Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Review: Math Mammoth

Math Mammoth is compiled and written by Maria Miller. Maria is a math teacher who turned housewife, mom and homeschooler and developed a curriculum for her own children as well as other homeschooled students and their moms. she has over 20 years of experience with both public and private schools and tutoring services.

It is mostly an elementary school series which is written in 2 different ways. The Light Blue Series is a complete curriculum for each level and so I received the Light Blue Second Grade Level Books. The second is called Math Mammoth Blue Series Books. These books focus on a few topics per book. There is the ability with the purchase of these book series to utilize math worksheets on the site for more practice with each topic. There are worksheet collections on the site (http://www.mathmammoth.com/ ) called the Green Series or Gold Series which are a collection of one page worksheets with varying problems. There is as you can tell a wide variety of both full curriculum ideas and supplementary curriculum to view on her site.

I have been using the Light Blue Series Second Grade Curriculum for about 4 weeks now and I am finding it a lot easier to help my 2nd grader stay focused on his math. Ms Miller has the right amount of explanation for each topic before giving examples, and then the actual worksheets for the student to complete. Daniel is doing well and almost scores 100% every time. He does get most upset when he checks his answers and finds he has incorrect answers. This is challenging to him, although he is improving. I chose to review a full curriculum due to all the gaps in our math learning over the past few years, with our crazy adjusting to our new way of life.

Daniel has achieved better results in math than I thought he would. He does do his worksheets and more if needed with enthusiasm. He likes the word problems, the pictures and the examples which teach him the right way to go about doing his next problem on his own. Our previous math curriculum was very demanding of my time and preparation and he needed to concentrate heavily. He did not like that. He is finding out things on his own and learning to read the question twice so that he does not get it wrong! On topics that he is consistent in getting wrong I can link to the site and produce worksheets for him to practice with until he has the concept in his head. Practice does make perfect you know!

There are reviews to complete by the student which are optional after every two chapters. This helps once again to reinforce what they have learned previously. There are links in the books to websites on the Internet that are helpful with particular topics that have been Internet. These range from games, experiments or interactive exercises to practice the math principles once again.

Each full curriculum is split up into 2 parts for e.g Grade 2 A and Grade 2B. You can choose half of one grade and half of another if you need to. The Light Blue Series curriculum is available for download through linking through their website and for Grade Level 2 A and 2B combined it is $29.50. This includes the work text, answer key cumulative reviews, a worksheet maker and SoftPak software to run the program. For Grades 1-5 a Light Blue Series package for download costs $99.00 at a 33 % savings over individual courses. The CD can be sent to you for $104. If you have a number of children this would definitely be a great savings for you over the years, but also even with just two or 3 children. There is a "Frequently Asked Questions" page on the website for you to read and compare which would be the most beneficial topics or curriculum or series to use from Math Mammoth (http://www.mathmammoth.com/faq-lightblue.php#3a ).

I will continue to enjoy using Ms Miller's curriculum this year and will seriously look at possibly continuing with this if the results are good, which so far they seem to be. It is a really easy way to prepare each week for our math lessons, read, printout and review with child.

Please do link to the TOS Crew pages ( for more opinions of this product and read up on what everyone reviewed and what worked for their families and may work for yours. Thanks for reading this.

I am a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for 2009/10 and received this product free for our family to use in our homeschool and right up this review. The above information is my own opinion.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Reviews: Rays Math/Dollar Homeschool

I know that all it seems that I do on here is review curriculum, but we have had rather a lot of things to do recently and my children have been ill since Christmas. My youngest is still not himself as he has a dose of shingles, as well as flu.

The above curriculum is a rather interesting and 'old' one. Rays Math on CD is put together by a company called Dollar Homeschool. On this CD is a collection of books now in PDF format which are a Math text book series from the 1800's. On looking at the initial amount of files I was overwhelmed, but then I began to read them and focused on just the first few books that were of use to me at this time in our homeschool journey.

