Showing posts with label Educational Helps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Educational Helps. Show all posts

Friday, May 27, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Read for the Heart from Apologia Press

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There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all.
~Jacqueline Kennedy~ 
[Read for the Heart, page 51] 

The infusion of language, into our lives, comes quite naturally at birth. It is the quality behind what we are receiving that is truly the issue.  Is it merely parrot repetition which slowly progresses into every day slang and chatter?  Or is there something more? Could it be a delicate thread of wonderment, discretely hidden deep within the confines of the printed word-whether spoken aloud, or absorbed through our own optical lenses? Does it knit a fanciful world to ponder upon?  Make one cry or jump for joy?  Does it stir a sense of duty, encourage the betterment of the human race or change one's inner core?  Or does the language so utterly fail to do anything other than dumb down and bore one's mind?  Is there a disconnect from what is touted as an excellence of writing [by the author/publisher], compared to how it really creates language depravity in one's mind, and drenches the reader with spiritual or ethical fodder?

Read for the HeartChoosing the right food for the mind [books] is not as simple as one would think.  It is easy to be swept into the flood of mass production, current fads and what not. What you think is great material may actually be nothing more than a cleverly disguised waste of words on paper.  But there is hope and Read for the Heart by Sarah Clarkston offers a wealth of information to help guide you along in this daunting process.  Whether you are new to making book selections for your family, or if you are a self-proclaimed bibliophile with several years of collecting under your belt-this is a great resource to have.

I actually had the pleasure of meeting Sarah at the Mid-Winter HS Conference in Grand Rapids, MI a few years back (sadly, the year that the space shuttle exploded-so this is very ingrained in my mind).  Now she won't remember me, but I certainly do her.  She seemed to be oozing a love for Christ and that really impressed me.  So I am not surprised to find that she penned herself a wonderful guide to whole books, which expounds the necessity of giving our children good, nourishing literature to build up their minds and souls.

Within the pages, one finds a little personal back story from Sarah's life regarding each area/genre, along with a listing from one to several books written by a wide variety of authors (who meet the qualifications for excellent writing in children's literature), and usually a small ditty regarding the stories themselves. All of this is meant to give you better insight regarding what books you would like to see stuffed onto your own shelves (purchased by you or on loan from your library). Written to allow for you to make the final decisions regarding your collection, this guide will serve you for many years to come.

I personally, was familiar with many of her recommendations and found myself nodding in agreement to them.  I was delighted to see several goodies that I have never had the pleasure to cross paths with; so I now have a nice little list handy to assist me when I am out browsing for "needed" books for our personal library.  I especially appreciate how it is divided into sections [Picture Books, Golden Age Classics, Children's Fiction, Fairy Tale and Fantasy, History and Biography, Spiritual Reading for Children, Poetry, Music/Art and Nature] because I can zero in on just those books meeting my criteria list. As a homeschooling parent (any parent really), it is vital to have good resources and reference material handy to help me be a more informed, successful facilitator of our children's education and growth (mind and body)~Read for the Heart ranks right up there as one of those sources.

To gain a better understanding of what this reference book offers, I recommend you go through the Table of Contents and read the portion of the available chapter on the website.


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Read for the Heart info page
this is for the homeschooling parent to use as a reference

**Don't forget to find out what my TOS mates had to say about this, and many other fine homeschool products, over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. provided me with a free copy of the Read for the Heart book, so that I could write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for my honest opinion of this product.

Friday, November 19, 2010

TOS Crew Review: KBTeachers (worksheets, printable pages)

This should come as no surprise to my regular blog visitors, but I am not a big fan of using worksheets to teach.  But alas, even I realize there are moment when they come in quite handy.  I especially like the challenge of taking a worksheet and turning it into a learning tool for my children.  So actually, I do find that I can tweak one to get something useful for memory work, or to cement a particular lesson into my kids' noodles.  There are times too-when I want to avoid having an "idle hands and mind" moment with one student, whilst I work with another, and  I much prefer it to be in the educational spectrum. So again, this may mean I need to dip into the worksheet world to prevent this.

