Monday, February 28, 2011


The last few weeks my children have been on a Veggie Tales kick.  They have been watching Veggie Tales movies every chance they get. I don't mind it, in fact I think many of the episodes and songs are cute.  I even have a few of my own favorite songs. Like The Song of the Cebu or His Cheeseburger.  There is just something so catchy about the tunes it is hard to forget them and when they are played frequently...

But now I have Veggies in my house and not just in the crisper drawer.  We had used several balloons for a science experiment and the balloons survived intact, so the kiddos blew them up and played with them. Then, just before bed my 6 year old decided the red balloon was Bob and the yellow was Larry. 

Yellow? Larry?  Yes, it is kind of a long balloon and cucumbers are yellow before they turn green.

Ok, I will allow that reasoning.  I'm just wondering what the pink one will become tomorrow!  Just the thought of that is kind of scary.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Homeschool Mother's Journal

In my life this week...
I'm trying to get our tax information together to get to our preparer.
Go through books and educational items to determine what we are done with.

In our homeschool this week...
  • continued studying Latin   (check back for the official review March 30th)
  • enjoyed an online class about rockets
  • learning more about elements, the periodic table and scientists

Places we're going and people we're seeing...
This week we visited both the History Museum and the Art museum.  Daughter also had her weekly Piano Lesson.

My favorite thing this week was...

My son running through the house chanting things from our Latin study and trying to use Latin words in everyday speech.  

What's working/not working for us...
Our science unit is working. We rotate between science and history so we can spend more time on each and not have to cram both of them into a couple days each week. The kiddos always enjoy science.  (Except when it comes to tests!)
Can't seem to get started in the mornings.  By the time we get going I feel so behind.

Homeschool questions/thoughts I have...
I am thinking ahead to curriculum for next year.  I'm starting to research World History programs and options.

What special topics we will do for April.  The children or I choose 1 or 2 special or fun topics to study for a couple weeks or the whole month. Just something fun that doesn't necessarily fall into an academic subject, but they want to know more about.  This month we have penguins.  We'll do something related to the topic for a short time each day or on Friday. In December it was Christmas traditions, January we explored snow,  Snowflake Bently, and winter.

A photo, video, link, or quote to share...

This site has a video for each element on the periodic table.  In the video they explain a little about the element and share a video using the element.  Some of the elements have better material than others, but that's the nature of the web.

The Homeschool Mother's Journal

Math Rider New TOS Review


MathRider is a downloadable program which works
on Windows, Mac, and Linux Operating Systems
Upon purchase you will receive download instructions and
a key code to make it work.

Sale Price $37

For All Ages who need to learn math facts and improve their speed

I think one frustration many children face in math is learning basic operation facts and be able to recall them quickly. A quick search online or look around a school supply retailer seems to confirm this as it is likely to turn up many resources to help children in this pursuit. But a parent is likely to find that not every one will work for every child. One resource that may help is Math Rider, a computer game which can be purchased online and downloaded instantly.

MathRider blends fact practice for all 4 math operations with a story in which the player helps to rescue a kidnapped princess in a land of fantasy and quests. The story is started at the beginning of the program and is continued upon successful completion of each operation. The story is told with simple pictures while the words on the screen are read aloud. This story is reminiscent of a fairy tale.

Ride Screen
Ride Screen

While MathRider helps users become proficient and speedy using math facts in all four operations, only one operation is played at a time. To play the user assists an animated horse and rider to jump hurdles by answering math problems quickly and correctly. The rides are part of a longer quest to rescue the princess. Each ride features 30 facts and hurdles. The hurdles are jumped by correctly answering facts. At the end of each ride the player is given points based on the number of correct answers and length of time taken to complete the ride. The number of points a player accumulates during a ride determines their progress on their ride through the math lands. Along the way the player acquires various rewards and incentives which are displayed on their beginning screen.

Map showing Quest progress

At the end of each ride a simple bar graph appears on the bottom of the screen with a bar for each fact in the ride. These bars are green, yellow, or red based upon correct answer and length of time taken to answer the question. Upon rolling the mouse over the bar the fact is shown as well as the exact amount of time used is displayed.

The program employs Artificial Intelligence to assess where the user is and target the facts that need the most work. These facts are consistently repeated throughout play.

MathRider has a separate quest for each operation and requires attainment of a certain proficiency/ accuracy level before moving on to a new operation. However, just math knowledge is practiced, not the ability to control a figure or time a move just right.

