Thursday, February 28, 2013

Going to College and Paying For It : A TOS Crew Review

"Are you trying to help your child through the process of Going to College and Paying for it and feel lost in the maze of options? Are you worried that you will leave "money on the table" and cause your child (or you) to pay more for college than necessary? Are you stressed because you're not sure what you are supposed to be doing?"

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, Going to College and Paying for it  by College Common Sense  can help you de-mystify this process.

Watch Denise's video - A Word to Parents (about 3 min)

Photobucket The Going to College and Paying for It DVD and Workbook - $50 plus s/h.

 The DVD is the heart of this program. It explains what you need to know in an easy-to-understand format to earn the most free money you can. The Workbook outlines exercises so you can see how it affects you specifically and helps you develop a plan of action that will benefit you the most.

Do you have children?  Are you hoping they will go to college?  Are you scared out of your mind at the prospect?    If you are like me, it's coming faster than I could have ever believed!

First Day of School...... High School  (seems like a blink, really!)

We have entered another new era at Bentz Test Laboratory - preparing for college, and figuring out how to pay for it!  

Going to College and Paying For It- is just what we needed!  This program is a common sense approach to college.  Denise Ames, the author,  is someone who knows what she's talking about - having years of experience in college finincial aid offices. 

The program contains 6 videos and  PDF workbooks to accompany.  Topics covered:
  • The Big Picture
  • How Financial Aid Works
  • All About the Free Money
  • The System that Works
  • You in the Process, and
  • Put it all Together  

In addition, College Common Sense website is a treasure trove of helpful information.  You can even sign up for FREE weekly lessons plans.

"Wait!",  you say!  "This is great - but, my children aren't even close to college age yet!"  Did you know, you can start early in this process (and you better - because there is a lot to know) The author reports even children as young as 6 years old can begin to earn scholarship money toward college!!  The FREE weekly Lesson Plans will give you helpful information to begin working on - no matter what age your children are.

My Bentz Tester enjoyed the videos. They are simple, and straightforward - like having a talk with your own personal financial aid counselor.  He is very motivated to go to college - debt free.  Since we have a houseful...  it's going to be his responsibility to accomplish this. (It's okay - I managed to do it all by myself too,  where there's a will - God will help you find the way!)

He watched the videos, took notes, and is beginning to get informed.  Starting an "All About You" notebook is a great suggestion that all my testers have begun.  A "Scholarship Binder" is also being created.  These are they type of practical, doable suggestions that this program is filled with.  The extra videos included in the Free lesson plans are a valuable part of this program - don't miss out on them.

I appreciate the author's approach - she puts the responsibility onto the student's shoulders!  She offers tried and true tips and advice, educates them about the financial aid system, and encourages them to get started and never give up.  All the messages we've been telling him for years...

I'm glad to have found this resource early on, and you will be too!

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew 
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A+TutorSoft, Inc. : A TOS Review

From their website:
"A+ TutorSoft, Inc offers very comprehensive Interactive MATH Curriculum products that are easy to use, self-paced, powerful and low costUsing a proprietary learning platform that combines voice, visual and text-based instructions, we make learning MATH easy. Centered on the proven methodology of a test-grade-review cycle, our instructional platform delivers personal, highly-effective, and expert instructions."
Get 50% OFF  through the end of MARCH with code: SPOFFER50
(Online Programs available as wellLevels - 1st Grade through Algebra I currently available
  • Highly animated concise and "to-the-point" lessons with all three learning modalities (Audio, Visuals and Text) to increase understanding of the material
  • Interactive FlashCards enhance student learning by allowing them to practice problem solving with real-time feedback and step-by-step problem solving instructions.
  • Full Curriculum Book
  • Printable Worksheets w/ over 1,000 Practice Problems
  • Worksheets Solution Guide with a step-by-step solution to over 1,000 Practice Problems
  • Printable "ready-to-go" exams
  • Exams Solution Guide with a step-by-step solution to each exam problem
  • Reference Sheets packed with facts and formulas
  • Recommended Lesson Plan
  • PREMIUM FEATURES:  Parental Controls & Weekly Certificate of Accomplishments
Check out a Demo, Take a Placement Test,  See Samples and even Try a Month of Online lessons for  FREE!
Okay - now you know the vital information, on to what the Bentz Test Laboratory thought.  I'll introduce the tester - my 4th grade - "math-resistant" daughter (guess she got more than just her red hair from me!).

