Friday, February 26, 2010

You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

Several weeks ago I received a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell from Apologia Press in order to write this review.  It was a fun package to receive because this is one HUGE book.  Including the notes section, the Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling is 509 pages long.

This is a very thorough book about homeschooling and its methods.  I was excited to receive it because I have a dear friend who is beginning her first homeschool journey with her 10 year old next year.  She is currently in the "research phase" of her homeschooling and I KNOW that this book will give her LOTS of information.

Mrs. Bell is a veteran homeschooler with a lot of experience not only homeschooling her own children but also teaching for years in classroom and co-op situations.  Her book is easy to read and I'm not a great non-fiction reader.  

One reason it's an easy read is that it's very graphic and filled with personal stories to support statements and explanations.  You can view a 10-page sample of the book and see what I mean here.  I just loved the way the book was arranged.  The headlines/title chapters and little insets really add to the pleasure of reading this book.

I do want to leave two quotes with you.  I have not always met with total support of homeschooling our boys.  But I've always known that homeschooling is God's plan for our little family.  We are a very close family.  We don't even do extra-curricular activities unless all four of us can be together as a result of the activity.  This goes against the cultural norm where many families are all off "doing their own thing."  The following quotes really spoke to me and validated how God has led us to structure our family.  This is actually from the introduction.  Yes, I'm that girl who reads the introductions.  I read acknowlegements too.  Here are my two favorite quotes from the introduction where Mrs. Bell is discussing homeschooling:

" It's a proactive stand against a disintegrating culture that splinters families apart and exalts self-absorbed individualism."


"I do believe it is an example of the creative solutions God can be counted on to supply when we feel out maneuvered by cultural forces.  Homeschooling is a defense against the relentless and pernicious assault upon traditional family life.  More than that, it is a traiining ground from which future redemptive leadership can come forth.

If you are new to homeschooling, or if you want to try out a new homeschooling method, you should read The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling by Debra Bell.  I would even suggest reading this book just as a refresher or encouragement.  It is so full of tips and ideas.  I am sure that the most veteran homeschooler can find something new IN The Ultimate Guide.  You can purchase your copy from Apologia Press for $20 plus shipping and handling.  You will find lots of parental support products from Apologia Press here

As always, please read the reviews of the other crew members.  Mine is never the only opinion!  You will find many other reviews here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Math on the Road

Our sons and I are leaving this Sunday for Florida.  Since there is 20 inches of snow on the ground in central PA, most everyone is pretty jealous of us.  Our trip is not totally for pleasure, although the boys and I are planning some outtings.  We are taking my mom to Florida so that she can visit with her ailing sister.  Mom needs to take this trip, but at 76, doesn't feel comfortable taking the trip alone.  So the boys and I are are her chauffeurs for a week.  I'm completely honored to be able to serve my mom in this way.


Since we will be driving, I'm going to take advantage of the time and the boys' captivity and I'm preparing lessons for the journey.  We've been doing math on-line this year.  When I first reviewed it, I loved it.  The longer we used it, the less we loved it.  Now we can't wait for it to be over!  And we're close to it being over.  That being said, we can't take an internet-ready PC to get to our math curriculum while driving.


That's why I was so glad for the opportunity to review products from Math Mammoth.  When Math Mammoth contacted me and asked which of their items I would like to review, I had no idea.  I mean, they have a lot of great items.  Just check out the lists on their home page!  I read over all they had to offer and talked about it with our guys.  They were really intrigued with the Make It Real Learning workbooks.  Specifically, the boys wanted to try out the Sets, Probability, Statistics I Workbook.  I contacted Maria Miller.  You can do that here.  And told her about our boys.  She suggested I go with the Grade 7 Pre-Algebra Worksheets  (7.75) in addition to the Make It Real Learning workbook.


I printed several of the Grade 7 worksheets for the trip and placed them in a clip board ready for the road.  The first thing that impressed me about these sheets is how clean they are when printed.  I'm running low of colored ink, so I printed them in black and white.  The pages are crystal clear and print very nicely.


