Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Family Mint

One skill that we want to ensure our children possess as they become adults is good money management. Family Mint is one way that we can do that. It is a money management program for kids where the parents are the banker.

Each child has his own account which can be accessed anywhere there in an Internet connection. He can enter transactions such as deposits and withdrawals. He can also set and track financial goals. Parents can motivate their children through paying interest and matching fund contributions. They can even automate allowance. The parent also has the ability to approve or disapprove transactions. This feature can be disabled, if desired.

The website is straight-forward. In the parent interface you have access to all your children’s accounts. For the child interface you can choose between Junior and Advanced depending on the skill level of your child.

What I have described above is for the Free Edition. A Pro Edition is in the works which will include more features but will be charged a fee.

The thing I like about Family Mint is that each child has access to his account. He can learn to manage his money, but the parent still has oversight of the transactions. You can read here what other Crew Members experienced.

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.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Math Galaxy

Galaxy of Education is a company that sells a variety of math games. Their Math Galaxy series goes all the way from addition to algebra. One of the first things I noticed about the Math Galaxy Fun programs is that there is always a visual as well as abstract element included. After a problem is answered, the problem is visually worked out, including the combining or borrowing tens, hundreds, etc.

A further strong point to me is that in the Addition Tables and Addition on Number Line screens, numbers are grouped to ten first then added further from there. Example: 6+8 = 6+4+4 = 14.

A third feature that grabbed my attention is that in the subtraction module, the corresponding addition equation is shown after the answer has been entered. Also, in the division module, the corresponding multiplication equation is shown.

These programs provide two different modes to work in. In the Step-by-Step Mode, the player is prompted through each step of the problem. This can be very helpful for someone just learning how to do a particular math process. The Total Answer Only Mode just prompts for the answer. Both modes visually work out the problem.

Math Galaxy is available for Whole Numbers, Fractions, Decimals, Word Problems, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra. They are $29.95 each.

There are also games included with the tutorial programs. All the games have a choice of different operations and subtopics.

In Word Jumbles, you match math problem answers to letters to spell the word. 1, 2 or 3-player options are available. “Money” is earned for each letter/word guessed. It is a bit cumbersome to use as several mouse clicks are required for each move.

Riddles is the same as Word Jumbles except you are solving a riddle.

With Bridge the Swamp, you work your way across the swamp by matching numbers to reach totals. However, the instructions are a little unclear and I haven’t totally figured out how to play it yet. You can compete one player against the computer or use two-player mode.

In Labyrinth, you use robots you have earned while working through other math problems.  

Math Riddler Worksheet Generators

Math Riddler Worksheet Generator programs are also available from Galaxy of Learning. With these you also have the choice of different operations including Whole Numbers, Fractions, Decimals, Proportions, Percents, and Algebra. They are $29.95 each.

Riddle Mode provides a printable worksheet with a riddle for the student to solve through answering the math problems. Worksheet Mode provides a randomly generated worksheet with straight math problems. You can print these worksheets with either answers or no answers.


These games don’t flow like top of the line programming; however, the information provided and the skills practiced make it worth using.

The Math Galaxy games are too hard for my Kindergartner and will be a better fit once she learns higher addition and subtraction. My 9th grade daughter really likes the Algebra labyrinth game and finds herself spending much longer on it than she usually spends on online math games.

You can see more detail on these products at the Galaxy of Education website. Also, please read the reviews of my other Crew Mates.

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.

UPDATE 4/2/2010

I mentioned in my review that Math Galaxy was too hard for my kindergartner. What I didn’t consider was having her use the manipulatives from her math program. So today I had her try the Whole Numbers Fun 1-digit addition. She worked the problem using her cuisennaire rods and then entered the answer. Math Galaxy then confirmed with its visual display what she had found with her rods. So she got the visual reinforcement from two ends. It worked great!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Seasons of Faith Series

 “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

The Seasons of Faith illustrated book series from Children’s Bible Hour was written to help children through the different seasons of life. Each story also lays out the plan of salvation.

