sir Faithful and Sir Dedication) help guide him on his way...encouraging Prince Josiah to surrender his heart fully to King Emmanuel, reminding him to do all things for the glory of God and to keep his focus on things that will matter in eternity. Prince Josiah learns many hard lessons along the way, one of these is the startling realization that our sins don't only affect us. Our mistakes can have a ripple effect and devastating results to those around us. As Prince Josiah learns many hard lessons, grows in his service to his King Emmanuel, and discovers that not everyone in the realm shares his love or loyalty to the King...we can see ourselves in this young prince and be reminded of the same lessons along the way.

These stories portay just how much our King loves us, how much He has done for us, and what He can do through us. King Emmanuel wants to save us from slavery and then do great things for His Kingdom through our wholly surrendered hearts. They also serve as a reminder of how much evil is at work around us and how indifference can be extremely dangerous.

The books include a glossary for medieval terms such as "Saboton - pointed shoes made of steel to protect the feet of a knight in battle". A page of castle facts includes tidbits like "A castle was often a social center for nobility". Best of all, the ABC's of Salvation are explained at the end of each story.

Mr. Dunlop has provided a study guide for all seven books. This can be helpful for devotions or group study.

If your children enjoy "doing something" while they listen to you read, the site also has free coloring pages related to the books.

What I Like:
*This series is set during an interesting time period with castles, knights, lords and ladies.
*This is a Christian series, focused on encouraging young children to be saved and act like it.
*Many lessons can be learned, like the consequences of our sins.
*I believe children (and adults) can see their need for eternal salvation by reading these stories.

What I Didn't Like:
*The character and place names were a bit distracting. Names like Sir Pretentious, Forest of Decision, and the Sea of Conviction can get to be a mouthful when reading aloud.
*The allegory was very obvious, not subtle. I tend to prefer the subtle route.
*Some of the scenes and topics are intense, especially in regards to the evil forces at work. The suggested age range is 10 and up. I strongly suggest that you take this into account and decide for your family.

I would suggest an age range of 13 and up. My daughters are 8 and 11. They had a hard time following what was going on. Because of this, it was difficult for them to enjoy the storyline. I could clearly see where it was going and what it was getting at. But this wasn't the case for my girlies.

Check out more reviews.

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Travels of Wiglington & Wenks Virtual World - A Review

Product: The Travels of Wiglington & Wenks Virtual World

Price: FREE for non-members
$5.99 for monthly membership (discounts for longer time periods)

Company: Wiglington & Wenks Worldwide Pte Ltd.

Want to Play: W&W

Brief Overview:
(From the Website)

In a nutshell, The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World (WW) is an exciting
new massive online virtual world for kids aged 7 to 14.

It promises an experience in which players will be able to travel to places around the world, through time and space, meet famous historical people, play dozens of fun
enriching games, make new friends, buy exotic islands, build culture-inspired houses,
wear clothes from different countries, explore secret locations, solve mysteries and
become a legendary traveler!

Kids follow a plot where they travel around the world to locate and help a group of
historical people who have come to the present era through a time warp regain their lost memories.

Parents can look forward to an educational and safe site for their kids where they will be learning about history, geography, landmarks, famous people, inventions, animals and more.

And for the kids, they can expect hours of interactive and exploration fun.WW was
originally a children story book series by veteran businessman John Bittleston,
later adapted into a virtual world for kids by creative entrepreneur Aldric Chang
and Ngo Chee Yong.


In-Depth Look:

I had never heard of this game or the book series that it is based on. But when I heard that it was a virtual world for kids, my children were eager to try it out. When I learned that it had historical educational content, I was eager for them to try it out.

The staff at W&W provided us with a 1-month subscription. We played as a free member until it was activated. My daughters noticed only a few differences between free play and paid member. Some of these are more pets, houses and islands. Also access to special locations. A neat bonus is 3,000 Rollars and 1,000 WW Virtual Currency awarded every month.

The game is very high quality. Great graphics. Easy to maneuver. Interesting storyline. In my opinion, it is of the same high quality as other big-name online virtual worlds that my daughters have enjoyed playing.

My 8 and 11 year old daughters have logged quite a few hours playing this game in the past few weeks. They enjoy the chat feature and the games. They also like buying clothes, adopting pets and getting a house. I think one of their favorite things is playing Balloon Warz.

The storyline is cute and well laid out. Famous people from the past are now here in our time, but they don't remember who they are. Players must find the famous people, then find the items that will help them recall who they are. Along the journey, players visit various countries learning about its landmarks, nature, wildlife, clothing, etc. My daughters have spent time visiting the different
countries, so I consider this a nice little plus.