I opened up the Welcome folder which explained how to work out where to start your child in the series and how to move from one book to the other and when. The 'Manual of Methods' book explained each method, how to teach the math and explaining why it is taught this way. On reading this I realized that most of the lessons are taught orally and using manipulative's like balls, buttons, sticks, marbles etc to teach the student the number concepts. A second teachers manual is called 'A Manual of Arithmetic' and presents in detail how to teach these different levels of Math.

The Student series begins with the book called Ray's Primary Arithmetic. I have used many pages from this manual as an alternative math curriculum on days when I did not want my son to do his written math. I had him march around the table reciting the answers to the quick math questions I was asking him. These were basic " What is 6 + 7", what is 7 + 6, what is 6 + 8, what is 8 + 6. The questions are set up like this in order to get the student to be able to learn the reverse equations and not just one directional. Basic addition and subtraction have improved amazingly in my son's math ability. He has had to think fast and as he is moving and not sitting still at a desk his brain has worked better. He is a fidget child. We will progress towards the multiplication level later in this year probably.

The set of books on CD is all in PDF format as I said before but when you open one book you can access all the others through the Bookmarks column on the left side. You can flip from one book to the other easily without having to go back and locate the individual file you need. That is convenient. There are 38 books in the series which is part of the Ecelectic Education Series but can be purchased separately for $59.00. The books on the CD range from Primary level all the way through to 12th Grade and include difficult topics like Algebra and even Bookkeeping. At the end of looking through what was on the CD there is a lot to read and absorb so I could not do all of that but I am impressed. You can find details of this set at the following link:

Once you are used to the language and flow of the books you can adapt the way you teach and see your child benefit more from learning that just using a non-reproducible book. This does save on the cost of your math curriculum for the younger children. I have chosen to use these books as a support to the math I have already chosen for my son and it is helping him grasp concepts faster. It seems that children in the 1800's and early days of America could count better than they can today. Perhaps my son will be different if he learns these basics when he is young.

There is a video on the website that you can watch to give you more ideas on the series and there is always the rest of the TOS Homeschool Crew's reviews to look at. They are individual opinions on the same product or a variation of Rays Arithmetic and/or Eclectic Education Series. See the other reviews here: http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HomeschoolCrew/756018/

As a part of the 2009/10 TOS Homeschool Crew I was sent this product free of charge to review and share my opinion on this blog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

TOS Review: Presidential Penmanship: BJ Style Complete Program

At the beginning of January I received a CD disk in the mail for a handwriting product. Whoa - I thought! My son does not like lots of writing at the best of times so what is going to say when he sees this to do every day for quite a few months.

I presented the idea to him one day and showed him that it is just a little bit a day and then on the 5th day you can do your best handwriting of the week. The "BJ Style Complete Program" CD of Handwriting is a supplemental handwriting skills program for 1st grade through senior high based on writings and quotes from America's founding fathers and presidents. "BJ" is similiar to BJU Press. Through the 4-5 weeks of exposure to these quotes of great men my son has realized that his handwriting can improve and it can be interesting and not boring copy work either. The producer of this product is called Zeezok Publishing or The Book Peddler.

I have included some samples of his handwriting when tracing and copying phrases from George Washington and John Adams. (picture on right side above.) After 4 weeks (we are now in the 4th quote week) his handwriting has improved somewhat and I am sure with continued perseverance on both of our parts, he will have neater and more presentable handwriting by the end of the year.

The student uses this program on a daily basis, tracing over the quote initially and then on Day 5 they are expected to write the quote on their own. The quotes can be printed out weekly or monthly whenever the parent has time to organize their students work. The Week 4 quote I would like to share with you.

"Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people."
- John Adams

I think as he is writing these quotes he is thinking more about what is being said, especially if it is repeated. The student may learn these quotes like they learn Bible verses and then can give them at a recital for example.

