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.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pyramath Review

Pyramath Card Game
by iseecards

Pyramath $6.95
Grades Kindergarten and Up

Also available from iseecards:

IseeCards a Spanish/English travel card game $6.95
Fractazmic a fractions game................. $6.95
Primebomb prime numbers..................... $6.95

There are various bundle sets of cards available.

What do playing cards and math facts have in common? Can learning math facts actually be fun? Is it possible to play a card game and learn at the same time?

The answer to all these questions and more is answered by a simple deck of 56 cards that goes by the name of PYRAMATH. Pyramath is simply a card game played by creating a pyramid shape of playing cards. However, to be able to play a card you must have a card that solves a math problem created by the two cards above it. You may use any of the basic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The challenge comes in having the right card at the right time. No two rounds of the game are the same as you start with a row of 5 or 7 cards and then each player builds from their side with the goal being to build your pyramid to a point of one card in front of you before your opponent finishes theirs.

The cards have large numerals facing both directions in the center and the name of the number in English, Spanish, Chinese, Roman, and Arabic as a border. A gentle, subtle introduction to numbers around the world.

How I Used Pyramath

We always kept the Pyramath deck handy and often played a round for a break in between other subjects to just clear the mind. My 6 and 9 year olds often played together; the 6 year old using addition and subtraction, the 9 year old using all the operations. I would also help the younger one if he needed it to play a particular card.

My kids loved the game and want to play it frequently. Their one suggestion is to add a "Wild Card" that could be used in place of any number.

Warning: Pyramath is highly addictive! Play only when you have a lot of time.

I feel a purchase of Fractaxmic and Primebomb will probably occur.

See what other crew members have to say about Pyramath here http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/ .

Disclaimer: I received a set of Pyramath cards to use in doing this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All opinions included above are solely my own.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Games My Family Enjoys

The other day my children asked if we could play several games, so since we really hadn't done it in a while I thought, Why Not? So, "What to play first?" I don't remember what we did play first that day, but that gave me an idea for a post. Listing some of our favorite games.

  • Made For Trade
The players shop in a colonial town and must have 4 objects and several coins to win the game. But, like any good game you face obstacles along the way, such as taxes or another player taking something you've purchased or simply not enough money to buy anything. It is a fun twist on shopping that introduces the player to items, occupations, and hazards of Colonial life.

  • Money Bags
Shake the die to see how far you move and how much of an allowance you can earn, then spin the spinner to see what denomination of coins you can't use to make up the amount you earn or even if it has to go to the Money Bag for the next lucky player who lands on a Money Bags space. (This is the pot). A fun way to learn coin values.

There are other games that we enjoy, but they will need to wait for another post. I want to get this up as I have been delinquent in doing so. I commented on another blog a week ago that I was going to write this post as well as sign up for the Million Minute Challenge. I did sign up for the Challenge, but just didn't get a post made. We have had a lot of things happening in our house and computer time has been less important.

I will post some of our other games at another time.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Americas Math Teacher

TOS Review

America's Math Teacher

America's Math teacher is an online Math Tutor program for 4th grade math thru Algebra. The site could also be used for lower grades if the student is advanced in math. The speed wheel on the site may also be able to be used for younger children.

$195 a year for a family subscription
Under the pricing tab there is a place to look at some of the videos and printed work for free. One link enables you to access it, in another place the link requires registration with a code.

Mr. Fisher also has a Print/ DVD Math curriculum entitled Math Essentials. Information about this program can be found at : http://www.mathessentials.net/

The America's Math Teacher Program

Many people feel that America's schools are not doing the same job educating our children today as they have in the past. This seems to be true for many subjects, but especially math. While most homeschoolers are trying to provide a better education for their children, they may also share the same concerns regarding math instruction. Maybe they don't feel comfortable teaching math, they have come to an impasse with their student, or just haven't found a curriculum they are happy with.

Enter Rick Fisher, America's Math Teacher. Rick is a teacher in California schools who saw that students were not mastering basic math concepts. Because of this they were also struggling with algebra and higher level math as well as other subjects. He also shares statistics which show a student with a solid math background is more likely to stay in school. To help his students he developed the Math Essentials curriculum and he has now brought that information and plan to http://americasmathteacher.com/

The website has video tutorials of Mr. Fisher clearly explaining the concepts and in several cases their applicability to real life, written exercises that can be printed out, and online tests. The website is very clear and easy to navigate, there aren't a lot of extra features to make it difficult to find what you want. There is also a resource center with tables and charts as well as a list of National standards. However, not everything on the site has worked on a consistent basis.

A fun feature are the speed drills for addition,
subtraction,and multiplication. Both my 6 and 9 year old have enjoyed the speed wheel drills. However, the subtraction one is confusing at first, since sometimes it requires negative numbers
for answers.

This is a sample of the speed drill.

  • This site is very complete. All the basic math topics are covered.
  • The appearance of the site is very clean and easily navigable.
  • The video tutorials are short and to the point, Rick demonstrates a problem while encouraging the student to work along with him. Often giving gentle reminders, such as keep your numbers in the proper column.
  • The videos and written work for a lesson do not take a long time to accomplish each day, generally both could be completed in less than 45 minutes.
  • This program would require very little teacher preparation, mainly to print and correct the worksheets.


  • The evaluation centers do not consistently accept completed assessments.
  • Correct answers are often marked as wrong or the tests time out after just a few minutes.
  • The site often logs the user out in the middle of an exercise.
  • It is not easily clear which written exercises go with which tutorial.

How I used America's Math Teacher in my Homeschool

My 4th grade student watched several of the video tutorials in the Basic Math section. I was able to see improvement in her math skills and remembered several of the special points Mr Fisher made in his tutorials. She particularly liked the example of loaning and paying back money to illustrate negative numbers. I am disappointed that the evaluations were not working because I was not able to have her take them to see exactly where see needed to focus. She loved the speed drills. My first grader also enjoyed them. The speed drills are a lot more fun than flashcards and really did increase their speed with facts.

I also watched several of the Pre-Algebra and Algebra videos myself and found them to be as straight forward and instructive as the Basic math tutorials.

I really like the format of America's Math Teacher and would consider using it in a year or two when both of my students can use it. I would recommend it to friends, except for the technical issues. I am sure they will get the technical issues worked out as Mr. Fisher really believes in his product and truly wants to help students succeed in math.

See what other Homeschool Crew members are saying about America's Math teacher here: http://homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew/

Disclaimer: I was given a free limited timed subscription to America's Math Teacher in order to use the resources it contains and review the contents. I have not received any other compensation for writing this review and all opinions expressed in this review are solely mine.