The ability to find quality material is a bit of challenge, not to mention a time swallower. Having a membership with a company that already has that done for me, is a fabulous thing.  Enter KBTeachers,  an online smörgåsbord of such things like: a worksheet generator, clip art [original artwork here] that can be used in my own personal projects or on my blogs; as well as a good variety of math, science, and fun activities I can access, and print as needed.

This is a free worksheet on the Rainforest layers. 
  It serves as a great example of how 
I could "tweak" this by having my student complete it, 
to place it in a lapbook on climates, or in a science notebook, etc.  

I was particularly happy to see the sign language section, as we will have that course in our next co-op session. I know that will come in quite handy!  I love how I can type in a message that they will need to decipher, and it is not limited because I can create new ones every time.  They also have a section dedicated to the current month's goings on-and it is prominently displayed in the upper most left-hand corner, so you are sure to see it. Best yet-they have a monthly webquest section, with live links to sites regarding the gem of the day (such as Veteran's Day, Popcorn Day, Gettysburg day and so forth) designed to provide additional resources for our studies.

My example here of this sign language activity.  
Can you read it? 
Look at the bottom of the review for the answer.

I am also impressed to see they have material designed for children in the older grades (Jr/Sr high) which is not an easy thing to find.  Best yet, they still offer up some goodies for the younger set-so this is a nice option for families with all age levels to address, like us.  And although I do not usually budget for, nor purposely seek out such sites to purchase a membership [because we try to avoid having too much paper busywork in our daily studies]-I am very glad I was chosen to be a part of this review.  I can see great potential for supplementing our lapbooks/notebooks for our current and future studies; and look forward to their additions and new material. My best suggestion is for you to sign up for the trial period, to see if the site addresses your family's needs.

An FYI moment: thankfully, the team at KBTeachers is open to many suggestions from their clients, especially one I addressed which was the need for more Christian materials.  I saw a positive response, and hopefully down the road they will have more in their collection to offer us.  Be forewarned here, the majority of the science section is evolution based-so simply avoid those if you are uncomfy with it. There are plenty enough other subject materials to use that are benign. Personally, I would like to see the sciences/geology worksheets become less date oriented-meaning they note the information about the subject, without pinpointing a date in time it was to have occurred.  That way it suits both group's needs, allowing for the teacher to decide what time frame they want to place it in.  Also, it would be uncharacteristic of me if I didn't note that many of the worksheets are typical of what you'd expect to find PS/PS teachers using.  Like I mentioned in the beginning though, these can be used in part, or cut up to create a more "hands on" type of activity for projects and such. Creativity is one of the homeschooler's best weapons to teaching "outside the box" and this is an example of just such a moment.

I didn't put a kid icon on here b/cuz you use this to create material or download it for your students
-all ages are addressed though.

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KBTeachers Homepage (currently undergoing major web design changes, so look for that soon)
$29 with trial/then 1 year membership,  $49 for 2 year membership
Try their 10 day free trial  before you buy.
They also have free pages to download without signing up for the trial-just look for those under the specific subjects.

Don't forget to see what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschool products over on our TOS Review Crew Homepage. To read the posts specifically for this review, head to KBteachers TOS postings for that info.

**KBTeachers provided me with a 2 year membership so that I could access and use their worksheets to assist in educating my children, and so that I could write this review.  I did not receive any financial compensation for my honest opinion of their product/service.

Answer to the sign language worksheet: This is a fun part of the KBteachers site.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Super Star Speech Homeschool

So your sweet darling is starting to sound like a Cindy Brady, Elmer Fudd or Tweety Bird-and well, it is sort of cute say when they are 2, maybe 3-but it won't be cute when they are 10 or 25.  So what is a concerned parent to do?  What are normal speech patterns for young children, and what are considered true articulation issues?  What kind of expense is involved when you have your child work one-on-one with a speech therapist? Well, what if you were able to work with your child right in your own home, and do it for under $25?  Deborah Lott, has created a most useful program to assist you with just that.  Now since my youngest is a few months shy of 9, and speaks rather clearly-we did not review this product. But many of my fellow mates did.  So be sure to head over to our TOS Crew Homepage to see what they have to say about the Super Star Speech Therapy materials.    