Even the beginning worksheets are challenging.  The first group of sheets deal with basic math concepts but the problems are not at all easy.  I like that even though the concept is a review subject, the problems are challenging.  Of course, as the worksheets go along the subjects get more challenginging.  I'm finding lots of usefulness for these sheets however since our oldest son has completed a pre-algebra course and our youngest will begin pre-algebra next year.  For Big Mac, these sheets can be used as a review.  For T-bone, I will use them as a reinforcement of next year's learning.  You can print as many sets of these sheets as you need for your homeschool. 


The boys are actually looking forward to trying out the Make It Real Learning book.   That really excites me because if you've read any of my other blog entries, although the boys are great at math, they hate it.  So if I can hear "Yeah!  Let's do that!" about a math I'm one happy girl.  The idea of Make It Real Learning is that it's an opportunity to show children why we learn certain concepts.  Make It Real Learning answers the question, "But WHY do I have to learn this?!?"  There are lessons sets in this series on a variety of subjects, all available for $4.99.


Another cool thing about Math Mammoth is that they offer a variety of free worksheets so that you can see the kinds of products available.  I especially love that you can try sample pages of the books you want to buy.  That's a feature every company should offer, but not alot do.  Math Mammoth provides a great service by offering sample pages.


If you would like to learn more about other Math Mammoth products, check out the reviews of other crew members here.  We were all given options about what product to choose, so you can learn about the many different products and levels that Math Mammoth offers from the reviews of other crew members.  And check out Math Mammoth's products.  They offer a variety of products including full curriculum.  What we received was well-done and easy to use and implement in our little homeschool.  Maybe you will find the same results if you give Math Mammoth a try.

Do I really need MORE books?

The short answer to that is a resounding, "Yes!"  We have four six-foot book shelves filled with books.  Most of the shelves are stacked two deep.  Did I just buy a bag full of books at the used book sale?  You betcha!

So when I was asked to tell you about HomeSchool Library Builder (HSLB), I jumped at the chance!  This is a really neat business idea.  At HSLB, you can buy new and gently used books, but it's so much more than that.  By becoming a member, which is totally free, you earn book points.  Every 15 book points equals one dollar toward purchasing a book.  You earn book points just by becoming a member.  You earn book points every time you purchase a book at HSLB.  You earn book points by promoting HSLB on your blog or website.  You earn book points when a friend becomes a member, uses your name as a referral and purchases a book!  Ok, I'll admit it...HSLB is feeding my book addiction!


But there is much more to this company than just books.  Last weekend, they offered a special sale where you could earn an extra 15 percent discount on top of the current sale if you made a donation to Heartline Ministry's mission to earthquake-torn Haiti.  This is a company with a heart.  On their website, there is a HELPING HAND option.  If you purchase any of the books listed there, all of that money will go towards sponsoring a child from Compassion International.  At other times they have helped other very worthy causes.


The other thing I think is really cool about HSLB is that they support and ENDORSE other homeschooling moms with their home businesses.  At this link you will find the HSLB marketplace where different vendors are featured each month.  There are some really different and interesting vendors there.  Check it out.


Right now, all the books at Home School Library Builder are on sale for 20% off.  Remember whatever you buy you earn book points for.  And speaking of book points...when you register, tell them Lori Lynn Lydell sent you!  I need to give my husband a reason to put a fifth bookshelf in the study!

A Beautiful Book for Beginning Readers

When I learned that I was on the list of people to review the Beehive Reader ($19.95) from All About Spelling, I thought, "What?!?"  You see, our guys are in the Jr. High age-range.  We've been out of beginning readers for a LONG time.  But it's always fun getting a package in the mail, and this was no exception.  I opened the All About Spelling padded envelope and found that I held a lovely little treasure.  If your early-reader gets a copy of The Beehive Reader he or she will treasure it for years to come. 


The book itself is sturdy and well-constructed.  But when you open it, the pages are simply beautiful.  Every page has a lovely shaded pencil sketch with the words framed to look as though they've been tacked onto the page.  Here's a great sample page:

The reading itself is simple.  There are 10 stories in the reader.  The beginning stories all contain one-syllable words.  This sometimes makes the stories stilted, but my boys learned to read using one-syllable readers.  They felt as though they had accomplished something by reading a book all by themselves.  They weren't worried about the fluidity of the sentences.  They were reading!  That is how the stories in this book are structured.  About three-quarters of the way through the book a few two-syllable words made their way into the stories.  And there's a really fun story that uses tongue-twisters.


