Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reading Eggs (TOS Review)


Reading Eggs is a online game for 3 to 7 year olds that provides 120 reading games and activities and 96 spelling activities at 12 levels. Reading eggs teaches both phonics and sight words.Photobucket


I had Emily play on the program for a while to test it out. First, she took a placement test and the program started her at the “appropriate point.” I’m not sure about the assessment level, however. She missed only one question (from carelessness) and was placed at age 5.5, reading 3 letter words. The assessment should have placed her out of the program, I would think. I’m sure it’s more accurate for beginning readers, though.

We found that there are many different reading activities that must be done sequentially. She could go backward at any time to do easier activities, but new activities had to be completed in sequence. Activities included such things as blending sounds, identifying spoken words, forming sentences from word cards, and identifying beginning and ending sounds. All of the activities were colorful and fun. I think this is something that she would have very much enjoyed while she was learning to read.

Reading Eggpress is a portion of the site for better readers, up to age 12. There are books to read (with comprehension quizzes), and grammar, dictionary and  spelling games to play. I think this could be useful for a young child or one who is not very motivated to read because the activities are fun and interactive.

The book selection in the “library” consisted of short colorful books that I assume were written for Reading Eggpress and public domain books, such as fairy tales, The Railway Children, Five Children and It, and some Shakespeare adaptations by Edith Nesbitt. I thought that the older, public domain books were great selections with nice formatting and would like to see more of them. The newer books included both fiction and non-fiction in various genres.  Emily enjoyed them, though, and enjoyed having a library of books at her fingertips to readimage

One problem we had with the library selections was that since Emily could choose anything she wanted to read, she was choosing picture books, thereby eliminating any educational value to the activity. I told her that she had to choose from books for 9-12 year olds, but I wish that I could have preset the level, so that anything she chose would have been of educational value. I did like that there were “real books” to choose from, though, instead of just short paragraphs like some other reading comprehension computer programs have.

The “Gym” teaches dictionary skills, figurative language, words in context and other reading comprehension activities. Much more fun than a workbook!


A subscription to Reading Eggs costs $9.95 (monthly) to $75 (12 months).  Free trials are available, too! To read more reviews of Reading Eggs, please visit the Crew Blog.

I give Reading Eggs 5 stars and Reading Eggspress 4 stars.



As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free membership to Reading Eggs in order to write this review.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Classical Music for Kids (Free Resource!)


I just found a fantastic site for teaching your kids (and you) about composers and their music!  Classics for Kids is a weekly radio program from Cincinnati Public Radio. Their site features:

  • podcasts on dozens of performers
  • activity sheets and lesson plans
  • interactive timeline of composers
  • classical music selections
  • composer biographies
  • music and rhythm games

I’m definitely going to be using this resource! This could be a full classical music curriculum and it’s free!

I found this link at Homeschool Freebie of the Day,  which is always a great source for free resources!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Captive Heart by Dale Cramer (Review)


Last year, I read Paradise Valley, a historical novel about a group of Amish that had emigrated to Mexico. Although the story was fictional, the scenario was based on actual historical events.

The Captive Heart, by Dale Cramer, is a sequel to Paradise Valley, continuing the story of the Amish community’s struggles in a foreign land.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Although it had many similarities to other Amish fiction that I’ve read, the setting added new twists, addressing issues such as the Amish characters’ commitment to pacifism while trying to survive in a lawless society where bandits freely roamed stealing and kidnapping and law enforcement was of little help. Miriam Bender struggles with her affection for a non-Christian, and certainly non-Amish Mexican and her desire to live a faithful Amish life. Epidemics, attacks by bandits, and kidnappings keep the plot exciting.

I found this story fast paced and hard to put down. I read it in one day! Although it is a sequel, I think it stands very well on its own.

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

From Blah to Awe: Shaking Up a Boring Faith


From Blah to Awe: Shaking Up a Boring Faith, by Jenna Lucado Bishop, is an inspirational book for teens. I originally thought this might be good for Emily, but, after reading it, think that she’s not quite old enough.  It is really better for high school aged students or even adults.

