Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Foto...(Foliage)

Days like today make me appreciate the beauty of New England living...


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Reading Eggs (Reading Eggspress Review)

I reviewed Reading Eggs with my Youngest as a beginning reader a couple of years ago (Whoops! Make that review 5+ years ago~ man time flies!), and it was one of the programs that he really enjoyed, even asking as recently as this year if he could use it, even though he had surpassed the age range/reading ability of the main program. ;) YOu can imagine he was very pleased to be on the review again, so that we could try out the program for older elementary students, Reading Eggspress. If you aren't familiar with Reading Eggs at all, here is a quick rundown of the basic programs they offer:

  • Reading Eggs Junior for 2-4 year olds (pre-readers)
  • Reading Eggs for 4-7 years old (beginning readers) 
  • Reading Eggspress for for 7-13 years old (fluent readers) 
  • and their non-reading program, Mathseeds for children aged 3-9

I received a 6 month subscription to Reading Eggs, which allowed me to access every part of the program. Reading Eggs is offering Homeschool Review Crew readers a four week Free Trial if you click through this link, so that you can check them all out as well, if you have children in the 2-13 year old range.

Program Set up
Your child will take an placement test when first accessing the lessons (which is probably the only difficulty we've had~ my son took the test on the ipad, and wished that there was a "submit" button for each problem, as a couple of times his finger slipped and hit an answer that was wrong, but it submits automatically, so he ended up in a level that may be a bit below his actual abilities. However, that being said, I appreciate the level he ended up in, as he is learning to be more careful with his answers. ;) If I was truly dissatisfied with his level, Reading Eggs offers the ability for the parent to adjust the level manually or have the student take the placement test again. This is true for the reading and math programs both.

Sample placement test question. Test continues until 2 questions are missed
Once the placement test is taken, your student can continue directly to their Reading Eggs dashboard where they can access the various areas of the program.

The central location contains the meat of the program, the Lessons. Each Lesson contains 9 or 10 activities that must be passed in order to continue to the next lesson on their map. Parents can keep track of progress on the parent dashboard as well as through progress reports sent directly to their email.
  • English Skills contains the Reading Eggs Spelling program
  • The Stadium offers the opportunity to pit their knowledge in Spelling, Grammar, Vocabulary, or Usage against other Reading Eggs users across the world. 

  • The Library contains a variety of books to read, and each book comes with built in comprehension quizzes. I would recommend keeping an eye on the books your child is reading, as there may be those that you wouldn't care for your child to read (one of the "books of the day" highlighted in the library the day I chose to take screenshots for this review was "The Trouble With Boyfriends" ~ not exactly what the target age for this program should be reading in my opinion, but to each his own... The other book of the day was on Railroads, so would be much more appealing to my 10 year old son. :) ) 

The library allows kids to browse a variety of reading genres and search for topics, but again, be aware of what they are choosing. ;) As with any library there are good books and twaddle..

Extras at the back of a book on the Civil War

  • Targets offers challenges to help students make use of the various aspects of the program
  • The Mall, the Apartments, The Trophy Room, and the Arcade are the "fun" parts of the program that let your child utilize his accumulated points (reading eggs earned by reading and answering questions)  This is one of my son's favorite things, and his incentive to do more than I ask each day. :) 
In addition to the electronic program, Reading Eggs offers printable bonus materials. 

  • Activity sheets that correspond to each lesson for Reading Eggs and Mathseeds  (Homeschool Worksheets with an overview for the parent instructor and printable worksheets to reinforce each lesson, and Color ) and Reading Eggspress (English comprehension and Spelling Worksheets that correspond to each lesson).

  • Parent User Guide which shows how to use the program and contains Lesson Overviews (scope and sequence) for Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress.

  • Homeschool Program that offers a schedule for the whole year for grades K-2 covering Reading, Math, Science, and Social Studies, utilizing books in the Reading Eggs library of over 2500 titles.

While there are a few books/topics I would prefer to weed out, by and large, I appreciate the approach to phonics (which thankfully main stream education is coming back to), comprehension, and basic reading skills. 

