TOS Crew Application Time is NOW

 homeschooling, TOS, TOS Crew  Comments Off on TOS Crew Application Time is NOW
Mar 102011

Ok, so you’ve been reading my reviews on homeschooling products.  Are you jealous that you don’t get to write reviews on such things?  Well, how would you like to? Now is the time to apply to be on the 2011-2012 TOS Crew!!!!  Just pop on over to the form, read it, see if you can agree with it and do everything it says you’ll have to do and you fit the requirements and fill it out.  Then sit back and wait to find out if you made it (no, the waiting sure isn’t easy…)  If you have been on the Crew before, don’t use this application.  You will need to contact Brenda or Heidi for a special one for those wishing to return.

Form for 2011-2012 TOS Crew

I will say that I have been blessed beyond measure by being on the crew.  I have gotten to try out some really great products, things I have never heard of before and also things I couldn’t have afforded.  Also, the friendships I have formed with others on the Crew are amazing.  It is almost like having another family out there, they are all great people to work with. I have really enjoyed my time on the Crew (and yes, I did apply for a second stint, no, I won’t know if I’ll be back again for awhile, so I’m waiting too.).

Curiouser and Curiouser….

 Beans, Bugs, curriculum, homeschooling, Reviews, TOS, TOS Crew, TOS Magazine  Comments Off on Curiouser and Curiouser….
Feb 112011

I was recently blessed with being able to review the Curiosity Files, Puffer Fish from The Old Schoolhouse Store. And I mean blessed! This was a great diversion during the doldrums of winter and a nice way to get back into the groove of homeschooling after the holidays.

The Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze are a fun filled, easily adaptable unit study series by The Old Schoolhouse. They focus on the stranger and grosser topics of science (zombie fire ants and dung beetles anyone?) that seem to appeal to a wide variety of children. We selected to do the study on Puffer Fish due to the girls’ love of fish and a certain fish themed animated movie.

This study, while designed for children at about age six through middle school is very easily adaptable. My eldest is four and a half and doing kindergarten work, and was captivated by the topics regarding puffer fish in this study and was able to complete a lot of the projects. We did most of it orally and she did very well. Beans loved tagging along and seeing the puffers.

This unit study has everything you could want, from science (specifically zoology in this one), math (monetary conversion rates, other math problems), language skills (vocab, spelling, sentence combing and both print and cursive copy work), Bible (copy work and memorization), sociology (culture study with Japan) and even art. This study has TONS to do, and is easy to adapt to your needs by adding to it or taking away. We didn’t do the higher level math conversions for example (at 4 ½ we really didn’t need to). And we did most of our work orally. We discussed the vocabulary words and we talked about how and why puffer fish inflate. I think the girls (and I) know more about puffer fish than the average person….I didn’t know there were so many varieties!

The Puffer Fish study comes with embedded links to even more information online. There are pictures, articles and even videos of puffers puffing. The girls really enjoyed the videos (fair warning parents, look up all the videos and watch first. You would not believe what is out there on You Tube…) and still ask to watch them after we completed the work of the study!

There are tons of books at the library to add to your study. So if seeing a topic and freaking out because you personally don’t know anything about it is an issue, don’t let it be one! Each topic has a lot of resources that aren’t too hard to locate either online or at the library.

I was also very impressed with the fact that there were adaptions suggested for special needs students! I had yet to see very many ideas or alternative suggestions in curriculum I’ve looked at since I started homeschooling and researching curricula. I was very impressed with it, so if you have a special needs student, use the adaption suggestions as a springboard, you won’t regret it!

And the Curiosity Files are also on Facebook!  Feel free to go on over there and check them out!

We were going to do the paper mache puffer fish as the completion of our study. Unfortunately life got in the way (see the AWOL post…) and I didn’t feel like I could start a multiple day project last week and we’ve not been able to fit it in yet. I’m planning it for next week when Grandma is here for the Bean’s birthday. It will be lots of fun and I’ll come on and add pictures in a new post (and try to remember to link it….). The girls are so looking forward to the paper mache. In fact, when they saw the pictures and the directions for the art project, they were extremely excited and started begging to do it right away!