This CD covers Grade 1 through senior level of school. The quotes will obviously differ in difficulty as the student is more advanced. Grade 1-2 have quotes that are reasonably short. Grade 3-4 students will learn cursive quotes from some of our nation's Chief Executives, as well as passages from speeches by Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln and more. In 3rd -4th grade there are 108 skill-building lessons for practice three times per week for 36 weeks. Fifth graders will be writing longer passages with more content that are giving them a historical and interesting view of our past leaders. The CD's come at a cost of $39.95 for the complete program on CD (1st grade through Senior High), or individual grade level can be purchased on CD for $9.99 each.
The TOS Homeschool Crew has been sent different CD's to what I have reviewed and the reviews are on the TOS Crew Review Blog. You will see them here at this link:
The website for Zeezok Publishing/The Book Peddler is here :
They have many other historical books and CD's available on their site too. It makes for an interesting hour of browsing around actually. I like this way of learning. Yes it seems like I like all the products that I have reviewed but that is not true. I like products that really work for my family. This supplemental handwriting course is able to be used with many children over and over again and can be printed out on an 'as need' basis. As I said before on the website there are samples to look out and print out to try out on your students whatever age they may be.
I have written the above review as I was sent this product to use in my family homeschool and to give a written opinion on how it worked/did not work for me. I have not received any financial remuneration for this review.

Review: Beehive Reader 1

I was sent this delightful book to review for the TOS Homsechool Crew and found that I did not really want to put it down once I started. This new book series has been developed to go with the All about Spelling line of products that we reviewed earlier in the year. We have read this book during school time, and our read aloud time and it has been enjoyed by both the older and the younger generation.
I would say this reader is definitely an encouraging, lively and beautifully illustrated reader. The pictures on every page draw one into the variety of stories. My 8 yr old son read the whole book in about 20 minutes. He enjoyed it and did not show signs of boredom in any way. This book does work really great with the All About Spelling Series Book 1, as well as just for a new reader, or even a pre-schooler just learning some words by sight. The following is an excerpt from their website on the content of this book. :

Your beginning reader will delight in finding out what happens when…
…a busy cat lives in a windmill
…a sleepy bear cub takes a nap
…a grumpy duck demands a snack
…a singing bat befriends a lonely king
… a curious boy shrinks from tall to small
… and much more!
The attention to the detail (perhaps you can see in the above picture on the right side of the page) in the illustrations is really what won my heart with this short 155 page book. The test of the book reinforces what the student is learning in in their spelling lesson which is what the company aimed to do. There are more sample pages of the illustrations shown at the TOS Crew blog at the following link:

Beehive Reader 1 is printed by Takeaway Press and the website can be found at http://www.beehivereaders.com/ . There are other reviews of this book at the TOS Homeschool Crew website too. The cost for this reader is $19.95. The link to the product at their website is http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HomeschoolCrew/763935/. The other TOS Crew reviews are shown there too if you need to see someone else's opinion too on this neat book.
I do think when my pre-schooler turns 4 we will be purchasing some of these readers (hope the next 2, 3, and 4 will be out by then) for him to 'read' as he learns his spelling too.I look forward to the years ahead of using this product. To all of you who are considering this product or any from all about Spelling I say Happy reading and Teaching!
As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew for 2009-10 I was sent this book to read and write a review. The above review is purely my opinion and we have not been paid in any way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Ultimate Womens Expo

I just attended the most amazing seminar this weekend ( http://ultimate-womens-expo.com/ ) by an awesome lady called Cindy Rushton, and the ending session was on how to eat organically and healthy on a budget. In the chat room I was sharing about the chocolate recipes I had learned to make. everyone wanted them so I am puttin them here on my blog for you to read as well, and maybe I will get a few new readers on my blog too. I found these on a website called http://www.bulkherbstore.com/ where lots of neat advice about herbs and using healthy foods are found.