If this is something you are interested in, you have nothing to lose by signing up for that Four Week Free Trial mentioned at the beginning of my review. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Reading Eggs
  • Product: Six Month Subscription Reading Eggs Products
  • Ages: 2 years old - 13 years old
  • Price: 
    • 6 month subscription: $49.95
    • 1 year subscription: $59.95
    • Discounts for 2nd and 3rd children using the program (50% off)
You can visit Reading Eggs on their Social Media Pages:
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about Reading Eggspress, as well as Reading Eggs, Reading Eggs Junior, and Mathseeds. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

CTCMath (Single Membership review~ Focus on 5th grade, but available for K-12)

My Youngest was very pleased that we were selected to receive a One Year Single Membership to CTCMath for review (other Crew members received a Family Membership, so be sure to check out their reviews if you are interested in having more than one kiddo using this program). Also be sure to check out the specials that are current at the time of posting (offers expire November 15, 2017) for a Free Trial, and another for 60% off + 6 bonus months!

OK, now that I have those details out of the way... you may remember that I reviewed CTC a couple of years ago with both my Youngest and my Middlest using the program.
Youngest was happy to be on this review, as he has decided that generally speaking he prefers an electronic version of math over a textbook math (at the moment, anyway).

Here's a quick little intro to give you a feel for CTC math:

While the program can be accessed via computer, once again my son preferred to do his lessons on the ipad. I appreciate that this is an option, as it frees up the computer for other uses while he does his math. ;)

For a quick overview~ We are using the 5th grade level, but CTC Math is available for grades K- Grade 12. The lessons are accessed online, as I mentioned above, either on computer or most tablets and phones, which can be handy.

The lessons are grouped by topic and then subtopic.

For example, 5th Grade Math has 4 main categories, 19 sub-categories, and approximately 115 lessons. The main categories are:
  • Numbers, Patterns, and Algebra
  • Measurement
  • Space and Geometry
  • Statistics and Probability
The subtopics are seen to the right, and each one of those is broken down into the individual lessons. 

A full listing of all the topics can be downloaded from CTC's FAQ's page ("Freedom to review other grades" section).

The Lessons are taught by Pat Murray, a Math teacher from Down Under in Sydney, Australia. His philosophy is to teach short a short lesson (4-9 minutes) via a whiteboard, and then have the students work through a number of those particular problems. On average completing a lesson should take around 15 minutes. If you have a perfectionist (Did I say that? ;), it may take longer, as they strive to reach a 100% rating.

I like the ability to check and see how he's doing by clicking on the reports button, and he likes the ability to keep track of his rating. :) If you wish, you can also have weekly reports sent to your email, or even to a grandparent's email, if you like.

Here is a longer video (about 10 minutes) that will give you a very good overview of CTC Math~ It focuses a little more on the higher level maths, so if you have a high school student, you may want to invest a few minutes to see how CTC works for high school.

Back to our experiences... ;)

There are 3 diagnostic test options for each subtopic: Short (20 questions), Standard (30 questions), and Comprehensive (40 questions)

You can use the short one as a pretest, and have your student take the Comprehensive test when they complete all the lessons in a given subtopic, or use them however you like. ;)

If your student needs some reinforcement, there are also lesson summaries that cover the same material as the video, but in more "Text" format on the screen. This is handy for a quick glance over, or, in my son's case, to review a topic that he was familiar with, but for which he didn't watch the video lesson.

Overall, we really like CTCMath, especially for the elementary math years. I like the immediate feedback, and the fact that *I* don't have to grade the papers (which means I can be making dinner instead!). If you think CTCMath is something you'd like to look at, be sure to check out those specials I mentioned at the beginning of the review for the Free Trial, and the homeschool discount 60% off + 6 bonus months available through November 15, 2017.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: CTCMath 
  • Product: One Year Subscription 
  • Ages: K-12th Grade
  • Price: 
    • Single Membership
      • $29.97 Monthly
      • $197.00 Annual
    • Family Membership
      • $39.97 Annual
      • $297.00Monthly
You can visit CTC on any of their social media channels:
Facebook, Twitter, Periscope, Pinterest, or YouTube 

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Super Teacher Worksheets (review of a fantastic resource!)

