Wednesday, December 30, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Maestro Classics

We had the opportunity to receive and review The Tortoise and the Hare.  This is a wonderful story from Aesop's fables set to classical music performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra. 

This approximately 54 minute CD was able to easily draw the attention of my children. The narrator clearly tells the story of "The Hare" and how he likes to brag about how fast he is. A marathon is set up so that the Hare can compete against the other animals in the forest.  The problem is, is that none of the animals want to compete against him, as he is not very well liked.  Finally the Tortoise steps up and offers to race the Hare. In the background and at appropriate times throughout the story you hear the orchestra and its various instruments.

In addition to the orchestra version of the story, the actual short story from Aesop's fables is shared on the CD.  Then there is the song "Pretzel Vendor of Paris" with information about the song. There is also information behind the story and how they chose the music for the Tortoise and the Hare. You can here a sample of the this CD by clicking HERE.

Included with the CD is a booklet which has information on the importance of listening to music together with your child. Also includes info on the orchestra and colored pictures of the instruments used in the orchestra. There there are some puzzles and information on hares and tortoises.

Overall an excellent CD, enjoyable by all ages, but especially children under 10 years.  There are several other CD's available from this company which sound wonderful as well.  You can here samples at the website.

For more information about this CD or others from Maestro Classics..Click HERE.

TOS Crew: Act Advantage

ACT Advantage is an educational tool and assessment for ACT test preparation. It is a parent administered test available at two levels: Explore - for 8/9th graders and Plan - for 10/11th graders. The subjects tested are Math, Reading, English, and Science. 

At each level the student can be tested to see how they compare to other students at the same grade level as well as their strengths and weaknesses in preparation for college and future testing.

Each test booklet has student complete work directly in the booklet.  There is space for them to work the problems out directly with the problem.  This is great as you don't have to search for the problem on scratch paper should they get a problem wrong.  There is a removable test sheet and the answers are included in the test booklet.

The test are easy to administer with clear direction to the student and parent. There are booklets to help you assess your child's results as well as an excellent 36 page booklet, College Readiness Standards, with suggestions on how to meet the standard.  Suggestions depend on the skill needed. An example would be to "experiment with different writing styles" or "solve multi-step arithmetic problems."

This is excellent preparation for college bound students to assess where they are and what skills they need to score well on college entrance exams. The "Ideas for Progress" included in the College Readiness Standard booklet are useful for any high school student.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Tektoma

Tektoma is an online tutorials with videos to help children learn programing and make their own games. After downloading free software available elsewhere on the Internet, Tektoma provides step by step detailed videos on how to make your own video games.  Children as young as 7 are said to be able to benefit from Tektoma.  We had our nine year old work with his 18 year old brother.  Both with no experience in programming.  They worked on a simple racing game, following the directions. I don't believe my 9 year old would have been able to do without my older son there to help him along the way. The guide says it takes approx. 2 hours to make the race car. After several hours working on it, my son did give up.  He had a hard time following along even with help. Maybe someone with more motivation would do better with it. They do offer a free trial so you can figure out for yourself if this is something that will work for you.

Tektoma currently only works with Windows XP and Vista.  Mac version coming soon.  You also need broadband Internet connection.  Discussion boards are also available to ask questions if need be.  These forums are monitored by Tektoma and questions are often answered by them.

To find out more info about Tektoma please Click Here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

TOS Crew: Professor in a Box - Financial Accounting

Professor in a Box - Financial Accounting, taught and produced by Michael Licata, is an accounting curriculum specifically produced for homeschooled students. Licata, who holds a PhD and is a college professor, wanted to make available to homeschoolers a vigorous college level accounting course, that students with average high school (basic algebra) math ability would be able to take and understand.  Completion of this course would adequately prepare a student to take the accounting Clep test for college credit.

Everything you need is provided in the box.  The program needs to be viewed on a PC with CD-ROM and you need Adobe to open the PDF files on the Cd's. There is one instructor CD and three student CDs. There are three suggested paths this course can take, depending on how quickly you need to do it.  Suggestions are given for completing this course in 9 (3 lessons a week), 14, and 28 weeks.

The lesson structure is fairly simple: watch the lecture, do the homework problems (takes a approx. 2 hours to complete spread out over a few days,) check work, and work on exams if necessary.

The lessons are in flash player which is most PCs carry.  You listen to Professor Licata while the screen's flash automatically.  You have the ability to also print screens as desired.

The lessons we listened to were very informative. My son and I learned a lot from the lessons we completed. There is more to accounting then just math problems. Accounting is necessary for anyone entering any business field or thinking of the starting their own business. 

There is no additional textbook, so all the info is in the flash video. There is a printable list of key terms and you can print out the problems and and solutions if you want to for each lesson.  Spread sheets are also available for free in Excel, on the Professor in a Box website, that accompany the lessons.

These course is vigorous as the author states, however, even with a basic math background, I was easily able to understand the program and found it very helpful.

You can view a sample lesson by clicking here:
You can learn more about Professor in a Box by Clicking Here.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

TOS Crew Review: America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty

This product comes from The American Heritage Education Foundation, Inc. Here is a summary from their website:

"AHEF is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated to the understanding and teaching of America's factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility among our students and citizens.
"AHEF accomplishes this patriotic mission by writing, producing, and distributing FREE K-12 lesson plans to teachers, students, and families in all 50 states and through additional initiatives, programs, and partnerships."

AHEF produces a curriculum for grades K-12 and is geared toward public schools. This curriculum is available for each level of school: Elementary, Middle School, and High School students.  It is available free of charge on the website, either as a download or a cd.  You can purchase a print edition for a nominal fee.

Even though geared toward public schools and meeting Texas and national standards, it does not deny the faith of the founding fathers in teaching the basis of our government's founding. It is patriotic in overall theme.

