Thursday, April 29, 2010

Lesson Planet~ The Search Engine for Teachers

Lesson Planet - Your lesson plan search engine. Find the best lesson plans for teachers including math lesson plans and science lesson plans.

Thanks to the TOS Crew, here is another "teacher resource" that we were given to review.

From the company:
Lesson Planet makes it easy for teachers and parents to search over 225,000 online lesson plans and worksheets that have been reviewed and rated by teachers. Lesson Planet has a 10 day free trial to allow teachers and parents to try the site with no obligation. After the free trial, membership is only $39.95/year.

Lesson Planet does have an incredible number of lesson plans and worksheets that you can search by keyword, grade level, and "rating", as well as the option of browsing by subject. The site includes 24 "guides" on a variety of subjects~ from math and music to homeschooling and school counselors. These folks write articles (Some have as little as one article at this point) around their area of expertise, and point out some of the top worksheets and lesson plans that relate to their topic.

As someone who is very proficient at using search engines to find material for my homeschool, generally within a few minutes, these are my Impressions:

Pros:
  • The previously mentioned "Guides" may be useful to some
  • The site maintains a Curriculum Calendar with Lesson Plan Ideas by date. For instance, April 15 is listed as Leonardo da Vinci's Birthday, with links to search for lesson plans relating to him. I printed off a nice 5 paragraph passage with comprehension and vocabulary questions, as a quick "Today In History" lesson. So for those who like to tie things in that way, this could be a convenient tool(as long as there are actually relevant links...)
Interesting~ Exploring a few days in the month of April on the Curriculum Calendar~
  • 537 Earth Day worksheets and 8711 Earth Day lesson plans to weed through
  • 758 Easter Worksheets, 513 Easter lesson plans (Which BTW, DID return hits for the Easter Story, and Lent along with the Easter Bunny, Eggs, and Easter Island....) 
  • 17 da Vinci worksheets and 191 da Vinci lesson plans...
  • 244 Civil War worksheets and 3999 Civil War lesson plans
  • 65 Revolutionary War  worksheets and 894 Revolutionary War lesson plans available
  • 31 Civil Rights Worksheets and 1707 Civil Rights lesson plans
Just wondering about the "Balance" here...

Cons:
  • With so many links, it must be difficult to update regularly. In my first 15 minutes of searching, on two very different topics, I came up with 3 of the 10 or so promising links that went nowhere.... {sigh} I also ended up with a number of "dead" links on subsequent searches.
  • On another day, a search for 4th grade music worksheets claimed 11 possibilities~ in reality, only one of them was music related and all of the rest of them were language arts worksheets.... ??? I didn't find this a good use of my time.
  • When searching for a lesson plan on Henry Hudson, the only return that was intriguing enough for me to click on it was actually a McGraw Hill lesson that I could find for free myself.
All-in-all, I feel that there may be some "Gems", but as is true with mining, you may have to really dig to find them. Personally, as a search-engine-happy homeschooling momma, I seem to be wired for Google and Dogpile. Lesson Planet just didn't "Click" for me.

For someone who is just starting out, and/or is less excited about using those search engines, I suggest you take advantage of the free 10 day trial and see if Lesson Planet fits your search style.

As always, I hope that this review will help you decide where to best spend your homeschool budget.
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, April 24, 2010

Super Star Speech and Educational Games

Speech Pathology is something that has caught my interest since being exposed to two wonderful speech pathologists who worked with the children I cared for as a nanny in my pre-mommy days. I have so far not required such help with my own children (Thank heaven!), but I was delighted as a TOS Crew member to be able to check out Debbie Lott's Super Star Speech program. (Debbie is a liscensed speech pathologist with a Masters in Education/Speech Pathology who has homeschooled her own 4 children) 

 I was especially interested because JDP2 has been what friends call my "Hawaiian baby"... he started speaking with correct syllables, and lots of vowels, but very few consonants! Since then he has added a number of consonants to his vocabulary, but I was still interested/concerned to find out if he was really on track.
 