We tend towards more organic learning in my household in the early years particularly, but every once in a while I appreciate having the ability to find some worksheets/printable pages to add to studies, and to have something physical to submit for our portfolio at the end of the year. This is where the Individual Membership from Super Teacher Worksheets can come into play.

Here are the basic categories available:

  • Pre-K and Kindergarten worksheets
  • Phonics and Early Literacy
  • Reading and Writing
  • Handwriting (cursive and manuscript)
  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Chapter book Units
  • Math
  • Science Worksheets
  • Social Studies Worksheets
  • Holiday oriented worksheets
  • Puzzles and Brain Teasers
  • Teaching Tools 
  • Worksheet Generators
Within each category there are M-A-N-Y subcategories and options, too numerous to list here. :) You can visit the site to see those, as well as download some free pages, which will help you to get a feel for everything that is available to members.

My youngest is on the upper end of the age range, as these pages are geared towards grades Pre-K- 5 (with some up to grade 6), but I found a wide variety of pages that were suitable for our use.

For instance, we were working on a literature unit that was talking about a variety of living creatures. I checked Super Teacher Worksheets, and was amazed to discover that they had an article on WORMS (one of the creatures we discussed). I had my son read the article, and then printed up the comprehension worksheet and a scrambled words worksheet based on that article.

Another day we talked about butterflies and moths, 
and found an article and worksheet for that as well!

Fish? Yes, sir! Although this time the "worksheets" were more puzzle oriented (from the Puzzles and Brain Teasers Category), I discovered the Cipher Wheel and Secret Code Facts page, which included a set of "Secret Code Facts" for fish. I printed up and put together the cipher wheel for my son, and printed up the secret code pages, assigning him specific codes to crack (not every one, in order).

This was a fun way to learn a little bit more about fish!

I think at the moment the Puzzles and Brain Teasers Category is my favorite section for my son's age. ;)
I discovered a animal classification cootie catcher that I printed up for our use... one of many printable cootie catchers... does that bring you back? ;)

Some of the worksheets are more typical (as seen above with the worms and butterflies and moths graphics), but even math practice can be a little more fun. While we already do a variety of multiplication warm-ups (and you can find many options for practicing multiplication table on the Super Teach Worksheets website, including but not limited to flash cards, regular worksheets, timed quizzes, drills, charts, and more), there are also some options that include cootie catchers (Really? How fun is that! :) , multiplication riddles, printable games, and more. So many options! Here's one I chose to use... a hidden picture coloring page for one of the days when he just needed a little down time.

There are sooooo many worksheets and fun options 
~ I am impressed with this website membership! ~

If you don't have a spelling program, you can find that. 
Need graphic organizers for writing exercises? They have those. 
I already mentioned the many math options. 
Homophones, Homographs, Double Negatives (in ELA)... 
Almost any subject you want to cover/reinforce can be found.

If you have an early learner, there are oodles of pages from cutting skills to ABC's (not just regular recognition pages, but letter order pages and more...) to Phonics Word Wheels, Mini Phonics Books, Cut and Paste activities (think- sentence order), Skip Counting, Right and left worksheets, and so much more!
(Did I mention they have many worksheets translated into Spanish, and also many for our neighbors to the north with Canadian-English spellings.)

Really, if this is anything you are remotely interested in, you ought to consider visiting their website~ it really is SUPER (and I don't often enthuse over worksheets....)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit Super Teacher Worksheets on their social media pages
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls (Biblical Fiction for Kids ~ A Review)

My Youngest son is always up for reviewing books, especially those with some sort of Historical twist, so he really enjoyed reading the first two books in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series, published by WorthyKids/Ideals.

The stories follow a a sibling pair, time-traveling with the use of scrolls, a similar device to another popular time-traveling series. However, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls explores Biblical History, and doesn't engage in the use of a well-known evil literary character as an innocuous librarian... (Yeah, personally couldn't stomach that other un-named series, almost entirely based on the use of that character... Character choice is important, folks!)