I really appreciated the elementary version which is a general over view of symbols of our country,  U.S. documents, presidents, national holidays, and events of our country.  Information includes activities (games, puzzles, etc.), fact sheets, and teacher helps.  Some activities require more of a group structure, but many can be adapted for homeschool or co-op settings. Some topics covered include: The Presidential Seal, The Declaration of Independence, History of Thanksgiving, The United States Flag to name a few.Middle school and High School level seems to cover the same topics just in more depth.

While the lessons are divided up chronologically, but suggest which months to complete each activity/lesson (IE: Thanksgiving in November.) These lessons are thorough and complete and make a great supplement to any curriculum. I see this as a great way to cover some civics government lessons through out the year.

To learn more or download your own copy for free: CLICK HERE.

Monday, November 23, 2009

TOS Crew Review: AVKO Membership

For this review I received a one year membership to AVKO's membership website ($25).  AVKO Education and Research Foundation was started by Don McCabe in the 1970's.  AVKO stands for Audio, Visual, Kinesthetic, and Oral, based on the method he uses to teach reading and spelling. The foundation is a 501 (c) 3 company that exists to provide low cost or no cost material for teachers to help promote literacy for all including dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

The website appears overwhelming at first glance.  There is a ton of information on the site. There are several useful ebooks on the website which are also available in print form. One book - To Teach A Dyslexic - is the autobiography of the founder Don McCabe. This obviously tells his story and how he came to start the foundation. Other books available are useful tools to use along side the curriculum Sequential Spelling which is produced by AVKO.

One of the books - The Patterns of English Spelling - is cornerstone.  The author put together over 1600 pages containing most English words and there word patterns. They are grouped together on one page. You can develop your own spelling program for this, or use it as a reference, to find words your child misspells in his regular writing and teach the rimes or word families that go with it.

What makes Sequential Spelling (and AVKO) different is rather then teach isolated words on a spelling test.  McCabe recommends teaching all the word families together.  For instance:


These spelling lessons can also be a time to learn vocabulary.

There are also several audios available that further explain the foundation's philosophy of teaching reading and spelling. They even include an Mp3 audio on how to make your own spelling program, which I found helpful. Mr. McCabe has a great sense of humor and is easy to listen to.

Membership also comes with a 25% discount on printed products that you order directly from them. There is also a ton of fun stuff on the website like puns, inspirational stories, and funnies.

This membership would be a great investment for those using Sequential Spelling. It also would be helpful for anyone who wants to learn more of AVKO's philosophy or want to try and make up their own spelling program, using AVKO's methods.

To find out more about Sequential Spelling, AVKO membership, and the ton more information they have on their website (some for free.) Visit:

Membership was provided free of charge to give my honest opinion. See Disclosure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Exploramania - Gymathtics

Gymathics is a fun exercise video that runs about 30 minutes.  Produced with kids in mind, this video is described as a "Fun Educational Workout" by its producers.  Starting with stretches, moving on to Calisthenics, followed by some coordinated movement, named "Pattern Power," finishing up with some "Well-Being Wind down."

"Shape Stretches" is all over stretching while standing.  Incorporating different geometry terms, children are encouraged to make lines, triangles, and polygons.  This was the most liked part of the video for us.

Next "Counting Calisthenics" has us counting with odd, even, prime numbers, and more as we add calisthenics to our exercise routine.

"Pattern Power" teaches repeating patterns while doing mini exercise combinations. This includes some floor exercises and stomach crunches.  There are some yoga poses here, but they are not called such.

"Well-Being Wind down" includes some positive sayings about health and some exercises, while cooling down and relaxing.

This is over all a basic children's exercise video.  I would not encourage people to buy it if they are just looking for a math supplement. It does incorporate some basic math, but to get the most out of it you have to read the screen.  Those who can read it, probably already know it.  Most items on the screen are mentioned during the exercise, but not all of it. 

My children do enjoy the video. It is fun, and it did help that one of the characters in the video has the same name as one my boys. They follow along the best they can.  I think a little more could have been taught as to form.  It is probably more copy and do and I had trouble with one child not doing the exercises properly. It might be wise to supervise children the first time doing the video to make sure they don't injure themselves.

This video is great to get children moving and off the couch.  There are not that many exercise videos geared at children.  I commend the effort to get children moving.  There is also a second video in this series available that was not previewed.

To find out more visit:

Watch a sample video below:

This product was given to me, free of charge, for my honest opinion of the video.
See disclosure on right.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

TOS Crew: Virginia Soaps and Scents

What a fun privilege to review something that you can literally put your feet up and enjoy!! I received a sampler of soaps from Virginia Soaps and Scents. I received three olive oil based soaps, a shampoo bar, and a sample laundry kit.

The soaps were just dreamy.  They smelled so good and lathered up real well.  I really enjoyed using these. I used the "Oatmeal and Honey" bar in the shower and it was wonderful.  I used the "Coconut Lemongrass" in my hand soap dish and well, the "Fresh Orange" one, I am holding on to because it just smells so good.  It was great to know that I am only using all natural ingredients when I am using these.  They seemed to wash well and lather well.  I would definitely buy these again!!

I was a little curious about the "Shampoo" Bar.  I didn't know how that would work. I tried it!! It lathered up very well with only a little water, but I felt that it was a little too harsh on my hair.  After just one shampoo I could feel my hair was pretty rough.  I added just a little conditioner to my hair because I was worried how it would turn out.  I tried it one more time just see if it would have the same effect - sure enough my hair was like Brillo. I just cut off most of my hair so if it had been real long, it would not have surprised me. But with it being short (shoulder length) I was disappointed it did not work for me. It would probably work well as a clarifying type shampoo for occasional or weekly use.

