Thursday, March 26, 2015

We need YOU!

Click on the image - and you can find out how!

HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage: A TOS Crew Review

HomeSchool Office Review
HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage

This is a handy, online complete, home school lesson planning program.  You can plan and keep track of schedules, resources, lesson plans, and grades all in one integrated program. Annual subscription price - $79

I do love a good plan, don't you?  A course to track, a path to take, and way to look back at what we've accomplished.  I know after many years of homeschooling (and now with many students too!)  that  "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" - Benjamin Franklin.  HomeSchool Office from Lord Heritage is an online planning tool for you to put POWER into your home school planning.

  • Plan (based on Jeremiah 29:11)  – schedule course goals, build a master schedule, setup lessons and even plan your budget. 
  • Order (based on 1 Corinthians 14:40)  – schedule lessons, integrate home & school activities, create lists & reminders 
  • Work (based on John 17:4)  – provide student access, print schedules, follow lessons, manages to-do lists 
  • Evaluate (based on Matthew 28:20) – track grades, attendance & hours spent 
  • Report (based on Romans 14:12) – create transcripts & crest reports for personal use and to meet state requirements 

The Bentz Test Laboratory is always looking for new tools that can make our journey easier.  HomeSchool Office looked like just the type of program we would like... 

First, you have to set up your TEAM - this is your students and  anyone that helps with your homeschooling effort.  If you have outside teachers or Coop members - this is your place to keep all that information handy. 

PLAN is the next section.  One thing I noticed right away is that there is a large volume of entry work to do in order to modify and customize this to your individual home school's needs.  I choose just to enter 4 students, because I really don't need to keep this type of detail (and set up effort) for every one of my 8 students.  Afterall,  I could spend more time creating a perfectly designed schedule than teaching them!

For each student, you must set up their Subjects (individually) - you must choose from a drop down menu of subjects which is not customizable (a major drawback).  After each subject is created, you create your Master School Year Plan of days teaching (glad I live in TX - where we are FREE to home school on our plan, and not someone else's!).  Then, you move into adding each subject onto each student's personal calendar.  

Okay, to be honest - this is where this program loses me.  4 students x 5 days per week x # of subjects becomes a daunting task to enter in item by item.  I could not find a way to enter this information over a range of dates, or even to just copy/paste.  This is a major drawback if you have multiple students (and I was only working with 1/2 of mine!)  They offer "help" - but, I really had a hard time learning to navigate around in this program.  

One useful feature I did discover wad the ability to "Push" or "Pull" assignments that you have created to different days.  Since our days rarely, if ever, go as scheduled - this is nice!

ORDER, WORK & EVALUATE - these sections allow you to print daily lists, see your progress and track grades & attendance.  Every section requires you to complete the required information in the section previous.  It doesn't appear that there is a way to modify this to just the information you really want or need, without wading through all the sections.  For instance, I do not make daily lists for my students - I prefer to give them a big picture look at what I need them to accomplish, and then let them take the responsibility to manage the order they want to complete assignments.  I could not find the path to creating that type of list.

REPORT - this section will allow you to print Progress Reports and Transcripts.  You can customize fields you want to include, but there are limited fields to choose from.

Overall, I love the "idea" of this program.  However, the amount of tedious entry and the lack of ability to customize to my individual needs makes it one that doesn't work well for us.  

I do think that faithful planning has been the biggest blessing in our home school journey!  Make sure you check out the free 30-day trial  to see if this program may be a good fit for your home school.

See what others members of the Crew thought here

HomeSchool Office Review

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, March 20, 2015

Institute of Texan Cultures

I think I should just field-trip all the way through school....

We took a day to visit the Institute of Texan Cultures here in San Antonio - what a treat!

So many hands-on ways to learn history, and culture... why settle for a boring textbook?!

Taking our friends with us, makes the learning even better.  We started in the "dome" a theater above and around us...

Yeah for Texas!  Horses, cowboys and even a quilt of cattle brands...

Some people crazy enough to follow me on my adventures...

Ready for some one room school?

 But, more here than just "Texas" - we saw cultures from all over the world!

The best part of our day... the sweet, old docent who taught us how to spin and weave!  Now, my girls want their own spinning wheel.

Don't settle for just reading about it...get them out to experience it!

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Critical Thinking Company Review


Designed for K-5th grades GPALOVEMATH is a streaming online math program that can be used on the following browsers: Google Chrome, Internet Explorer 11, Mozilla Firefox, and Apple Safari 6 and 7.

Each level has a different animated "Learning Coach" that guides your student through a Lesson - Practice - and Quiz. Each grade level has over 150 lessons and you get access to all K-5 levels with your subscription! This is a super nice feature if you want to work above/below a certain grade level. By completing 4-5 lessons a week, you can finish a grade level in approx. 10 months.

