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Monday, December 22, 2008

TOS review: www.Puppetools.com

Jeff Peyton, the inventor of Puppetools, deeply believes in the importance of using play in education. He has devoted years of his life to research supporting his beliefs. His website at http://www.puppetools.com/ is a wealth of information on using play in the classroom to prevent learning from becoming drudgery.

His site contains a few free downloadable puppet patterns, sections for parents and educators, ideas from not only classroom teachers but students themselves, and many videos and photos of finished puppets being used in the classroom.

He is the creator of the "paper talker hinge" system, which makes his puppets very unique.
I felt our family did not benefit as much from this product as I had hoped. Being a highly creative person with a large and active childhood imagination, I already strongly believed in the theories Mr. Peyton suggests. I already know the benefits of hands-on and active educational learning versus traditional workbook learning. So much more is retained when children actively do. My problem is not lack of creativity or disbelief in the theory so much as it is finding the time to do the fun learning activities in the midst of all the routine school work load that has to be done. The good thing about Puppetools is that puppets are shown used in unit studies, circle time, and so much more. It might be that there is time for puppet play in my home after all, depending on how easily they can be worked into our daily core studies.

I cannot see however, spending money on a subscription to this site when I can do well on my own searching for free puppet patterns via Google. I am very fond of making crafts that last rather than those that fall apart quickly and end up in the trash. I am afraid that paper puppets would not hold up well in my home. As another mom said, it'd be simple to use brown paper bags and free puppet ideas online to make puppets to go along with your studies.

I also had trouble getting the many videos to load fast enough on my dial-up connection. That might deter a few families in itself, as it seems much of the knowledge found on the site is hidden in the depths of the videos. The videos also allow us to "meet" Mr. Peyton as he explains his ideas.

Of course, other families might find the information presented well worth the cost, particularly if they are involved in a homeschool co-op or church puppet ministry.

You can get a trial subscription lasting 60 days for $20. This might be an option for parents to really delve into the site; as for me, I cannot see myself spending that much to try it.

For those involved in groups who can split the cost, up to 30 users can pay $99. This seems to be a much better option for trying Puppetools.

If you have any questions, Mr. Peyton seems to be very knowledgeable and friendly to our TOS Crew group of reviewers, and I feel confident he would love to help you in any way he can.


TOS review: Let's Make a Web Page!

MotherBoardBooks.com teaches "Let's Make a Webpage!"

Phyllis Wheeler of http://www.motherboardbooks.com/ has written this simple but highly informative E-book for 8-12 year olds to teach them, step by step, how to make their own webpages. She asks the question: if kids in public schools get to use the computer lab (or in eleven states, MUST take a computer course to graduate), shouldn't your children also be taught computer science at home? Her answer is yes, resounding through her website's many offerings of programs perfect for homeschooling children to use.

Although "The Computer Lady", as she is called, has geared this e-book towards an upper elementary-middle school age bracket, I found it highly useful as well. I have no web page design skills whatsoever, beyond using easy page builders at sites such as geocities.com. I barely understood codes and HTML at all, until using this e-book.

I couldn't believe how easy the book was to read through and understand. A motivated child over the age of 10 could complete every activity in this e-book with very little parental help.
Ms. Wheeler begins in lesson one by having the child interview someone. This interview is supposed to be the basis for the website. My son chose an entirely different topic to use...the plan of salvation. It doesn't make any difference, really, what topic the website is covering, as long as it is something the child enjoys talking about. In lesson two the reader is directed to download a free trial of Coffee Cup Software's HTML Editor. You will use this software to finish the remainder of the project. Once you have the software installed, you are off and running! Lessons 3-10 cover such topics as adding text, making tables, adding photos, animations and backgrounds; and finally, posting your work. You learn many terms concerning HTML and publishing that you might not have known before. And Ms. Wheeler makes you feel as if she is in the room with you, gently coaxing you on as you read the instructions.

I felt the book was very clearly written and easy to follow. I felt is was well worth my time to test this product and I am hoping to allow my son to finish up his webpage over holiday break.

The author also provides two additional links to free editing programs you may choose to use in place of the Coffee Cup HTML Editor.

Other computer education books are sold at http://www.motherboardbooks.com/, such as Logo Adventures and Computer Science Pure and Simple.

