Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thank you for reading all my posts, and being my friend.

I just had to share this picture (it's so rare to get a picture with no one crying, or trying to escape...)
The kiddos were on the way in to their Holiday Performance with Blackbird Academy. I was yelling -"go over by the fountain, not IN the fountain, nobody get wet...or I'll scream!". I thought it turned out well...

They were adorable on stage - of course - it wasn't a flawless performance (not with Bentz kiddos involved!) Joshua managed to trip and fall flat on his face (yes, on stage!) during his "bow" at the end of their song... I have a sneeking suspicion that he may have been pushed (Lydia was next to him) or maybe - he just needed to make his own impression on the audience?!
Anyway, it was entertaining.

Selah was an adorable ballerina in her debut as a purple snowflake.

These truly are the "best of days", don't you think!

Merry Christmas and God Bless

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tiny Planets

Tiny Planets is a website that provides "award-winning educational entertainment set in space exploration and discovery, inspiring creativity and critical thinking in youth ages 4-12."

Follow the adventures of Bing and Bong, two adorable little aliens as they explore in space, traveling on their gadget loaded, plush coach.

You can check out The Tiny Planets Website,

Tiny Planets has won two BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television) Awards- Interactive Best Entertainment Website and Best Children's Interactive

You can watch old episodes of Tiny Planets television episodes and access several different areas:

My Tiny Planets- Virtual world community that combines social elements & gaming to create on engaging space exploration experience. Children create on avatar called their "Cadet", solve galactic missions with Bing and Bong (the guys on the couch...), play fast-paced mini-games, care for a planet, earn badges and more.

Tiny Planets Fun- Find brainy puzzles, coloring books, comics and more.

Tiny Planets Books- Read books with pictures about Bing and Bong, their friends, and many of the planets you will explore in your space adventures.

Tiny Planets Learning
- is a place for parents, homeschoolers, and educators. It contains mini lesson plan & science experiments, as well as providing information on how every episode of the Tiny Planets television series maps to an early learning goal.

Tiny Planets Labs- This is a Playground for things to come. Tiny Planets is connected with EU University research projects, which keeps them up to date on technology. New games will be posted and tested here.

KEYS- Much of the site is free. BUT there are things you can only see and access with KEYS which must be purchased. KEYS will unlock more tv episodes, stories, and items to care for your planet.
The KEYS can be purchased in various amounts. It is 10 KEYS for $1.95, 25 KEYS for $3.95, and so forth. They can only be purchased by a parent using the Parent Account.

Overall, my children enjoyed playing on this site. It was fairly intuitive, but we did have some difficulty in mastering the on-screen movements. Using the arrow keys and the enter key are not as familiar to them as the more "modern" control methods. (Although, we don't have a game system...So, my kiddos were okay with it...) Another aspect that I found frustrating was setting up their "Cadet" accounts, it took several tries, but we successfully figured it out.

I love that it is a Free (or mostly free), safe, online option. No ads. Educational content. I think it's appeal is appropriate for the younger end of their recommended age range.

I'm sure that many hours could be spent in the World of Tiny Planents.

See what the other reviewers thought here

I was given free keys in exchange for my honest opinion of this product, no other compensation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Creation Camouflage

Here's a FUN one!
A Download n Go Unit study by Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse
find them online here

This Unit is on sale for $5.95 from Dec. 13-18th (I think it's a great way to add a little school over the holidays, without them knowing what you're doing :-)

Download N Go studies are 5 day - complete unit studies. All you have to do is "download n Go". There is no prep work needed!! There are many, many units to pick from, so you can find something for everyone.

In this unit - we learned about camouflage. We visited Rainforests, deserts, tundras, and oceans to learn about the animals that camouflage there and their "secrets", not to mention a little about Class - Animalia.

One of our favorite parts was the "Animal of the Day". Each day we were introduced to an animal and their camouflage specialities.

I've saved the best for last... Each unit comes complete with all the components needed for a LAPBOOK! All you have to do is print and assemble.

And, if that's not enough - there are book suggestions and family fun ideas to round out the unit.

so, check out the Download N Go store for the great GIVEAWAY

See what the other reviewers thought here

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good Morning, God

Hello Everyone!

Here's another review from the TOS Review Crew. Apologia sent me this beautiful children's book for my honest review of it, no compensation included :-)

You can order yours here

Retail price: $14.00

(a great Christmas gift idea...)

This beautifully illustrated children's book is recommended for ages 1-8 (but, all my children ages 1-13 enjoyed listening to it...)

It is meant to encourage you to live out the Deuteronomy 6:6-7 passage. "These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you walk alont the road, when you lie down and when you get up."

It is written as a walk through your week - Sunday through Saturday, and encourages your child to think about God all day.

You can use this book in several ways, first - just read it through as a story (our favorite way to enjoy a book...). Or, at the end of the book are suggested questions you can use and activities to do.

You could really make it into a "mini-curriculum" if you choose... read a selection, answer questions, and do the activities. Some of the questions would make great journaling prompts for an older child. And, several questions would lead to more in-depth study topics. (I think my affection for a unit study is showing...)