A subscription is just $129/yr. per child with promotion code GPAINTRO15 (reg. $149/yr.) or $12.99/mo.per child for the month-to-month subscription. You can even try it FREE for 30 days by signing up here.

We are at the point in the year where math has ceased to be any fun...anyone with me? The Bentz Test Laboratory took advantage of 5 different levels of GPALOVEMATH from GPA LEARN . My testers LOVE this program!!   

First, you simply set up your parent account, and each child.  I like that I could do this very easily, and even added their picture to personalize their account with just a click.  They like seeing their own face after they login, and with multiple testers - it helped them make sure they were doing the correct level!

As they work through each lesson that is unlocked on their learning path (some are arithmetic, some are geometry, etc.) they are led through the lesson by their "Learning Coach".   My testers loved that each of them had a different coach - a Penguin, a Robot, an Owl, a Detective & a Superhero.  Meet the "Learning Coaches":

The animation is good, but their voices need a little smoothing out - they all kinda sound robotic.  Not a big deal to my testers, it bothered me more than them.  The lessons introduce the concept and new vocabulary. I found that GPA Math contained many new concepts that we hadn't covered yet, and the novelty was helping make math fun again.  Yeah!

After the lesson, the practice section lets them work through questions - without any penalty for wrong answers, and Learning Coach assistance with a click.

Finally, they take a 10 question quiz.  If they are not happy with their score, they can retake it and improve.

A fun feature of this program is that YOU get to set the rewards!  We can pick and choose which rewards our child will receive by completing lessons. The program gives the parent the option of letting it automatically set up rewards using the 5 most popular parent rewards, or you can select your own customizable rewards. There are over 100 rewards to choose from! I choose the top 5 - things like "staying up an extra 30 minutes" & "Choose what we have for dinner" were a hit with my testers.


Parents get an email each time your student completes a lesson.  I really liked seeing these - you can see which lesson, how long it took and their quiz score. 

Lydia completed a lesson!

Hey Renita,
Lydia has just completed a lesson about Name Angles.
Lesson Quick Summary
Date and time started: [03/18/2015] 05:29 PM
Date and time completed: [03/18/2015] 05:48 PM
How long did it take?
(Minutes & Seconds)
Instruction Completed
Practice Completed
Quiz Master
12 correct out of 15
Badge: Excellent
At any time, you can always audit the lesson to have an engaging chat with Lydia.
Love Learning,

Weekly summaries are also sent via email detailing how many lessons, time spent and their scores. 

This WeekTotal
Nice Job00
Try Again00

Lesson TitleDateDurationOutcomeInstructionPracticeQuiz
The Number 9Mar 11 20156mRockstar Skipped Completed 10/10
OrientationMar 11 20151mRockstar Completed Skipped 0/0
The Number 8Mar 09 201515mRockstar Completed Completed 10/10

We really are enjoying GPALOVEMATH - it's been just the thing we needed to bring back some "math love" at this time of year!   Be sure you check this one out!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Digital Science Online from Visual Learning Systems: A TOS Crew Review

Visual Learning Systems Review

Visual Learning Systems 

Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) (This is primary as well as elementary science.)  and Digital Science Online: Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12)

Visual Learning Systems Review


Visual Learning Systems  is an online, annual subscription science program.  They offer 2 levels of programs: Digital Science Online: Elementary Edition (Grades K-5) -This is primary as well as elementary science  and  Secondary Edition (Grades 6-12) .

At Bentz Test Laboratory, we enjoy learning that is not confined to just textbooks (we do have some textbooks...just so you don't panic).  When I saw Visual Learning Systems, I knew it would be a hit!

You can pick and choose which level you are interested in, and also what area of science you would like to study and explore - life, physical, earth, biology and more.  Each section includes professionally done - high interest video clips, animations, and  images.  In addition - PDF downloads of assessments, student activities, and teacher’s guides are included with each lesson. 

Since I have testers in all age groups, we all took a peek at various topics (we were given a year long subscription, and plan to use every minute of it!)   We were never disappointed!  The videos are extremely well done.  However, my elementary testers, grades K-5, claimed this product for the review, and spent the most time with it.  (please pardon the messy desk...learning is taking place, no time to clean!)

This program is very user friendly, once you log on you can pick and chose from numberous different topics available.  My testers decided to start with Life Science  - specifically focusing on plants.   The videos ranged in length from 15-20 minutes.  Perfect time for their attention spans. The sections on plants naturally led into the different biomes on eath.  They needed to be pried away from the computer...

Once they have completed the video portion - additional resources are available.  In the student section worksheets include:  Pre and Post Tests, Video Review, Vocabulary, Writing Activity & Hands on Activities are available to download and print. 

