Monday, March 29, 2010

Family Mint Website

Family Mint

My kids get an allowance... but the actual "distribution" of the allowance has been haphazard, at best. This has a lot to do with the fact that we've become semi-cashless ourselves, so don't always have the correct coinage on hand. So we have moved into a "figure it out 2 or 3 times/ year" method, but that is time-consuming and not very accurate.

Imagine my delight (And that of my kids... well, "Delight" might be a little strong to describe their feelings...) when the TOS Crew members were introduced to Family Mint. Family Mint is a free online program that has great potential to help teach your children about money management.

The concept is that we, the parents, are "The bank", and the children are our "Customers".
You can set up an account for each child with multiple options:
  • "direct deposit" (for their allowance, if you wish)
  • Regular deposits (for other cash, gifts, etc...)
  • Withdrawals
  • Goals (like charity, gifts, big ticket items, and "Spending money")
  • Transfers (Between "Goal accounts")
  • Savings Plan (Automatic deposits of specific percentages)
  • The ability for the "bank" (That's us...) to motivate our kids to save by paying interest, and/or by "matching" a percentage of the funds being saved for a certain purpose or "Goal"
To start off, your kids could collect their hard-earned (or "gifted") cash, and give it to you to deposit(In your sock drawer might be an idea...so that you don't accidentally spend their funds in your checking account). Every time they get money, they bring it to you to hold on to, and then enter that as a deposit in the Family Mint. When they go to the store and ask to buy something, you can agree, if they use their money. You can pay for it yourself, and then when they get home, they make a withdrawal from their Family Mint. (If you've kept their cold, hard cash, this means you have some more cash for your wallet now.:) , if not, it just keeps virtual track of the money they have available.

Talking about the "Goals" section~

JDP1 wants to spend what he has, most of the time, but he did manage to save up for a professional skateboard, with our previous, haphazard, "enforced" savings allowance method. Now, he wants to save up for an ipod or an itouch. Having the Family Mint keep track of his allowance for me (So that I don't have to go "figure it out" on a regular basis), AND allocate a specific percentage to the itouch category is great! Then, when Birthday and Christmas gifts come in, he can add those directly as well(those cash gifts are a great thing, too, because if he had to rely on his allowance it would take him YEARS to save up for a big ticket item). There is a nifty little tracking bar that shows how much has been saved in each goal category, which is helpful for them to actually SEE their progress.

Now he can check on a weekly basis, and hey, if he has the money "in the bank", sure... he can spend it on gum... OR he can decide to put that bit towards his goal, or towards some other option(like charity..) It just puts it out there in black and white. The great thing is that I don't have to do the figuring, and keep it in a safe, but accessible place. Family Mint does that for me. :) (we just have to remember to make the "withdrawal")

So, FamilyMint can help my kids
  • Organize their finances
  • Create Goals
  • Plan for the future
  • SEE their money at work for them
I can see that this will be a helpful too for educating my children about "Grown-up" finances and budgeting as well.

If your family is like mine, it is also a grand way to keep track of those "phantom allowances", and make sure that your kids' spending hits THEIR pocket books, not yours! :)

Be sure to check FamilyMint out, and also my fellow Crew mates' reviews. Some of them used FamilyMint as a very CREATIVE tool! :)

I hope that this review of FamilyMint.com's free program will SAVE your homeschool budget a little, AND give you a useful tool in teaching your children how to budget wisely.
Blessings~


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Galaxy of Education Math Programs




As part of the TOS Crew "Math Immersion Experience" this year(smile), we were given the opportunity to try out the math packages offered by Galaxy of Education's Math Galaxy.

Math Galaxy offers K-12 :
  • Interactive "tutorial" math programs, with topically complimentary "motivating" games,
  • Worksheet Generators with unlimited problems, and the option to add "Riddles" to the worksheets (Over 500 Riddles available... if your worksheet has one you've seen before, you can ask it to choose another one before you print the page!)
  • 2 "Ebook" versions of the riddle worksheets for Fractions and Whole Numbers that include 130 of the 500 available riddles, for those who prefer that format.
The math programs range from basic math (Adding and subtracting, telling time, etc...) all the way up to algebraic equations. You can get a feel for how the programs work (and their "Teaching style") by checking out some of the limited free features available on the website.

The "interactive"/tutorial portion is like a textbook program, that explains the given mathematical operation, and gives examples, then lets the student solve the problems.

There are two options for solving the problems
  • "Step-by-step", where each numeral in the answer is keyed in a separate step, or the
  • "Final Answer only" option, where the student can choose to solve mentally, or on paper, and then key in the final answer.
I found that my 9 year old benefited from the step-by-step option when working on 2 or more digit multiplication problems. It helped him to figure out the process by prompting him to remember to carry, and later on to add. I can imagine that it will also be useful when we start long division, with the multiple steps required there as well.