I am pleased to say that after going through a set of diagnostic "tests" with him, he appears to be developing well for his age, just not an early "Elocutionist", like his siblings. 

The test simply amounted to asking him the names of pictures and determining if he was hitting the target sound, a modified version, replacing it, or not at all. He mostly enjoyed "playing this game", although I would recommend doing it in two parts if you have a particularly young child that you are working with. (These are really recommended for ages 3+, but I was curious, and he WILL be 3 in July... ;) )


If I had determined that there were specific sounds that he was lagging behind on, Debbie has included, in her main Super Star Speech manual, general instructions on how to apply the therapy sessions that she outlines next. 
  • There are tips on producing each sound(Physical and visual descriptions of how the sound is produced, and how to physically help your child make that sound)
  • Picture cards to use in "Drill" and games
  • A section with suggested activities and games to make speech therapy a fun part of your child's day. 
  • There are also sheets included for your convenience in "lesson planning" and assessment of progress. 
  • Word lists for each sound with initial, middle, and final placement in the words. 
  • Printable pages with general activities, games and different "progress" charts that will work with any sound, so that the child can "own" their work. (There are a wide variety of pages with activities for both younger and older students... from "Color in" or "play a game" pages, to "Write the sound", and "Fill in the blank" pages.)
Here is an example of a physical description for producing the sounds "f" and "v":
F and V are produced by touching the upper teeth to the lower lip. F is produced by passing the breath between the teeth and lip. V is produced in the same way with the voice “turned on.”

If you find that there are specific sounds that are not coming easily with the activities and instruction included in the basic Super Star Speech manual, Debbie  has provided extra materials in ebooks with even more games and activities for specific grouped sounds... currently available: (S, Z, and Sh) (R and L), and (Ch, J, and Th). 


From what I have seen "in action" and going through these materials myself, I am very impressed with this reasonable alternative to the usually expensive option of private speech therapy. 

You can see for yourself how the material is covered by checking out some of the free tips and resources available on the Super Star Speech website.

Super Star Speech is available in a variety of formats:
  • You can purchase hard copy versions of all the books (except the (Ch,J,Th) ebook) directly from Super Star Speech (average price:$18.95 for spiral bound)
  • There are "bundle" options in both spiral($38.95) and and ring bound($49.95) versions
  • Debbie would like to offer you, my readers, a 20% discount on books from Super Star Speech The discount code, which will be good until June 30, is "TOS."
  • Shipping is flat rate, $3.95
Alternatively, for an even cheaper option you can purchase (*non-resaleable) ebook versions at Currclick.

The individual titles are currently each available for $12.95 each:
The Super Star Speech 3 book bundle ** of the main manual+ (S,Z,Sh) + (R,L) is $27 

(BTW, the Currclick pages have some excellent "preview" pages, so that you can get a better idea of what is offered... :) )


Super Star Speech gets two thumbs up for me for both content and cost! 

*NOTE from Debbie Lott and Super Star Speech: If your child has many articulation errors, or another type of speech problem such as a language delay or stuttering, or if you are not able to commit to working with your child and his speech regularly at home, please seek the assistance of a speech-language pathologist. Likewise, if your child has a physical problem that affects his speech, such as a hearing impairment, cerebral palsy, or cleft palate, this book does not attempt to address those more complex issues.


Now~ on to the Educational Games~ 

I am a fan of file folder games, and Super Star Games are a great way to add some interest to a variety of topics while hammering down some of those basic facts and concepts that can be a little dry at times. Debbie Lott has taken all the work and done it for us with these games. Here are the available titles ~
 
 

    

    

BTW~they aren't listed as "file folder" games, but they are very suited to that format. I print up the "Cover" and paste it on the the front of a file folder, print up the "Board" which is usually 2 pages, and glue those to the inside of the file folder, print up the rules, and paste those to the back of the folder. Any cards or playing pieces get printed up on card stock and stored in a ziplock bag with the name of the game written on the outside. The whole thing then gets stored(bag inside folder) in a larger filing system. Very handy! :) 


Each title is available individually from Currclick as a download for $3.50. There are also bundles available for these, check out all the options**.. :) 

I appreciated the option to tell my kids to go play the Silly Snail Game to work on their parts of speech recognition. It was easy enough to copy the answer key, put into two colums in a word doc, and print it up so that they could play independently without mom having to be there to oversee the answers. I am looking forward to checking more of these games out, from the history and geography to science... great! 


