Monthly Archives: March 2010

TOS Crew: Family Mint

Confession time here. This TOS Crew review is due to publish today, and I don’t have a lot of experience to share with you about Family Mint, the free website that helps you to teach your children about money management. However, I can tell you that this website looks like an excellent tool for “helping kids appreciate money.”
With Family Mint, parents act as bankers as well as teachers. With this program, not only can you help your children set goals and keep track of progress, but you can motivate them to save and spend wisely. There’s a lot of educational material on the website, in the form of blog articles and newsletters. The website itself offers powerful tools that allow you to set up accounts for each of your children and help them get started managing their money in a responsible, productive way.
I set up accounts and began to explore the website, and then got swamped with real life. However, when I think about it, learning to manage your money is a big part of real life! Our children have been watching us work on our own money management, with help from Dave Ramsey, so they’re aware of how important this issue is to us. I can clearly see how using Family Mint can help them with their own learning, so I intend to reorganize my priorities a bit, to sit down with the girls and actually start using this valuable tool.
Check out the Family Mint website, read the articles, look around; and while you’re there, set up an account for your family. Don’t put it off like we did! (red face)
Read more TOS Crew reviews here.
Disclaimer: The TOS Crew was given free access to the Family Mint website. However, the website is free anyhow. No monetary compensation was involved for the writing of this review.

TOS Crew: Galaxy of Education

The good folks at Galaxy Education generously gave the TOS Crew access to any of their products that we wanted to try. These are math tutorial and/or drill programs, as well as e-books.

The first thing we explored was their Fractions Fun. As you can see in the graphic above, a lot of material is covered. The red buttons lead you to submenus. Many of these contain explanations or review of concepts, as well as problems. You can set the program to go through problems step-by-step, where the student types in numbers for each intermediate step in solving the problem, or require the student simply to do the work mentally on on paper and submit the final answer to the problem.

Each right answer gives you a robot point. These points work out to be “lives” in the Labyrinth game, where you direct your robot through mazes and logic puzzles, avoiding menaces, to collect treasure. “Labyrinth” and the other blue buttons lead to games. In “Riddles” and “Word Jumble” you match fractions to alphabet letters, slowly uncovering a word puzzle (sort of like Wheel of Fortune[TM]) until you’re able to solve it. “Bridge the Swamp” is a logic game where you try to cross from one side of the gameboard to the other, all the while blocking your opponent, by solving fraction problems. The games are set up to be one-player (against the computer), two-player, and three-player games. See the lower right two screenshots, below, for an idea of “Bridge the Swamp” and “Word Jumble.” The other screenshots are from the practice portions of the program.

The graphics are primitive by today’s standards, but workable. Our girls really enjoyed challenging each other, and didn’t seem to notice that they were practicing fractions as they racked up robot points or strove to beat each other in the games.

The Math Riddler series contains worksheet generating programs. As you can see from the menu below, quite a few topics are covered, and within some of the topics are subtopics.

You can choose from worksheets containing riddling puzzles, where you solve the riddle by solving math problems; or worksheets with straight math problems. Worksheets display on the screen, whereupon you have the choice of printing the worksheet, or displaying (and printing, if you wish) the answer key, or generating another worksheet. Here are some screenshots:

The programs have no sound, which I find a wonderful change from so many of the educational games and drills we’ve used. Middlest has a little problem with the abstract display that appears as a section of the program is loading. She has to close her eyes or look away from the screen, as the whirling shapes are a migraine trigger for her (and for me).

We also downloaded Pre-Algebra Fun and Algebra Fun, which work much the same way as Fractions Fun. (See screenshots of the menus, below.)

Now that I’ve seen and used these programs, I wish I’d downloaded more of them! I can see that these will make for hours of drill and review, and a nice change from textbook work.

Math Galaxy Tutorials are available for many levels of math learning, from little ones just learning to manipulate numbers, through elementary concepts, middle school, even high school. I should think the Word Problem exercises would be especially valuable on all levels!

System requirements: Windows 98 or Mac OS X, and a printer for the worksheet programs and e-books.

Update: Pricing information has changed since this review was posted. You can now buy any of these programs for $19.95 (download) or $24.95 (CD with free shipping). Math riddle e-books are available for $9.95. You can see screen shots of these on the Math Galaxy Tutor website. I didn’t ask for any of the e-books as we’ve been having printer problems, plus I didn’t want to be too greedy.

To read more TOS Crew reviews of Math Galaxy products, click here.

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew were given a wide choice of Math Galaxy Tutor products for download, for the purpose of review and personal homeschool use. No monetary compensation was involved.

Sun-drying!

Just hung out a load of laundry on the line. I hope to get two loads dried by the sun today.

I wonder how much electricity that will save? I know our electric bill goes down somewhat in the months when I can line-dry our clothes. And line-drying balances out the summer energy demand of air-conditioning for the attic bedrooms, too.

I’d bask in my glory but I have too much to do, plus an ominous “coming down with a bug” feeling. Aargh. I don’t have time to be under the weather.

But at least I got a walk this morning, plus the first load of laundry hung out. Now to help Middlest work on her research paper. Draft’s all done, but she still needs to polish the footnotes.

How’s your day going?

Schoolhouse Expo!

Schoolhouse Expo

Have you registered for the Schoolhouse Expo yet?

No?

Well, if you register before April 1, you’ll save $5 and receive a free e-book, Creative Nature Study. That means that the conference, all the speakers and workshops will cost you less than $20!

