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Balance Benders by The Critical Thinking Co.

PhotobucketI received a copy of the beginning volume of Balance Benders:  Logic and Algebraic Reasoning Puzzles by Robert Femiano to review for TOS HomeschoolCrew.  This book is published by The Critical Thinking Company, and it is but one of a boatload of resources produced by this compnay.  The volume of Balance Benders we used is marked for grades 2-6, so I was not very optimistic that my kindergartener would be able to complete any of the puzzles.  However, as so often happens, I was pleasantly surprised that she was able to complete the first exercise with little trouble.  In fact, she enjoyed it!  The whole concept behind this book is that of recognizing equal statements that are based on a balance or scale that contain symbol(s) that are equal .  I will be the first to admit that I’m not as knowledgeable about “logic and algebraic reasoning” as I should be will be one day, but I sincerely want this to be a part of my children’s education.  This is definitely a resource that I plan to hold onto for future use, and at $10 a volume, I would definitely consider purchasing the more advanced volumes in the future.
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For more reviews of this and other Critical Thinking Company products, check out TOS Homeschool Crew blog!

This product was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

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Children’s Bible Hour::Seasons of Faith

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I have been blessed with the opportunity to review a great resource from Children’s Bible Hour Ministries.  The Seasons of Faith illustrated book series is a series of books based on Children’s Bible Hour radio scripts.  According to the CBH website, “[T]hese stories teach core truths of the Bible so that kids can easily apply them to their lives. Each book focuses on a season of faith-developing topics.”  The books are paperback and include a “read along CD” narrated by “Uncle” Charlie.  (Regular readers here know how much we love audiobooks here at the House of Hope, so these were very welcome!)  The stories illustrate Biblical principles and are kid-friendly.  So far, my girls and I have listened to Braving the Storm, which is the story of a young boy whose family has been dealt a series of difficult blows.  His grandfather helps him come to understand how such difficult times are the times to grow down deep roots in Christ.  I have also listened to Seventy Times Seven, which is the story of a boy who learns what it means to forgive as Christ has forgiven us.  Both stories are very practical and realistic in that they are about events that could really happen (and often do) in the lives of children.  Each story ends with the plan of salvation that is presented similarly to the way it is presented on the website.  These stories are very evangelistic or discipleship-oriented.  While I would not categorize these as fine literature, they do remind me of something I would’ve watched or listened to as a child in children’s church or youth camp.  I am more than happy to add them to our audiobook collection.  At $10 per title, these book-and-CD sets are comparable in price to any other that you would purchase. 

Be sure to visit the CBH website for a host of resources, including a video of the making of the Seasons of Faith series!

Visit the TOS Homeswchool Crew blog to read more reviews of this product.

This product was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.

Homeschool Library Builder

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I have been given the opportunity to review a useful resource, the Homeschool Library Builder.  Unlike most of the other products I’ve reviewed, this is not something you purchase; rather, it is a service you use.  Homeschool Library Builder is simply an online new and used bookstore which caters to the needs of homeschooling families (although anyone who loves a good book could benefit).  Becoming a member of Homeschool Library Builder is free, and it is a great service to use to search for those difficult-to-locate titles.  Books are arranged in categories, or you may simple search for a title or browse all books.  The website is easy to use both visually and technically. 

I’m not sure how the quantity of books stocked by Homeschool Library Builder would compare to the big online stores, but I like the fact that this is a home-owned and home-grown company (run by homeschooling families, no less!).  To my knowledge, all of the books (both new and used) are offered at a discount from the retail price.   Shipping appears to be based on a flat rate, too–$4.50 for USPS Media Mail and $12.20 for USPS Priority Mail.  You may pay via PayPal, credit card, or check, and they even offer an incentive program called Book Points that enables you to earn credit based on what you spend.  As a homeschooler who tries to give her business to small businesses, I’m fairly certain I’ll be returning to Homeschool Library Builder when it comes time to purchase more books. 

If you’d like to read more reviews of this company, please visit the TOS HomeschoolCrew blog.

I received no compensation for writing this review.

Beehive Reader 1

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I was sent the Beehive Reader 1 by Marie Rippel and Renee LaTulippe to review.  Beehive Reader 1 is a phonics-based reader written for use with the All About Spelling curriculum.  (Read my review of All About Spelling here.)  However, the reader can also be used independently of the spelling program, which is what we did.  

Beehive Reader 1 is simply a phonics-based basic reader.  Since January as her reading skills have greatly increased, I have been requiring Lulu to read one book aloud each day.  So far, she has read the first story from Beehive Reader 1, and honestly, she didn’t want to do that much.  Usually she has some say in what book she gets to read.  I keep a basket full of easy readers on our reading carpet in the school room.  These readers include the Bob books, various other phonics readers I’ve picked up here and there, and other easy readers (I-Can-Read books, etc.) we’ve checked out from the library.  Sometimes I’ll pick for Lulu, but often I let her pick.  She likes that.  However, she read the story from Beehive Reader 1 with no problem, and I appreciated the fact that it was entirely predictable in the skills needed to read it in its entirety.  (Not every easy reader is that way!)

Beehive Reader 1 has an old-fashioned feel to it, with black-and-white pencil sketch-ish illustrations.  It’s really quite lovely.