I hope you will check out the TOS CREW blog for other opinions, and as always, I am hoping these reviews will help you make the best decisions for YOUR family, and how to best spend your homeschooling budget.

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."
** Currclick affiliate link

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Time4Learning Pre-K

 

Time4Learning is an online educational curriculum that utilizes interactive "cartoons" to teach across multiple subjects. Last year I reviewed the Elementary and Middle School programs with the TOS Crew, and this year we were given 30 days' free access to the Preschool program for the purposes of review.

While I had mixed opinions for the older kids'  section last year, I am quite pleased with the preschool program.  Now, keep in mind that I have a 2 year old, not "quite" the target age, but he enjoyed using the program with "Mom"  or his big sister helping out (with mouse~work, mostly).
The Time4Learning Preschool Curriculum is split into 2 levels
Level 1 has 20 "units" with 83 total activities, and
Level 2 has 21 "units"with 92 total activities.

Want to check out the scope and sequence? This is a very comprehensive look at what the PreK curriculum encompasses. I'll give you a quick synopsis here of the basic set-up. Each "unit" starts with a "Story" or "Show", which frequently ends with a little interactive activity. There are 3 or more activities that follow, relating to the concept being introduced.

We enjoyed spending time at Time4Learning, with the "Story" or "Show" being a big hit, and the "Match it",  "Which one is it", and "Memory Match" activities being high on JDP2's list.
There are also "Parent Reports" that you can access right from your child's page, to see where your child is spending their time (If you aren't actively spending your time with them, like we were)...

Here is a random screenshot of a portion of my report area: (These were all in the "Alphabet" Unit)
  Icon~ Name of activity, with description~ x's started ~ last date ~x's completed
Time4Learning Preschool1

Speaking of parental "Control", you have the ability to change the amount of time spent on the activities or lessons, as well the amount of time spent on the "Playground"(More about the Playground in a minute...)

The Lessons can be set for a "Minimum" time of 0-59 minutes, and the Playground can be set for a "Maximum" time of 0-59 minutes as well. We were a little surprised the first time that we started playing, and couldn't check out the Playground. The second time we had apparently completed our minimum amount of lesson time, and were able to access the Playground, but we were again surprised when our playground time abruptly ended mid-game.
Two suggestions here:
  • It would seem to be a good idea to have a "Maximum" time allowed for the Lessons as well as the Playground
  • It might be nice if the playground timer would remove access to the playground, but allow the current game or activity to be completed. 
I promised a little more information about the Playground. It is composed of MANY "places" to play. Lots of them are sites that you can visit online yourself, like PBSKids.org, and others may be unique to Time4Learning. I certainly didn't have time to check them all out! I am also guessing from the variety, that the playground is not strictly for the Preschoolers, because there were a number of "Games" that would be more appropriate for older children. Can't quite see a 4 or 5 year old playing PacMan, which is a choice... as well as Air Hockey and some other "Arcade-style" games in addition to educational games, two-player games, "Puzzlers", and "Activities.
  • One more suggestion would be to limit the playground games/activities to the appropriate age, more to avoid frustration when a PreK child's time runs out while trying to navigate the wealth of activities in the playground.
Some Personal Thoughts:
  • PreK curriculum is well set up and organized (Scope and Sequence is great!)
  • Nice little video introductions for the kids to topics~ Very appropriate to the age.
  • Simple "Games/Activities" to reinforce the topics, and a limited number of games, so that it isn't too complex for a Preschooler~ Right on target there.
  • The ability to keep track of what your little one is watching and doing with the "Reports"
  • The Parents forum has become much more active since last year, and there are a lot of good ideas to check out. :) 
  • The Playground? ~ I'm not making too much of a judgement call~ It IS handy to have all those activities from various sites in one spot, and to have the ability to "limit" the amount of time there, since this isn't the "main" part of the curriculum, but it does seem a little funny to be paying (through the subscription) for many things that can be accessed for free online. You be the judge there, for your own family.

