Friday, September 24, 2010

Schleich Review

We were pleasantly surprised the day we received our package of Schleich animal figurines in the mail. As part of the Homeschool Crew, we were lucky enough to receive a set of seven animals to review. This set included the Gnu, Gnu Calf, Indian Elephant Calf, Donkey, Przewalski's Horse, Okapi, Swabian-Hall Pig, and Dartmoor Pony. Out of the package, I immediately noticed the company’s commitment to detail. The animals are so lifelike! The molds used to form these figurines include the smallest details: hair, nostrils, and eyes so shiny they look alive! The horse has silver horseshoes, the pig’s tiny foot is split…they are just amazing. They are durable and the perfect size to handle for children of all ages. As soon as I unpacked them, my 5 year old daughter was playing with them. I assumed that my almost 9 year old son would not be interested in them but I was wrong. Within minutes, they had an entire town set up and the animals were the main attraction. We have never owned or played with Schleich products before and we really were missing out on something special. A toy that requires nothing but your child’s imagination…that’s a great toy! In addition to the animals that we received, the company offers a large variety of play figures including people, dinosaurs, farm animals, knights, vehicles…the list goes on. Prices range from $3 on up to $180 for some of the more expensive play sets. They can be purchased at several local retailers such as Target, Barnes and Noble and many online retailers. While pricier than standard toy figurines, they are worth the extra cost. The attention to detail and durability along with the wide assortment of products makes them well worth the price. These are toys that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salem Ridge Press Review

My next review as part of the Homeschool Crew is for Salem Ridge Press, a young company with old values! The goal of Salem Ridge is to locate and re-publish quality children’s books from the 1800s - early 1900s…books that feature positive role models that reflect and uphold Biblical standards. Each book is carefully selected by homeschool-graduate and founder, Daniel Mills. Daniel selects only the books that he feels reflect good moral character. Where necessary, books are edited to remove offensive language or other inappropriate content or behavior.

I received Soldier Fritz and the Enemies He Fought, a soft cover book available for purchase for $10.95. This book is geared for ages 8+ and features a young boy who aspires to follow the lead of Martin Luther and be a soldier for the Lord. In e-book format, I received Mary Jane Her Visit ($12.95), the second book in the Mary Jane series geared for ages 6-10. In this book, you follow Mary Jane’s activities while visiting her grandparents. I also received The American Twins of the Revolution ($12.95) a true adventure story from our nation’s history.

Based on what I have read in their books and on their website, I think any parent can feel confident in their purchase of a Salem Ridge Press book. You will receive a quality product that reflects wholesome living. I do recommend that you adhere to the suggested ages as the language of the books is sometimes difficult to understand. I found myself stopping to explain certain passages to my 6 and 8 year olds and in some instances; they lost interest because we could not read at a smooth, uninterrupted pace. Regardless, the books and our children are worth the effort!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review of Pyramath

We were recently given the opportunity to review Pyramath, a math card game from I See Cards. This card game was designed to reinforce basic math skills: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The Pyramath deck includes 54 colorful cards that are clearly labeled with numbers, math symbols, and numerical translations in English, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, roman and French.

We opened the deck and became skilled players within 5 minutes! The instructions are clear and easy to follow. The basic game begins with 5-7 cards laid out in a row. Using two adjacent cards, you add, subtract, multiple or divide to see if the card you’ve drawn from the deck correctly solves the problem. If so, you play that card and begin to form your pyramid. The first player to create their pyramid wins.

One of the great things about this game is that it is customizable for any age or skill level. My 4th grader was comfortable with all methods of play but my 1st grader felt competent only in addition and subtraction. So, when I played with her, we only used the skills she was competent in. While proficient in math, neither of my children enjoys it. So when I brought out the deck and explained that we would be playing a math game, I expected to hear simultaneous groans. But, both children seemed interested right away. Now, they ask to play over and over again. I can’t ask for more than that in a math game.

The company’s slogan says Pyramath is a game you can’t afford not to buy. I wholeheartedly agree with that. It’s a fun and interesting way to reinforce math skills as well as foreign language development, strategy, and memorization. We love this game and it will be well-used in our homeschool!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review of America's Math Teacher

The next port of call on our homeschool cruise was American’s Math Teacher, an online math tutoring program that covers basic math thru algebra. This subscription based service cost $195 per year and provides 24/7 math tutoring via online videos and assessment tests. As part of the homeschool crew, I was given free access to this program for 60 days. I used this program with my 8 year old son who is just finishing 3rd grade. We used the Basic Math Course which covers:

Starting with Whole Numbers, you watch a series of 5-10 minute videos. The videos are mainly a computerized white board where the instructor discusses the topic and works the problems out on the screen. It is a no-frills presentation which I felt allowed for easier instruction. There are no flashy graphics or distractions…it’s just your child and their online math tutor. After completing a video, you download the associated worksheet for your child to complete. I found that the worksheets did not clearly correspond with the lesson titles so it was often difficult to know which sheet to complete. I felt that most of the information was review so my son had no trouble completing the worksheets.

In addition to the videos and worksheets, there are speed drill wheels. These computerized, timed speed drills were a lot of fun for my son. He like the physical structure of the wheel and competed to beat his times.

Because this is an online program, I think the structure of the website is important. AMT's website is very organized and easy to navigate. Like the videos, there is nothing flashy, and I like that you can quickly find what you are looking for.

Summary: As much as I like the physical layout of the program and the simplicity of the presentations, I struggle to find the value in this program. We completed many of the assignments but I'm not sure it benefited my son. He is not struggling with math so perhaps that is why I don’t see the value. The videos are clear and concise and ideas are reinforced so I do not fault the content or presentation. I just don’t have a need for this program in our homeschool. The biggest negative I see with this program is the price. I wouldn't spent this much on a complete math curriculum so I know I wouldn’t spend it for supplemental math tutoring.