Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ALEKS Review

What is ALEKS and how does it work?!  ALEKS is an online math program that not only assesses what your child knows, but helps teach what they don't know!  ALEKS stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces.  The process of signing up was pretty simplistic and even our 8 year old had a good experience with sign up process.  Then comes the assessment.  Admittedly, our kids were a little nervous about completing it since it was going to compile what they didn't know as well as what they did.  Once they completed the assessment portion, they were shown a pie chart which also explained how the pie chart functions. 

As our kids worked through the pie chart, the concepts to be learned are listed as such and then have further break downs within each.  When clicking on a concept, it takes you to sample problems and after the student answers a problem in that category correctly 3 times, they are considered to have mastered it and will then be taken back to the pie chart to move on to the next topic.  If they are having trouble with the concept, they have the option to see the explanation and ALEKS will show how the problem is solved.  Of course, when explained, it does not count as a correctly answered problem.

Overall, we were pleased with what ALEKS had to offer.  The assessment portion of the program is an excellent tool for seeing where those "spaces" or gaps are.  We didn't feel it was a complete program/curriculum, but it seemed to get our 8 year old interested in learning those problem areas, especially since it was an opportunity to be on the computer.  Our 16 year old didn't get as much out of it as far as excitement goes, but she felt validated in the areas she was having trouble with.

The cost for this program is reasonable and worth the price.
$19.95 per student per month
$99.95 every 6 months
$179.95 every 12 months
*Family discounts apply*
See site for more subscription information

 Be sure to read more reviews about the ALEKS program by kindly visiting TOS Homeschool Crew reviews.

*As always, these opinions are my own.  I received this product free of charge to review honestly and that's what you have here.*

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Master Ruler Product Review!!

Wow, so exciting! Master Innovations is one of those companies that make you smile and say, "Man, I wish someone had thought of this long ago!" Yes, there's quotes there, because that's what I said when I first saw the Master Ruler. Master Innovations have come up with a creative, hands on, concrete way of learning mathematical concepts.

The Master Ruler, as their website declares, "is SEVERAL rulers in one!" It's an amazing tool for learning measurement. I can't tell you how many times I've been measuring something and thought, dang, I wish these stood out in some way, so that this would be easier! Well, with the Master Ruler, they've not only made the smaller measurements (like ¼") easier to see with the different colors, but they've made the ruler layered, so you can actually remove the layers you don't need. Flipping them back and forth allows you to get the measurement more quickly and more accurately! You can check out this video for more information and to see it working in action.

So, are you wondering at this point how your kids might like the Master Ruler or be able to use it? When working with our 8 year old son, he remarked, "hey Mom, I've never seen a ruler like this before!" When he was done working on just a few of the worksheets and some lessons that I had come up with, he mentioned that he understood fractions better! Now, that is an awesome revelation, right?! Right. Our 16 year old daughter said, "I sure wish that these would have been around when I was his (our son's) age. It would have been a lot less confusing!" Then, while doing a Chemistry experiment, she was using the metric ruler while our son used the other. What more can you ask for? We're all impressed. Here are some pictures for you!

The Master Ruler itself sells for $9.95, which I think is an excellent price, especially given the durable material! If you're interested in purchasing it separately, you can go here. To see the other options you can get with the Ruler, look at this page. And of course, if you'd like to read more reviews about the Master Ruler or their other products, please see our TOS Homeschool Crew.

*As always, these opinions are my own. I received this product free of charge to review honestly and that's what you have here.*

Friday, November 5, 2010


If you're anything like me, you find yourself, at times, overwhelmed with books.  I have such a hard time passing up a good bargain and my family loves to read!  We all have such varying tastes and some books, (more than we care to admit) we want to keep and read again.  See, in reading certain books we develop a sort of relationship with them.  Sometimes there's hi-lighting, underlining, circling, etc.  There are books on the shelves, in closets, in both short term and long term storage and we move so often, it can be difficult to keep up with where a certain book is.  In addition to collecting books, I am a spreadsheet addict!  So, you can imagine that my solution was to do the spreadsheet thing to track my books.  Don't get me wrong, it works great!   But, I was given the pleasure of reviewing COLLECTORZ and it is a wonderful tool to keep track of all your books, where they are, rate it, etc.  It truly is a program worth purchasing!