Basically, I found this to be a charming children's book, complete with a great message. It's the kind of "cuddle up and let's read" type of book my "littles" love.

Apologia also offers a Coloring book as a companion. See them online at www.apologia.com
I bet it would make a great stocking stuffer!

See what the other reviewers thought here

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


What is ALEKS?

"Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS."

I got this description straight off their resource page, I agree. I was given a free trial (and you can get one too...) for my honest opinion of this resource.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
No Textbook Required
Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction

Take a 2-min tour here

We invite you to share the ALEKS free 1-month trial ($19.95 value) with your blog readers who are homeschoolers. We only offer a 48-hour trial directly from our website, so this is a special offer only for homeschoolers who are new users to ALEKS. Access it here

I thought I'd use their descriptions, and give you our personal opinions - look for those in the italics...

Assessment: Students begin in ALEKS by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn next.
- My experience- this worked well for my kiddos grade 3 plus... not so great with my 2nd grader - who cried and ran away - but that's a different issue...

MyPie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.
- My boys loved the "pie" graphic - they could easily see what they needed to work on, and got feedback on what they already knew.

Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple-choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery

Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the topic is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.
- This seems like it is a great resource, but - if your student is struggling to learn this concept - you are going to need to be there... nothing can replace that face-to-face support during math struggles! (believe me, I know!)

Explanations: When a student is working on a particular problem, she can access an explanation of that problem by clicking on the "Explain" button. The explanation typically provides a step-by-step solution, with commentary. In some cases, an alternative or more detailed explanation is also available.
- My "testers" thought this was a weak point, the explanations didn't help them as much as they would like. (the math-brained kid - loved the explanations, but - he always "gets" math...so he doesn't count!)

Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes.

Worksheets: Students have the ability to print out 16-question worksheets for additional practice or review. These worksheets are uniquely generated based on the student's current knowledge.

ALEKS QuickTables: QuickTables is a research-based, math fact mastery program for multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.
- We are going to work on this with the 2nd grader...if we can get her near the computer again!

Interactive Games: Provide additional review and built-in rewards.
- Not surprisingly, their favorite part of testing!

Master Account
Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more.
- I found this to be easy to use.

Attendance Report: Track student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Student Progress Report: Track student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percent of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percent of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percent of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. View a detailed quiz results sample report (PDF).
- Yippee! No more Math for me !

Over all, Aleks is a viable option for the busy homeschool mom. When I asked the "testers" if they would want to do it as their "only" math program...they all replied that it was a fun addition, but would alternate it with another program. (I think I might be rubbing off on them....!)

See what the other reviewers thought here

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Master Ruler

Hello again, another review for the TOS Review crew coming you way! I was sent this product in exchange for my opinion, no compensation...

The Master Ruler is an invention of Master Innovations
You can find them here

Cost: $9.95

The Master Ruler is designed to decrease student frustration with measurement. It really is a neat little tool. A clear plastic ruler, designed with colored overlays for each of the fractions of measurment. It is easy to use and much easier to measure accurately. It is available in Standard and/or Metric. You can purchase it indivdually or as part of a kit including a Workbook to practice skills.

One feature we found extremely useful was the ability to compare equivalent fractions with it. (Don't you love it when God "coordinates" your curriculum with some nifty product you get to test?! I was just struggling through this concept with another one of my "non-math" brained kids...)

I think this video explains how to use it very well...

Master Ruler Video

In addition to the Master Ruler, this company offers other useful innovations like the Master Clock, Master Fractions, Master Angles and the Marvels of Measurement Poster.

I love math products that help me teach the concepts in a new and hands-on way. This one did just that. It also came with a handy Lesson book, and the kiddos are happily measuring everything in sight.

See what my other reviewers thought here

Friday, November 19, 2010

Illuminations by Bright Ideas Press

Illuminations - By Bright Ideas Press

available online here

We were given the opportunity to choose from several exciting programs from Bright Ideas Press for this review (I wasn't paid for my honest opinion). Well, since I LOVE their products, and have purchased almost everything on the list - Illuminations - Year 3 was my choice.

Illuminations is software product that schedules your curriculum for you. It uses the wildy popular (and my personal favorite) history program - Mystery of History by Linda Hobar as a "spine". Then, they add grammar, spelling (several popular programs already scheduled - you pick the one you use...), copywork, vocabulary, writing, literature (both family read alouds and student readers), Bible, Geography, Humanities and Science. And, if that isn't enough - they have extra lists with Supplemental Activities like Audio and Netflix recommendations! The only subject you need to schedule is Math (and everyone knows it would be impossible to pre-schedule a subject like math...arghhh!)

This is exactly the way I would schedule and plan - if I only had the time! I love to pull together various resources and come up with an integrated program that all flows together. But, with 8 kiddos and a home to run - I run out of time and energy to do this. Illuminations is the answer! Best of all, all these pre-planned schedules are fully "tweakable" to your needs. If you don't use a particular resource they have planned, or don't want to cover it, simply type over it (on their handy form) and replace it with your plan! I love it!

