Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Happiness Christmas Service

Sunday was our Childrens' Christmas program at church. It was entitled "Away in a Manger." The program reminded us again how God in the person of Jesus came to dwell with us in human form and remains with us all the time through His Word and Sacrament.

Both of my children had speaking parts taken from various portions of Scripture and participated with the other children in singing portions of several hymns. They both did a very good job in saying their parts and helping to share the Christmas and beyond story.

One of the traditions the congregation has is to allow any of the children who have musical abilities to play a short piece. Thus, Daughter had the opportunity two play two hymns as part of the prelude to the worship service. She choose "Silent Night" and "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". She was nervous before hand, but did very well. Her piano teacher, also our church organist, was very pleased with what she did.

These Christmas services were a tradition for me growing up and have now also become a tradition for my children. I have a feeling December just wouldn't feel right without practicing for and anticipating the Christmas Service.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Last Weeks Events

It's been a while since I posted and then those were reviews. So I decided I would write a little about how we filled last week.

Monday the local history museum hosted their monthly Homeschool Day. This fall they started having special programs just for homeschool families and they have been a lot of fun. The museum is The Missouri History by name, but the permanent exhibits predominantly showcase St Louis, but the special exhibits usually have a larger scope. Now the special exhibit is focusing on the role of women in settling and shaping the western part of our country. So this months theme was based on this topic, but that was not all. To celebrate the holidays this month they also gave the children the opportunity to decorate Gingerbread cookies and take a horse drawn carriage ride around the outside of the museum. The cookies were a huge hit and totally covered with candy. (Maybe I can post pics in the next day or two). The carriage ride was also a hit, but just a little bit cold. The temp all day didn't get above 8 degrees! They also had hot chocolate which was greatly appreciated.

Tuesday afternoon we went to the homeschool class put on by our local branch library. Then the children had the opportunity to build "gingerbread" houses. The librarian made it a learning experience by giving each of the participants play money and having them buy their building materials. Knowing how my son likes to pile on the candy I was a little concerned he might hot have enough money to buy everything he needed to construct his house, but he actually completed the project with several dollars left.

Wednesday we listened/watched an online sewing class as daughter is eager to begin sewing.

Thursday was a piano lesson for DD. She was shocked to learn that was her last piano lesson for the year. Before piano we also baked some cookies.

Friday we made a trip to our library for books.

In addition to all of these activities we also finished up several lapbook projects. That is material for another post. Also we continued to use a couple products which I am reviewing and began using a couple new ones. We also threw in a little spelling and devotions to round out each day.

At first I didn't feel like we had accomplished a whole lot this week, but looking at the week as a whole I guess we did do quite a lot. I hope we can finish up a couple more holiday related projects this week, but I think we are going to do some more baking and craft things.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Good Morning, God New TOS Review

Good Morning, God
Davis Carmen, author
Alice Ratterree, illustrator

Book $14.00

Coloring Book $4.00
Black and White pages from the book to be colored

Apologia Press
Apologia Educational Ministries
1106 Meridian Plaza Suite 220
Anderson, IN 46016 US
Phone: (888)524-4724

Before I go into detail about this book, I need to mention several things which influenced this review.

1. My husband works for the publishing company of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He is not involved in the production of children's books, but the company does publish books for children.

2. My husband has two graduate degrees in theology and I have a BA in theology. Our background and experience make us extremely careful about the theological resources we share with our children. Because this book does not reflect our theological beliefs I did not share it with our children.

Good Morning, God is a story about a week in the life of a little boy. It is told in few words, letting the pictures tell a lot of the story. He experiences many of the things that children do, so children 1-8 years old (the target audience) will be able to relate to him.

What is Found in Good Morning, God
Purpose of the Book
The parental instruction pages indicate the purpose of the book is to help a child fall in love with God, suggesting several methods to that end. One can certainly applaud salutary Christian child-rearing and certainly this book can have a place in that for many Christians.
The art is well-executed and child-friendly. Yet there is a real cultural problem. This book does not show people of differing races, ethnicities, incomes, cultures, and so on. The Church is inclusive, while this art does not reflect that, even in the pictures of Sunday worship.
The unspoken message presented about the family is they are a homeschooling family. This is a positive as there are few books available which feature homeschooling families.
Scriptural Basis of the Book
Deuteronomy 6:6–7 is the major basis for the book, wherein elders and parents are exhorted to teach their children in the ways of the Lord. This is also a good practice that has benefits for both home and society. The book has good intentions to start with Scripture.
The version used is NIV, which renders the Hebrew with “commands.” That version steps away from the original wording, “words,” seen at least in the Septuagint, the Vulgate, Martin Luther's translation, the Geneva Bible, the King James Version, the RSV, and the ESV.
Use of the NIV suggests that the intended readers of this book are from a Reformed or Evangelical tradition.
One can applaud the desire to worship. Yet the child is directed to intangibles like heaven and the Last Day that are above the comprehension level of small children. The family time on Sunday is, however, portrayed well. Family time is a gift from God.
The book's portrayal of worship does not engage our beliefs. We believe that, in worship, it is not we who initiate the action, but God. He comes to us through his Word, Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion. Although He also will give us heaven, He also brings His kingdom in our midst on earth as we pray "Thy kingdom come."
We see that the theme of worship is present again, as for the other days, touching on being, heart, mind, body, soul, thoughts, strength. This is a clear application of Deuteronomy 6:5, which Jesus also uses. It is good to love God and to be in a right relationship with Him. God grants us faith, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to receive and believe in His promises for us.
The picture of the running child is out of place; sin is dealt with specifically at a different point in the book. Do parents usually let children run indoors and upset furniture? No. By having the running picture immediately after worship, this creates a jarring break. It also does not show how Sunday's worship transferred in some way to Monday.

Tuesday and following
With Tuesday we see the pattern: Wake, sin, regular activity, prayer. Patterns are good; that helps children feel safe.