The last item I was able to sample was the laundry soap kit. I have been making my own laundry soap since earlier this year so I was curious to how this one worked.  The kit comes with the soap already grated, and pre-measured washing soda and borax.  I had my son make this up and all went well.  The sample we had lasted us a month, but imagine the full size kit would easily last two months if you did one load of laundry a day. It really can save you a lot of money in the long run - and you don't have to worry about what chemicals you are putting on your clothes that you wear.

The company offers bulk purchases, so the more you buy the more you save.  They don't discount the laundry cleaning bar however.  The only draw back I see is shipping the bars can get expensive, so you will want to stock up when you buy or order with someone to combine the shipping.  I was told, however, that shipping was fast.

The products in this review were sample sizes given for free in exchange for my honest review of the products.  See my disclaimer/disclosure on right.

TOS Crew Review: ACT, inc. DISCOVER

DISCOVER by ACT, inc, is a online assessment tool to help with career planning.  DISCOVER provides high school students and adults with in depth information on different career options and provides an assessment tool to help determine likes and dislikes.

Provided are alphabetical lists of occupations which go into detail about the responsibilities, education needed, salary, and growth outlook for every conceivable career.  They even give detailed information specific to each state. You can save career areas you are interested in, into your favorites for future reference.

If you don't know what areas you are interested in there is an assessment available. Three areas are assessed: Interests, Abilities, and Values. To help narrow down what areas you are best suited for.  My son did this and he said it was mostly accurate.  He did have an interest in civil engineering but he said the only science questions he was asked was biology, which he does not have interest in, so it showed up lower on his list of possible areas of careers. Interest and abilities are pretty straightforward questions. For values the questions asked are if you like working with customers, prefer office work or not, and other questions like this.

After we completed the assessment the company sent us a link to a free curriculum to accompany the DISCOVER program.  You can take a look at that here:  This provides a more in depth look at career exploration and gives some guidance to work through the website with more structure.  This seemed to be more classroom oriented, but could be adapted easily for the home.   

Also available which is helpful is a resume builder.  My son is going to use this feature and I will comment more after he is done...

This is a great program to help people determine possible career options based on likes and dislikes.  It also helps the student plan out the eduction needed.  There are also links to info about financial aid and other financial helps. This is a great career planning website.

To get more info about ACT, inc. DISCOVER career planning website: CLICK HERE.

TOS Crew Review: abcteach

"At abcteach, we make your teaching preparation faster and easier by providing access to over 35,000 pages of printable worksheets and activities, to abctools, our exclusive custom document generators, and more!"

For this review, I was given a free month membership abcteach's member site.  abcteach has a non-member site with thousands of free worksheets. They also offer a membership site, which is quoted above, which has over 35,000 worksheets and growing. What makes abcteach membership superior, in my opinion, to the non-member site, is the ability to custom make worksheets.  I had fun making my own sudoku puzzles, addition fact worksheets, telling time worksheets, word scrambles and more.

All grade levels are represented by abcteach, but I did see more worksheets for the lower grades. The subject areas span all regular school subjects, including art and music. You can find topics with the search engine or from the subject index.  Other topics of interest include clip art, languages, including sign language, Montessori materials, puzzles, games, physical eduction, holidays/seasons, thematic units, homeschool resources, and more.

The worksheets are in pdf format that you can print off or save on your computer. They are very clear and easy to read.  They also come with an answer key that you can use if necessary. I did find an error once on a worksheet, but overall they seem very accurate.

One area that have used the most so far is the spelling section.  They have upper elementary / junior high level most common misspelled word lists.  They encompass word searches and other activities to help learn the most common misspelled words.  We have had fun with these.

This is not a Christian website, but I did see some Christian themed items such as crosses, manger scenes, and angels. They did have some Chronicles of Narnia worksheets and study guides, but I am not familiar with that book to be able to review the pages. One study guide for Prince Caspian had 19 pages with comprehension questions for each chapter. You will find evolutionary content in some worksheets, but those are easily skipped.

While this is a fun site, don't get carried away with worksheets.  These are a great tool to supplement your homeschool, but can easily become a snare. Just don't get carried away with them.

In the past, Homeschool Buyer's Co-op has offered a group buy with a 50% discount. You might want to check it out.

To learn more about abcteach or to access their free pages - CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Disclosure Policy

This blog is a personal blog written and edited by me. For questions about this blog, please contact homeschoolducks at gmail dot com
This blog does not accept any form of cash advertising, sponsorship, or paid topic insertions. However, we will and do accept and keep free products, services, travel, event tickets, and other forms of compensation from companies and organizations.
The owner of this blog will never receive compensation in any way from this blog. If I do, it will be clearly stated.
The owner of this blog is not compensated (other then the free product) to provide opinion on products, services, websites and various other topics. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. If we claim or appear to be experts on a certain topic or product or service area, we will only endorse products or services that we believe, based on our expertise, are worthy of such endorsement. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider.
This blog does not contain any content which might present a conflict of interest.  If a conflict arises that I am aware of, it will be clearly stated.

Reviews from The Old Schoolhouse Crew (TOS Crew) are clearly labeled.  The Old Schoolhouse Magazine does receive some compensation from the owners of the products, websites, etc., we review, but I have nothing to do with that, and receive NO compensation for a review from them.
To get your own policy, go to

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Amazing Bible Timeline

The Amazing Bible Timeline is a large (37 inches high X 45 inches wide) over sized poster telling the chronology of history from a biblical perspective using Usher's Tables. Here is a quote from the website:
"The Timeline of World History is based on the most widely accepted dates in each field of study we researched. The Bible dates are based on Usher's Table. Usher is a well known seventeenth century Bishop of Ireland whose work in determining Biblical dates has been widely accepted. His Bible dates were included in both the King James Bible and the Catholic Bibles. The World history dates are similarly widely accepted by the experts in each field of study ie Egypt, China, and the rest. "

The timeline was first created in 1931 and revised in both 1975 and again 2000 to bring it up to the year 2000.  To read more about Bishop Usher you can read the Wikipedia article HERE.