The literature guides are great. Each year comes with a literature list, so that you can easily see what books are recommended. You get teacher notes and student sheets for each. And, the Year 3 program included an Ebook to use as well! Well done, easy to understand and super easy to implement. The schedules are seperated into Grades 3-8 and Early Learners. Each Literature guide has a reading schedule, vocabulary, comprehension and discussion questions, and hands-on lessons for that selection. (and the answer key for Mom - just in case, you didn't have time to actually read the book you assigned to your child to read...)

It's easy to see and print, exactly what you want. Just choose a subject, or a week and you can access a pre-planned grid of lessons. Click on anything you want to see to get more information. It is truly a very easy program to master (I hate reading the instruction manual first - and I was able to find my way around with ease...)

Here's a Video that explains it very well.

The cost is $165.00 for a full year plan (year 3) Grades 3-8. High school options are available for an extra $95.00.

This price is for the Illuminations scheduling product only, and not all the resources and books that it uses. Since you customize to your needs, that will cost will vary greatly between families.

If it seems a tad expensive at first, consider how often did you want to... plan to... but never quite do it? I mean, the taking the time to fully plan out your year, pull the resources together, and write it all into a nifty program that lets you print it out? Just the Literature guides alone are worth the cost! (I've been known to assign reading selections that I haven't pre-read... shhhh don't tell the kiddos - but having teacher notes is a lifesaver!) It may be a bargain - when you look at it from that perspective. I thought it was...

See what my other reviewers thought Here

Monday, November 15, 2010


Have I mentioned Shutterfly?

I have to let you know that I have been using them to upload/store/print all my digital photos for the last 4-5 years, and they are great! So easy, so fast, and so much fun.

In addition, I use them for our Holiday cards... get yours here -
They have dozens of fun designs - you add the picture and personalize!

I also create a Family Calendar for Grandma - you can too at -
http://www.shutterfly.com/calendars/desk-calendars (personal tip - make it a birthday present instead of the Christmas gift, and you will save yourself headaches!)

And, many more gift ideas are available -
http://www.shutterfly.com/photo-gifts/photo-mugs (shhh... don't tell Matt - but this may be a stocking stuffer...)

Also, they have a great promotion for Bloggers to get 50 Free Christmas cards, check it out! http://bit.ly/sfly2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Benjamin Franklin

What perfect timing! We were given another fabulous Download N Go Unit Study, by Amanda Bennett to review (didn't get paid...) just as our fabulous Co-op was studying guess who... Benjamin Franklin!

Download N Go Unit studies are 5 day long learning adventures. And, the best part... you just have to Download it and you are ready to GO (no teacher prep needed!). Selah and Lydia can't wait to suprise their history teacher at Co-op this week!

Each unit is regularly $7.95 - but, this Ben Franklin unit is currently on SALE for $6.25 at

Numerous Titles and topics are available to pick from - I promise, you can find something to catch every child's attention.

This unit featured - Ben Franklin (did you know he was one of 17 children! No wonder he is considered so great...)

We learned all about him, and people and places in his life, his accomplishments, lessons we can learn from him and remembrances of him. (did you know he invented swim fins? what would we do without those?!)

The unit is full of interesting links and learning activities. We love the lapbook feature (everything is done for you - all you need is to cut and complete!)

We found plenty of extra book suggestions to add to our study, as well as, Fun Family Ideas. (we are currently making the neatest Ben Franklin puppet ever...)

Make sure to check out what the other reviewers thought by visiting http://homeschoolblogger.com/downloadngo

Friday, November 12, 2010

Corps Of Re-Discovery

Selah LOVED this project. She's been begging to do a "craft" everyday for what feels like the last 10 years (even though she's only 7...)

We were sent an Indian Fringe Pouch Kit to review for our still unpaid position with The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.

You can find yours online at
Retail cost: $11.99

This was so easy to do! The kit came with everything you needed, including the pre-punched leather pieces, fringe, needle, and cord. Selah was able to handle sewing it together, all by herself in less than an hour (I know the exact time, because she did it in the van during violin lessons...)

She is very proud of her creation. In fact, she couldn't wait to take it to our homeschool co-op the next day to show her American History teacher. Everyone was quite impressed with her ability, and my "creativity". I almost hated to admit how very easy and convenient it was (and it didn't have any of my "creativity" included)

This Homeschool family owned and operated business offers numerous projects to give your students the "hands on" experiences to go with learning American History. Pioneer and Colonial, Frontier and Indian. Projects ranging from Quill pens to Quilts, leatherworking and even Knife throwing (very glad they didn't send me throwing knives to review - can you imagine the chaos with 8 children?!!) I'm sure you can find a project everyone will enjoy.

With Christmas coming soon, these would make the perfect stocking stuffers!