The program made entry of your collection a breeze!  All you have to do is type in the ISBN and it will pull the rest of the information for you, thereby eliminating several steps and saving you time!  There's even a scanner available that would make it even simpler.  Can you imagine?!  That is like a book junky's dream! 

Now, you're probably saying, oh, okay, your physical books can be inventoried and then you can only access it on your computer.  The program goes a step further!  Not only can you do physical books, but ebooks and audio books.  Yes, yes, read that line again, it's no typo and I really meant what I said.  And to address the computer part....they have a mobile app version and online versions as well as the PC or MAC!  I received The Collectorz: Book Database Software Pro version to review.  You can purchase it for $49.95 at their website.  So, I've given you some pretty interesting information about the program, but I want you to do some research yourself.

The last little tidbit (pretty phenomenal actually) I'll mention is that they have programs for Music, Movie, Comic, Game, MP3 and Photo!  I'm looking into the other ones too, cuz, holy cow, can you imagine how organized you could be?  WOW!  And just to entice you a little, here's a snapshot of the Collectorz: Book Database Software Pro version.  When you buy one of these great programs, be sure to come back and post how you like it!

*These opinions are my own.  I was given the product to review to tell how I honestly feel!*

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Talking Fingers: Read, Write, Type!

I had the pleasure of reviewing the Read, Write, Type program by Talking Fingers!  Actually, my son had more of the pleasure than I, since it was created to teach the kiddos, but I was permitted to watch.  (giggle)  Are you wondering what its purpose is?  Honestly, this one is just as simple as it sounds only jam packed with fun and interactivity.

This program is an amazing computer based journey for kids Kinder through 3rd grade.  Its purpose is to teach kids to read, write and type.  However, it also teaches the proper finger placement on the keys, has incredibly fun characters to cheer and sometimes, persuade children to keep learning.  The fun games and sound effects enhance the learning experience and keep kids wanting more.  The characters give friendly reminders to "power up", this means to get your hands in the correct positions and your fingers on the home row keys.  The program is step by step for the kids and all their senses are used in the learning process.  My son was so excited to learn with this program each day that he would anxiously ask in the morning if he could do Read, Write, Type first!  Now, that's a program worth having! 

To try out a demo of the program, just go to the site.  It's a wonderful value for your money with a starting price of $35.00 per student.  To read more TOS reviews, you can go here.

*I was given this product free of charge and these opinions are my own*

Friday, October 8, 2010

Product Review: Digital Frog International

How many times have you wished that you had the money and/or time to take your kids on a field trip to better understand the subject you were teaching?!  You just knew if they had the opportunity to experience it, to make the connections between what you're teaching and the real world, that they would "get it" and remember it!  Well, that's what this product is about, The Digital Field Trip Series.  A disc to pop into your computer, both Windows and MacIntosh friendly, that takes you on a magical journey to The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert.  And, it's not just a disc to sit down and watch, it's interactive!  Researchers have shown that we can remember things better if a majority of our senses are involved in the learning process and Digital Frog accomplishes just that!  Visually stimulating, auditory (hearing) content, tactile (touch/hands on) through the use of the mouse throughout the "field trip" and it's interesting!  Dare I say, FUN?!  Yes!  Having fun is one of our favorites for learning.