This program can be used on a PC (including Vista) or a Mac with Parallels Desktop.

The price for Let's Make a Web Page is $29.99.Currently this is discounted as an introductory special to $19.99. There is also a 30-day money-back guarantee.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

reviewing www.ALEKS.com

Taken from the www.ALEKS.com website:

ALEKS (Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces) can provide you with the instruction and support you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. ALEKS is accessible from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a flexible and mobile educational solution for your children.
  • ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Math Program:
    Complete Curriculum Solution for Math - One Subscription Allows Access to All Courses
    No Textbook Required
    Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
    Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
    Automated Reports Monitor Learning Progress
    Unlimited Online Access - PC & Mac Compatible

And now Lynn says...

I can't believe I forgot to review ALEKS! I completely missed my deadline. For some reason, a load of TOS reviews were due in December, which made it a little trickier to stay on top of it all.

I had been faithfully writing my review deadlines on our family calendar, but this one slipped right by me. I never even wrote it down. I just noticed it was due last Wednesday! What's so sad is that I just got moved up from an alternate to an official TOS crew member, so I now have this late review tarnishing my super-cool writer image. ;)

So here are my many personal thoughts on ALEKS math:

I have tried so many math curricula over the years. We've used dept. store worksbooks, ABEKA, SOS, and a lot of Saxon. Math is not my strong point. I am getting better at it the more I teach it to the kids, but it isn't something I really enjoy. I'm more of the history/literature type girl. My school years were filled with math anxiety. I think it all began in third grade when I stayed sick repeatedly, and kept missing key concepts I needed to build upon in higher grades. Nowadays I would panic if I had to count back change at a yard sale! It would bring back memories of standing at the blackboard with all those eyes boring into the back of your head when the answer just isn't there. Wow, this fear runs deep....maybe I need some ALEKS help, too. The good thing is I believe it is available for parents to use as well.

I never want my children to feel so inadequate about a school subject. I am hoping that if we continue to use ALEKS for math, that will compensate for my own short-comings while giving them a firm foundation. Besides, it makes me feel "safe" to know that math is covered, freeing me up to do those unit studies that I so enjoy. As with www.time4learning.com, having the boys be able to do a portion of each day online is such a benefit to this busy mom's schedule. It gives me time to spend with our preschooler and any daycare children that might be here. And I know my son's time on ALEKS is serious stuff; ALEKS is not a game site.

In fact, you won't see flashy videos and bright colors on ALEKS. At first glance, ALEKS seems rather bland. But my 8th grader likes the simple screen, with only one problem at a time. He says its less distracting and overwhelming for him, and I can see from his progress reports that it must be true, because he is learning. We have been able to try him briefly in both middle school math level 3 and now pre-algebra.

Let me tell you some of the pros of using ALEKS.com:
First of all, the child who will be using ALEKS must begin with an assessment, usually 15-30 math problems. If the child comes upon a concept they are unfamiliar with, they can choose an option which says, "I haven't learned this yet." The ALEKS system uses artificial intelligence to track the child's progress and keep track of what he has/hasn't learned. After this initial assessment, the child is given his own pie chart. It is broken down into sections and as the child completes problems from the sections correctly, the slices are colored in, making it easy for the child to chart his own progress. Nick likes the pie; everyday when he logs in, his screen goes directly to his pie where he clicks on a "slice" (subtopic) he needs to work on. He feels he is in control of his math course just by getting to pick the topic of the day. He may choose geometry, fractions, decimals, etc. I like that the artificial intelligence is used for assessment and daily work. I really feel that feature accurately shows exactly what my son knows and where he needs help or review.

For the child who is overwhelmed by pages with 30-50 problems on them, the one-problem-at-a-time approach is simplistic and works wonders. No more tears! Some might find the lack of color dull but when a child is easily distracted, the simple design of the screen makes it easier to focus on the task at hand.

Not only can the child see his pie and progress recorded there, but parents can see a list of state standards and a comparison chart of how their child's progress stands up to those standards.

For those who like to see some paperwork or need to keep paperwork for evaulautions, there are printable worksheets.

And for extra review, ALEKS has a feature called Quick Tables which is meant to be a way to review and drill math facts, such as multiplication tables.