Each page has a beautiful drawing such as the one shown to you above.  I remember when I was teaching the boys how to read that we would "read" pictures to help us with the text.  This reader gives you pictures on each page that are as "readable" as the text is charming.  The pages are on quality paper that appears slightly grayed and aged and adds to the book's beauty. 


If you've read my blog in the past, you know that I reviewed the All About Spelling program for level 1 and level 2.  This reader is meant to go along with the spelling program.  I think I may have read The Behive Reader with our sons a year or two before beginning the spelling program.  But I certainly would have resurrected the reader when we launched the spelling program later. 


If you're in the market for a lovely little reader for your beginning student, look into The Beehive Reader.  It's a book that will become a treasured keepsake well-after your child has gone into more advanced books.


All About Spelling has a very thorough spelling curriculum available on their website.  You may also get your copy of The Beehive Reader there.   If you would like to contact All About Spelling, do so here.  And do read the other reviews of fellow crew-members here.

What's a Zeezok?

When I learned that we were receiving a product from Zeezok publishing to review, I was hopeful that I would receive one of their composer books.  I must admit I was disappointed when the package came in the mail and I received Presidential Penmanship DN Style.   Then I began reading the quotes in the Jr. High version of the copywork program.  I was so moved by many of them.  Heidi, who oversees the crew, has often said that God knows what you will be sent and there's a reason you receive it.  Boy is she right!  I will get a lot of use out of the presidential quotes found in Presidential Penmanship DN Style, not only as copywork, but also as character lessons.


If we take the route of the permanent handout, the American character will itself be impoverished.  -Richard Nixon.


To me, that quote is prophecy.  I try not to get too political, I find it devisive.  But I think every Christian knows that the moral character of this country has diminished by great proportion in the last half-century.  Couldn't Richard Nixon's words above have predicted the measure of our nation's character today?  I spent a lovely evening reading the presidential quotes from all the presidents and found many of them to be either a prediction of the state of the country in 2010 or just a wonderful word spoken into my life.


The CD itself is a great value.  There is enough copywork on this one CD to cover your child's entire education.  The PDFs are divided by grade level from 1st through 6th grade.  Then there is a JR. High version and a Sr. High version.  In each edition, the quotes are original, so your students won't get bored and say, "I copied this last year!"  Cursive begins with the grade 3 version.  In each version, the beginning lessons are shorter and build up to longer paragraphs by the end of the year.


The Jr. and Sr. High versions contain 108 quotes.  But these quotes are not just for copywork.  They are great for memorization.  I also think I may take a few and make posters for the boys to read regularly to enhance their character.


The concept itself is not rocket science.  Each page has a quote written in cursive or manuscript, in the lower grades, with lined space below on which the student can copy the quotes.  If you wanted to avoid printing all the pages, your child could write their quotes in a notebook or sheet of ruled paper while viewing that day's quote on the computer screen.   Could you create a similar product on your own?  Sure.  But finding these quotes would be difficult and time consuming.  I'm telling you, there are some real gems there!  But for $39.99 you get years of copywork AND character lessons on one CD.  All you have to do is print the quotes for your child to copy and slip into a notebook.


I'm glad I received Presidential Penmanship from Zeezok.  I would have missed a great learning experience for myself as I read the words of past presidents and reflected on where our country is today.  I will be using these quotes around our house, not only for our homeschool, for years and years.   They would make great jumping off points for essays, too!  Or just use a quote for a discussion starter over the supper table.  You will not only copyr copy work/language arts, but also civics by using this CD.


Zeezok has lots of great products.  A catalogue of products was included on the handwriting CD I received.  Spend some time on their website to learn more about the products they have to offer.  If you'd like to contact them, you find that information here.  And, as always, read the reviews of my other crew members.  Mine is NEVER the only opinion.  And the crew is reviewing other products from Zeezok, so you may find another item you'd like to get here.


Zeezok  provided me with a free copy of Presidential Penmanship DN Style Complete Program to test and use in order to write this review.