Statistics Page
There is also a simple to understand statistics page for the player. This page features a grid of all the facts for the operation and color codes the individual cubes based on mastery of the fact using red, yellow, and green. On the right side of the page is a box indicating those facts which were not answered correctly as often or as quickly.


I had both my 6 year old son and 9 year old daughter use MathRider, but my 6 year old enjoyed it much more.  I was very surprised about this, because even though he loves just about everything the computer, my daughter is very interested in horses and riding. She also likes princess, etc. I thought the story line would draw her in and keep her interest, but unfortunately that did not occur. One of the reasons for her lack of interest maybe that she hasn't spent as much time on the computer and therefore is not as quick as he is when it comes to entering answers.

I also played through the Advanced Addition quest just to get a feel for it myself. Before I had accumulated enough quest points I was becoming frustrated as my fingers were tripping over themselves. I was trying to be speedy, but in the process was losing accuracy. I attained a 97% mastery level, but I am not sure if I completed the level or if I must redo it in order to move on.

I found several aspects of MathRider to be confusing.  After playing I feel speed is an important aspect of playing, contrary to the belief that skills other than math are not required or tested.  I also found it very difficult to remember how to earn a specific reward and could not find the answer to that easily.

After both using and watching Math Rider I think this would be a great product to help increase speed in fact usage, but not as great for learning facts initially. It seems to me that goal is fairly difficult to reach using Math Rider.

Read what other TOS Crew Members had to say here.

Disclaimer: I was given a free down load to use for the length of the review period in order to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Art Museum Field Trip

Today we had the opportunity to join our homeschool group for a field trip to the Art Museum.  The Museum has a great art collection and we enjoy going there, but just don't seem to make it there very often.

The class focused on Egyptian Art and mummies.  The museum has 3 mummies in their collection and on display.  The curator explained to the children briefly about the process of mummification and the reasons for it.  One of the mummies they own is over 3000 years old with a very elaborately decorated case. She also explained the art on one of the sarcophagi.  This particular case has pictures of many of the Egyptian gods and pictures depicting what they "governed".  The deceased name is also on the case in hieroglypics as well as several scenes of his life.

Another one of the mummy cases had a picture and writing painted on the inside of it. While it was under glass, the cover was lifted up high enough so that the children could squat down on the floor and see the underside of the cover.  This also made the mummy visible.  It was kinda cool to see the actual wrapped mummy, not just the case.

Also with the displays were pictures of Xrays that had been taken of the mummies.  I was amazed at the detail these Xrays showed.  They were very clear and it was relatively easy to see the bones and organs.  Not only was this a great art lesson, but also anatomy.

After this the kids went to a classroom where they had the opportunity to make their own mummies out of air dry modeling clay and decorate them with markers.  They were also given small boxes to keep the mummies in and were allowed to decorate them as well.  The staff provided diagrams of hieroglyphics and other Egyptian art to assist with decorating.

I know my son had a great time.  He is especially interested in Ancient Egypt right now due to a LEGO magazine and online activities, our study of beetles,and Exodus.   Seeing mummies and sarcophagi which were so much a part of the Ancient Egyptian culture was extremely exciting for him. I think all the children present, not just mine thoroughly enjoyed the outing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oh! Visitors are Coming

Sometimes when I get the news visitors are coming  I momentarily panic because I have to clean up my house.  While there are usually places to sit, it is not always easy to navigate around the piles of books on my floor.  You see when it is meal time, everything that had been on the table during the day gets put in a pile and deposited on the floor. Then the next day the pile is put back on the table and it starts over again.  Weekends the piles usually go away, but the weeks are much longer.

So tonight I opened my blog and found the lovely surprise that I'm being featured on the TOS Crew Blog Walk this week.  I breathed a sigh of relief  that I just needed to write a Hello and Check out all the other cool blogs post, not try to keep my house clean all week. I don't know if I could do that. (I'm not a total slob when it comes to housekeeping, I just get behind sometimes). What a relief, but welcome and look around. I am still very much trying to figure out what is good to write about here.