I will tell you right now that my Youngest sped through both books the evening they arrived, and declared them to be very good! He enjoyed reading these fictional stories with a Biblical basis that included a little humor and were very relatable for a ten year old. However, he is not great with book reports (I need to work on that a bit more), so I will give you my synopsis of each book. :)

Book 1 

In The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Beginning, we are introduced to the main characters, 9 year old Peter, his older sister Mary, and Hank (their time-of-day-telling dog), along with their Great-Uncle Solomon, and archaeologist and the keeper of the Hidden Scrolls.

We find out that there is a legend attached to the scrolls, which can only be opened by "the chosen ones."

As it turns out, Peter and Mary are called by the Lion's roar, and end up going on an adventure back to the very first day of Creation~ when the world was without and form and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep... just imagine what that must have felt and looked like...

Along the way they end up meeting Michael the Archangel, who saves them when the waters are divided (before there is land) and gives them a little insight to their task. The words on the scroll are written in Hebrew, and they have to decipher them in 7 days, or they will be left in that time period, never to return home. While this isn't my favorite choice of conflict, it does add an element of excitement to the story for younger readers. 

The children see each new thing being formed, and even encounter the snake in the garden before Eve is created (Mary offers a Karate Kick to his head, which surprises the snake (Satan), who of course has no foreknowledge of such machinations~ but he's a quick learner, and it only works once).

The children manage to figure out the words on the scroll, and are immediately returned to their Great-Uncle's library, to discover that their week of adventure had taken less than an hour (probably only moments) in their own time.

Book 2

The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: Race to the Ark

In this story, Peter, Mary, and Hank are sent back to the time of Noah and the Ark. They encounter the lawless people of the world, help with the animals and organizing the ark, and meet up once again with Satan, in the form of the Dark Ruler. The angel Michael gives assistance as needed, and a Lion helps out as well.

My only beef with this particular story is a little mix-up on the part of the author~ Jubal Cain and Tubal Cain are introduced as Noah's brothers (and an artifact of Tubal's handiwork is found in Great-Uncle Solomon's possession). However, while they all had a father with the same name (Lamech), I'm pretty sure that Tubal Cain and Jubal Cain were descended from Cain, while Noah was descended from Seth. Use this as a teachable moment~ that even authors and grownups (And Biblical Scholars) make mistakes, and double-checking research is hugely important. ;)

So, what age are these books good for? My Youngest is ten and enjoyed reading them, just like he enjoys reading Hank the Cowdog and Encyclopedia Brown books. He also enjoys reading lengthy chapter books (He read the entire Redwall series this summer...), so I would say that these books should appeal to a range of ages and reading abilities.

Both books are written on a 560L Lexile reading level, which is suitable for grades 2-6. That being said, the comprehension level probably starts a little lower, which would make this a great read-aloud for children ages 5 and up.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit WorthyKids/Ideals on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Captain Bayley's Heir (Another Fantastic Heirloom Audio Production)Review)

Following fast on the heels of my most recent Heirloom Audio Productions review of In The Reign Of Terror, is this review of their newest title, Captain Bayley's Heir. This story mainly follows the adventures of a young English lad named Frank Norris.  Frank is falsely accused of theft, and upon his notion that his guilt is believed true by those closest to him (due to extreme circumstantial evidence), he heads to America, and California's Gold Rush Country. His hope is to return a rich man, with the ability to prove his innocence.  It also traces the circumstances of Frank's family~ his Uncle, Captain Bayley,  his cousin, Fred Barkley, and his "adopted cousin," Alice Hardy as events occur back in England.

As to the title~ there is some question throughout the story as to WHO, exactly is (or will be) Captain Bayley's heir, but you'll have to get nearly through the entire story to find out the answer to that question. ;)

So, to backtrack a tiny bit, if you haven't read any of my previous Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews, I received in the mail a 2 disc CD audio production (Radio Drama-style) of G. A. Henty's story Captain Bayley's Heir. Along with the physical CD, I was given access to the Live the Adventure Club Website, which offers bonus materials to go along with the CD, plus a whole lot more.

