Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Monic Vocab Cartoons (Crew Review)

image Today I am bringing you a review of a product that is very unique compared to anything else I have come across for learning vocabulary. New Monic’s Vocabulary Cartoons promise that your child will “learn a word a minute and never forget it”, all while enjoying the process!

The Elementary version of this book (the one I was sent to review) is geared for 3rd through 6th grades and contains mnemonic cartoons to help your child retain the meanings of over 200 oft-used words (complete word list found here). The cartoons are fun and easy to remember, and will easily serve the purpose of painting a permanent picture in your child’s head of each word’s meaning. Take a look at this sample cartoon, and you will see what I mean…

imageYou can view more samples here

This book puts these words in a very easy to learn format that would be especially helpful for the visual learner. Each page shows the word, part of speech, definition, pronunciation, a clue word (that sounds similar to the new word), a fun picture, a sentence, and 3 examples using the word. There are also review pages sprinkled throughout the book (one every 10 words) with matching and fill-in-the-blank questions (the answer key can be found in the back of the book).

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher here for $12.95. They also offer vocabulary building titles geared for high-schoolers preparing to take the SAT.

I chose to let my 10yo son try this product out. He rather enjoyed the fun way the new words were presented, and seemed to retain them better then he typically does using our usual methods of learning new vocabulary. For the two weeks we used the book, it was the very first task he chose to complete every day, which had definitely never happened before with a vocabulary study. We did not make use of the review pages included in the book, but instead we did oral quizzing to see how many words he could remember. Sometimes I covered up everything on a page except the cartoon, other times I would give him the clue word and the meaning, and he would tell me the correct vocabulary word. He did well with this method and only had a few words that really gave him trouble. We plan on continuing to use the book throughout the school year, during weeks where we don’t have enough time for our usual vocabulary studies as a fun break from the ordinary.

Overall, we enjoyed trying out this fun and different book. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants their elementary aged child to expand their vocabulary. I can also see how it would be a beneficial book to help prepare your children for standardized testing (if you are required to do so). It is definitely worth the price and easy to incorporate into your days as it only takes about 10 minutes max to learn a few new words!


DISCLAIMER: This item was provided free for review purposes through the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner above to read more reviews on this and other products by other Crew members.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I LOVE the Wimpy Kid…


About a month ago, we took a trip to our local Barnes & Noble, as I had a few books I had on my wishlist. Most of the time (if we have the money) I let the boys pick out an inexpensive book to take home. Drew was having trouble finding anything that was in the price range I had given him. This is the kid that has had MANY books purchased for him that he has never read past the first chapter. They were either a bit too challenging for him to read by himself, or the story just didn’t grip him enough to continue reading them.

So, as I typically do, I directed him to a specific area of the children’s section and began showing him books and reading the covers to him. Book after book, he responded with a hearty, “No, that doesn’t sound interesting,” or a “That book is too hard, “ reply. That’s when a book caught my eye. It was the first in the “Wimpy Kid” series by Jeff Kinney. I flipped through the pages, showing Drew how it was written like a diary and had lots of funny pictures on it’s pages. I managed to talk him into, so we purchased the book, along with a few others, and left to have dinner at a close by restaurant.

By the time we had been seated, both boys had their noses in their new books. Drew kept on giggling and rereading sections to us that amused him and showing us the pictures. By the time we got in the car to head back home, he had read over 30 pages!

The next day I woke up and came downstairs to find both boys on the couch, with the tv off, books in hand. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing that. By lunch time that day, Drew had finished the entire first book! I couldn’t believe it. Not only had we found a book he could and would read, but he devoured it. In less than 24 hours, he had torn through the entire 224 page chapter book.

He has since finished the first 3 books, each of them being read within a 24-48 hour period. This is the first time EVER he has stuck through a chapter book and read it entirely on his own. I will be purchasing the 4th book for him very soon. Then we have an entire month to wait for the 5th and newest book to be released.

I am really hopeful that reading this series will open up new worlds for him, and encourage him to read more books. I have been trying to find other books that are the same reading level that I think he might enjoy. SO far I have come up with the following:

  • The Indian in the Cupboard series
  • The Phantom Tollbooth

I am really struggling with adding anything else to this list. SO I am begging you, ask your 8-12 year old boys for suggestions. I want to keep him supplied with fresh reading material so that we can further develop this newfound love for reading.

