Sep 132012

Much research has shown that early childhood is an ideal time to begin learning a foreign language. Because of this, I’ve always tried to expose my children to Spanish at a young age. I chose Spanish mainly because it’s the easiest foreign language to find resources for children. Ideally, I would teach them Spanish by speaking it to them. But unfortunately, I don’t speak Spanish. So we’ve used various computer programs, some television shows, and even a homeschool class to expose the children to Spanish.

Now I still have young children but Lizzie (almost 6) hasn’t really had any exposure to Spanish with the exception of watching Dora. (I hope I’m not the only one who has really high ideals and standards with the older children, but then relaxes them out of necessity with the younger ones!) So I was really excited when I was selected to review Speekee TV.

What (or who) is Speekee?

SpeekeeSpeekee is a lovable, purple, Spanish-speaking puppet. Speekee and his friends speak only Spanish on the 10 episodes of Speekee, so watching Speekee is a total immersion in Spanish. The program is not vocabulary focused, although there is plenty of vocabulary included, but is very conversational in nature. The program also includes many songs which are very catchy. (I catch myself singing them!)

In addition to Speekee TV, there is a free FastTrack curriculum  that adds fun activities, worksheets, and flashcards correlated with specific segments of the Speekee episodes. The FastTrack program provides plans for 40 weeks of instruction. It can be accessed on-line or e-mailed to subscribers weekly.

Although Speekee is available on DVD, I received Speekee TV to review. Speekee TV is a subscription service allowing access to all the episodes on-line. We can hook our computers up to our television, but for ease of use (or maybe my own laziness), I just had Lizzie and Andrew watch Speekee on my laptop. We experienced no difficulties accessing the website or streaming the programs. The interface to select an episode is very intuitive, and Lizzie quickly figured out how to start the desired episode.

I opted to use Speekee in the simplest way possible. I had Lizzie (almost 6 and in the 1st grade) and Andrew (20 months) watch the programs. That’s it. I did receive the FastTrack curriculum e-mails as well, and they look like an excellent way to reinforce the Spanish learned in the program. I will be using some of the activities with Lizzie as she watches the episodes again. The activities are too advanced for Andrew, obviously. Speekee is recommended for children ages 2-10, so he’s a little too young. But he isn’t too young to enjoy the program. He LOVES it. He was sitting beside me when I started writing this review and was very excited to see Speekee on my computer. Then he was very upset that we weren’t going to watch Speekee right now.


Andrew and Lizzie watching Speekee

So are my children walking around speaking Spanish after 6 weeks of watching Speekee? Well, no. But Andrew is just barely starting to speak English. And with a program like Speekee, that isn’t the goal. I think Speekee is a fantastic and fun way to get children started on Spanish. They can learn at a young age what Spanish sounds like. They can begin to imitate it and say Spanish words with the correct accent. That can only help them in future study. (By the way, I should mention that Speekee is a UK production, so the Spanish spoken is like the Spanish spoken in Spain, not Latin America. It’s the same language, but there are some differences in some pronunciations I’ve been told.)

The recommended age for Speekee is 2-10. In my house it would never work past about 8 years old. Not because the content is too easy, but because my children would revolt at watching anything so childish after that. But every family is different, and I’m sure there are many who would find it an effective program for 10 year olds.

There are 2 subscription options for Speekee TV

  • $7.50/month or
  • $60/year

Both options give 2 weeks free at the beginning of the subscription. That allows users to try out the program to make sure it’s a good fit for their family.

If you have little ones, I highly recommend Speekee!

Disclosure: I received a 6 month subscription to Speekee TV in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Aug 162012

I’ve always thought that the best way to learn vocabulary was naturally. Students can learn vocabulary from their reading. They can also learn from hearing words used in conversation. My husband is especially good at using “hard” words with the children.We’ve also chosen to study Latin in our homeschool. (That’s not as much of a natural method, but it is different than vocabulary worksheets and an excellent way to boost English vocabulary.)

But my son is getting very close to the time to begin taking the SAT and/or ACT. (We haven’t decided for sure, but he’ll probably take both.) And he’s not as much of a reader as I had hoped he would be. (Unless you count computer manuals!) So he could use a some concentrated effort on increasing his vocabulary over the next couple of years.

