Wednesday, October 27, 2010

PG Key! TOS review

In this ever growing technical world it is more important than ever to protect our children from the potential dangers of the internet. As we all know the internet can be so very useful to us especially as home schoolers, but it can also be a very ugly place. My children are fairly young and there internet access is limited in that I do not allow them to surf, and I am always right by them when they use it. As Buster is getting older I have been thinking it was getting time to look into getting some sort of filtering program. I was excited to be chosen to review PG Key. PG Key is a small jump drive device that you plug right into an available USB port on any computer and install. I had my husband help me, but we found it quite easy to install. The program itself has many features that parents can control. Such as adding key words that you want to be notified of, and blocking particular sites. From the limited searching I tried with it I was not overly impressed with it's filtering, or content blocking ability especially with image searches. PG Key does offer their own safe search that does seem to filter better than Google. The notification feature, and the activity tracking seemed to work quite well. Some other features it offers is time allowance, and access control. With the time allowance you can set a daily time limit for your children, and with access control the PC will not work unless the key is inserted. You can also set the PG Key up so that it only works on the kids side, and the computer can be accessed without it by using a password. I can see how this product would work nicely with responsible teens who would be kept in line by knowing mom will be checking up on everything they view, and will be notified of suspicious activity. For young children like my own I would prefer a stronger filter and blocking program. It is just too easy to accidentally click on or find inappropriate content, and I would rather prevent than do damage control after the fact. "PG Key" costs $49.99+ $8.95 shipping, and has no annual fees. 

Price is reasonable
Easy to install, and use
Activity tracking is very thorough

Filtering and blocking did not meet my expectations

PG Key was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

For more reviews check out the Homeschool Crew Blog!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up! HOD

Week 14:
 We had a very full week of school, house painting, swim lessons, and a field trip. 
Buster has been learning his multiples of 2, and by the end of the week had them all memorized. He really enjoyed reading Wagon Wheels, and even asked to read it sooner in the day than normal. He is continuing to use Talking fingers and made it to level 4. 
Sweetpea has been having fun with hands on math, and is doing great with her phonics lessons.
Buttercup has finally started to have potty training success, and hopefully will be trained soon. She is also enjoying her "Little Reader" program, and trying to learn along with Sweetpea.
Buddy is getting so big! He started taking steps this week, and will take up to 3-4 steps before sitting. Here are some of the things we did: 

Chili time!
Practicing their Kung Fu thanks to the new Karate Kid!
He figured out how to play the recorder!
Knocking towers down!
Playing 2's concentration!
The girls playing "Little Reader"
Making a clam, the Pilgrims ate clam soup!
Coloring Ruth!
My sister left her kids here for a bit, so I made cousin E read to the boys!
Pattern fun with cousin C!
Pumpkin Patch field trip with local homeschoolers!
All of my kids, and my sister's kids!
Buddy's first pumpkin!
Looking for the pumpkins!
Little Pumpkin!
300+ pounds of kids!
Corn Maze!

For more Weekly Wrap Ups visit weird unsocialized homeschoolers

Brill Kids, Little Reader TOS review!

We have had the opportunity this past month to try "Little Reader" by BrillKids. It is my first review specifically for the little ones. I found it quite humorous actually that I was chosen for this particular review, because I am a big time skeptic of baby reading programs in general(but that is a whole different topic). The version that we have is the online version that you download directly to your computer. I had a bit of a tough time downloading it, but after dealing with their very friendly customer service figured out the problem, and was able to download it to the kids computer. Apparently it does not like Internet Explorer, but does work after a bit of reformatting. "Little Reader is designed for children ages 6 months to 3 years. I can personally tell you that my 11 month old had little to no interest in it. Maybe if it was on the TV, but I doubt it. Buddy is all boy and does not hold still that long. Buttercup on the other hand loved "Little Reader". If I forgot to do her lesson for the day she would remind me. "Baby thing mommy". The program is colorful, fun, engaging, and interactive. I even caught my two big kids joining in a few times, and Sweetpea loved to help Buttercup with the mouse. Each lesson contains 3 elements; Word Flash, all the words for that lesson are flashed with voice. Multisensory, each word is shown followed by picture, and then an action or sound picture. Finally Picture flash, which is just pictures and voice of all the words. Buttercup likes the multisensory portion best, and she loves repeating all the words they say. Is she reading you ask? As far as I can tell no, but we have only been using it for a few weeks. I really think that the program could be great for kids with speech delays, as it would teach vocabulary, and encourage new words. As far as reading, I would say it was more like memorizing after awhile, and could happen. "Little Reader" can be purchased as a download, or a disc. It has two semesters that make for a full 12 months of learning. The lessons continually build on each other, and have built in review. Prices start at $149.00 dollars for the full year program.