Other blogs that are featured this week include:

1. Our Best Daze
2. The Joy of School
3. Spell Outloud
4. to the sea with me
5. Half Dozen Mama
6. Creative Learning
7. Homeschooling My Miracles
8. Beyond The Silver and The Gold - A Filipino Family's Homeschool Journey
9. My Own Sense and Sensibility
10. Happily Homeschooling
I am sure you will find great Blogs here, all of these women and men are great homeschooling parents.  Enjoy.

Random Thoughts Tonight

I have just been reflecting a lot the last few days as I try to get caught up around the house.  We accomplished a lot school wise last week, but the house slide into a mess. Some of my random thoughts... and things to be thankful for.

This may sound quirky, but I just love it when my 6 year old son says, "Mom...Oh never mind.  I love you".  Just so sweet. His climbing up on my lap to cuddle is great too.

It was so much fun making Peanut Blossom cookies with him last week. He really likes these cookies, but I don't take time to make them very often.  He is very particular about his food, but just about anything with chocolate is a winner with him.  Guess he gets that from Mom!

I have so enjoyed our break from the long winter these last few days.  It has been lovely to go outside without a jacket and even tale a walk.  But I heard from the weather guy, its not going to last and winter is coming back.  So sad, but this break has been great. 

I had a fun time with daughter yesterday checking out the new Michaels in the area.  There has been one here, but they have moved to a new location and it is not quite so cramped.  Not sure about the parking lot, though.

I don't know if this post has a point, but just writing down random thoughts. Guess I don't take enough time to think about what is important always, but get caught up in the busyness of life.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Reluctant Reader Solution from Kid Scoop TOS Review

Reluctant Reader Solution
Kid Scoop

Most people agree that reading is a vital skill for everyone. For some reading seems to be a skill that is learned with very little effort, but for many others it involves intense practice and a long length of time.  With reading, just as just about anything else, perfection or proficiency doesn't come without practice.  But practice can be boring and uninviting.  Since practice is not fun, a child doesn't want to do and without practice improvement isn't achieved. Additionally, many homeschooling parents find great enjoyment in reading and are disappointed when their children don't feel the same way. Time and patience may solve the latter problem, but just as often it doesn't. So what is a parent who wants their children to experience the joy of reading to do?   What if you have tried everything you know to do and still your child doesn't like to read, they can read, but just don't like it? 

In the Reluctant Reader Solution, Vicki Whiting, (the editor) has assembled a comprehensive package of high interest, engaging, topics and put them with short snippets of text designed to give children some information and hopefully whet their appetite to discover more. Recently members of the TOS Homeschool Crew had the opportunity to use the Reluctant Reader Solution with their children.

The Reluctant Reader Solution from Kid Scoop is an epackage of surprises.  Upon ordering  you will receive a link to download a large file of 365 engaging worksheets (I think they could be easily called fun sheets) on a vast array of kid friendly topics. Some examples are friendship, baseball, clay, sports, kitchen creativity, tadpoles, and many holidays throughout the year.  Then each month for a year you have access to a brand new, full color, multiple page online magazine.  Detailed instructions and suggestions for times of the year to use the various topics are also included in the download.  However, it is not hard program to implement. I liked the list of suggested topics for each week of the month, it simplified the decision process for me.

The download files are an average of 6 black and white pages per topic and the variety of activities is immense.  Activities you will find include mazes, find the differences, funny fill in sentences (these are similiar to a commercial product where the user fills in specific parts of speech), word searches and writing activities. Graphs, chart reading, and deciphering codes are also popular activities.  There is also at least one vocabulary word for each topic.  A sample is available on the Kid Scoop webpage.  Kid Scoop also offers a large selection of worksheet sets available for purchase.  These appear to be different from the sets in the Reluctant Reader Solution download purchase. Once again the variety of topics to choose from is staggering. They can be found here.

February Cover 
The monthly magazine is full color and approximately 20 pages.  Each month features a calender with a topic and or activity for each day as well as a table of contents for the issue and a sneak peek of the next months issue.  February's issue features Abraham Lincoln with a maze, find the matching pigs and several tidbits about Lincoln. It also explains why pigs are featured. A detectives case also needed to be solved.  This was accomplished using simple math and logic.  Another feature was a two page spread about the stock market featuring a small business and its connection to the stock market.  Here the reader needed to read story problems and solve them using facts from the story as well as data from a graph.  We also found a short bio of Nellie Bly and a game to play about
some of the adventures she had. There were also a variety of fun activities for Valentines Day.

