Showing posts with label Homeschool Services. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Homeschool Services. Show all posts

Thursday, April 22, 2010

TOS Crew Review: Lesson Planet

The now infamous dwarf planet-Pluto

I was taught (back in the good ole days) that there were 9 planets circling our sun, but due to a series of unfortunate events (we'll leave Lemony Sniket out of it)-Pluto was kicked to the curb. What could possibly fill that void? Determined to forgo the lack of sensitivity the world was showing ole Pluto-we decided to keep it. I was obliviously unaware that another had moved in to fill the position-that this planet was now orbiting the sun too. Well, Pluto lovers-you need not panic, this cyber-orb is a "horse of a different color"-one called Lesson Planet.

But what exactly is a "Lesson Planet"?  Does one need to propel several light-years through space to find this place?  With a click of a few keys on your computer-you can access over 150,000 lesson plans, and some 75,000 worksheets designed to address most educator's needs.  This search engine has several different components that can assist a gal or guy, in locating a variety of topics and subjects to use in the classroom.

In general, this is a pretty good idea...especially for time-strapped teachers. But even with best intentions, there are bound to be a few problems.  Unlike my usual approach to reviews, I have decided to note "what I like" and what I "don't like" about this service.  Remember-I am a homeschool vet that has a stash of goodies at my fingertips, in various forms that can be easily added to our regular studies-so my need for such things is purely random.  I may need to pull up an additional activity or two in order to "cement" a concept or topic into my precious students' minds.  But I do not use this as a way to carry on our regularly scheduled courses. Those reading this, may actually prefer this route-so keep that in mind and consider what your very specific needs are before drawing your own conclusion.  Better yet-take advantage of the free 10 day trial to see for yourself.

So here we go-

What I liked:
*pinpoints age level (fairly accurately)
*has a rating system-so you can see what others thought of it (but this is subjective-so it may not meet your standards)
*search sections for lesson plans or worksheets
*wide variety of subjects and topics
*pages that have been reviewed by someone (so at least you know you are not hitting on some unsavory site)
*if you need such things to meet state HS requirements-the lessons point out the standards/assessment tools
*you can save your finds into a folder for later use
*informs you right below the title: the subject heading, where it came from (source), time duration to present/complete, type of method and the group it is meant to address
*there is a section directly relating to homeschooling
*could click on the Homeschooling Guide section to browse through articles with links relating to various subject-actually found that more refreshing than the other parts

Not a bad list really, but of course-there is always the down side to things.  Here is where it gets rather disheartening.

What I didn't like:
*encountered a lot of problems when searching. For example-when looking under US women in history and US history, I got more spelling/ vocab activities than the history worksheets I was looking for (common event when searching a vast amount of subjects)
*too wide of a scope,  it made it so that I spent more time going through the lists, in order to find perhaps one or two things, that fit that category-very time consuming. It is just too broad of a pool of hits, it needs to be fine tuned to not pull up every document that may have that word/subject matter listed in it
*found very few items I would consider even printing-not a big worksheet user, but on occasion will add it to notebooks or tear it apart to use components of it-was not finding what I needed
*Too many dead links (yes, there is a report button-but I would have spent more time doing this than searching) to make it worth my time/effort
*the price is way too high for this type of service-esp. when I can find the majority of these things on free searches, or through free websites
*types of activities/worksheets were somewhat lame, or rather mindless.  I would not even consider using the majority of the ones I searched.  Very typical of what you would see a PS child (no offense here, I am not teaching 30 kids in one hour blocks, trying to keep the peace whilst expounding the material to them all-meaning that I do not usually have a call for said material) use/bring home.  Out of all the searching and investigating-I found 3, yes only 3 items I would use.  One was a guideline to create a comic strip about mutualism in organisms (for my teen's biology), one was a website with a virtual tour of the Lascaux caverns (early cave drawings in France) and one worksheet for my 8 year old.  Not exactly the best results one would expect.