My cons to using ALEKS are that between letting one son use ALEKS and the other Time4learning, we will be acruing a lot of fees for subscriptions and spending an awful lot of time online. I have mentioned before that since we have dial-up, this too, can be a problem. We have three computers in our home but if any one of us is online, no one else can be. If we get DSL, this will no longer be a problem. In the meantime, family and friends will continue to suffer through the Callwave internet answering machine.

Secondly, your child doesn't get an actual letter or number grade off ALEKS. You can see on the pie chart the completed work; as the pie concepts are mastered, they care colored in. But in some states parents may find that they need to somehow assign a grade for evaluations. I would record A's as long as the pie shows that math is being completed sucessfully daily.

Third, the cost of ALEKS can be pricy for a one-income family. You can get ALEKS for $19.95 per month per child or pay for 6-months at the cost of $99.95. With one child so close to the dreaded high school years, I have to weigh the cost. SOS would be less expensive, but we used an older, bought off Ebay version for 4th grade and it had so many glitches that I have shyed away from it since (of course, newer versions may not have this problem--I'd be happy to snag a free copy to use and review, dear Alpha Omega company). Teaching Textbooks is another option for higher math, but it too, seems pricey. I have come to the conclusion that higher math, when mom must rely on a system to teach it anyway, will cost plenty. However, it must be done and I want it done well. Since I am so frugal in other areas of homeschooling, and since our unit studies cost so little, perhaps it will be workable to keep both ALEKS for the remainder of this year at least. I know my son loves it, is respoding well to it, and feels more confident in his math skills. He used to shudder at the thought of pre-algebra but now asks when he can do his daily math. I would love to use ALEKS all the way through high school if I can.

By the way, we aquired a free trial of ALEKS via The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. Anyone can get a free trial, however, just by paying ALEKS a visit.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trigger Memory Systems products review

I got the most awesome package from Trigger Memory Systems
(http://www.triggermemorysystems.com/) to review. I know I get excited about all of my home school reviews as they arrive but when it comes down to it, after using some products for a week or so, it is harder to be as enthusiastic about them. I have tested many wonderful programs that simply don't fit with our family or are very hard to implement. Not Zone Cleaning or Times Tales...I can easily see these products being useful to quite a few families, whether homeschooling or not, and I found all of the books very easy to use once I got some time to try them.

What I received were 3 flip chart books on cleaning for kids and times tables. These cleaning books-Laundry for Kids, Bedroom Cleaning for Kids, and the WONDERFUL Zone Cleaning for Kids-were the first items we tried. The cleaning books are meant to be used with a wipe-off marker so kids can keep track of their progress. But please don't think these are your run-of-the-mill chore checklists; these books teach, yes teach your children in a very understandable and usable manner, proper cleaning techniques.

The laundry book goes step by step from gathering and sorting laundry all the way to the actual use of the washing machine and how to fold and sort the dried clothing. The bedroom cleaning book teaches children to use a system of 4 baskets to sort items into for returning to either their proper location or to go into the trash bin, laundry room , etc. But first, kids begin with making a messy pile. My kids loved this. Making a mess only to turn and clean it sounds counter-productive. But its really simple genius. Children work their way around their rooms, putting all loose items into the messy pile. They then sort the messy pile using the 4 basket technique, return items from the baskets to their destination, and follow up with some simple chores such as emptying wastebaskets and making the bed. Voila! Clean room, efficient, and fast as well.

My very favorite of the three cleaning books is the Zone Cleaning book. We have yet to implement the system, but we have read over and discussed the book's methods and we plan to begin it over the holidays. How it works is the house is divided into zones, such as kitchen, bath, and living room. You can assign a child a zone to monitor for one week. Each day the book shows the child which chores to do in that zone, and then leaves a check-off box for them to keep track of their completion of the work. For example, the bathroom zone has kids (or parents) completing 3 steps every day during the week, such as "tidy up", "wash and disinfect", and "empty trash". After these three steps are complete the zone monitor (my chosen title) is to do another special day-of-the-week job such as mopping and sweeping on Monday, scrubbing the tub on Tuesday, scrubbing the toilet on Wednesday, etc.