What we did get to review was 3 of the Homeschool Games.  I found them to a be easy to download, print and assemble-which is always most helpful to a busy mom, like me.  I have a mini-ditty next to each game, along with how I store/assembled them to suit our workbox needs.  Each game is only $3.50-so these get a piggy bank for their budget friendly cost.

grades K-5

The All About Animals game is my son's favorite at this point.  You have two options-just placing the picture cards on the correct classification or reading the questions then deciding which area the critter fits. The winner is the one who fills their fish, reptile, amphibian, bird and mammal spots. I made my son put all the cards on his game board, since he was the lone player-helped cement the type of animals that went into each section. This is a fun way to reinforce your animal studies, and an easy, fun addition to one's workboxes.    

ages 6-10

Covering the Continents is interesting and fun.  I teamed up with my son to be the giraffes (erasers) and my daughter and the cat were the tiger team.  We decided erasers would work better than the strips of paper that are included (to be cut) in the game set.  Basically one asks the fellow next to them a question and they decide what continent it is describing.  To win, one must have the majority of the 5 tokens allowed to claim it.  Now with 2 teams (don't need to be in teams-but since my son is a beginning reader-it just made sense) there was a minor problem.  As it turned out, each team had 3 that they owned, and we were only asking questions that would fit the continents that were left (after all, why ask a question on a place that was already claimed?)  so what do we do with the 7th-it would be obvious which one we meant [and we each had 2 erasers on it]? So to be fair, we decided to just flip a coin to get our winner.  That was the only snafu we came across, well that and the fact that the Middle Eastern countries are a color of their own, when they should be blue since they part of Asia.  I found it to be my favorite of the 3. 

grades 3 and up (I mean up to adults here! LOL)

The Planets, Moon and Stars! game is more challenging than the others we tried.  Mainly because we are still working our way through the study of the solar system, so some facts are new to us [well, I kind of remember them but it has been 4 years since I taught this material]~so again, this one is going in the workboxes several times during our lessons, as another great way to reinforce what we are learning.  Basically, one answers a question, and if correct, they draw a planet/sun card out of the pile.  The one who completes their solar system first, is the winner.  I even tested the young adults in the house, and had a blast giggling at them trying to answer the questions. It proved that a little refresher on such things is always a good thing.  

Idea for the storage of the games:

I packaged them in large envelopes.  Taped over the sticky seal (so a child with a sense of humor didn't lick it shut) and laminated the game boards (the game cards will soon follow once I get some more sheets), then baggied the cards up. A heads up here: I had to glue construction paper to the backs of the cards first, to prevent the wording from showing through (I ran them off on white card stock-so maybe colored paper won't?) then cut them out.  

If one is looking for a fairly inexpensive way to add some games into their children's lessons, this is a great option. And there are several more to choose from.  Of course, there is the ink issue-but by printing most of the cards in gray scale, which doesn't "ruin" the presentation, eased the cost issue.  My family enjoyed testing these out, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to do so.

outside of the initial printing, cutting out, and packaging of it

Non-readers or new readers will need some assistance

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Super Star Speech Homepage
and Debbie is offering a 20% discount if you order directly from her site, until June 30, 2010.  Put in the code: TOS. **note that this does not apply to the games because they are not available thru her site.

Homeschool Games page- $3.50 each

 Head to CurrClick  to download the games.  I see they currently have several on sale, including the Super Star Speech Therapy materials

Don't forget to read up on what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschooling products on our TOS Review Crew Homepage.

***Super Star Speech provided me with a free download each of the All About Animals, Covering the Continents and the Planets, Moon and Stars games, to test out and enjoy with my family.  I did not receive financial compensation for providing you with my honest review.

Friday, January 15, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Apologia -Debra Bell's book: The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling

Well, you know being that I have homeschooled (officially speaking, I was doing the homeschooling thing way before I even knew I was) for so long now, I have pretty much read every book I can get my hands on directly relating to homeschooling. No joke here folks-if it is written, in the library system or available through friends or my own personal purchase fest-I have read it.  I have poured over all the "classics" one would be expected to read, and some that should be used for doorstops-due to the lack of any worthy material.  I have read Debra Bells book, The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, not once, but perhaps 2 or 3 times (first edition) since I came across it  a few years back (well make that 4x now, except this is the revised and updated version I am discussing here) -and even though my brain does what I call the "Spock Mind Meld" with what I read (blending all that knowledge together so I cannot recall where exactly the info came from or which author said what, as they are now just one huge conglomerate), I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoy her writing style and wit. I must, because I would not have reread it if it weren't so.

