Saturday, February 28, 2009

TOS CREW Review: Math Tutor DVD

Looking for a math tutor for your homeschool? Want one for about $3 an hour? This might be what you are looking for! Math Tutor DVD is a series of DVDs from "Basic Math" to "Calculus" and Physics. They take the student with the expectation of zero knowledge and work step by step to more advanced topics. These are meant for use as a supplement to any math curriculum you are using. I have noticed several Worksheet Cds when looking through their website. These Cds provide worksheets and solutions written out step by step to go along with each section of the video. The DVD videos range from 6 hours to 11 hours in length. There is a menu screen so you can go directly to the section of video you want to cover.

The first video we previewed was "The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor." This video is 8 hours long with 15 sections and builds on grade 1 to 7 basic math. The word problems are more simple in the beginning and progressively get more difficult.The early segments of the video could easily be used by 3rd to 5th grade students needing help with addition, subtraction, multiplication and division word problems. The teacher uses a white board for the demonstration of the problems. The video was easy to understand and enjoyable as well.

Concepts covered include word problems with basic math and then introduces word problems with decimals, fractions, percents and ratios. The skills taught on this video help children tackle word problems more effectively which also helps to build reasoning and logic skills.

The second video we previewed was "The Algebra 2 Tutor." This DVD has 6 hours of video with 15 sections. This DVD was previewed by the men in my family that have done advanced math. They said he was interesting to listen to, the videos were very simple to follow, and understand, and kept their attention. My 17 year old said they were done very well. Examples of things covered on this video are the quadratic formula, simplifying radical expressions, and graphing inequalities.
The videos are basic - there are no bells and whistles. You learn by actually working through the problems. There are no lectures either. There are currently 17 videos to choose from. All videos are guaranteed to raise math grades. If they don't you can return them for a full refund.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Latin Road to English Grammar

LATIN the Mother of Many Languages*

"The LATIN Road to English Grammar follows this methodology of learning, building from the components of the language to the whole.*"

"Latin students score higher on this test than do students of any other language.*"

The Latin Road to English Grammar Volume 1 kit (AKA: The Big Fat Latin Special) that we are using consists of: Textbook, Student Notebook, Teacher Guide, Vocabulary Cards, Worksheets, Tests, Audio Cd, and a set of DVD's. The Big Fat Latin Special also includes a Latin/English dictionary. The curriculum is recommended for 5th - 12th grades. I would recommend the student have some grammar experience before starting. If you are to use this for high school level you could complete level 1 and 2 in one year and level 3 in the second year. Level 1 has fourteen lessons, with each lesson taking about a week or sometimes longer to complete. I did find that my 8th grade daughter could do a little more then one lesson a day.

The Latin chosen for this program is "Church (Italian) Latin" as it is closest to English and the only one still used today. Latin is not a conversational language (aka a dead language,) so it really doesn't matter.

This is a notebooking approach to English Grammar and Latin. While the student is learning Latin, they gain a better understanding of English Grammar. They build their own notebook with the instructions laid out for them in the textbook. The teacher is also learning along side the student, making their own notebook. There is no need to add any other English course while using this.

We watched the introductory video which gave excellent information on the history of Latin and why it is superior to teach it. You can listen to some audio workshops with notes on the site here.

I did find the instructional videos helpful and recommend them because they do make the lesson easier to do, however, I don't think it was essential to completing the lessons. The teacher guide supplies a lot of this info.

From listening to the video you would think that doing the previous program: Bridge to Latin Grammar was essential to the course, we did not find that so. There is enough information in the teacher guide provided to complete the lessons without prior experience.

The audio cd is done very nice and the continual review helped my daughter to be able to memorize the reading for each lesson, even though memorization is not required. The audio contains all the pronunciation for the forms, exercises, readings, and tests.
Samples of readings include: The Lord's Prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance, Hymns, Ten Commandments and other scripture passages.

The student notebook is an optional purchase, but found that helpful for getting started quicker - having all the material you need right there. I found it helpful for the notebook to be color coded with the vocabulary cards.