This is my child who is totally allergic to workbooks or anything that has even the slightest hint of busywork. There are many things in school that I just make him do even if he doesn’t like it. But I’m not looking to add anything else to that list of “must-do’s” that causes conflict. I have found something that he actually likes! He is a super smart kid and trust me, there isn’t much that he likes and doesn’t find a million flaws with. (Not that being smart means you don’t like things, but in his case he’s extremely analytical and just naturally finds mistakes.)

Vocab VideosI was given the opportunity to review Vocab Videos, a unique vocabulary study program designed with college entrance test prep in mind. Vocab Videos are short, quirky, funny videos that teach vocabulary words. The students log on to their account on to watch the videos. There are several different storylines in the videos. During the video, there are short breaks in the action to point out and define relevant vocabulary words. After the video, there are on-line quizzes available as well as crossword puzzles and a definition worksheet. Students can also create on-line flashcards. The extra practice helps the students retain what they learned in the videos.

I am happy to report that

He likes Vocab Videos!

(I’m suddenly envisioning the old Life cereal commercial. “He likes it! He likes it!”

I really wasn’t sure what his reaction was going to be. And truthfully, it all depended on the videos. Let’s face it, there are a lot of educational videos that are, for the lack of a better word, stupid. He doesn’t like anything that is too juvenile. He also loves film making and editing, so anything that is poorly produced is very difficult for him to watch.

But Vocab Videos are professionally produced. While the acting is not going to win any Academy awards, it is perfect for what it is. The skits are meant to be funny and goofy, and the acting is a bit goofy, but it works. I do feel that I must mention that this is not a Christian company, and these videos are used in schools across the country. There are some instances of people saying God and the way the characters treat one another is definitely not nice all the time. They’re written to appeal to typical high school students so there are topics, like dating, that some families might not like.

I was given a Small Educator account. This account gives me access to all the scores of my son’s quizzes in addition to extra resources for teaching. I also set up an account for my daughter, though she hasn’t used the program yet. I found the set-up process straightforward. We’ve had no problems with the site itself. The videos play well, and the site is well-organized and easy to navigate.

Overall, we give Vocab Videos 2 thumbs up! (Or should that be 4 thumbs up since there are 2 of us?)

Visit to sign up for an account. There are accounts available for single students for 6 months of access for $24.99 and 12 months for $39.99. The small educator account provides 12 month of access for up to 20 students for $74.99.


Disclosure: I received a Small Educator account on Vocab Videos for free in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Jul 282012

This spring I started searching for an algebra text for Anna. She’s starting 7th grade and is ready for algebra. David is very happy with his math program, but it’s a bit unconventional. It does not appeal to Anna at all! (I used to think I could buy the same curriculum for all my kids! Ha.) So I searched message boards and read reviews. This program has too much drill. That program is too easy. I felt like Goldilocks searching for the “just right” algebra curriculum.

I had finally settled on a program, but had not purchased it. I was still not totally sure, since I had not actually seen the curriculum, and it was a textbook only. I was not sure how we were going to handle the lessons. But then I was given a fantastic opportunity to review No-Nonsense Algebra from Math Essentials. Based on the title alone, this program would be a perfect fit for my no-nonsense girl.

The soft-cover book is divided into 10 chapters.
No-Nonsense Algebra

  1. Necessary Tools for  Algebra
  2. Solving Equations
  3. Graphing and Analyzing Linear Equations
  4. Solving and Graphing Inequalities
  5. Systems of Linear Equations and Inequalities
  6. Polynomials
  7. Rational Expressions (Algebraic Fractions)
  8. Radical Expressions and Geometry
  9. Quadratic Equations
  10. Algebra Word Problems


The chapters are divided into lessons. Each lesson begins with an introduction, followed by examples, exercises, and review of previous material. There are 10-20 problems (usually closer to 20) in each exercise along with 4 review problems. That seems to be a good number of problems for practicing the concept. At least, I think it is the right number for my daughter. She generally grasps new mathematical concepts fairly quickly, but she’s not opposed to doing practice problems (unlike my son).


But I haven’t mentioned the best part! Each of the lessons has a video component! The on-line videos are found easily on the No-Nonsense Algebra web site. In the videos, author Richard W. Fisher, teaches the new concept. The videos are relatively short (about 10-15 minutes). They are, like the title suggests, no-nonsense as well. It’s simply a math teacher demonstrating and explaining how to work algebra problems. There are no bells or whistles, just good, solid math instruction.