This is inductively built up by Wednesday, where sin is literally mentioned. There is no overt forgiveness event on Wednesday. There is an admission of sin, and then everything just “gets better” on Thursday through Sunday again. That clashes with our belief that one must give both the stern message of God's Law to make the sinner realize the fault. Then the sweet Gospel restores the fallen and binds up the brokenhearted.
This book seems to have “kinda” sin and “kinda” forgiveness. Children want boundaries, clear demarcations between good and bad. Here, there are no time-outs, standing in the corner, and so on. One gets the idea that the message of the book boils down to “trying hard.” This approach suits Methodism and Arminian (such as General Baptist) theology.
The message of Christ as Savior is good, yet the Savior came to save … sinners! It does not clearly express that Jesus came for the child who is hearing the story. It misses the opportunity to assure the child that they are forgiven because of Jesus' death and resurrection. The book seems to be very soft-voiced, on the matter of sin. Love of God increases as one realizes just how much one must continually be forgiven on one's journey of faith.
Rest of the Week
It is good to see faith mixed in with daily life. Yet faith is much more than doing good. God gets His hands dirty; He is daily with us. It is not clear in the book how that might be. The question is: If you think God is pretty much “up there,” how can you have a long-distance relationship that will grow in love? Is not God in visiting the sick or giving a cup of cold water?
The latter church scene focuses on the offering. Would it instead be better to focus on Christ? He is the highest and best Offering for our sins, whose life, death, and resurrection changes our lives. Where two or three are gathered, is not Jesus in their midst?
The book concludes with a section of questions which parents can use to facilitate discussion with their children.
The questions do help clarify some of the unclear aspects of the story. Nevertheless, they also seem to tiptoe around the facts of sin and grace, allowing for the parents to fill in their tradition as needed in a sort of “non-denominational” book.
This book will appeal to those of a generic Reformed background. To many other Christian traditions, however, this book will not satisfy their needs.

Read what other Crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book to read in order to write this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Monday, December 6, 2010



ALEKS Corporation
15641 Red Hill Avenue, Suite 150
Tustin, CA 92780

Phone: (714) 245-7191
Email: http://support.aleks.com
$19.95 a month per student
$99.95 for 6 months for 1 student
$179.95 for 12 months for 1 student

There are discounts for additional students in the same family if all are purchased at the same time.

A free One Month Trial is available using this special link. Just click on the banner to the right.

A big concern many homeschooling parents have is providing their children with a complete education in all the subjects without leaving gaps in the childs' knowledge. For many math is a particular concern as it is a subject that definitely builds on itself, if a child doesn't get one concept it is likely they will struggle with other concepts later on. Add to this the challenge of knowing exactly what a child knows and doesn't without making them go through a lot of repetitive pencil and paper problems. A program which to assist parents in this manner is often very welcome.

What is ALEKS?

From the ALEKS website:
"Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system."

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:
  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • No Textbook Required
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
  • Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
  • Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction
ALEKS has been used successfully by homeschoolers, as well as by millions of students at schools and educational institutions throughout the world. Additionally, some ALEKS course products are American Council on Education (ACE) credit-recommended, meaning that your student may be eligible for college credit at participating colleges.

The ALEKS website homepage says they offer Math Instruction for grades K-12, however, when looking at the courses available, the lowest level is 3rd grade. This was a big disappointment to my 1st grade son as he wanted to do math on the computer also. There are also several college level courses available.

How ALEKS works

The parent sets up a student account and determines which grade level program the student will use. Then the student takes an assessment to determine what math areas they are competent in and what they need to work on. They are given "credit" for what they already know and do not have to go through that same material again. The data of what they know and don't know is compiled into a pie graph where they can easily see what topics need to be studied and practiced. The pie graph uses different colors for different topics and as the child works through the course the corresponding sections fill up with a darker shade of the same color. When they have mastered all the areas in a particular category the whole slice is the darker shade. This provides a clear visual of how far the child had progressed in that particular topic. A review tab provides more details of each topic yet to be mastered.

The work screens have a cartoon character providing directions and encouragement in speech bubbles, but otherwise it is a very clean, uncomplicated looking area. I like that there are few distractions.

The program routinely has the student complete an assessment to determine where they are at and provide instruction on an appropriate level. The information presented to the student is what is most suitable for them to learn based on their current knowledge.

Additionally, there is drill on basic facts under the title of "Quick Tables". The user is asked a series of problems and is provided additional practice for those facts missed repeatedly. The user is also shown a chart of the facts they know as well as the ones they need to practice and often given a choice of which fact they want to concentrate on. Facts that have been previously "mastered" are also thrown into the rotation. This practice is timed, but the parent has the option to change the length (from the master account) of time allowed for each fact. When a number of facts have been mastered they are rewarded with the chance to play a short game, further reinforcing the facts.

A Math Dictionary is available to the student so that they can look up information applicable to the topics where they still need to achieve mastery.

There is also a Master Account which gives the parent access to many statistics regarding their childs use of the program. Some of the items tracked included length of time spent logged in, topics mastered, those still needing to be worked on, quick tables reports, and the students pie chart. Also accessible from the student profile is a small timeline showing progress through the whole course, a breakdown of the average time it has taken to achieve the current level, and an estimate for time required to complete the entire course.

A downloaded Plug in is required for ALEKS to work. There is a streaming Plug in available so the program can be used on computers where a download is not doable. ALEKS is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

How we used ALEKS

My daughter enjoyed the ALEKS experience, particularly the graphs and geometry. She has been eager to use it, which is not usual for Math. She said she would like to have a similiar program for grammar.

ALEKS also provides the option to create worksheets from the student account. I did not use this option during the review period.

I tried the Behavior Science Statistics course and discovered how much I have to learn in that area. This course also operates in a similar manner to math course. I think I could make progress with this kind of program that allows me to work at my own speed.


I liked the format that gives the student credit for what they already know. Math is not a strong subject for my daughter, but seeing how much she already knew gave her the confidence to work on some topics where she needed more practice.

The Quick Tables are a fun method of drill.

I especially like the time report as my state requires maintaining a time log. It helps me to double check I have recorded the correct amount of time.


The measurement topics were harder to use than other topics. We had difficulty positioning the virtual ruler just so to be able to get an accurate measurement for length.

The cost is expensive for my budget. However, I liked the options for 6 and 12 month subscriptions at a savings off the monthly price. As a parent with only 2 children, I was happy to see the family discounts are significant beginning with just 2 student accounts.

One suggestion I have is to make the Quick Table portion available separately at a smaller price than the whole program. My son really wanted to use these, but was able to as there wasn't a math program available at his level.

I would also echo my daughter's wish about a similiar type program for grammar and reading comprehension, as well.

ALEKS is a program which I will keep in mind as my children get older and need more challenging and intensive math instruction. My daughter really enjoyed the break from paper and pencil math.

Read what other Crew Members have to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given a free months access to the ALEKS program so that I could use it and write this review. I have not be compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Holidays 2010 Mannheim Steamroller

Several of the other blog writers whom I follow have been doing Holiday themed posts for the last several days and I have really enjoyed reading them. I have been thinking about what I could write on the topic, especially since I feel so behind in the holiday department already.

As I sit working on my computer I have a Mannheim Steamroller CD playing, not quite in the background, but loud enough for my children to listen too as they fall asleep. My son, especially requests this music. Last Wednesday he told me that since it was December, I HAD to get out all the Mannheim Steamroller music I own and start playing it when they go to bed. He said it was our tradition. I guess it is a tradition as I remember doing it sporadically the last two years.

