Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets

Tiny Planets is an educational website designed for children ages 4-12.  Isabel has spent the past few weeks reviewing this for the Homeschool Crew.  

Once your child has chosen a cadet name (from  computer generated options) they can go to Tiny Planets home, which is the central location to get to all of the Tiny Planets' regions.

  • My Tiny Planets - Here the kids can create their own planet, choosing it's atmosphere, surface and terrain.  They can also grow plants in their biodome.  You can also play mini-games, recycle, collect rainwater and help keep other planets clean. 
  •  Tiny Planets Labs -This sub site is where kids can go to test out future games for Tiny Planets.
  • Tiny Planets Books - This is a collection of story adventures of Tiny Planet's Characters Bing and Bob.  It would be a fun place to read to little ones or let beginning readers go through themselves.
  • Tiny Planets Fun - This region is packed with educational games and puzzles.
  • Tiny Planets Learning - Here you will find lesson plans to help little ones learn their letters and numbers. 
  • Tiny Planets Blog - Here are updates to the Tiny Planets' sites plus great articles for parents and cadets alike.

 This is a free website, but some of the games, books and activities require keys, although not a lot of them.  Keys can be purchased for $1.95 for 10 keys.

Isabel enjoyed this, but said she would recommend it more for children a little bit younger than her (11 years). 

 *Disclaimer* I received this free of charge from the vendor in exchange for my review.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wits & Wagers Family

 We have reinstated our Family Game Night, thanks to Wits & Wagers Family, by North Star GamesWe are a game loving family!  We had Family Game Night every Wednesdays for years, but would get side tracked and let life get in the way.  So, once Wits & Wagers Family arrived, we decided it was time to return to our forgotten weekly event.

Wits & Wagers Family is a very simple, easy to use game that is packed with fun!   You have trivia questions that are asked of all players.The answer is always a number.  Each player has a small dry erase board they write their guess on.  Then all the boards are placed in the middle, in numerical order, and each person 'wagers' on what answer they think is correct.  To wager, each player uses two different sized Meeples (little wooden human(ish) characters).  You have one large (worth 2 points) and one small (worth 1 point) Meeple to wager on either one or two answers.  Whichever number is closest without going over wins that hand.

We have played it again and again in the few weeks we have had it.  The questions are fun enough for the whole family, but the simplicity of the game is such that the kids can play by themselves with no adults.  As a family, we highly recommend this game!!  It states the game is for ages 8 and up, but I think younger children could definitely play with a bit of help! 

This game retails for $19.99 and as of this morning was sold out through their website. You can check back to their website to see if it is available or check your local or online retailers.  Other games by North Star Games include: Wits & Wagers, Say Anything and coming soon, Say Anything Family.

*Disclaimer* I received this product free of charge in order to do this review.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Master Ruler

We received several products from Master Innovations for our family to review.  In our package was The Master Ruler (standard), The Master Ruler (Metric), The Master Ruler workbook, and a Marvels of Measurement poster.

The prices for these products are as follows:
  • The Master Ruler (both Standard and Metric) - $9.95
  • The Master Ruler Workbook - $15.95
  • Marvels of Measurement Poster - $10.00

The Master Rulers are so cool. They are a multi-overlay ruler with each overlay having either 1", 1/2", 1/4", 1/8", and 1/16".  The kids had a lot of fun 'playing' around with them. Not only can you use these rulers to learn to measure, they are a great tool when working on fractions.  With the use of the overlays, you can clearly see equivalent fractions.

The Master Ruler Workbook is worth the cost and I would recommend it.  It works on basic measurement, fractions (equivalent and reducing, adding and subtracting), and area and perimeter. Plus, it is filled with ideas of how to incorporate measuring into your homeschool day.

The Marvels of Measurement Poster is a fun, graphic, educational poster that helps kids make the connection between length, capacity and weight.

I really thought these tools were a lot of fun and very useful in our homeschool. Plus the cost is great. They can be used for kids of all ages to both learn and see a concept they already know, demonstrated in a different way.