At the risk of this sounding like an infomercial, I just have to ask…


How much would you expect to pay for an Algebra 1 text that includes on-line video instruction?


$100 or more?


No-Nonsense Algebra is only $27.95! In reviews, I usually just state the price without making a comment because very often what one person considers a good deal, someone else considers too expensive.  But this is an unbelievable value!


I have found the Algebra 1 program for Anna next year and I couldn’t be happier!


I should mention, that as I read on the Math Essentials website, No-Nonsense Algebra seems to be marketed as a supplement. But they are also marketing to public schools. I’ve looked over the topics and I do not see any reason why this cannot be used as a stand-alone algebra curriculum.


In addition to No-Nonsense Algebra, I also received a copy of Mastering Essential Math Skills – Geometry. This is a smaller workbook, that I do think is more of a supplement. There are review, helpful hints, and problems for each section, but it doesn’t include the introduction, examples, and video instruction. Although it is for geometry, it covers geometry topics that are usually covered in elementary math curricula. It would be a good practice program to review for the SAT or ACT because students tend to forget many of the geometry terms.


Mastering Essential Math Skills – Geometry is available for $11.95.
Both these resources, plus many more can be purchased from Math


Disclosure: I received a copy of No-Nonsense Algebra and Mastering Essential Math Skills – Geometry in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Jul 152012

As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I get to test a lot of products. I love trying out a wide variety of resources in my homeschool, many of which I am unfamiliar with before receiving to review. Professor B Math is one of those.

Professor B is an on-line math curriculum. I’ve reviewed a lot of on-line math curriculum in the last few years. I can honestly say that Professor B is completely different from any of the others I’ve seen. When I think of on-line math curricula, several things immediately come to mind.

  1. Math fact drill
  2. Games with graphics and sound
  3. Independent learning

Professor B is not designed for any of these.

It is not a math fact drill program, but any student who completes this curriculum will know his math facts.

It is not a game. The graphics are very simple and there is no sound. This is by design because…

Professor B is not for students to use independently.

Professor B Math is for the parent/teacher and student to go over together. Professor B does the teaching, but the parent/teacher makes sure that the student is understanding.

The program claims that students can progress through up to three years worth of math in one year.

There are 3 levels that include the following topics.

Pre-k though 2nd graders and remediation of older learners. Introduction to Addition/Subtraction Facts – Counting to One Hundred – Lower Addition and Subtraction – Higher Addition and Subtraction – Place Value Fractional Parts & Order – Time – Money

3rd grade through 5th grade and remediation of older learners. Multiplication/Division Facts and Problem Solving – Introduction to Fractions – Fractional Equivalence – Addition and Subtraction Fractions

6th through 8th grades and remediation of older learners.Multiplication/Division of Fractions – Decimals – Percents

After looking at the placement test for Level I, I decided to start both my 10 year old son and 5 year old daughter in Level I.

Level I begins with understanding the numbers 1 -10. This includes recognizing the numerals, but it goes much deeper. It includes exercises in quickly identifying how many things are on the screen. That’s pretty easy for 1, 2, or 3, but as the numbers get higher, it’s not so simple to quickly be able to tell if  there are 7 or 8 balls. I remember seeing this idea in an older math text and thought that it was something lacking in the math curriculum we were using, so I was excited that Professor B included it.

In addition to quickly identifying numbers of objects, it presented numbers as combinations of fingers. For example, if you’re holding up 1 finger on your left hand and 2 fingers on your right hand, that’s called a one – two – three. Swap the sides and it’s a two – one – three. This is a very gentle way of introducing addition facts. I did have a little problem with all the finger counting though.

Do you see it? I’m not sure how they didn’t catch this as a problem, but it bothered me, partly because I’ve been trying to teach both of these children to stop using their middle fingers to point. This may or may not be a problem at all to you.

My 5 year old daughter participates enthusiastically in the lessons. She did start to get a little bored with all the number understanding sections, but I was afraid to skip them since they seem so foundational.We have not made it as far as I would have liked in the program at this point due to summer-time travel, but so far, I’ve been impressed. I’ll continue with it for her.

