Monday, November 30, 2009

Professor in a Box - Financial Accounting

Financial Accounting from Professor in a Box is a beginning college level accounting course written by Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. specifically for homeschoolers. In the course the student learns to prepare and interpret the four basic financial statements of a business. Anyone who is preparing to work in business (whether for a company or being self-employed) can benefit from this course.

With 12 chapters covered in 28 lessons, this course includes the content to prepare a student to take the CLEP Financial Accounting Exam (see Course Syllabus). It Includes lectures, practice problems, solutions, quizzes and exams. (The quizzes are similar in content and form to the CLEP Exam.) The website states that the average lesson takes 75 minutes to view the Flash lecture and 1.5 to 2.5 hours to work the problems. The only prerequisite is that the student has basic algebra skills.

Financial Accounting is currently priced at $134.99. Professor in a Box offers a Full Money Back Guarantee. Work through the first three chapters and if you’re not satisfied with the course, send it back for a full refund including shipping.

Windows XP/Vista
1.8 Ghz Intel Pentium II or equivalent
256 MB of RAM
16 bit or higher color
Flash Player

You do need Acrobat reader which is a free download.

Internet access was recommended to complete some of the problems in chapter 1.


The box comes with the CDs housed in a nice hard plastic carry case, a calculator, and a pencil. The Instructor CD includes a course syllabus, lesson plans for full and short course, quizzes, and exams. It also includes Excel templates for every problem in the course so that students can learn accounting while honing and improving their skills in working with spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel.

Lecture Discs include Flash lectures, Lecture slides, Key Terms and Concepts, Chapter Problems, and Chapter Problem Solutions. The lecture slides are also available in print-friendly format.


My oldest is only in 9th grade and I did not feel she was ready for this course. Academically, she could have done the work but I want her to complete the course when she is better able to fully understand the process, not just be able to follow the formulas. I plan for her to take this course in 12th grade after taking personal finance.

I do feel that this course can be a good resource for high school students before entering their adult years. The more information they can learn beforehand, the more they have to draw on when it is needed.

It is not a light course and it will take discipline to complete. But that is because we are dealing with college level material.

Please visit the TOS Crew Blog to read other families' experiences.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Exploramania - GyMathtics

Have you ever owned a product that drove you nuts but your kids loved? Well, the GyMathtics DVD from Exploramania is such a product in our house. The idea of combining physical and mental exercise is really neat. When you are listening to it as background noise, it sounds like random chaos. But when you are tuned into the exercise it flows.


This exercise DVD is approximately 30 minutes long and is broken into 4 segments. Background music is included throughout.

The first section is Shape Stretches Warm Up. Here you learn about all kinds of lines: straight, parallel, intersecting, perpendicular, diagonal, and wavy, all while completing the warm up stretches. You also learn about rays, angles, circles, ovals, and polygons.

Section two is Counting Calisthenics where you practice counting from 0-20, odds and evens, skip counting by 2's, 5's, and 10's, place value, and prime numbers, again all while exercising your muscles.

Pattern Power teaches about growing and repeating patterns.

The Well-Being Wind Down does not include any math teaching. The instructor does include several "life" tips throughout the segment such as "Eat healthy", "Get a good sleep every night", and "Be kind to the planet and to people."


I see this exercise video as appealing to children in lower elementary, and I can see it helping them with their math skills. I didn't care for the tips given throughout the Wind Down session. I would have preferred more math tidbits.

Phrases such as "Isn't exercise fun? and "We're getting healthy and strengthening our minds" are used a lot throughout the DVD (about 6 times for each variation) which was a bit overkill.

Although it isn't my favorite, my 6 year old daughter likes it and is strengthening her math skills along the way.


You can purchase the Gymathtics DVD for $24.99. Also, soon to be released is Gymathtics 2.0 which will include an Algebra Aerobics section. They also carry an Exploracise Thumball Collection and Exploracise Mat Collection.