I have enjoyed MS for a number of years, I have several of their cassette tapes to prove how long it has been and probably couldn't get through December without playing it sometime, but I have a feeling my son is an even bigger fan than I am. There is a local radio station who was giving away tickets to Mannheim Steamroller's upcoming concert and when I heard about it I said I would even be willing to pay for a childsitter if I won them. He replied that it wouldn't cost too much because his sister was a big girl and didn't need much taking care of. I asked what about him and he told me he would be going along with me as he really really liked Mannheim. I guess he really does like them.

I guess Mannheim is a fixture in our household for December. Not a bad tradition, either.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I am still hanging around the Blogosphere

I realized yesterday I have totally neglected my poor little blog. Then when I signed in tonight I saw how thoroughly neglected it is, I haven't had a post since the 19th. To my readers I am sorry I have left you hanging. There have just been so many things going on, blogging has taken a back seat.

We have taken an unplanned 2 week break from school and now need to get back in some kind of groove. This will be a challenge for all of us. The most schooly type thing we've accomplished is daughter has been practicing for her Piano recital which is tomorrow (Saturday Dec 4).

I also can't believe we are almost a whole week through Advent. I'll have to see how we can jump in with special activities at this point.

So my challenge for the next couple days will be to pull together some meaningful, productive activities which won't be meet with a lot of resistance. I guess there are always projects to finish and library books to read.

Friday, November 19, 2010

KBTeacher New TOS Review



Premium Memberships: $29 for a year with a month free trial
$49 for two years

There are many free worksheets available, but premium membership grants access to more features, watermark free pages, and answer keys.

KBTeachers is an online worksheet and activity resource. They have worksheets and activities for Math, English, Science, Social Studies, arts and crafts, and clip art images. Their material is very substantive, yet fun. There is not a lot of fluff here.

The features we liked were the Webquests and pictures which can be used for numerous purposes. The Webquests are short explorations on fun topics and feature 3-5 website links to explore and several questions to answer based on the information found on the websites visited. There are quests for many days of the month based on holidays or an event from that day in history. There are also biographical webquests. Not only do the questions ask for basic recall of material, many of the concluding questions encourage the student to do something concrete.For example, the Veteran's Day quest asked the student what they would do to honor veterans. My daughter decided she would call her grandfather. This resulted in a nice conversation where she learned some things about him and other family members she might not have learned otherwise. Basically, these questions employ some skills found in higher level thinking.However, some of the links are out of date. I was able to find some sites with information the quest includes by doing a web search, but I was not always successful. Also, clicking some of the webquest topics takes you to an ad for the site, not the quest.

I also like the seasonal letter square files. I have printed several sheets of the complete fall alphabet letters, cut them out, and covered with clear plastic to use for hands on spelling practice. I have not decided if I will do the same for the letters for the other seasons.

I have also printed several pages of pictures that we have/ will use to make stickers with my sticker machine. For Veterans Day they had a nice sheet of patriotic pics of variously shaped flag designs. The Thanksgiving turkeys are also adorable. I am thinking of printing some for place cards for thanksgiving dinner.

They keep the website content fresh and new, posting new resources for different seasons and holidays. However, in order to do this older materials are taken off the site. We didn't take the opportunity to explore all of the webquests we would have liked to in October and are now unable to as they have been removed.

The clip art images on the site are unique, the site says they are not licensed from other clip art sites. They are many different images to choose from and are available in black in white and color. These are free to Premium members with permission given to use in various ways, including blogs and non commercial websites (this information from the KBTeachers website). There are examples shown, but it is not clear to me if these examples are free to all site visitors or just samples of what is available to members. Someone more computer savvy than I maybe able to use these pictures even if they are not intended as such.

We don't seem to be doing as much paper and pencil work lately so I have not printed a lot of the worksheets, but they look exciting and attention grabbing. Many were also too easy for my children. I have used the math worksheet generators to make practice sheets for facts which are different from my drill resources. Instead of printing them I have I just had my children do them orally from the screen.

There is an abundance of History and Science resources, many with grade level labels for upper elementary and above. However, I question the accuracy of some of those levels as my 9 year old was able to complete them without mistakes. I also found this leveling issues with the Grammar activities.

I also found the titling of topics to be confusing. The worksheet generator for multiplication is called 'Multiplication Makers' and for division 'division practice' and similar differences for addition and subtraction. I understand wanting to be different and avoid repetition, but it was confusing at first. The terms 'workbook' and 'worksheet' seem to be used in a similar manner for the Social Studies and Science categories.

They also welcome feedback from their users and provide a form for that purpose. I had one occasion to ask for a specific type of material. While they didn't have what I was looking for, they responded to my inquiry in a matter of minutes with suggestions of items to look at and said they would look into developing what I was looking for.

I think this would be a good resource for a family with children of varying ages as there is no limit to how many worksheets can be generated or printed and it could eliminate purchasing several different books. The science and social studies could be used with library books on the aame topics. I have enjoyed KBTeachers so far and it is a site that I will make use of for my children.

Read what other crew members have to say on the Crews' Blog.

Disclaimer: I have received a free subscription to this site for the purpose of reviewing it and sharing my opinion about its product. I have not received any other compensation for it and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Coin Pouch Kit by Corps of ReDiscovery New TOS Review

Coin Pouch Kit
Corps of Rediscovery

www.Corps Of Rediscovery.com

5329 N Lakewood Drive
Springfield, MO 65803
417 833 6905

Prices range from $3.99 for an individual kit to $72 for a set of several related kits.
The Coin Pouch kit is currently on sale for $4.99.

One of the things many homeschoolers do which set them apart from traditional schools is lots of hands on projects. While this is fun and a change from book work for the students and Mom(or Dad) it can often challenge Mom too. Not only does she have to find a project which goes with the study, but then she also has to assemble all the supplies. I have to admit it, while my children love hands on projects I often don't feel like assembling all the supplies. So we often don't do as many things as they would like. Another frequent challenge is finding a project that appeals to boys and isn't too girly. Cost can also be a big factor in doing some projects.

A solution to this dilemma is Corps of Rediscovery, a business owned and operated by a homeschooling family. Their specialty is American History books and craft kits. They state all their craft kits are made in the USA. They have resources for studying Indians, Frontiersmen, Pioneers and Colonial time periods as well as leather working supplies. Lewis and Clark resources can also be found at Corps of ReDiscovery. The products include practical items from these periods as well as recreational items. They offer package sets of several different crafts for the same theme period as well as the crafts kits individually. If you want to experience several items from the same time period it is possible to save money by purchasing the set. Maybe you can even be lucky enough to have each child would choose a different project in the set!

Corps of ReDiscovery is a great solution to the problem of hands on activities for early American History.