I know lots of my friends both in the USA and abroad are trying to change their eating habits since our beloved Brendon died. Buying a ticket to the above seminar will give you access to a bunch of audio information from at least 10 speakers and lots of freebies in articles or audios from the speaker's websites.

Here we go:

Recipes from Bulk Herb Store at http://www.bulkherbstore.com/

chocolate Icing/Fudge on a spoon

1 cup raw honey
3/4 cup coconut oil (Cold Pressed) melted
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted pecans (optional)
Peppermint extract or essential oil (to taste)

Stir ingredients well

Option 1: Use on top of a cake for icing
Option2: Grease pan with coconut oil and then fill with mixture. Chill for Fudge on a Spoon. Put it on a spoon and then eat when chilled.

Chocolate Moose Cookies/Moose Icing


1/3 cup raw coconut oil (do not melt oil)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup raw/regular honey- regular honey is runnier
1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch salt

Blend on high for 3 mins. Use fork to crush any remaining coconut oil clumps. Blend one minute more. Spoon on to cake or spoon small cookie drops onto wax paper and chill until firm.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Balls/Chocolate Energy Bar


2 cups coconut flakes (not sweetened)
1 cup Cocoa powder
1 cup raw honey
1/2 cup almond butter
1 pinch of salt

Blend for 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl and blend again for 1 minute. Roll into small balls. rollballs in coconut. Chill.

Energy Bars: Add 1/2 cup more coconut. Press until it is about 1/2 inch thick. chill. Cut into bars.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review:Math Tutor DVD's

I recently was sent at the beginning of the year 2 DVD's to review for the TOS Crew. They are so different yet both have been useful to my homeschool.

The first one that I choose to write about today is "Young Minds and Counting." This was a delight for my toddler to watch a few times in the last month. He is just learning to read letters and numbers, although has difficulty saying words. This DVD is full of awesome photography of animals, insects, trees, insects as well as trains, dump trucks and even boats. The young child counts the objects on the screen and then it changes to a different picture with the same number. The Learn to Count from 1-10 is actually a pleasure to let my toddler watch in preference to some of the other popular things that are on television these days. My children's TV and computer time is limited so I make sure they watch reliable shows when they do. If you have a 'little person' in your home from 2-5 years old who is just beginning to talk or learn their numbers and ABC's then this is a wonderful resource for you to use. The music playing along with the numbers and pictures is taken from various famous writers like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, Brahms and Chopin. I am so thankful that my child is being exposed to this kind of music at a young age. The cost for this DVD currently is $19.99 and well worth it if you have a few little ones coming up in the ranks or you can give it away after you are done with it to bless another family.

The second DVD is called "The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor." This is a set of two DVD's which is an 8 hour video course. The instructor of the course is easily understood as he guides the student through word problems on the screen in an extremely thorough manner. We were able to watch the parts applicable to my second grader which covered adding and subtracting whole numbers. I have viewed parts of the multiplication and dividing whole numbers lessons and they are also covered thoroughly. When my son does get to studying those himself I will allow him to review using this DVD. This 8 hour video course covers the following math requirements in a math word problem format:

  • adding, subtracting, multiplication and dividing of whole numbers

  • adding and subtracting decimals

  • multiplying and dividing decimals

Disk 2 of this set contains this information in word problem format:

  • Adding and subtracting fractions

  • multiplying and dividing fractions

  • Percents, Part 1 and 2

  • Ratio and Proportion

As you can see from the above I am sure this DVD can be used for review by a student from Grade 2 through to Grade 7. When the instructor is presenting the information on the screen he does not leave anything to chance but he is clear and repeats things once or twice to make sure he is understood. I like this in a teacher even though it annoyed my son who catches on to math very quickly. Your student will not get lost but might be waiting for the instructor to compete the question before he is finished explaining all the details.