Live the Adventure Club is a unique subscription service. It offers:
  • Three physical products shipped to your door per year (New Henty Audio Dramas, as they are produced)
  • Educational Treasures and Teaching Resources which include Study Guides produced for those CDs, as well as History and Grammar Textbooks from the 1700s and 1800s
  • The Ability to Stream over 500 Old-Time Radio Shows
  • Listen and Learn Read Along Program
  • Daily Inspiration and Devotionals
  • Hundreds of Fun activities and Games
  • Full Access to Live the Adventure Radio
  • Community Forum to exchange ideas and tips
I will mention right here that there is a 3-Month Free Club Trial being offered (at the time of posting) with a deeply discounted $1.00 purchase of the 2-CD set of Captain Bayley's Heir, as well as $20 worth of Adventure Credits to use in their online store. That seems like one of those deals that is too good to pass up, in my opinion. ;) Be sure to check that out after you read the rest of my review. 

Now, I want to tell you a bit more about the Adventure club features as they relate specifically to the Audio Dramas. 

There are some online options for younger listeners that include coloring pages, word-searches, and other activities that relate to the time period of various audio drama productions. The word-searches can be completed online, or downloaded and printed. The letters can be reduced or enlarged in size to suit your child's needs. That's pretty cool attention to detail! 

Coloring Pages
The Listen and Learn Along Program offers the ability to listen to each chapter of audio while reading along with the script (With each word highlighted as spoken in the color of your choice). 

Following the audio portion, your child can then take a listening/reading comprehension quiz to earn points towards an adventure badge. There are also more questions that offer the opportunity to think more deeply about the text, and what the character's motivations are, or what they might be thinking to cause them to act in a certain way, or say certain things. 

At the end of those deeper questions you will find a number of vocabulary words that are defined as you mouse over them. Sadly, I couldn't capture a screenshot while mousing over, but it does work nicely. ;)

This portion of the website is the multimedia version of the pdf Study Guides that I've mentioned in the past. These are still available as part of the Educational Treasures found on the website, if you prefer to have something to print and bring with you, or if you have limited internet access, are traveling, or what have you. Here are some screenshots of the pdf study guide.

The study guide still includes the comprehension questions (Listening Well), the digging deeper style of questions (Thinking Further), and the vocabulary words (Defining Words). It also includes some other interesting tidbits that Expand Your Learning with information that correlates to the story. At the end of the study guide you will find a list of extra reading resources for further expansion on the historical time presented, as well as 3 Bible Studies That focus on some of the themes in the story. In Captain Bayley's Heir the Bible studies are about:

  • God's Grace
  • Becoming A Christian
  • Honoring Your Parents

They each include a number of statements, followed by Scriptures that back up those statements, and can provide a good opportunity for discussion.

This brings up something else~ in my last review I mentioned that I was disappointed that the ability to download the mp3s of the Audio Dramas was no longer an option, as that made it more difficult for my son to listen to the audio while traveling. I am happy to report that they are once again available as a downloadable zip file, and I appreciate that as the convenience it truly is. 

I am happy to say that this audio drama has lived up to my previous expectations, and the Live The Adventure Club as I mentioned, is a unique product, that I expect will be enjoyed by many households due to the vast number of resources and value that it offers.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: Heirloom Audio Productions
  • Product: Captain Bayley's Heir
  • Ages: 6-adult (Publisher's age) 10-Adult (my age recommendation)
  • Price: As mentioned above, Heirloom Audio Productions is currently offering a $1.00, 3 month trial ~ (After the trial period is up the plan charges $24.97 every three months, and guarantees that three new physical CD sets will be sent three times per year as they are produced) this gives you the 2 CD set of their newest title Mr. Bayley's Heir and access to many MORE resources including the bonus features mentioned above.
You can visit Heirloom Audio Productions' Social Media pages on
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+

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