Because of the variety of worksheets available and variety in the monthly magazine it is very likely you'd find something which would fit into a unit study you're planning.  Each activity also has a standards link. 

Sample of pages from Online Magazine

Kid Scoop has a colorful website with great resources, however it is sometimes challenging to find all the treasures.  The home page has a place to sign up to receive fun and exciting reading activities for 30 days via email. 

User ages would vary based on abilities and interests but based on my experience I could recommend it for 5 to 10 year olds.

The Reluctant Reader Solution is $97. This includes the 365 downloaded worksheets and a 12 month subscription to the online magazine.  The author is confident in the ability of Reluctant Reader Solution to help children become more interested in reading on their own she is offering a 365 day money back guarantee.

I believe Vicki has done an incredible job assembling all of these topical study worksheets and the monthly magazine.  The topics truly address many many things that kids are excited about and they feature a variety of activity types. This system should appeal to both boys and girls, older and younger, and a wide variety of learners.


Both my 6 and 9 year olds used the downloads and the magazine and really enjoyed them. While all of the activities in the magazine or downloads were not at their level I did find a number of activities that were appropriate for one of them. For example, in the Februrary magazine, my 6 year old son did the activities about Lincoln and some of the holiday puzzles.  My daughter did the mystery and stock market activities.  I really like how there is a mixture of ability level and interests presented.

One thing which frustrated my daughter about the stock market activity was the dating.  Several of the questions were worded today, but the data on the graph ended 2 years ago.  She made the point that it was misleading to say today if it was dated two years ago. 

We read parts and did some of the activities in the magazines directly on the computer rather than printing them out to save on ink. It is also possible to have the magazine read to the user, but this was not an option we choose as we used it together and both of my children are proficient readers.

My 6 year old is a good reader, but reading isn't his first choice for leisure activities. He has a two track mind for reading topics.  However, after working through some of the activities in one of the download topics, he was interested enough to spend some time reading additional articles on the topic. After we did the download worksheets about optical illusions I set out the World Book Childcraft volume that has optical illusions in it.  He found the book and the illusions in it and spent a long time studying those and their descriptions.

Another download unit we used was entitled the "State of You" .  It introduces the State of the Union address and makes a personal connection to students. This focuses on being the best you possible and addresses personal health, education and helpfulness. It encourages a personal assessment. I choose this unit as my children heard about the State of the Union and State and I wanted to explain what these speeches were to them in a concrete, appropriate manner.

I've also seen my sons fine motor skills begin to show improvement.  He has always loved to do mazes, but the ones in Kid Scoop have narrower lines than many he had done previously.  After doing mazes in several download sets he was better able to stay in the line.

From what I have seen regarding my sons interest and abilities I would like to think that continued useage of the Reluctant Reader Solution would continue to help him grow and mature in abilities and desire to read.

We have used these quite a bit during our snow days this winter. Since Dad was home they were reluctant to put in a full school day, but did occupy themselves with these activities.  I also plan to print more of the worksheets for them to use in the car, as we make short daily trips.  So far that has not been possible as darkness came too early. We are all excited to use more of the worksheets and activities. I can also see them being used during the summer to help with the "Mom, I'm Bored" situation most moms face. Kid Scoop is learning disguised as fun.

I signed up to receive the emails shortly after receiving this review assignment and have enjoyed them, however we have been challenged in completing them as we do not receive a daily newspaper.

I also plan to contact our local newspaper and inquire about the possibility of carrying  the Kidscoop newspaper version.

We have certainly enjoyed the Reluctant Reader Solution and I can easily envision using it for an extended period of time.  However, I would also be interested in an option to "subscribe" to just the online magazine for longer than the year which comes with the Reluctant Reader Solution.

Read what other crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: I received a free download of the Reluctant Reader Solution and the accompanying online magazine in order to use for the purpose of writing this review.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.  I have not been compensated in any other way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Butterfly Life Cycle Project

Last summer and early fall we did a unit on insects. Both my children enjoy hands on projects of various kinds so we tried to incorporate several projects since we weren't also doing all of our normal subjects as well.  When my daughter found the idea for this project in Pack O Fun magazine she decided we needed to try it.

We made a few changes to personalize the project.  It was originally supposed to be a monarch lifecycle, but they wanted to make their butterflies more colorful, so they just made generic butterflies.  Yes, I realize the butterflies probably don't resemble any known species, but I am okay with that. The instructions called for polymer clay that required baking in an oven but I really didn't want to have to open windows for ventilation or turn on the oven when the temperatures were in the 90's.  So when I discovered a polymer clay which was air dry we decided to go with that.

