Friday, October 22, 2010

Can Babies REALLY Learn to Read? (Crew Review)

 image There are a lot of programs out there that claim that you can teach babies as young as six months old to read. This is something I admit I have been very skeptical about as I have seen the advertisements here and there in the recent past. Which is exactly why I was so excited to review a really neat product from Brill Kids called Little Reader. I was enthusiastic to see how the program worked and to see how my toddler would react to the lessons.


Little Reader is a computer based program that’s designed to teach your baby (or young child) to read using a multi-sensory, interactive methodology. The software breaks each short lesson down into 3 parts: Word Flash, Multisensory, and Picture Flash. The lessons are designed to be used twice daily and are very short. Each lesson groups the word list into categories, and your child will encounter the same words over and over again, allowing them plenty of exposure to new words. The lessons are fun, age-appropriate, and engaging. There are a plethora of options available allowing you to customize the lessons by choosing at what speed the screens changes, what pictures accompany the words on the screen, and you can even program your very own voice into the lessons! I only played with a few of these options during our review period, but there are plenty of ways for you to make the program work for you and your child.

We received the download version of this program which did not come with any of the optional additional materials (such as readers and flashcards). I used the software with my 2 year old son and within the first few sessions, he was hooked and even threw a fit wanting to continue doing more of the lessons after we were finished with that days activities. I don’t feel at this point that we have been using the product long enough to actually gauge whether or not he is learning to read with it, but there were several positive things I have noticed about using Little Reader with him. First of all, he was thrilled to have something of his very own to “do” on the computer (just like the big kids). Secondly, he really enjoyed the words and pictures and videos that played on the screen as we went through the lessons, and loved repeating the words that were shown to him. I never had to coerce him into doing the lessons at all. Every day I would ask him if he was ready to do his “baby reading” and he would immediately jump up and down and say, “Yes! Baby reading!”. Third, though I sat with him through every lesson, it was very much an option for me to set the lesson up and walk away if I needed to. That was definitely a very nice perk, especially when we have several times throughout our school days when he wants mommy to entertain him, but I have to help one of the older kids with schoolwork.

One of my favorite features of the software was that it gave me the option to print off picture flashcards for any lesson I wished. I did this for a few of the first lessons and again, Joey thoroughly enjoyed “playing” with the flashcards. Using the flashcards there are lots of fun ways for you and your child to interact with the words they are encountering in the daily lessons. This was definitely a plus in my opinion.

So can this program teach your child to read at an early age? I can’t really give you a yes or no answer to this question, HOWEVER, IF it is possible for a baby, a toddler, or even a preschooler to learn to read, I can see how this program would be an excellent tool to help you reach that goal. The developers of this software have really done their research and utilized it to give you a very thorough and fun way to expose your young child to the world of words. I do think that use of the Little Reader software (along with reading to your child often and as early as possible) is a great way to introduce your child to written language and can easily see how it would give your child a head start in that area. I have now taught 2 children to read (and am still teaching one struggling reader) and can see what a benefit Little Reader could be to every parent.

If you want to learn more about Little Reader, or any other Brill Kids early learning programs, you can visit their website here. The Little Reader program is available in several formats (including the download version) and pricing starts at $149. A free trial is also available here. If you are at all curious to learn more about the Little Reader program, the website is chock FULL of informative videos, screenshots, and information for you to browse through.


image 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, October 11, 2010

Read, Write, & Type is Full of Fun!


Read, Write, & Type is educational software that teaches reading, phonics, spelling and keyboarding all within one program. Recommended for children ages 6-9, the program teaches children to hear the individual sounds within a word and associate each of those sounds with a key on the keyboard. The program is multisensory and engages the child no matter what their learning style. The program tracks and assesses the child’s progress and suggests additional activities along the way. Children are given immediate feedback to incorrect answers which enable them to correct any missed problems along the way. You can even customize the program to work with your child’s learning level!