Exploramania does have a 30-day Customer Satisfaction return policy.

You can read other Crew member reviews here.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TruthQuest History

In January we started using TruthQuest History Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for our studies. It was a great semester with very rich study. This year we continued with TruthQuest but added in Mystery of History because I wanted the mapwork, timeline and activities all scheduled for me.

Well, the combination isn't working for us. Mystery of History has the right pieces academically, but our studies are ending up being very mechanical and lacking depth for my 9th grader. So it was time to sit down and write out pro and con lists and see the big picture.

Mystery of History: Pros
Topic information included
Timeline scheduled
Mapwork scheduled
Activities scheduled
Index card summaries scheduled
Topic reinforcement throughout the year
Christian Worldview

Mystery of History: Cons
Not deep enough as scheduled for high school

TruthQuest: Pros
Rich commentary
Promotes deep discussion
Christian Worldview

TruthQuest: Cons
Additional books required
No mapwork
Must research information for timeline
No reinforcement activities

On paper, it looks like Mystery of History would be the easier choice. But knowing the richness of our TruthQuest study last year I am realizing that it is worth the effort on my part to do the extra research and planning to use TruthQuest. Easier isn't always the best choice. Because it isn't just enough to learn facts or even the flow of history. What makes history meaningful is the people that were involved and how their lives were affected by events. For us, TruthQuest is the program that does a better job of relaying the deeper meaning of history.

Does this mean I don't think Mystery of History is a good program? Not at all. You can see my review of it here. It may be just the program your family needs to cause history to come alive. But I am finally listening to my heart and know that we will learn more through TruthQuest this year.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Our Spell to Write and Read Schedule

I am teaching 3 lessons: a kindergartner (List A at 20 words per week), a 7th grader (List U at 20 words/week) and a 9th grader (List U at 20 words per week). My K'er takes about 15 minutes, my other girls take about 30 minutes each on average. I taught my older girls the charts as they were listed in the WISE Guide Preliminaries. Here is what our SWR days look like. We don't do anything together except the assessment tests monthly. It takes me about an hour and a half three days per week. If my older girls were at a lower level we would be doing 40 words per week and it would take longer. I do SWR with my kindergartner 4-5 days per week.

KINDERGARTEN (15 minutes per day) - I may add more enrichments later in the year as she matures

Day One - Sometimes broken into 2 days
Read all phonograms
Quiz phonograms in WISE Guide Preliminaries
Dictate half of word list
Quiz words

Day Two
Read all phonograms
Word Bank for first 1/2 of list - (Done independently)

Day Three
Read all phonograms
Dictate second half of list
Quiz words

Day Four
Read all phonograms
Timed reading of log words
Word Bank for 2nd half of list (Independent)

Day Five
Read phonograms
Index cards for all words in list
Oral sentences
One written sentence

Day Six
Test phonograms
Test word list


7TH AND 9TH GRADERS - (30 minutes per day) - Separate sessions

Day One (We break into 2 days if new chart is long)
WISE Guide Preliminaries: Quiz phonograms, Rule Review
Teach new chart, if applicable
Read phonograms
Dictate list
Collection page words
Quiz list

Day Two
Read phonograms
WISE Guide Enrichments

Day Three
Phonogram test
List test

Day Four - (Girls together)
Assessment test monthly

I found trying to combine was too cumbersome for our family so I just keep them all separate.

Understanding Spell to Write and Read

I know there are a lot of people who struggle with understanding Spell to Write and Read so I thought I would post this in case it can help someone.

First thing you will want to do is take a deep breath. I, too, found the book very confusing. However, once you wrap your head around it, it is quite simple. The short version is to complete steps 1-11 with your student. Then switch your focus to the WISE Guide. It gives you everything you need for your lesson plan. The red book becomes a reference.