Old Math

For years I've read about Ray's Arithmetic on various blogs or in homeschool catalogues and been curious.  If you've read this blog with any regularity, you know I'm a math-lover.  I would look at Ray's arithmetic and think, "Can a 100-year old math curriculum really keep us current and competitive?"  And so I would plow through with my favorite math curriculum which was renown for being advanced and keeping our sons mathematically advanced.  By the way, my favorite math curriculum is NOT our son's favorite math curriculum.


In general, I subscribe to Charlotte Mason's methods.  I believe in good books.  I believe in the value of copywork and nature study. But I neve considered any other method of teaching math other than how it was taught to me in school.  I was going to be a math teacher, but God had other plans for me.  So I KNEW how math should be taught.  I bought math curriculum and we drilled-drilled-drilled.  We spent twice the time on math that we did on any other subject.  And our boys are very advanced in math.  But they hate it.


So this year we switched to a computer-based on-line math program, in hopes that the boys would find more enjoyment of it.  They liked it better, but still did not like math in general.


As I was reviewing the Ray's Arithmetic e-books I received from dollar homeschool, a light-bulb lit up over my head.  Fireworks launched in our living room.  A rocket shot to the moon.  Can you get how much of a revelation this was to me?  Ok, here's the revelation...are you ready?  Maybe you should sit down.  Here it is:  I've been teaching the boys how to do all the math problems.  They've learned all the formulas.  They know all the processes.  We've never really covered WHY we do ANY of it!!!  I remember as a Jr. High student sitting in Algebra class and thinking, "Yeah, but when am I ever going to USE this?"  That's the age-old question with math right?  I believe that this is the disconnect with our boys that have made them hate math.  We learn and we learn and we learn new math processes, but we don't apply them.


I had this revelation while reading through Ray's Practical Arithmetic, which I received as part of the Ray's CD from Dollar Homeschool.  I began paging through several of the books included in the Ray's CD and I stopped at Practical Arithmetic.  It begins with a review of the math basics, but it was the final chapters that sparked my interest.  After the basics are mastered in this upper elementary text, the math is applied to real-life.  Subjects such as interest, discount, insurance, and taxes are covered in great detail.  I was thoroughly impressed by this text and find the books that follow to be thorough and well-explained.   It's amazing to me that a product used in the late 1800s and early 1900s could be applicable today, but it is!


And, this is an excellent value for the money it costs.  You can get the complete Ray's arithmetic from Dollar Homeschool for $59 on CD.  Of course, you will have an additional cost when you print from your PC.  I like to print my e-books.  I use a free program called fine print to print my e-books two pages on one printed page.  It is still readable and saves me some paper and ink.  But, I digress, back to the value...not only do you get the complete Ray's arithmetic program, which could span the entire 12-year educational career of your child, but you also get several other texts on science and math that are so valuable.  You could fill your curriculum needs in many areas with this one CD for $59!  Go here and see the complete list of all the books included on this CD.  You'll be impressed.  But I was warn you ahead of time, I'm an old-book lover.  I love this CD because it's full of quality texts that are not new or current.  It's the old-paths that I'm seeking for our little homeschool.  The tried and true.  You get 38 tried and true texts on the Ray's CD


At first, I was confused about how to use Ray's Arithmetic.  The books aren't labelled as "grade 1", "grade5" etc...  Then I read the Welcome PDF.  (duh!)  The books are book marked along the left side of any of the texts you pull-up from the CD.  They are listed in order of use on that left side book-mark section!  Brilliant!  So once you find a level to start your student (there are suggestions for how to do that in the welcome section) you begin with that text and just move down the list at your own pace.  While this is the method to use when using Ray's in your homeschool, you will have to figure out how and when to use the supplemental books in your homeschool.  Rest assured that you are covered for math and science for many years!


Wow, this is really starting to sound like a sales-pitch isn't it?  I'm sorry about that, but I am really excited about using Ray's in our little homeschool.  We are currently working feverishly to finish our commitment to an on-line math curriculum we reviewed earlier in the year.  When that is over, I'm printing Ray's Practical Arithmetic and the three of us are going to start with the review, which the boys will find easy and so be encouraged, and then we will learn to apply math to our real world.  The "whys" will be answered.  I may get some math lovers out of the deal after all!