If you don’t have time to attend in “real time” you’ll be able to listen to conference sessions on MP3. How convenient is that? (Very! Don’t know about you, but May is what we term “crazy month” at our house.)

Add to that over $300 in free e-book downloads plus door prizes and…

We interrupt this post to say with regret that it’s time to take the cat to his vet appointment. Will quickly finish up and include a link (click HERE) so you can check it out for yourself.

A list of speakers (from my email this morning):

  • Susan Wise Bauer, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind
  • Amanda Bennett of Amanda Bennett Unit Studies
  • Todd Wilson of Familyman Ministries
  • Davis Carman,owner and president of Apologia Educational Ministries
  • Andrew Pudewa,director of the Institute for Excellence in Writing
  • Diana Waring of Diana Waring Presents
  • Deborah Wuehler, senior editor for TOS
  • Gary Bates, CEO of Creation Ministries International-U.S.
  • Lee Binz, The HomeScholar
  • Mark Hamby,founder and president of Lamplighter Ministries
  • Kim Kautzer,co-author of WriteShop
  • Sue Patrick,creator of Sue Patrick’s Workbox System
  • Jill Novak,founder of Remembrance Press and publisher of The Girlhood Home Companion magazine
  • Heather Laurie,homeschooling mother to four special needs children
  • And more!

Disclaimer: Members of the TOS Crew were given free admission to the Schoolhouse Expo in exchange for letting you know about this great opportunity. Opinions expressed belong to this reviewer (and I’m really excited about this one!).

What fun!

Walking a mile and a quarter every day with Eldest and a strangely reluctant dog… priceless! (She’d rather do the distance riding in the car.) Next week it will be a mile and a half. Will the dog survive?

So excited!

I’m not labeling this as an official “TOS Crew” post, though I probably ought to as I’m talking about a TOS Crew product. But Great Latin Adventure Level I arrived today, and after reading through the Q&A on their website and looking through the materials, I’m excited! Looks like it’s going to be a great program!

TOS Crew: Pandia Press

Pandia Press is another publisher that was new to me this year on the Crew. They publish history and science curricula. I had the opportunity to use one of their History Odyssey courses. History Odyssey is a literature-based history study with some geography and writing thrown in. The approach is based on the Classical method of homeschooling from a secular viewpoint.

We received Middle Ages, Level 2 in hardcopy format, and Early Modern, Level 2 as an e-book. The hardcopy format is 3-hole punched papers, with color-printed cardstock front and back covers.

The e-book comes in PDF format. The book is intended for use by one homeschool family, but licensing for groups and co-op classes is available.

I love the interactive features in the e-book. Click on any entry in the Table of Contents, and you’re taken to that page. Click on a book title in the bibliography and you go to the Amazon page. Click on a website listed in a lesson and you’re taken to that website. (Note from the publisher: Websites were current at the time of publication, but as you know websites come and go. Use proper parental discretion and oversight when your student is accessing the web.)

Another interactive “goodie”: checkboxes that you can actually check, and then print out the completed checklist for your records. But more about that later.

Early Modern, Level 2 has 89 lessons (compared to Middle Ages, Level 2, which has 113 lessons). Lessons include historical fiction (book and resource list available online) and selected primary sources, timeline and mapwork, student notebook, activities, research, and writing.

Checklist organization

This is more a guide than a textbook. Lessons are made up of checklists with brief descriptions of reading assignments and activities. The self-motivated student could simply follow the checklist for a full year’s history course; alternatively, the parent can use the checklists for lesson planning, adding assignments to a student’s daily assignment sheets, for example.

Prerequisites

It is assumed that the student knows how to create a three-level outline and write a summary, so be prepared to teach this material if you haven’t covered it already. Our 6th grader is just starting to do outlines and summaries, and so needs much more help in this area than our 8th grader. Thus, using this curriculum in our family (we had a month to actually use this resource before writing this), I’d be working closely with our youngest, letting the 8th grader do the activities independently (with oversight, to make sure they got done). The historical fiction reading selections are suited for reading aloud together, while others are meant to be read and summarized or outlined.

Appendices contain source documents used in the lessons, as well as blank maps and worksheets. There are also instructions for writing a biography and an essay,  and evaluating historical sources, plus a list of suggested additional resources.

Activities are heavily weighted towards reading and writing. Some speaking (“Give a presentation”) is also included. Our Middlest, a bibliophile from her earliest years, thrives on this approach, while Youngest, a busy sort of person who has difficulty sitting still, struggles. She loves readalouds, but reading nonfiction, such as source documents and academic works (like the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, one of the spines for the course) is sheer torture for her.

Thus, while one of our girls would excel with this approach, if I were to continue with the History Odyssey guides, I’d probably keep on reading the historical fiction aloud together, but find a more activity based approach for Youngest’s studies (doing art, not just collecting pictures or reporting on them, crafts, cooking, music, etc.).

Pricing and Ordering

More information is available at the publisher’s website for the History Odyssey series, including Table of Contents, Lesson Sample, and Book and Supply List for each volume. As a wonderful service to customers, there’s also a “try before you buy” feature, where you can download the introductory material and first few lessons from any of their books, both science and history.

Pandia Press provides a list of sellers where you can order print copies of their books, or you can buy the books in e-book form here. Level 1 e-books range from $28.99 to $31.99, Level 2 and 3 e-books are $33.99. Print copies are somewhat more. (Early Modern Times and Middle Ages, both Level 2, were available for $42 from one of the publisher’s distributors.)

To read more TOS Crew reviews of science and history products from Pandia Press, click here.