Monday, March 23, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Critical Thinking Press - Mathematical Reasoning B

Mathematical Reasoning B is from a new line of books from Critical Thinking Press which can be used a part of a core curriculum (primary curriculum source) or as a supplement. There is not a separate teacher book or answer key for this book. The introduction to the book supplies the necessary teacher information to compete the book.

The items covered are spiral, meaning that it teaches a topic and it comes up around again shortly. Each page covers a different topic. There are 264 pages in the book, so you would want to cover at least 1 1/2 to 2 pages a day for a one year curriculum. The lessons on each page are short so that doing so would not overwhelm a young student.

Students are expected to understand semi-concrete ideas. Meaning that they do have a basic concept of the addition concepts without the need of tangible objects. They state, however, if they do need it, you should supply the necessary hands on materials.

The beginning addition lessons start with adding objects in boxes, followed by adding using a number line, then basic addition is covered without any helps. Counting is reviewed by filling in missing numbers on a page. Geometry, counting money, number words, number patterns, following the directions, fractions, subtraction, measurement, data processing and probability (long for bar graphs,) and word problems are all covered at the first grade level. Also, because this is from Critical Thinking Press, you can expect to find critical thinking problems sprinkles throughout the book.

My 6 year old son enjoyed the colorful pages and short lessons. With the short lessons, he was eager to do several pages at a time. He was able to understand concepts with little directions. He did have a little trouble with the reading of number words, but that was only a couple of pages in the beginning.

The authors of the book state that the activities in the book are written to the standards of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

To find out more visit:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Auralog Tell Me More Spanish Version 9

For this review we were sent a new product that is "hot of the press" from Auralog: Tell Me More Spanish Homeschool Edition Version 9. (Mid-April expected launch date.) You need to have DVD-Rom, high speed Internet connection (preferred) and the accompanying headset/microphone. The software comes with two disks. The first one is an introduction Cd for the absolute beginner. The second disk - "Tell Me More-Performance" you set yourself at the correct level (by test taking or experience) and work from there. You are given a license for 5 levels of the program which is the equivalent of 4 years of the language. You can access the next 5 by contacting the company and getting a new licence.

You can make up multiple user accounts for everyone in your family. So even though the price might be considered high (~$319) you can use this for your whole family. Also, remember you are getting 4 years of language lessons.

Tell Me More uses the "immersion method" (think being dropped off at a Mexican or Spanish Airport, left to fend for yourself.) The lessons cover speaking and listening, reading and writing, grammar, vocabulary, and culture. There are also "up to 10 hours of video" where you can learn about the culture or participate in a role playing activity.

You have three choices when setting up the program:
Free to Roam: select activities of choice - create own lessons.
Guided Mode: Personalized Curriculum based on objectives and time constraints (leaving for Spain in 2 months.)
Dynamic Mode: Evaluates progress as you work, tailoring learning process to meet individual needs. This is what I chose.

My children, ages 8 and 15, began with the beginner Cd. They found it fairly easy to get through. We found out that if you don't do the microphone activities you can't go on. Sometimes the directions were not clear on the page, even after reading the help, but were able to figure out what they wanted by trial and error. Once you get the hang of it though, it is pretty consistent. My 6 and 7 year old watched on and everyone was doing salutations. The child should at least be able to read and follow directions to complete this. My 8 year old, who is motivated, is enjoying the lessons. Probably best suited for grade 4 or 5 through adult.

The beginner CD includes greetings and introductions, alphabet, conveying basic info about self, nationality, occupation, family and pets. In the second half of the Cd the student learns to describe self to others - physical characteristics and clothing - feelings, likes and dislikes.

I did some of the introductory Cd but skipped out early for the sake of this review to work on the "Tell Me More Performance" CD. I did take Spanish in high school and college (but I don't speak it, LOL!) You have the option of testing to see what level you should start at. I decided to just start at the beginning since it has been awhile since I took Spanish.

I was able to move through the exercises without difficulty. Some examples of exercises included are speech: where you have repeat word or phrase and the speech recognition technology estimates how well you said the word. You can repeat the word as many times as you want and compare it to the native speaker. Crossword Puzzles: They say the word and you have to spell it correctly in the crossword. There is a hint button that tells you if you are right or wrong if you are having difficulty. There are also phrases accompanied by a picture where you have to pick the correct response.

