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