She has struggled with math every step of the way.  We have tried numerous approaches - most ending in frustration and tears.  A new program could be just what we needed...

A+ Interactive Math is a full math curriculum that includes multimedia lessons - I didn't have to be the teacher.  A definite plus for both her and me!  This is a program that allows you to monitor the progress they are making - but you don't have to teach.  If math is not your gift - A+ Interactive Math may be a gift for you.

My tester did well with this program.  It was easy for her to navigate. A Lesson Plan is included with a clear layout of what to do with space for notes, checkmarks and date completed.  The Multimedia lessons were short enough to hold her interest - although the lessons were mostly just being read to her (not much "multimedia").  The Interactive Q&A with each lesson is where she got to respond to what has just been presented by answering several multiple choice questions. Immediate feedback, and explanation of the solution-if needed,  followed each question. At the end of the Q&A - she could print a Certificate.  My tester's response..."why would I want a math certificate?"  I agree.  My tester is not motivated by that type of reward - maybe she would be more motivated by chocolate instead!

One of her favorite lessons was "Multiplication Tricks".  I was impressed by the variety of topics covered - addition to algebra were covered in this 4th Grade level (fractions, time & money, geometry and probability too) A plus for us was the presentation of concepts and terms that were different from our regular math curriculum - it's helpful to have variety.

 The Curriculum Book is a math textbook to accompany each lesson.  In addition, each lesson includes a worksheet, and exam that is printed out to complete.  (Answers and Solutions are included as well - the Premium version allows you to hide them from the student)  The CD edition requires you to enter the student's progress tracking, the online version does that automatically.  I like entering it - since, it's one way to know exactly where she is at with her comprehension.

My tester liked that the "instructor" had a female voice instead of being male.  But overall - she didn't find the lessons all that enjoyable "kinda boring" is her exact wording.  Could that be her "math-resistance" - of course, but I kind of agree with her.

Overall, we used this as more of a supplement or a change of pace for math review.  I find it helpful to have several math tools available - frequently just changing the pace with a different approach has helped us overcome math obstacles.  At least she's still smiling... :-)

Computer time is always viewed as a special treat here - so A+ Interactive Math provided change of pace and much needed review and practice for key math concepts.

See what other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.
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Monday, February 18, 2013

Handwriting Without Tears - Grade 3 Cursive: A TOS Crew Review

Handwriting without Tears Logo
From their website:
Our curriculum is designed to make handwriting easy to teach, and easy to learn, in just 15 minutes a day. The Handwriting Without Tears printing and cursive programs draw from years of innovation and research to provide developmentally appropriate, multisensory tools and strategies. Research shows that children learn more effectively by actively doing, with materials that address all styles of learning." 

HWOT 3rd Grade Workbook

The NEW Teacher's guide - $9.95  offer the latest resources and strategies for teaching handwriting in only 15 minutes per day.
  • Technology links for lesson extensions and support 
  • Video links to demonstrate lessons and activities 
  • Curriculum connections 
  • More to Learn to extend each lesson

NEW Edition! Third Grade Cursive Student Workbook - $8.95

AEP Distinguished Achievement Award: 2008 WinnerThis workbook is for third grade students or those working at that level.
  • Cursive Warm-Ups facilitate easy transition from printing to cursive.
  • Lesson plans incorporate letter review with words and sentences.
  • Activity pages combine handwriting instruction with paragraph, poem, composition, and language arts activities.

Some othe members of the TOS Review Crew were reviewing these editions as well - check them out!

Bentz Test Laboratory has never put handwriting at the top of their favorite subjects...  BUT, it is a crucial skill to master.
We struggled to find a program that "fits" - until we were introduced to Handwriting Without Tears (or as grandma likes to call it around here..."handwriting without pain").
For this review, my tester was introduced to  Grade 3-Cursive Writing -.  It was her first exposure to cursive writing, and truthfully - I was dreading it a bit.  Her letter formation can be, how should I say this - "inventive" at times. 
Handwriting Without Tears made it easy to teach!  The Teacher's Guide is filled with helpful teaching information, tricks and resources.  They even address the "Importance of Cursive" in the age of technology (you may have heard that many schools are completely leaving cursive instruction out of their scope and sequence!).   Here's a couple of points to consider:
  • Printers write slower that cursive-writers - very important skill for being able to quickly take notes in high school/college classe and essay entrance exams.
  • Cursive writing uses both your right and left hemispheres of your brain at once.
  • Cursive builds pathways and improves mental effectiveness.
  • Can also over be used to overcome printing troubles.