At our house we do a few chores everyday but often get behind during the week as we run to and fro. Then we spend 2-3 hours every weekend giving the house a thorough cleaning. I can't wait to try this plan, assigning kids a zone and then setting aside 15 minutes or so each day to do our zone cleaning. This might be a nice time to put on some praise music and boogie with the broom! I think we'll have to get in the habit of doing this everyday but in the end, this will mean one larger chunk of free time on the weekends. Who can argue with that?

I am even thinking of making a spin-the-wheel type chart to assign zones randomly so we can each have a turn taking care of the various zones. This will give the kids a chance to learn to better care for the whole house.

Now, Trigger Memory Systems also has your multiplication woes covered with its book Times Tales. It took me a few minutes to get the hang of this book but when it hit my brain, I could've kicked myself as its simplicity. I was making it too hard, but my visual learner took to it immediately. He picked right up on the concept, and just by reading through the story a few times every day for about three days, he has memorized all the multiplication problems covered thus far. On the first page the child sees very simple illustrations made from numbers. a three looks like a butterfly, a snowman is number 8, and 4 is a chair. These illustrations pop up in a series of simple tales that aid in fact memorization. For example, 9x3=27 is taught by a drawing of a butterfly (#3) flying past a tree house (#9) and she sees a treasure in a box, which is equal to is 27 cents. So in the child's mind he sees that when 3 and 9 are together in the picture, you always get 27. 8x4=32 is illustrated with Mrs. Snowman (number 8) climbing on a chair (number 4) to reach her 3 buttons and 2 mittens on the shelf, thus 8x4=3, 2 or 32. Once the stories for part 1 have been mastered, you use flashcards with the characters on them to reinforce the facts. This is followed by a test. The instruction manual that comes with the set contains all the flash cards and tests to use, plus additional crossword puzzles, discussion questions, and games for reviewing the clues.

If your child is a visual learner who has struggled with times tables I urge you to give this simple system a try. Not every child learns the multiplication tables by repeating boring facts aloud. Or by writing them over and over. Some children need to use word-picture association to recall facts and for such a child, I really believe this system could mean the difference between tears and success.


Little Elves 3rd Annual Workshop

This was the smallest workshop I've ever had, attendance wise, but I think it was the most fun so far. Every year kids from our church, homeschool group, etc. gather at my home to work on making gifts for people. I always charge about $15 and the kids usually come home with 5 completed gifts, ready to wrap. Its not really a money-maker for me, but it benefits me in numerous other ways that make it well worth it: it gives me happy children on which to test craft ideas, I can buy enough supplies to include my own children as well, and hey, its CRAFTING!!! Yay! Need I say more? ;)

This year Oriental Trading threw a glitch in my system when my supply order (sent to them on Dec. 2) didn't arrive on time. In fact, it arrived one day AFTER my class! Ugh! So last minute I had to tally revamp my list of crafts, try to stay on budget, and hope parents were okay with the new crafts. Thanks to a few good friends baling me out by cleaning out their own personal stash of craft supplies and throwing ideas at me, I was able to make it. Donna, who is always saving the day it seems, stuck around to help with the class and I am so glad she did. I got sick during the class and had to take a breather and she jumped right in and took over for me. Thank you all!

We ended up making more than 5 items and in fact, I have some supplies left to possibly offer the class one more time before Christmas. So if you missed out and would like your children to come, email me or call and see how my supplies are going. Perhaps we can still work in a few kiddos over break.

We made a painted glass ball ornament (beautiful!), a lighted snowman "lamp", spiced tea mix, holiday guest soaps, a pampered foot care basket in refreshing peppermint scent, a book marker, picture frame, and a bottle cap necklace. Whew! it took us about 3 hours with drying time but all the kids seemed happy with their crafts. I always enjoy being with them, especially watching the faces of those who are truly excited about it, like me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spears Art Curriculum K-8 CD

For more information on Spears Art Curriculum by Diane S. Spears, Ed.D. Christian Education, Artist, visit http://www.spearsartstudio.com/

I am not an artist. Let me repeat: I am not an artist, at all. Now I am a crafter, an avid crafter who enjoyed art in my school days so long ago, but I am not an artist. So I am always excited when I have the chance to send my homeschooled children to art lessons taught by an art teacher, since I know our home experiences in that subject area will likely be greatly lacking.