When you visit their website make sure to sign up for their newsletter. I received the current issue within minutes of signing up and it even included a notice of special sale prices with the coupon code included in the newsletter.

How I Used A Corps of ReDiscovery Product

I received a Coin Pouch kit to try out. The kit included everything we needed except a pair of scissors. There was a front and back piece of leather with pre punched holes and preset snap, lacing, and easy to understand instructions. The leather is thick and sturdy.

I was very impressed with the kit. The holes were very cleanly cut and matched up perfectly and easily. I didn't have to jiggle the pieces around to get the holes to match up. The amount of lacing was also very generous, we had plenty left over.

While my daughter wanted to do this as it was a sewing project, I decided to let my 6 year old son put it together. He loved it! After helping him get the first several stitches in so that the pieces didn't slide around he was able to lace the project together. The only help he needed was to make sure the lacing didn't get twisted and he didn't pull it too tightly. As the ends of the lacing are squared, I nipped the "sewing" end into a point to make it easier for him to work with. This made lacing so much easier. Overall, he was able to complete the kit in about 45 minutes. Then I finished it by inserting the end of the lacing into previous stitches as the directions stated.

I loved having all the materials together in one kit for him to do
this. It sure simplified the process of a craft for him. This coin
pouch kit is masculine, but would also be appropriate for girls. I anticipate this coin pouch will stand up to a lot of use. If other products offered by Corps of ReDiscovery are of the same quality I would highly recommend their product line as a fun complement to studies of Early American History.

The Finished Product

Crew Members reviewed different products from the Corps of ReDiscovery so be sure to check out what others say here.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary coin pouch kit to put together to use to write this review. I have not been compensated in any other way for this review. All opinions expressed in this piece are strictly my own.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Book Collectorz New TOS Review

Book Collectorz

Collectorz also has programs to catalog music, movies, comics, games,photos, and MP3's.

Collector Standard $29.95
Collector Pro $49.95
Collector Connect $19.95 one year online subscription

Apps for Iphones and Androids of some of the cataloging programs $9.99
(Not all programs have both apps yet. The website says there are
more apps coming in the future.)

Collector Connect $19.95 a year Offers the ability to share a collection online

Scanners are also available ranging in price from $19.95- $139.95

Additionally, there is a free trial available for cataloging up to 100 books.

Package deals are available on the site.

One of the great things about homeschooling is that it is not the same for any two families. While many families may share similar traits and use the same curriculum it is almost impossible to find two families that are exactly alike. However, one trait that many homeschooling families share is the size of their book collection. The books are likely different, but there are generally a lot in their homes. The books may not all be cataloged and neatly shelved in one room, but instead scattered around the house. Thus the opportunity to forget exactly what one owns is great. Setting up a system of organization is a great idea, but is very intimidating. Either you have to find a program and hope it has the features you want or set up your own database. The latter being especially time consuming before you even think about adding books.

Now I would like to share with you a solution: Collectorz Book Collection program.

Collectorz.com Book Collectors is a downloadable computer program (for WINDOWS or MAC) designed to help catalog a home library. Collectors Connect is an additional option available for an additional fee which enables the user to publish and share a book collection online.

With Book Collectors you have all the pertinent information about a book at your fingertips. In addition to Title and Author, information for publisher, date, number of pages, type of book, genre and subject are all present. Additional screens also have space to record notes about the text itself. A filled in book entry rivals the record of many booksellers and library card catalogs.

The are several methods for entering books:
  • Automatically Enter the book title and authors name and select the proper option from the choices or enter the ISBN number and the correct information for that specific book is filled in or use a queue method.
  • Manually The same fields present in the Edit book screen for automatic entry are present, but the user has the freedom to decide which to fill out and how much information to enter.
  • Scanning It is also possible to scan the barcodes of books to input information.
The benefits to using Book Collector are numerous. You can easily check to see if you have a particular title (particularly handy if own a mobile device for which there is an app that allows you search your collection), see if you have loaned it out and to whom, and search for books that fit a specific criteria. It is also a comprehensive way to make a list of holdings for insurance purchases.

How I Used Book Collector

I really like this program. I used the automatic options to input books by typing in the ISBN number. It did seem slow, but looking at what I put in and the time spent doing so, I was able to add quite a few in a short amount of time. It seems like I have only begun to input books, but I have several hundred so far, yet there are book cases to go. I knew I had books, but don't have any idea how many. I haven't even begun to put in many of my crafting or fiction titles,and I 'm not even thinking about my husbands massive collection either!

One feature I have found so handy while inputting books was the pop up letting me know
it was already in my collection . This has been great as I have had to start and stop
several times. The program is also very easy to use to sort books by various criteria.
Although I have not entered data for all the criteria for all my books.

However, I did find that several books from a smaller religious publisher were not in the database. Also cover pictures for several other books by the same publisher were not available. I also had other books where cover photos were not available some older, but age was not a defining criteria for this. There were also several other subject/genre categories I would have appreciated having.

The user manual is clear, easy to understand and very comprehensive. The information is presented succinctly. Most of the "pages " have a screen shot of the screen that applies to the directions being shared. This is a great way to make the directions concrete and hopefully
easier to use on the data screens.

I do not care for the website too much. There is a lot of valuable information on it, but with numerous neon green buttons that all jump out at me, it is hard to focus on other information.

Overall, I think this is very helpful and I would not hesitate to recommend it. This would be especially great for a family or individual who is just putting together a personal library. At that time the task of entering the entering books would not be as daunting as it is for someone with book shelves full (not to mention stacks lying around too)! I look forward to using the specific search feature as I plan several new units.

Read what other Crew Members have to say here .

Disclaimer: I have received a free downloadable Collectorz Book organizing program to use for the purpose of this review. I have not recived any other form of compensation. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Schoolhouse Planners Student edition Review

Schoolhouse Planners Student Editions

From The Schoolhouse Store

Available in several editions:
  • Primary Planner—grades K–3 $9.95 E Book download
  • Secondary School Planner—grades 4–6 $9.95 E Book Download
  • Middle School Planner—grades 7–8 $19.00 E Book Download
  • High School Planner—grades 9–12 $29.00 E Book Download

The Parent Schoolhouse Planner is also available $39.00 E Book Download

The Planners are also available on CD and Bundle Combinations of various planner editions for differing prices.

Over the last few months I have been thinking about how I can help my 9 year old daughter become more independent in school related matters. She is a very eager reader and has varied interests, but often needs a lot of encouragement and prodding to complete assignments and activities. The Schoolhouse Planner maybe something that will help both of us in that area.

To that end, the creative people at the Old Schoolhouse have done it again. They have taken many of the wonderful elements of the Schoolhouse Planner designed for adults and put them into special editions of the planner just for students.