We kept this timeline on our dinner (aka school) table since we received it.  We put a clear tablecloth over it so we could all look at whenever we ate or did school.  We would frequently discuss different things going on at the same time in history, which is my favorite feature of this product. Also included is an index right on the poster that you can use to look up common names to help you find them on the timeline.  This is a great resource for bible and history studies. The one thing you need to be aware of is the references to Mormon history taken from the Mormon bible.  (For more info visit HERE.)

My family did not have any trouble reading the chart while on the table.  If it is placed on a wall, it should be put at eye level for best visualization. We really have enjoyed using it as a reference and just reading it!

This product come with some free online bonuses you get after purchasing.  One of them includes a PDF file with the timeline that you can print out for yourself.

To find out more info visit:

Here is a online You Tube review of the product:

This product was received free of charge for an honest review.

TOS Crew Review: Sue Patrick's Workbox System

Specialized and Structured Teaching

Sue Patrick's Workbox System

An effective teaching system to reduce your organizational time and increase your child's self-control, independence and learning.

Specialized for: Autism, ADD ADHD, and

Large Home School Families

This system will compliment your existing curriculum!

I was pleasantly surprised when I received this book, that I really like it. I had been hearing about workboxes for sometime on email lists I had been on and purposely ignoring them because I doubted it was me. WOW, was I surprised!

Sue calls the book a users guide. Sue developed this system for a special needs child, but has gone on to use and teach it successfully for all ages from preschool through high school.  She gives detailed info on how to set up the workbox system in your home.  She does recommend a wire rack with shoe box sized containers.  You would need several for each student to use and work through.  I did wind up adapting this somewhat for my family as I assume many families will (homeschoolers by nature do this.)  However, Sue recommends you follow her method as closely as possible.  Her system is not hard to do at all.  I just had some space issues and a couple of the things I didn't feel would work in my home.  But over all it is very easy to implement and follow.

The book is more then about how to setup workboxes, it goes into some philosophy of homeschool and how to structure your homeschool day. This is great for the new homeschooling family as well as the seasoned one needing a breath of fresh air to their homeschool. She also gives several ideas that she uses in her homeschool besides the workbox system that I really thought were excellent. She really convicted me in some areas and I implemented several changes in our homeschool immediately.

If you are thinking of implementing workboxes, I can not recommend her book enough. She gives so much detail and other helpful info that can really help the struggling homeschool plan their day and help it run smoother.  If you are looking for help to teach your children how to work more independently, provide structure for a special needs child, or just need to learn how to set up your homeschool - I highly recommend this system.  Don't worry, this really is an easy read, even though it has 12 chapters and over 113 pages.

Visit Sue Patrick's Website by clicking HERE.

This product was received free of charge in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Sarah's Wish

Sarah's Wish tells the story of a girl, Sarah (12,) who is orphaned early on in the book after a stage coach accident. Sarah's mom left her with a huge secret she felt compelled to keep to herself until circumstances forced her to reveal it. Sarah and her mother were part of the underground railroad.  They provided refuge to escaped slaves on their journey to Canada where they could be fully free. Sarah's ultimate wish is a Christian family but you will have to read the book to find out what happens.

The author of the book did a lot of research on the subject before writing it to make it factual. Children reading the story can see Sarah's Christian faith as well as learn about how the underground railroad operated.  This book hooked my children early and they were eager to read it through quickly. This of course left them asking for more books in the series.  Also, with the book comes a free download of the audio version of the book. The audio's are also done well and make great listening in the car.

We do tend to be careful with what our children read and found no objections (in our opinion) in this book to our Christian faith.

The author also currently has two more books in the series that are available. For friends of TOS CREW, the author has made up this special:

Sarah’s Wish – 126 pages $8.50 retail: $10.99 save $2.49
Sarah’s Promise – 245 pages $10.50 retail: $14.99 save $4.49
Sarah’s Escape – 304 pages $15.50 retail: $21.99 save $6.49

Extra special offer: Purchase all of the items above and add an extra copy of Sarah’s Wish for $4.00. You can give it to a friend. They will think you are great!

This special includes free shipping. You must order by mail and mention the name of this blog and "TOS Crew Friend Special" in your note.

You can send your order with payment and name and address to:
Send order to: Sarahbooks, P.O.Box 753, Derby, Ks. 67037

For more info or to sign up for a really neat newsletter (under homeschool section on website) which is educational, informational, and entertaining all in one, please visit the website at:

This book was received free of charge for a review.

Bethany House Review: "True For You But Not For Me"

"True For You But Not For Me" Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith is a revised edition of a previously published book in 1998. This book has 33 "mostly" short, "mostly" easy to read chapters that cover different topics that often come up when sharing your faith with others. The reason I say mostly is that some topics are more difficult and require a little more time to "digest" and require more information to explain.   From "Christians are intolerant of other viewpoints" to "It doesn't matter what you believe - as long as your sincere," the author gives many references and biblical answers to counter religious pluralism and moral relativism rampant in our society.

At the end of each chapter the author provides a summary of each chapter and where to find more information for further reading. The book is highly foot noted so no statement or quote is unsupported.

Each chapter is pretty much stand alone, so this book can be used as a handbook to read the chapters in any order.  This makes it an excellent tool for a church or pastor's library. This book should be read by every Christian working in ministry or in schools of evangelism. We always need to be ready to give an account of our faith and I believe that this book is a useful tool to accomplish this.

For a free study guide to accompany this book or for more info visit Paul Copan's website at:

This book was given to me free of charge from Bethany House for a review.

Thomas Nelson Review: Voices of the Faithful Book 2

Voices of the Faithful is the second in a series originally started by Beth Moore. This edition is edited by Kim P. Davis, with a introduction by Beth Moore. Voices of the Faithful is a one year devotional collection from people and families on the mission field all over the world.  Through out you will read of steps of courage through faith in Jesus Christ.