You are free to continue activities as long as you want. You can print out certificates as you complete different levels if you would like. There are also achievement and progress test you can take. You can see how you did on these and find out what level you are as decided by the "Council of Europe." Also available is a weekly 30 minute online lesson. The lesson is from Euronews and is totally immersion. I watched a news report and tried to follow along. I imagine this would be more profitable after doing a few levels of Tell Me More. The news reporter spoke fast. Listening to it on a regular basis would help get more of an ear for the language and help develop comprehension in the language.

The start up menu has a PDF version of the activity guide and user manual. There are lesson study guides available on the website. There is also 24/7 advisor (in English) that you can contact if you have a problem. Also, progress is guaranteed after working through at least 50 hours of the program.

I didn't find any difficulty setting this up and getting started. I think it is a great program, although the price might be considered high. There are several languages available to see more visit their website.
To learn more visit: TELL ME MORE!
(Please note, I have reviewed version 9 which is not yet available. On the website you will see info for version 7 only - as of April 1, 2009. Version 9 has an expected release date of mid-April)

TOS Crew Review: Homeschool In The Woods - New Testament Activity Pak

This is an New Testament activity book that goes along with the life of Christ. You read the coordinating bible story and complete the activity. Activities include lots of coloring, cutting, and pasting, creative writing, bible reading and some research. Published by Home School in the Woods. PDF file is available for download or on CD (will require you to a have computer and printer.)

There are 3 activities included in the "Activity Pak"
- A lap book - 15 activities or mini books, mostly cut, fold, and paste and some copywork (of verses.) Uses traditional lap book folds and some art supplies: double sided tape, paper fasteners, card stock, along with the more common supplies (scissors, glue, etc.)
- A 12 page newspaper project where children, using what I would call notebooking pages, do research and creative writing to make a newspaper. The headlines are supplied (for example "Trouble at the temple, Jesus of Nazareth tips over tables.") and room to write the article. There are even ads from what might have been in the paper at that time, where you fill in the details. Includes a blank page for your own ideas.
- An Armor of God project with a poster and removable parts so you can daily read the scripture (on the poster) and put on your armor.

The artwork is magnificent and detailed. I highly impressed with the quality of it. The projects are easy to cut out and color. The project directions are detailed right down to how to save it when you are done using it for the day, or while you are waiting to put the lap book together. Which is a great idea, because it may be some time between activities.

The suggested grades for this are grades 3-8, but I know my younger boys still enjoy helping with the coloring and pasting. The cutting is more detailed and may require an older child. The newspaper project will fit a child comfortable with writing paragraphs. I believe the Armor of God could be completed, with help, by most children. Putting the "armor"on is fun for all.

This is meant to be an activity pak, so it does what it says, supplies activities to accompany the major events in Christ's life. You will need your bible or other bible story book to accompany the activities. You can see pictures of the completed projects on the websites below.

Home School in the woods has some great products, especially time line materials, several history activity studies and an Old Testament Activity pack. There are also some free unit studies. Be sure to check them all out on the website.

To learn more about The New Testament Activity Pak, click here.
To visit HomeSchool In The Woods click here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

TOS Crew: One To Believe - Noah's Ark

One to Believe has done it again with another great toy. We received our Noah's Ark set and immediately opened it and started playing! OK, so it is not biblically accurate. But it is a fun sturdy toy, my children played with for hours. The boat is also a great holding bin for the animals when we are done playing. At least that is what I used it for, LOL!

One to Believe's goal is to assist parents in guarding their child's hearts and minds by supplying great toys modeled after great people. Like the nativity set, Noah's Ark comes with short bible story to point the child to the bible. Reading the actual bible story would be a great supplement to this toy.

The set comes with the ark which doubles as storage for the set, with two each (male and female of course) of: donkeys, elephants, lion and lioness, monkeys, ostriches, camels, ewe and a ram, and last but not least, Noah (but I am not sure where his wife is :-) The set is meant for age 3 and up, so there are some small parts not appropriate for small children.

My boys love this set and I am sure will keep there interest for some time.
You can visit their website to see more by clicking here.

TOS Crew Review: SpellQuizzer

SpellQuizzer is spelling software to help students remember their spelling words. By quizzing them on list that you make yourself or from list that you import from the SpellQuizzer website, you can help improve your child's spelling performance.

To use this program is preferred that you have a microphone. You can still use the program without a microphone, but you won't get the full use of the program. There are about a dozen list you can download from the website and it comes pre-programed with several grade level lists. With the microphone you can make your own list of your child's spelling words by recording each word. If you don't have a microphone you can still make your own list, but you will have to prompt with words using a "reminder phrase" for what word you want them to spell. Microphones can be purchased inexpensively at Wal-Mart. The price of the microphone does not affect sound quality with this program. The author states that you can get just as much out of a cheap microphone as an expensive one.