I was given an electronic copy of both the Primary and Secondary Planners to look at and use so that I could write this review. Many of the elements are the same in both planners.

In the students planners you will find many helpful things including:
  • Weekly and Monthly calenders
  • Charts of Latin and Greek word roots
  • Newberry and Caldecott Award winning book lists
  • Reference lists of American History and Biblical History
  • A Place for Goals
  • Alphabet Handwriting Practice Pages

Also in the student planners are daily evaluation forms, daily activities chart, chore charts, and writing ideas. In the Primary level planner, the activities and chore charts have thumbnail pictures for each activity. This is a great idea for children who are not secure readers yet.

There are also a couple short articles in each planner to coach them in writing skills as well as offer general encouragement.

Each planner also comes with a short parent file with several articles addressed to both the student and parent. These are centered on balancing school and home life and being responsible. A very good idea uses a pizza to help children look at the time they have each day, what they have to do and the free time they will have. I LOVE this concrete manner of breaking down time and helping the student plan their day. It takes a very boring task and makes it more fun. It also has the ability to help students (and parents) become more accountable for how they spend their day.

I think responsibility is a skill to be learned, not caught and many components of the Schoolhouse Planner can assist. I found the Daily Evaluation forms and library tracking forms to be especially helpful in this instance. The daily form helps students to examine in a concrete manner what they accomplished. From this analysis, they may be able to see where they can worker harder or more efficiently. I used it for more of a weekly evaluation than daily, as I am trying to encourage looking at everything accomplished in one week rather than just a day. I find that generally looking at the whole week gives more of a balanced perspective than just one day.


A wide variety of reference material all in one location
All the forms can be typed in on the computer and then printed out or they can be printed plain
Forms to guide in writing both friendly and business letters


The spaces are pretty small for young writers to write assignments in
Much of the material is similar in both levels of the planners
Both levels have just a multiplication chart, I would think an addition chart would be more useful for younger students

How I Used The Planners

While I think the Primary planner is very well designed and useful, I probably would not purchase that edition. My 1st grade son loves to cross things off when he is done, but I think he would finds the details on many of the planner pages overwhelming. He does better with a simple daily checklist. Yet, he also loves to do research and look things up so some of the lists would are useful for him. I probably would not have used this last year as I don't feel that a Kindergartener really needs a personal planner.

More of the features of the Secondary Planner are useful for my daughter, so I would make copies for him of the things that he could benefit from. After printing copies, I 3 hole punched and put in a binder.

I liked the flexibility of these planners as I can print the style of pages that work best for my children and give them what they want or need without overwhelming them with a lot of extra pages. By printing my own pages I can take out of the binder the weeks we have finished and place them in a file, thus eliminating the need to go flipping through a number of pages to find the proper week.

After using these planners I have become a big fan of customizable planners! Just as homeschooling allows me to tailor my childrens' education to each of them I can now tailor their planner to them.

Disclaimer: I was given downloadable versions of the Primary Schoolhouse Planner and Secondary Schoolhouse Planner to use and write about for the purpose of this review. I have not been compensated in any other way for this review. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key SafeKey TOS Review

PG Key Safe Key


Cost $49.99 plus shipping if purchasing directly from PG Key
This is a one time cost. There are no subscription fees or per user charges.

On the website PGKey.com there is a special limited time Free Trial Offer.

Available at: Office Max, MicroCenter, Fry's Electronics and Amazon.com

Package includes a brief Installation guide

This is a tool that can be used for computer users of all ages.

Installation Medium

PG Key SafeKey is an auto-mounting USB drive that contains filtering and monitoring software designed to run on the Windows family of operating systems by Microsoft. A strong selling point of the product is that it brings a physical USB-based security key into the mix as an extra layer of protection. It is designed for people with little or no technical expertise to insert, install, and deliver an immediate basic level of protection.

Installation Platform

Due to the concerns of accessiblity and data safety, (my children and I share a computer and my husband has a separate computer)the PG Key was tested on Windows XP running within Oracle's Virtualbox, a virtual operating environment that allows a “guest” operating system to run natively within a “host” operating system. In this case, the host was Ubuntu Linux 10.04. Installation was very easy. It was a matter of inserting the key and, when the user was set to share the USB permissions with Virtualbox, the Windows guest operating system recognized the media and launched the auto-install. In a few short minutes, the procedure was complete. (The installation and trial was done on my husbands' separate computer).

Administrator Access

The web site, http://www.pgkey.com/ suggests that the administrator set up user accounts that do not have admin privileges when allowing children to use the computer. This cannot be overstated. Running a computer with the administrator account is actually quite insecure and exposes the machine to the bad effects of viruses. Nevertheless, unlike standard practice with Macintosh OS X, Linux, and other more secure operating systems, many Windows users do not have the understanding of how to secure a computer. That, plus the security holes in so much that is Windows, is a recipe for data loss.

The web site does not spell out in detail that one has to install the key software using the admin account and then switch the child to the limited user account. Note that such an account may mean that all the bleeps and bloops in the web browser may not automatically deliver and play content. From a security standpoint, this is not a bad thing. But be prepared to hear some complaining.


The makers of PG Key stress that " the key does not replace parenting; it enables it". This is true. There are far more restrictive programs out there that filter out certain Internet addresses and even whole domains. This is called “blacklisting.” China alone produces phenomenal numbers of viruses and Trojans, which then worm into computers and set up peer-to-peer servers for kiddie porn or sniff out email and social networking contacts as a pool of new scam victims. The Internet is today's wild west.

In the administrator account, with the filtering software running, it is advisable to activate the key on the company web site, http://www.pgkey.com/. Doing so will provide a more up-to-date, secure protection. Failing to do so will mean that the number of blacklisted domains will soon be dwarfed by newer ones ready to deal out nasty stuff, whether pornography or viruses.

The makers of PG Key tried to strike a middle ground between protection and usability. By default, however, this means that a number of sites with pornography are not filtered. Just by searching for sites with suggestive names, one can pull up some images within minutes after installation.

Searching for medical names of body parts yielded a broad number of sites, from YouTube to Wikipedia to other sources, that will show normal reproductive anatomy, morbidity (various diseases of the genitalia) that can be quite shocking for children, male and female anatomy (as a medical example) and so on. If someone has the intent, that person can quickly find a sort of salacious lewdness that is not the “run of the mill” trash site (whose language probably contributed to its being found, tagged, and blacklisted).

Here is where the viewing software comes into play. I felt that the text log reader was superior to the picture log because the snapshot rate allows a “surgical” targeting of a site with questionable content without pulling up more than a frame or two. If you increase the snapshot rate, however, you could theoretically fill up your disk, unless controls in the program prevent that. The text log, however, tells all. Reading logs may be an acquired skill, but it is a handy one.