The topic--shaking up a boring faith—is certainly one that many of us can relate to. We believe in God, but don’t always find him compelling or exciting. I think this is probably even more the case for young people who have grown up in the church and are in the process of making their parents’ faith their own.

The book opens with a riveting account of the author encountering young women caught up in  s*x trafficking while on a mission trip to Guatemala …… (one reason why I’m not giving the book to Emily just yet).

Subsequent chapters address various reasons that Christians may find God boring, then addresses solutions for each. You may identify with some of these impediments to an living, exciting faith:

  • We are consumed by busyness, electronics and noise that fill our senses when we need to slow down to look and listen for God’s still small voice.
  • Passion for Jesus is hard. It can result in rejection by peers. Being “bored” is cool.
  • We think we already know it all.
  • We don’t spend time in the Word, which brings and alive, active, un-boring relationship with God.
  • We fail to pray.

Jenna Lucado Bishop writes in an engaging style, including personal stories and allegories that help to illustrate her points.

I think this is a great book for teens and young adults. It addresses a topic that I haven’t seen much in Christian literature. I reviewed the e-book version, but would recommend the print version because the book includes room for journaling and answering questions throughout the book.

I received a free e-book copy of From Blah to Awe from Thomas Nelson through their BookSneeze program. All opinions are my own.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Currclick 50% off Sale

Repost…with correct links this time!

There’s a great sale going on right now at Currclick—my very favorite place to find downloadable curriculum. All sale items are 50% off and there are 10 free items—some really good stuff—I found several good science studies that we’ll be using soon!  One of the freebies is my Roaming Through Ancient Rome Game. Be sure to pick it up! And… all of my other Super Star Speech books and games are  50% off. Here’s the scoop:

Right here, a secret page of our website, our Winter Whisper Sale and Giveaway is going on. TEN freebies are being given away, and TWENTY of our bestselling publishers have discounted all their resources by 50%, and NOBODY knows about it but you.

It's hard to keep a secret though, right? Don't worry, we won't make you. You can tell your Facebook and Twitter followers, your co-op, your neighbor, your newsgroups, even your strange Great Uncle. The only thing we ask you NOT to do is post the details on our Facebook page.

And what are the details?

  1. Go the the Secret Sale link to see the sale items. 
  2. VERY IMPORTANT: Because this is a secret sale, sale items must be added to your cart from the sale page. If you add an item from another product listing, and not the sale page, you will not get the sale price. However, we'll note your Whisper savings in your cart, so you can be sure.
  3. CurrClick's Winter Whisper Sale ends February 16th.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Celestial Almanack (TOS Review)

Photobucket Photobucket

I love to look at the stars at night, but I really don’t know much about them. I can find the Big Dipper, but that’s about it! Emily is interested in astronomy, but until now, I haven’t had much knowledge to share with her. The Celestial Almanack series, available at Currclick for only $3 an issue, is a month-by-month guide to the skies. I just had the opportunity to try out the February issue:  Celestial Almanack, Vol 2.  This 19 page guide is packed with both information and beautiful drawings. Some of the topics in the February issue include:

  • a study on the history and science of leap year
  • why February only has 28 days 
  • maps of the daytime and nighttime skies during February that illustrate the placement of constellations, planets, and the moon
  • phases of the moon for each day in February
  • how to find both Venus and Jupiter as their paths converge toward the end of the month. Mars and Saturn are also both visible in the February night sky.

Unfortunately, we’ve had a series of rainy and cloudy nights, so we haven’t been able to use the star charts yet. I’m hoping that tonight will be clear so we can go stargazing! The charts are so clear that I think it will be easy to locate many different constellations.