My 10 year old son did not participate enthusiastically at all. (We were not doing the lessons at the same time as his sister. I knew better than that!) He needs math remediation. He has not mastered all the material in Level 1, but I struggled with where to start him. I thought the beginning was important, so I tried to work through that with him. He was very upset and felt like the program was babyish. So I skipped ahead to try to find something that wasn’t so easy. (Though he truthfully had not mastered the understanding numbers part. He had a hard time getting the quick number recognition problems correct. His sister was much better at them.) Unfortunately, by the time I tried another section with him, he had already developed a strong dislike for the program. So I completely backed off Professor B with him. I hope to try it again if I can figure out where to start him. I may jump into the telling time section because he’s never mastered that skill.

A subscription to Professor B E-learning is available for $20/month. It can also be purchased for $100 for 3 years of access to a single level. The yearly price is not on the website yet, but it should be soon.

Disclosure: I received a 1 year subscription to Professor B in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

May 202012

Learning math facts brings up images of studying boring flash cards. And I don’t just mean boring for the kids! I really do think drilling math facts is important, but it has not been something that I’ve made enough time to work on with my kids. It takes time and my time is spread really thin homeschooling 5 children and working part-time.

What’s the answer, then?

Have someone else guide the drill. Or in this case, something.

There are many options for computer-based math fact drill. I’ve recently been given the opportunity to review one that I was unfamiliar with: CapJaxMathFax.


CapJaxMathFax is a simple computer program designed to drill students on all 4 mathematical operations. It allows students to master their math facts in a systematic progression. There is immediate feedback for the student and reporting capability for the teacher. It allows children to study math facts independent of the teacher, freeing up the teacher for other tasks.

The program is very simple to use. There are no distracting graphics and sounds. The problems are presented in a large font. Both horizontal and vertical problem orientation is used. The mouse is not used during the drill time, only the number keys (or keypad) and enter key. The student is challenged to not only get the fact correct, but to earn a SUPER rating on every math fact. The default setting for SUPER rating is answering in under 3 seconds. The student can practice or play for rating. Students build their rating over time and their progress is remembered in subsequent sessions. A bar graph is built on the screen allowing the student to visually see their progress.

I had my 10 year old son test serve as my main tester of this program. He has some learning difficulties and is behind in math, so he does need to work on his facts. He specifically needs to work on memorizing his multiplication facts, so that is where we started. I changed the Super Seconds from 3 to 6 for him. That is still tough for him. It just takes time for his brain to process what the problem is, then think of the answer, and then type in the answer. His progress on multiplication has been slow. Thinking that maybe the 6 seconds was an unrealistic target for him, I tested him with addition facts. I discovered that he can do the addition that fast because he knows it well. That definitely gives me hope for the multiplication!

He doesn’t love the program, but he doesn’t hate it either. (I know that doesn’t sound complimentary, but it actually is. He hates most everything that has to do with school. We’re really struggling.) I think that the program does exactly what it claims to do – helps students to master math facts. It is an ideal program for students who are easily distracted by games and sounds.

CapJaxMathFax is available to purchase through their website. A 12 month license is available for $29.95.


Disclosure: I received a 6-month license in order to review this program. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Mar 042012

K5 Learning is an on-line program for students from kindergarten through grade 5. Designed to be used by students for after-school practice, it is also works well in a homeschool setting. K5 provides lessons in reading, spelling, math, and math fact drill.

I selected my almost 10 year old son to test K5 Learning. Officially, I say he is in 3rd grade. However, most of his skills are a bit behind 3rd grade. We received the program right as it was time for him to memorize the multiplication tables in math, so he spent most of his time working in the math fact drill section of the program.

Before studying a group of math facts, there is a pre-test. If the student passes the pre-test, then those lessons will be skipped. (Or that’s what I’m assuming. My son did not pass any of the pre-tests so that I could see.) In a lesson, a new fact (or 2) is taught. I like that the fact is shown and read to the student. The student quickly gets to practice the new facts. Previously learned facts are added,  providing continuous review and reinforcement. After a lesson, the student is allowed a fun game as a reward. This time is limited though, and the student must work through lessons to earn arcade time.

