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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LanSchool Home - A Review

Product: LanSchool Home Version

Price: $99 / home license (monitor up to 3 computers)

Company: LanSchool Technologies, LLC

To Purchase: LanSchool Home Version

Other Products: LanSchool for Classroom Use

Age Range: Teacher (and his/her students)

Brief Introduction:

LanSchool is a classroom management software solution for parents who wish to monitor their students computer use. Check out the brochure.

In-Depth Look:

Parents want to keep their children safe on the internet. They also want to make sure that their children are doing what they are supposed to be doing while on the computer.

LanSchool helps make this possible. As the teacher, you install the teacher mode on your computer. Then you install the student version on the computers that your children will be using (up to 3 computers).

Once the program is up and running, the options are many. The program can be used to monitor what your children are doing by viewing their screens. Now if they are playing a game instead of doing their research, you will know. You can also take control of their screens, which is handy when they need your assistance.

You can allow your children to view your screen. This is a great way to show everyone in the family the same thing at the same time. Want to show a video about the rain forest, but everyone can't see around the same monitor? Everyone can sit in front of their own screen and watch it at the same time. Want to show everyone how to run the new math program that you bought? Again, everyone can sit at their own monitors and watch.

A really neat feature is the ability to draw on your screen. You can draw circles, arrows, text, etc right on your monitor and the children can see it.

Some of the available features are
- Send message to student. This shows up as a pop-up that your child can close after reading.

- Chat. This allows for back and forth communication between you and your child.

- Block internet access. You can block some sites or the whole internet.

- Snapshots. You can take a "picture" of the student's screen and save it. This could be great for portfolios, using it to take screen shots of online quiz scores and completed activities.

- Survey. Imagine everyone is in a different room of the house. Send a quick question out to the bunch. "Is everyone done with their schoolwork?" "Is anyone ready for lunch?" The results show up on your teacher console.

-Tests. You can make your own tests. True/False or Multiple Choice. The test shows up on their monitor. The results show up on your console. Easy to take. Super easy to grade.

- Blank Screen. This is a neat one. You can blank the screen on all the student monitors. A great way to get everyone's attention.

Below is a snapshot showing a chat box. You and your child can send messages back and forth instantly.

The below snapshot is of "send a message". The box pops-up for your student to read. They can close down the box after they read it.

This snapshot is of the default message "Stop playing games." It shows up in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

LanSchool Home has many helpful uses for protecting your child on the internet. You can see what they are doing and block certain functions and sites.

It also has many helpful uses for homeschooling. You can assist on your child's computer. Your child can watch you on your computer. Snapshots make for permanent records of work completed and grades achieved. Customizable tests and instant scores are convenient.

So what did I think? When I first heard about this program, I was pessimistic. I thought this was a wonderful idea for classroom use. But I really didn't see how it could be of much use for my family. But once I loaded the program and began trying it out, I was surprised at just how much it had to offer.

Helpful Tip: Make sure you have changed all settings back to where you want them and have exited the teacher console before turning off your computer. I was playing around with the features on my laptop and turned off all access to the internet on the desktop. Then without thinking about it, I shut down my laptop. Well, the setting stayed in effect and no one could access the internet on the desktop. So, I had to turn the laptop back on and go into the teacher's console to "fix it". At least I know now that the feature works, right? Hee-hee.

To read other reviews, click here.

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