So there you have it. Simply stated, this was not a good fit for us.  I have been able to procure more links using free searches (and within a quicker time frame), and by going to sites that are also free or priced significantly lower.  I truly do not have a great need for this type of service because I tend to steer clear of using tons of worksheets.  I use them when needed, but as a way to highlight the studies at hand, not to teach it.  It is not that this service is without merit-for a particular niche it could serve as a gateway to finding just the right material one needs (esp. if having to meet the state standards), or providing avenues to enhance the textbook coverage of various subjects. But for us, we'll need to gently jettison Lesson Planet back into deep space to frolic with the asteroids. 

I want to only give this a 1/2 a raft-as it simply did not serve our needs
-but it very well may be just what you need

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Lesson Planet Homepage

$39.95 year subscription fee

10 day free trial offer available

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

***Lesson Planet provided me with a free 4 month (approx.) access to their site, in order to go through and test out the site.  I did not receive any financial compensation in exchange for my honest opinion of this service.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

TOS Crew Review: Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services

When I first learned that we'd be reviewing something from Educational Diagnostic Prescriptive Services-I was a bit confused. Was it a place to obtain tests, to see if your child is in need of some special attention in certain areas, or what? After a wee bit of investigation, I had my answers. EDUDPS provides just what I thought it did, and more!

They offer 3 different diagnostic tests, 2 guides on learning issues (Dyslexia and Attentional Difficulties), grade placement screening, and 4 different (well 2 are co-related) curricular programs to aid you in educating your child(ren). I was in the batch that was fortunate to receive all of the eBooks noted below. Problem is, I simply do not have enough time to thoroughly investigate each of them, during our review period. So, I chose the eBook that spoke to me the most; and then briefly investigated the others-so that I could give a brief description of them. So please be aware-the Quick Review icons near the bottom are only for the Write with the Best Volume 2 eBook. I simply cannot give the others a rating yet, and won't until we use them.

To make it easier, I will cover the 3 we peeked at; then wrap it up with the Write with the Best Vol. 2 (which is what we focused on).

First in our lineup is the Roots and Fruits Guide. This is designed to slowly add some 1700+ words to your child's vocabulary before they graduate. This encompasses all grades, K-12; so it truly is a great investment (eBook: $14.98, pages w/o binding: $17.48, pages with comb-binding: $19.98), considering it can be used for the entire expanse of your child's education. What I instantly liked about this (and it will be the second one I dive into with the kiddos) is that the vocabulary workload suggestion of 15 minutes per day, is right on target.  I can give my 2nd grader one word or so, per week to study upon. Then we will move along in a nice, non-overbearing manner- increasing as his skills do-over the years. For my teenager-I can have her work on 2 or more per week; so she is able to pack away several vocabulary words before she takes her ACT test This is geared more to hit upon the majority of the SAT vocabulary words-but you'll definitely find many of the same ones used in the ACT, and other aptitude tests-so it is a win/win learning opportunity. I also like a lot of the suggested activities with which to teach these words. It isn't just a fill out a worksheet or drill the word into your head approach-it uses more tactile and visual cues to sink these babies into their ole memory cells, and that always gets a thumbs up from me.

 I honestly do not know too many folks who couldn't use a bit of career guidance and assistance when it comes to figuring out their high school student's plan.
The Complete Career, College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers (eBook: $34.95, Soft bound book: $39.95) is an excellent resource for families who have children who will soon be entering, or are currently in high school, or are still trying to figure out their major in college (or possibly beyond). Seriously-can anyone say, "I dunno what I wanna be when I grow up?" I know a lot of adults who claim this as their mantra. Packed with surveys, assessments and a personality profile, the student will use those results to choose careers that match their needs. It is also designed to assist them with their high school planning, transcripts, tips on the ACT/SAT tests, and more. I see there are a lot of different types of careers discussed as well. I think this is a great place to start if you have children who will be, or are in Jr./Sr.high school. I almost chose this one to start with-but because I have gone through the motions two times already, I feel pretty confident with this area of "counseling". I decided to put this on hold until next semester for my daughter, but am looking forward to going through it with her soon.