Other products by Master Innovations include: The Master Clock, The Master Fractions, The Master Angles.  The site is also full of helpful videos of the products as well as testimonials from teachers.

Please head over to the Homeschool Crew Blog to see what my fellow crewmembers had to say about the Master Innovations products!

*Disclaimer* This product was given to me free of charge, for the purpose of this review.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Young Scholar's Guide to Composers

Young Scholar's Guide to Composers, by Bright Ideas Press, is the next on our review list.  It can be purchased as a CD-Rom book ($29.95) or a 298 page Paperback Book ($34.95).  Some other products offered by Bright Ideas Press are The Mystery of History Series and Illuminations.

Young Scholar's Guide to Composers is a 32 week chronological study of musical periods and composers.  It has been written for children grades 4-8, but could easily be adjusted for both older and younger kids.  Each lesson is either a musical period (Baroque, Classical...etc) or a famous composer.  And includes text, note-taking questions, creating a Composer Card (a great study guide with composer information), mapping where the composer was born, adding to a timeline, and of course, the music.  There are a list of online links in the book for each musical period and composer.  Also included in the book are games, coloring pages, folderbook instructions, glossary, website links, and a book list of recommended additional reading. There is some preparation needed for the use of this book.  There are copies to be made and it is a good idea to look up music links ahead of time and bookmark them.

Both the kids and I have thoroughly enjoyed this curriculum and look forward to completing it this year.  Logan has loved classical music for many years now.  He mostly listened to Mozart, Bach and Tchaikovshy.  This has been wonderful for him to get to listen to and learn about many other composers.  Isabel has never really been into classical music, but she has been having so much fun with this.  Their favorite piece, so far, is Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Spring movement.  They want to listen to it each day before we listen to whichever composer we are learning about for the week.

This has been great fun and full of so much wonderful information, presented in an easy to learn, yet not in an elementary manner.  I would recommend this to anyone who would like to add some Fine Arts to their school year.

*Disclaimer* I received this product free of charge for the purpose of this review.


Monday, November 15, 2010

We just had our family pictures taken, late October. Now that we got them back, I am so excited to create our Christmas cards from

We have ordered Christmas cards from Shutterfly for the past 3 or 4 years. This year there are so many great card options!  I have actually created 10 different cards and I am going to have my family vote on their favorite.

There are new story cards, which you can do a mini Christmas letter, and let everyone know what your family has been up to this year.  Shutterfly has tons of great photos gifts.  Photo books are a great way to remember a vacation or a homeschool year.  They have ornaments, mugs, mouse pads and much more.  I think my favorite photo gift has to be the calendars.  I sent one to my niece last year.  She was so excited to see herself and her family members on the top of every month.  Plus, I was able to add all of her important dates, so she won't forget a birthday.  She is really hoping that I make her another this year.

Now, I am off to start the Christmas card polling.  Hopefully each family member won't choose a different card!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Write Foundation

We have been working hard on our review products.  The next one up is The Write Foundation.  The Write Foundation, as you may have guessed, is a writing program. It is designed to help children 'become well thought-out and organized writers'.  The program comes in three different levels: Level 1- Sentence to Paragraph Writing, recommended for ages 11- 13, Level 2 -Paragraph Writing, recommended for ages 12-15, and Level 3 - Essay Writing, recommended for ages 14-17. 

Each level was designed to be taught in a 1 or 2 year format and is comprised of 30 total lessons.  The cost of each complete 30 lesson level is $100 + tax and shipping, and cost of 15 lessons is $65 + tax and shipping.  This curriculum uses Mind Benders by Critical Thinking Company as an additional, but highly recommended option.

Both Logan and Isabel have been working together (something they rarely do) on Level 1 - Sentence to Paragraph.  Before we began, I went through the curriculum and was a little confused.  Once we actually sat down and started working on it, it became easier (although I am unsure if we are doing the program as intended by the author).  They have been working on exercises that have been encouraging the expansion of their vocabulary and using the thesaurus.  It has been very helpful in getting them to realize the need for more descriptive words, rather than the same standards all of the time.  It has added a  much greater interest to what they are writing.  I am looking forward to the outlining portion of this program.  I really want them to be organized in their writings.