So what exactly does this book offer the reader?  Loads of useful advice, down to earth stories and thoughts to ponder and well-that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg!   New homeschooling families, those who have been around the block a few times and even those who "own" the block since they are the matriarchs of the homeschool world, can benefit from reading this book.  Chapters touch on the following topics:
determining if homeschooling is right for you, choosing a curriculum (remember to reflect upon each child's personality, learning style and tastes before buying anything),  organizing and planning, preventing burn-out (this one spoke the most to me right now), what-when and how to teach, homeschooling your teenie boppers (my term for them-the book states "homeschooling teens"), using computers in your homeschool and creative solutions for those with mixed families (babies, toddlers, special needs).  There are also a couple other sections which touch upon testing, assessing the success of your homeschool, and loads of resources to make this journey more beneficial to all involved. Just remember that with any "homeschool-how-to" book-you will need to discern for yourself what advice and ideas will work for your family. You will need to decide what parts you can use, and what advice/sections you should drop because it doesn't line up with your way of doing things. This is one lady's ideas and experiences-and yours may be very different.  Use it for what is was intended to be:  a really helpful  homeschool resource.

Interestingly, if you are not aware-Apologia Press now holds the publishing rights to Debra's book!  They (meaning Dr. Jay Wile) was bought out by Davis and Rachael Carmen in 2008, and since that time they have been busy beefing up the other areas of the Apologia line (I know, I know-you only think science when it comes to Apologia-but not so any more). I have been scrolling through the website to see the new changes, and I think they are certainly on the right track by providing books, such as Debra's, for your reading pleasure.

If you are wondering about the science line-have no fear, as several of us reviewed products from Apologia last year, so you can visit the TOS Crew Review postings to check out those as well.  I stand by their books and cannot say enough good things about them.  You may also read my review of the Biology and Flying Creatures books to get my take on these two products.

As for Debra Bell's Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling,  this is one resource I actually have recommended, and will continue to do so to anyone who inquires about "good, thorough and useful" homeschool help books (and even if they don't ask per say-I will still be sure to mention it!)  This puppy will remain a part of my library of "Needful Resources" which I plan on referring to frequently [yes, an old dog can learn new tricks].

This is for the homeschooling parent to read, refresh and renew themselves with.
The author/publishers are Christian, but the book in of itself is not geared to just Christians
-any homeschool parent can benefit from this-so I gave it a world icon for that reason.

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Product Info
Found under Apologia Press info:

Apologia's Homepage

Don't forget to check out what my TOS mates had to say about this and many other fine homeschooling products on our TOS Crew Review Homepage.

***Apologia provided me with a free copy of Debra Bell's Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, to use and read.   I have discussed my opinion regarding this product, and have not received  financial compensation for writing this review.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Heads Up Now!

I had never heard of the Heads Up! company; so to not only have something useful sent to me-but to be introduced to a whole new cachet of goodies aimed at helping children who need extra help, was a real treat. I have had my share of tears and frustration along this long and windy road of homeschooling. I have been blessed with a couple dyslexic children who required a much longer time frame to learn certain things, and if I had known about Heads Up!, I would have been able to move them through some of it a bit easier with the line readers, as they had trouble staying on the same line while learning to read and when reading small print. I am finding too that I enjoy using them as they help ease eye strain, especially with all the reading I do.

The Top of the Line and the Double Time Frames

If you have a child who struggles with staying focused, or deals with the 'ole wandering eyes problem, then these items are really going to help-at least in my humble opinion! The line readers are a wonderful tool and so darn cheap-I want to give them 3 piggy banks! Even if this isn't an issue in your home-perhaps something else is. The Frames (Lg and Sm), the Top of the Line , Double Time and Reader products will work wonders to help the student stay on the right line while reading; or to isolate and bring the focus to the area on the page they need to be at-say with a math problem.