They each had fun making all the little pieces out of clay and talking about how they would arrange them on the foam core board. Then they decided that white was too boring so they needed to pain their backgrounds. Finally after several days the pieces were all dry and the kiddos could arrange and glue their creations together. I made the labels using my word processing program on the computer.

Here are the final results:

Daughters' Butterfly Lifecycle

Sons' Butterfly Lifecycle

They both had a lot of fun making them and using polymer clay for the first time.  They were pleased with the way the plaques turned out and I was too. Now if I was just a little more prompt in getting pictures on the computer!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Curiosity Files Dung Beetles TOS Review

Do you have a child who loves science and all things slimy or gooey?  Are they fascinated by unique topics and want to know more?  Are your children  (or Mom) suffering from a case of long winter blues or just need a break from the usual studies? Do you have a slightly older child who needs an independent study?

Maybe the Curiosity Files Unit Studies are just what you need to satisfy the desire for knowing more about the unusual or  break up the monotony caused by being cooped up inside for days.  The Curiosity Files are compact little unit studies filled with several days worth of study and exciting discoveries about some of the more unusual inhabitants or phenomena of earth. They feature Professor Ana Lyze as she goes on missions to discover more about some of the unique and less well know creatures and phenomena of our world.

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was recently given a copy of The Curiosity Files Dung Beetle unit study to use with my children.  I will freely admit this would not have been my first choice of topics to study, but it fascinated my
6 year old son so I decided I would set aside my aversion and preconceived notions and try it.  Yes, I actually agreed to study a bug!  Once I got past the thought of dung, this was a very interesting study.

There are eight other topics explored in the Curiosity Files.  You can find all of them here.  All of the Curiosity Files unit studies are created by the creative folks at The OldSchoolhouse Magazine.

Lets see what the Curiosity File holds:

  • Language arts is covered with a discussion of  2 Aesop's Fables, The Ant and The Dung Beetle and The Eagle and the Scarab Beetle. Both of these have activities involving summarizing and writing a personalized version.  There are sentence suggestions for The Ant and The Dung Beetle to assist in writing.  You will also find copywork in both manuscript and cursive styles, a vocabulary list for both elementary and junior high and high school and a worksheet.There are ideas for games to make vocabulary and spelling fun and different.
  • Math activities include discovering the size of a dung beetle and measuring items around the house to see what objects are the same size, using play dough to make a sphere and discovering its properties and make a dough ball from bread to discuss circumference and radius.
  • History discusses dung beetles and their significance in Ancient Egypt.
  • Science is addressed in an interview with Professor Ana Lyze.  She answers  readers questions by describing dung beetles, their different types and jobs  The Professor explains how dung beetles are beneficial to farmers in their fields and around the livestock.  We also learned the life cycle of dung beetles and how they provide for their young.  Just to make sure the reader learned from the text you'll find several pages of fill in the blank and short answer questions. You'll also find a form to use while researching an entomologist. Directions and ideas are also provided for constructing your very own dung beetle farm! There are also exciting lab report forms.  
  • Art is not forgotten.  There are ideas for 2 different projects.  You can build a compound eye out of styrofoam egg cartons or a dragonfly from clay and colorful paper. Several smaller art activities suggestions are given.  There is also a song.  It is a familiar tune with lyrics about dung beetles.
  • Religion is also covered as you talk about creation and how God uses the dung beetle in his creation.
  • There is also a game idea included. Participants pretend they are dung beetles and roll a ball around on the floor.
  • Templates for making a mini file folder and two mini books with facts about dung beetles is included.  The file folder and accompanying label look like a detectives case file.

You will also find many weblinks for additional projects, research and resources.  
Additionally, there are suggestions of ways to modify and enhance some of the activities for special needs learners. Some of these would also be fun to include in the projects as they are written.

How we used the Curiosity Files Dung Beetle

Both my 6 year old son and 9 year old daughter learned about dung beetles together.  We read the science information sections together.  They each did the review pages, but I wrote out what my 6 year told me for the short answer questions.  My 9 year researched an Australian entomologist online.  We were not able to make a dung beetle farm at this time due to living in a city in the middle of winter.  If my children show interest we may do this at a later time.  We also read the history and religion sections together.

