Friday, January 30, 2009

TOS Crew Review: All About Homophones

This is from the makers of All About Spelling.
You can read my review of that HERE.

When I first saw the title of this (All About Homophones,) my first impression was...Do I really need something like this? I viewed the ebook version and boy was I impressed. The ebook (you can also get a hard copy) is 240 pages long! The layout is done very professionally. It is jammed packed with tons of activities, ideas, and more...I was impressed!

After an introduction to what homophones are (same sound, spelled differently and have different meaning,) you are off an adventure with homophones. There are great notebooking sheets or "graphic organizers" as they are called in the program. These work great for making your own homophone notebook. There are many different style sheets with different layouts, so you won't be bored. But don't worry, there is a list of homophones, with appropriate grade levels, so to begin you don't need to come up with your own. Then you can always add to them as you see fit.

Then there are 101 homophone worksheets for practice. These are basic fill in the blank worksheets and a fun creative writing activity or fun fact on each page. Some of the worksheets have activities that tie in literary devices. The worksheets are divided by grade level. They also have a corresponding crossword puzzle. These look like great fun. My children loved these!

The next section is card games. There are 6 games to play with the cards that you print out (or copy depending on the version.) What is neat is that you can print them two sided if you would like. The cards are definition cards and word cards.

If you think we are done yet we are not!! Then there are teaching ideas, a large section on tongue twisters, riddles, and puns. Then the appendices are next with the answers to the worksheets, crosswords, an index, and a "MEGA" list of homophones!

So for your money you are getting a lot. It is a ton of fun to make the homophone notebook. You are free really to use this anyway you want, the possibilities are really endless.

You can see sample pages of this curriculum at its website HERE. There is also a Homophone Machine on the website, articles, and more reviews.

What is great right now is that if you purchase All-About-Homophones by Feb. 2, you can get $10 off by using the code "FUN." The usual price is: $29.95 for the hardcopy and $27.95 for the e-book. That’s just $19.95 or $17.95 with the coupon code, which I think is a great buy for this product!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Let's Make a Webpage

Let's Make a Webpage by Computer Lady Phyllis Wheeler and Motherboard Books is an ebook for ages 8 to 12. Target age is more like 10 years and up. Using trial software you download for 30 days before you have purchase it, you and your child are taken step by step, in 10 lessons, to build a basic web page. The instructions are simple enough so that if your child has some computer background and is motivated they will be able to complete this mostly by themselves. However because some exercises require you to use the Internet, it is highly recommended you supervise them at all times. Some assistance may also be needed to set up and download the software.

The software recommended is Coffeecup. This software was chose for it's ease of use and lower cost to purchase then others ($49). There are free ones also available that are mentioned, however they are not as user friendly and don't always work well with Vista. Since the screenshots used for this ebook are from CoffeeCup it is best that that software is used to make the initial website. There are directions on how to access your info after the trial period runs out, as long as you saved it in MS Notepad.

The lessons provided have the child conduct an interview with someone for the web page. Skills for how to do this are taught in the lesson, so more then just web page building are covered.

Motherboard books has other books available including curriculums teaching computer science for grades 5 and up. You can visit their website for more info: You will also find a free Internet Scavenger Hunt for your child to try.

TOS Crew Review: Kinderbach

Kinderbach is an early learning (about ages 2 to 7) piano course, founded by Karri Gregor. She was looking for an age appopriate music program for her young children, unable to find one, she started teaching her own lessons. 150 students later, she had to give up her lessons after her husband lost his job and they had to relocate. Later, after digging up some old tapes of the lessons she decided to start up again. Using her husband's wise advice, she stared the DVD program so more could be reached. The rest is history. You can read her bio here.

We previewed the online web video edition, also available at the website, as a less expensive option then the DVDs. My children, boys, ages 6,7, and 8, watched intently each lesson and completed the associated worksheet. With the use of a basic keyboard, we followed along with the lessons learning about Dodi's house, the train station, simple music theory, sing along songs, and some percussion instruments.

The lessons are short (around 5 minutes) and complete one objective at a time. There are 4 short lessons a week. The intro lesson lets you know what you need each week. The pages with the various activities - color, cut, and paste mostly, are right on the lesson page. Karri's sweet voice sings the songs in the program. The program slowly builds concepts as it is meant for younger children. My older boys were able to complete a week at one sitting.

Not being musically minded, we all enjoyed the lessons and did learn quite a bit, completing only level one. The activity sheet are easy to use and have age appropriate activities. The curriculum is 2 years long or 60 lessons. You can preview the first two lessons for free online.

A copy of the syllabus is available at:

Sunday, January 4, 2009

TOS CREW Review: Peterson Directed Handwriting

Peterson Directed Handwriting

Handwriting is just one of those subjects for me. Difficult. It comes naturally to some (like me, my mom always told me I had nice handwriting.) But to others, including 3 out of 5 of my children, it doesn't. One of those gifted children in handwriting, had a major brain infection, and now I have a very difficult time re-teaching her (but I am thankful I have the opportunity!) handwriting.

So I was very eager to try this curriculum. I wound up with We Write To Read - Grade One Home School Handwriting Kit. After talking with support for the curriculum, we concluded that I would just re-teach all of them "print letterform patterns."

So in the kit is:

We Write To Read for Grade One, Teacher Handbook - I struggle to follow teacher manuals and that is probably why my children struggle with handwriting. This manual is laid out with daily lesson plans to follow. Because my children are a little older, I did work a little faster then the daily lessons. These are nicely laid out with pictures and minimized children's work

We Write To Read for Grade One Pupil Book - this is used basically for the children to follow along with and to trace with their finger. No pencil tracing aloud here! Each page is topped with a large letter with directions on how to write the letter. Then there are some letters to copy on to paper. After introducing approximately 7 strokes, it was amazing how the numbers and letters just made sense. We wrote the letters in the air and recited the strokes as we did them. Rhythm is the key to learning to write the letter. We even made pictures on plain paper with the different strokes!!

Peterson Directed Handwriting Audio CD - OK - this was a little corny for lack of a better description. The songs are kind of "rapish" if there is such a word! We used this a few times to begin with, but not as much as I probably could of. I wasn't overly impressed by it. This includes all the levels on the CD, so this is a one time purchase.

Animated Letter Cards CD-ROM - This is a neat tool. You can see a sample of this on the website. It shows how to form the letters and their strokes. We don't do too much with computer games so anything will mesmerize my children!! This is plain and simple and to the point. I did like it and think it was helpful for grounding in the letter formation. They show both cursive and print so it is a one time purchase.

Two Finger Fitter Pencils - These were great. These are over sized pencils that are triangle shaped, just right for correct finger position. I have a child that struggles with pinching the pencil. This was great tool to help with the "pinches." I do own a mechanical pencil sharpener that is adjustable for different size pencils and this pencil worked fine in that.

Self Adhesive Position Guides that you can put at the top corner of your working area so the child knows how to position there paper for right handed or left handed.

This program was easy to implement and easy to use. The support I received from the company was great as well as the massive amounts of information available on the website, which is useful to anyone teaching handwriting. You can see samples of the handwriting there as well as samples of the CD-ROM. I did not use the cursive, but looking at it on the CD-ROM, I noticed is a "font" of its own. It does look a little different then traditional curriculums, however, we all eventually develop our own style anyway. If it is neat and legible that is what is important.

After learning the basic strokes, it became predictable to my children how to write the letters correctly. That is probably because they were a little older then the suggested age. But what is most important is that they are learning how to write their letters correctly and neatly. Which is ultimately my goal! Plus the curriculum is very inexpensive to use!