We went through our packets (they sent us one of each color) and found a variety of choices-red, green, blue, yellow, pink, orange and white which is available as a Reader only. We then had everyone test to see which color was most soothing to them. We found that we all prefer the blue and pink, and the clear Reader. Now you will have choose your choice when ordering, but for a buck each-you cannot go wrong by ordering a couple (I highly recommend one each) colors in the different sizes . These are sturdy pieces of "transparent colored polycarbonate with a frame printed on" (them), so they should hold up for a long time.

Frames which come in two sizes-4"x4 1/2" and 4"x9"

The Heads Up! company is designed to provide materials that work for those individuals who have ADD/ADHD, Autism, Aspergers, developmental delays, learning disabilities and in our case, Dyslexia. They sell all sorts of books written for families struggling with such things as sensory, speech, fidgeting and attention issues. You really need to get yourself a catalog and stroll through it at your own leisure-as there are some pretty helpful things available.

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Heads Up! Homepage
each frame/reader is $2-$5 each (you choose the color), depending on the size

All right-you are probably asking yourself, just how does one choose a color if you "don't know"? I should think you could find some of the clear colored-transparent plastic things laying about your home, and lay it over a printed page. Or very stealthily perform a "test run" at your local store....simply act natural as you enter the school supply section to locate those report covers they sell...then causally overlay the various colors over a printed page (say by borrowing one of the workbooks or books from the next isle) and see which color seems more appealing. Then carefully return the products to their proper place and continue on with your business. Or you could just make an educated guess...and if I was a betting gal, I would say the blue is the best choice, yellow and pink and green the next best. If all else fails-then find a TOS Reviewer who happens to live in your neck of the woods, and "stop by" for a color choice party. Finally, if you live in the vicinity of the Cincinnati area-attend the Mid-Winter Convention, as Melinda and Scott Boring are speakers there and have a vendors booth just loaded with with them for ya!

See what my TOS crew mates have to say about this product and others at our
TOS Home Page

**Heads Up! provided me with a variety of free Top of the Line, Double Time, and Reader Products [guides for reading one line of print at a time], in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

TOS Crew Review: Puppetools

Puppetools is an online service designed to assist adults in rejuvenating the fun and play back into learning. Now, for most homeschooling families, the lack of play is usually unheard of...but there are times when duties call and things get a bit bookish. If you are prone to crafty type things and love visual aids, this is a good place to look for help. Moreover, if you are involved in a co-op or home school group that is looking for a fun class to offer, why not a puppet making 101 or a puppet play production? How about Sunday school teachers? This could be a great way to help retain stories from the Bible. How about librarians? I am sure there are many uses and ideas where the puppet could help read those books at story time.

What you will find is a huge amount of information throughout the site, along with many patterns you can download to create some pretty adorable puppets, all using an innovative tool (puppet hinge) to make those paper friends speak and come to life. There are also videos and areas that offer ideas to spur you on. I must forewarn you though, this is no time to be cheap with paper. As a crafter, I know from experience that nothing can ruin your hard work faster than flimsy paper. I used card stock I purchased at JoAnns and am quite please with the results. You can find packages of paper at most craft stores, but get the card stock for the main body, hinge and other parts that would get the most use. You can add the cheaper construction paper onto that base, or for hair (like my zebra) and overlays. Used in conjunction with books or familiar stories, these puppets certainly can add to the charm of your lessons.

These are the puppets we made, using 3 patterns. My daughter actually used the raccoon pattern and modified it to make a fox. Obviously, you can create numerous puppets using your own ideas and patterns, but these were so cute, we just couldn't resist. My son made "Big Bubbles" and had fun conversing with "Zippy Zebra" and friends.

if student is older
and can do most the work themselves
otherwise for younger kids

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Individual family plan is $20 per year
or groups:
up to 30 users on one account: $99 per year (option is for co-ops, schools, etc. -members share the expense)

Visit our TOS Homeschool Crew page for more info on this and many other great products.

**Puppetools provided me with the free access to the site for 6 weeks for viewing the site and downloading patterns, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.