Monthly Archives: January 2009

TOS Crew: ALEKS Math update

TOS Crew

I’ve already posted my wrap-up review for ALEKS, but I wanted to mention a feature I just discovered last week!

Printable worksheets!

I can log in to any of my students’ accounts and click on the “worksheet” option and generate a math worksheet based on the kinds of problems they’re currently working on. The worksheet is generated in PDF format, all ready to print. ALEKS sends an answer key (also in PDF format) to our master account’s inbox for each worksheet generated.

This means that on a day when we’re away from home, we can still do math!

(I know my girls are probably less thrilled about this than I am.)

Also, since I posted that review, dh has pronounced his opinion of ALEKS. He likes math. Math is something of a hobby with him. He majored in a mathematical discipline in college and does fancy math routinely in the course of solving computer problems. No, he doesn’t have two heads; there really are actual people in the world who like math. Anyhow, his opinion: ALEKS is a solid program. He’s very impressed.

Remember that you can get a free one-month trial of ALEKS at this link.

TOS: Digital Edition birthday bash!

TOS Crew

Come and join the party! The TOS Digital Edition is celebrating its first birthday!

I’ve posted about¬† the digital edition of The Old Schoolhouse¬† before, so I won’t go over all the great features here, except to say it’s searchable (find what you’re looking for, quick!) and contains links to Internet resources. (It’s so much nicer than typing in a URL from an article or ad and having to retype it because my fingers slipped.)

You can’t exactly take it in the bathtub for a long soaking session, but you can print out any articles you want to read (even those you want to read in the bath) and if you happen to drop your reading material in the water, it’s not ruined! (Just print it out again.)

If you’d like to have a first-hand look at what I’m talking about, here’s a link to the Summer ’07 issue. Play around with it, explore, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Better yet, The Old Schoolhouse is offering a special promotion, free e-books with your subscription, but the offer is time-sensitive. The sooner you respond, the better the offer! From their website:

Order today before the price goes up!
January 19th-24th, $10.95 for 1-year subscription and 5 E-Books (My comment: That’s $89.29 of value for $10.95!)
Going! January 25th-31st, $12.95 for 1-year subscription and 4 E-Books
Going! February 1st-8th, $14.95 for 1-year subscription and 3 E-Books
Gone! After February 9th, $16.95 for 1-year subscription

Want to know what e-books are included in the offer? Click here!

It’s easy to order. Just go to the Schoolhouse Store. (Here’s a link for your convenience.)

In the News: Homeschoolers and the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA)

There have been a lot of rumors flying, together with panicked responses. (Goodwill and Salvation Army won’t be able to sell used children’s clothes and toys! Selling used curriculum will be illegal! etc.)

Here is a link that will take you to a thoughtful analysis of what this act, due to go into force in a few weeks, will mean for homeschool families. I happen to know the homeschool mom and editor who publishes this online magazine. She researched carefully before putting this information online, together with links to more information.

Hope this helps to calm the jitters just a little.

TOS Crew Review: Kinderbach

TOS Crew

You want to expose your little ones to some music basics, but you can’t manage lessons for one or more reasons (money, time, logistics, just for a few). What options do you have if you don’t know much about music yourself? There are online music programs, as well as computer games and computer-based music instruction.

Kinderbach is one option. This 60-week online music course is aimed at little ones ages 2-7. There are four 15-minute sessions per lesson (one lesson per week), which involve videos, animations, and worksheets. There are also supposed to be interactive games as well (“coming soon!”) and e-songbooks with music in PDF and mp3 files to support your efforts, but these were not available to the Homeschool Crew during our free evaluation period.

kinderbach-charactersThe cheery, energetic teacher appears in a virtual classroom, with help from a host of colorful cartoon characters, each one representing a letter of the musical alphabet. (I have to comment here that our youngest, although a little old at ten for this program, enjoyed watching the videos, and could easily find D-for-Dodie at every point on our piano keyboard after learning the first Kinderbach memory trick. There are lots of memory tricks.)

The Kinderbach lessons remind me a little of the early music education classes I took with our younger two, when they were little, except that the child is interacting with the computer, rather than a classroom full of moms and preschoolers. I’d add that this is not something you park your child in front of. I think you’ll get the most benefit out of the program if you sit down together during your four weekly sessions.

I also have to mention, before I go into more detail on the program, that I’m not a big fan of the idea of children under the age of 4 using computer-based instruction. I really think they need to be doing more hands-on learning and exploration. However, I can tell that a lot of time and thought has gone into putting Kinderbach together.


Your child works along with the videos, filling out PDF worksheets that you can download as applicable to the lesson. The worksheets are colorful on the computer screen (see image on left); your child adds the color to what you print out (see another image on the right). To get the most out of the program, you also need a keyboard; even an inexpensive one will do.

The upbeat music varies, sometimes jazzy, sometimes reminiscent of rock or bluegrass, but always cheerful. Silly voices alternate with the cheerful, always encouraging teacher.

I don’t think your child will be a piano virtuoso at the end of this program, but it can be a fun introduction to basics such as pitch and rhythm.

You can try two weeks of lessons for free and see what you think of the program. A month’s access costs $14.95, or you can subscribe for a full year for $85.95.

If you’re on a slow dialup connection, you can also purchase the course on DVD, along with the e-songbooks mentioned above.

More TOS reviews of Kinderbach are available at this link. You’ll find a range of opinions, which is part of the beauty of the TOS Homeschool Crew program!