See what my other reviewers thought at: www.homeschoolblogger.com/reviewcrew

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy Halloween

The Royal Family makes an appearance...
The King, Queen, Knights (2), Lady-in-waiting (she hates the title "princess", and wanted to be a witch - but I had to draw the line somewhere!), the Pink Princess, a fire-breathing dragon, and the court Jester (ryhmes with Esther - get it?) made their annual "Reverse Trick-or-Treat" to see Dad at work. I'm sure we decreased productivity at HP while we made our way around (but we try to keep it short :-)
I tried to do a "photo shoot" at home, but my princess was sleepy, the jester was in a foul mood, and the others were trying their best... Pictures with a bunch of kiddos are impossible! I think photographers who specialize in kids/families are worth their weight in gold!! (Tina, where are you when I need you? Do you come to AR?)

Friday, October 29, 2010

One Year Update

One year later....

Last summer, we told God - "we'll move to Conway, AR - if Kris Allen wins American Idol". Well, the boys actually sang in concert with Kris Allen - in Conway, AR (our new home, by the way...) almost exactly one year later!

God works in mysterious ways, doesn't he?!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Student Planner

Hello Again! Here I am with another product to share with you (not being paid, not an employee of The Old Schoolhouse... just having alot of fun with their products!)

This one is for the organizationally-challenged. It's the Primary Student Planner - designed for the K-3 student.

Available online: http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=191_193&products_id=16855

Price: $9.95
(Receive an extra special bonus in your Parent Pack-The Curiosity Files™-Puffer Fish-Explorations with Professor Ana Lyze—Expert in Outlandish Oddities-A FUN unit study)

This is a great resource for your planning and record keeping needs. I have been an avid user of the Schoolhouse Planner for several years. This version includes one of my favorite pages - "Beginning and Ending Page" of the school year. We have done this for the past couple of years. It is so fun to see how much your kiddos change over the year.

It's much more than just some calendars and to do lists. They have a complete section "Information Must- Knows" - that alone is a valuable resource to have at your child's fingertips. It features notebooking and journaling pages, Bible reading schedule and Chore charts - just to name a few. There are also plenty of customizable forms to use to overcome organizational challenges, and teach these skills to your children.

Select from a wide variety of forms in this HUGE 203 page resource:

•To-do lists (today, tomorrow, next week . . .)
•Family Tree and Family Rules Forms
•Field Trip Log sheet
•Weekly Planner with a Spelling Words list
•Science lab sheets (use to gather all the supplies and record the experiment too)
•Early elementary book reports (with room for pictures!)
•Chore charts (includes tasks and pictures for primary grades)
•Loaned and borrowed lists (no more lost books, CDs, DVDs . . .)
•Important phone numbers and contacts (never forget a phone number again)
•Dates to remember (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, important events)

Plus . . .

Schedule with monthly and yearly calendars; assignment and due date sheets; or daily, weekly, and quarterly sheets.

Set daily, weekly, monthly, semester, or yearly goals.

Don't know where to start? This planner comes with a handy Parent Pack to help you get started, and inspire you.

Best of all it comes in a convenient Ebook format that you can download and use it over and over again. And, you will only need to print out the pages you use. I love having my own personalized planning system, with only the pages I want and need!

You can see samples online here: http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/sample/TOSPrimaryPLannerSAMPLER.pdf

All E-Books published by The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine come with a 7-day, 100% money-back guarantee!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Buckets-O-Fun - YUCK!
available online at http://www.buckets-o-fun.com

Another fun product to test (we weren't paid, but we did get to get messy for free!)

Buckets-O-Fun is a 4 year old company that specializes in FUN, MESSY, YUCKY entertainment. Every child's dream.

They sent me the following to try out:

Saucy Yuck (consisitency of you guessed it... applesauce)

Chunky Yuck - kinda like ice cubes from McDonalds


Snowy Yuck - this looks just like snow! This was our personal favorite - as it was snowing back home in Minnesota, but we were enjoying the snow in Arkansas in shorts and flip-flops!

So, what can you do with this stuff? Well, it makes for a fun science experiment demonstrating polymers and chemical reactions.

Additionally, the company sells it in 1 lb. bags for $15-$20 (depending on the type of Yuck you want). That will create 35-60 GALLONS of the yuck when combined with water. They have dozens of fun ideas for you online. We would have loved to whip out the slip and slide and see what this slippery YUCK could do... but, that would have gotten too messy for this mommy!

With Halloween right around the corner, we are contemplating what we could do with the Yuck (why waste such a great thing...right?) And, we are now in the process of seeing what happens as the water evaporates.

I can't keep my hands out this squishy, slimy Yuck. Everytime I walk past it, I just have to touch it!

See what my other reviewers thought at: www.homeschoolblogger.com/reviewcrew

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

PG Key

PG Key - available online at http://www.pgkey.com/
cost - $49.99 (of the best money you'll spend on technology!)

I was given this product as part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, and did not recieve payment for my honest opinion.

This is a great, easy-to-use product! Have you been wondering how to tame the "techno-beast" in your home? (Todd Wilson has some ideas for you at Familyman Ministries...)
I know I have struggled with how to put safe limits on our computer time, how to be sure that inappropriate sites haven't been visited (even on accident), and just being able to really "KNOW" what is going on - when I'm not there.

