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TOS Review: Pyramath

I am always pleased to see fun methods of teaching and reinforcing mathematic concepts. In fact, I chose our current math curriculum because of the manipulatives and many game-based teaching methods it relies on. So I was eager to receive, for review purposes, a deck of the game Pyramath created by I See Cards. A deck sells for 6.95 and can be purchased www.iseecards.com

The Product
The Pyramath deck consists of 56 playing cards and an instruction card. It is meant for Kindergarten on up and is intended to be a one or two player game. Each playing card is brightly colored and has a number in the center facing both directions and the number written out along the edges in English, Spanish, French, Roman Numeral, Chinese and Arabic along with their translations.

On the box, Pyramath claims that playing this game kids learn: “Math Skills, Multiple Languages, Hand Eye Coordination”.  Playing Pyramath certainly is more fun than worksheets or flash cards and the number written in multiple languages is a nice touch that may expose a child to different languages. After giving it a lot of thought and seeing and playing the game, I’m still not sure how this game will teach a child hand-eye coordination.

How to Play
This game is similar to solitaire in that each player is building off the original five (or seven) cards that are laid out. From the instructions, “The objective of the game is to complete a pyramid using math operations multiplication, addition, subtraction and division.” A player picks up a card from the deck and plays it by laying it between and below two side-by-side cards. The card may only be played between two cards whose sum, product, dividend OR difference is equal to the number of the card in play.  Important to know is that the cards are all single digit numbers. Therefore if there is a 7 and 6 laying side by side, I’m allowed to play a “3” because there is no “13” card in the deck. I will admit that I was confused the first few times I read through the instructions. It’s not intuitive to me to consider leaving off the very important tens column in a math game.

My Thoughts
While it is a fun game for older children who are confident in their mathematic facts, I believe this game could potentially confuse certain children. When the answer is a two digit number, a child is asked to only think of the ones column because none of the Pyramath cards have two digits. (If an answer is “11”, the child would play the “1” card, if the answer is “14”, play the “4” card, etc) I would expect an older child could play just fine only considering the ones column; however, in the early elementary years, I believe learning ones, tens, hundreds and thousands columns is still too fresh in a child’s mind to risk confusing his current understanding of place value.

Pyramath is a unique math game and I could recommend it to students who are further along and confident in their understanding of place value in mathematics.

Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for my review and I received no other compensation.

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TOS Review: Time 4 Learning

A curriculum I was given to review this past month is an online interactive program called Time 4 Learning.  Time 4 Learning is an online interactive multimedia curriculum for PreK to 8th grade.  It covers Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies and lessons are correlated to state standards and reports of your student’s progress are available for record-keeping purposes.  Related online curriculum are Time 4 Writing and Spelling City.

Something changed in our house about a month ago…“Can I do school on the computer?” became the new “Can I have another cookie?”  I first logged on to the program and each child, from the 2-year-old up to my 7-year-old was instantly engaged by the animated characters, music and activities within the program.  This educational program is a virtual Pied Piper!

After logging in with a user name and password, subject links appear and the child then selects “yes” or “no” to continue in the subject.  Prior to using this program, none of my children had spent time on my computer but they caught on quickly to the games and activities which require “touch and drag” and tapping to select.  I’m so proud of them!  Silly, I know.

Since I was given the Preschool level to review, I’ll talk about my 4 and 5 year olds who spent the most time using the program.  My non-reading four-year-old gained the most from the Preschool level activities, whereas, the same activities were all review for my reading five-year-old.  I would select one grade up for her if I were to purchase a membership for her to use.

The Preschool level includes such subjects: the alphabet, numbers, shapes, colors, feelings and weather.  Each subject consists of four or five activities such as story time (with song), matching and memory games and coloring.  At the completion of the activities within the subject, the child is asked to select whether they thought it was “not very fun”, “sort of fun” or “very fun”.  My children selected “very fun” 100 percent of the time!