Of course, we all know that preschoolers learn best by taking part in that thing we call "LIFE", getting messy and dirty, being active, reading lots of books and generally interacting with family and friends,  etc.... so, keeping that in mind,  if you are looking for an online, fairly well rounded, age appropriate "curriculum" for your preschooler to spend a few minutes per day with, OR if your "Little" has been begging to "Do math"(etc...)  on the computer like the "Bigs",  this could be a good choice for you.

Assuming that I've caught your interest, you may wish to check out the lesson demos to see the program in action. The link brings you to a 60 second "Tour", and then you can click on "Try the Lessons" or "Try the Playground" to get a feel for what Time4Learning offers.

Time4Learning's current pricing is $19.95/month for the first child in a family, $14.95 for each additional child.

As always, I hope that this review will help you make the best use of your homeschooling budget. For other reviews and viewpoints, please visit the TOS Crew Page and see what my Crewmates there had to say about Time4Learning. :)

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."

Monday, April 12, 2010

All About Reading Beehive Reader#2 **

Marie Rippel of All About Spelling ** sent the TOS Crew an "Advance Reader Copy" of her 2nd reader from All About Reading. (You will be able to purchase it at the AAR website soon.)
(BTW, the first reader, that I reviewed earlier has had a name change. Rather than "Beehive Reader #1" it is now titled "Cobweb the Cat".) 

This second reader is titled "What Am I?". This book follows the same sequence and word lists as All About Spelling Level 2, Steps 1-14, for those that use AAS, but this book also stands on its own as a very pleasant  and diverse reader.

There are 10 stories. Here are the titles, with my comments, and a few sample pages :)
  • The Bench~Very sweet little piece about a slice of life at a bus stop
  • An Elf in the Alps~ Cute visit
  • Broken Robot~ Just wait till your child reads this lament... ;)
  • Photobucket
  • The Bake Sale~ Inspirational story that gave ME goosebumps when I read it.
  • Matt the Musk Ox~ A Fable
  • Photobucket
  • Skunk Hotel~ Made me smile... what would YOU do if a skunk set up in YOUR shed?
  • Photobucket
  • Champ~ Pleasant story about a girl and her horse.
  • Pine Tree Pet Shop~ Eeewww.... Snakes! (A little adventure....)
  • Just for You: Poems for Fun~ Oh dear, the 1st one is "Jake the Snake"... (I don't care for snakes, but there are those that do, so I won't let my dislike for snakes color my opinion about the book...... ) The next is "In My Backpack", followed by "Rub-a-dub-dub" (Not what you might think... cute!), and "The Picnic". These are certainly poems that boys will enjoy. :) 
  • What Am I?~ A series of riddles, with the first illustration giving a small hint. Very nicely done.
Once again, these contain lovely pencil drawn illustrations, as you can see above, and the book is a beautiful hardcover, worthy of gift-giving for your favorite beginning-to-read child. ($19.95)

If you are interested in other TOS Crew Member opinions, please check out the TOS CREW blog. As always, I am hoping these reviews will help you make the best decisions for YOUR family, and how to spend your homeschooling budget.

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."
**AAS Affiliate Link

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Terrestria Chronicles


My avid reader, RJP, was very pleased that the Crew received some books from Ed Dunlop ministries for review. Some members received books from the Tales From Terrestria series, and others received a variety of books from the Terrestria Chronicles.

We were sent Books 6 and 7 in the series, "The Golden Lamps" and "The Great War".
I was a little concerned with receiving the books at the end of the series, not having read the first books, but was relieved that we were able to pick up book 6 with no trouble, although to get the full benefit of the story, it would be best to read the series in order. 