Spring is a time when people experience new life in Christ. Faith develops and Christians begin to share the Salvation message with others.

Summer is the season when faith grows under God’s love and care. Fruit is witnessed and triumphs are gained through applying His Word and striving to be the best we can be in Christ.

Autumn can be times of struggle and temptation, peer pressure, making mistakes, and scary transitions. Even though it might seem like nothing good can come from this time, God has promised us He will be there. He will teach us how to forgive and then grow in grace.

Winter is the most difficult. Deep struggles, mourning, trying to make it through difficult times, or the death of a loved one can pull us away from God. He teaches us to lean on Him for comfort and peace.

The stories, adapted from radio scripts of the Children’s Bible Hour, encourage children in their faith. These soft cover books are nicely done and have many illustrations. The included audio CDs provide page prompts so it is easy for your non-readers to follow through pictures while listening to the stories read by “Uncle Charlie”. The CDs brought back memories of hearing “Uncle Charlie” on the radio when I was young. There are currently four books in the series. You can find discussion questions on the CBH website if you want to discuss the stories further with your child but don’t know where to start.

Race with Midnight (Spring) is about a girl who wants to share her faith in God with her family but doesn’t know how she will do that. She prays for the opportunity to do so, and God opens the door for her to share what He has done in her life.


You Can’t Come In (Summer) provides a word picture of how sin keeps us out of heaven and clearly shows our need for salvation through faith in Christ.


Seventy Times Seven (Fall) is about our need to forgive so that we can be forgiven.



Braving the Storm (Winter) is about a boy whose family is going through a really rough time. He doesn’t understand why God would allow it to happen. Watching the trees during an ice storm helps him to understand that he needs to grow his roots of faith deep so that he can survive any storm of life that comes.

My 14-year old, 13-year old, and 6-year old daughters all really enjoyed these books. Seventy Times Seven is the favorite for my 14-year old. You Can’t Come In is the favorite for my 13-year old. Race With Midnight is my 6-year old’s favorite. My favorite is Braving the Storm although I like the others too. So as you can see the series appealed differently to each of us.

Each book in this series costs $10 which includes a 10”x5.5” book and an audio CD. You can read here what other families had to say.

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.

Monday, March 22, 2010

History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 2 and 3

History Odyssey from Pandia Press is a literature-based study guide combining history, geography, and writing. It includes intensive writing opportunities but is not a writing course. This review will be for Middle Ages Levels 2 and 3. To give you an idea of what types of subject areas your student would be learning in both levels, here is a list of what sections are to be included in his binder.

  • Summaries
  • Men & Women
  • Wars & Conflicts
  • Religion & Mythology
  • Arts, Inventions, & Architecture
  • Maps & Worksheets
  • Timeline



The main tools used for learning in History Odyssey Level 2 are outlining, summaries, timelines, mapwork (outline maps included), and research. Literature reading is also included followed by some type of writing assignment or worksheet. Several biography reports as well as compare/contrast assignments are completed during the year. (Instructions for writing a biography are included in the appendix.) One fun project completed during the year is that the students make a Shakespeare book including pages they have colored (from A Shakespeare Coloring Book) and their rewritten versions of Shakespeare’s works. Another project that is completed during the year is the construction of a castle. Worksheets are use sparingly but effectively throughout the program. Many times in Level 2, the main outline points are given which help students learn to find the main and then subpoints of a passage. You can also adapt how detailed an outline or summary you require based upon your student’s skill level. A timeline analysis is completed at the end of the guide. The final writing project is the most complex writing assignment and consists of a multi-paragraph, persuasive paper.

One of the scheduled books, Viking World, has gone out of print so optional internet links are included for the assignments.

You can learn more about History Odyssey Level 2 by looking at the Table of Contents, Book list, and Level 2 Sample.



The main tools for learning in History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 3 are outlining, people research (Who’s Who Gallery), mapwork, timelines, literature analysis, essays, and research projects. As in level 2, worksheets are judiciously used. Research projects may be about a specific history topic, art, culture, travels, or other areas. Examples of other projects include making an informative brochure and preparing a 3-day lesson plan for teaching culture. The lesson plan must include Performance objectives, Materials list, Procedures, Discussion questions, and Evaluation.