We really enjoyed The Desert series because we were already studying the desert, it's animals, how it affects people and how we affect the desert.  The digital field trip series just took it a step further!  You can get a copy of all 3 for $125.00, a $180.00 value.  Just click on the link above, 'The Digital Field Trip Series.  If you would like to read more TOS reviews, please click here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Review Time!! Foundlings: The Peleg Chronicles

Foundlings: The Peleg Chronicles written by Matthew Christian Harding by Zoe & Sozo Publishing is $11.95.  You can read a summary of the book at this link and if you're interested, just click on 'add to cart'.
I enjoyed reading  this book aloud to our kids.  It gave us some down time from regular school work and we found it to be very entertaining and hard to put down.  My daughter, who is 16, enjoyed the humor the author used in writing this book.  My 8 year old son was so interested in the book, he would ask when would we read more?!  What a great way to keep his interest in reading!  One thing to mention here is that it's a recommended read for children 8 and up due to some of the content, however, you know your children best and can decide an appropriate age.  Our son is a more advanced reader and understood the content to thoroughly enjoy it.  The characters were interesting, felt real and had their faults, just as we (human beings) do.  While some of the content leans toward concerning subject matter like drinking, and attempts at human sacrifice, the author made clear these were bad or evil.  If your kids enjoy books such as Lord of the Rings, 39 Clues, Redwall series or Dungeons and Dragons type books, then the Foundlings series might be a good fit.
The author did well to pull us into his book and on the adventure with the characters.  Thiery, a 13 year old with a white wolf companion, was easy to identify with.  The story encourages and reinforces Biblical principles of chivalry, truth, courage, duty, faith and love through Godly heroes.  From dinosaurs, dragons and dwarves to Lords, false priests and giants, this book does not fall short in entertainment.  I don't want to give away a lot of the story, but I will say that we really enjoyed the book and are looking forward to getting the 2nd one and there is a 3rd one due out in 2011.  However, waiting to get the 2nd book is really, really hard because the ending of this first one leaves you HANGING!  In a good way, but I would say if you're going to get the first one, go ahead and get the second one.  :)  And, if you're interested, a unit study has been created, although not by the author. 
Be sure to do your due diligence research to decide if this book is right for you and/or your family.  Here, you can look at other TOS Homeschool Crew reviews.
*I received this book free of charge to review and my opinions are my own*

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Review of: Math Tutor!

I was given the opportunity to review another product for the Old Schoolhouse Crew!  I just love getting products to review, at no charge.  My favorite part is writing all about what I think of them and posting them here for everyone to benefit.  :)

Here's the rap sheet:

The products:  Math Tutor Pre-Algebra Tutor

              The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor

The benefits:  Personal instruction, on your schedule, in your own home!
             Online resources such as forums and worksheets.
               You can even receive free podcasts!

The cost:       $26.99

The risk:        NONE!  Guaranteed to improve grades or your money back.

The Pre-Algebra Tutor Volumes 1 & 2
In volume 1, there are 5 hours of instruction and in volume 2, there are 7 hours of instruction.  The instruction is enhanced with the use of a white board and tangible examples such as telling students to visualize jellybeans and a pile of markers for greater understanding of mathematical concepts.  The teacher, Mr. Gibson, is down to earth and his goal is to teach concepts in a simplified way and he does so without being condescending!  You can get a sneak peak of the program through the video snippets offered on their site. 

The Texas Instruments TI-83/TI-84 Calculator Tutor
Do you have one of those calculators?!  You know, the ones that are really awesome and can do all the graphs and complex operations for mathematics?!  We have one, but had barely scratched the surface of everything these calculators are capable of.  Mr. Gibson breaks it all down in 37 sections in this 8 hour DVD program.  He even includes how to use the calculator to create those complicated graphs and how to calculate interest rates, mortgages and loans, savings and investments!  You can see the sample video here.

Overall, these are a good investment and worth looking into.  In addition to these products, they offer Basic Math, Mental Math Secrets, Algebra, Geometry and Trig, Calculus, Physics, and Probability.  They even offer incentive to purchase mulitple DVD's at a discount.

Contact information for the company: Math Tutor DVD,

All the Crew reviews are here.