I am a firm believer in creativity; writing for pleasure, drawing, painting, crafting, building, sculpting, playing an instrument, and singing. Over the years I have bought four or five art programs in the hopes I would actually use them and spur this kind of creativity on in my kids. I have drawing books in my cabinet, as well as art ideas books and multitudes of craft books.

We begin the year with high hopes of doing weekly art lessons using these books, and we often do accomplish some lessons in the first month or so. But I find that my biggest challenge is not the mess we make or that trying to teach art intimidates me---it is that I find art time-consuming when we already have so much core curriculum to cover. As the weeks turn into months it never fails that I feel so pressured to cover Bible, language, and math, that I skip the manipulatives, educational board games, and yes, art. You know, the fun learning activities that are hands-on and actually stick with the children. Of course, this is followed by guilt. I again spent money on supplies that I didn't use, and I know that my children and I enjoy those hands-on projects as a sort of family bonding time. I recall the few art lessons we have done with fondness, remembering little tousled heads bent over papers, with intense frowns on faces as the chubby fingers swirled on paint and emblazoned the pages with splashes of color from acrylics and oils. Those moments when no one was fighting, all were creating. There was no right or wrong way to do it; you just made it all your own. I still treasure those masterpieces. I know how important art is to my children's education. I know it can be relaxing, peaceful even, a way to briefly escape. So why don't we do it more? Lack of time is really my art-enemy.

So then, what would make this time-pressed mom be able to really have an art lesson and stick with a curriculum? First, I need well-planned lessons with clear-cut instructions, materials lists, and objectives, and secondly I need it to cover all my children's ages (preferably having them work together on the same project when possible). I need all the hard work to be done for me, so I can pick up the curriculum and go, and easily make art a part of our weekly school time. I need it to use various materials I might already have on hand. I need it to be cost-effective. I need it to be balanced, a blend of arts and crafts. And I need it to be well-written so that this mom with no art background whatsoever can effectively teach the subject without adding more stress to my day.

For last year's art I was able to take advantage of some wonderful classes taught to our homeschool group from a certified art teacher. We discovered, to our disappointment, that she had decided to take this year off to spend time with her own children. I just knew art was over. Then I got a CD copy of an art curriculum from Spears Art Studio.

I was at first overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information contained on the disk, everything from a scope and sequence to a Q&A section, to a glossary of art terms to a supply list. These helpful tools come in addition to charts and tables for each lesson to help you keep it all organized, an article on why art is actually good for your brain, art-to-history connections, 35 weekly themes with 137 patterns to print and use and more than 260 activities, all from a God-centered viewpoint. The lessons and activities can be printed for use in your home or in a co-op setting, and only costs $39.95 plus SH. If you like, you can purchase a printed volume of the same lessons in black and white inside a binder, plus you'll also get a copy of the CD with color pages to print as needed for $134.99.

Keep in mind this curriculum is for grades k-8 and is enough for years to come, making it very economical.

The themes are seasonal but you can use the lessons as you please, any time of the year. Lessons are broken down by age level so while every age level’s activities are connected to the weekly theme, the children might be doing projects that are very different. This can be easily adapted to fit into the homeschool family's levels and ages by doing the same project on easier or more difficult levels.

For example, when my children and I covered one of September's themes, Awareness of Season, rather than letting my children each do the projects in their own grade level which tied into the central theme, I picked one lesson ("Leaf Windows" from grade 3) and allowed all three children to try it. It was very easy to complete the lesson and the children enjoyed making their pictures. Another day we tried an October lesson called Stained Glass Still Life where the children used glue to outline a still life they had previously drawn, and then filled in the outlines with bright oil pastels....beautiful , simple, but something I would never have thought to do. My oldest son who is in the eight grade tried his hand at a lesson on making a paper human body model, posing him, and then sketching him. Soon my third grader had to so the same.

My children are enjoying this. I am finding it easy to use. I really think I could add art back into our week with this curriculum. I believe it could easily be used following the season's themes or by simply picking a topic at random. I can see how it would fit into our unit studies (and finding a matching themed art lesson to go along with my units is very easy to do with the table of contents and overview for each month). This curriculum could be used for years without repeating lessons. I know that my third grader and preschooler will be able to cover each lesson for each grade level throughout their entire elementary school education. Worth the money? You can be sure it is at my house!