If you have a young man who you just can’t get to read, you might wanna check out this series for them. It worked for us, and I am so thankful to Jeff Kinney for writing such an engaging, entertaining series for kids to read and enjoy.



Saturday, September 11, 2010

Looking For a Little Math Help? (Crew Review)


We recently were gifted with the opportunity to review a very unique, web-based math tutoring program through the TOS Schoolhouse Crew. Before I share our opinions of the program, let me tell you a little bit about America’s Math Teacher.

The program is essentially an online video tutor. America’s Math Teacher covers Basic Math, Advanced Math, Pre-Algebra and Algebra skills.  Each individual video tutoring session is linked to practice worksheets for your student to complete.  Basic Math is for 4-5th grades and Advanced Math is for 6-7th grades.  Tests are included for each level, making it easy for you to evaluate your student’s progress. Not sure where to begin? The program also has an initial evaluation to help place your student in the correct lessons.

The courses cover:

Basic Math Skills:
This course is for 4th and 5th graders. Topics include whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percents, integers, geometry, and much more.
Advanced Math Skills:
This course is for middle grade students. Students will master the critical skills necessary for success in pre-algebra. Topics include whole numbers, fractions, decimals, percents, integers, geometry, and much more.
This course is a must for students prior to taking Algebra I. Integers, exponents, order of operations, ratios & proportions number theory, linear equations, probability & statistics are just a few of the topics that students will learn and master.
Algebra I:
This course will guide students to master the “gateway” subject, algebra. Algebra opens the doors to more advanced classes in math, science, and technology. Students will learn and master all of the essential algebra skills. The lessons are carefully explained in clear, simple terms, so that all students will understand, learn, and master each and every topic.

America’s Math Teacher operates on a mastery-based approach. Your student will spend several consecutive lessons honing a specific skill area before moving on and learning a new concept.  The lessons are set-up in the following order: review of math facts, review of previously learned topics, learning a new skill, and then practicing that skill.

America's Math Teacher was founded by Rick Fisher. He is a math instructor in San Jose, California. Rick graduated from San Jose State University in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Rick has devoted his time since to teaching fifth and sixth grade math students. Each year approximately one-half of his students bypass the seventh grade math program and move directly to an eighth grade algebra program.

The cost for this program is $195 for one year of online access for as many students as you need. There are also plenty of free materials for you to try out so you can get a feel for the program before purchasing.

Our family found it difficult to incorporate this program into our every-day routine, mainly because we already use a video-based math program daily. I found myself using it most often to help explain a concept that my kids just weren’t getting a good grasp of, and also to give them extra practice with those really important skills. America’s Math Teacher enabled me to give my students an alternative method for learning a particular skill that had previously eluded them via our regular program.

I feel this program would have been much more useful for us had we been using a more traditional, textbook-only program. The only aspect of the program that I would change would be to include courses for grades 1-3. There’s really not much else that this program is lacking. In light of the fact that the subscription cost covers more than one student in a household, I feel the pricing is right on, especially if you have more than one student in 4th grade or higher.

All-in-all I feel that America’s Math Teacher would be a great addition to any basic homeschool math curriculum!

Happy Homeschooling!



DISCLAIMER: This item was provided free for review purposes through the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner above to read more reviews on this and other products by other Crew members.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up – End of Term 1 2010-2011

image Weeeeeel last week was a tough week. I think we were all suffering from a bit of burnout and anxious to start our end-of-term break. We didn’t get as much done as I had planned to last week, but we accomplished those things that were really important, so that’s good enough for me!

I spent this past weekend getting started on my long-neglected to-do list. I made some major progress around the house, getting to all those detailed jobs that I just haven’t had time for since we started school. One more very good reason why I decided to shoot for a 6 on 1 off schedule this year. So far I have rented a Rug Dr. and cleaned the downstairs carpet, cleaned and reorganized all my kitchen cabinets, rearranged a few things in the living/dining/school areas, organized and purged Joey’s toys (downstairs and up), reorganized and cleaned the boys’ room, vacuumed the upstairs hall and the stairs, and thrown a  LOT of junk away.