 

The illlustrations are simple enough to not be distracting, but interesting enough to encourage the reader to want to keep reading. Beehive Reader 1 contains ten stories, and the stories grow progressively more difficult.  To put it simply, it’s just a reading textbook (or maybe a supplemental reading textbook would best describe it, since it contains no instructional materials), and it serves that purpose well.  I think if we were using All About Spelling as our primary language/reading curriculum, I would use this supplementally.  However, I’m not sure I would shell out the $19.95 for this as a stand-alone book.  We have reading materials in abundance here at the House of Hope, and we have access to several well-stocked libraries.  However, if phonics readers were in short supply, I might consider a reader like this. 

For other opinions about Beehive Reader 1, be sure to visit TOS HomeschoolCrew blog.

I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

Math Mammoth

I scarcely know how to write this review because I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this curriculum.  I received it as a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, and since we are in the middle of using a curriculum for Lulu’s kindergarten that seems to be working extremely well, I used Math Mammoth as a supplemental resource.  I incorporated worksheets from the Blue Series, which I received electronically.  Specifically, Lulu worked on pages from the Math Mammoth Addition 1 worktext, since that is as far as she has gotten skill-wise.  I used it as an open-and-go resource; I did not do any extra instruction, which is exactly how the Blue Series books are designed to be used:  as supplemental, remedial, or review material.  The worksheets Lulu completed served the purpose for which we used them very well.  I was also pleased to find in the introductory material of the worktext a list math websites that could be used for practice.  Lulu and Louise have both played a few math games on some of the recommended websites, and I appreciate the fact that these resources were gathered for me and I didn’t have to go looking for them.

 

Although the Blue Series worktexts are arrange topically (as opposed to by grade level), Math Mammoth does publish complete leveled curricula for grades first through fifth.  I have not seen these materials, but I would guess based on our experience thus far with Math Mammoth that they would be an excellent choice for a complete curriculum. 

I give Math Mammoth a Highly Recommended.  It is very affordable and can be purchased in a variety of combinations determined by the students’ needs.  The website offers a wealth of helpful information, as well.  I am glad to have Math Mammoth in our homeschooling arsenal, and I am sure we will continue to use this resource as the girls make progress in their mathematics education.

For more reviews of Math Mammoth, check out TOS HomeschoolCrew blog.

I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

MathTutorDVD.com

As a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I had the opportunity to view two DVDs from MathTutorDVD.com for review.  Honestly, educational DVDs are not a high priority here at the House of Hope; we much prefer books over anything on a screen.  However, we gave these DVDs a try. 

The first DVD the girls and I watched is from the Young Minds series, and it’s obviously for the younger, preschool set.  The title of it is Young Minds–Numbers and CountingAfter watching a few minutes of it, it was obvious that my girls, at ages 5 and 4, are too old for this particular DVD.  (Perhaps a better way to say it is that they are beyond the skills emphasized in this DVD.)  Essentially, it’s simply a series of pictures containing one to ten objects.  For example, the first picture/screen is of a frog with the number one beside it.  The next screen is a picture of two objects, etc.  For much younger children, this might be okay.  However, my girls watched up until number four out of sheer politeness.  (Louise was busily turning somersaults off the sofa in the mean time.)  There are a few positives:  the photographs are bright, colorful, and very eye-catching.  The whole DVD is set to classical music.  (You can view excerpts from the DVD here.)  However, I would prefer to introduce my own young child to the concept of counting and numerals by simply reading him any number of board books.  For the $19.99 pricetag, I would skip this one.

 

We also reviewed The Basic Math Word Problem Tutor, which I scarcely feel qualified to review at this point in our homeschooling career.  I’ll give it a try, though.  🙂  We watched part of the first section of the first DVD.  It is entitled “Adding Whole Numbers,” and obviously, it’s all about addition in the context of word problems.  I was surprised at how engaged Lulu was during the part that we watched.  She actually listened to the on-screen tutor and did the addition by counting on her fingers.  This was a proud mama moment!  🙂  Honestly, I thought watching the DVD was a lot like watching a teacher teach the concepts in a classroom.  The part we watched was very low-tech.  It was simply a man (who didn’t give an extremely polished presentation, at that) standing in front of a white board, explaining and working math problems.  His explanations were slow and thorough, but there weren’t many (any) “bells and whistles.”  Since we’re not at the point in our homeschooling experience to actually need such help, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I do consider it a plus that it engaged Lulu enough to complete a few math problems, though.  I think I might consider this DVD if our more one-on-one approach weren’t working, and at $26.99, it wouldn’t break the budget.

MathTutorDVD.com offers much more than just these two DVDs–take a look! You can also find more reviews of their products at the HomeschoolCrew blog

I received these products free of charge for review purposes.

Presidential Penmanship by Zeezok Publishing

PhotobucketAs a member of TOS HomeschoolCrew, I received a copy of Presidential Penmanship from Zeezok Publishing for review.  Presidential Penmanship is a series of handwriting practice pages.  I received the Italic style complete program, but programs are available for many different styles of handwriting.  This is essentially a CD-ROM containing copywork for first grade through high school; however, it is also available for download. 

Students using this program copy presidential quotations.  I have looked most thoroughly at the first grade program since I am currently teaching a kindergartener and a preschooler, and I can see the usefulness of this resource.  Students focus on one quotation each week.  In the first grade program, students have two opportunities to trace the words, and then there is space for them to write the quote independently.  Each year’s program also has blank, lined pages for more copywork practice.  Obviously, it would be easy to compile a list of quotations and develop one’s own program, but for the cost of this program, I think it might be worth it.  The complete program is available for $39.99, and individual years are only $9.99.  (As a bonus, this program could also be used for memory work!)

Check out the HomeschoolCrew blog for more reviews of products from Zeezok Publishing.

This product was sent to me free of charge for review purposes.