The goal of the fact drill section is quick recall. Therefore, the default settings for mastery of the fact requires the student to answer very quickly. I found this setting to be unrealistic for my son, but I was able to lengthen the amount of time in the parent account. The program provided detailed instructions for changing this. After every lesson the child can see how he is progressing through his math facts.

K5 Learning

I also had my son take the reading assessment so he could test the reading program. The assessment was very long. It was difficult for him, since he has struggled with reading. I had to guide him through the assessment to make sure he completed the questions. I tried not to assist him except in explaining what he was supposed to do and helping him to stay focused on the task. However, I think that the program placed him too high in reading comprehension. It might have been because I made him read the stories with me. When he was trying to use the program, he had a tendency to just guess the answers. I could sit with him and make him do the reading and guide him through the questions. But if I’m using an on-line program, I want my child to be able to use it virtually independently. To me the biggest value in an on-line program is that it provides instruction or practice for my child that I don’t have to give. On-line programs need to free me up to work with other children. Maybe if I had not watched him during the assessment, the program would have placed him at a level that he would be able to read without my encouragement.

Overall, I think K5 Learning is a fun way to provide additional instruction and practice for students in core subjects. I think most students would be able to use the program independently.

To learn more about K5 Learning, visit their website. The site offers free assessments and a 14 day free trialSubscriptions are available for $25/month for one child. An additional child can be added for only $15. Yearly subscriptions are also available for $199 with an additional child for $129.
 Disclosure: I received a free trial of K5 Learning in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

Mar 012012

I have a 5 year old daughter who is very enthusiastic about learning to read. She’s also very enthusiastic about “playing” on the computer. And I confess, I’m very happy to let her play educational computer games. I just don’t have as much time to work with her as I would like. It’s hard to find time to work with all my children individually.

Reading Eggs

When I was given the opportunity to review Reading Eggs, I had a feeling she would love it. But I honestly had no idea just how much she would love it! She took the beginning assessment and didn’t miss any of the questions. That placed her on Map 8 out of 12. She very enthusiastically began working on completing her maps. There hasn’t been a day that has gone by that she hasn’t asked to play on Reading Eggs. And most days she has asked several times.

Reading Eggs

I asked her what her favorite thing about Reading Eggs is. She said, “I like the books they read in there.”

There are a wide variety of activities in Reading Eggs. The activities work on phonics, sight words, and reading comprehension. My daughter has enjoyed the phonics and sight words more than the comprehension ones. Part of that is simply because the comprehension  activities are harder for her. She was already good at decoded before beginning the program, but the extra practice and introduction of some new sounds has been good for building her reading skills.

Reading Eggs

Overall, I think this is a very fun and effective program both for struggling readers and those who are not, but still need to work on phonics. For readers who are already reading well, there is Reading Eggspress.

Reading Eggs offers free trials so there is really no reason not to give the program a try! The subscription options include:

  • 12 months for $75 (add a second or third child at 50% off)
  • 6 months for $49.95 (add a second or third child at 50% off)
  • Monthly for $9.95


Disclosure: I received a free trial of Reading Eggs in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.


Nov 182011

I’ve shared some about the difficulties my middle son (9years old) has had with reading, among other things. Because of his difficulties, I’ve done a fair amount of research on dyslexia. Since he displays many of the classic signs of dyslexia, I’ve been trying to implement strategies used in teaching reading to dyslexics. One important method is repeated reading of a passage. This repeated reading increases the reader’s fluency, allowing for greater reading comprehension and better vocal expression. Repeated reading is one of the strategies that I had not yet tried, but I had planned to in the future.

About Read Live–

When members of the Homeschool Crew were given the opportunity to review Read Live, an on-line reading program developed by Read Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. (I may have even begged.) The Read Naturally strategy consists of 3 main elements: Teacher Modeling, Repeated Reading, and Progress Monitoring. Read Naturally is a proven company that is celebrating 20 years of business this year. Read Live is a more recent, on-line version of their proven program and can be used with struggling students of all ages; from first grade through adult. The on-line version allows the student to listen to the passage being read and practice reading the passage without constant teacher interaction. The program is designed for classroom use, and I can see how it would be a tremendous help in providing differentiated instruction to students with varying needs.

As a homeschooler, I’m already differentiating instruction for all my students. But it is very difficult at times to attend to the needs of all my children. I’m often being pulled, quite literally, in 5 directions. So an on-line program helps me by providing instruction that doesn’t have to come directly from me.