A lesson (done over several days) basically consist of a grammar activity, word study, vocabulary, exercises, a worksheet, reading practice, and a test. You build your notebook with the different sections and review vocabulary words with the flash cards. All the words are pronounced for you on the audio cd.

Over all this program was easy to implement, the cd made pronunciation easier, and the DVD's gave the overall confidence to complete the lessons. As a busy mom I did find it somewhat difficult to keep up with my daughter. However completing them now, I would not have to do it over again with the next child.

We are learning all about Latin and are enjoying it, too!

"By studying Latin you and your students can master the components of many languages, including English. Most of the founders of our country could read both Latin and Greek; and they were able to use the English language the way a fine craftsman uses his tools. They could write and say what they meant and, with the power and elegance of their words, they founded this nation."*
Visit their website: Click Here!
*All quotes are from this site: Click Here!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Rocket Phonics!!

Rocket Phonics is a fun phonics program to help take the beginning (non) reader all the way through 5th grade level in 2 years or less. Using two teacher/student texts, 2 decks of phonogram cards, several games (and prizes) and some online tools / supplements, put children age 4 to 10 years old on the road to reading success!

The curriculum states if you can play with your child, you can teach them to read. Several games are encouraged as part of the daily lesson such as Bingo, Matching, or Go Fish, to help your child enjoy the learning process.

This program has been proven to work scientifically and has endorsements from several well known educators and learning specialists.

The student and teacher use the same text. There are sections for the student and sections for the teacher. We began the program with our non-reader doing phonemic awareness. These are the fun games you do to help children hear the different sounds that are in words. We asked what is the beginning and ending sound of easy words, such as: doll, cat, it, in, rug, etc.

The next step was to introduce some blending: What word does /c/ /a/ /t/ create? (When a letter is marked with // it is the signal to make the sound of the word.) We did several other "games" to teach phonemic awareness.

When I was comfortable with the progress we were making with the early practice, we moved on to reviewing beginning sounds. Most of things we did at this level were still considered games. We played bingo and matching games. Here would be a good place to make note of the cards. The cards are actual photographs beautifully taken to represent each sound / letter. I was not in total agreement with the choices made, as some could be confusing (ay with an ape - we have taught our children previously: /ay/ "two letter a" that we may use at the end of English words as in day and say; u with duck - all other vowels begin with the sound such as: i with itch, a with apple; k with kangaroo (usually c, comes before an a not k, this is an exception.)) The phonograms are also somewhat different then other programs (zh with treasure, that might make the sound but it doesn't spell it that way.)

My son was able to blend easily after the first reading lesson as the program describes, however he is 6 years old and has sat next to his 7 and 8 year old brothers learning to read with another strong phonics program. I did have problems with one of the items however in the first section (1.3 part 1) They were teaching /nk/ sound at the end of a word. Then they have the words thank, lank, hank etc., in the first blending lesson. Now according to the dictionary they are short /a/ sounds, but I can't make it sound short, and could be confusing in such an early lesson.

This is a fun, play with your child and he will learn to read program. I am seeing progress as I go, but haven't gotten that far in the last 6 weeks that we have had the program. In the next section (1.5) they teach non-phonetic words. They call them "helpers". This is one part I am not sure about, but haven't tried it so I don't know. I do think it may help with reading but I am not sure about how it will effect spelling. I think the repeated looking at the wrong spellings will cement the wrong spelling in the child's mind. You can see an example below of it and their email response to the purpose of the helpers.

For example, they print the words in blue that you are suppose to say, but have the letters they don't want you to read in gray. If you are suppose to say a sound for those gray letters they are written underneath. For example:

Here is an explanation I receive from them about why this is done this way (in italics):

"The way we use our helpers to show the word's pronunciation allows us to teach reading in ways research and experience demonstrate work best:

1. Rather than a traditional text with rules and examples to read, we can use games like Simon Says or the various treasure hunts. These would be too difficult to read without the helpers. And because they are games they are fun -the kids want to do the lesson, and they want to do it for longer periods of time.