PG Key is the answer! It is a simple device that plugs into your USB port. When it's activated, you are able to view up to 60 hours of computer activity. When it is removed, the computer will no longer operate. It provides the "mom-over-your-shoulder" kind of supervision, even when you aren't there.

I have tried other filtering software in the past, but found that they either slowed my computer to a crawl... or had expensive renewal fees each year. PG Key does neither. One-time purchase is all you need. And, I found absolutely no change in our computer's operating speed.

You also can customize it numerous ways to fit your families needs.

You can set a Time Lock (when your time is up - the computer doesn't operate) No more arguing for "one more minute Mom!"

You can have a Safe Search page, making sure that even innocent searches don't result in not-so-innocent results.

PG Key will automatically send you alerts if words or phrases are used that don't follow the rules that you set up.

And, like I mentioned - you can view up to 60 hours of the computer activity. It's so easy, all you do is click the icon - and watch it like a movie. You can fast forward as well. It shows everying being done on the computer - web browsings, emails, online and offline games, word processing - everything.

My favorite quote on their website: "Simply put - PG Key does NOT replace parenting with technology - It ENABLES parenting with technology".

PG Key offers a Free Trial.
It is available online at Amazon and directly from them at http://www.pgkey.com/

I highly recommend using this handy little tool for your peace of mind!

See what my other reviewers thought at: www.homeschoolblogger.com/reviewcrew

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Terrific Tigers

Terrific Tigers - a Download N Go Unit Study by Amanda Bennett

$7.95 per unit

Have you wanted to be a Unit Study-professional-homeschool-mom? Have your children happily following after your every move as you skillfully plan and execute the perfect unit themed study? After you woke from this dream... you realized - you just don't have the time to pull it off?

Hang in there, help is on the way! Amanda Bennett has created the answer to our dilemma - it's called a "Download N Go" unit study, and she has many great, engaging topics to choose from.

The one I was happy to do is called : Terrific Tigers

(by the way, I wasn't paid for my honest opinion...)

A Download N Go study is a one week (5 day) unit study. It's called Download N Go, because that is all you need to do...download it, and go off on the adventure of learning (no trips to the library needed, unless you were there already...)

Terrific Tigers was so much fun! We learned so much about tigers. We learned about a different sub-species of tiger each day. In addition, we covered geography, science, art history and appreciation, math, vocabulary and literature. But, it was so enjoyable, we didn't even realize how much we were learning. Each Day covered a new aspect of tigers, and by the end of our week we had all the pieces to assemble a lapbook to showcase all that we had learned. (The final tiger covered was one of our favorites... you'll have to get this unit to see why!)

The unit is full of video links and web cams. The children and I could not get enough of watching these marvelous creatures. And, best of all - I didn't have to search high and low on the internet to find them! The unit also offers Book Suggestions to go with each day, and an entire page of Family Fun Ideas to keep the learning going (we can hardly wait to make a Tiger Cake).

I have completed several of the Download N Go units, and this was one of our favorites. I can't believe the amount of information presented. Amanda Bennett has put together an amazing learning tool. I highly recommend adding several (or more) of these fun units into your usual school routine... I know it will add a little "spice" to your day!

Lydia was very excited to be my "tester" - and is proudly displaying her "endangered species" - a COMPLETED lapbook! (a major benefit to this unit study - a lapbook with all the pieces ready to go...)

I am so excited about this product - that I have been given the opportunity to GIVE ONE AWAY FREE!!! This is a first for my blog... a giveaway! Please leave a comment, include your email - and if you are chosen in our random drawing on October 29th - I'll send you your very own copy of "Terrific Tigers" for free! (Sorry, no TOG Review Crew or DNG Review Crew, or any other affiliates of The Old Schoolhouse can win...)

See what the other reviewers thought at: http://homeschoolblogger.com/downloadngo/?p=935

Brill Kids - Little Reader

Time for another review from The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I wasn't paid anything for my honest opinion of this product, much to my poor hubby's dismay!

The Little Reader by Brill Kids
available at http://www.brillkids.com/

This is a novel program. It's goal is to teach babies to read. Yes, you read it right - infants and toddlers mastering reading. They have several videos that are quite impressive - you can view at their website http://www.brillkids.com/teach-reading/vid_kl.php

Your child is able to view their lessons on the computer in a fun and engaging way. The lessons are easy to use, and customizable (you can put Mom's picture with the word "mom"). The lessons are taught using Flash method, Multisensory Method and Intuitive Phonics. Each time you do the lesson - the computer will change the sequence, always keeping it new. New words and even foreign languages can be easily added to expand the scope of the program.

So, I checked it out... I brought over our 1 1/2 year old and our 3 year old. They both enjoyed seeing the pictures (I'm a little un-sure of them actually learning to read the words...) But, they sat happily through several lessons. The goal is to do 2 lessons per day. The lessons are short, and all you have to do is to push play. Unfortunately, after several days of lessons, the novelty wore off - and our mouse was too much of a distraction... The program does offer "locking" options to turn off some of the "distractions" available at the computer. And, they also have flashcards to use the progam in a "more comfortable" area, i.e. the sofa.