Right off, I knew the "Letter Stories" would resonate with her - teaching the correct letter formation with a memorable story and simple verbal cue.  For instance "Zip the Tent" - a reminder to keep your "t" zipped closed so that animals will mind their own business.

Another feature both my tester and I loved - the lessons are short!  Only 15 minutes a day.  Plus, each lesson features a "Connection" in the Teacher's Guide that lets you link the lesson to a math, social studies,  language arts, or science lesson.  Videos like this are available online to help teach as well!

The Teacher's Guide also offers "A Click Away" - a special section of their website, just for Teacher’s Guide users (password protected). Includes downloads, extra practice pages, and additional activities and lessons.  (worth the minimal investment on the Teacher's Guide alone - it is filled with handwriting help!) 

This is a company committed to helping you teach your children handwriting.  Every learning style is addressed, teacher support is offered, and the cost is kept affordable.  Additional training and materials are available at their website.   But, best of all - this program gets results!  My children have mastered every lesson, and their handwriting is the proof.

Handwriting Without Tears changed our view of handwriting!  It has become the much-requested subject (instead of the dreaded one...) The smile says it all!

See what other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.
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Our Trip Around the World - Russia Part 2

We had so much fun on our first stop in Russia (want to read about it?)  that we decided to stay a little longer.

This stop we focused a famous composer from Russia - Tchaikovsky.

Everyone grabbed a pillow and made themselves comfortable.  I love the Classical Kids CD's - they are a fictional story that includes an introduction to the composer with tons of their music interwoven throughout. It's a great way to expose your children to classical music in a way they will remember!

Next,  we made our own "Faberge Eggs".  Did you know that Czar Alexander III and Nicholas II commissioned these special eggs as Easter gifts?  Approximately 50 eggs were made; 42 have survived.  Since the survival rate of eggs is less than that around here, we choose to use plastic eggs instead!

But, we did get brave - and blew out the yolk on one "real" egg - just to see what it would have been like to work with something so fragile.

Not too bad for some american amateurs! 
We can't leave Russia without experiencing some of it's food.  Better stay tuned!

Friday, February 15, 2013

God's Great Covenant - Old Testament 1 : a TOS Crew Review


From their website:  

"Teaching the Bible to young children can be a large task, and is often divided up into many small stories. However, if you would like to teach your students the truly big picture of the Bible, and show them how God has been at work in his people since before creation, you will find God’s Great Covenant - Old Testament Book 1 to be a unique, surprising, and excellent Bible curriculum. The Bible, taught chronologically, by means of simple and direct stories, chants, and meditation on God’s character define God’s Great Covenant. Even many adults find themselves learning new facts, making surprising connections, and being blessed by reminder of God’s faithfulness, and how he always keeps his promises. Taught from a covenantal and reformed theological perspective, and rooted in Scripture, you will find this series to be a blessing to your classroom or family."

God's Great Covenant, Old Testament Book 1:
Student Book - $22.95
Teacher's Edition - $24.95
Audio Book Download - $9.95
God’s Great Covenant Old Testament One Bundle - $79.95

GGC, Old Testament One (PDF)
GGC, Old Testament One, Teacher's Edition (PDF)


Are you a fan of Classic Academic Press yet?  If not - you should be!  They provide top-quality curriculum in a variety of subjects - Latin, Spanish, Logic and Bible to name a few...

We were very excited to get the opportunity to take a peek at their God's Great Covenant, Old Testament, Book 1 Bible curriculum.  This course will take you and your student on an exploration of  Genesis through Ruth (including the story of Job).  It is the first part of a four-year series.

 It features 32 Chapters divided into 5 Themed Units (God's Power,  Promises, Redemtion, Provision, & Faithfulness) - we worked on one Lesson a week.  You can see their suggested Weekly Schedule here.

Each lesson contains a couple of components:
  • The Lesson Scope - the Scripture passage being studied & Read to Me
  • The Theme  - the main point of each lesson
  • Memory Verse - your memory work for the week
  • Key Facts - main points - often diagrammed too!
  • Things to Remember - word roots & meanings - vocabulary practice
  • Who is God? - attributes of God being studied
  • and on occassion - a Think About This... question for discussion
The Student Book begins with a short, easy to read and understand narrative of the week's lesson. Followed by a Review Worksheet - fill-in-the- blank style.  The lesson ends with a Chapter Quiz.