Check out the Homeschool Crew blog to see what everyone else has to say!

Short Lessons

A bit pricey
Still think play is best for babies, and would use it toward the end or older than their suggested age.

"Little Reader" was given to me free of charge from Brill Kids in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekly Wrap up! HOD

Week 13:
We have finished 13 weeks of school!
I'm extremely tired today thanks to two babies with messed up sleep schedules so I will keep this wrap up brief.
Buster is learning about multiplying by 2 right now, and it's going great. For reading he finished his Lewis and Clark book, and read The Big Balloon Race. This weekend we are going to read some Choose Your Own Adventure that my sister lent us. I finished reading Little House in the Big Woods to Buster, and he has been asking to read the rest of the Little House books. My plan is to do a Little House study this spring. Other than that he is plugging along with all his other work. Unfortunately he thought it was a good idea to try and cut a tree down with a steak knife on Wednesday. When I saw what happened to his forehead he said he couldn't remember, and preceded to act very strangely for the next hour until we saw the urgent Care Dr. A good confession later, and a butterfly bandage and he is all better. We did have a chance for a long talk about lying and playing with knives, and he decided to take his Bible to bed with him and read it for a little while.
Sweetpea is doing alright with her work. For some reason lately she has been very reluctant to do anything, but once we start she does great. It is a balancing act trying to keep it light, but challenge her at the same time. I finished reading Reddy Fox to her, and now we are reading Peter Cottontail.

Sweetpe loves her cuisenaire rods! We did get some actual math in with these before she made this cute picture of our family.

The kids loved eating their edible dirt that we made.

For more Weekly Wrap Ups visit

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Soli Deo Gloria:Map Skills. TOS Review

Soli Deo Gloria Resources is a Christian company that sells, unit studies, Ebooks, bible studies, and more. We were given their unit study "Map Skills" by Kim Kargbo to review. "Map Skills" is a three week unit study that introduces K-3rd graders to basic geography and map skills. It could also be adapted for older elementary students. Each day of the unit has a list of activities to choose from as well as a weekly Bible verse to memorize. The author recommends choosing one of these geography books based on your child's skill level to accompany the study. I do not own any of them, and from what I could see any basic geography/map skills book could work. To complete the study you will also need a variety of maps, a compass, blank maps(from the Internet), a map of your town, various materials, and any books you choose to go along with the study. This study is very open ended and flexible. Topics covered range from: Map Reading, Supplemental math skills, Language arts, Bible Comprehension, and of course Geography. "Map Skills" is available from Soli Deo Gloria Resources in either Ebook or print format. It is priced at $14 dollars. The only worksheets included are weekly Bible verse worksheets, and there are no specific links included. You will find a short list of recommended literature to go along with the study if you so choose.

Multi Level

Easily Adaptable

Christian resource

Hands on and fun

A bit expensive

Worksheets are not included

For more reviews visit the Homeschool Crew Blog

"Map Skills" was given to me for free from Soli Deo Gloria Resources in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Talking Fingers! TOS Review

"I can read, I can write, I can type, whatever I say!"

In this ever increasing technical world it is becoming more important all the time for our children to learn typing skills. I have been seeing this even more lately with having family living far away that my sons likes to communicate with online. Unfortunately many typing programs available are not exactly fun for kids, but we have been given the opportunity to review a perfectly kid friendly typing program called "Read, Write, and Type" by Talking Fingers. "Read, Write, and Type" is not only fun, but it teaches typing, phonics, reading, and spelling. All wrapped up in a fun and exciting online game made just for K-3rd graders. When we were first chosen to review the program I signed up Sweetpea to use it thinking it was mainly a learning to read program. She does enjoy it, but finds the typing a bit hard since her hands can't quite reach all the letters. Typing Fingers was very generous to us and allowed us to add additional children as well, so I was able to set Buster up with his own account. I find the typing instruction perfect for him, even though the reading portion is very easy for him. It starts out simple teaching the proper typing of one letter at a time, and slowly builds as you add letters. Buster is now in level two, and typing short sentences with three letter words. I'm even more excited that we have access to "Read, Write, and Type" for a full year. We will really be getting some good use out of the program. I think I will have Sweetpea try it on my laptop since the keys are a bit closer together.