My testers were excited to take the learning off the screen and over to the "lab"... aka - kitchen table.  They choose to do a hands on flower dissection.

The instructions were clearly written, and easy to follow.  

This program is more than a supplement.  You can use it as your main science curriculum.  My testers loved the visual aspects, and the extra worksheets were a great way to get some hands on interaction going.

My younger testers have really enjoyed this program - in fact, they ask to do science everyday!

My older testers were more interested in picking and choosing topics that they wanted more information on.  One cautionary note, this program does not teach from a creationist worldview - so you will want to be aware.  We did not encounter any "objectionable" topics in our study.  Nutrition and Health are included in the upper levels - we plan to work through both segments this spring.

I really like this program. If you're a busy home school mom that wants to add more to your science studies - but, you don't have the time to pull it all together, you will want to check this one out!

Check out the special pricing for homeschoolers - they offer free tutorials explaining the courses and a one month free trial.

Find Visual Learning Systems  on Social Media:Facebook -
Twitter -

Visual Learning Systems Review

Crew Disclaimer

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Remember the Alamo!

I could field trip all the way through K-12!  Now that we find ourselves in San Antonio, TX - a whole new buffet of field trip choices is ours to choose from.

March 6, 1836 was the epic end to the Battle of the Alamo.  So, what better way to celebrate the 179th anniversary of this event than to get up and haul sleepy kiddos to the "Dawn at the Alamo" event...beginning at 6 am on a frosty 29 degree morning?

Of course I'm that crazy...but, you already knew that!

The Alamo is beautiful all lit up in the early morning hours.

 Costumed historians treated us to a glimpse of what it may have looked like...and sounded like!


 What a fun way to study history.  Memories of "Victory or Frostbite", the sounds and sights, and time with friends = Best history lesson ever!

Egglo Entertainment: A TOS Crew Review

Egglo Entertainment Review
Egglo Entertainment

 The Bentz Test Laboratory loves traditions, and egg hunts were family traditions since the beginning. However, we don't like the focus being on the bunny. Egglo Entertainment  has brought us a fun way to keep the true meaning of Easter the focus in our Easter Egg hunt fun!  

Egglo Entertainment Review

Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs - 12 eggs of 4 different colors (pink, blue, yellow and green) and two different designs (a cross or plain).   The Glow in the Dark Egglo Eggs were a HUGE hit! You "charge" them under light (we just used natural sunlight) and they will glow for 1-2 hours. My testers are so fascinated by anything that glows. The 12 eggs are made of sturdy plastic, some are decorated with a cross, others are plain. I really liked the sturdy construction (not like the discount store plastic eggs) 

In just a short time, they were off and glowing. So many fun ways to use these eggs - a scavenger hunt at night, a treat in a basket, or even better - a memorable object lesson.  The glow reminds children of the TRUE light of the World - Jesus!

I found another use for these handy little eggs...  a bit off the Easter theme.  With so many of my testers loosing teeth lately, I thought - hey, these would make great "tooth fairy" containers!  My testers have been stashing their lost teeth, and hiding the egg.  The glow-in-the-dark feature has helped me locate these little treasures!

The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure book -  This beautifully illustrated 40 page storybook tells the story of 3 children and a dog that are sent on a scavenger hunt type of adventure around the world. At each stop along the journey, they find another glowing egg each containing two scrolls, one with a Bible verse and the other with a riddle for them to figure out. 

It's a bit long, but my testers really enjoyed the story, and the challenges!  For busy moms who spend a lot of time in the car... check out the The Egg-cellent Easter Adventure (book audio download) - it is a quality audio telling of the storybook.

Egglo Entertainment Review

Egglo Treasures Scripture Scrolls - 12 super cute little plastic scrolls with Scripture printed on them.  These fit easily into the eggs, and make a great alternative to candy!

 Egglo Bible Verse Stickers -  set of 12 stickers, made to remind your child of the scrolls in the adventure story book.  The stickers can be tucked into the eggs, or used to decorate them.

The Egglo Glow in the Dark Egg Hunt Event Curriculum - 60 page downloadable PDF guide with step-by-step guide featuring how-to instructions, visual aides, activity ideas, snack ideas, decorations, coloring activity pages, Bible verse scroll and cross Easter egg cutouts to put in the eggs and more.  The curriculum can help you turn this into an Egg-cellent Adventure (sorry, I couldn't help myself)  for your group or Coop.  
Egglo Entertainment Review

The program is best suited for ages 4-12 years, but is easily adaptable for younger or older ages.  All the testers at Bentz Test Laboratory found something to love.  A new family tradition has been born!

Find Egglo Entertainment on Social Media:

Google +:

See what other members of the Crew thought here
Egglo Entertainment Review
Crew Disclaimer