My daughter realized fairly quickly that the story was allegorical in the fashion of Pilgrim's Progress, although set in a more "realistic" medieval time-period. It is action-packed from the very start, with adventure, trials, and lessons to be learned. Although I wouldn't have intuitively picked these up for my girly-girl, she thoroughly enjoyed them. In fact she would like to read the rest of the series, so I guess you can't ask for much more of a recommendation than that. :)

I would recommend these for ages 12 and up, although if your kids don't flinch at fighting and descriptions of typical medieval warfare, then you could presumably start them earlier, because the lessons to be learned are applicable for all ages. (My kids are on the more "sensitive" side, so take my recommendation with that knowledge)

Please check out the rest of the Crew's reviews, and if you're interested, visit Ed Dunlop's site to purchase them, if you would like to support him directly. Each book retails for $7.99, but you can purchase the entire set of 7 for $39.99

As always, I hope this review helps you to find products that are a good fit for your family.
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, April 8, 2010

Mathscore Update~

Ok, thought it was about time that I give you an update on our Mathscore usage~

See.... this is one of those programs where you win some you lose some, but mostly you win~

I still have one (young son) who doesn't really love Mathscore, but he's plugging away at it because MOM likes what it's doing (And she really likes getting those summaries in her email, since young son sometimes does his math in the evenings, when mom and RJP are at dance class....keeps him accountable! :) ) Guess which day mom was happier... ;)

JDP Activity Summary1

JDP Activity Summary 3

I also appreciate this nifty little summary....
JDP Concentration Ranking


But RJP is an entirely different story... I've actually had to demand that she "leave the computer"... here are a couple of HER activity reports (From time that she CHOSE to do mathscore, in her "Free time" in the evening.... gotta love that competitive spirit. :)

RJP Activity summary2

RJP Actvity Summary1

And remember that trophy room that I showed you in my initial review:
Trophy Room

Here it is now...

RJP trophy room

You can see that I took this screen shot while my mouse was hovering over one of the "?" trophies. That square shows the prerequisites, and tells me that she has started working towards this trophy already... ;)

So far, I am still greatly enjoying the benefits of this program, and better yet, I see my children benefiting as well!

Check out my original review for pricing information(Or go directly to Mathscore.com), and don't forget that Mathscore offers a free two week trial to check it out.

Hope this is helpful for you to see how this is still working well at our home. :)

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, April 1, 2010

Critical Thinking Co. ~ Balance Benders

Homepage - The Critical Thinking Company
I have a number of The Critical Thinking Company's workbooks, so I was pleased that the TOS Crew was given the chance to review a couple of series. While other Crew members received a book from the Language Smarts series, I received the "Beginning" book in The Balance Benders series.
Balance Benders

Balance Benders are logic and algebraic reasoning puzzles, utilizing the concept of a "balance", and a variety of geometric shapes. The purpose in each puzzle is to correctly identify the 3 true mathematical statements for each "equation" in the balance.

The "Beginning" book is rated for grades 2-6. My 4th grader fit right in. The puzzles in the beginning of the book are fairly simple, but they become more complex as you go through the book, so be aware that the younger students may find it quickly becomes rathercomplex for them.

However, there is help included in the book. Towards the back, there are 10 "Balance Tips" that explain the algebraic concepts used in the book. If your child is stumped on a particular problem, they can go over the "Tips" and then see if the problem makes more sense, and is "Solvable" for them.

I used this book for my 4th grader, and he enjoyed working through the puzzles. I think that this will help to give him a bit of a foundation for when HE starts in Algebra. His big sister joined in, and was challenged with some of the more complex problems. It reinforced some of the work that she was currently engaged in, and the "Visual" aspect was a great addition.

The "Nitty Gritty" Balance Benders, Beginning Level (Grades 2-6), $9.99
The other books in the series are Level 1 (grades 4-12), Level 2 (Grades 6-12+), and Level 3 (Grades 8-12+). Each book is $9.99, with reproducible pages for your family's use. This makes these books an especially good value for those with multiple children. :)

Be sure to check out other Crew-mates' reviews, and see what they had to say about this latest series from the Critical Thinking Co. as well as the Language smarts Series.

As always, I hope that this review helps you to find the products that will most benefit YOUR homeschool, as you determine where to spend your homeschool budget.

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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