There are many other bonuses in this curriculum, including year-long ongoing projects you can opt to complete like a Noah's Ark/flood study.

There are lessons on Ms. Spears site for highschoolers as well, so the whole family can get a complete art foundation. There is really no way to fully describe this full curriculum, so check it out for yourself at http://www.spearsartstudio.com/.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Very busy day

I went to bed very late this morning, about 2:30 AM. I am glad that my Etsy store sales are beginning to perk up but it makes for some late-night custom craft orders. I had to finish some wooden letter plaques for a mom in Washington and some baby ducky soaps for a mom in NY. Then I wanted to piddle a bit so I got out some supplies and made some new items, as well as finishing some that were already in progress. I tried my hand at making a simple charm bracelet, making soap cupcakes with soap frosting, some whipped bath butter, and made some more bathrub jelly. I wish I had more professional packaging and better photos of my goods. Maybe someday...

I learned to make playdough soap and that is pretty neat; I only have to figure out a way to keep it from hardening so I can package it for sell or to give as gifts.

After sleeping in and having completed only two and one half hours of school time this morning (which is actually okay because I worked the kids two extra hours last week knowing this week would be CRAZY!), we went to our homeschool group Christmas party. Lots of fun as always! Thanks to Angela, Debra and Jeremy, and the church at Northside.

From there it was off the the orthodontist to fix a broken spring on Nick's braces, followed by a short jaunt back home to check emails, put the dog back into the fenced area, feed all animals, gather supper for DH, and then gather all my soap making supplies. Had to be at the church by 7 pm to do a class where I had the privilege of teaching some very basic soap-making to a portion of our homeschool group kids and moms. Tomorrow I get to do it again! It is something I enjoy and hope to work into a party-plan program very soon. I think they all had fun; I know I did.

Afterwards I sat with our homeschool co-op's co-director (who are we kidding with this "co" business? She does ALL the work! :) ) to fill out completion certificates for our party on Wednesday.

Back at home by 10-ish to eat a very late supper (Taco Bell), get kids to bed, and write a review for The Old Schoolhouse magazine. Whew! (I would love to hit the kitchen to make that new whipped fluff soap I saw or try those new bottlecap bracelets I have supplies for, or read that homeschooling mag I got in the mail but I physically can't because my eyes are crossing!) Once again it is 2 AM. I am drained! Where did my day go? And I have to start again in the morning. As Scarlet said (and I need to recall more often), "Tomorrow is another day." Some things can wait. 'Night night, ya'll.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

review of Rime to Read

I invite parents of preschoolers and early elementary students to take a look at this new online reading program called Rime to Read (http://www.rimetoread.com/).

This program uses virtual books of "rimes" to teach reading. Yes, I said rimes, not rhymes. Rimes are word families such hat, cat, Pat, mat. These books are based on these rime patterns rather than phonemes (separate letter sounds such as a,t) because children supposedly can hear and distinguish them more easily.

Your beginning or remedial reader can use the program to learn the basics of reading or to practice and master a concept that has been difficult to grasp. It is suggested by the company that children under 4 are not taught reading at all. But if you have a child who is ready to learn and already knows most of his consonant sounds, then he is ready to use Rime to Read.

By the time your child reaches the program's end, she will have been taught single syllable short vowel words from 20 word families and 46 high-frequency words. The rimes are color-coded which makes this program unique and especially easy to use. For example, the first book (which is available for free to sample) is called Pat. The -at rime is blue so on each page, anytime the -at rime appears it will be blue. Learning the rimes in this color-coded fashion is particularly appealing to the visual learner, but can certainly help any child recall the sounds of the rimes.

In each book on the inside cover page you'll find suggestions for using the book. Also included in each book are sight words and the pattern word list for review (these words might be put on index cards with the rimes colored as in the book, and used for simple flash cards). The colored portion of each word in the rime pattern can be spoken aloud by the program as well, thus reinforcing the sounds again. Now you are reaching the child who not only learns visually but audibly as well.