*I received no monetary compensation for this review and the opinions are my own.*

Friday, July 23, 2010

Travel Kits: A Simple Way to Bless Others

Summer usually involves vacations, visiting family and friends and maybe even exploring areas not far from home.  Do you ever wish that you had something better to occupy your children's time when traveling?  Boy, I do!  And I don't just want to "occupy" them, I want part of that time to be spent on something meaningful and maybe even educational.  Why not, right?  I mean, we only get to raise them once.
So, as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Crew for the 2010-2011 school year, I was given the pleasure of reviewing another great e-book called Travel Kits: A Simple Way to Bless Others written by Donna Rees.  The title is intriguing, no?  Oh!  And of course, it's not JUST for kids or for certain ages!  Well, here's some info to get you interested and then you can hop on over to the wonderful Old Schoolhouse Store to browse this and other products.  I've provided a direct link to the product further on in my write up here. ;)

Are you wondering what this travel kit e-book is about?  Donna Rees does a great job of explaining the who, what, when, where, why and how!  In fact, it's even listed that way in the table of contents, how cool is that?!  A travel kit is a collection of snacks and gifts, individually wrapped in a sturdy container to take with you on your trip!  This way, the trip is more fun and you get to feel good about giving too!  So, at this point, you're probably thinking, well, okay, I don't need to buy the book for this.  But, wait!  There are soooo many good ideas, both for items to put in the kit as well as places to get them from!  See, for me, the most fun part is having items in those kits that haven't been seen or used before.  But, just because it's "new" to my kit receiver, doesn't mean it's brand spankin' new.  Ah-ha!  Do I have your curiosity peaked?  In the grand scheme of things, I would much rather have a memorable "trip" AND vacation.
Without further ado, here's some tidbits of what you can expect:
  • Ideas for those kit goodies
  • Some great places to get the goodies from
  • How to pass out the super finds
  • Resources for creating things like puzzles online
  • How to prepare for your trip
Whether you are a savvy, experienced shopper or a novice, this e-book would be a great resource for your library.  It's great as a first read, but would be a benefit to browse over again and again. There's wonderful potential to cultivate the giving spirit in your children as well!  By purchasing gifts for birthdays, friends, weddings, baby showers, etc., the trip can be a grand time to put together kits to be gifted to others at the appropriate time.  And, as with most books, ("oh the places you'll go, in the pages of a book") my wheels started turnin' for more uses.
Please, take a moment and hop on over to the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to check out what the other crewmembers are saying about the Travel Kits e-book.  It's a good value for only $12.45.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine publishes this book and there are other  e-books worthy of glancin' at and maybe even treatin' yourself to purchasing!  One of the cool things about an e-book is the immediate access!!

*I was given this product free of charge and these opinions are my own.*

Monday, July 19, 2010

Travel the World!

I'm excited to be writing my first product review for The Old Schoolhouse Store!

Travel the World is a unit study that can be used with various ages and can be a stand alone or you can use it as a foundation for more in depth lesson plans.  Within this ebook are:

  • A brief overview of Geography
  • Activity pages such as word finds, rebus puzzles, poetry, coloring pages and more!
  • Copywork pages
  • Lapbook templates
  • Special section to use with High Schoolers
  • Recipes
  • Answer Keys
  • Resource links, some to The Old Schoolhouse Store and others out in the world wide web
We found this unit study to be a good asset for our homeschool as it incorporates across curriculum knowledge such as reading, writing, art and technology.  The resource links to enhance the learning experience were wonderful to have at our fingertips.  And since it's an e-book, I was able to print the pages I needed such as the reproducible worksheets.  In this way, we saved money by NOT printing out the overview and just read it straight from the computer.  :)

You can purchase this product by either buying the TOS planner, it's included as one of the monthly modules(unit studies), or as a separate unit study.  The Travel the World e-book is affordably priced at $7.95.  If you're interested in the  2010-2011 Schoolhouse Planner, it sells for $39.00.