I placed my son in the Sequenced Series which focuses on fluency development, vocabulary, and comprehension. There is also a Phonics Series which also improves fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension in addition to working on decoding, but I felt that he is getting plenty of practice with phonics and chose to focus on the other aspects of reading right now.

Upon logging in, the student sees a screen like this one.

After selecting the story, he first is given key words to learn.

Then the student reads the passage, and the program records the reading speed. This is the Cold Timing Step.

The student must listen to the story being read and read along for a minimum of 3 times. After that, the student reads the story again while being timed. Each time he reads it, he marks how far he read in the allotted time by clicking on the last word read. When the pre-determined reading rate goal is reached, the student is allowed to continue. Then there is a brief quiz to check for comprehension, as well as a section to retell the story. Finally, the teacher is required to view the student’s work and makes the decision to pass the student allowing him to choose another story, or continue working on the current story.

What we think–

As I mentioned, this program is designed for classroom use. Setting up the account was a bit cumbersome for one student. I am the school administrator. I also had to make myself the teacher with another user id and password and then assign my student to my class.  Read Naturally did provide thorough instructions to guide me through the process as well as additional help and video tutorials on-line. I was still confused for a while, but after the initial set-up I haven’t had any more difficulties.

Using the program itself is simple. My son was able to figure out what he was supposed to do with little input from me. We didn’t experience any technical difficulties with the program either.

The story selections consist of various science and history topics. My son has completed stories about the sun and polar bears. The history/biography selections are rather politically correct: Elizabeth Blackwell, Amelia Earhart, George Washington Carver, and Susan B. Anthony are the only ones available on my son’s level. I guess that’s to be expected in a program designed for use in the public schools.

The voice reading the stories may be annoying to some. It bothered my older son, but that was solved by using headphones so he didn’t have to hear it. (I should note that just about everything bothers my older son.)

I didn’t like that the quiz required at least one answer to be typed in by the student, nor did I like the retelling portion of the program for my son. I do see the value at more advanced levels. But I discovered that these can be skipped by just typing a word or two in the space and moving on. The teacher gets to decide whether or not to pass my student. So I can choose to skip the retelling, or have him orally narrate to me while I type.

My son does not like doing the lessons. However, I do not choose curriculum based solely on what my children like. I love seeing his reading speed increase as he practices the stories! I am also seeing improvement in his reading outside the program, both fluency and comprehension. It’s impossible to say how much of the credit for his reading improvement is due to Read Live. It could be a total coincidence, but I doubt it.

Will I continue with Read Live? Probably not now because of the expense. But the program has helped me to see the benefit of repeated reading. If I am unable to implement repeated reading in another manner, I would definitely consider this option.

You can read more reviews of Read Live at the Homeschool Crew blog. Read Naturally Live also offers a 60 day free trial. A 12-month subscription for one child is $149.

PhotobucketDisclosure: As a member of the Homeschool Crew,  I received a trial of Read Live in order to write this review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Sep 152011


It’s kind of a dirty word to students and some educators. It invokes images of tedious copying of spelling words or rote recitation of math facts.

And in all honestly, it’s not something that has been a strong point in our homeschool up to now. I’ve got some “good” reasons. (Or maybe I should call them excuses since I’m being honest.)

  • Son #1 has been blessed with a memory that doesn’t require much drilling.
  • The attitude about drill has been less than stellar.
  • It takes me time  to go through flashcards or quiz effectively.

But to lock something into long-term memory there is going to be some drill required. Really. There is just no way around it. One could make the case that anything someone uses often they will remember, and if they don’t use it often enough to remember, then they can just look it up or figure it out when they need it. But I personally disagree. There are some things that I want my children to KNOW.

Big IQ kids

I was excited to find that I had been selected to review Big IQ as a member of TOS’s Homeschool Crew. Ideal for students in 2nd through 5th grades, Big IQ kids is designed to make practicing spelling, vocabulary, math, and even learning the states more fun than flash cards. In addition, children are rewarded for their time spent practicing with credits in the game area.

I assigned my middle son to work on Big IQ kids, since he is the only one in my family that falls in ideal age range.

We started out with math on the default setting.  There were a lot of problems in the problem set! (I think it was 50.) That was way too many for my son to do and maintain his focus.