Celestial Almanack is useful for a range of ages. Some of the information, frankly went over my head! It would be very beneficial for a high school student studying astronomy. Some of the information and the star charts, however is very informative and helpful for elementary aged students. The author, Jay Ryan, has a love for astronomy that shows through in this e-book. This guide is no textbook treatment of the subject!

2012 will be a big year for exciting sky events. Here are some that you will learn about in different editions of the Celestial Almanack.

1) the Jupiter-Venus conjunction on March 15 (once every 24 years);
2) the annular solar eclipse on May 20 (once every 18 years); and
3) the transit of Venus on June 5 (last one til 2117!)

To read more reviews of Celestial Almanack, Vol 2, please visit the TOS Crew blog.

As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a free download of Celestial Almanack for this review. All opinions are my own.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Math Rider (TOS Review)


There are a lot of resources out there to help kids  practice their math facts---basic flashcards, math games, computer programs, etc. Some are fun, some not so fun. Some provide efficient practice, others are a bit heavy on the “game” and lighter on the math.

Although Emily knows her math facts fairly well, she could stand to improve her speed, so I was interested to see how Math Rider would stack up against other programs we’ve tried.  It teaches mastery of all 4 math operations with numbers 1-12 and is designed for children ages 6-12. To play, the child begins a “quest.” A short story scenario is given, then the child rides his or her horse, “Shadow,” across deserts, mountains, and so on. Math problems appear at the bottom of the screen. As the problem is answered, the horse jumps over an obstacle. If the problem is missed, the horse stops while the game gives the correct answer. The problems and speed are adjusted to the child’s abilities, with problems the child has trouble with generated more frequently.

Emily loved the game, wanting to persist each time until a quest was won. The graphics are very nice and help to keep interest high. Emily was motivated to beat her score each round. I felt that the program was motivating for her, yet didn’t waste a lot of time in non-productive game activities. She did wish for more different “quests,” however. I think more storylines would have added more interest to the game. After a while, she was bored to hear the same story over and over again.

Up to 8 players can play on a single license, making this great for homeschool families.

My only small complaint was in the minimum system requirements for the program. Since it requires a minimum resolution of 1024 by 768 pixels, Emily wasn’t able to play on her netbook  that has a resolution of 1024 by 600 and had to use my computer.

4/5 stars for this fun program


Math Rider retails for $49.95 and is currently on sale for $37 until Feb. 15 and you can even try it free for 7 days.

To read more reviews of Math Rider, please visit the Crew Blog.

I received a free 2 month access to Math Rider in order to write this review. All opinions are my own.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grow Bible (Review)


We recently received the Grow! Bible, published by Crossway Books, to review. This ESV Bible is great for older elementary or middle school aged children. It includes the complete ESV Bible translation in a font size that is easy to read. (Emily has a student Bible by another publisher that has much smaller print. She immediately noticed the difference and likes this one better.)

The Grow! Bible is packed with useful “helps” for children. Most pages have one or more “what,” “where,” “why,” or “who” questions that explain the text or culture.  Here is an example:

Where was Eden?  No one knows for certain, but it may have been in the area of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. After the flood, the geographical landmarks were no longer as they had been. (Gen. 2:10)


The Grow! Bible also includes “4U” and “Cross Connection” readings that help the reader relate the Bible to his or her personal life, articles and charts, timelines, and maps. I think that all of these helps are engaging and useful for children, helping them to better understand scripture at their level.


Emily says,

“I love this nice Bible!! It gives better explanations  than some of my other Bibles that I have.  I now have a collection of nine Bibles! One thing I like to do with all of those bibles is look up a verse then compare that verse to the other verses in my other Bibles! This Bible explains so much that I haven’t understood in my other Bibles! Like now I know what the name Joshua means, God is my salvation, is what it means by the way.”

I think that children will enjoy and be motivated to read this colorful Bible. I wish I’d had something like this when I was was a child!

5/5 Stars StarStarStarStarStar

Thank you to Crossway Books for providing me with a free copy of this Bible to review. All opinions are my own.