Dollar Homeschool is not only the purveyor of Ray's Arithmetic.  Check out their website for all of the products they offer.  If you are an old-book lover, you'll find a lot to love at Dollar Homeschool.


If you'd like to read the reviews of the rest of the TOS Homeschool Crew, visit the Ray's review post here.  Contact information for Dollar Homeschool can be found here


Dollar Homeschool provided me with a free copy of the Ray's Aritmetic CD in downloadable PDF-form to test and use in order to write this review.

Math by DVD

Math has never really been a problem in this house.  I've loved math for as long as I can remember.  The truth is that I only just began loving writing in the last few years.  Math was my first educational love.  As a result, we don't really struggle with math in our little homeschool.  But I know that a lot of moms and a lot of homeschools consider math to be their most difficult subject.  If this is you, you may find the DVDs available at to be very beneficial. 


I received The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor 8 Hour Video Course! retailing for $26.99 which is part of the 1st through 7th grade math DVD program.  I think it would be optimal for a fourth grader through 7th grade as the subjects get progressively more difficult.

The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor   is an 8 hour DVD set about word problems.  Word problems are usually a stumbling point for most math students.   It takes different skills to be able to read a paragraph and write a math problem than to just simply do a math problem put before you.  This DVD set covers the following subjects on 2 DVDs:

Disc 1
Section 1: Adding Whole Numbers
Section 2: Subtracting Whole Numbers
Section 3: Multiplying Whole Numbers
Section 4: Dividing Whole Numbers
Section 5: Adding Decimals
Section 6: Subtracting Decimals
Section 7: Multiplying Decimals
Section 8: Dividing Decimals

Disc 2
Section 9: Adding Fractions
Section 10: Subtracting Fractions
Section 11: Multiplying Fractions
Section 12: Dividing Fractions
Section 13: Percents, Part 1
Section 14: Percents, Part 2
Section 15: Ratio and Proportion

As you can see the level of difficulty gets progressively more complex.  This is not a DVD that you will cover in one year.  The first few subjects may be covered in the 4th or 5th grade year, but you won't get to Section 15 Ratio and Proportion until much later in your child's math-career.


Each section is presented in a clear and consise manner, and explained very well.  The instructor talks about different words that are "dead giveaways" in a word-problem.  Finding those words is very helpful when trying to decipher a word problem.


Unfortunately, the presentation, although clear and thorough, is very dry.  The video is just the instructor and his white board.  The instructor's voice is very monotone.  He doesn't get really excited about what he's instructing, or try to liven it up in any way.  If you are watching the video to learn a process, you will do that.  If you want your child to embrace word problems with love and affection, this DVD won't do that.


As I watched the word-problem explanations, I wished for additional problems.  I could imagine watching the DVD and then handing one of my sons a worksheet that would apply what he'd just learned and worked through with the video instructor.  This DVD doesn't allow that itself.  But does have a membership program with access to worksheets.  You can find more information about that membership here.  With the right set of worksheets, this DVD could be used as a brief curriculum.  Not a full year, but a few weeks of good thorough training in word-problems.


The other DVD I reviewd was Young Minds Numbers and Counting which retails for $19.99.  This would be a great DVD for a toddler or early-preschooler.  I loved this DVD and longed to have a young person in this house so that I could pop in Young Minds Numbers and Counting and let them enjoy the music and the beautiful pictures while they learned about numbers and counting. 

In this DVD, beautiful classical music (some of my favorites) plays in the background, moving photographs are shown while numbers and counting are being discussed.  It is a gentle and beautiful way for a young one to learn these basic math skills.  Our two boys (ages 11 and 13) are WAY beyond this DVD, but they even enjoyed looking at the pictures on the screen.  There wer puppies and zebras and frogs and horses...the list goes on.


If you have a toddler in the house, get them this DVD it will be a favorite for years. carries a lot of math DVDs on a wide-range of subjects and grades or ages.  If you visit their website this page is an index of all the products they offer.  If you would like to contact MathTutor for more information, you will find their contact information here.   As always, please check out the reviews of my other crew-mates here


I reveived two free DVDs in the mail a few weeks ago to review from in order to give you this review. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Time to Try Out!