2. The activities allow movement, which is essential to kinesthetic learners -and boys are kinesthetic until age 7, long after most parents ask their kids to"sit still and learn to read".

3. The activities link the word to the object, speeding learning - as in the word find game. Child reads "table" and runs to the table to find the bingo chip.

4. Research repeatedly stresses the best way to learn to read is repetition and emotional involvement. In other words, reading stories rather than lists of words or examples in a text. But engaging stories like Aesop's Fables are often too difficult for beginning readers - or the stories used are too stilted because they use only a limited short list of words, and the kids lose interest in them. But the way we structure our story lessons, the kids will read wonderful, rich and engaging stories that also teach cultural literacy (they are where many of our sayings like "don't count your chickens before they are hatched" come from). And they read each story at least 3 times! (With helpers, without helpers, then to the parent)

5. PLUS with Rocket Phonics' approach the kids love the ease of reading and we hear over and over from parents who say their child went from hating reading to loving reading. And that may be the biggest plus of all. "

The program progresses by reading sentences that go with pictures. This is I believe used to practice the "helpers" and what was already taught. There are 18 pages of these. Each page has a colored picture on it and 5-6 sentences or phrases on them. They have to pick out the sentences that go with the picture.

In section 2.0 they begin teaching the short vowel rules, which is followed by a game of Simon Says and some rhymes. The lessons progress with teaching syllables and the rest of the short vowel sounds. Next the child will take a test of "Common words" such as am, and, ask, how, stand, tell, etc.

Section 3.0 starts having them read with and without the "helpers" and includes comprehension questions. Included are reviews and tips for spelling helps or rules. Taught are the different spellings of er (ur, ar, er, ir, and or,) suffixes, plurals, and you are told they can start reading outside books in the 2nd grade level.

The book continues in the second volume where the student is taught long vowel words, and their different spellings and a whole lot more then I can write here, bringing them up to the 5th grade level. The stories are longer in chapters and appear with helpers and without. Comprehension questions are provided for each chapter. There is a scope and sequence in the back of the book and they tell you which volume the lesson is taught. There are new games sprinkled throughout and you can refer the online supplements to help here.

This program essentially teaches how to reach before the why of reading to get the child off to reading success quickly. You must do almost 1/2 the program before the child would be able to read outside books. My oldest 3 children, when I taught them to read using a phonograms method, took off reading on their own rather quickly and were able to quickly jump into chapter books once it clicked in the brain. However my 4th child has failed to do this. He can read early readers, like Dr. Seus, but has not advanced to chapter books yet. So every child has different abilities so different approaches work with different children.
If you like playing games with your children and are interested in using games as the foundation to learning this program (there are more then games, don't worry) is might just be for you. If you have an active learner, a child with attention issues, or one with different abilities then you might want to look into this more. I do believe that most parents who use this program with their child will succeed at teaching them to read. You can visit there website at:

The Rocket Phonics Reading Kit is $160. Each Rocket Phonics kit comes with:

2 big Rocket Phonics readers (includes teachers guide in each of the volumes)
Two sets of Play & Read symbol cards
Bingo chips
Rocket Peeker
Bingo sheets and Word lists for testing
New! Big-movement games for preschoolers and active learners --Plus three bonuses you can read about on the website by clicking here and scrolling down the page.

TOS Crew Review: Heads Up! AKA Heads Up! is a supplier of information and products for struggling learners. There products are designed for use with various learning styles and strengths to help children feel sucessful. Products are for homeschool families, occupational therpist, teachers, and parents to use with academic and life skills*. (*Information paraphrased from the Heads Up catalog.)

The product we reviewed from Heads Up! was one of their own creations. They are different types of reading aides to help keep visual attention while drawing attention to a smaller portion of text. They can also be used to help keep a child from being overwhelmed when seeing the entire page.

(This yellow one is 4" X 9" and the pink one 4" X 4-1/2" )

They come in various sizes, shapes, and come in 6 colors. They are made with transparent colored polycarbonate with a frame printed on it.

