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: http://www.avko.org/index.htm

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: http://www.exploramania.com/

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: http://www.act.org/discover/support/resource.html  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 http://www.disclosurepolicy.org

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:   http://bibletimeline.net/

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.