I loved not having to download any files to my computer to utilize this program.  The ease of use is unrivaled.  I also enjoyed being able to assign school to a child and then for that child to be independent for a while as he or she worked through whichever subjects interested them.  The reinforcement of what we have been learning was valuable and it was fun to watch their faces light up with every animated badge they earned or “good job!” from an animated character.  Having four young children at home, Time 4 Learning is a fabulous tool to keep certain children busy while I work one on one with another child.

At $19.95 a month for the first child and $14.95 a month per additional student, the cost is a little much for me to justify for our family.  That said, under different circumstances, I would purchase a couple of Time 4 Learning memberships to use as a computer time reward, as a supplement or as a back-up plan for days when mommy isn’t feeling well enough to conduct the usual lessons.

Overall, I recommend this program for home school and non home school children.  Also, I can see this program being especially beneficial for children who would rather play games than learn.  *wink*

Check out the interactive lesson demos to see why Time 4 Learning may be a good fit for your child(ren)!

This product was given to me in exchange for review.  I did not receive any other form of compensation.

TOS Review: Peterson Directed Handwriting

Recently I was given a handwriting program to try out in our home school. There are many useful products at Peterson Directed Handwriting but I am focusing this review on the Reproducible Lessons Grade 2 E-Workbook which is the 80 page cursive program that sells for 19.95.  Peterson Directed Handwriting is the most unique handwriting program I’ve experienced.  It teaches techniques that encourage legible and fluent handwriting in a non-tortuous way. Practically unheard of!  Until recently, I have given minimal direction to my seven-year-old son regarding his writing.  He picked it up well enough by tracing and a little coaching from myself while he was in Kindergarten.  Being that I had been given only minimal direction to my son’s writing, I was a tad intimidated by this very “directed” handwriting program, but after using it a few times, it was easy to use and more fun than simple tracing.

What’s behind this program is the idea of creating muscle memory which helps a child to write more fluently and legibly.  Peterson Directed Handwriting teaches the following steps be used:

1.  First the teacher illustrates for the child how to form a letter and speak as it is drawn. Each stroke of the letter has a word or words to describe it, called Action Words, and spoken rhythmically.
2.  Next the child writes the letter in the air and says the Action Words for each stroke along with the teacher.

3.  Then, the child finger traces the letters on their paper, again speaking the appropriate Action Words for each stroke of the letter.

4.  Finally, the child may use their pencil to write each stroke or letter and speak the Action Words while writing.

From the E-book Peterson Directed Handwriting says, “The trick is to PRACTICE the right kind of movement.” So, the child need not focus on practicing the letters but first focus on the movements that make up the letters. Smooth and controlled movement should be the goal.

The Difference is Rhythm!
In the Peterson Directed Handwriting program, there are four basic strokes which make up every letter in the cursive alphabet: Sharp Top, Loop Top, Round Top and Roll Top.  Saying the Action Words while making each stroke in rhythmic movement is the right way to practice each stroke.  If done properly, the child will be able to say the Action Words and write the letter accurately with their eyes closed.  That’s not to say the program wants children to write with their eyes close, but that this ability demonstrates the child has accomplished muscle memory by way of the Action Words and rhythmic writing.

Customer Service I was very pleased by the live online training with Rand Nelson of Peterson Directed Handwriting.  He provided a very clear description of the program and showed how to implement each technique.  Something that I’ve been thinking about since that meeting is the idea of gross motor skills and their relation to handwriting.  Mr. Nelson described gross motor skills like “a super highway with traffic going all different directions”.  Gross motor skills will translate well into fine motor skills.  However, fine motor skills are like a one-way street and do not influence a child’s gross motor skills.  Therefore, it’s of great value for a child to spend enough time writing their letters in large-scale before writing in adult-like small-scale.

Another aspect of the online training with Rand Nelson was a discussion about writing position.  The writer should be able to see their goal as well as the words they have already written. For my left-handed son, I turned his paper even further clock-wise so he can see what he has written. He isn’t as likely hook his wrist when the paper is turned far enough in that direction. Can you tell how excited I am?  My right hand dominated self is thrilled to know how to help my left-handed son and his younger brothers (also left-handed) when it’s their turn!