On the website http://www.mathtutordvd.com/ there are other DVDs available for calculus, trigonometry, algebra and physics. The DVDs are priced at $26.99 currently and a companion worksheet CD is available for most of the courses for $24.99 each. The companion CD has plenty of practice problems for your students to work on that are presented in PDF format for immediate printing.

I copy this statement from their website to let you know how enthusiastic the instructor is about his product and why he teaches it:

"I personally get a thrill out of making seemingly complex topics suddenly easy to students. I have found over the years that the easy way to do this is to learn by working example problems, beginning with the easier ones and gradually progressing to the harder ones."

This tells me as a parent that he is wanting your student/child to succeed and therefore presenting the problems in every possible way to fully cover the subject and encourage understanding all the way through the problem is a plus in my book. I am not very wise at math and never have been but with help from Tutors like Jason Gibson my sons should be able to understand concepts that I can not clearly explain to them.

I do not like using computers and DVDs a lot for learning because I think boys need more hands on but have found success with this particular product in the case of my 8 year old kinesthetic learner. If you would like to read some more opinions and reviews from my fellow crew mates on this product please hop on over to the crew blog at this address:


The above review is my own personal opinion. I was sent this product as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew for 2009-10. I have not been paid for this review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

TOS Crew Review: KinderBach

This review has been a really fun one to do with Daniel, to work together with him and watch how he is learning, as well as allowing him to play around freely with the keyboard whilst learning.
I have always wanted my children to learn the keyboard or piano but just could not honestly afford the lessons. They would probably cost about $20-30 per lesson or less if you have two children. I have never been able to learn to read music as I just don't get it. The following program is intriguing, interesting, exciting, activity based and a great learning tool for children aged 2-10 years of age I think. The program is called KinderBach.
The website reads the following information " KinderBach uses playful characters to teach note reading, rhythm, singing, and composition." The program is an introductory way to using a keyboard or piano. The lessons are simple and easy to follow with four parts to each lesson. The concepts are reinforced by repetition and by using different learning styles in each lesson. This means that no matter how a child learns they will 'click' with the lesson when their learning style is introduced. What I mean by this is that the site uses video, coloring, action and singing/talking to explain each concept.

My son loved to watch Dodi, Frisco, Carla and other characters dance across the screen finding their way to the respective homes or places on the keyboard. He also started to place his fingers on the correct keys with his arms/hands in the correct position after a few lessons. I liked to watch the enthusiasm on his face when he was accomplishing something.

With Kinderbach the child learns the sounds as well as how the notes look in printed music, and the parent does not even need to know how to read music in advance. I noticed that Daniel was identifying the keys on the keyboard faster than ever by the 10th lesson. He would also tell me what was a half note and a whole note once he knew them. He loved the reward at the end of a school day of playing the keyboard with the computer as his teacher!

There is a coloring book for each level of lessons. The onscreen teacher guides the child through the lesson step by step and there is nothing left to chance as to what to do next. This is definitely something that I think I will be focusing on using duirng my next year of teaching as it inspired my son so much.

The lessons are available online for a cost of $95.88 per year paid in advance which works out to be about $7.99 a month. If you can only afford a monthly subscription then 12 separate payments of $19.99 per month can be made during the year. An online subscriptions gives you access to all web lessons (240 sessions) as well as accompanying PDF coloring pages which are printed out before starting your lesson.

The alternative is to purchase DVD's Activity Packages of Level 1-6 either individually for $40.45 each or in a bundle of 2-3 levels for a variety of prices. A Level 1-6 DVD package sells for $202.88 currently. KinderBach does offer a free online trial of 2 free lessons before you decide to purchase any product from them. This gives you an opportunity to see if you and your child like learning this way. Their website is here : http://www.kinderbach.com/index.html for you to click through to and sign up for those free lessons.