The science lab report form is so exciting looking and much less intimidating than many others I have seen!  It is done in a similiar style to a scrapbook page incorporating individual  frames.  Each frame has a unique border with a question corresponding to a step of the scientific method and several lines to write the answer on. I envision using this form with experiments seperate from this study.

We read both of the fables and talked about them and fables in general.  My 9 year old used the sentence suggestions to write her own version of the ant and dung beetle fable.  For my 6 year old we used this more as a narration exercise.  After we read it together he told me about it and I wrote it down for him. I plan to have my oldest do a rewriting in her own words of the second fable, but will probably give her the option to type it and illustrate it if she wants.They both used the elementary vocabulary list. I used index cards to make a matching game of words and definitions. However, after working through the vocab worksheet I realized I should have included some of the words from the higher level list as the worksheet covered both.  My 9 year old very easily handled the elementary word list and could have learned the other words as well.

They had fun doing the math activities.  Although the concepts were not new they liked exploring them in new ways.

The start of compound eyes
While we enjoyed all of the activities (except my 9 year old didn't care for all the writing- it is not her favorite activity), but I think the art and game were their favorite.  The game provided many laughs and a fun physical activity.  They kept running into each other as our available space was not very big.  We began making the compound eyes. When I emptied an egg cartoon we would add it on. It takes a lot to make one eye and both of my children wanted to make their own.  Once we got the hang of gluing the eggs cups together it went really well.  My 6 year old was even able to glue some together with help to get them close to each other.  We did find a mini glue gun works easier, though. The pics show the first step, next we will need to add papier mache between the cups to help them stay together.  
Spray painting the whole thing will have to wait until it is warmer so we can do it outside.

Pretending to be Dung Beetles

We really had fun with this unit.  It wasn't as gross as I thought it might be, but just enough of  the strange and gross factor to make it appealing to my bug loving children. It was just the right size to use as a short break from some of our other studies to give us a mood lifter. I learned things also.  Maybe some of these newly learned facts will come in handy in case I am ever brave enough to attend a trivia event.

My son had been studying several resources about Ancient Egypt for his own pleasure and was so excited to see them mention the same things about beetles that we were learning from the Curiosity File.

My daughter will be making up the case file in the near future as a wrap up activity to the unit.

There was also a library list, but I was not able to find any of the suggestions in my library.  However, between was included in the study and found in the internet links we really didn't need any more resources for the time we spent using it.

My biggest challenge for using this study was assembling the materials for the activities.  We don't use eggs very quickly, so finding enough egg cartoons was challenging.  Thankfully I found a couple in my basement stash.
The suggested low age on this study was 8, but my 6 year old was certainly capable of handling it. This was a very easy study to personalize for my children according to their interests and abilities. I am looking forward to learning from some of the other files as well.  You can find them all here.

Oh, I just remembered I forgot to mention their price.  All of the Curiosity files are available on a CD for $49.00 or a download bundle for $46.00.  They are also available individually.

If you are looking for something a little bit different or out of the ordinary, maybe the Curiosity Files unit studies are just right.

Other crew members used some of the other Curiosity Files studies.  See what they had to say about them as well as other opinions about Dung Beetles here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a free download copy to use in order to write this review.  I have not been compensated in any other manner.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Vocab Ahead New TOS Review

VocabAhead One Thousand SAT Vocabulary Videos & MP3s


Also available:

VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3s  Book

SAT Vocabulary Words iPhone/iPod Touch Application   

App prices:  Free up to 50 words,  $9.99 for 1000 words

DVD ROM $24.99
Book  $12.99
The DVD and Book are available through Amazon

Age Range: Students who are preparing for the SAT or other Exams.  See later section of this review for the age of my user.

You can watch samples of the videos on their website here
There are also many other neat features on the website.

As a member of the TOS crew I received a DVD ROM from Vocab Ahead of One Thousand SAT Vocabulary videos and MP3's to use and review.

VocabAhead is designed to help students prepare for the Vocabulary sections of the SAT.  According the the copy on the DVD ROM case the user will

"learn new words easily and reinforce your learning by:
  • Building visual connections with vocabulary cartoons and pictures in a fun and engaging way
  • Listening to the narrations on the go using your favorite MP3 player
  • Watching Vocabulary Videos on you computer or other portable device such as video iPod, iPhone, or even iPad."