On to the "Motivation" aspect of the program, the games... The labyrynth maze kind of reminds me of vintage computer games.... and my boyo "goes" for that sort of thing, so that's good. If your kids are more into glitz and glam, and outrageous graphics, they might be quite as inspired.....

The Word Jumble is kind of a "Wheel of Fortune" type game, with a scrambled word, and math problems for each letter~ Here's a partial game screenshot:

Math Galaxy Word Jumble

The Riddles require you to do a math problem for each letter also~ Here's another screen shot;

Math Galaxy Riddles

In Bridge the Swamp, you are trying to get from the top of the mountain, across the swamp to your respective color, by selecting the numbers that work with the operation to give the answers in an adjoining space~ I'll show you the game just starting, and then almost finished:


I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few other things:
  • I did find the program, and the "Vintage" look to be a little difficult to "navigate"
  • It took a little getting used to the way the "Step-by-step" answers were to be filled in (although once we "Got it", it made perfect sense, and I appreciated the way it worked...)
  • My "older" attempted to do some of the Algebra problems, but was having a hard time "interfacing" with the product....Maybe she just wasn't ready? I'm not sure~ It could be that the "Text-book" wasn't as clear as it could be...
  • My monitor is an old 15 inch, so on the rare occasion, there may have been a line of "tutorial" cut off~ I didn't run into anything that would cause us significant trouble, tho'.
  • While the labyrinth game is "Self-limiting" because the kids have to earn robots in order to play, once they become adept at the game, one robot life (Which means one math problem....) can last FAR too long! Need a timer on that thing!
  • The "Tutorial" aspect is a little dry on its own, but with a parent/teacher overseeing the first bit of screen time, I think it works out fairly well.
I really like the worksheet generator (For when my kids WANT worksheets... because regardless of MY preferences, sometimes that is their desire...), and the riddles make it more fun!

The "Math Galaxy Word Problems" program has a nifty feature, in that it can be a "game" for up to 4 players. Each player's math problems can be chosen, individualized for their ability and the topics they are studying, so that the 7th grader can play the 4th grader, and it's "equitable". :) I like it! (The game follows a board, with "caves" that are similar to the Labyrinth mazes, but the "play time" is limited, in that there is only one cave available per turn. This might be a good idea for the regular labyrinth maze as well.... one maze per problem. :) )

Math Galaxy System Requirements: Windows 98 or later or Mac OS X.
  • The ______ Fun programs are $29.95
  • The Worksheet generators are $29.95
  • The Riddles e books are $14.95
All have free shipping

If you are interested in a different math program with a lot of potential, and don't mind working with a "Vintage feel" in both style and graphics, this might be just what you (or your child) are looking for! Moral of this story in MY family~ 9 yo who didn't care for other programs seems to really enjoy this one, 12 yo who LOVES other programs wasn't all that enthralled....

For other views and experiences, please visit the TOS Crew, and see what other families thought.
As always, I hope that this helps you spend your homeschooling dollars wisely. If you have any questions about our experience, feel free to comment. :)

Blessings~



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Children's Bible Hour Ministries~ Seasons of Faith Series

I received a group of 4 books by the Children's Bible Hour Ministries for review~ Their Seasons of Faith Series. I have always been a fan of "seasonal series" books, using them as "gifts" on the first day of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, but this series is a little different than most, because it is dealing with Spiritual Seasons, not with actual Seasons, although they do tie in to the settings.

Here's a quick run-down of the Seasons of Faith icons, and what they signify:
Spring SummerAutumn Winter
Spring: This is a time when people experience new life in Christ. Faith develops and Christians begin to share the Salvation message with others.
Summer: The season when faith grows under God’s love and care. Fruit is witnessed and triumphs are gained through applying His Word and striving to be the best we can be in Christ.
Autumn: Times of struggle and temptation, peer pressure, making mistakes, and scary transitions happen during this season. Even though it might seem like nothing good can come from this time, God has promised us He will be there. He will teach us how to forgive and then grow in grace.
Winter: This season is the most difficult. Deep struggles, mourning, trying to make it through difficult times, or the death of a loved one can pull us away from God. He teaches us to lean on Him for comfort and peace.

There are currently 4 books in the Series, one for each title~
You can read about each specific story here

Each softcover book includes a read-along CD narrated by "Uncle Charlie" of the Children's Bible Hour Radio Ministry fame, and include the "ABC's of Salvation" with Scripture references in the back of each book, as a help for young Christians.