After spending several weeks with this program I like what it has done for the children's creativity.  In spite of that fact,I do not feel that the sentence quality is very good.  For example, the kids are rewriting sentences that include more descriptive verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, but the sentences do not seem much improved.   Although it has been helpful, I really do not believe I would pay $65-$100 for this program.

*Disclaimer* I received this product free of charge for the purpose of this review. 


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Isabel's First Horse Show

One of Isabel's first lessons on Foxcene

I haven't had much time to blog as of late.  Things get really busy this time of year.  I wanted share some pictures and videos of Isabel's riding lessons and her first Horse Show. 

Isabel has been a horse lover for years.  Each year, when the kids spend part of their summer with their grandparents, Isabel gets her Auntie Cait to take her riding on Papa's horses.  Last summer she went to Horse Camp at the local Girl Scout resident camp.  Finally a month ago she started riding lessons.  She is learning Western Pleasure, but hopes to switch to English soon.

She was so excited to find out that her stable was hosting a Fall Festival Show for all the kids who participate with them.  They only hold two events per year, so the timing was perfect for her.

Isabel signed up to participate in three events or classes.  The first was "On the Rails Class" (I think that is what they were saying, lol), where she rode along the outside of the arena and had to follow verbal directions to walk, trot, lope, stop, and reverse.  They were judged on posture and I am not sure what else (hey, I am new to all of this).  She placed 5th out of 5 competitors in this event. 
Her next event was the "Pattern A Class".  For this event she had to memorize a pattern to ride around the arena.  She placed 2nd out of 6, and was not happy with the end of the pattern where she was suppose to back up her horse, instead her nearly 30 year old horse decided to turn.  Isabel still managed to get her to back up.

Her final event was "Ride-A-Buck".  This was a 'fun' event.  The girls had a buck ($) under their backside sticking out of the back of their saddles.  The objective was to keep your seat to keep the dollar in place, and the last one to loose their dollar won and got to keep the dollar.  No one lost their dollar.  They put the buck under their left knee next, still they all kept their dollar, so each girl won and went home a Buck richer.  All of the instructors also found a great tool for future lessons. ;)
After all of the regular events, the kids divided into groups and dressed their horses up for a costume contest.  Isabel's group, The Fillies, dressed Foxcene as a Unicorn Princess.  Poor thing!  She won first prize for her costume!

Every week Isabel counts down the day until her next lesson!  She is hoping to start English very soon and her main goal is jumping!


Friday, October 15, 2010

Psalms Study from Soli Deo Gloria Resources

Young Hearts Longing for God is a study of Psalms that we were asked to review.  It is a 30 lesson study, by Soli Deo Gloria Resources, to be used over the entire school year.  It is designed for grades 4 - 8, but can be used with both younger and older kids.  It is a bound booklet priced at $16.  Here is a sample of the first lesson. 

Isabel (10) began this black and white, no frills study with little or no understanding of Psalms.  She studies one Psalm a week followed by questions, activities, and journaling.  The first one she read through, she looked at me and asked how she was suppose to know what it meant.  So, I asked her to try to work through the questions.  As she highlighted what God had done to man, this Psalm began to make sense.  She re-read the Psalm each day before working through the question or activity for the day.  Each time she read it, she had a better grasp of the meaning.

She is able to work on this study independently, asking questions if she is stuck or needs clarification. There is no preparation on my part, so it is very easy to have her work on while I am working with her brother.  The study also includes a checklist, so she can keep track of what she has done (she really enjoys marking off things when she has completed them).  This has been teaching her great decoding skills that she can use elsewhere with text that is written in a way she is unfamiliar with. 

I would highly recommend this, it is a great study and a great price.  It would be an easy addition to whatever curriculum you are currently using.  Isabel looks forward to doing it each day.

Other products available from this company include further Bible studies, Unit Studies, and year long studies, such as a WWII Unit Study for $14 and Church Notebook for $12.  We plan on using the WWII Unit Study later this year!