With each devotion I was blessed by seeing God orchestrate through missionaries lives for His good. What I particularly liked about this book is that these devotionals are not fluff you find in some modern devotionals.  These are true stories, direct from the mission field, that truly impacted my life and my pointed me to Christ.

The book is divided into 12 themes, one for each month. Themes include: prayer; diving appointments; Jesus, the Lamb; lessons from the young (my personal favorite section!); from adversity to triumph; be encouraged; and hope for the world.

This book is excellent gift to those on the mission field and those considering life as a missionary.  It is also a blessing to share these devotions with children to help them see outside their usual environment and give them a vision to spread the gospel in and beyond their local community.

This book was received free of charge from Thomas Nelson for review. See disclaimer on right.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Reformation Day: October 31st

From CBN:
"What will your church be doing this Reformation Day, October 31st? For so many Halloween presents a dilemma, what do you do with a holiday with roots in the occult?"
"October 31 celebrates the day that the Reformation in Europe began with Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the Wittenburg church door, leading to a firestorm response in Germany. Why not use this occasion for a celebration of our Reformed heritage. And yes, this can be fun for the kids too! "
To read more click below:

What is Reformation Day?

Martin Luther's 95 Thesis:

Reformation Day activities - scroll down:

History and activities for Reformation Day:

Purchase a study guide from Doorposts:

How to plan a Reformation Day party:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

TOS Review: Guardian Angel Publishing

 Guardian Angel Publishing is a publishing company the sells ebooks and print books depending on your preference.  There mission statement is:

 "...our publishing goals are to lovingly create fun, affordable and educational eBook computer & print book experiences for preschoolers and primary age children. And to embed positive, loving and worthwhile meaning into these books."

For this review I was given the ebook version of the following books:

Stubby's Destiny -  A story about a donkey who is convinced he is of no use to society becomes the donkey to the King of Kings and proudly takes his part.

No Bones About It - The Sum of our Parts Series - Using full color cartoon pictures and some funny scenes, follow this rhyme as you learn all about your skeletal system

Hamster Holidays - Noun and Adjective Adventures - Go through the year with a bunch of happy hamsters and learn adjectives and nouns as they tell you what events they do each month. Includes activities, puzzles, and a study guide to go with it.  The hamsters dress up in costumes in October.

Andy and Spirit Go to the Fair - See how Andy, a boy in a wheelchair, prepares for the fair and they goes on to participate in the fair - on horseback.

Earthquake - A mini unit study on earthquakes.  Tells what earthquakes are, includes some experiments, and has what to do during an earthquake. It also gives info on what emergency supplies on hand.

All books are in full color and besides Stubby's Destiny there is no mention of faith. There are some other titles listed that have a Christian theme.  The stories are innocent and were enjoyable by my children.  The earthquake and the bone book were our favorite as they contained lots of facts and information, and probably more closely fit our age group.

This publisher also publishes the book: AND THEN MAMA SAID... IT TAKES TIME TO LEARN TO READ  previously reviewed on this blog.

There are some free ebooks and coloring pages on their website. The books can be purchased on their website and can also be purchased at several online booksellers such as Barnes & Noble and

To learn more about Guardian Angel Publishing: CLICK HERE

Watch the trailer to Stubby's Destiny...

The 5 ebooks mentioned above were provided free of charge for this review. No other compensation is received from any sales generated by this review. The views in this review reflect my opinion only and you may or may not come to the same conclusion as I do about the product. Please see the side bar.

TOS Crew Review: Nature Friend Magazine

Nature Friend  is a full color Christian nature magazine for children. We have subscribed to Nature Friend magazine off and on over the years. We have always enjoyed the articles and full color nature pictures. We have seen the magazine change as the magazine has passed through different owners.

Currently the magazine tends to more focus on nature photography and submissions from readers of the magazine.   The articles are about animals, birds, insects, and original nature stories. Most submissions from readers seem to come from an experience they had in nature and often include pictures. There is a drawing lesson in each issue and a page with readers submissions of their drawings and comments. Also, a picture with hidden items in it to find called "Invisible."  Lastly, in each issue you will find a puzzle page. One issue had a crossword while another had a word find.

This is a great magazine, free of ads. It is the publishers conviction to produce a God honoring magazine free of any outside influences.  The view is from a creationist view, but does not hit you over the head with it. God is clearly the creator and is given all the credit. But you will find no evolution / creation debates in these magazines. The magazine is geared toward 8 to 16 year olds, but I believe all ages will enjoy it

I have to admit I was disappointed with the study guide. It contained additional puzzles, a writing activity,  suggestions for more research, and a photo critique section, where subscribers can submit photos for critiquing and learning new photo techniques. While I really like the magazine, I probably would not pay extra for the study guide section. It did not contain anything that I would likely use. 
 We do enjoy the articles and beautiful pictures in each issue.  We love that it honors God and does not worship the creation. I can be very comfortable handing this to my child and not have to worry about conflict in teaching or an inappropriate ad. I highly recommend the magazine for families looking for an educational nature magazine written for children that honors the Lord.

For information on rates and subscribing CLICK HERE.

Two issues of this magazine were provided free of charge for this review. No other compensation is received from any sales generated by this review.  The views in this review reflect my opinion only and you may or may not come to the same conclusion about the product.  Please see the side bar for more info.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Nutrition 101

Growing Healthy Families has produced a one of a kind health / nutrition curriculum for multiple ages and grades. What makes this unique is the strong Christian perspective on nutrition as it relates to each of the body systems. This full color, 448 page, book includes, discussion questions, activities, healthy recipes, and tons of information.  Some might call it a unit study on nutrition. There are activities divided between elementary and secondary.