These last two products are the co-relating curriculum I mentioned before. I tend to favor the Charlotte Mason method of dictation, narration and just good ole basics for teaching younger kids how to express themselves. Realizing that more formal skills will also need to be covered at some point (especially due to the more competitive business world we live in) I tend to "save" all the heavier stuff  for the higher grades. The series is designed to teach grades 3rd through 12th, and can be started at any time during those years.

Be sure to visit our TOS Crew Homepage, because several of my mates chose to focus on the Write with the Best Volume 1 Guide, (eBook: $19.95, printed pages w/o binder: $22.45, printed pages with 3-Ring binder: $24.95) which I did not. Basically, this level jump starts the elementary-aged child into the wonderful world of writing. I see the chapters consist of such things as Writing Descriptive Paragraphs, Describing Objects, Places and Character, Writing a Dialogue, Short Story, Fable, Friendly Letter, Rhyming Verse, Ballard or Narrative Poem, with additional guides, check lists, grading information, and the Student's "How to Write Guide". The Write with the Best Volume 1 Guide is designed to address the needs of children in grades 3-12 (all though, from glancing through it; I would say that unless your older child has had no writing experience, this is a better fit for the 3-7th grade), and can also be used for covering particular areas your student is struggling with or to introduce those areas they have had no prior exposure to.

The Write with the Best Volume 2 Guide (eBook: $24.95, pages w/o binder: $27.45, pages with 3-Ring binder: $29.95)-written for students in grade 6-12.  This guide addresses the following: Writing Poetry, Business Letters, Note Taking, Essays, Literary Critique, Book Reviews, Newspaper Articles, Speech, and Dramatic Monologue. It also includes the student's "How to Write Guide", additional literary passages (for extra work), an answer key for the student's work, a grading guide and more. The pages are non-cluttered visually (just text); which makes for easy printing, and is better for keeping the child focused on the task at hand. If your student thrives on extra goodies, it may not be a good fit. For my daughter-it is perfect because it is to the point, with clear instructions on what is expected work for her to accomplish each day. The discussed passages are included in the study, so there is no running around to find it. So far we have covered the Poetry, Business Letter and are starting the Note Taking sections. What I like is that I can pretty much just give her a list telling her what I want her to do, and she can take it from there. Not to say, that I never helped her with any of it-because at times a wee bit of discussion helped her out; but for the most part this is a self-sufficient study. The layout and design is reminiscent of the school books that taught our grandparents the ins and outs of scholarly subjects, which I prefer for Jr./Sr. high students. My daughter likes that the assignments are bite-sized nibblets which prevent her from becoming overwhelmed; and that makes for a teen who is willing to actually push through and finish the book.  So all in all-I am pleased with the Write with the Best Volume 2, and  and recommend it to other families with students in the upper grades.

Write with the Best Volume 2 Rating (only) listed below:

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Please be aware-you can only print these 2 times (due to the security file it comes on)-therefore, you will need to print it in its entirety. I suggest that you check to be sure your ink/paper reserves are fully loaded and that you have time to focus on the printing before starting it. I have highlighted a link below where you can read more about this. I actually was quite frustrated when I first printed the Roots and Fruits eBook. I ran out of ink, and was ill-prepared to start such a task. I have one more printing allowance and will use it wisely this time-getting it done at a local copy shop. I really wanted to be sure to stress this situation to you, to avoid any irritation-station moments.  The best way to avoid the eBook limitation, is to purchase the print copy of the books-the price difference is minimal, and frankly it's the route I would suggest (especially if you have dial up service). If you have any questions regarding the process, do not hesitate to ask, as they are quite helpful at EDUDPS, and strive to make your experience a positive one.
Q and A section

Need to try it out before committing? Well, EDUDPS has 4 free downloads to whet your appetite. And please continue reading down the page-it has vital information regarding the printing policies.

EDUDPS Homepage
All prices are listed next to the description of the books.  Geared for grades K-12. 

Be sure to see what my fellow TOS Mates have to say about this and other great homeschooling products.

**EDUDPS provided me with one free copy each of Roots and Fruits, Write with the Best I and II and The Complete Career, College and High School Guide for Homeschoolers eBooks, in order to test and use it with my family, so I could write this review.