"Read, Write, and Type" Is set up to have separate log ins for parents and students. When the students log in they go directly to the screen you see above. Here they can go directly to where ever they left off in the game. When parents log in they can track the progress of all students assigned under their account. Students are even given grades, and parents can view what level they have made it to.

"Read, Write, and Type" can be purchased as an online program, or as a CD. For individual home use prices start at $35 for one year. Talking Fingers also has a program called "Word Qwerty" available for older students, or you can buy both programs as a bundle.

Great value
Multi age
Multi Skill
I honestly can not think of any
For more reviews visit the Homschool Crew Blog
"Read, Write, and Type" was given to me free of charge from Talking Fingers in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up!

Week 11, and 12:
We are still here and plugging away at our lessons. I did not get a wrap up done last week because we have been so busy trying to finish up our house project before it starts to rain too much. Re-painting an old house is quite time consuming, but it will be worth it in the end. As far as school here is a run down of some things we have been doing the last two weeks:

Buster finished reading his George Washington book, Pioneer Bear, and started reading about Davy Crockett(which I find quite fascinating). For our read aloud we are reading Little House in the Big Woods one of my childhood favorites. Buster is really enjoying it and has been asking to read more Little House books. I think we will do a Little House study this summer before heading into Bigger Hearts. In Singapore math 2a we are leaning about Multiplication and Division, so far it is just an introduction to each concept before moving into memorizing 2's and 3's. Buster and I really enjoy our math time. Other than that we are really enjoying all the activities and reading in Beyond Little Hearts.

Sweetpea is hit and miss on her attitude about school, which I'd say is typical for a 4 year old. Some days she does really well and we get a lot of math and phonics done other days I just make sure to get to our Little Hearts reading time, and activities. I really like how Reading Made Easy is set up to do 3 lessons a week. For math we are keeping it fun. I try to do some kind of hands on lesson everyday, and then throw in a MEP maths lesson a few days a week. Sweetpea really amazes me at how well she does at math. I always thought she would be more of a reading person since she new her letters and sounds so young, but she is very mathematical as well. We are almost done with Reddy Fox, and have been reading about Jacob, and Moses the last few weeks.

Buttercup is having a lot of fun with her Little Reader program. I found it quite humorous that I was chosen to review that program, because I'm always making fun of baby reading programs. I don't think she's going to be a genius just yet, but she loves it.

Buddy, well he is almost 11 months old, and all boy. He loves to grab, tear, chew, and headbutt everything. He sometimes watches Little Reader for a couple of second, but he really could not care less about it. He is just so much fun, and almost walking.

Buster showing of his Tomahawk we made for review.

Buddies little trick! He did this on his own and loved the laughs he got.

The kids made these swords on their own and told me they were the Three Musketeers.
For more Weekly Wrap Ups visit Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Digital Frog! TOS Review

For our latest review we had the opportunity to check out the Digital Field Trip Series from Digital Frog. The disc we received is the home license version that contains all three field trips. The Wetlands, The Rain forest, and The Desert.

It is available from Digital frog for $125 dollars for a home license and $199 for a single classroom. Each field trip is a complete study of an ecosystem. Containing a 360 degree panoramic view of a real location. Students can scan the area, read and see info about plants, animals, geological formations, and watch short clips about plants and animals. The discs also contain go along workbooks and teacher manuals for each field trip. In my opinion the study is best suited for late elementary to junior high level. Younger students could also enjoy exploring some of the features. We were barely able to scratch the surface of this program in the time we had to review it. Buster enjoyed the Desert field trip the most and was excited to be able to find a scorpion in the panorama. The programs are a bit above his level, so I had to sit right by him and do a lot of the reading. Not that he can't read the words, but being a 7 year old boy would rather skip right through it to get to the pictures. I wish that it contained audio for the info and a bit more video footage. Also the workbooks are geared to older ages, so we did not do them yet. I did look through them and they look very thorough. The only other complaint I had was that the field trips did contain a bit of evolutionary material, which was not yet an issue for us since I was reading. I could really see how these field trips could be a fun and educational way to study ecosystems with your children.

The Wetlands

The Rain forest

The Desert


Visually appealing

Complete studies including workbooks


Covers a wide range of ages



Does contain evolutionary content

View screen seemed a bit small

Workbooks were hard to locate

Too much reading for younger students
For more reviews visit the Homeschool Crew Blog

The Digital Field Trip Series

As part of the TOS Crew "The Digital Field Trip Series" was given to me free of charge in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was given.