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