This curriculum is not a vegetarian curriculum and it actually does not seem to take a position on it, but just presents the facts as they are.  Not everyone will agree with some of their teachings - such as limiting dairy and not using a microwave ovens.  I don't believe anyone will walk away offended by anything they say.  They generally present the facts and what they do in most cases. Also, there is enough information that I believe non-Christians alike would find this program useful.  This is kind of like eating a bowl of cherries: eat the fruit (take what you can get out of it) and spit out the pits (disregard what you feel does not apply to your family.)  You will still be full on the fruit.

There is also a huge appendix that contains information on making your own cleaning products and personal care products.  There is information on how to nutritionally deal with certain disorders, such as asthma.
They have their own food pyramid, colorful several page produce selection and storage chart, and a Nutrition 101 shopping list. There is also an answer key for the activities in the back of the book.

The activities all seem enjoyable and fun to do.  Some are just discussion questions. Because of the topics covered in this book, I would recommend that it be done with a parent so you can discuss and research for yourself some topics as they come up. Each lesson supplies a list of places to look for additional information.

The price of the book may discourage some from purchasing it, but a lot research went into this book and it is one of a kind.  I have not seen anything like this before.  It is also a beautiful full color book.

To find out more about this product watch the video below and visit their website:

Quote from the website:
"Nutrition 101: Choose Life! is a three-in-one family nutrition and health program for all ages that presents the major body systems, how they function, their common health issues, the benefits of good food and the consequences of bad food. Its 448 pages include into six units: 1) The Brain and Nervous System; 2) Digestion and Elimination; 3) Respiration and Olfactory; 4) Muscular and Skeletal Systems; 5) Cardiovascular and Immune Systems; and 6) Endocrine System and Emotions.

Biblically based and packed with hands-on activities, science and art projects and nearly 80 family-friendly recipes, this program teaches and reinforces the why’s of what we should eat, not just “because I said so.”

Disclaimer: This product was received free of charge from the publisher for purpose of writing a review for it.  I receive no other compensation for this product.  Please see disclaimer on right side bar for more information.

Monday, September 28, 2009

TOS Crew Review: ALEKS (2)

Last year I did a review of ALEKS Math.  You can see a review of it here:  Not much has changed on the student end.  I set up two different students this time and I think it was a better fit for them.  They both enjoyed using the program, enough so that if I could afford it I would use it.  Most of the time they were able to use the program unassisted. When they weren't able to understand something my oldest son could help them get the answer by reading the helps that are available with each question.

ALEKS math asked me to revisit the program because they made some changes on the parents end.  The major updates / improvements that they made was:
1- Teacher generated quizzes.
2- Progress reports where the teacher is able to see how long they spent on a lesson, what they covered, and what they mastered in a lesson.

The parent interface is very easy to use.  There are also tutorials available if needed. I was able to see how long my child spent on a subject and if they mastered it, possibly mastered it, or probably not mastered.  You can compare what they have mastered since beginning the program and compare it to the original assessment.  Also there is an estimate of how long it takes your child to learn a concept and how long it may take to complete the level he is at.

This is a great program that uses artificial intelligence to make sure the student learns each concept before progressing to the next.  Most children should be able to use this unassisted most of the time.  This would be great for remedial, summer lessons, or test practice.  They have many scenarios for their use online.

A free trial is available.

You can find out more about ALEKS by CLICKING HERE.
You can find out about cost by CLICKING HERE.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TOS Crew Review: College Prep Genius

College is becoming more of a reality in these tough economic times.  Although I did hear of one study that says we maybe lacking in the more technical fields, that is for another discussion.

I remember taking my SAT and being totally unprepared for them.  I had already made up my mind to go to a community college and was already accepted by the time I took them, so I put little effort into taking it.  I won't share my score, mainly because I can't remember it any more, but I am sure it was not good. (However, I can add that I did wind up with a scholarship - so wonder's never cease.)

Reading through the College Prep Genius softcover textbook, shed a new picture to me about the SAT / PSAT test. Being a standardized test, it means that pretty much each test is about the same.  Going through the College Prep Genius course will teach you how to take the test to maximize your time and get the best score possible. After giving you information on what the test is and how to prepare through your school years for "THE" test, they lead you through the different sections of the test, giving strategies on how to take each section. They give you rules, definitions, and acronyms to study to help with your test taking strategies.

Accompanying the text is a workbook that provides some review and takes you through a few sample questions on the test.

The first part of the textbook recommends that 1- you take a sample SAT available either online or from a book you borrow from your library.  Then 2 - you read through the text book 2 to 3 times, which is where we are at right now.  The book lays out step by step how to work through the course.  Also included in the package are 4 dvd's which cover intro to the SAT, then three videos on each major subject area: Math, Critical Reading, and Writing.  I will have to write another post later to let you know how those are.

So there is a basic overview.  I am impressed with what I see so far, but will have to write more info when we get further into it.

Right now they are offering 30% off as an introductory price.  You can find out more by Clicking HERE.

TOS Crew Review: Journey Through Learning Lapbooks and Unit Studies

Lapbooks are becoming very popular among homeschoolers.  Lapbooking is a way of getting away from workbooks while ensuring learning and making a memorable keepsake.  With lapbooking you make mini-books that you combine into a file folder specially folded so it can sit on your lap and you can open it and read it.  Most lapbook project cover one topic, such as the one we did on deserts.  You can see a slide show of lapbooks on the publishers website at:  You may have to scroll down a little to see it.  Further down on the page are simple directions on how to make a lapbook folder.

The lapbook we completed on deserts was very mom friendly.  I liked the fact that all the information that was needed was there in one unit.  You can decide for yourself if you want to supplement with more books or not.  We did watch a couple of videos on Discovery streaming about deserts and desert animals and read a few books that we had on hand. But that was all optional as there is a lot of information already contained in the unit.