One lesson does not necessarily equal one day of work. There are some really involved projects in this level.

Included in the appendix are instructions on how to write a thesis statement, an essay grading rubric, and blank maps.

You can learn more about History Odyssey Middle Ages Level 3 by looking at the Course Outline, Book list, and Level 3 sample.


On the surface History Odyssey Levels 2 and 3 look very similar. However, level 2 is like the tip of the iceberg to level 3. While level 2 uses outlines, summaries, and biography reports, Level 3 builds on those skills requiring the student to dig deeper.  The Level 3 outlines require much more detail and the research assignments are more involved. Instead of an emphasis on biography reports, Level 3 assigns several essays. The books used in level 2 are easier reading while the books in level 3 are more original works. Level 3 also requires deeper literature analysis. Both levels make judicious use of worksheets to solidify the topics being taught.

You can expect to spend 2 hours three to four times per week to complete this program in a year.


  • Literature-based but not a lot of resource investment
  • Minimal teacher preparation
  • Clear instruction written directly to student 
  • Blank outline maps included
  • Clean layout and presentation
  • Meaty


  • Might be more writing intensive than some want
  • Levels 2 and 3 do not correspond


I think that History Odyssey is very well done. Its clean layout and rich content make it a great choice especially for those who want a literature-based program but need the ease of self-directed material. You can purchase an e-book edition for $33.99 directly from the Pandia Press website. A print copy can be purchase from various vendors and has a suggested retail price of $38.00. It is non-consumable.

Pandia Press also carries a product called R.E.A.L.Science Odyssey.

You can read here what other Crew members discovered with their Pandia Press products.

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.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

2010 - 2011 Core Plan for 1st Grade

Math Mamoth / Miquon Math
Spell to Write and Read
Queen Language Lessons for the Very Young 1
Happy Scribe
Science Videos - Watch, Narrate, Draw, Write
Bible and Missionary Stories - Read, Narrate, Write

2010 - 2011 Core Plan for 8th Grade

BJU Cultural Geography

BJU Earth and Space Science

Analytical Grammar

Christian Light Reading 8

Jump In Writing
BJU Pre-Algebra


2010 - 2011 Core Plan for 10th Grade

Tapestry of Grace
   Church History

DIVE Physical Science

One Year Adventure Novel

Excellence in Literature American Survey

VideoText Geometry

Personal Finance

Abeka Health

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Homeschool in the Woods Olde World Style Maps


I received the download version of the Maps Combo Pack from Homeschool in the Woods (a $28.95 value). This pack includes a World and US Map set.

WORLD MAPS (Download $18.95)

The World maps are divided into two categories: Ancients (Early) and Modern. There are 14 different ancient maps and 28 different modern maps. Each of these are divided into Labeled and Unlabeled. The Ancient China maps are divided into the different dynasties. There are also maps of Paul’s Missionary Journeys. We are currently studying the Middle Ages and Renaissance which had the least number of maps available in this bundle. But there appears to be several which would complement studies of both ancient and modern history.

The download also included 26 different notebooking pages including pages for specific types of reports. Most pages are available with your choice of dashed or ruled lines. Flags of each nation and a mini-graphic for each country are included as well.

You can see a sample of the World Maps here.


US MAPS (Download $18.95)

This set includes labeled, unlabeled, and outline maps of all 50 states.  It also includes maps for different periods in American history. State Fact Pages (with and without answers) and all the state flags are an added bonus. The maps would be helpful to both younger and older students, but I see this resource being the most helpful when I study American history with my elementary age students.

Here is a sample of the US Maps.


These maps have character which make studies more interesting. I was not able to utilize them as much as I would like yet as the time period we are studying (Middle Ages/Renaissance) is not well represented. I like that the maps come labeled and unlabeled so you do not have to use another source to complete them unless desired. These maps will definitely be a resource I will use.

You can read here what other Crew Mates’ thought.