For older children the Heads Up! Reader can be use for focusing just one line of text at a time in a larger chapter book. This can also be used as a book mark as well.

I have been using these with my beginning readers to help keep them focused on one sentence at a time. My younger children (6 and 7 years old) have enjoyed using them with their phonics and early readers. I have been letting them choose the color to help keep interest. Also, if they are distracted by another sibling, using the frames helped them quickly to return to the word or sentence they are suppose to be reading, quickly.

This frames are very sturdy and I expect we would lose them before they would be destroyed - LOL!

Visiting their website, they have various products that I never have thought about much because I don't have a struggling learner. I imagine these tools would be helpful in many homeschools. I saw items to help with hand writing, sitting still, phonics tools, audios for seminars given by Heads Up!, math products, speech therapy, and even books for various learning disorders. If you have a struggling learner, this catalog is well worth a look!

"Children, 'fair' means giving you what you need when you need it. It would be unfair to treat you all the same." Melinda L. Boring (one of the many quotes of encouragement in the Heads Up! catalog)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Schleich Products

We received a box of animals from Schleich that contained 12 animals. Our first reaction from my 17 year old son was how realistic they looked. They are very detailed right down to the bottom of their paws. The colors and poses are one of the key things that make them realistic. The catalog says the figurines are "modelled true-to-nature and painted by hand." My son was also quick to notice that all the animals were American wild animals except one which was African.

My younger boys (6, 7, & 8) quickly took up play, setting them up and having the animals compete with one another. Ok, so they got a barn out. My oldest suggested setting up a zoo, but they preferred the wild. The animals are definitely sturdy. They are completely solid. It is going to take a lot to damage these.

These animals provide a great opportunity to research these great animals and also provide a great outlet for imaginative play. We are learning taxonomy so these will be helpful. We have set of animal cards too, from a former homeschool family, that we use.

Looking through their catalog and online web site they have wonderful sets. If you CLICK HERE you can see some wild animal sets that are set up so realistically. I particularly like the Frontier products, but the wild life accessories are neat too! Some trees and other accessories would really be nice addition to the animal sets. Also available are dinosaurs, sea animals, knights, farm life, fantasy sets and more.

I have often seen these animals at museum shops and homeschool conventions (oh, I think Tractor Supply sells them too.) You can also buy them online HERE among other places. We do have a few we picked up here and there. For whatever reason I have a hard time taking off the tags, although I did take off a few for these pictures.

Right now Schleich has a Hobby Farm Home Contest going on, that if you submit photos of your diorama of Schleich animals and accessories you could win a Red Barn valued at $159.99. Click HERE for more information.

To visit the SCHLEICH website please CLICK HERE!

Monday, February 2, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Bible Story Songs

Bible Story Songs is a very nicely done CD of bible stories put to song. Songs are song by children and the tunes are to different hymns and traditional music.

The CD I have is Moses Volume 2 - The Last 40 Years. Tunes include: Battle Hymn of the Republic, Yellow Rose of Texas, It Came Upon a Midnight clear, and Buffalo Gals, among many others. Most songs have an introduction that is spoken. This tells the bible story and then it is followed by the song.

Some of the songs on my CD include: The Israelites are finally free, Follow, Follow, Following the Pillar (tune of Follow On by Robert Lowry), Do All Things Without Murmuring, and Come and Bring Your Silver, Brass and Gold.

Character is built into the songs with songs such as "The Red Sea Parted." One of the choruses is:
"I'm waking up with God! It's really great!
I got to bed - don't whine!
Then I feel mighty fine!
I love it when I am on time!"

There also includes a couple of songs about the ten commandments.

Available on the website are sheets music, puzzles, song books, and samples of the songs.

This is a nicely done CD. The music is pleasant, no fast beats, and not too loud. I thought the age was from 5 to 12. I could not find a specific age on the website. The songs are easily song along with. You might find yourself humming along with your children. We tend to link songs we know the tune to, so this especially appealed to us.

CD available at the website as well as MP3 for immediate
download at various stores.
You can find out more at: