Monday, January 31, 2011

Times Alive by City Creek Press New TOS Reiew

Times Alive Software Download
City Creek Press
City Creek Press, Inc. 
PO Box 8415

Minneapolis, MN 55408
P- 800-585-6059

Download Program   $44.95
CD Rom    $48.95

City Creek Press also has companion items - Times Tables the Fun Way - books, worksheets, flashcards, cd's, posters and related Teachers materials to enhance and compliment Times Tales.

An addition program utilizing a similiar methodology is available.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I reviewed and used the download version of Times Tales, but a CD-Rom is also available.

In my experience with teaching my children math one of the most difficult things has been memorizing facts.  I strongly believe that having all the facts memorized is vital both to learning math as well as everyday life.  There are so many instances when knowing math facts quickly is helpful.  But the drill and repeated study of facts is quite frankly boring!!  It also takes time and my kids do not like to spend the time on something they don't like.

Times Alive by City Creek Press has taken something dull like memorizing the times tables and put them to mini stories and songs. Each story features the two multiples and products in a story to aid in associating them together. There are a total of 18 lessons in the Times Alive program.  Each lesson has a movie, song, and a quiz.  Some lessons also have a painting activity where the user can color a scene from the ditties online.   Each of these features is identified in the lesson outline by a unique icon. All of these activities (and the tests) have circles which the computer checks or marks upon completion.

The lessons have the same graphics for both the movie and song, but the words are different.  They are both captioned.  Thus it gives two mnemonics for remembering a fact. The facts are immediately reinforced as the student needs to type the factors and the product at the conclusion of the song.

 Here is a sample from Times Alive:

Other samples of the songs can be found on their YouTube channel.

Times Alive begins with a  test to help the child determine what they know.  During the course of the lessons there are periodic tests. The student is given a few problems to answer and they received a score showing the number they answered correctly and their time.  It also gives a percentage for the number correct. Students also have the opportunity to show what they have learned by selecting the picture from the story which answers the multiplication question correctly.

Progress reports can be printed so there is a hard copy report of a students work.  Tests can also be printed so they can be taken with paper and pencil also.


My 9 year old daughter used Times Alive program to help her learn the multiplication facts.  She has been working on them for a while, but has struggled with learning the higher ones.  She also has to stop and think about many of them.  The ditties and stories have helped her to learn some facts, but she has not increased her speed very much yet. I think with continued practice her speed will increase.  I think Times Alive has really appealed to her as she enjoys stories and music.  She  easily picks up information which has music attached.  She really likes the 8x6 and 8x8 songs.  The painting activities also appeal to her artistic interests.

My 6 year old son also used Times Alive a little, but overall was not interested in it.  I am not sure what doesn't appeal to him, but he is learning multiplication facts apart from this program. 

I really like how the whole program is laid out for the student.  They are able to see at a glance how much they have accomplished and what they have left to do. I would have found this to be a helpful feature for organizing a plan of introducing multiplication to my student.  When I formally work with multiplication with my son, I may follow this order and see if he becomes more interested at that time.

One drawback I found to the program is that the facts are not presented in order. The first lessons present easier facts so that the user can achieve a sense of accomplishment shortly after beginning the program.  I understand the reasoning and agree with it.  However, during the course of the program the facts presented don't seem to follow a order which builds on each other.

We have really enjoyed this program.  The songs are certainly catchy and easy to remember. I would definitely recommend Times Alive to someone teaching multiplication to a student who is interested in music, art, or short stories.  Times Alive beautifully integrates artistic pursuits and a fundamental math concept.  I wish I had had Times Alive when I learned multiplication.

Read what other Crew Members have to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given a free download copy of Times Alive for my use to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Welcome to my Blog

Hello, I am glad you have come to visit my blog from the Blizzard Bloghop.  The Blizzard Bloghop is hosted by Ann Marie at  Household 6 Diva.  

While I am not in the middle of a blizzard yet, from the looks of the weather forecast it won't be long before things are looking quite white here again in my area of the Midwestern United States.  So I look forward to hopping around and seeing what other bloggers do.

I am a homeschooling Mom of two who has just taken up blogging within the last year. I need to learn more of this art form. The name of my blog is a play on my middle name 'Joy' and I started it to record the activities of our homeschool.  While I may occasionally write something else, the majority of my reflections have to do with our homeschool adventures. 

So far most of my blog posts have been reviews for  The Old Schoolhouse magazine Homeschool Crew.  I would like to blog about other topics also, but haven't found the ideas.  I guess I have Bloggers Block (is there such a thing)?  My other blog goal is to make my posts more visually exciting. 

Welcome, take a look around and read a little about what we have done in our homeschool.  Maybe also discover a new product or two! Don't forget to check out the whole list of blogs in the Blizzard Bloghop.

Fun Science

What do you get when you combine a stage,simple machines, and common household items?  A laugh outloud, engaging science program that leaves the audience asking where the time went and begging for more!

That is exactly what we had today when we attended a performance/ production by Doktor Kaboom.  Doktor Kaboom is a dad who has taken his passion for science, children, and encouragement and turned it into a career.  He has taken the scientific method and made it less intimidating for children. He is from Germany and so while he is proficient with English it is not his first language and he enjoys sharing bits of German with his audiences.  We were instructed that for the show we not allowed to say yes in response to his questions, but Jah! or Nein!  To teach the kids this he had a fun interactive game and sure enough by the end of the program all the kids had remembered to say Jah!

One of the highlights of the performance was the explanation of a catapult and a highly entertaining demonstration of its use.  His "theory" is that it was not a weapon of war, but instead a means for the nobility to feed the peasants in an efficient manner. (He also explained the defense use of a catapult). Then using a student volunteer from the audience he demonstrated what the catapult can do while encouraging his volunteer to catch the bananas that he hurled around.  This was a challenge for the volunteer while providing laughs for the audience, so after every few attempts the "Dr" paused to make adjustments to his process.  Thereby demonstrating that often the point of an experiment is not to get the "right" answer, but to learn from the process of trial and error. 

He also demonstrated several other scientific principles in hilarious, attention grabbing ways.

Doktor Kaboom made sure to offer encouragement to the audience, but not in a sappy artificial way.  He strongly encouraged doing ones best in everything and believing that you can do it and are competent.  He encouraged the children to make eye contact and speak clearly about who they are and what they can do when asked  about themselves.

I was also impressed by his generous references to parents and their importance to the children.  Unfortunately too often the dominant message is parents aren't as important for a child as other non related adults.

Like most presentations or performances we could not take pictures of the stage or event, but if you would like to get a visual sense of our experience you can check out Doktor Kaboom's website.  One of the rotating scenes on his homepage is the 'banana catapult'.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ten Marks New TOS Review

TenMarks is headquartered just outside Boston, Massachusetts.
38 Glen Avenue
Newton MA 02459
$10 a month
$49 for 6 months
$89 for 12 months

Ten Marks is an online math curriculum.  The program utilizes online "worksheets" for practice and short videos to teach the concepts.  There are also tests generated as well as opportunities for additional practice. 
They offer courses for 3rd grade through high school. There is a set curriculum for each grade level, but topical order can be rearranged.

The work is presented in the form of 10 question worksheets with multiple choice answers.  The worksheets are assigned to the student at the rate of 4 per week, but when the assigned 4 are completed there is an option to "Fast track" or have more worksheets at that time.  It is possible to pause the program so that no new worksheets are generated for a period of time.  I found this helpful as we reviewed the program during the holidays.

Each worksheet shows up on the students page when they log in and lists a due date as well as a link to the video(s) for the concept.  The students are presented with one question and multiple choice answers at a time.  They also have a link to watch the video on the question screen as well as up to 3 hints are available for each question.  However, as the hints are used their concept strength decreases.  If a student does not complete a worksheet with enough correct answers a new worksheet on the same topic is generated.  Upon completing a worksheet it is submitted for grading.  This is happens immediately, there is no waiting for answers to be sent back.  Incorrect answers can be corrected and resubmitted. 

There is also the opportunity for more practice on each of the topics.  The practice format is identical to the worksheet however, there are more questions for each practice.  Grading for these is the same as the worksheets.  Tests are also the same format as the worksheets and practice, except there are 20 questions and they are timed for a half hour. 

After a set number of worksheets are completed there are games in the reward center which are unlocked and the student is allowed to play.  There are a total of 4 different games.  Some of the games require using math skills to play, however one of the games is not overly math related.  Also in the reward center are certificates which are awarded upon completing a concept and can be printed.  There is also an option for the parent to set up their own rewards for different milestones.  I did not do this.

Also on the students homepage are outline figures which are colored in as the student completes worksheets for the various topics.  

Each account also has a parent log in to view all students that parent has accounts for at the same time.  Here the parent can see what has been studied, number of correct answers and score percentages for everything completed.  It is also possible to rearrange the order in which topics are presented. 

  • Ten Marks offers a thorough on line math curriculum.  I found this helpful for my son who is eager to do just about anything on the computer. 
  • Some of the concepts taught are more challenging than often found in textbooks at that grade level.
  • Reward games are offered frequently.  This helped keep my children interested in completing the worksheets. While they can still play the games,their interest waned after all the games were unlocked.

  • It is a multiple choice format.  My daughter who does not like math could just pick an answer that sounded right.  She didn't have to put much effort into learning.  
  • Some of the video tutorials are difficult to understand.  The teachers speech patterns are not always very clear. The instructors right notes to illustrate their points, but some of this is difficult to read because it is small or not very neat.
  • The technical aspect of the grading process often experiences glitches.
  • Some of the problems in the Math Man game are extremely difficult for the 3rd grade level

You can see samples of Ten Marks:

This link will allow you to preview the practice portion of Ten Marks 

This link will  allow you to try out the premium program
Ten Marks also has several videos on their site which explain the program as well.

How We Used Ten Marks

My 6 year old son used the 3rd grade level course   He was able to use it with help to stay on task, but very little help otherwise. He thoroughly enjoyed the program and I can tell he learned from it as he talked about angles and graphs appropriately in daily life.  He also wrote  some of his own worksheets after completing Ten Marks worksheets.  He used the same format they did and wrote the correct answers.  He didn't understand the concept of writing wrong answers to choose from though.  He loved to keep track of his progress by watching the outline figures being filled as he completed worksheets. He also enjoyed playing the reward games, so much so that I had to limit how many games he could play a day.

My 9 year old daughter also used Ten Marks at the 4th grade level.  She is not very fond of math, but used it fairly willingly.  I am not sure how much she really learned as  she soon figured out how to guess at an answer by eliminating those that definitely weren't right.  I learned she needs to fill in an answer on her own, not have multiple choice.  She also picked up skills and knowledge of several concepts which were new and has been trying to apply them to life.

I found Ten Marks an excellent way for both of my children to practice mental math.  I didn't tell them they couldn't use paper and pencil to figure out their answers, yet neither of them did so.

Ten Marks also sends weekly emails to remind the parent there are worksheets to be completed.  I found this to be annoying.  There wasn't any information in them that I couldn't find on the site and I don't need extra email to deal with.

While the website offers correlations between state standards and Ten Marks, it is not specific or detailed.  It just lists topics for the grade and state provided by the user.  I found some of the information covered  to be more difficult than found in the same grade level textbooks.

One thing I would appreciate is information about the length of time a child is logged in.  My state requires logging  hours and having the computer keep track would be great.

See what other TOS Crewmembers have to say here.

Disclaimer:  I received free limited time access to Ten Marks for the purpose of using it and writing this review.  I have not been paid or compensated in any other way for this review.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    A Solution for Teaching Spanish New TOS Review

    Speekee   Spanish for Children

    Speekee is also on Facebook and Twitter 

    $7.50 a month for Online viewing subscription  The first 2 weeks are free.

    Speekee Spanish is also produced in a DVD set, but as the company is based in the United Kingdom, many US DVD players are not compatible.

    Recommended for ages 2-10     Older children and adults may learn from it also.

    The Speekee homepage features a short clip from the first episode where the children introduce themselves.

    Knowing a foreign language is an educational objective which is often considered desirable, but may get put off for a variety of reasons.  The teaching parent  may not know a language,don't feel confident to teach it, or limited time makes it difficult to add yet another subject to study.  If the idea of a Spanish program for preschool and early elementary students sounds good, Speekee may be just right.

    Members of the TOS Homeschool Crew recently had the opportunity to review the  Speekee-Spanish for children program. Speekee is an immersion program for teaching Spanish to young children.  This means the entire program is done in Spanish, the only English is in the subtitles along with the Spanish.  There are 10 episodes where each features a different location or theme. The majority of each episode is an actual location and interaction between  the children and an adult.  The children introduce themselves by name in the first episode and appear to be between the ages of 7 and 10. Some segments only have pictures or drawing of items, but these are not cartoonish.  Speekee is filmed in Spain with native Spanish children.
    Speekee features engaging and catchy songs which quickly draw in the viewer and keep them watching for more.  Speekee takes their viewers to 10 different locations or settings and teaches them the Spanish name for the place as well as other nouns which are appropriate for that setting. This allows the viewer to transfer what they have seen and heard on Speekee to their normal surroundings and routine.  

    The format of each episode is also very similar.  They begin with the host children welcoming their friend, the viewer to come along with them.  Shortly thereafter they ask where they are going that day, naming a couple locations and asking yes or no. We see a clue to the destination through the end of a play tunnel, which the crawl through to reach their destination.  Next, the children are engage in activities appropriate to the location.  Some of the places visited are the store, the beach, home, school, the zoo and they also take a trip.  Then episode continues with children interacting with an adult, Jim, and presenting new words or concepts.  Each of these words or concepts is presented several times to reinforce what they are. Then the episode concludes with a 'good bye' song.  There are also worksheets with each episode to reinforce the concepts learned.

    Each video episode presents a lot of the language, but a fair amount of the material is review or words which have been introduced in a previous episode. Each episode uses what has been previously introduced and explained and uses it in a new or different way.  Because words are repeated throughout all the episodes there is a fair amount of repetition.  This aids in learning and retention.

    Speekee is also the name of the puppet who is prominent in the videos.  She has many different jobs.  She interacts with the viewer asking questions and praising responses.  She also helps with identifying items, counting, and providing transitions in the episodes.  Speekee has several friends, Lupi and Dino, who appear to be socks puppets.  We see Lupi and Dino during each episode when they remind the viewer how to introduce themselves to each other.  They also make other appearances occasionally.

    How we used Speekee

    Both my 6 and 9 year olds watched Speekee online,  However, they responded to it very differently. My six year old would attentively sit and watch, singing along with the songs after the first few times.  He  also enjoyed some of the worksheets.  He also sang some of the songs separately from watching the episodes.  He really liked Speekee, Lupi, and Dino.  He was learning, but didn't realize it.

    My 9 year old would watch the episodes, but was not very engaged with them.  She particularly liked the  songs.  She did want to role play the opening and closing songs and scenes with her brother.  She even created her own actions to the 'good bye' song and wanted to do it with her brother.   She was not interested in the worksheets when I offered them to her.  Instead she drew her own pictures of locations and activities, labeling them appropriately. She also compared locations and practices she saw in the video to what she knows here in the US.  I believe she picked up some of the language, simply because she heard it, not because she really wanted to.   She was more interested in figuring out how to play the music to the songs!

    I learned some Spanish words and phrases by watching and listening to Speekee.  However, after a while I had difficulty sitting through an episode.

    One thing I would have liked to have seen available with the program were flashcards with the words or phrases in the episodes.  I saw a reference to flashcards in the teaching material on the website, but no information as to the availability of a ready made set. My children like to play games like go fish, memory and matching with cards and I think this would have helped solidify the vocabulary and phrases even more for them.

    Speekee is a unique answer to teaching young children a second language.  It incorporates many situations and nouns that are meaningfully to them and does it in a way that makes it fun and painless.  Speekee is an easy way to introduce Spanish to a young child for the parent who does not speak the language themselves.
    A viewer would have a hard time not learning the words and phrases taught by Speekee as many of them are set to such catchy music you can't help but remember them. Speekee makes learning Spanish child's play!

    Read what other Crew Members have to say here.

    Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free limited time subscription to this product to assist me in writing this review.   I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.


      Thursday, January 20, 2011

      Snow Day !

      Today my kids actually got a snow day.  Maybe the first one they have ever had.  Between the snow and Daddy staying home and Grandma and Grandpa visiting for a couple days, I decided we  needed a break.

      Over night we got snow - about 9 inches of the cold white stuff.  We aren't in the south, but far enough south that more than an inch or two shuts things down. Even the library system closed for the day.  So just imagine how this has slowed things to a crawl.

      I think this is the most snow my 6 year old has seen at one time. 

      They have enjoyed time in the snow, there is enough to attempt to do something with, although their attempt at tunnels haven't worked.  Guess the snow just isn't deep enough yet.

      We also attempted to make snow candy, but just like the tunnels, that didn't work either.  Tried several recipes without success.  I guess I will have to do some research ahead of time and have directions handy in case we get another snow day.  I hope we don't have another snow like this for a while, I just can't get as excited about it as the kids do.

      Wednesday, January 19, 2011

      Maestro Classics New TOS Review

      Peter and the Wolf CD and Listening Guide            
      Maestro Classics

      Contact Maestro Music

      Maestro Music also has  7 additional titles including one in Spanish.

      At you can hear samples from each of their albums.

      Each CD is $16.98 or 3 for $45.00 with coupon code on the their homepage

      Recommended for ages 5 and up

      Maestro Classics has taken classic works of music and literature and made them child friendly. The CD's are classic stories accompanied by music of the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  There is also an informative and engaging little booklet which includes puzzles, activities, and background information about the selection. According the the Maestro Classics website the Stories in Music series came about after several years of successful parent child educational concerts at the Kennedy Center.

      Maestro Classics encourages families to listen together to learn about and enjoy classic works of music, expand musical horizons, and develop listening skills.

      As a member of the TOS Crew I received a CD of Peter and the Wolf to review and share with my children.  The CD features the story of Peter and the Wolf, both a musical and narrative version. There is also a  narrative about the composer and information about the music.  It also explains how the different instruments are used to represent animals in the story and how the instruments sound similar to the animals they represent.   Also included are two pieces by the Russian Trio Voronezh.

      The accompanying booklet has 24 pages packed full of supplementary information.  There is a brief biography of Prokofiev, the composer of Peter and the Wolf, and biographies of the Orchestra conductor, narrator, and executive producer of the series.  These bios are written in a manner which is appealing to both children and adults.  There is a story about the  Russian Trio Voronezh;  how they came to be a group as well as information about the uniquely Russian instruments which they play.

      However, there is more to this booklet.  There are several games and activities which are geared to many different listener ages.  You will find a dot to dot, a crossword puzzle, and a matching game which features the animals in the story and the instruments which portray them in the orchestra. 

      The CD and booklet come together in a sturdy cardstock case with a place for both the CD and the booklet. The illustrations on the case and booklet are charming and very child friendly.  The pictures look like they came from an embroidered sampler.

      Also on the website are lesson plans and additional activity ideas for several of the selections.
      There are activities for various levels available.

      Update:  Since I posted this review Maestro Classics has redone their website.  It is now possible to look inside each CD and Booklet as well as hear music samples.  They also have a kids club page with games and activities. The site also has an educational resources page with many lesson plans, activities, and ideas.  I can't wait to check out the site more thoroughly!

      Peter and The Wolf in my Home

      When I learned I would be receiving this CD I was kind of nervous because my memories of Peter and The Wolf  are not pleasant.  Sometime when I was between the ages of 7 and 11 I remember seeing a play of Peter and the Wolf and being totally scared.  So I had very mixed feelings about listening to Peter and the Wolf.  I was totally surprised how different this telling of the story is from what I remembered.  It is a very pleasant and soothing recording to listen to, not the least bit scary.  We thoroughly enjoyed what we heard. 

      Unfortunately, I was only able to listen to my CD one time and then it would not play again.  However, upon contacting Maestro Classics they promptly offered to replace my copy.  What a generous company and prompt customer service.  I am looking forward to receiving a new copy to enjoy repeatedly.

      My 9 year old daughter perused the booklet and was excited about the Russian Trio and their instruments.  She was absolutely amazed at the size of the instruments.  The picture of the Trio with the instruments really helped her appreciate the instruments size.

      This is a great set and a wonderful way to share music.  My daughters piano teacher has encouraged her to learn about music composers and their works as a compliment to her studies.  With the Maestro Classics CD and booklet I have a lot of information at my fingertips all in one source.

       Read what other crew members have to say here.


      Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this CD and accompanying materials to use for the purpose of writing this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner and all views expressed here are totally my own.

      Friday, January 14, 2011

      Back to Routine

       We have completed two weeks of school after a break for Christmas and New Years.  Surprisingly there was very little resistance about getting back into the routine.  For this I am thankful, I don't like having to cajole my children to accomplish assignments or chores.

      So what have we done ?

      Started a new science unit.  This is Matter and Chemistry.  Both Daughter and Son are very interested in science and can't wait to do anything remotely scientific.   Most of our time has been discussing matter, but we just peeked at the Periodic table the other day and talked about what it contains, (no son, not food at various times!) and how it is arranged.  We are going to go into more detail and learn about the elements and try some experiments.  I even found a cool website that has experiments for each of the elements.  Try The Periodic Table of Videos .  Some of the videos are slow though.

      Went to Cici's Pizza for a tour.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Cici's, it is a pizza buffet restaurant.  The tour was great and each of the kids made their own individual pizza.

      Visited the library for their monthly homeschoolers class.  This month the topic was Ancient Egypt.  The kids had the opportunity to build a paper pyramid, play a game, and decipher hieroglyphics. Another Mom commented they were the first "texters" as sometimes vowels were left out in their words.  Also got some books while we were there.  Can homeschoolers go to the library without checking out at least one book?

      Read the book  The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses  illustrated by Paul Goble as we continue studying some Caldecott winners.  The kids also made pictures of a horse and sun similar to some of his illustrations.

      We also continue to plug away with the basics like Math, and Spelling and Theology.  We toss in some penmanship too and hopefully get it done without to much fussing.  Daughter is also learning about the art of writing with a writing course that we are using as a review product for the TOS Crew. 

      Daughter started back up with piano lessons.

      Additionally, they also had some play in the snow time one day this week while I needed to shovel. They had fun, not sure if I did.  We generally don't take snow days when the local schools do, but take other days when we need to.  Don't tell my kids when there are snow days!

      So actually our return to routine hasn't been bad at all.  I hope it continues that way.

      Monday, January 10, 2011

      Easy Classical New TOS Review

       Early Modern History Schedule

      Early Modern History Schedule  Explorers to 1815

      Notebook Version  $35.95
      Digital Version    $29.95

      Easy Classical also has schedules available for Geography, Writing, Copybooks, State History, Science, and Complete curriculum for K-6.

      Ever since I began studying Home Education I have liked the idea of a Classical education.  It is a  rigorous model for education and thus makes hefty demands on the teacher and student. I was initially reluctant to try a classical education model as the demands are intense.   However, as my children have become older we have begun to implement various aspects of a classical education. 

      The Early Modern History Schedule is based on A Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, often considered the Ultimate How to for the Classical Education Model.  This schedule includes a full years history program broken down week by week and then daily breakdowns with core readings, read alouds, and additional suggested  fictional books.  Each week also includes geography, a geography song, copywork, narrations, reading summaries, art projects, and a test/review.  There is a complete explanation of and directions to use the schedule included.

      Easy Classical also has available a  Writing with HistoryGeography with History, and the Early Modern History Copybook that directly correlate with this Early Modern History Schedule Explorers to 1815.

      I was very excited to receive this download version of the history schedule to review as we are working through American History this year and I am trying to implement some more classically leaning aspects in our education program. I have not used a history text this year, but several reference books and a mix of non-fiction and fiction resources from our library, so I was eager to compare what I had done with someone else's plan.  However, this schedule was challenging to implement as I had a hard time finding all the suggested resources.


      • The weekly grid is broken down into a column for each day and laid out cleanly to see what is scheduled for each day from each resource
      • It looks ahead to what is needed the next week so that (hopefully) you aren't caught short handed on supplies.
      • The step by step drawing pages at the end of the schedule are unique.  I have not seen directions for drawing items like the church in Salem or a candle cauldron in other resources. 

      • Over half of the resources used on the schedule are not available in my Metropolitan  Library system.
      • Several days of the week are consistently reading heavy. It is hard to tell exactly how much reading is required from each source since I was unable to find many of the sources. 
      • I would have appreciated a rough estimate of how much time each of the various aspects may take so that I could choose when to do them as well as which ones would be most beneficial for a limited amount of time.

       Final Thoughts

      I like knowing there is a resource available which has done the majority of the lesson planning for me.  However, I would find it difficult to fully implement as I do not have easy or low cost access to many of the resources.  I do not mind spending money on "core texts" or those used throughout a whole course, but I hesitate to use a program where so many of the additional resources would have to be purchased.  I wonder how much of the value of the plan would be lost be not using many of the "Literature Choices" or "Free Reading Books" as suggested in the schedule.

      I also really like having the geography integrated into the history study.  It seems that geography is one of those subjects where one of two things happens:  it gets brushed aside while trying to accomplish other subjects or we work hard on it for several weeks to the exclusion of something else. So having it as an integral part of the whole package would ensure that sufficient attention and time is allotted to it.

      The schedule also uses History Pockets from Evan Moor to provide Hands on activities.  We have used several of these independently from this schedule and my children have enjoyed them.  However, not all of the information presented in them is accurate.  Some of the "facts" they present are contradicted by other (often primary) history sources.  My take is the History Pockets want to present a "nice" picture of history.  They can also take a lot of paper and time to construct. 

      We rotate between  studying Science and History for a month so that we can go in depth on a topic and not have to stop in the middle of a project.  I fully intend to use the schedule in greater detail in February when we go back to History and I am able to get some of the resources through Inter Library loan.

      Read what other Crew members had to say here.

      Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free copy of the schedule discussed here in exchange for my review.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.  I have not been compensated in any other way for this review.

      Wednesday, January 5, 2011

      Math Facts Now New TOS Review


      Math Facts NOW!
      2882 Shenandoah Shores Road
      Front Royal, VA 22630

      Math Facts Now is available for WINDOWS OS in these two formats:

      Download $15.95
      CD $15.95 + $3.95 s/h
      Free trial available at the site 

      For Grades K-6

      Math is important to just about every aspect of our lives and without a solid foundation in math life is extremely difficult and we are at the mercy of other people. Think about how important it is to be able to figure out sale prices or checking to be sure we haven't been over or undercharged.  Likewise, to be strong in higher level math one must be proficient, accurate and have some degree of speed in relation to basic facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Math Facts Now is a resource which can help develop that proficiency, accuracy and speed.

      Math Facts Now was developed by a homeschooling father who was looking for a method of  math drill that was solidly educational without the cutsy, cartoonish approach.  He also wanted a method of memorization that did not involve long time periods of parental involvement and give him control over what was being drilled.

      Math Facts Now is an online/computer based alternative to flashcards. Like many traditional flashcards it is simple and uncluttered with nothing to distract the user, but Math Facts Now also allows the student to use it by themselves. There is no need for someone else to show the student the cards and tell them whether they answered correctly or not.

      Math Facts Now is almost totally customizable by the teacher. The teacher chooses: what facts to focus the lesson on, how many questions are asked, how long the student is given to answer the questions, and how many times they must type out incorrectly answered problems. The original version of the program only had a 50 problem minimum, but in response to feedback from other reviewers on the Crew the developer has decreased the minimum. There is also an option to enter a reward for perfect completion of a lesson. Creating lessons is extremely simple and very fast. Once a lesson is created it is saved and can be reused repeatedly.  It also keeps records of the students activity and progress.

      Not only does it present a series of facts to the student it also identifies those facts which the student has difficulty with and provides extra practice for those facts. Math Facts Now also reminds the student to be careful when the encounter a problem which they had missed earlier in the lesson.

      Just as the program is visually uncluttered and easy to use, the website is also visually appealing in its design and very easy to navigate.

      How I Used Math Facts Now

      Both my 6 and 9 year olds used the program, concentrating on addition and multiplication. My 6 year old showed improvement in knowledge of his addition facts. He was able to give the answer to the fact so much faster after several opportunities of using the program than when he began using Math Facts Now. What slowed him down was typing the whole problem out when he missed an answer. But I believe that typing the whole problem helped to cement the problem and answer together in his brain. This was especially true when he made a typing error when originally answering the questions.  He also used a multiplication drill of lower facts and did very well.

      He loves just about anything he can do on the computer and liked Math Facts now especially after the minimum was reduced.  I really like Math Facts Now for him as it gives him an educational experience on the computer free of distracting ads and other links.  

      In contrast, my 9 year old really did not care for the program.  It was more of a struggle to encourage her to use the program. She took longer to answer the questions and that effected her results. As she didn't answer in the allowed time, she had to repeat more of the facts and type more of them. She soon became frustrated with this. While she did not necessarily enjoy the program I did see improvement in her fact knowledge and speed.  I will have her continue to use this program to continue the positive progress she has made so far. 

      While I really like Math Facts Now for the drill and that it can be used without my involvement I am not quite ready to get rid of my flashcards. We can take the flashcards with us in the car to fit in some practice, but my computer isn't portable. Math Facts Now has definitely replaced most paper and pencil timed drills in our house much to the delight of my children. Neither of my children like Fact Drills, but they much prefer Math Facts Now to flashcards or paper and pencil.

      I also appreciate the budget friendly price of Math Facts Now.  It covers all 4 basic operations up through the 12's and allows for multiple users at no additional cost.  If used with any frequency it has a cost per use basis of pennies, but priceless value in what it delivers.

      Read what other crew members had to say here.

      Disclaimer:  I was given a free download copy of Math Facts Now to use  with my family in order to right this review.  I have not been compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed in this review are entirely and solely my own.

      Saturday, January 1, 2011

      Happy New Year

      Happy New Year 2011

      It seems to me that the new year is a natural time to reassess our lives and what we are doing. That said, I have to admit I gave up making formal resolutions several years ago because I became frustrated with not being able to keep them. However, I it's hard not to think about things I would like to improve or do better.

      My thoughts for this year

      • Learn and better use the technology available to me
      • Keep up on household tasks
      • Make more comprehensive plans for school and use more of a variety of resources

      While, I know all of these aren't directly related to school it just seems appropriate to list some of the things I want to work on and improve.

      I wish all of you a Happy, Healthy, Blessed New Year.