The units were very well laid out in that the project immediately followed the reading, so there is no flipping back and forth.  Also the directions for the mini-book were contained directly on the page with the mini-book. The lapbook contains full colored drawing of the various topics and an occasional black and white photo.

In the desert unit, we covered the different deserts and their locations, what a desert is, animals, plants, and peoples found in the desert. The unit contains a review mini-book where the child lists what they learned in the desert and a mini book containing desert vocabulary. At the end of the unit is a suggested list for more information on the subject.

My boys really enjoyed the cutting, pasting, coloring, and even the answering of the questions. They looked forward to completing several books at one sitting. I imagine it takes about a month to complete the lapbook, give or take depending on if you supplement or not.

Other lapbooks that I previewed were set up similarly. The authors are professing Christians, but the units, unless they are on a bible topic, seem to be fairly neutral and non-Christians as well should feel comfortable using them. Also available are copy-work books that go along with some of the lapbooks.

To see what other lapbooks that are available from this publisher or samples: CLICK HERE.

Friday, September 18, 2009

TOS CREW Review: Grapevine Studies

I recently read an article on "Why teach bible as a school subject?"  We go to church, attend Sunday school, read bible stories at home, etc.  Surely that is enough!!???!! Well, maybe not.  School is a good time to teach bible research and study skills.  It is a time to teach things a little more in depth then we would go into with our regular exposure to the bible. Plus children need to learn to use bible study tools.  Grapevine Studies can be a tool to help fill that need.

Grapevine Studies (Stick Figuring Through the Bible) is a Christian company dedicated to teaching the bible to children through adults. With the bible as the main text, you are guided through lessons with the use of stick figures and time-lines to aide in teaching.  The addition of drawing by both student and teacher, however simple, helps the student no matter what age to remember what they learned. All content is non-denominational.

We had the printed version of the teacher book with the student version in ebook format.  This helps so I can print out as many pages I need for my own family, which the publisher allows.

We are working through Old Testament Overview Level 3/4. Old Testament Overview is a chronological study of the major characters and events of the Old Testament.  The first lesson we did over several days.  It was a sweeping overview of the Old Testament.  Eagerly the children drew on their time-lines Adam and Eve, the tree at the fall, Noah and his tools, the 12 sons of Jacob, and so on through the major themes of the Old Testament. The younger (1st, 2nd, and 4th graders) drew as well as my older high school student as I showed them what to draw. The younger ones tended to draw larger and took up the whole space given and sometimes I drew in somethings that were more detailed. 

Next we got into the regular lessons, that we did over a few days. We began our lesson reading from the Bible as our main text. We then drew a picture symbolizing each day of creation in their student books.   Then we made index cards with each day of creation with the simple drawings to have to use like flash cards. The lesson includes review questions and memory verses for the children to learn, related to the lesson.  The student book is where the student does their drawings on the timeline and writes out their memory verses. With my older children we did a lesson on using a topical bible to look up topics on Genesis chapter 1. In later lessons maps are also introduced.

After every section there is a review with questions, memory review, and timeline review.  There is also a mid-year and final review. The program includes a schedule so you can complete the lessons in one day or over 5 days. The book can be completed in 170 school days or 52 weeks (as in a Sunday school.) There are many teacher helps which make this a very well laid out program that is very easy to follow. Basic supplies needed are a Bible, dry erase board/markers, colored pencils, topical bible, concordance, and a bible dictionary.

Until the end of September you can place an order at Grapevine's website for 30% off.  You need to use coupon code: crew9  which expires Sept 30.

To go to Grapevine's Website - CLICK HERE!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

TOS CREW Review: Web Design for Kids (...and Curious Grown Ups!)

Web Design for Kids has been a fun step by step DVD to help build a website.  I have been a little phobic about HTML, but am feeling more comfortable after working through this DVD.  This DVD takes you step by step in very simple language to building a website.  In fact you build a very simple webpage after the first lesson. After each lesson he adds to the original.  You don't have to have an Internet connection to make a webpage and all the software you need is standard on all PC's running Microsoft Windows (NOTEPAD AND INTERNET EXPLORER.)

You follow two children as they move through the program and ask (rehearsed) questions and the instructor gives easy, gentle answers.  If you are beginner, like some of my children, there is an absolute beginner lesson available that you can skip if you already know how to cut and paste, save folders, etc.

This was a lot of fun to do and it was very easy.  I highly recommend it!  I look forward to seeing more products from this company.
There are 7 chapters that are 1 hour 22 minutes long.

Topics covered include:
The 10 Basic Lines of Code
Coloring the Background and Letters
Making Letters Move Across the Screen
Designer Backgrounds
Changing Fonts
Adding Pictures
To purchase or to find out more information CLICK HERE.
You can watch a sample video:


See Coupon Code below for discount!
Having a student at home doing college online has made the STUDYPOD come in very handy. My husband uses it for several hours a day and loves it. It holds most of his school books without difficulty and gets rid of that hunched over feel you get after looking down at school text books all day.

The STUDYPOD holds books or study sheets up at eye-level at a similar angle as your computer screen. It also has clips that hold the book open so your hands are freed up for whatever else. According to the information contained with the STUDYPOD, while using the STUDYPOD you reduce neck and eye strain, improve posture and breathing, and makes reading, writing and typing easier. My husband has found this all to be true. This would come in handy for a variety of areas. I know I will use it to hold my cookbooks open when I am cooking - as soon as I can get it away from my husband. Maybe I will need to get my own!!!

The STUDYPOD (AKA BOOKPOD) comes in 5 colors and is made of sturdy plastic. It folds compactly to fight nicely on his desk shelf. It has pockets on the inside that hold pens, calculator, etc. So it can double as "pencil bag."

TO Order your STUDYPOD or to visit their website CLICK HERE.