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.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Artistic Pursuits

We were recently asked to review Artistic Pursuits, Senior High Book One, The Elements of Art of Composition by Brenda Ellis featuring European Art. Artistic Pursuits is an art curriculum that incorporates Elements of Art, Composition of Art, Art Appreciation, and Art History.


  • First semester (8 units of book) teaches Elements of Art
  • Last semester (8 units of book) teaches Composition of Art
  • Art appreciation and history are covered in each unit
  • One to two mediums are introduced in each book
  • Book 1 (2 semesters) teaches drawing skills.
  • Book 2 (2 semesters) teaches color and painting media.
  • A different period of art history is covered in each level
  • The material is written directly to the student
  • No previous art experience is necessary for teacher or student
  • Each unit contains 4 lessons: Building a Visual Vocabulary, Art Appreciation and History, Techniques, and Application
  • Art supply packages are available on the website.

There are 16 units per book which you and your student can schedule as desired. If you do 2 lessons per week, it will take 32 weeks to complete a book. Each page is estimated to take 1 hour to complete.

NOTE: The K-3rd grade level is set up differently.

I was impressed with this quality product. I can’t wait until we can devote more time to these lessons this summer. But to give you a brief glimpse:

  • Pages are printed on bright white, heavy paper
  • Clear direction is given
  • Pages are in color
  • Lesson are reinforced through observing historical art
  • Art history and appreciation is included

You can read here what other Crew members have to say about Artistic Pursuits.

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.

Monday, March 8, 2010


I found Graphics-Toolbox a really hard product to review. I have not used another graphics program so I have nothing to compare it to. Nor do I have a need for one. Add to that the fact that this product is not novice intuitive and you have a lose-lose situation.

However, there are several tutorials on the website that my 14-year old daughter has been watching and making great progress with. Each video is broken into chapters so it is easy to just watch a little at a time. But it takes training and practice to be able to use this program efficiently.

It appears to be a program that works well for creating projects where you assimilate existing pictures into your own cards, posters, invitations, etc. You do have to plan ahead though so your project flows smoothly. These aren’t the only kinds of projects you can do, but it is neat how you can manipulate existing photographs to blend into the overall project. You can find project ideas and sample projects on their website. You can also read about the features included in Graphic-Toolbox. If you have hands on or visual learners, this product can provide an avenue to reinforce all sorts of subjects. If you blog, do desktop publishing, or have any other need for art work, GT could be worth checking out as well.

A 30-day free trial download is available if Graphics-Toolbox sounds like it might fit your needs. A single license costs $149, and multiple license discounts are available. Make sure to check the system requirements before downloading this product. It does not work with Vista 64-bit. I tested it on a computer running Windows XP Professional and one running Vista 32-bit with no problems.

So this novice review probably doesn’t give you a very clear picture into the program. However, several other Crew members also reviewed it who are more experienced than I am and may add more insight.

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, March 4, 2010

Homeschool Library Builder

When you use a curriculum that does a bulk of its learning through literature, sometimes the cost of obtaining those books can be a little overwhelming. Homeschool Library Builder is here to help families obtain good books at an affordable price.

You can search for book by category, reading level, country, or even curriculum such as Ambleside, Beautiful Feet, Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, and others. If you do not find a book you are needing, they will search for it.

Membership is free and includes earning book points for each purchase and being eligible for their Share the Savings program. You will also receive updates on news, sales events, and specials.

In addition to providing gently used books for affordable prices, Homeschool Library Builder provides other resources for homeschoolers.

Spotlight on the Season provides project or book suggestions for upcoming seasons.

HSLB Market Place provides links to products which benefit the homeschooling community. Check out this page and see if there are any businesses you can support. You can even submit your own products to be represented.

This review is a little different than my others as it is more information than opinion.

I know firsthand the need for affordable books to add value to my homeschooling. Having a place like Homeschool Library Builder can be a big help. But the best way for a site like this to work is if many people make it the first place they check when they need to purchase a book. So go ahead and bookmark Homeschool Library Builder and help them help us provide good books for our students.

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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