SpellQuizzer offers you a 30 day free trial to try it out yourself before purchasing it. Downloading was short and simple. I was able to begin immediately by pressing "Quiz me on a list!" and get started. I was quizzed on a list and received instant feed back if their was a mistake. When it was over it told me my score and asked if I wanted to re-quiz the ones I got wrong. When I got 100% it cheered me on! Below you can see an active quiz with a "reminder phrase." You can use both the "reminder phrase" and the sound if you would like.

Setting up new list were simple enough (see screenshot below.) It does require a small amount of time to record your own list, but was surprised at how simple that was. It only took seconds for each word (REALLY!) The quality of the recording was good as well. They do have helps if you are having trouble in that area. You can access help on the main screen by just pressing the help button. For some microphone help you can also visit:

I imported several list from the website. Very easy directions are given on the website on how to do this. The imported list includes the sound recordings so that if you don't have microphone you can use these or use these to supplement your own list. You can also export lists to share with others who have SpellQuizzer!

This spelling software can be used with any spelling curriculum. You can also use SpellQuizzer to help test vocabulary words. You can make vocabulary lists from their reading or even other subjects such as history and science.

One neat feature that I appreciate is that the program has a built in spell checker. If you try to enter a word incorrectly it will tell you. This can be good if you want your children to make their own word lists, it will help prevent errors.

This program is simple, no fancy bells and whistles. But it gets its job done by improving spelling scores. My children were able to use it with little assistance. They had fun doing the spelling quizzes. I was just able to secure a microphone so I have only made up sample lists for them to do and try out.

They do offer a 30 day free trial, so you can try it out yourself and see if you can benefit from it. The company also offers volume discounts ( for 2 or more purchases. So you can get together with a homeschool group or a friend.

To find out more visit SpellQuizzer here.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Math Mammoth

Maria Miller is the author of this math supplement or curriculum, depending on what product you choose. Mammoth Math has 4 different types of curriculum to chose from for grades 1 to 8 (through Algebra 1.)

"The Blue Series" (grades 1 to 5) The blue series has explanations and problems. They are divided up by topics and are self teaching. Titles in this series are: Addition 1, Add and Subtract 2a and b, Fractions, Multiplication, Geometry. To see more topics covered click here.

"The Light Blue Series" (grades 1 to 4) can be used as a complete math curriculum. Both parent and student can understand the explanations, so it is essentially self teaching. This is organized by grade.

"The Golden Series" (grades 3 to 8)is organized by grade and is the problems only. They contain one topic per page.

"The Green Series" (grades 3 to 8)is organized by topic and contain the problems only. The topics are from the Golden Series.

The curriculum I reviewed were from the Blue Series. I wanted supplemental work for my son in varied subject matter, that would be mostly self teaching. The ones we are working with are: Multiplication 1, Division 1, Fraction 1, and Geometry 1.

What I liked about the workbooks is that they went from the simple to the more complex. There are not to many problems on the page and my son was able to work on them with little explanation. Three out of four books had over 100 pages each. They are also done in more then one color, to help with explanations and understanding.

For example, Multiplication 1 starts out real simple with the concept of multiplication using pictures, compares it to addition, does multiplication with a number line, and gradually progresses to word problems. There are also worksheets to help memorize the math facts, that give many helpful hints and strategies.

I was very pleased with the ease of use, the inexpensive cost of the product, and how professionally done the product is, that I will return to purchase more when we are done with these. These have really helped my son retain information that he has learned.

On her website you can request samples of the product. She sends you extensive (280 pages!) worksheet samples from different areas so you can get a feel for what you are looking for. There is enough here for you to try them out with your children before deciding what to purchase, you can also ask her, if you are not sure.

TOS CREW Review: Artistic Pursuits

Artistic Pursuits is a homeschool art program created and used successfully by homeschoolers. They have products from multiple grade levels from preschool through senior high school. There is also a parents book available.

A quote from their website says:

"A variety of fun applications teach both the expressive and technical aspects of art while allowing children to make choices about what and how they will draw, paint, and sculpt. Assignments work within the stages of artistic development of children and guide them to mature artistic expression in the visual arts. "

The product that we are reviewing is Artistic Pursuits Grade K-3 Book One. This book combines art appreciation with an art activity for each of its 32 lessons.