STUDYPOD is offering $5 off coupon code for readers of TOS CREW blogs. Just use TOSBLOG5 and you will receive $5 off your order.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Subscribe to The Old Schoolhouse™ Magazine for only $7.95!

Homeschooling is a Labor of Love, and the Old Schoolhouse™ Magazine is celebrating your hard work as a parent by putting their one-year print subscriptions on sale! For a very limited time, you can subscribe or renew for $7.95! (US only). International customers can subscribe to the digital edition for only 7.95!

You can buy a gift sub for friends, too! To gift a subscription:
1. Go to the one-year subscription page (US only)
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page.
3. Enter the name, address, email, and phone information for each recipient
4. Click "Add this to my cart".
5. The information will display in your cart and simply proceeed to check out.

There are only 2000 of these available, and they are going quickly! Your subscription begins with their Fall Issue.

If you live in an international location, you can subscribe to their digital edition for only $7.95!

It's the same great content as their print magazine, except it is instant and interactive!

Here are the two links:
Print Edition

Digital Edition

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thomas Nelson Review: Rick & Bubba's Guide to the Almost Nearly Perfect Marriage

I couldn't resist a look at this book. I really didn't plan on taking it that seriously. This definitely shed some humor on marriage, but with a realistic touch. I believe the over all theme of this book is to cut some slack! Marriage requires give and take, and almost always not 50/50. Sometimes you have to give 99.99999% to remain happy. This book gives great suggestions on how to do that, of course with humor.

You'll learn about their first dates, their first kiss, their first trip to the OB/GYN and what to expect (from a mans perspective and with humor of course!) You'll learn the real meaning behind your marriage vows and some great (and not so great) date suggestions. They also touch on some great parenting tips and the importance of dad's taking on their role. This book is written mostly to the man, but both sexes will get a lot out of it. It would be funny for both partners to read and laugh at together.

I didn't care for the CD that accompanied it, which I guess was from their radio shows. It is nothing like the book. I was very disappointed, maybe because I am a women. But my husband doesn't act like they do on the CD and I am glad!! I am not sure I could stand it. Makes me realize what a blessing my husband truly is!!!

NavPress Review: Invitation To The Jesus Life

What an incredible book this is! It has taken me such a long time to go through this because it is so full of meat that I have to read, stop, and digest after sections of this book. I was challenged over and over as I read how to really listen to people, how to be real, how to show compassion and more. The book is great because it not only describes Christ-like-ness, it gives you exercises on what you can do to practice each character of Christ. It is kind of looking in the mirror, like James (of the bible) says, and actually practicing what you have learned. Many books leave you dry in this area. You, too, will not doubt be challenged and grow closer in your walk with the Lord, when you read this book. Makes a great devotional or small group study!
To Purchase at CBD Click HERE.
To Purchase at Amazon Click Here.

TOS Crew Review: The Quarter Mile Math

(*Read Update below for referral code discount for readers of TOS Crew Blogs! Good through September 30th 2009)

My family has been fans of Quarter Mile Math for many years. We purchased an older version at least 10 years ago on CD-Rom. Our family has been playing for years, however the version we had was not completely compatible with Windows XP. We could play it, but if we got something wrong more then a couple of time it would lock up the game (they did find the cause of this!) HOWEVER, this new "Deluxe" version solves this problem because once you purchase it, you can always upgrade it for free (as long as you keep your subscription.)

What is great now is that if you purchase the deluxe version, you get to choose how long you would like to keep your subscription for. You can purchase by the month for $2.95, by the year for $19.99, or for two years for $34.99. (SEE REFERRAL CODE BELOW FOR DISCOUNT!) You can request the CD for $5 dollars more or just download it off the Internet. The deluxe version requires Internet access, at least dial up.

What I like most about this game is that students can compete against themselves or optionally against other friends and family members, like grandparents across the country. It says you can make copies for grandparents and use the same activation code so you can compete against them. Sounds motivating - doesn't it??

You get to chose between a horse or a car. I personally like the horse races, so that is what I choose! If you are competing against yourself, you race against your best time, trying to improve your score. You get to choose the activity you want such as keyboard skills, addition, multiplication, fractions, etc. Then it is broken down further depending on what subject. For example in multiplication you can pick the one time tables, two times tables, and so on or math facts up to a certain amount, for instance "facts up to 10 X10." So you can really break down where the child is at and place them where ever they need.

My children thoroughly enjoy this and will play for hours, competing against their own scores. My only complaint was on my wireless Internet it seem to be slow loading and waiting to start the next game. Also, I have to shut off my Internet filter when using this.

This software has won many awards and has been chosen for use in Sylvan Learning Centers across the country. This is all for good reason - it is an excellent FUN program that gets children motivated to learn their math facts!

If you have a struggling learner, they do have some information on how Quarter Mile Math might help on their website. You can read more by clicking HERE.

There is a "Standard Version" also available which I did not review. It is the same game, but it is not online and is not based on a subscription. You pay it all up front and it stores your scores on your own computer. It only comes on CD-Rom and you have to pay $5 for updates. You can not participate in tournaments in this version, while in the deluxe you can. To see a complete comparison CLICK HERE.
To find out more or to purchase visit The Quarter Mile Math Website HERE.
I want to share some more info about Quarter Mile Math and a special discount...
1- This is mult-grade level, so several students can use it at one time. My younger children work on basic math facts, while my older child worked on "order of operations." This covers preschool to high school level math topics and are correlated to state and NCTM standards.
2-Some people may not like the idea of horse racing. Quarter Mile Math makes a point that these are riderless horses. The green background give the feel of horses running through a meadow.
3-Quarter Mile Math is offering a discount on Quarter Mile Math for readers of TOS Crew blogs through September 30th 2009. If you use this referral code: 7R7D7 Quarter Mile will take $5 off the purchase of the Deluxe or Standard version.