I know plenty of people who swear this method is effective, and in all fairness - I'm sure it can be, if you have the time and discipline to complete the lessons faithfully. My sister-in-law has had alot of success with a similar approach and her 1 year old. But, my 1 1/2 year old is having much more fun taking tupperware out of the cabinet and eating crayons. But, please know - this is NOT DUE TO THIS PROGRAM'S EFFECTIVENESS.... it is due to my personal lack of discipline! Brill Kids is so confident of their success that they offer a guarantee that your child will be able to recognize words after completeing the 12 month system. Additionally, they even offer a free trial - so, try it out for yourself.
The Brill Kids website had a variety of useful information about teaching early reading, and several free downloadable booklets to help you. Also, there are free flashcards you can print for infant visual stimulation, children's ebooks, and activity sheets. Fascinating research. If you like this approach, they also offer Little Math programs as well.

The Little Reader program sells for $149 for the Basic and a Deluxe version is available for $399.

What's included the Basic system?

Little Reader software installation disc
2 Content discs with 12-month, ready-made curriculum
Lifetime usage of the learning system
2 BrillKids Presentation Binders
40 Customizable Flap Cards
20 Customizable Flash Cards
160 sheets of word and picture prints:
Content Printouts for 8 core categories
5 Little Reader Storybooks
2 Weekly Lesson Planners, one for each semester
10 Sheets of Sticker Labels for playing the labeling game
"Everything you need to know about teaching your baby to Read" booklet
Teaching with Little Reader" booklet
BrillKids Loyalty Points

See what my other reviewers thought of it at www.homeschoolblogger.com/reviewcrew

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rocking Robots

Guess what?! I have another unpaid job - my wonderful husband couldn't be prouder...
I am very excited to be joining the Download and Go unit study review team.

For my first review - Rocking Robots.

Download and Go units are week long unit studies created by Amanda Bennett. They are available at http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com and http://www.downloadngo.com

At an affordable $7.95 per unit,you can add as many as you wish. (Here's an "insider tip" - they frequently offer specials, and you can get discounts by purchasing the bundles).

Here's how our homeschool uses these fabulous studies. Do you ever have a week that everyone seems to be having educational ADD - no ability to focus, on anything? Well, we have them here. So, I use them to add a little variation to our routine - usually enough to get them to come out of hiding and get interested in learning again.

I also love to use them to complement something we are already studying. We will take the week long schedule and do 1 day per week for the course of a month. They also make a great "delight driven" subjects - show your child the list of topics offered (believe me - they have many to choose from!) and see what sparks an interest and let them work on it for the month.

Now that I told you a little about these gems... I'd love to share Rocking Robots, the unit we were given in exchange for our honest opinion. (still not getting paid, but we are having alot of fun!)

Rocking Robots will introduce you to all kinds of things about robots. From the history of them, the people who have created them, the science they possess. This unit is absolutely filled with really cool video clips! And, you have everything you need to make a really neat lapbook to showcase what you learned.

We were introduced to geography, history, vocabulary, anatomy, astronomy, and just plain fun! Each day we got to meet "Robot of the Day" - the personal family favorites were the violin and piano playing robots (especially for practice time around here!) The kiddos had opportunities to design their own robots. My favorite family creation - a robot to brush their teeth at night! (and they do dog teeth too?)

In addition to the Daily schedule, each unit offers Book suggestions and Family Fun Ideas to go with the unit. I knew I was saving those shoeboxes for the perfect craft - they make a great robot body!

If you always dreamed of being a "Unit Study" mom, but found that you were too tired to pull it all together - these are for you! There is really zero prep time needed - you can just "Download and Go". You and your students will be off and learning before you can say "where's the library card?"

Read what the other reveiwers thought at: http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/downloadngo/?p=872

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Talking Fingers

My next review - Read, Write & Type by Talking Fingers

This is a revolutionary way to teach Reading, Writing and Typing. It combines a multi-sensory approach with hearing, seeing and touching.

I tested this (we weren't paid - just got to use the program for free!) with my 9 year son. Very quickly, the sounds of "computer time" were reaching the ears of younger students who began to crowd around to see what he was getting to do...
So, while he was my "offical tester" - the 7 yr old, 6 yr old, 4 yr old and 3 yr old all sat and watched him "test" with rapt attention.

The animations are well done, and the story lines are engaging. It took about an hour to do a "unit" of 4 letters and sounds. A certificate is printable after each unit, if you want to use it to reward progess. I really liked that the computer automatically kept track of his progress - starting wherever he left off, and that it notes areas needing more attention and redirects the student back to those areas.

My tester was a little old for the phonics instruction - but it was very nice to combine the phonics with the typing instruction - which this was his first. He liked the animated characters and the games to go with them. And since, he's a more sensory learner - his retention was improved. One note of parental "caution" - if you want them to have correct finger placement, you need to watch over their shoulders from time to time. (the computer can't tell you if they're using the correct hand placement - even though it teaches the correct hand placement...)