The program takes as little as 15 minutes a day and has 40 engaging lessons to keep your child interested. Read, Write, & Type is research-based and was designed by the same developers that made the popular Reader Rabbit software. Your child will even have the opportunity to write their own stories with the built in word-processing program. Though this may not sound like a very exciting feature, both of my boys really enjoyed writing and printing their own short stories with the program.

We have been using this software for several weeks now and both of my boys, one a struggling reader and the other a fluent reader, really enjoy using the program. I have been saving it for the end of our school days, as an incentive to complete the rest of their work in a timely manner.

The best way I can give you an idea of how well we liked the Read, Write, & Type program is to let my kids share with you what they do (and don’t) like about it. Drew is my fluent reader. He is 10 years old. This is what he had to say:

“It’s pretty cool. I think all kids 10 and under should definitely learn to type by using this program. What I like the best is the Messaging Tower. The Messaging Tower is where you write stories and send them to other people and people send you their stories back. The only thing I don’t like is that the lessons are too short for older kids. I think it would be better if they were around 30 minutes. I think Lefty and Rightway are pretty cool. They are the “hands” that teach you how to type. I liked this program better than some of the other ones I have done.”

Isaiah is my struggling reader and he just turned 9 last month. Here is what he has to say about Read, Write, & Type:

My favorite part of the program is when you have to fight Vexor. Vexor is a big radioactive virus that tries to steal the letters for himself. You beat him by playing and winning games. The characters in the program are pretty funny. I think it helped me to be a better reader. I think parts of it are too easy.”

Read, Write, & Type is available as an online program for $35. This license entitles you to one user log-in and is good for 5 years. The cost for additional log-ins for more children is another $20 for the second user and $15 for each user after that. There is also a cd-rom version of the program available for $79 and it includes additional materials to use with the software. You can get more information about the program by visiting the Talking Fingers website. An online demo of Read, Write, & Type is also available here.

We have thoroughly enjoyed using the software in our home and we would heartily recommend it to any family which has children that are learning to read or type!


image 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.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LanSchool – The Ultimate Homeschool Tool!


Of all the reviews I have written for the crew so far, this has definitely been my absolute favorite! LanSchool is so much more than just a classroom management program, there are so many awesome things you can do with this software:

  • see the screens of ALL your student’s computers and track their activity
  • take over control of student computers with the “remote control” feature
  • administer tests and quizzes from the comfort of your own pc or laptop
  • share your screen with your students
  • chat with your students and send them messages
  • lock down the students computer by restricting their controls, audio, internet, or even log the student out of the system or power the computer down
  • track student keystrokes
  • receive alerts when the student types something from the “banned words” list
  • and much, MUCH more!

Ok, so how exactly does this software work? LanSchool uses your home network to tie all the computers using that network together. You can choose one computer as the teacher computer and set the others up as student computers. The software is super easy to install and has you up and running in just a few minutes.

When I first received this program for review, I didn’t tell my kids I had installed it on the laptop they use. As soon as the first one logged in to get online, I took over the controls (all while they were unaware of what was going on) and they thought something was going really wrong with the laptop. Hehe, I know, I’m such a mean momma :) We all got a good laugh out of it and it was a fun way to introduce the program to them and show them everything it could do.

Since installing the program and learning to use it, I have used it just about every day. My youngest uses the computer to do several learning programs online, so LanSchool makes it super easy for me to log him into his next assignment from my own laptop while I am sitting on the couch helping another child. It makes for a lot less up and down for me, which is a big plus when you are homeschooling 3 kids and chasing around a 2 year old! The one feature I keep forgetting about is the quizzing feature, but I do plan on utilizing that as soon as possible.

The one thing I was hesitant about regarding this software was the bandwith it would use up on our wireless home network while running. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find out that I really don’t notice a difference at all in how quickly the computers connect to the internet and download files. All this with having the lowest speed cable internet our isp offers.

