Sunday, August 30, 2009


**Note- if you are reading this review on Facebook, please click the link at the bottom of the post to be taken to the original blog entry. **

This is my second year on the TOS Homeschool Crew. I feel very fortunate, to have been given the opportunity to review the Aleks program once again.

If you would like to see my original review, you can see it here.

So, what is Aleks? Aleks is a subscription based math program. If you have read my reviews for any length of time, you know that math is not my favorite subject. So when I come across something that helps me teach my children math, then I am thrilled! Aleks is just that!!!

Since my last review, the kind people at Aleks have made some changes, I wanted to talk about some of them here today. They have made some changes to their master accounts, aka teacher accounts. Which have made the service even better.

When my children signed on this time around, once again, they were asked to take an assessment test. This placed them exactly where they need to be by skill level. It also created their pie chart.  The darker areas indicate areas they have mastered. And the lighter area then shows the skill areas they are still learning. As you can see by the dialog box, you will be given more detailed information when clicking on the areas.

From here the kids can navigate through their math course.  Now one of the features that I really liked that was new, was the ability to give the kids a quiz. You can either create a custom quiz, or you can have them create one, based on the work your children are currently doing. I chose the second option. Then, the next time your child signs in, they will be prompted to take the quiz, before they move onto their next lessons.

In the master account, you can view the test results as well as print out a copy of the test.

You can also print out an attendance chart. This will show you when your child signed in, and how long they were working. It will show you how many skills they have attempted, and how many they have mastered. Both of those pieces of information are clickable, so you can see exactly what they  have worked on.

As you can see the people at Aleks, have listened and have come up with some very useful tools for parents to use, in order to better track our children's progress.

If you are interested in taking a test run, Aleks is offering my readers a FREE on month trial. Please see the banner on my sidebar. This is a $19.95 value. However, it is only available to new users. On their website, they only offer a 48 hour trial, so please take advantage of this awesome offer!

They still offer discount packages for families, please visit their website to see a list of their current prices.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Hank the Cow Dog-Maverick Books

**Note- if you are reading this review on Facebook, please click the link at the bottom of the post to be taken to the original blog entry. **

Hank the Cow Dog 

 I had never heard of Hank the Cow Dog. Have you? Hank the Cow Dog is a chapter book series, that revolves around a talking dog...."Hank the Cow Dog". He is a smelly, smart aleck Head of Ranch Security, as lovingly described by author, John R. Erickson.  And he brings  very interesting, funny and engaging stories about life on a ranch, where trouble never seems to be too far away!

I am going to be honest, I had mixed feelings about this book series. I had never heard of this series before, so I was eagerly awaiting the arrival.

Here is what we were sent:

The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse


Tornado game,

and a CD of excerpts from books, both stories and songs called:

Tales and Tunes from Hank the CowDog,


I was hoping to use this series as something that would get my dyslexic son interested in books. It is very difficult to find books that are interesting and at his reading level.

My only concern with this book is that they have name calling laced throughout the story, with things such as stupid, etc....which is something we try not to encourage around our house!

When listening to the CD in the car, I must admit, we were howling. Howling with laughter!!!  It was really quite humorous. It is cheesy slapstick fun, and you know what? My kids LOVED it!!

So I decided to lighten up a little. It was just fun! We still quote it, and we haven't  listened to it for a good couple of weeks.

We all enjoyed playing the Tornado game. It is very similar to Trouble or Sorry, only it uses the characters from the stories. Also, it is a travel game. It folds, with all the pieces kept inside. This is going to be perfect during the school year. My children can bring this along with us, when we have wait times while we are out.

Take some time to visit "Hank's Ranch" Hank's official website. You will find books, games, t-shirts and other nifty items. You can purchase a paperback for $4.24 and for $19.99 you will get a paperback and an audio CD. And they have several other combinations available, for each of the Hank Stories.

See why Hank the CowDog has become one of the most popular books checked out in Children's Libraries across the country!!



Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Quarter Mile Math by, Barnum Software

The Quarter Mile Math

**Note- if you are reading this review on Facebook, please click the link at the bottom of the post to be taken to the original blog entry. **

   I am one of the many people in the world, who really does not enjoy math! And to add to that is the fact that I am a homeschooler. How is it that I am  supposed to instill that love of learning I desire my children to have, when I really do not enjoy math?

 Over the years we have worked through our math programs, and I have found some wonderful resources over the years, which we still use. However, one thing none of them addressed was the simple reinforcement that a child needs to really concrete math facts.

  I also have several special needs children. And for one of them, my most severe, he loses the skills he learns. So we have to re do things over and over and over.... and dare I say... and over.....

The Quarter Mile Math, has been a wonderful addition to our daily routine! What is the Quarter Mile Math? It is a Math Practice Software. Here is what they say about it on their website....

"The Quarter Mile Math programs boost children's mental math skills and confidence by motivating them to do an incredible number of math problems quickly. The fun, award-winning format is effective because it detects even the smallest improvements and constantly gives positive reinforcement. "

 Now coming from me,  a homeschool mom.... The Quarter Mile Math, is a program, that has created a fun way for the kids to reinforce the math they are covering. How exactly can you make it fun? You know for years, all we  have had is drill and kill... flash cards and worksheets, and if you have a more hands on learner, like I do, you know these are not good methods for your children to learn.

With The Quarter Mile Math, the child will "race" himself, while learning these facts. They have a choice of race cars or riderless horses. The first few races, the child will race against the computer, however, they will begin to  race against themselves, actually, their previous scores. And in there lies the success. The drive, if you will to beat your previous score!  How do they race? Problems appear at the bottom of the page, when they answer correctly, the faster their horse or race car will go. They will be give 3 chances to get the answer, then the answer is given to them, and they can continue on their race.