There are simple, non-distracting illustrations on the pages, and the books are short and easy to read in a sitting.

The company has some recommendations for using Rime to Read, such as reading the books in order, reviewing previous books, reading for accuracy of at least 90-95% of the rimes before progressing, making the flash cards (or Go Fish or concentration games from the word lists) for those who need extra support, and waiting at least one day between the books before introducing a new one.

This cumulative 20-book program can be printed for your child or read on your computer directly. You can purchase the entire 20-book set or purchase books in packages of 4. If you opt to go the entire package route, the program costs $44.99.

As a homeschooling mom, I feel very fortunate to have been given the chance to review this program. I have tried it for a few weeks on and off with my 4-year old daughter, and although she is enjoying the books, I am not seeing her recall many of the words. She just turned 4 though, and so it may be that she is not quite as ready as I imagined her to be for reading. But as long as the program is available to me for free to review, we will keep trying it.

I personally find the price to be a bit high for our family but if a program works and teaches reading it is worth almost any price. However, I feel we would be going through the books too quickly to justify the cost. Also, this program doesn't teach the consonant sounds of most letters but assumes that the child has already been taught them. So even if your child memorizes the
-at family and can recite it each time he sees it, if he hasn't been taught the sound of that letter "P" in front of the -at, then he still can't read "Pat" as a complete word. My child has barely scratched the surface of the world of consonants and their sounds, so it may be awhile before this program really clicks with her.

To me, this might be a great supplement or aid to a child who has already been exposed to the consonants and their sounds, or perhaps a child who needs some remedial work.

I would suggest visiting the site and getting the first book free. If that seems like a good match for your reader, then perhaps try a smaller 4-book package before taking the big plunge. The 4-book set will cost $9.99. I would suggest that families who purchase these e-books also print then, laminate them , and perhaps bind them in some fashion to make the program more usuable for a longer period of time. Of course doing so adds more to the cost of the program.

Some families will be very sold on the older but tried and true phonics methods of reading, but there will undoubtedly be many other families who find Rime to Read a perfect fit for their needs.

My suggestions to the company might be to lower the costs slightly, or to offer printable sight word cards in each bundle, and possibly even add some simple printable worksheets/games to the site to reinforce the rime from each book. These small added bonuses might persuade potential customers that they are getting a little more for their money than the e-books alone might.

If you have any questions be sure to drop on over to http://www.rimetoread.com/ and the friendly staff there will be most happy to assist you.

God bless!

review of The Little Man in the Map book from Schoolside Press

Little Man in the Map

This is a bright, vividly colorful, and catchy rhyming book about the 50 States of America. The premise of the book is teach children to locate and identify each state by using visual and auditory clues that are contained in the pages' rhymes; written by E. Andrew Martonyi and illustrated by Ed Olson.

The story begins in a fictional classroom where the assignment is to find a clue or shape for every state and use them to memorize the states. The fictional children soon realize that down the middle of the map is the profile of a man, complete from his hat (Minnesota) to his boot (Louisiana). They name him "MIM", which stands for "The Man Inside the Map". Looking to the left and right of the "man" the students soon see other "objects" that the states seem to form, such as his mitten (one of Michigan's peninsulas) to his trusty " Texas Longhorn chair", made by moving Oklahoma out of his way to sit down. By the time the children have read through this book a few times, its safe to say they should have a pretty good grasp of where many of the states are found. My children, especially my predominately visual son, found the book intriguing and read it repeatedly the first few days after its arrival. By the weeks end I was able to give my children a blank map of the US (there is one in the back of the book) and we orally filled in many states...correctly! Schoolside Press sent us this wonderful book, which has won awards and was a finalist in ForeWord magazine's Book of the Year Award. The company also has a few down loadable worksheets available that are useful for checking student progress. One of these is a crossword puzzle, which was actually very challenging.

This hardback book retails for $19.95 and to me, is well worth the cost if you are able to use it to teach these normally tedious and boring facts. It would make a nice gift for a teacher or to donate to your local library as well.

In the works also is another educational book called Clues for the State Capitals. "MIM" continues his adventures in our great nation there.

You can find these books online at

The company also invites your kids to visit their blog at http://www.frogsjumpusa.com/