I just can’t think of anything I don’t like about this software. I never even knew anything like this was available at a decent price to home users and I am so glad I’m “in-the-know” about it now. Now that I have shared with you how much I LOVE this program, let me share some necessary details with you!

A subscription to Lanschool for home use costs $99. This price includes a perpetual license, and 3 years of updates and support.  There is also an option for homes that need up to 10 computers.  It costs $299 and includes the same features as the base priced program. You can learn a lot more about the software by visiting their website here. They also offer a guided tour of the software from this link. And if you are really interested and want to take it a step further, you can get a free trial of the program here.

image 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.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

25 Days and Counting…


I hate how time can seem to drag on at some points and race by faster than you can blink at others. Today marks a little over 3 weeks left before my dear hubby leaves. For those of you who missed it, he enlisted into the Army several months ago and was given delayed enlistment status. So on October 31st, we will drop him off at his hotel so he can then be processed through MEPS and transported to basic training in Ft. Sill. And so will begin our journey and transformation as a new Army family… and his transformation from civilian to soldier.

This is a decision that was very tough and well thought-out. We truly feel as if this is God’s will for our family. When we made this decision, I agreed that I would support and enable my husband to follow this dream, wherever it may take us. That being said, I’m having kind of a hard time right now.

On one hand I am really excited and hopeful about this complete shift in lifestyle. So much about our life as a family is going to improve. We will have great healthcare, drastically better income, opportunities to travel and live in parts of the world we have never seen, job security, money for college (for ourselves and our children), and a retirement plan. Right now we have none of these things. I am excited (and anxious) to see what things are in store for us. The other side of that coin is this – my husband is leaving us. Yes, to get the training he needs to succeed in his new profession as a soldier, but nonetheless he will be gone. He will no longer walk through the door every afternoon after work, hug the kids, give me a kiss, and ask about our day. When the kids have a bad day, I won’t be able to confide in him and ask him what to do about it. I won’t even be able to pick up the phone and call him or text him with a quick question. I won’t lay in bed at night and hear his steady breathing as he sleeps beside me, or cuddle closer to feel his warmth. This, and much more, is the hard, cold reality that is smacking me in my face.

I am not handling it well, and he is not even gone yet. I long to spend every moment of every hour that he is home with him, talking, cuddling on the couch, laughing… but the reality of everyday life is that I have 4 children at home with me every day. Four precious blessings that make messes for me to clean up, have lessons I need to teach them, and have needs to be met. I have a 3 bedroom townhouse full of carpets to vacuum, dishes to wash and put away, piles of laundry to fold, and messes to be straightened. I have meals to prepare, grocery lists to be made, coupons to be clipped, and schoolwork to be planned and graded.

Now more than ever I feel the need for more energy and a few more hours in my day. The reality? That’s not going to happen. I have to make due with the time and resources God has given me, and make the very best of it all. I am having a really hard time balancing it all. Not to mention we have a pretty decent list of things that must absolutely be done before he leaves. Most days I feel like I’m treading water and never getting closer to that island I can see in the distance, and it’s slipping further and further away.

I’m lost. I don’t know what to do or how to start doing it. I don’t know what changes I can make. I just know I must find a way to treasure these next 3 weeks with my husband, because life will soon change forever, and we can never go back. I am in prayer, because that’s the only thing I know to do. I pray for the time to go by slower, for the guidance to balance my desires and responsibilities, for the wisdom to not fall apart in the face of everything bearing down on me.

I can’t even really imagine what things are going to be like while he is away. I can’t make that leap because it is so far removed from any reality that I have ever existed in. I can only focus on right here, right now. I know I am not the first wife and mother to go through this. There have been many before me and I am sure there will be many after. Yet I feel so alone.

So if you don’t see many posts in the next few weeks, now you will understand why. Though I am quite sure I will be pouring my heart out on these pages often during his absence. If you have the time, or the desire, please pray for my family over the next few weeks. You may never know how much it is needed and appreciated.



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