LONG VERSION (after you have prepared your material and started your learning log)

The first thing you have to do with SWR is to determine if you child is ready for it. Is the student aware that language is an object that can be analyzed and manipulated in different ways? This would include being able rhyme or to pause between syllables in a word. This is phonological awareness.

The next development stage that must be reached is that the student can hear separate sounds of a language, not just the words or the syllables. She should be able to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. This is phonemic awareness.

If your student has reached these two milestones, you are ready to move on with SWR. These two skills are important to check for all ages.

If your student is not a beginner, you will want at this point to give the Diagnostic Test found in Appendix B. Don't worry about where he/she will place. That will be done in Step 11. Just give the test.

Whether you have a non-beginner or a beginner (who you have determined is ready to begin), you move into teaching how to read and write the first 26 phonograms (and the numbers). Obviously an older student is going to  probably know how to write the alphabet so you just have ensure she knows the sounds. There is a specific method for teaching the phonograms which is part of why SWR is so successful. I found that learning the "method" is much easier when working with a mentor than trying to absorb it from the book. But if there is no one in your area, we will help you in any way we can.

Once your student knows how to read and write the first 26 phonograms, it it time to introduce the Learning Log (step 8) and to teach the Vowel/Consonant Reference page (step 9). There are explicit instruction in the red book on how to teach the reference pages. The C/V chart actually accomplishes several things. It teaches 4 rules (#s1-4) and introduces the student to the word dictation process and the marking system.

NOTE:There are two types of references pages taught in SWR - Teaching pages and Collection pages. The WISE Guide tells you when to introduce both types. You don't worry about adding to collection pages from the lists until that type of page has been introduced as instructed in the WISE Guide. Once a page has been introduced, the WISE Guide will tell you to add certain words from a list to the collection page. (Example: The WISE Guide Preliminaries for Section E instruct us to Start the "SH/TI Page". Then in the body of Section F on the righthand page (under shot) it says to add "shot" to the SH Page. You will see this all throughout the WISE Guide.)

The Consonant/Vowel Page is a teaching page. The next reference page, Multi-Letter Phonograms, is a collection page. You will begin filling that in when you introduce the multi-letter phonograms throughout WISE Guide Sections A through I-1. Again, these instructions are all given in the WISE Guide Preliminaries.

You will now use the test given in Step 4 to correctly place your student in the WISE Guide. You want to find the first word missed. Then back up one word and follow it across to find the starting section. There is a chart in the red book on page 65 that helps place a student new to the program. If you aren't sure which level is best, ask someone.

Once you have placed your student, you are ready to begin daily spelling in the WISE Guide (step 12) using the Learning Log. The red book is no longer your focus. All the lesson plans you need are right in the WISE Guide. You will use the red book for reference to complete the steps as they are assigned in the WISE Guide.

The Learning Log is an essential part of SWR. That is where your student is ungluing and gluing words and starting to absorb the phonograms and spelling rules until both become second nature. You will teach the rules through the reference pages, and they will be reinforced as you come across them in the word lists. The student then isn't just learning an arbitrary rule but actually has a word to apply it to and so it makes more sense. The more words they learn, the more the rules become second nature.

For me, the actual word dictation process was best taught in person. (If you are familiar with Charlotte Mason, this is NOT that kind of dictation.) You teach your students how to spell each word. There is no guessing. If there is another experienced user in your area, she could be great to connect with. It was very helpful for me to see the process modeled and to see how all the senses are used and the importance of each step. There are many things about SWR that are customizable, but if you want the best success from SWR the dictation method for the Learning Log words is one of the "DON'T CHANGE" things about SWR. So it is important to make sure you understand how it works.

I hope that helps those of you who are struggling. SWR is truly an immersion program for both a new teacher and student. But if you can step away from the big picture and take it in bite-size pieces, I think it will start to become clearer. I know how hard that is as I am a major big picture person, but it does work. Give yourself time to process this and then come back with your other questions. Feel free to ask for clarification on anything.