Our verdict: The girls loved this unit study! It was simple for me to pull off (I love simple planning), resources abound at the library and online to supplement it. It was so easy to adapt to what the girls can do, still challenge them and still hold their interest. You could take a week or two and only do the study, or do what we did and spread it out over the course of nearly four while still doing our regular school work. This series would also be great to do over longer breaks as an interest led study, like during the summer months when you want your children to still be learning, but you don’t want to do all school. I would also use this as week between quarters or semesters (depending on how you break your year up) and use this as a break from regular school for a week or two so you as the teaching parent can have some of a break, but still keep the students learning.

I highly recommend the Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze to all homeschooling families. They are simple to put together, easy to do and are jam packed full of information. And what I love is that I can cycle back through this when the girls are a bit older and go even deeper yet into the topic! I learned more than I ever thought possible about puffer fish doing this study and found them to be more interesting than I thought. And no, I have no intention of ever trying one for food, they are poisonous you know.

The Curiosity Files are also very cost effective. You can purchase them singly. However, I suggest going the bundle route. You can now get ALL NINE of the studies in a bundle to save even more for under fifty dollars.  I don’t know of other studies at that terrific of a price! (cd for $49.00 or download for $46.00. I would personally do the download, instant gratification that way…).

I received the Puffer Fish study from the Curiosity Files with Professor Ana Lyze as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew. All opinions are mine and mine alone, and other than the product, no other compensation was received (it would be kind of difficult to review something without using it first, you think?) To see what my crewmates had to say about the Curiosity Files (and see the other topics covered), go visit the Crew’s blog here. Then go on over to the Store and get one or all for our yourself (and browse the rest of the store while there!)..

Rearranging and Randomness

 Beans, Bugs, curriculum, family, girls, Homekeeping, TOS  Comments Off on Rearranging and Randomness
Jan 182011

So, is it a bit disturbing that the girls are squeezing their Bob the Tomato bean bag and turning the water red with his juice? (yes, we’ve been discussing Moses, and they have seen an animated 10 Commandments recently)

This morning, Hubbs and I were awakened by the Bugs jumping into our bed exclaiming that her brothers had gone hunting for a bear for us. She has a very active imagination apparently.  The boys returned and brought back a bear for everyone.  Beans got the baby bear, Bugs got the sister bear, Daddy got the big giant bear and Mommy, well, she got the short bear.  My husband just cracked up laughing when the Bugs proclaimed that I got the short bear. Yes, I’m short.  I’m hardly five foot two. My husband is more than a foot taller than I am…

My husband and I are in the midst of a massive rearranging of our furniture.  This is taking a lot longer than I thought it would.  Saturday and Sunday were spent in emptying the HUGE roll top desk in the living room to prepare to move it to the front bedroom which is becoming our office (it used to be the guest room until we needed the bed in there for the Bugs). We also moved a very large set of full bookshelves in the front room and cataloged every last book in them on Collectorz. Those shelves alone have just under 250 books on them…We didn’t realize how much they were all worth either until we did this.  Oy, books are expensive if you buy them new at full cover price (thankfully we buy them at garage sales, used book stores and use gift cards and such.  I haven’t paid full price for a book since my birthday in November when I finally broke down and bought one that I had been wanting for several years since I couldn’t find it elsewhere). Tonight we are going to get a few more things moved in the front room (it had turned into a catch all for junk) and get the desk moved in there and hopefully our large brown recliner. Then we can get our couch out of the kitchen, get the ottoman where I want it and shove the large blanket chest in a corner until I get the master bedroom cleaned up and the recliner in there into the living room (it’s much smaller than the one in here now) and then the blanket chest is going to our room.

