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Teaching Textbooks

Math Mammoth: Light Blue Series

Math Mammoth produces various math workbooks and curriculums at affordable prices for homeschooling families. They offer a wide range of worktexts for grades 1 through 8. The workbooks are very thorough and there are four different series to choose from (click on the picture for a larger view):

Prices vary on the workbooks, depending on what series you choose to work with, or if you purchase individual workbooks ($3.50/each or a full series). The series we received, the Light Blue series for 1st and 2nd grade, is a complete curriculum for the school year. We received the e-book version and each grade level would be $27 for the full year’s curriculum (e-books can be purchased through The Old Schoolhouse store). There is also the option to purchase the full printed curriculum through lulu.com.

The Light Blue series are set up into major topics, allowing you to focus on a few topics at time and really make sure that your child has a complete grasp on the topic being studied. Generally curriculums introduce a new lesson topic and then move onto another topic quickly with little review of past topics.

Math Mammoth focuses on a few topics per grade so that the concepts are mastered and understood fully. There is little teacher-prep needed, other than printing off pages if you purchase the e-book version of the text. From the Math Mammoth site:

When you use these books as your only or main mathematics curriculum, they can be like a “framework”, but you still have liberty in planning your child’s studies. While addition, subtraction, and place value topics are best studied in the order they are presented, or … in a different order.

Laurianna and McKenna had a little difficulty adjusting to the curriculum mainly due to the wording and the way the problems were set up. The layout/format is different from the curriculum that we had been using, so it took almost 3 weeks for them to get to the point that they weren’t complaining about having to do the worksheets (mainly McKenna :). Overall, that was our biggest struggle with the curriculum.

This will be something that I will continue to use when the girls need extra practice on concepts they are struggling with. Having the curriculum in e-book format is convenient because I can print off the lessons that need to be covered and find the topic quickly and easily. And because I can decide what to print off, that helps save money in the long run and I don’t need to waste paper and throw away unused worksheets.

You can also subscribe to the Math Mammoth monthly email newsletter here and receive a gift of over 250 math worksheets and also sample pages from the various workbooks. If you’d like to check out other reviews for different grade levels of Math Mammoth, visit the Homeschool Crew blog.

Motherboard Books: Let’s Make a Web Page

Even though I love to fiddle around on the computer with my blog’s html, I am by NO means an expert in the area. I am fortunate to remember to save my current html…otherwise I’d have caused myself some serious harm on more than one occassion.

And while I can figure things out and it all makes sense in my head, trying to explain it to others can be a little bit of a problem. Because you probably don’t want to hear, “Click on that little thingy and then blah, blah, blah.” That would about sum up my technical instruction. And if I had to teach computer science to my kids? That could be seriously comical.

Recently I received an e-book from Motherboard Books called Let’s Make a Web Page and it is specifically geared toward teaching 8-12 year olds how to design their own web page. Phyllis Wheeler has written several computer science ebooks for homeschoolers and they are simple enough that kids (older than 10) can work through the steps on their own, with little help from parents.

Let’s Make a Web Page ($19.99) is a 60 page e-book that gives step-by-step instructions on how to put together a website of an interview (or any other topic). It explains html, adding pictures to pages, animations and more – all in simple and easy to follow steps. The table of contents will give you a great idea on the lessons and what they cover:

Introduction for Parents
Lesson 1: An Interview
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program
Lesson 3: Add Text
Lesson 4: Make a Table
Lesson 5: Add Photo
Lesson 6: From the Internet, Add Animations
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos
Lesson 8: Sound
Lesson 9: Links
Lesson 10: Post Your Work
Appendix: How to Upload to the Internet

You do need to download a free trial version of Coffee Cup html editor (for Windows) to use the e-book exactly following her instructions, so be sure to read through steps first before downloading and starting, since it is only a 30 day trial of the software.

Motherboard Books also is offering a free internet scavenger hunt if you sign up to join their newsletter. It is a mini internet lesson that introduces your child to the internet. Let’s Make a Web Page is usually $29.99 but is currently discounted to $19.99 as a special. Motherboard Books also offers a 30 day money back guarantee, so you can’t go wrong with this purchase!