Personally, I would have liked to see a little more information included on the continents.  Also, we haven't done a lot of lapbooks/notebooks in our homeschooling journey, but are beginning to do more and I was expecting more in that area.  It still is a good resource to have for your geography lesson plans!

**I received this product to review, free of charge. These opinions are my own.**

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mom, What does “dud” mean?

Our son loves glow sticks! In fact, people buy them for him as gifts because he enjoys them so much. Of course, we all know that on occasion, one will not work as well as it’s supposed to and only part of the stick lights up, or maybe even none of it. So, I grab another glow stick and hand it to him so he can “break” another one and tell him, “Sorry son, that one was a dud”. He repeated the word and liked the way it sounded, so over the next couple of days, anytime something didn’t work right, he would use the word dud and had a great understanding of how it should be used! A couple of weeks passed by and we get out a new glow stick about once a week. So, it’s Saturday and we’re pulling out a new glow stick and it didn’t work right, so he says, “Aw man, it’s a dud! It doesn’t work!” I giggled inside myself, the way he said it was so cute. He opened another one and it worked just fine. He didn’t have much else to say about it until yesterday and he asked the question, “Why do they call it a dud when it doesn’t work right Mom?” So, our adventure began and we were off doing research to find the origin of the term. Now that we’re all ed-u-ma-cated, (giggle) I thought I would share with you all what we discovered!

According to, the word dates back to 1567 and is from the Middle English dudde. The meanings listed are;
1 plural a : clothing b : personal belongings 2 a : one that is ineffectual; also : failure a box-office dud b : misfit 3 : a bomb or missile that fails to explode. Now, those are just for when you use the word as a Noun! As an adjective, it means of little or no worth and dates back to 1903. And of course, I’m not JUST going to use Webster, so here’s some other information you may find interesting…

According to some Mike and Melanie, some etymologists (people who study the history and origin of language)“The term dud first appears in 1307 as dudde and refers to a `cloak or mantle made of coarse cloth.' In 1508 the term duds refers to `ragged clothing.' In 1825 the word came to be used to describe `a person in ragged clothes,' and in 1908 to describe `a useless, inefficient person or thing.' The latter meaning was transferred during Word War I to `a shell which failed to explode,' i.e. `a failure,' and the failure meaning has been with us since.” Now, if you want to see what else they post, they have new stuff each and every week! You can also ask questions about different words if you want to and under the ‘About’ tab on their page, you can read more about how the site came to be, how it’s influenced the web and more about them!

So, a little further research showed it’s thought that when the word dud was used in World War I, it became the acronym for ‘device unable to detonate’. Whether or not this part is true, I am uncertain. But, given the history of the word, it is easy to see why it has the varied meanings that it does today.

What words do you find interesting? Share your thoughts and information!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Elastic Life!

I am just getting this blog up and running and wanted to post something witty and fantastic that would get attention, but, what I came up with was explaining away why I chose this title for my blog. Like I’m being graded or have to justify, right? Bwah ha, ha, ha. Well, anyway, you may just find it interesting and hopefully get a little laugh as to my musings here.

Okay, so why would I choose a title such as this for my blog? Oh my goodness, well, you just have to know me to understand that! My life has been crazy and somehow I always manage to “come back from it”. I persevere, press on, muddle through, or however else you want to say it. It’s not always pretty, but hey, I’m still here and breathing and have drawn a little closer to the Lord!

So, did you know that Webster gives these words as synonyms for elastic? - Flexible, adaptable, adjustable, alterable, changeable, fluid, malleable, modifiable, and variable. The word flexible means: capable of being readily changed. The word elastic means: able to revert to original size and shape after being stretched, squeezed or twisted~! You see, I have to maintain a life of elasticity to keep moving forward. There are times that I feel I’m being stretched to the very breaking point and am always amazed at how well I can bounce back. So…My Elastic Life just fits the bill. As you follow my blog and read posts, you will find the title was a good choice.

What will you find here? A little of this, a little of that, some product reviews, interesting and funny stories and well…just what makes my life so elastic!