Monday, November 9, 2009

America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty

American Heritage Educational Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation dedicated to the understanding and teaching of America's factual and philosophical heritage to promote constructive citizenship and Freedom, Unity, Progress, and Responsibility among our students and citizens.

I had previously downloaded the free lesson plans from AHEF but never understood what they were trying to accomplish. So when I was asked to write a review on America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty for the TOS Homeschool Crew, I wasn't sure what I was going to do. The first thing I knew I had to do was to print out the material. The older I get, the harder it seems for me to understand the big picture from reading on screen. Once I had the printed copy in hand, I was able to see what the program was all about and actually got quite excited.

Even though we are currently studying Rome, I have been wanting to include a study about our founding fathers and the principles that made the United States of America strong. It looked like America's Heritage would allow me to do just that. Since I was going to be using it with my 7th and 9th graders, I decided to use the high school level. They also have an elementary level and a middle school level.

With America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty, we are learning about our country's birth through the study of some of the founding documents: The Mayflower Compact, The Declaration of Independence, Federalist Paper #47, the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the First Amendment. We will also study about entrepreneurs in history, American's Creed, and the US Flag.

Each lesson includes activities to help the students understand what the documents or events mean and how they affect the framework of our country. There are 13 lessons, some which  easily have enough material to cover 2 or 3 class periods.

It has been really refreshing to learn about our founding fathers' backgrounds and the moral character that shaped their thinking. It has also been great to understand more fully what the founding documents mean.

You can download a copy of America's Heritage: An Adventure in Liberty and experience it for yourself.


Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


DISCOVER is a program designed to help student develop a comprehensive career plan.  Following are the steps the student uses to build his personalized career portfolio.


The student first takes three inventory tests: Interest Inventory, Values Inventory, and an Abilities Inventory. An Inventories Summary then shows how your strengths relate to careers.


Once you know your potential occupations, you can explore each of them further. This exploration section give you a lot of data.

  • Occupation summary
  • Characteristics of the occupation:
       Amount of travel required
       Working with people
       Schedule options
       Physical demands
  • Work tasks
  • Related occupations: Civilian and military
  • Training needed
       English skills needed
       Reading skills needed
       Science skills needed
  • Personal qualities desired
  • Salary and Outlook
  • What workers say they like and dislike
  • Where to obtain more information


Your exploration of careers gives you possible majors to explore. You can look for majors by name and by occupation. This section also gives you a lot of information.

  • General Information
  • Characteristics associated with success
  • Courses included
  • Schools
  • Related occupations
  • Related majors


Once you have learned more about your possible majors, it is time to explore the schools that have those majors. You can search for schools by state, by major, by degree type, by school type, or by name. You can learn a lot about a potential school.

  • General information such as type of school, contact information, federal school code, accreditation and level of students admitted.
  • Majors
  • Cost
  • Admission Requirements
  • Services such as academic services provided and ROTC.
  • Student body statistics
  • Financial Aid
  • Housing available
  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Campus Facilities
  • Sports


One thing you will see when exploring schools is that it can be expensive to attend a college or university. So knowing your options for financial aid is important. DISCOVER provides information on financial aid programs and finding scholarships. It also provides a Financial Need Estimator.


DISCOVER also provides instruction on job searching.

  • Resume Writing
  • Preparing a Cover Letter
  • Interview Preparation
  • Finding a Job

All these parts are stored in a personalized career portfolio that can be viewed or printed at any point. 

DISCOVER can be purchased with a three-month license for $19.95 and a six-month license for $24.95. ACT Advantage also has assessment programs called EXPLORE (8TH Grade) AND PLAN (10TH Grade) which I will be reviewing later. Also available is an ACT Test Prep program.

My 14 year old daughter found the website informative and very easy to use. Read here to see how others families utilized the ACT Advantage programs.

Disclosure:This product was provided to our family for free as members of the 2009-2010 Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew. No further compensation was received. Reviews and opinions expressed in this blog are my own.

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