If you would like to read some other reviews on Motherboard Books, head over to the Homeschool Crew blog.

Puppetools: Advancing the Language of Play

We all realize that play is important in our children’s learning but sometimes being creative is difficult. Truthfully, there are days that I struggle to get through our day, and if my kids want to do a little more creatively, I shy away from the extra effort. I am always looking for little ways that I can inject fun and creativity into our school day and make learning fun, enjoyable and something our kids look forward to each day.

Jeff Peyton, the owner of Puppetools is enthusiastic in his love for puppets in learning and helping others latch onto that same enthusiasm. He has created a website that puts together over 30 years of his research and development in play-based communication.

“A playful quality of mind will help your child self-start, be self-expressive, creative-minded, and self-confident. A child nurtured through play is more receptive to learning and more able to absorb the jolts and challenges of factory education.”

The Puppetools site has templates that can be downloaded as well as puppet images, patterns and ideas for using puppets in your classroom/homeschool time. Their goal is to help learning come alive for kids and help make any image come to life for you and your kids.

There are two different membership options: a $20 trial membership that is good for 60 days and a $99 full year membership that can have up to 30 users (for a homeschool co-op or maybe a children’s church program). A Puppetools membership includes the following:

* Time to train and master Puppetools – the “Language of Play”
* Puppetools’ online Educator Work Area
* Puppetools’ exclusive practitioner video library
* Extensive research on play and education
* Hundreds of puppet images, concepts, and patterns
* Community forums – learn with teachers around the world
* Fast, flexible puppet design and construction–in just minutes
* Single paper hinge – a great resource for puppets
* Know-how and techniques without acting, scripts, or theater
* Ideas to effectively harness play and spark motivation, participation, and receptivity
* Ways to discover the deep impact of play on students and teachers

If you struggle with creativity in your school time, this might be something for you. Personally, the $20 trial option would be the better choice if you were looking for yourself, because you should be able to manuever the site in a few days and get the information that you need, save yourself some money…and spending $99 for puppets (to me) is a little much.

You can browse the Puppetools site to find out more. You can also see other reviews on Puppetools at the Homeschool Crew blog.

Core Learning and Crayola Art Studio

If your kids love the computer as much as mine do (begging would be an appropriate word to insert here) and they happen to be a little crazy about art, then you might want to look into purchasing Core Learning’s new Crayola Art Studio ($24.95). It was just released in November and is a wonderful program for kids to create their own works of art. The program is based on the beginner levels of the corefx digital art software.

My overall impression of this product that it is AMAZING (and fun to boot)! Once I installed it on our computer, I had very little to do to show the girls how to use it. There is a quick video tour and the girls (ages 6 & 7) and even Zachary (with the girl’s help) are having far too much fun using it. You can download a free trial of the software to try out for yourself, but here are few of the features of the program:

  • realistic art tools to use – crayons, markers, paint, watercolors, chalk, oils…all available in a variety of colors and strokes.
  • color palettes that allow you to mix your own colors or choose from a pre-set range of colors
  • undo and mirror image features (rather handy for the kids!)
  • hundreds of art images that can be edited and manipulated while kids are learning how to edit pictures
  • ability to import your own pictures to edit and have fun with

If you have older children, the Corefx program ($59.95) allows you to do even more with graphics and drawing and even animation. Corefx includes many more graphics and art mediums and also has three skill levels.

In addition to art, Core Learning also offers programs for math, health, language, and critical thinking. We’ve been using the Health for Kids Series ($29.95) and our girls are having a lot of fun exploring the insides of the human body. The program makes it extremely fun for kids to learn about different parts of the human body through animation: the tongue, larynx, airways, mouth, epiglottis and more.

Core Learning also has a special page that lists current promotions available. Be sure to check out the Homeschool Crew blog for more on Core Learning!

Time 4 Learning: Online Homeschool Curriculum

Over the last 2 months, Laurianna and McKenna have been using a site called Time 4 Learning. We did try it with Zachary for a bit, but he is still new to computers (and a bit too curious) so we decided to have only the girls use it at this point.