The Old Schoolhouse Crew Blog does have at least 90 reviews of KinderBach at the link below and I think you will find a few good opinions on there to help you make a decision on whether this program is right for your family. Oh yes I do remember this cost you pay is for the whole family to use either as an online or DVD curriculum and you do not have to pay per child.
When you factor in the cost of private lessons for each child at such a young age and the transportation to/from those lessons you will probably figure out this is a unique opportunity to invest in some great curriculum. Here is the link for the TOS Crew reviews:
I was sent this product to review as part of the TOS Crew for 2009-10. I have written the above personal review of the KinderBach product for this blog and have not been paid for any part of this information.

Do you want to join the Crew?

Are you a Homeschooling Parent or a wannabe homeschooling parent then read on? I ask you this question because I have been on 'The Old Schoolhouse Crew' of 2009/10 season for a little over 9 months now and have received lots of neat products, been exposed to some curriculum that I never thought would have worked.

The TOS Crew is opening up applications for the third season for those who are interested. Here is a link for you to click through to to read more about it.

I personally have benefited from being on the Crew as it has stretched me personally and in the homeschool arena of being a teacher of an elementary student and a preschooler. As a crew member I have access to learning from Moms and Dads who have been homeschooling for years and some who have just been at this a few years like myself. I have learned a lot about myself and what I can accomplish and that one day I will begin writing again too.

Please if you are interested in this journey click on through to the information page right here : http://www.theoldschoolhousestore.com/homeschool/Homeschool-Crew-2010.htm

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Review: Facts First

This is a hard product for me to talk about but I will do the best I can. The difficulty being that as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Crew I was given a 90 day membership to the Facts First website (http://www.factsfirst.com/login.jsp), but my codes never worked so I am reviewing this product off of what was available to look at and practice on the site.

Facts First is a fun learning environment using real life situations that help to learn basic math facts in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The two practice games available on the site are using addition and multiplication.
To begin with the students get to create a character (avatar) which will appear on the pages they are using as an indication they are personally involved.

  • The addition game is shopping at Mathmart buying bread, milk and apples. The child practices two - 3 equations put on the screen in different orders or in the same order as before. The student answers the questions and depending on how quickly and accurately he/she answers you earn time for playing Arcade games after the lesson. The Mathmart screen is shown above in the picture on the left.

  • The multiplication questions that are for testing on the site are definitely for an upper elementary child to practice on. They do involve the 12 times table. They are using an order of photographs/pictures for example, a certain number of copies of each picture resulting in a total order for a total amount.

  • Playing at the arcade with the seconds earned during the practice of math equations is a good break from learning, although the facts just learned are used in the arcade time to reinforce the learning process. Above is a picture shown of one of the 4 choices of arcade to play around on. When I played around with it I got a 'find the difference' between the two pictures to use up my free play time.

The incorrect answers are corrected on screen and the student is given a second chance to do that equation again later in the lesson. There is a chart available at the end of playing or during a session to see what answers were incorrect, sometimes correct, always correct and sometimes hit and sometimes hit. This does help the parent to see where the student's weaknesses and strengths are.

I think this would be a good program to use for a child that is motivated by the reward to play the games. My son loved the practice sessions that are available online before you buy. He actually played it over and over again as he liked it so much.

I would like to ask you after reading this review to take a look at my other Crew mates reviews too as they have children in a wide range of ages who have been using the site for about 45 days or so. Here is the link to the page for Facts First at The Old Schoolhouse Crew : http://www.homeschoolblogger.com/HomeschoolCrew/758356/

Factsfirst is being distributed by Saxon, but was created by Skills Tutor, a sister company to Saxon. This program will complement any primary math program, and was not created specifically to accompany Saxon Math. It comes at a cost of $49.95 for a whole family usage for one year. Here is a link to their website: http://www.factsfirst.com/login.jsp

I have received the free access to the Facts First website for 90 days due to being a member of the Old Schoolhouse Crew for 2009/10. I have not been paid for this review and it is my own opinion of the product that I have written above.