The website offers tons of advice and testimonials. Check them out at http://www.talkingfingers.com/


55 sound games with more than 200 word pictures
118 typing challenges with more than 200 words and phrases
40 animated stories with more than 600 words
40 Power Fountain games with 3 difficulty levels and 1,000 words
84 writing samples from real children around the world

Spaceship Challenge CD ROM
9 Phoneme Awareness Challenges with more than 90 items
9 Reading Comprehension Challenges with more than 90 items
9 Spelling Challenges with more than 90 items
Reports of individual or class progress
40 printable RWT™ stories
120 clip art pictures and Read, Write & Type Learning System™ characters to illustrate original stories

Activity Book with one lesson per page, and bonus play activities to do with your child
18 level-appropriate Stories (available on our web site) that provide a reward and extra practice with the sounds and words they are learning.
The Laminated Keyboard for practicing dictated words in the car or at home
2 sets of stickers

Check out what my other reviewers thought at www.homeschoolblogger.com/reviewcrew

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vocabulary Cartoons

Here's another product review that we really enjoyed doing (still not paid, by the way...).

It is: Vocabulary Cartoons by New Monic Books

This book is a collection of funny cartoons and rhymes to teach vocabulary. It contains 210 words that every grammar student should know, as well as, review quizzes and fill-in-the-blank problems.

We have been using it as our "word of the day" resource, and all the kiddos love starting out our day with a giggle. The cartoons use mnemonics to increase retention - remember the old ryhme "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean... - blue!" That's mnemonics at work.

We are enjoying the new vocabulary - and it's been painless to introduce it to our day, since it's a very short page to look over. Everyone is getting "mom rewards" when caught using their new words.

As I looked at their website - I was excited to learn they have additional products to offer... Including CD-PDF formats (fun for printing out and hanging up!), 7-12th Grade Levels, and a book of Mnemonic ryhmes (I plan on getting those!)

What a fun way to learn, and very affordable at just $12.95 per book.

Read what my other reviewers thought at: www.homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Here comes another TOS Homeschool Crew Review Hit!

Schleich sent us a collection of their animal figurines to test and review (we still didn't get paid...) My kiddos thought Christmas had come early.

Are you tired of toys that beep and buzz and break shortly after you unwrap them? Well, I am.
We actually discovered this wonderful company years ago, and have NEVER been disappointed with our purchases.
Schleich was founded over 75 years ago in Germany. They design and distribute their products to over 50 countries. Major retailers like Target and Toy R Us, as well as many independent toy shops are proud to carry their products.

From a "mom opinion" - these toys are wonderful. They don't beep, don't need batteries, and can stand up to whatever abuse comes their way. Also, because of the details and workmanship - these are figures that stand out from the crowded toybox. I wasn't surprised, but each of them are hand-painted after finishing. No wonder they look so realistic!

Please visit - http://www.schleich-s.com/ to see their entire 500 plus collection

Even though we were sent animals, I must mention a favorite toy in our busy, boy-filled house is the Schleich Knights (available at Target and Toys R Us). Even as I type - there is a major medieval battle raging in our hallway. I need to clarify - it's not only the "littles" engaging in this imaginative play - currently the 13 yr old, 11 yr old and 9 yr old BOYS are happily battling each other for control of the castle... not a WII in sight!

My "littles" are having a blast with the toy animals. When I asked them what they liked best - they told me they loved the detail, and all the cool animals available. Much more than just the "traditional" animals - they produce everything from farm animals to safari creatures (including the ever illusive Gnu and Gnu calf, not to mention - the Okapi!) These are an educational adventure in play.

The only downside to this review - Schleich included a catalog that shows all the cool creations available, and now the kiddos are fighting over which ones they want next! (lucky for me, they are affordably priced, and worth every dime!)

See what my other reviewers thought at:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Another Math resource for me to review. I still didn't earn any money for my opinion, but they did give us a wonderful math game!

So, here's the next product from The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew for you....

It's a simple, but effective deck of cards called - Pyramath.

I tested this out with "algebra boy" and the "other-one-that-thinks-more-like-his-mom" in mathmatical terms... we always hear a slight buzzing sound near equations...

Anyway, they picked it up and without any intervention (or many instructions) started playing a game. Not only did they enjoy it, - "my-son-like-me" even beat "algebra boy"! It truly is appealing to both of them. (not a small feat, considering the wide difference in their math apptitude...) The basic concept is to complete a pyramid using math operations - multliplication, addition, subtraction and division. First one to the top is the winner.

What I liked - it was helping them sharpen their math skills, but under disguise of having fun. Each card has multiple languages (English, Spanish, Roman Numerals, Chinese, and Arabic) so you get a little "multicultural" exposure to boot! At a reasonable price of only $6.95 - it's a great addition to your math arsenal.