VocabAhead is a compilation of 1000  vocabulary words often found on the SAT and other similar exams.  Each video begins with a word and a picture describing the word. Then words are defined, and the screen shows the word and definition while it is being verbalized.  The corner of the video has a label telling what part of speech the word is. Then the word is used in multi sentence example.  There are often several pictures shown during the example. In closing each video the word is repeated along with the definition.

Sample of Video
Sample of video

My Thoughts About VocabAhead

Honestly I was disappointed with the product.  The definitions and explanations are extremely long. It is very easy for the listener to get lost in the story connected to the word and miss the point which would be the word and its definition.   I also assumed the cartoons would be different for each word, but that is not always the case.  The same picture is used for several words.  I would find it confusing to recall the word and cartoon when each cartoon is not unique. Sometimes the antecedents or pronoun in the descriptions do not match.  Occasionally genders mentioned in the audio do not match the genders in the videos . Something I do like is having the screen where just the word and definition are presented and read aloud.  I also like being able to use the DVD ROM without having an internet capable computer.

My 9 year old daughter watched some of the videos.  She did not overly enjoy it.  She thought there was too much talking and some of the pictures were boring.  She had no difficulty with the material presented, it is very appropriate for her reading and speaking levels which are above age level.  It does challenge her to expand her vocabulary and it will definitely help her as she reads longer, more complex books. She enjoyed learning words which were new to her. The DVD ROM also meet my goal of giving her a challenge in Language Arts. I appreciate that fact about this product. We will continue to use this DVD ROM.

I would like to sit and use this disc myself, I just have not had the time to peruse sections that my daughter has not viewed. 

We also had issues with getting the videos to play.  It requires either itunes, quick time, or quick time alternatives.  The other option is to install 3rd party codecs and additional helper programs which will allow Windows media player to use it.  These codecs are not on the Windows XP operating system. 

Also interesting to note my husband tried to download some of the files to our Android phones and was able to do so without any problems.

See what other crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew I received a DVD Rom to use to right this review. I have not been compensated in any other way. All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Week in Review Snowy with not much accomplished

The big news around here last week was the weather. Monday started out with freezing rain, it turned to sleet and then snow.  Over the course of 3 long days! 

Even with being cooped up most of the week we didn't get a whole lot accomplished.  Monday morning we took a field trip to the History Museum for the homeschool day.  The topic was flight and Charles Lindbergh.  We listened to one of the curators talk about Lindberghs life and flight and some of the items in their collection which were gifts given to Lindbergh. We also had the opportunity to hear a one person theater presentation about flight during Word War I.  This was great, the theater presentations are always so riveting and the listener feels like they were truly there.  We were also supposed to learn how to fold several styles of paper airplanes, but they kicked us out of the museum. The weather was getting so bad, that they were closing early. The first time they had been closed in many years due to weather.

Then the rest of the week we worked on some things at home. Didn't get much done as Dad was home, his office was closed because of the weather.  The kids think that whenever Dad is home they get vacation.  Occasionally that isn't bad, but when we loose three days, there is a lot that doesn't get done.  Just have to work extra hard this week to catch up.

Every day this week has snow on the forecast, but hopefully it won't be as bad as last week, so we will still be able to accomplish what we need to.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Roman Town New TOS Review

Roman Town

CD game compatible with Windows OS

Dig It Games

Now through February 21 using the coupon code  TOS2011  you can get it for $19.96

There is also a downloadable teachers guide available

Do you have a budding archeologist or ancient history buff?  Are you trying to find activities to keep them entertained as well as learn something? Has your child heard terms like archeology, artifacts or ruins and wants to know what they mean? Dig it games may have just what you need.

Recently some members of the TOS Homeschool Crew were asked to play and review the game Roman Town from Dig It games.

Roman Town is an exciting archeology game set in the Ancient Roman city of Fossura.  Fossura  is a play on the Latin word for 'archeological dig'.  The creator of the game says the town was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvious and never rebuilt, thus becoming the setting for Roman Town.  The task set before the player is to assist a cartoon archeologist and guide in the excavation of a house in the town. The players first task is to choose   the appropriate tool for the animated stick figure diggers to use to uncover the artifacts. When this digger finds an item, the player finishes uncovering the artifact with a trowel.  Some of the artifacts include parts of the building, toys and household items.
The Learning Center
During play the user uncovers and learns facts about the various rooms in the house and their uses, what was found there, their design and the reason for the specific design.  The player also fills in a paragraph report of what they excavated and learned about the location. There is a list of words to use and the player just needs to fill in the blank.  Most of the text is provided with key words to be filled in by the player from a list.  There are also quizzes to be taken to help measure new knowledge as well as find a word puzzles.