If you've read my blog at all this year, you know that I am a member of the 2009-2010 TOS Crew.  I've spent my weeks since July, 2009 reviewing products with our boys and posting my reviews here on this blog.  It has been such a fun year.  Getting the mail has been like Christmas with packages of new books, curriculum, and sometimes just fun stuff!  My e-book library is growing exponentially!  I've read curriculum that I've been curious about for years.  I've been surprised to find things that I love that I never thought I'd like.


So, you must know by now, I highly recommend being part of the TOS Homeschool Crew.  It may seem like we review a lot of products, but I've always had LOTS of time to complete these reviews.  The people you work with are so pleasant and understanding.  I've added lots of readers to my blog, which is something I'd hoped for for years.


Right now, TOS is looking for future crew members for next year's crew.  If you would like to be considered as part of the 2010-2011 crew, follow this link.  You will lots more information than I can give you on the new crew page.


Give it a try!  I'm sure glad I did!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Math Score

This review is going to be a little different than my usual format.  I try to stay really organized and give you all the pertinent details in a pretty standardized fashion when I review a new item, but this time I did this a little differently.  I was given a complimentary review of MathScore, an on-line math curriculum, in order to give you this review.  When I logged onto MathScore I spent a lot of time doing problems and completing tasks.  As I was completing different on-line worksheets, I logged some of my responses to this program below.  As a result, this review may seem a little "all over the place."  Please bear with me, I'll summarize at the end.


Getting logged into MathScore is a piece of cake.  They offer a free trial version, which you know I love!  I love that you can try something out for a while before committing to using it regularly.  And, if after your two-week free trial, you decide to subscribe to MathScore, then there is a discount available on their web site.  You can contact MathScore here for more information. 


There were a lot of things that I loved and a few things that I didn't like about math score.  I'll give you my overall rating before you read the details.  MathScore is a no-frills on-line math site that gets a lot of stuff right.  It is easy for a parent to use and get detailed information of what the child has completed.  It is easy for a child to use and know how to complete and accomplish goals.  Although there are few bells whistles and graphics, advancing through the program is not complicated.  This is a solid program, but not one your child will be excited to use because it's not like playing a video game.  And now, on to my random comments about MathScore.


When a student takes a test he is told after each section whether he is right or wrong.  If he is wrong, or mostly wrong, he gets the option of trying again!  I LOVE that!  I am a firm believer that a child should have numerous tries at success especially in math.


With any on-line math program, it's difficult to do more complicated math problems.  For instance, when multiplying a 3-digit problem by a 3-digit problem there is no room to work on the screen, so you have to do the work on a piece of paper and just type the answer on the screen.


This would be a great program for mastering multiplication tables, or addition facts.  Any of the basic facts are routinely drilled and drilled-well using MathScore.  Doing this drill work is difficult on a laptop if you don't have a number pad.  But what's great is that there is drill work to do to help you master the number keys and the tab button even before you work on the math drills.  So if your child or student spends time doing the copy cat and copy cat preparation drills  to learn how to enter numbers and use the tab button to maneuver through the screen and do the timed drills much quicker.


This is not a highly graphic program.  But the explanations are clear and consise.   Our 11 year old was sitting beside me when I was testing this and he said, "It looks boring."  He said this because there isn't a clown telling you how to do the next problem, or a skateboard going over a ramp when you answer correctly.  There is a reward system for answering correctly which will provide incentive for the student but it is not graphic intensive.  There are always sentences that are written in a very encouraging language to incite the student to keep scoring well and the student earns badges to move him or her to different levels.


The parent's pages are excellent.  You can easily see your children's progress.  You can see what's correct and what's not.  You can see how much time is spent per subject and where a child needs more work.  If you look on the test results page, there is even a list of recommended subject to review with the student.  Other programs we've reviewed have not been nearly as easy to use from the parental perspective.  And, to my surprise, I woke up the day after beginning to review MathScore and there was a summary of the student's work in my in-box.  All I could think was that these emails would be perfect to use for our year-end portfolio! 


So, MathScore is pretty great.  If you go to this page you will find information to get started on your free-trial, and the subscription prices available.  If you are looking for something with lots of graphic intensity or the equivalent of a video game, you are not looking for MathScore.  But it you want a sound math program that does a fantastic job of communicating with you as a parent on your child's progress, check out MathScore.