Craziness, I know.  And now I’m contemplating either in the spring or in the fall (probably fall) of repainting the front office room, putting the girls in that room, repainting their room, me and Hubbs moving in there and turning the master bedroom into a larger office/study and school room. That is going to be a TON of work and I know when we get this round of organizing done, Hubbs isn’t going to be too excited for another huge project like that. I think we shall wait until fall though.  By then our finances will be better and I have a few other things I want to do this spring.

Well, enough lolly gagging around.  Time for school. Which has been going well thus far this semester.  Bugs is on target for the plans in The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. We are ahead in the Developing the Early Learner workbooks (she loves doing those) and are on target for our read alouds (however, for preschool, it is just short stories, not like we are reading HUGE chapter books yet).  This week, we are also doing the Puffer Fish study from the Curiosity Files from The Old Schoolhouse as a review item.  That review will be up on February 11th.  Be looking forward to it!  Let me tell you, the girls are loving it so far. So am I.

Ok, really going to get on with the day now. Expect a school review sometime this week and perhaps a discussion about what I’m looking at for next year.  Yes, I’ve tweaked it again 😉.

Big Momma is Spying on You….

 TOS, TOS Crew  Comments Off on Big Momma is Spying on You….
Oct 062010

And she can help you when you need it and keep you from getting yourself into trouble.

I was recently given the opportunity to review Lanschool Technologies through The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew. I was very curious when I found out I was to be reviewing this, as it wasn’t an item that I thought we really needed or could use.

What is Lanschool you ask? Well, simply put, it is a program that you can install on your computer as an educator (you would get the teacher’s console for yours) and then you can install it on your student’s computers and you can see what they are doing on them, can take remote control of them, block them from applications and the internet, and instant message them among other things. This program was originally designed to work in a traditional school setting with a classroom of students and one teacher and the teacher then can monitor what each student is doing on the computer. A really cool concept actually. The makers of Lanschool realized what an untapped market homeschoolers were and have since branched out to them.

My husband fell in love with Lanschool. He loved that he could monitor other’s computer usage and even take it over. Ok, I loved that part too. I had way too much fun playing around on it on the laptop in the living room while he was trying to put a few things together in the office on the desktop. I would go in and take control of his mouse and keyboard, rendering him helpless. He got a bit tired of me going into his music and changing what song he had playing. I was even able to access the internet through his computer with remotely controlling. I will say though, that isn’t a great way to be surfing the net, but it is doable…. My main issue with it was that while I could turn off his speakers with a button on my control screen, he was was able to turn them back on in seconds in the control panel. If I was using this in school, I wouldn’t like that feature at all. I didn’t use this with my children. They don’t get on the computer since I have a just turned four-year-old and a two year-old. Even though I could have set them up on the desktop to let them be students, they don’t have anything to do on it. I also have to be there to help them do things physically on the computer. Most of our problems arise from having issues with the mouse, which while I could have taken control, wouldn’t have shown them how to move it better and how to line the arrow up to click it themselves. This program however, would be great for moms of older students. It is a way to keep track of what your child is doing, while not hovering over them in a literal sense. You can also install Lanschool to run without the student knowing it is there.

This is a good program for anyone in an educational setting. While I don’t need it in the preschool years, this is something I would consider when my children are working more independently on their school work on the computer. This is a pretty economical package too. For what we received to review is currently only $99.00. This includes tech support for three years. If you needed to install it on more student computers, there are options for that also, which will cost more money. This isn’t a monthly subscription program, just a one time deal, so it makes a good bargain if you are looking for a program of this nature.

I should warn you that you do need to read everything when installing it and have some sense of how to work with computers. I was grateful my very techie husband was here to do it for me as I know I would have messed up dreadfully on my own. Thankfully they have have a good tech support crew at Lanschool should I have needed them.

You can go to Lanschool’s website here.  And to see what others had to say about Lanschool, visit the Crew’s blog here.