Preparation for the lesson requires the acquisition of the recommended supplies. Supplies for grade K-3 book one include:

1- Artistic Pursuits canvas tote
2- Ebony pencil1- Eraser
1- Tape Bound Biggie Sketch Pad 9"x12" 50 lb. 125 sheets
1- Cray Pas (Oil Pastels) set of 24
1- Reeves Chalk (soft) pastel set of 12
1- Caran D’Ache Neocolor II Watercolor Crayons set of 10 in metal tin1- Watercolor Brush size #8
1- Biggie Watercolor Pad 9"x12", 50 sheet
1-Fiscars Kid Scissors
1- Heavy Weight Construction Paper, bright assorted colors
1- Heavy Weight Construction Paper, black
1- Art Tissue in assorted bright colors
1- 4lb. Pkg. gray self hardening clay

The supply list can be intimidating. I tried to find a few items at Walmart and was unsuccessful. However most of the items can be found at AC More and other art supply stores. They do sell a kit with all these items for $76 and also give you websites where you purchase these at discount art stores. For me I have to buy one item at a time because of the cost involved.

The curriculum is divided into three sections:

What Artist Do: covers the activities artist use when making art - composing, imagining, looking, etc. Exploration of drawing and paintings is covered in this section.

What Artist See: covers elements artists use in 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional work such as shape, form, line, and color. Exploration of collage, paper works, drawing and color mixing is covered here.

Where We Find Art: looks at art in caves, pyramids, cathedrals, etc. Different media is used including chalk pastels, oil pastels, clay and paper works. Exploration of mural pottery, clay modeling, paper art, mosaic techniques and more.

The base of every lesson includes a full color artist painting in which you branch off from that to your activity. Discussion about the painting is simply included to build discussion between student and parent. That is followed by an project appropriate for the age group.

You can see samples of this curriculum if you click here.

The hardest part for me is getting the art supplies together. The lessons are easy to carry out once you have your supplies ready. The lessons we did you basically opened the book and proceeded with the lesson. Samples of other students work in full color is also included. We found this helpful for my perfectionist child who thinks it has to be perfect or like the artist painting.

I love the art history and discussion of the painting and the medium used for each lesson. This makes up 2/3 of each lesson. The project follows these discussions.

The curriculum might seem expensive but it is in full color throughout the book. Nearly every page has a full color photo and many have more then one. Many of the directions for the projects have step by step photos which are also done in full color.

My son has done one of the high school level books and had many very successful drawings and projects. This is what he used for his art credit for high school. I was glad to see that Artistic Pursuits has a full line up of curriculum for all ages.

Visit this website by clicking HERE.

TOS Crew Review: Beyond Five In A Row

Beyond Five in a Row was a very fun product to receive and review. I had used Before Five in a Row with my younger students a few years ago and Five in a Row with my now teenagers even further back. I did enjoy using these at the time, so I was familiar with the products, but had lost touch with the company.

Beyond Five in a Row is a unit study curriculum based on excellent children's books for ages 8 to 12. There are three volumes that take one semester each to complete.

For the review of Beyond Five in a Row Volume 3 we chose to do the Cricket in Time Square. I chose that one because we are in New York, I grew up in New York City, and a large portion of the unit study was on New York. The other books in the study include: Neil Armstrong - Young Flyer, Marie Currie-And the Discovery of Radium and The Saturdays.

I was very much impressed with the amount of information included in the study. It is not just an outline of information. It contained factual information about the topic being studied as well as writing and discussion questions. There is an outline for each chapter of the book about what will be covered, a teacher summary of the story, and then lesson activities. There are also Internet connections for further study. In the back of the book is a scope and sequence.

We supplemented the study by getting books out the library on specific subjects. A list of books in not included, except the books used in the unit study. That is OK, because books go out of print and what may be available in my library, may not be found it yours. We have an online catalog and inter-library loan we can access to find the great books we used for the study. We also supplemented with some videos on New York, which were fun.

Many subjects are covered in each chapter of the study: history and geography, science, fine arts, language arts, careers and more.

My son (8 years old) enjoyed the book and read it in one day - even though I told him we were going to do it one chapter at a time. Besides New York the Cricket in Time Square covers: mice, fantasy stories, Italy, China, Opera, currency, learning about the US legal system, honesty, recipes.... So you can see a lot is covered in the story that it takes some time to complete the unit study. The whole volume should take one semester to complete, but I wonder if one could spend more time then that - because they want to!
Also available is an optional Christian Character Bible Study Supplement (which is one volume correlating with the three Beyond volumes.)

This is a well rounded and enjoyable study, that were easy to implement with the books we have on hand as well as a trip to the library.

To learn more visit the website here.
There is also a forum where there is much discussion and helps. Click Here For Forum.