I have one or two more days of intense housework left to do and then I’ll be done (until it gets messy again, which will be about a week). Left on my to-do list is cleaning and organizing my bedroom, putting all laundry away that had managed to pile up over the past few weeks, and cleaning the 2 bathrooms upstairs. Oh yeah, and laundry. Lots and lots of laundry. But I will work on that throughout the week. My goal is to make the biggest dent in it possible and then have everyone pitch in and get it all folded and put away in one night (we will see how that goes).

Sorry, I know I’m boring, but such is my life! Hopefully this video that I have to share will make up for it. A new Joey vid is wayyyy overdue, enjoy!



Friday, September 3, 2010

Time4Learning (Crew Review)


Time4Learning is a web-based, interactive learning program for kids in PreK through 8th grades. It’s a fun, exciting way for kids to learn the essentials in math, language arts, science, and social studies. It can be used as a supplementary program for practice and review or as a full homeschool curriculum. Students progress through the program at their own pace, achieving mastery as they move through the subject matter. Parents can easily track their child’s progress online and even print out a copy for their records. Curious about what the program covers? Check it out:

  • The Time4Learning language arts program teaches and improves phonemic awareness (reading readiness), phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension in the lower elementary level. In upper elementary and middle school, the language arts program emphasizes reading comprehension, fluency, vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, punctuation, word roots, literary analysis, and critical thinking.
  • For students who have not yet learned to read, Time4Learning starts with phonemic awareness, advances to phonics and then on to solid reading comprehension skills.
  • The Time4Learning approach to math builds solid math skills at the child’s speed. The system blends conceptual explanations, learning activities and games, loads of practice for reinforcement, and ongoing assessment. As kids build proficiency in they become "good at math". Gifted math students have the ability to move forward at their own pace and advance grades by individual subjects.
  • Time4Learning includes a science and social studies program as a free bonus for grades one through seven. The programs cover life science, physical science, geology, astronomy, weather, life cycles, biology, sound, light, matter, and energy. The social studies program covers a wide range of topics including ancient history and civilizations, modern history, geography, civics instruction, and political science.

We received a 4 week trial of this program to review and when I found out I was ecstatic. I had been on the Time4Learning site several times and had considered trying it out, but never had made the leap. When I received the review, I decided to try this program out with just one on my children so I could really delve into what it had to offer. SO I created an account for Isaiah and away we went!

Time4Learning offers 4 grade levels to choose from. If the grade level is too low or too high for your child, you can change the access to at least 2 grade levels for each subject and have the flexibility for the student to work at their own level in each individual subject.

  1. Pre-K to 1st grade
  2. 2nd to 3rd grade
  3. 4th to 5th grade
  4. 6th, 7th, & 8th grade

I signed my son up for the 2nd grade levels, knowing that he would have access to the lower levels if he found any of the lessons too difficult. We mostly stuck to using the Math and Language Arts parts of the program, though he did try several of the Science modules as well.

The Math and Reading modules were a very welcome breath of fresh air from our normal way of covering these subjects. He loved the games and the interactive lessons, and did very well with the lessons. Most of all, he enjoyed the reward that came after completing the assigned lessons – playground time!

The playground is a place where your child can access child-safe games from all over the internet. You designate how long the child has to work on their lessons before they can access the playground. This is a great incentive for my kids because they absolutely LOVE playing online games!

The aspects I liked best about using Time4Learning to supplement our homeschool curriculum were:

  • easy to navigate
  • very independent
  • self-paced
  • ability to check up on progress of your child
  • thorough progress reports
  • fun and engaging!

The only thing I would change about the program would be the ability to possibly designate what lessons you want your child to do ahead of time and have only those lessons available on the student screen when they log in. Currently, you can use the search feature on the student screen to find a specific topic and navigate to that lesson. I think it would be awesome to be able to go into the parent screen and assign these ahead of time. Other than that, I had no complaints! We really enjoyed using Time4Learning.

Must know info:

  • Cost: $19.95 a month for the first child , $14.95 for each additional child, 14 day money back guarantee
  • Other programs offered: Spelling City and Time4Writing
  • Scope and Sequence can be viewed here
  • Completely online (no downloads of software required
  • Available lesson demos
  • You can browse the site and learn more here

Happy Homeschooling!



DISCLAIMER: This item was provided free for review purposes through the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner above to read more reviews on this and other products by other Crew members.

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