Time 4 Learning is an online PreK – 8th grade curriculum that can be used a supplement to your current curriculum or even as your entire curriculum for language arts, math, science and social studies. The curriculum is tailored to each of your children’s educational needs and levels and includes animated lessons, interactive activities, unit assessments, and printable worksheets for reinforcement (and it is ad-free!). Lessons are also correlated to standards in all 50 states. The Pre-K curriculum is thematic and has seasonal activities focused on learning shapes, colors, counting, weather, and much more.

Children work through the lessons and the lessons are visually checked off when they finish them. After a certain amount of “learning time” (and parents can adjust this time for each of their children), kids are sent to the “playground” to play fun, educational games before returning to their “lesson time”.

Parents have the ability to log in and print automated progress reports for record keeping or portfolios. You can also see how your children are doing in all the areas that they are using, and see what areas they need to focus more attention/time on. There are lesson plans and a scope and sequence also available for parents to access at any time.

Time 4 Learning offers a free 14 day trial of the site, lesson demos, a scope and sequence of their lesson plans, and also a parents forum for those that are using the site. If you’d like a quick video demo of the site you can click here.

The cost for Time 4 Learning:

The girls have loved using the Time 4 Learning, especially after we have finished our planned school time each day. It is very interactive and the best part is, the kids don’t realize that they are still “learning”. The activities are fun and the kids can work through them with little help from me. When they are done, I can log on with my infomation and print off reports, see what they have been doing during their time on the site, and adjust it accordingly for the next time they are online.

If you would like to read other reviews about Time 4 Learning and see how others homeschoolers have incorporated it into their day, you can read more at The Homeschool Crew blog.

All About Spelling Review – Homeschool Spelling Tool

We received this product at no cost in exchange for our honest review. All opinions expressed are solely mine.

I thought we were perfectly fine with the spelling program that we were using until I started using All About Spelling with the girls. Now I’m hooked on this homeschool spelling program and thrilled that our kids look forward to spelling time and we love doing it together. We have worked our way through level one and will be starting level two soon.

Each lesson book in All About Spelling comes with a materials packet that includes: flashcards, index card dividers, tokens, progress charts, a completion certificate, and other tools to help you teach. The program also uses letter tiles that can be used in all six levels. The letter tiles are not included in the material pack of each level (so that you wouldn’t have six sets). They can be purchased separately for $12.95.

All About Spelling teaches “phonograms” – letter combinations that are the base for building words (a cd-rom of the sounds is also available for purchase if you would like to hear the exact sounds of each phonogram).

What I am loving about the program:

  1. The lessons are amazingly easy to follow: Step-by-step directions are given for each lesson in the level, including all the materials that you will need for the lesson.
  2. You can customize each lesson to your children’s needs. We went through the early lessons rather quickly and then paced the lessons at a rate that was comfortable for us.
  3. Review: Each lesson includes a way to review the steps and rules that have been taught in previous lessons, along with reinforcement for the lessons that were learned during that lesson.
  4. Hands-on materials: The program uses letter tiles that you can make magnetic to spell out the words and sounds that you are practicing. There are also flashcards included in the set along with the teacher’s manual. This hands-on aspect has really helped in our learning.
  5. Clear/direct spelling rules: All About Spelling teaches clear rules (and notes any exceptions if there are any to the rule) – even I’m learning a thing or two!
  6. It will be a complete curriculum from preschool to high school. It’s a one-stop spelling curriculum, and I LOVE that!
  7. Price!! Both the level one and level two sets are only $29.95 each and can be used in the years to come with younger children since the materials are not consumable (a HUGE plus for me!). Levels three and four are $39.95. If you are teaching more than one student at a time, you can order additional materials packets (for around $12.95 each).

There is nothing that I haven’t been pleased about with this curriculum – seriously! If you are interested in learning more about how to teach using All About Spelling, know that they a 100% learning satisfaction guarantee. This is definitely a program that we will be using through the years with our kids!

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This All About Spelling Review was written based on our personal use of the program. I was provided the program to review in exchange for my honest opinion.