If your child searches for the historical figures and their "memory-repairing" items, he will learn some facts about these people. A small history lesson here and there, with the likes of Albert Einstein and Alexander Graham Bell. I wasn't thrilled to see Charles Darwin listed, since I am not a fan of the Evolution Theory. If your child plays out the story, he will learn some interesting history facts. But my daughters have spent very little time on these tasks. They have spent the majority of their time chatting and playing Balloon Warz. So although it is a nice benefit, your child may not choose to spend time on it.

The game has free chat, meaning that your child will be able to type most anything. This is unlike some of the other major virtual worlds geared to this age group, which only allow players to choose from preselected messages. I had concerns about this chat setup. So I read the faqs section about it to see just how it is handled with Wiglington and Wenks. I will include for the sake of others with

No Numbers
  • We have developed a system that cleverly filters out telephone numbers and addresses to
  • prevent the exchange of sensitive information.

No URL Links

  • URL links are disallowed to prevent the dissemination of inappropriate websites.

No Vulgarities

  • Vulgarities will not be tolerated in our virtual world! Vulgarities will be censored and repeat
  • offenders will be temporarily banned or barred permanently from The Travels of Wiglington
  • and Wenks Virtual World.

No Private Messaging

  • We disallow private messaging within our virtual world to discourage unsupervised conversations.

Reporting Features

  • Players are able to report other players who are engaging in inappropriate behavior.
  • Moderators will investigate reports and take the necessary action.

Chat Logs

  • Parents are able to request their children’s chat logs as far back as 90 days.

Special Parents’ Admin Panel

  • Parents are able to monitor the playing habits of their children.
Despite all of these precautions, there were still some instances during my daughters' game time.
Players used bad words and made unkind comments. You can report a player, but they can log right back into the game. You can also choose to ignore a player, so that might be of help with repeat offenders/pests. These are some things to take into account when it comes to free chat.

Pros: My daughters enjoyed the game, the graphics, the chat feature, Balloon Warz, and the pets.
They have exposure to different countries and interesting things about them (landmarks, clothing, etc.). Interesting facts about some historical figures are presented as your child proceeds through the storyline.

Cons: Despite the history lessons about some famous figures, your child may not choose to spend much time on this part of the game. Free chat can lead to exposure of foul language and unkind comments. It can also open the door to giving out too much personal information, such as your child's email.

Read more reviews here.

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Language Smarts Level C - A Review

Product: Language Smarts Level C

Price: $39.99 (with photocopy rights for family/classroom)
Free down-loadable answer guide on site

Company: The Critical Thinking Co.

Where to Purchase: Critical Thinking

Brief Overview:
This book teaches the language arts skills and concepts that a 2nd grader needs to know. It also includes some 3rd grade skills. It can be used as a core curriculum or as a supplement.

In-Depth Look:
I was first introduced to The Critical Thinking Co. a few years ago when I purchased some of their deductive thinking skills workbooks called Mind Benders. I was very impressed with these books and enjoyed working the thinking puzzles right along with my children. I think logic and reasoning skills are very important, skills that aren't taught often enough.

But I wasn't aware that the company also sold core curriculum products. They have them for math, science and language arts.

I received one of these products to review for the TOS Crew. It is Language Smarts - Level C for 2nd grade. I have used it for the past 6 weeks with my 8 year old daughter, a 2nd grader.

My daughter has enjoyed using this book. She has progressed through several sections including...

Following Directions: This included tasks such as following the directions of arrows to solve a word, finding the answer by eliminating choices, and writing map directions.

Alphabet: The ABC's are reviewed in a new way. My daughter solved thinking puzzles by following directions such as "The grandfather's letter is made up of both straight lines and curves."

Mnemonics and Palindromes: These were interesting. But what I found even more interesting were the word riddles, like "Trouble Trouble"...which was solved as "Double Trouble". Fun things that make you think.

Vowel and Consonant Types: Digraphs, Blends, etc. These are presented in unique ways using letter wheels, Word Benders, etc.

Syllables: Again, Language Smarts teaches the concepts in unique ways that practice your child's thinking skills. An example would be "The name of the boy's favorite fruit has the most syllables, and Mr. Fox's fruit has the fewest syllables."

The book is super nice quality. Full color, glossy pages. Tons of pictures of animals and peoples, letters and numbers. The book is pleasant to look at and work with.

The context is impressive. Skills and concepts, mixed in with word puzzles and mind benders. My daughter likes using this book. And I am happy to have found it.

To see some samples, go here. To read other Crew Reviews, go 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.