My son with special needs LOVED this aspect of the game. And what is wonderful, there is not  a"grade level" listed on anything, you simply set them up where they are academically and they race. So he does not feel like he is "behind" his younger siblings. This is huge in our house. So if you have a child that is needing remedial work in math, The Quarter Mile Math will be a huge asset!

Not only has it helped my son with extreme special needs, The Quarter Mile Math, has helped with all of my children. My typical learners and my special learners.  They all actually ask me to "race" each day. They have really enjoyed the new component to our math program!

Now, if you are like me, you are probably thinking, that this would be a great tool for simple math, but I have a middle schooler.. will this help them? YES!!!

The Quarter Mile Math is designed for K-9th grade. And if you are doing remedial work with your student, then you will be able to use this program, all the way through high school.

Here are the topics that are covered in the deluxe edition:

Numbers and Letters

Whole Numbers

Fractions Introduction




Estimation Preparation

Math Strategies




So, as you can see, this is not just for simple math! The strategy is the same, all the way through the program.  Answer the math problems as fast as you can.

We were given the Deluxe Edition to review, which covers grades K-9. Level 1 covers, K-3, Level 2 covers, 4-6 and Level 3 covers 4-9. I would highly recommend the Deluxe Edition. This is a subscription based program. And the price is very affordable! With a family of 5 children, this is very important!

You can pay $2.95 per month, for the entire family, or $19.95 for a one year subscription, again for the entire family, or $34.95 for 2 years for the entire family! You can download the program from the website or you can purchase a CD for $5 to download. We received the CD, and I must say that it was a breeze to download onto the computer.

Right now the kind people at Barnum Publishing have offered my readers a $5 discount on any product, standard or deluxe. All you need to do is enter 7E7D7 into the referral code box. This code will be good until September 30, 2009.

The people at The Quarter Mile Math have added a "For Homeschoolers" section. There you will find a printable progress sheet, to track your students progress, a users forum has just been added, as well as, many helpful hints.

Please take a moment and visit their website, and watch their videos and try out their demo! I am sure you will be hooked!

Have a Happy Homeschooling Day!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Web Design for Kids

Web Design for Kids (and Curious Adults), sounds like a fun  idea doesn't it? I sat down with my 14 year old to work through this program. My 14 year old, had virtually no computer experience. He could create a word document, and look up football stats, and that has been the extent of his exposure.

We sat down one afternoon, and  started at the very beginning. Which actually was not with  web design. Our host, Brian,  asked that if you are not familiar with file folder (file cabinet) management, to review that first. So we watch that section. And within a few moments my son had it mastered.

The only issue we had, was we are using a different version of Windows, so I had to pause the DVD several times, in order to show where to find on our computer what was  being shown on the screen.

After our first session, my son walked away with this one statement.... "I want a computer!" He had been saving for a new video game system, and now he would like to get a computer instead.  YEAH!! Maturity!

Brian from Click Drag Solutions has a very sweet demeanor, and he is very easy to follow. His "helpers" which are 2 adolescents, ask questions while he teaches, which was great, because sometimes, they were the very questions I or my son was thinking of.

Brian will teach you how to build a web page using Internet Explorer and Notepad, both of which should be already available on any Windows operating systems.

 Even if you the parent have very little computer experience, you and your child will walk away from this program with a basic understanding of HTML and web design. And all of this for $19.99, with a money back guarantee.

Please visit Click Drag Solutions and check out this great company!



Saturday, August 15, 2009

Grapevine Studies

I had heard this name for years, well it seems like it has been at least a couple of years. I had even received something from them for free. A cd of an Old Testament Timeline. But I really didn't get it. I mean what was so special about an OT Timeline, and stick figuring what was the purpose, it just did not make sense to me......

Then this year as part of The Homeschool Crew, we were given the opportunity to review a product from Grapevine Studies. I have always still been intrigued by them, even though I did not understand, so I was eager to see what they were all about.

We decided to review The New Testament Overview. I chose to do Level 3 and Level 4. I was excited that in Level 4 we would be teaching the kids how to use bible study materials like the Concordance, Topical Bible and a Bible Dictionary. Things that I have already had them practice using, though I was excited to know that this would be covered in this curriculum.

Right off the bat, one thing that I have enjoyed is that we are doing this study together, with my kids that are using level 3 and level 4. 

Now, let's talk about stick figuring. It really is just as simple as it sounds. You are drawing stick figures on a timeline and throughout the study about different bible events.

This activity really does help to concrete the information in the mind of a child. (no matter the age) My children of all ages ( 10-17) all enjoyed this process. They even giggled as their mother was drawing stick figures on the white board.

What we found, is it really made a difference as we were going through the process. I have always known, and if you have read my reviews for any amount of time, you know, that my children really need to have all different kinds of modalities to learn. When we have done bible studies in the past, the curriculum was very dry. Not the bible... the curriculum. Grapevine really helped to bring the bible alive, as we (the kids) thought about how they were going to illustrate the different  events.

I really like the set up of the Grapevine Studies. First off, it is "non-denominational". The facts are basic enough that you can insert your family doctrine. And you use your personal bible preference, which is really important to me. The verses are listed vs. printed out on the page. This is wonderful for consistency.

Grapevine Studies offer you the choice of purchasing E-books or physical books, which ever works for your family. We received the E-books, and I personally have enjoyed that format. We have been printing out what we need as we go along, and enough for each of the children in our family.

The pricing is reasonable. Click here to check out all of their studies! There are studies available from 5 years old all the way through adult.

Happy Stick Figuring!!!