The Teacher's Edition has all the Student Pages with answers - as well as, additional notes to the teacher.  These are very comprehensive - but simple to read!  I loved them, it was like having a Study Bible included.  Catechism for Children questions are included as well.  Plenty of room for your own notes is another feature worth mentioning in the Teacher's Edition. You do not need to invest anytime in prep for this course - they have done it for you.  You can open it and begin. 

The Bentz Test Laboratory really enjoyed this resource.  I introduced it to the younger half of my test laboratory- grades Prek-1st, 2nd, and 4th.  (it is written at approx. a 2nd grade level)  We did it all together, but - older children would easily be able to work on this independently. A plus if you're a busy mom!

What I liked:  This isn't just a collection of watered-down Bible stories to read to your children - it's solid Biblical teaching - at their level.  For instance - Lesson One dives right into "ex nihilo" and "Elohim", and what it means to be made in "God's Image".  If you want a Bible curriculum that gives you feedback on how much your child is learning - the Chapter Quizzes will give you a way to measure that.  Each Unit concludes with a "Looking Backwards...Looking Ahead" review and quiz.  By doing the complete program - you can ensure a well-taught overview of the Bible to your elementary age children.

We also were priviledged to get the Audio MP3's.  I highly recommend this tool!  We were able to take it on the road with us (my favorite way to "van school"  is listening to audios - they are a "captive audience"!)  They are well done - easy to follow,  and my testers enjoyed hearing someone else's voice for a change...

I was so impressed with this program, I purchased the Old Testament Timeline & Map Set - $36.95.  These are a wonderful resource for your visual learners.  Colorful and printed on heavy cardstock - includes 6 maps and a reversible timeline.  One side is a completed version, with all of the events and images included. The reverse side is blank, and cut-out images and events (also included) can be added to the time line as you progress through the God's Great Covenant series, making the time line interactive!  You will want to add these to this study - they correspond with Book and Book 2 of the Old Testament.

Once again, Classic Academic Press has made an excellent, high-quality curriculum. 

Two thumbs up!

Some other members of the TOS Review Crew reviewed "Song School Spanish" - Also by Classic Academic Press - see what they thought here.


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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flowering Baby, LLC - a TOS Crew Review

Yippee - the 2013 TOS Review Season is underway!

 I'm excited to be on my 3rd year with the TOS Crew.    Just to let you know, we are curriculum junkies at Bentz Test Laboratory - and we get giddy when packages come in the mail.  I hope you will discover some valuable treasures for your homeschool as you come along with us.  You can count on getting some honest opinions from an ACTUAL homeschool mom about these products.  I like to think of it as our way of saving YOU time and money.

I hope you get as excited as we do!

Our first product:

Flowering Baby, LLC

from their website:

A whole child developmental approach for birth to five -
  "A curriculum for parents and teachers hoping to share the hundreds of simple and inexpensive ways parents, caregivers and teachers can affect a child’s development.
Our program is designed by year and broken down by month. You can start the program at any time, in any given year."
Cost - $30 - 38.00 (download) Purchase the entire 5 Volume Set - $132.00 - Use the code "Blog10" to get 10% off!
The Bentz Test Laboratory tested the "Three to Four" Volume 4  alongside the "Four to Five" Volume 5.


Each level consists of 2 parts:
 The MonthlyCurriculum Guide - 12 months of  activities including: math, language, science, physical, self-help and more
 The Theme Curriculum Guide  -  Twenty-four specific themes (mini unit studies 2 per month)  
See a sample of a full month 3 Year Curriculum  here  and 4 Year Curriculum here

Now that you have all the important information about Flowering Baby, LLC - on to what the Bentz Test Laboratory thought.

Tester #1 is 3 years old (the baby of our family...but, don't call her a baby - she'll inform you she is now a "big girl")

Tester #2 is 5 (slightly older than the recommended age - but, also slightly delayed in her academic progress).

Having a "houseful to homeschool" - grades 9 down to preschool, a large amount of time and attention goes to the upper level student's needs.  I know this is "backwards" - they should be more and more independent learners - and they truly are.  But, a curriculum designed for my "littles" was exactly what I was looking for!