*Disclaimer* I received this study free of charge for the purpose of this review.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Digital Frog Virtual Field Trips

Digital Field Trip DVD series from Digital Frog is the next item we reviewed for the Homeschool Crew.  It contains virtual 'field trips' to three different ecosystems: The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert.  The Home Licence costs $125 for the DVD set.  You can also buy the ecosystems separately for $60 each.

Would you like to take a trip with your kids to learn more about The Wetlands, Rainforest, or the Desert?  With the field trip series you can do the next best thing.  There are so many colorful, interactive features on this DVD, I don't even know where start.  First, we worked mainly with The Wetlands (that is what Isabel is working on in Science) and The Rainforest (that is what Logan is working on).  This was a wonderfully timed review for us.  Since there are so many things to talk about, I am going to stick with The Wetlands for this review, but the others are similarly set up.

On The Wetlands field trip, you can start off by using the interactive map to locate where you are going.  Next, you can choose from the following categories: Quick Tour, Field Trip to the Bog, Study of a Bog, Wetland Types, Mechanisms of a Wetland, or Our Endangered Wetlands.   On the Field Trip, you can take a 360° tour of Lake Cloud from 9 different posts.  You will learn about things at each post and you can click on plant or wildlife (for more interactive features) that you spot on your trip. 

There are so many amazing places to go and things to do. You can choose to learn basic information or dig a little deeper and go in depth. I am so amazed at the amount of interactive information on this DVD.  

There are also interactive games available to learn play.  In Food Chain game, you click on an organism to identify it and you can either drag lines between what that organism eats or click again to learn more about it.  Any time during the entire DVD if you see your cursor with a T next to it, you can click and open a definition of that word and sometimes hear pronunciation.  Each time we use this, we find new features we haven't explored yet.

One of the great features on the DVD is a student workbook and teacher manual for each of the three ecosystems, and they are available in many different file formats.  The DVD looks like it was designed for upper elementary/middle school with all the text and workbooks, but it would easily be enjoyed by the whole family.  The only teacher preparation needed is to print up the workbook files.

I really like how everything is interactive.  It really keeps the kids interested in seeing what else they can click on (and subsequently learn).  It has been a wonderful visual supplement to our Life Science and we plan to spend a lot more time exploring.

There are several other products available from Digital Frog: The Digital Frog 2.5 ($85) and ScienceMatrix: Cell Structure and Function ($40).  

*Disclaimer* I received this product free of charge for the purpose of this review.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LanSchool Technology

LanSchool Home is a computer program we are reviewing for the Homeschool Crew. The program gives you the ability to view, monitor, limit, or block your children's computers, all from your main computer. The program is designed to run on Windows and Mac computers. You can use it on one main teacher computer monitor and up to 3 student computers. The cost is $99 for a perpetual licence.

There are a lot of features that would make this technology helpful to homeschoolers. You have the ability to see a thumbnail of all your students' computer screens at once.  This program is extremely interactive.  Not only can you view what your child is currently doing on the computer, you can 'chat' with them.  This is useful if they need a reminder to stay on task, or simply have a question for you.  The best part of this is your ability to utilize this tool to communicate with all of the remote computers making it simple to teach a lesson to your students.  You can do this all from different rooms, making this a virtual classroom.  Also, you can allow a student to share something with the rest of the computers. Another neat feature is you can create and send tests with up to 100 questions to each of the student computers and receive them back already graded. You can send and receive files from one or all of the student computers.

 This program could be a very helpful tool if you have a very distractible child. You are able to view all he/she does on the computer at all times from your main computer. You can limit or block programs and/or websites from specific computers. You can also view all internet browsing history because the students are not able to delete their browsing history.

There is a list of product features from LanSchool's site.  The LanSchool website has easy to use video tutorials so you can learn to use each feature.
This product would be great for families that use multiple computers for their school work. With the 'virtual classroom', it would minimize the amount of time mom spends going from one computer to the next making sure everyone's questions are answered and everyone was on task, especially if they are spread out around the house. As we do the majority of our school from books or hands on activities, we aren't really able to utilize this program in our homeschool.