Thankfully, I found the option to modify the math lessons.

That was a huge help. You can customize the problems so that your child is practicing what he needs to practice, and you can customize the length of assignments.

My son loves maps so he tried out the U.S. States program next.

I like the way this game starts out very easy. In Level 1, the student is shown the location, spelling, capital, and abbreviation and asked to click on it or copy it. But I wish that there was an option to turn off State Spelling. Or maybe make it Step 4. Typing in the spelling of the states (even though it was just copying) was too tedious for my son, who has difficulty reading and types by copying one letter at a time. So we didn’t get very far with this section.

The final section that we tried was the spelling/vocabulary section. First, I had the program generate a word list. The words were reasonable, but I soon realized that to use our time more effectively, I should enter my own spelling lists. That was simple to do.

Practicing the spelling words on-line was helpful to my son. It was nice that the program automatically included a definition of the word too.

Overall, I think this is a good program to provide extra practice in a fun way. Our favorite was definitely the math portion.  I recommend trying out the free versions and seeing if they program is a good fit for your child.

All of these programs are available in both a free and premium version, except the Spelling program. The Spelling is always free! The main difference between the premium and free versions is the progress tracking capability in the premium versions. The programs are available by subject, so you don’t have to subscribe to the whole program, just the subjects that you will use. You can compare the free and premium math versions and the free and premium state versions in greater detail on the website.

The MathFacts Program is available for $9.99/month or $49.99/year. The U.S. States Program is available for $39.99/year.


Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to both the U.S. States and MathFacts Programs in order to do this review. All opinions expressed are my own.





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Sep 112011


Time4Learning is an on-line learning program for kids from preschool through 8th grade. It provides instruction in language arts, math, science, and social studies through engaging, interactive games. It can be used as the core curriculum for your homeschool, or as a fun supplement. The child can work independently on the lessons, freeing up the parent for other tasks. The program includes a thorough reporting system, allowing the parent to assess their child’s progress in the program.

This is the third time I’ve had the privilege of reviewing Time4Learning. Here are my previous reviews of Time4Learning Preschool and Time4Learning. I signed up 4 of my children for the program. (K, 3rd, 6th, and 8th grades). The primary user was my kindergarten daughter. She was the same one who used the Preschool program in the previous review. Once again, she loves it!

I assigned her to the Kindergarten level. While she was enjoying the lessons, I thought that they were a bit too easy for her. I was able to access the 1st grade level in math and reading without making any changes to my account. I found those to be a better fit for her, because she is already starting to read and do basic math. The Kindergarten math program mainly consisted of patterns, counting, number recognition. Instead of skipping to 1st grade, I could have had her first skip ahead to some of the more difficult Kindergarten topics (addition and subtraction are covered at the end), but chose not to since this is a short trial review period.

I also switched her to the 1st grade level for reading. The image above is from Chapter 1 of the 1st grade language arts program. After a short review of letter sounds, it moves right into short a words. My daughter is easily reading at this level so she had no difficulty with the concepts in the lessons, but she had some problems with completing the games. There was one particular game that required her to click quickly to hit a target, and that was too hard for her to do.  So her computer and hand-eye coordination skills weren’t quite up to the expected level for the 1st grade games, even though she frequently plays simple computer games.

Overall, I think the Time4Learning is a solid program for teaching the basics in a fun way for children who enjoy computer games. My two older students do not personally like the program. Although my oldest loves working on the computer making his own games and editing films, he doesn’t want to do his schoolwork on it. Probably because it wouldn’t allow him to finish it as quickly as his usual lessons. (That actually might be a good thing…) My older daughter is a paper loving child. She wants nothing to do with the computer at all. My middle son does like the program, but needs more teacher interaction in a core curriculum. But I would definitely consider this program for my youngest daughter. I am finding it difficult to devote enough time to teaching each of my children individually and Time4Learning could provide a way for her to be learning more independently of me.

Time4Learning offers free lesson demos. That would be the best way to find out if your child would enjoy the program. The program is available for $19.95/month for one child. Additional children can be added for a discounted price of $14.95/month. The service can be cancelled at any time and they offer a two-week money back guarantee.

Disclosure: I received 1 free month of Time4Learning in order to review it for TOS Homeschool Crew. I was not compensated for this review.



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