Security Hole

I did, however, find a security exploit in the default key installation (without activation) when using the default user account with admin privileges. When you turn on the log viewer, the Internet filtering stops. One would think that viewing a log file would not require the logging file to release the access lock on the file. Nevertheless, if the parent does not have the child use a user account with less privileges to install and run software, that child can quickly work around the key.

Simply put, go to the log viewer and turn it on. Then use IE to go to any site you want. Sites that were blocked before I started the log viewer were not blocked anymore.

True, some of this behavior might also be the result of testing in a virtual environment. Nevertheless, one can create a far more secure environment on a Mac or Linux computer using various tech-heavy tools. If one must use Windows, as many Internet sites are written for it, then PG Key does add an extra layer of security. It also does a fairly decent job at the KISS principle.


PG Key does what it says and it is a tool, not complete protection. For someone who is just not tech savvy, PG Key brings some level of protection and monitoring. Nevertheless, for anyone with a fairly modest set of tech skills and your administrator password, PG Key can be circumvented in some cases and in others it just does not protect kids from some fairly graphic content. PG Key Safe Key has a fairly broad set of domain names that it prohibits, yet there are surprising gaps in that coverage.

PG Key does, however, have the potential to be quite effective. Part of its marketing has almost the feeling of “set it and forget it.” That does not best capture the reality of using PG Key . The reality is that, if your child uses the computer every day, you need to view the logs and update the lists every day. This is about work.

When PGKey is activated on an account if it's just removed then all computer access will be denied. So in reality it boils down to this, use the computer with the PGKey monitoring or don't use the computer at all.

It would be better to market PG Key as an easy way to begin good security practices with one's computers. The fact remains that computers and even smart phones, not to mention cars and other devices, are targets for malicious people and programs. Welcome to the brave new world. You either have to start knowing the environment or you will be left behind. The technology, when used right and when one follows all the small print on the web site, has some beneficial potential. But if someone tries to “set it and forget it,” their security attempts may soon be thwarted.

Nevertheless, PG Key is very well suited for providing children a safer environment on the Internet, but it does require some tech skills on the part of the parent to maximize the benefits.

I have chosen to not run PG Key currently due to sharing a computer with my children and the age and speed of the computer running without it. I personally monitor their activity right now, but will likely install it as they get older if I have a faster machine on which to use it.

Read what other crew members had to say about PG Key here.

Disclaimer: I received a free PG Key to use in order to write this review. I have not received any other form of compensation for this review. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Oh, What a poor Blog writer I am. I just realized earlier today that I haven't written for several days. I am still around, just occupied with other things. I haven't had any reviews to post, so I just hadn't given my blog much thought.

Well, part of my delay was also waiting for progress in what I was going to share with you. But, nothing has happened. At least 3 weeks ago my children found a butterfly chrysalis hanging on our shed. They were so excited to see it , as we were just finishing up a unit on Insects and Butterflies. I just said "Oh, that's nice". Not really believing them as I was busy with something else at the moment they told me. In the back of my mind I also figured they were mistaking it for something else. Well, when the dragged me out to look several days later, I was astonished to see that it actually was a chrysalis, what looks to be a Monarch butterfly. So I excitedly got out my camera and took several pictures hoping that over the next days we could watch the butterfly come out.

My 6 year old would excitedly get dressed each morning so he could run out side and check on "My Chrysalis". Sadly, nothing has happened. It is still hanging on the shed the same as it was when I first saw it on the 11th. Even though we have not had a frost I fear that the low temperatures over night have gotten to it. From our research we have learned it is long past time for butterflies to have left our area in the Midwest. We can't even figure out why a monarch chrysalis would be here to begin with.

So we are hugely disappointed. What we can see through the chrysalis is beautiful. A vibrant orange set against dark black with silver along the edge. Oh, how we would have loved to see those wings unfurled and ready to take flight.

I still have the pictures, but unfortunately I was not able to get the sharp detail that is visible in person. My idea was to take a series of pictures and post them to share what happened, but sadly, nothing has happened.

Even though we didn't get to see what happens at the end of this stage, it was still wonderful to see all that we have. Now, I wonder how long it will be hanging around on the shed!

Friday, October 15, 2010


I don't write here as often as I should, some of it is not really being sure what to what and some of it is just plain laziness! But since I learned about the Million Minute Challenge for counting minutes playing games, I have been writing about games we have played. Two of the newest ones we have tried are Food Fight and Math Mart.

This isn't a formal review, just a couple new games we found and have tried.

Food Fight is a game for learning about equivalent fractions, percentages, and decimals. We tried it today, but found it pretty challenging as my 9 year old has a fairly decent grasp of those subjects, but my 6 year old just gets something things with fractions. I think I will have to come up with some other way to use the cards and play a game or we will just have to wait a bit to use it.

Now, Math Mart is something they can both do. It is a collection of approximately 200 cards with math story problems in all 4 major operations as well as fractions, graphs, and time and money. Each card is labeled with an amount of money (.25, .50 and $1). These money amounts are used to decide who wins the game. When someone answers the math problem correctly they get to keep the card. At the end of play the value of the cards each player has is totaled up and the highest total wins. This was something that they both could play together and were fairly well matched. If fact, my 6 year old won by .75 ! This game was enjoyed much more than food fight.

Both Food Fight and Math Mart are produced by Edupress and I purchased them at the local teacher store.

Hopefully, I can post again in a couple days. I have something really neat to share with all of you, but I need to get the pics onto my computer first. Just let me say, it was a big surprise to us and very interesting to keep watching.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Read Write Type New TOS review

Read Write Type

The Home Edition $79
Includes 2 Cd ROM's: Read Write Type and Spaceship challenge

Online Edition Begins at $35 for one user. Various costs for additional users

Story books and a paper practice keyboard can be downloaded from the site.

Read Write Type is for grades K-3. Also for ESL students. Could be used by older children, but they might find the cartoon like characters too juvenile.

Also available from Talking Fingers: WORDY QWERTY

Also a computer product that continues where RWT leaves off. It helps students to improve their spelling skills, especially with confusing or "don't follow the rules" words. This has an age level of 7-9 years or 2 -4 grades. There are 20 lessons and songs.
CD $35 Online beginning at $25
READ WRITE TYPE and WORDY QWERTY are available in a bundle for $99

Check the Talking Fingers website to make sure the products will work with your Operating System before purchasing.

I remember the first time I ever had the opportunity to use a computer as a child . I was in 5th grade. It sat on a table height rolling cart and rotated among classrooms so each room had it for one week. What a treat to use the computer. I have memories of playing Oregon Trail in the old DOS format.