The cartoon archeologist explains the excavation process and teaches about the items found throughout the game. One of the items found is a coin and he explains when the coin is likely from due to who is featured on it. Often he is joined by 2 children who supposed were inhabitants of the house being excavated. The children share tidbits about Roman life and why things were done the way they were.

Other activities also include matching the artifacts with their modern day counterpart, sorting the artifacts by their characteristics and composition, and virtually reconstructing the items by putting the pieces back together.  This is very similar to how an actual archeologist would reconstruct artifacts. Some of the items they put together are mosaics, frescoes, an amphora and a statue.

Reconstructing an Artifact

There are 6 different "levels" of play, but they all follow the same format. Each "level" focuses on a different room in the house.

You can see a short video of scenes from Roman Town on their website. 

The Dig it games website also has an Online video arcade featuring a puzzle, word search, hangman, and term scramble game.


Both of my children played the game and thoroughly enjoyed it.  My 6 year old was generally able to use it independently, however he would try to skip the information sections and just play the game.  He also got somewhat frustrated with filling in the paragraphs as he is still learning how to use context clues to determine the proper word.  He thought a  particular word should fit, but there was often a better choice if he looked at all the choices.

He loved to play 'Calculi' a game where the players took turns laying down black and red disks while trying to get 5 in a row and block their opponent from doing the same.

My 9 year old daughter also enjoyed Roman Town.  Her favorite activities were the reconstructions.  She also liked seeing the items as they were being dug up and learning about them.  She did all of the reporting and learning activities and accomplished them easily.

The only disappointment they expressed was that it was finished too soon.  They would have loved more levels too explore.

Copy of fill in the blank report
I also played through one of the sections of the game and enjoyed it.  I did find it challenging to use the trowel to uncover the artifacts.  I needed to sweep my mouse over the areas several times before the "dirt" cleared. I also discovered I had to be very exact when I was filling in the blanks on the reports because if I wasn't the words went back into the choice list. My children never complained about this so maybe they are better mouse users than I am!

I really liked how Roman Town explained new words.  The new terms were explained quite simply with references most children would understand.  The context clues were very well thought out and clear. 

Roman Town is a perfect addition to a study of Ancient Rome.  It could also be used along side a Latin course to help learn about the culture and put into practice some of the words learned.  While we haven't made as much progress on our Latin studies lately, both of my children recognized several words used in Dig it as some they had learned in Latin.  Roman Town is also a great means to learn about the profession of archeology.  It immerses the user in the workings of a real dig without all the dirt and grime or extreme weather conditions of an actual dig.  Roman Town gives users a hands on archeological dig experience, which is so much richer and detailed than what can be read in a book.

Roman Town is a great tool to bring ancient civilizations to life and give students an opportunity to see how knowledge is gained about ancient life.

See what other Crew Members have to say about Roman Town here.

Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a copy of Roman Town to use in order to right this review.  I have not been compensated in any other way.  All opinions expressed here are solely my own.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day and while I don't put much stock in what he sees its still a fun look ahead to spring.  I will readily admit I am tired of winter.  All the cold and snow has been too much.  I don't even remember how many times we've had a storm this winter.  I do know that our first snow was on Thanksgiving.  I think we have pretty much had some snow every week since then.  I want Spring!

With winter come school closings. While I don't think my children know which school district we live in, they do know that when the closings scroll constantly it means every school in the area is closed.  So they think we should be closed as well.  When Dad is home they feel even stronger about that. How challenging it has been to get anything remotely related to learning accomplished. 

I just have to remind them (and myself) that when spring finally comes none of us will really want to be doing our math or grammar or history.  Instead they will want to be outside in the backyard or at the park.  By working  now we can take some time on those first nice days and be outside.  We can also officially end our year a little earlier too.  (We keep working on some things all year, but are more relaxed).

So regardless of what Puxatauney Phil determined today I'm  going to keeping looking for the end of the cold and snowy yuck of winter and looking forward to SPRING!