*Disclaimer* I received this product free for the purpose of this review.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Review: The Foundlings by Matthew Christian Harding

The Peleg Chronicles, book one, The Foundlings, is a paper back Christian Fantasy book that sells for $11.95.  The author writes the book from a Christian Creation standpoint and does not include any magic, evolution, or humanism, for ages 10 and up. 

The summery from the publisher: “In its pages we meet dragons, giants, false priests, the death hunt, an under-city of the Dwarven Brotherhood, and many memorable characters.
The story begins with Lord McDougal and his faithful shield-bearer, Fergus Leatherhead, departing their lands with giants at their backs, while before them lie in wait denizens of the bog-land and forest.
Ever ready to protect and serve others, they gather in tow an assortment of displaced adventurers and find themselves embroiled in a mysterious search for the foundlings: orphaned Thiery with his companion Horatio the white wolf, and Suzie who has been deceitfully retained by the thieves Elvodug and Flemup.
Others also seek the foundlings, and their purposes are most sinister – Dragon Priests who practice cozen sacrifices, and their leader Count Rosencross who is torn by his God given conscience and his pursuit of personal glory.
Onward toward the city of Hradcanny they travel, meeting with treachery, beast attacks, camaraderie and psalms of praise with an eye toward the gospel. Though their battles are at times fierce and the outcomes uncertain, the author maintains the integrity of these noble characters, who through weakness are made strong by Him in whom they trust.
Foundlings weaves together the Biblical principles of chivalry, truth, courage, duty, faith and love within the framework of Genesis, and a bold adherence to its historicity. It’s an exciting page turner that leaves you wanting more, but more importantly it leaves the reader with Godly heroes to think on and emulate, and a young earth creationist view of history that conforms to the Word of God.”

My son had a difficult time getting into the story and didn't enjoy it.  The story might appeal to others as an alternative to other fantasy books that may be against their beliefs.

*Disclaimer* I received this book from the author for the purpose of this review. 


Friday, September 24, 2010

Schleich Animal Figurines

Another Crew review!  This one was greatly anticipated by my kids.  I let them know, as soon as I found out, that we would be reviewing Schleich animal figurines.  They own a few pieces from Schleich's World of Knights collection and were excited to see what we were going to get.

When our friendly Fed-Ex guy arrived with the box, the kids stood waiting like it was Christmas! The two of them sat down on the living room floor and stayed there for a few hours.  In the box with the animals, there was a collectors brochure.  The brochure was just about as fun for them as the animals themselves.

The first order of business was to go through the brochure and properly identify each and every animal.  They included: Dartmoor Pony, Asian elephant calf, Przewalski's horse, Gnu, Gnu calf, Swabian-Hall piglet, eating, Okapi, and a Donkey.  Isabel, an avid horse lover, was so happy to have the pony, horse and even donkey to add to her ever growing horse population.  Logan was excited to find the Mongolian war horse, Przewalski's horse, among the bunch.

All of Schleich's figurines are beautifully made with great attention to detail.  They are wonderful just to look at.  After watching Isabel engaged in hours of imaginative play, I was sold.  She has created a farm, complete with a horse jumping arena.  Next, she had some sort of African safari going on (at least I am assuming that is what Barbie's car was doing among the animals).  The Asian animals didn't get a lot of time in their natural habitat, so it was decided it would be more fun to have all the animals together in a zoo.

Schleich's website has a Playground that has printable painting templates, wallpapers for your desktop, and interactive games that are fun to play around with.   

The Schleich figures vary in price starting at about $4 and up.  You can buy them in select stores and many online retailers.  There is a store locator on the website.

Isabel would love every single horse and accessory in the brochure and Logan thinks it would be cool to add to his World of Knights collection (for display on his shelf, of course).

*Disclaimer* I received these products free of charge for the purpose of reviewing them.  All opinions within this review are my own.
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