I received Lanschool Home from Lanschool Technoligies as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s review crew. All opinions included herein are mine and mine alone, and no other compensation was received other than free product..

An Online Based Preschool Curriculum Option

 TOS, TOS Crew  Comments Off on An Online Based Preschool Curriculum Option
Sep 032010

I recently was given a month long subscription to Time4Learning to review. As I have a preschooler, I was reviewing the preschool section of this internet based curriculum.

Signing up my child to use the site was extremely easy. Just supply a name for them and a password, and then answer some basic questions about where they were at academically so the system could place them in the appropriate level. A confirmation email soon followed welcoming the Bugs as their newest student.

I don’t have a lot of experience when it comes to computer based learning. In fact, I normally shy away from things such as this, especially for children who are so young (Bugs isn’t quite yet four).

Time4Learning is totally web based.  In fact, it keeps track of your child’s progress, grades the work and does all the lesson planning for you.  In the preschool level, it works mainly with phonics and mathematics instruction and throws in some social studies and science for fun.  The lessons are animated. The child can work at his or her pace and even repeat lessons.  Mom or Dad can go in and see the lessons before the child completes them so they know what their child is to be doing.  The site does let you see demos of the lessons and the lesson plans before you decide to start the program to help you decide if this is right for your situation.  There is even a parent’s forum on the site for you to have online fellowship with other parents.  I did find their website very easy to navigate and it isn’t too overloading visually.  However, they don’t give you a price for the program up front (at the time of this writing $19.95 for the first student and $14.95 for each additional student).  They kept saying “low monthly price” on each page that I saw, until you click the tab to enroll.

Honestly, this program wasn’t a very good fit with our family. Finding the time to log on was a challenge itself (we tether to my husband’s blackberry for internet use). Then, while Bugs is on the computer, she just gets absorbed in it. While working she would get that glazed over look in her eyes that I’ve seen older children get when they have been using video games or other electronics for too long. Then, she would get frustrated when she couldn’t get the mouse to do exactly what she wanted (I will say that we have a touch pad mouse and she is normally very adept at using it for other things). Also, when using electronics for any length of time, Bugs gets very upset when I tell her it is time to turn it off and then has problems with doing anything else that doesn’t involve a screen. I do not like that in my child. Bugs also needs more concrete things to learn with. While she is an auditory learner, she still benefits greatly from having manipulatives and other activities to tie in to her learning. I find that easier to incorporate into our daily plans with math and phonics instead of doing a program like this, and then coming back and redoing those subjects later with the manipulatives. Also, at the end of our thirty day trial, there was no notice that the time was up. Most companies that I have had subscriptions for have sent an email two weeks before the subscription was up to warn me that I was about to expire, and then one the week it was set to. I had no warning that the time for use was about up. I don’t know if that is because I had the program for a month for this review, or if this is standard for all users. If you decide that this is the program for you, mark your calendar when your subscription is going to be up to guard against suddenly not being able to log your child(ren) in and then having your account deleted.

I can see how this program could be used successfully. If your child is needing extra reinforcement of learning basic phonics and math concepts, then maybe using this program to supplement will work for you. If you know that you are going to have a very busy time approaching (such as a family illness where you are taking care of them, you are sick yourself, or about to have a baby, or are having to travel for any reason) then this may be a good program for that time for you. You really don’t have to worry about the hard core lesson planning that a lot of other curriculums make you have to do. This is also very easy to transport and do anywhere you have an internet connection.

Tim4Learning, at the time of this post is 19.95 per month for the first child, and 14.95 per month for each additional child. With your paid subscription, they do offer a two week money back guarantee if it doesn’t work for you (not to be confused with a two week free trial.)

You can go here to see a list of others who also reviewed this product.

I was given a month long subscription to Time4Learning from Time4Learning as a part of The Old Schoolhouse’s Crew for the purposes of this review. All opinions included herein are mine and mine alone. No other compensation was received..