Flowering Baby, LLC is a downloadable product (some members of TOS Crew recieved a CD copy).  I like that it's easily accessible, and I can pick/choose what I want to print, and what I don't.  I do tend to "overprint" - all you homeschool moms know what I'm talking about. But, we got to support the family by purchasing toner constantly (afterall, my hubby works for HP...) 

I printed the Three to Four and the Four to Five Guides - but, wished I hadn't printed it (we'll probably get a thank you for all our ink use..each Guide is over 100 pages).  It would be very easy to just access your PDF instead.

Flowering Baby, LLC may seem quite simplistic, at first.  "Read a book" appears over and over...  I can tell you, I "know" this - read, read, read to your young children. BUT, somehow buried in the pages of Geometry, Hindi, and Essay Writing with a High Schooler - I think I need a constant reminder of the importance of sitting down to read to them. But, don't be fooled - this curriculum is very carefully designed with purpose!  Each activity develops a solid foundation of cognitive, language, gross motor, fine motor, social and self-help skills. 

The Monthly Theme Curriculum Guides for both of these levels were quite similar - very nice if you have several young children working together at different levels.   You are encouraged to do the themes in any order, and skip them if they aren't right for your family.  Each theme contains approx. 6 days of activities.  Examples: Dinosaurs, Musical Instruments, Flowers, My Body, Christmas, etc.

The Curriculum Guides are laid out in a calendar month, with 10-15 days of activities for each month.  The guide is not dated - so you can jump in wherever you are at, and not worry about checking those pesky dated boxes!  Activities take about 30-45 minutes to complete.

"Three to Four" focused on learning to recognize lower and upper case lettters, counting to ten, shapes/patterns, science projects, holidays,  music appreciation and cutting (I hate cutting...but, it's necessary to give them scissors sooner-or-later)

"Four to Five" focused writing letters and phonic awareness, counting to 20 (if your child is ready for more - they do include curriculum recommendations) , science experiments, holidays, music in a variety of styles (Mozart to Country Western), introduction to Spanish language, and more cutting!

One of my favorite parts was the inclusion of wonderful, age appropriate book lists.  READ, READ, READ! Learning Through Stories is their version of Charlotte Mason's narration for young children - with questions included in the Appendix for many well-loved classic children's stories.

Necessary supplies for the activities are listed, in advance - are are readily available for the most part.

My Testers throughly enjoyed a focused "school time" - just for them!  I loved having a resource that was age appropriate, and so clearly explained.   You can just pick this up and begin.  No "educational theories" to learn first.   The Guides are packed with tons of creative - but "easy to do" ideas.  Busy moms need to keep it simple, but effective!  Plus, it's a very affordable program. 

One focus in January was "snow" - We were inspired to create our own circle snowmen.  They practiced writing their names too. 

"Snow" was such a huge hit - Tester #1 wanted her Valentine box to be a snowman!

The focus of Flowering Baby is simple -  ENJOY this journey with your children.  Read, play,explore and learn together.  The program is very easy to use, and fun memories are waiting to be made.  Geometry is right around the corner, trust me!

See what other members of the TOS Review Crew thought here.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Be A Kiwi!

I've been inspired!

I teach history at our Co-op - students K-8th.  I never understood (or enjoyed) history as a child.  But, now that I homeschool - it's my favorite subject!  Our Co-op uses the Mystery of History - Volume 2 as our main curriculum (love it!) but, I have alot of freedom to add to it.

I like to keep my students engaged and having fun.  Hands-on teaching is my favorite style.

We recently explored the history of New Zealand in Volume 2.  I saw a cute recommendation for creating a Kiwi Bird.  What a great idea!  My younger students will love this...but, what to do with my older students... 8th graders don't want to make crafts.

Just then, God dropped an idea into my head (had to have come from Him - I couldn't have thought it up) Kiwi's aren't much to look at, are they?  Brown and furry...  not exactly appetizing, fruit with hair?!

BUT,  when you look at the inside of a kiwi - you get an entirely different perspective -  Juicy, tasty, vivid and memorable!  Oh, oh, oh - this is getting good! 

It's just like us!  I told them, "God is much more interested in your "inside" - than your "outside".  It's time for you to "BE A KIWI!" 

A new history class motto was born, "Be a  Kiwi!" 

Plus, everyone took a kiwi home - either as a bird, or just to remind them that the "inside" is better than the "outside!"  (You should have seen the look from the Kroger clerk when I bought 50 kiwis!)

This was waiting for me in my history room the next week,  I think they "got" it!