Fast forward a few years (I am not telling how many :) )

Now, who can think about life without a computer. It is the rare home that doesn't have at least one and they are all over in schools. From what I am told computer class is a weekly fixture on the schedule for children of all grades. Computers have become such a presence in our lives it is important to teach our children how to use them well and appropriately. The educational uses of computers and the internet are virtually (no pun intended) unlimited. With computers being an overwhelming presence in our lives it has become important to teach our children to use them, even at an early age, and help them develop the skills they will need to use them productively. The need to know how to type fluently is certainly important. But how can we ever fit something else into our already full to over flowing schedule?

What if typing could be learned at the same time as other skills or subjects? Can typing instruction and practice be incorporated in Language Arts as it all deals with words?

Let me introduce Read Write and Type - an interactive program from Talking Fingers.

As the Talking Fingers website says the idea behind Read Write and Type is "Text is speech made Visible". We talk with our mouths, use our fingers to represent those words on paper. When children realize that they can write the sounds they are speaking they can use the alphabet to write any word they can say. Now their fingers can talk.

Thus a whole new world of communication is opened up to the student.

Read Write and Type has put phonics, spelling, reading, and typing together in a program called Talking Fingers. Children play an engaging game where they must help Lefty and Rightway, talking cartoon hands, to outwit Vexor, the villain and let the Storytellers tell their stories. Each letter has its own character, with their own special story and many words that begin with that letter. Lefty and Rightway teach the child proper finger placement on the keyboard throughout the program. Each hand is given a color and the keyboard on the screen is divided to show which hand is on each half of the keyboard. As each character, letter on the keyboard is introduced, the hands show the student which finger is supposed to stretch or reach to type that particular letter. Hopefully, this will help children learn proper typing position and save them from a life of hunt and peck. Read Write and Type smoothly blends fun and learning into one irresistible activity.

While they are saving the letters, children learn the sounds the letters make, pick out pictures that have the target sound at the beginning, middle, or end and practice typing the letter. In more advanced levels, children also type simple stories after hearing them, practice spelling words, and even write their own original emails. (Email stays with in the Read Write Type system).

The format of the lessons is very similar from level to level, but complexity of spelling and sentences increases as the student progresses. In more difficult levels the children also learn how the letters form diagraphs. The sentences and paragraphs they are asked to type increase in length.

The Talking Fingers website has a resource section with many downloadable pdfs to make the RWT experience even better. (Just click on the downloads oval). Some of the resources available are a scope and sequence so off line activities can be coordinated with Read Write Type, story books featuring the characters, as well a paper keyboard for practice off the computer. There are many more resources available.

How I Used Talking Fingers

My 6 year old First Grader has learned with Talking Fingers online over the last few weeks. He can't wait until he is allowed to play each day. He has loved every minute of the time he has spent learning with Read Write and Type. He has enjoyed it so much that he is almost finished with the program. We did not use the printable story books as he is quite a strong reader and he was not interested in them. They are very cute, however. I sat with him while he did the first 3 levels, but left him to use the remaining program more independently. I would occasionally look over his shoulder and remind him to keep his fingers in the proper position as needed.

He says "I like everything about it, it is very fun. It is very educational. I can't resist playing it every day". He also loved the certificates at the end of each level.

There is the option to change the passing level from the default of 70%, which I changed shortly after he started playing. He does very well with reading, so I wanted to make it challenging for him with spelling and phonics. However, it appears that 100% (which I had set the pass level to) only needs to be achieved in one of the 3 criteria before moving on to the next level. I am still investigating how this works. I would find this feature more productive if it could be set for each criteria or if the passing level applied to the average of all the criteria at each level.

I really like how Read Write and Type seamlessly merges phonics,spelling, reading and typing in one engaging program that keeps the users interest. After such a positive experience with Read Write and Type I am going to consider Wordy Qwerty to continue keyboarding practice for my children.

Read what other Crew Members have to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given free access to the online version of this program to use and assist me in writing this review. All opinions and thoughts expressed here are solely my own. I have not received any other compensation for this review.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Games, Games, Games

A while back I decided I was going to write about some of the board games my family enjoys playing. I wrote about a couple, but then had other more pressing things to take care of and didn't get back to writing. During the break I heard about the Million Minute Challenge, which is a promotion to encourage playing board games with family and friends. I signed up for it and we continued to play. You can read about the Million Minute Challenge here. http://www.millionminute.com/

Yesterday I logged my minutes for the first time and was pleasantly surprised to figure out my family had played games for over 600 minutes! I was shocked, I didn't realize it was that much time. How time flies when you are having fun. The Challenge runs through December, so we'll see how many we get by the close of the promotion.

So back to our favorite games, I asked my 6 year old for his favorite games, these are some he mentioned:

Mouse Trap

Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader ?
Busy Busy Builder

Professor Noggin Trivia Games
Don't Break the Ice
Sorry and Sorry Sliders
Pyramath See review for this game here on my blog

He also likes Money Bags and Made for Trade which I wrote about before.

Other favorites are:

Postcards across America
You travel Cross Country collecting pictures of landmarks from all 50 states and try to visit more places before your opponents. The catches being you can only travel so far in each turn and you can get sent back.

Spelling Bee
Spell simple words by collecting tiles. However, it can take a long time to get anywhere.

Cooking up Sentences
Take your inner Chef to English class. Each player chooses a recipe card for a baked good, but insted of listing food ingredients it gives you parts of speech. Words are placed on tiles color- coded for each part of speech and each type is placed in a different pile. While traveling around the board you have to determine if a word you choose matches the part of speech you landed on in order to keep the tile. The challenge is to amass all the different "ingredients" you need without an opponent taking any of your tiles and then somehow putting them into a sentence making sure you use all the parts of speech in your recipe. It doesn't have to make sense, but just be grammatically correct. Sounds easy enough, but it is challenging at times.

Well, this is probably enough for now. I will have to write again with some of my daughter's favorite games.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vocabulary Cartoons Homeschool Crew Review

Vocabulary Cartoons

3rd-6th Grade

Could also be used for older and younger students
depending on reading and interest levels.

Paperback Book $12.95

New Monic Books
P.O. Box 511314
Punta Gorda, Fl 33951


Also available from New Monic Books:
Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power $12.95
Vocabulary Cartoons II SAT Word Power $12.95
These are also available as Reproducible Masters, transparencies, and CD for varying prices

Mnemonic Vocabulary Rhymes $11.95
Coffin's Patch (a novel with vocabulary lessons) $11.95
Unofficial SAT Word Search Dictionary $9.95

Picture Speller for Young Writers $19.95

How can students learn words and their meanings? The traditional method has been worksheets and dictionary drill. Most students would say BORING! Now there is a different way. Cartoons!

What????? Cartoons are educational??