What I like:
  • each story deals with some aspect of faith, whether it is how to share making an initial decision to follow Christ, or how to grow in that decision, with stories on forgiveness, and trust in God.
  • I can see that these could be good tools to show in words relevant to today's children, what they can do and say as they grow and share what it means to be a Christ-follower in their own neighborhoods
  • CBHM has created a page with discussion questions to help foster this activity.
  • While a couple of the stories seemed to be a little "preachy", and simplistic in their view, in the final analysis, preaching isn't bad, regardless of what today's society might say (That's why we go to church on Sundays, isn't it? To hear preaching?), as long as it is telling the truth in an appropriate and relevant manner.
Just a couple of nit-picky comments about the "quality" of the books.
  • I wouldn't consider these "Literature" in a Charlotte Mason sense, but rather more of a "Tool" for training.
  • In line with that, the artwork is "ok", but not stellar (ie, in Midnight's rescue, the same two horses showed up in the artwork as a startling array of colors~ white, black, gray, brown, tan~ and in a variety of combinations... These are the things that could be disconcerting to my discerning little artists' eyes, thanks to their training in attention to detail via the FIAR curriculum... ;) )
So, final thoughts~
  • Great child-friendly evangelism/spiritual growth/character training "Tools"
  • Not great Literature/artwork
  • Buy them for what they ARE , and I think that you will be satisfied with your purchase.
Price: $10 each (For a limited time, through April 15, when you purchase the entire set and use the code FREESHIPAPR15, you can get free standard shipping)

As always, I hope that this helps you decide if these are books that would be useful in your homeschool, as you train up each child in the way he should go. :) For other viewpoints and reviews, visit my TOS Crewmates. (Local folks~ If you'd like to see these, let me know, and I'll bring them to the next meeting!)

Blessings~




Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Home School In the Woods Olde World Style Maps


I'm guessing that most of you are familiar with Amy Pak and Home School in the Woods (HSITW), most well known for their History Through the Ages Products. If you read my blog last year, you may remember reading my review of Home School in the Woods' New Testament Activity Pak . Well, HSITW is back as a repeat vendor for the TOS Crew with a new offering....

(Click the graphic to go directly to that page)

Amy has taken her lovely "olde world style" maps from the "Record of Time" Timeline Notebook, and expanded them into their own unique offering. If you prefer "detailed and artistic" to "utilitarian", then these will probably appeal to you.

The maps come as two sets~ United States and World Maps. They both include "historical" maps, as well as modern "political" maps. These all come with the option to print them with labels, non-labled(With spaces to fill in), or simply, outlines. These are not plain flat black line maps, but inorporate some geographical details, like mountains and rivers... very nicely done.


The United States maps include historical maps of the colonies and various growth periods of the US, maps of slave and free states and a map with the locations of the various Native American Tribes. There is a bonus notebooking file with a "State Fact Sheet" to fill in and color, as well as small versions of each state flag to print in color and add to the Fact Sheet. There is also a teacher's key for each one... NICE!

The World maps set includes two basic categories~ Ancient and Modern, with most of them again, printable with labels, fill-in options, and outlines only. The Ancient maps include geographical terrain, but the Modern maps stick to political boundarys and waterways. The bonus notebooking file with the World Maps set is great! Amy has included a lot of great templates to spark your student's imagination and creativity:
  • a newspaper or newsletter template (We used this to help pass a T&T section at AWANA... : ) )
  • a blankrealestate/travel brochure
  • Daily Life in____
  • Explorers ("fill in" Biography pages)
  • Missionaries ("fill in" Biography pages) (I can see this being helpful at AWANA as well!)
  • Christmas and Holidays in ______
  • Postcards from _____
  • Recipe Cards from_____
  • Generic "Country" report pages
  • Flora and Fauna in_____
and others~ This is a real fun section with so many ways to use it, that I KNOW it will keep us busy for quite some time. :)

I printed up the Ancient Vikings Map, an Atlantic Ocean Map and an Arctic Region map to accompany us as we read "The Voyages of Henry Hudson". How nice for R & J to be able to follow along and see places mentioned as we read about them(And fill in some others that weren't already labeled). This is particularly helpful for my daughter, who, as we discovered last year when reviewing for HS ITW , remembers what she *heard* read when she *sees* something that she was *working on* at the time. (The brain is so interesting... , and yes, she's a mix of the three types of learning! But I digress....)

These will make impressive additions to portfolio work for "Review" by the school district, and nice "show-off" pieces for those interested folks (Like grandparents) who might ask to see some recent work.

I am certainly very happy with these, and if you are interested in notebooking/lapbooking/scrapbooking as part of your child's education, you might want to take a little "looksee" at these. Samples of the World Maps can be had here, and samples of the USA maps here.

The nitty gritty~ each "Set" (World or US) is available separately as a download ($18.95) or on CD ($19.95) They are also available as a combo~pak ($28.95 for the download, and $29.95 for the CD)

As always, I hope that this little look at how we used some of the HSITW Olde World Style Maps and what we thought of them at "our" school will help you choose what products to spend your homeschool budget on at "your" school. :) ~If you would like to read a few other opinions, head on over to the TOS Crew, to see what some other homeschooling families thought~
Blessings~


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this/these item(s)/service for free as part of the TOS Crew Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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