How to find them: http://www.pyramath.com/

A bonus - there is a free online version of Pyramath on their website, as well as several other games which we did not review - but do plan on purchasing (at http://www.iseegames.com/)

See what my other reviewers thought at: www.homeschoolblogger.com/homeschoolcrew

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Math Essentials

My next review.... One especially hand-picked for me.... (well, not really - but I wasn't paid for my opinion!)...

America's Math Teacher!

The one area of homeschooling that fills me with dread, I mean wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night terror - MATH! I have jumped in and tried to "re-learn" aside my kiddos, from those first addition and subtraction facts. Well, even with all I have "re-learned" - it hasn't been enough to give me the confidence to tackle the more difficult math. In fact, after a lengthy explanation including diagrams... My wonderful, math-brained son said, "You're making it worse Mom!"

So, imagine my delight at getting this product to review!

America's Math Teacher is an online math course - available at all hours! You can access clearly explaned concepts from Early Addition all the way to Algebra! And, I must say - the students are not more confused than when they started! In addition to the video teaching, you also can access written exercises, speed drills, and evaluations! All coordinated to meet the "NCTM standards".

I tested this out with "algebra boy" and he gave it 2 thumbs up! He is only negative comment was that the Online Tutor wasn't quite as funny as he would like him to be.

My next son, who has my "math brain" - tested the Speed Drills for me. He was reluctant at first, but after a round or two - even he was hooked, trying to best his score.

I really wish I had known about this fabulous resource earlier in our homeschooling journey, it could have given me many more peaceful nights of sleep... not wondering how I was going to teach Math! It features 4 complete Math courses - from Basic Math to Algebra 1. For homeschools - the price of $195.00 per year, no auto renewals! (unlimited students, all 4 courses, all the time, and any time!) It's a bargain compared to purchasing seperate programs for each child's level!

Here's how to find them:

You can also read what our other reviewers thought about this program at:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bible Bee 2010

We just completed the National Bible Bee 2010 competition....

Here are my competitors - Sam - 3rd Place in Jr. Division, Luke-4th Place Jr. Division, Noah - 4th Place Primary Division, and Selah - 3rd Place Junior Timothy Track.

I am so proud! They worked hard all summer memorizing Scripture, and working on a family inductive Bible study on the book of Colossians.

If you have not heard about the National Bible Bee - you need to look into this wonderful organization at http://www.biblebee.org/.

This year, I volunteered to Host the local contest. WOW! is all that I can say about all the amazing kiddos and families I got to know this summer.

To brag a little more (if you haven't already left...) The Conway, AR local contest has a National Qualifier that will go to compete with the top 100 finalists for some MAJOR cash prizes this November in Chicago!

(they better be working hard, because the Bentz Bunch is going to give them a run for it next summer!!)

Our First Day of Koinonia Cooperative Academy

Back to school - 2010-2011

I can't believe we are beginning our 9th year of Homeschooling!!!!
We joined a Co-op this year (0ur first experience with this type of learning...) The kiddos were so excited to finally have backpacks and lunchboxes.

What a wonderful group of families we are blessed to be a part of. Our first day went well (even Esther had a great time!)

Now, back to lesson planning...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Peterson Directed Handwriting

It's time for another installment in my Product Reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew. I was not paid for my opinions (still looking for that paying job...)

I was selected to review Peterson Directed Handwriting.

Here's how to find them:

I specifically looked at Handwriting for 2nd Grade - $15.05 for the set.

Their products are very homeschool friendly, available as downloadable Ebooks. This was a feature that jumped off the page at me right away. I love being able to print what we need, when we need it, and multiplied by as many times as I need it! A very economical choice for families.

I must say, Handwriting is not a favorite subject in the "Bentz Academy for Gifted and Talented Students"... But, it is one that we have been in need of assistance with for some time. Unless all your children are planning on becoming Doctors (we have several in our family, so this is said in love...) You probably need some help with it too!

Peterson's approach is what makes it so unique. Instead of focusing on "drawing" the letters, you teach your child several simple strokes with a corresponding voice chant, which make up most of our letter formation. But, the goal of this program is not to just draw the letters, using your visual processing... It it to create fluency with legibility.

One thing I found particularily helpful with this program was the throughness of explanation. I must say, I had never really focused on handwriting as a process - more of an outcome. This program breaks the teaching (or coaching, as they call it) into very managable steps. Directed practice using the child's voice to create rythym and fluency is a whole new approach for us.

The program comes with everything you need, but if you want additional information, more help with how-to teach this approach... The website is full of helpful and useful items! Even an Information Directory with links to many training videos that you and your child can watch together.

All together, this is a very comprehensive Handwriting program. But, in my opinion, even more than handwriting is being taught with this method. Cognitive processing in every area is increased with their approach. They claim improved spelling, grammar and reading as well. Based on experience going back to 1908 - I'd say they can back up the research.

I can't say that Peterson Directed Handwriting moved our handwriting up to the "favorite -subject-of-the-day" spot.... But, it did give me some very specific, measurable ways of directing my children's progress in this area.

Check out what the other members of the Review Crew had to say at