Yes, that is right. Cartoons can actually teach vocabulary and make it fun and long lasting in the process. The Burchers, the authors of Vocabulary Cartoons have taken two words; one that may not be familiar to elementary students and pairing it with a like sounding word and then illustrating both words in one picture to define the first word. Thus they have a mnemonic.

According to the introduction in Vocabulary Cartoons, rhyming mnemonics are a type of word association which employs a word you want to know with a word you already know. We already use mnemonics to teach other things, like to remember when Columbus sailed. So it seemed like a natural extension to use the same method for learning vocabulary. Vocabulary Cartoons takes the learning one step further and adds a picture.

Vocabulary Cartoons is a collection of 210 words and cartoons divided into 21 sections with a brief review at the end of each section. Each entry has the vocabulary word highlighted at the top with pronunciation and a brief dictionary like definition. Then there is a word that the entry sounds like. Next, smack dab in the middle of the page, is the cartoon. Then there is a caption for the picture that uses both of the words. Rounding out each page are several example sentences that use the vocabulary word in the proper context.

The New Monic Books website and back cover copy offer many glowing testimonials regarding how the book has been used by teachers and the extremely positive results they have experienced. Now the folks at New Monic wish to share the same great product with homeschooling families. Most homeschoolers are great at taking a product and tweaking it for their needs, but this may be a product that needs very little of that tweaking to make it a great addition to home education.

Vocabulary Cartoons would be a good resource for families with children of various learning styles as it presents the information in several different ways. Visual learners would benefit from the detailed pictures and auditory learners would most likely make a connection with the "sounds like" word. Those who like to read are going to find a lot of new, fun information.

How I used Vocabulary Cartoons

I read parts of Vocabulary Cartoons together with my children and worked through several of the quizzes a few days after going through a section. I could tell they had learned new words and their meanings just from the brief time we spent with it as they could easily complete the reviews. Even my 6 year old picked up new words and meanings that he would later use properly in conversation. They also recognize the words from Vocabulary Cartoons when we run across them in other studies and can define them as well as describe the picture in the book. My daughter pointed out that several of the 'sounds like' words didn't really sound alike to her. I also left the book lying around so they could peruse it when they wanted.

I also like this book as a means to learn/teach new words that may not be found in academic texts or in literature. In addition, because each page is a different word, Vocabulary Cartoons can be read and studied for a long time or picked up for just a few moments and still be enriching.

I really liked this book and found it very useful. There is a good mix of common and uncommon words at different levels, so it will be helpful for my family for a long time. It has some difficult to explain or define words, such as abduct. My children were familiar with the word and definition due to a number of abductions in the area we live, so the definition and picture helped to explain it in a less frightening way and giving them another picture for the concept. Now, to them the word also means a man taking away a pair of ducks.

Another word defined is shackle. When we visited the History Museum recently, my 6 year old found shackles in one of the displays and pointed out that he learned the word in Vocabulary Cartoons and then went on to describe what they were.

We also used it like a dictionary several times and were pleasantly surprised to find the word we were looking for in Vocabulary Cartoons. One thing which would make Vocabulary Cartoons even better would be having the 'sounds like' words also indexed.

Read what other Crew members had to say about Vocabulary Cartoons http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/783111/

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of Vocabulary Cartoons to use with my family for the purpose of writing this review. I have not received any other compensation. The opinions expressed here are totally my own.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Salem Ridge Press

Salem Ridge Press Review

Salem Ridge Press LLC
4263 Salem Drive
Emmaus, PA 18049

Also contact via email on their site.


Soft Cover books $10.95 - $12.95
Hard Cover Books $20.95 -$28.95

Some books are also available in bundles at savings over the individual titles.

They sell their books through several different retail outlets also with a complete listing of these retailers at their website.

Salem Ridge Press is a company dedicated to reprinting classic stories for a new generation of readers. Salem Ridge Press was started by a homeschool graduate, Daniel Mills, who firmly believes that history is an essential subject for all to learn and be familiar with. This belief also includes church history. He believes that all of history; both the church history and secular history is linked, and the church has influenced all of history. Daniel believes studying historical fiction will aid a person in grasping history and serve as a bridge to study history from more in depth classic works. He also also written a brief article describing some of the benefits of good books in many subject levels.

They have books available for the whole family from beginning readers to Adults. According their their website, the stories they are reprinting are from the 1800's and early 1900's. These stories are very non controversial, there isn't any PDA, although the characters do really care about each other. While war was a part of one story we reviewed, there was an absence of gore. They subtly teach character as well as history.

As these stories were written a long time ago, there is vocabulary that is no longer in common use today or words that have changed meanings. To assist the reader in these areas, brief definitions have been inserted at the bottom of the page where the word first appears.

The topics are also very diverse: Just for fun stories, American history, World history and Church history, Adventure and several Biographies. With all the choices available it could be hard to find what you are looking for but Daniel has categorized them in several ways; topic, time period, age and author. So if you are looking for a story to complement a specific historical period it is easy to see if Salem Ridge Press can help you out. If you have read one of their books and would like to find more of the same author, that search is very easy also. The tough part may just be staying with in your Book Budget!

See the complete listing of books here: http://salemridgepress.com/listing.html

The company website is very appealing and easy to navigate. The first picture I saw when visiting their website is a roaring fire and a row of classic books. I just wanted to curl up in a comfortable chair with a blanket and a warm drink and read long into the night. The silhouettes in their logo also evoke feelings of days gone by. Main areas are listed in a sidebar and it is very clear where there are links within the text. It is a very clean, easy website to navigate and find just the right book.

How I Used The Books In My Homeschool

We read the stories that I was given for read alouds. My children listened to them and asked questions about them. They picked up on the references to Luther in Soldier Fritz due to our previous study of Luther and found it interesting to see how Luther's work made a difference in the lives of people at that time.

My son and daughter enjoyed Mary Ann-Her Visit for totally different reasons. My son liked the parts about visiting the farm and my daughter liked the story. However, I do not think this is a book she would have chosen to read on her own as the character is far younger (Mary Ann is 5), but the writing is more challenging than many young girls closer to the characters age could handle. It is definitely not an easy reader book. (Salem Ridge Press labels it for Younger Readers).

We also read American Twins of the Revolution. This was an engaging book, however there was a fair amount of dialect in the speech in the text. This was used by the servant and some people may find it not to their liking. Personally, I find this hard to read out loud properly and make it sound good.

All of this being said, I do have to admit that these are not among my favorite genre of books, but in the end that would not keep me from recommending Salem Ridge Press to others who may be looking for good quality materials like they produce.

Read what other Homeschool Crew members have to say here http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/783028/ .

Disclaimer: I was given a print book and two ebook copies of publications to read for the purpose of this review. I have not received any other compensation in exchange for this review and all opinions expressed here are solely my own.