On cursive writing, Rand Nelson shared in the online training that print writing wasn’t used in the U.S. until the 1930’s and that, historically, students learned cursive writing with chalk (gross motor skills) and didn’t use a quill or pen until 4th or 5th grade.

Personally, I decided to use cursive in Kindergarten for my son because it’s a more fluid way of writing which made sense as he was learning to read around that time, blending sounds together to form a word. So he also blended the cursive strokes together to write his name. I also recalled back when I was in 3rd grade how other children hated writing cursive and did not want my son to be so put off by it.  Finally, I didn’t want him to start over again learning to write the alphabet when he reached “that age”.  He does know how to print – how could he not? – he reads print all the time!

If you’re not certain which handwriting program to try or if you would like to feel more confident in instructing your child in handwriting, check out Peterson Directed Handwriting.  Browse their website and you will find many resources that will help you decide if this is the right program for you.  For an Individual License (reproducible pages) of the E-Workbook, the price is 19.95. You can download and reproduce it to use with each of your children.  The program offers your choice of the Basic Kit or the Complete Kit.

TOS Review: Travel Kits E-book

 Embarking on the TOS Homeschool Crew for the first time, I’m pleased to tell you about the E-book Travel Kits: A Simple Way to Bless Others published by The Old Schoolhouse, written by Donna Rees.

Gift-giving is a universal way to show kindness, but the most memorable gifts are ones that are intentional and personal. This book is inspiration for the non-creative individual who wants to bless another with a personalized gift. A Travel Kit is similar to a gift basket, but specifically for travelers and, therefore, this book suggests more practical containers and appropriate gifts. 

Some suggestions are for kits tailored towards: young children, older children, parents and grandparents. One Travel Kit idea is for a family with children who are heading towards a vacation on the coast. Gifts in this kit could be an inflatable beach ball or tube, sunblock, a shovel and pail, a water bottle, and a map.

My favorite is the travel kit for Grandma and Grandpa which suggests including notes and drawings from the grandchildren, photographs of the grandchildren, poems written by and homemade treats made by the same dear little ones. I like these gifts because they involve each child right where they are in development, teaching them the joy of simply giving, and they make the grandparent’s visit and journey that much more memorable.

Throughout the 91 pages of this E-book are colorful pictures of compiled kits and links to travel-related websites. The Bonus Features section includes: tips about meals and snacks (with recipes), preparing your vehicle for the trip, tips from fellow travelers and a list of recommended books for children listed by age.  Many of the ideas in this kit will be a useful “gift” to my own family (and my own mental well-being) as we spend a good deal of time traveling to and from visits with family and friends, church and other weekly meetings.  

Reading this e-book has inspired me to become more creative in my gift-giving. I am not, often, a creative gifter.  Thankfully, this book contains numerous ideas for assembling thoughtful, creative gifts.  I’m excited to begin putting together gifts that will truly bless others. 

This E-book sells for $12.45 and can be purchased at the TOS website.  

I was given a copy of this E-book in exchange for my review. No other compensation has been given.

TOS Review: WannaBe A Firefighter

When I Grow Up, I Want to be a Firefighter by The Old Schoolhouse is a career study and part of the E-Book WannaBe Series available at The Old Schoolhouse Store.  A WannaBe  E-Book sells for $ 8.95 or a pack of 10 can be purchased for $89.50.   It was written for children ages 4 – 10 years, but the nature of the topic and the coloring pages included make it easy to include children even younger, if desired.  

There are six suggested themes such as A Firefighter is Brave and Firefighters Work as a Team, following each theme is a list of related activities or games.  One suggested activity is the timeless Bucket Brigade, and is an effective hands-on lesson teaching the importance of teamwork.  This activity also encourages a discussion of the changes in firefighting throughout history.    

The reproducible pages of copy work in both print and cursive, vocabulary pages with space to fill in the definition, fill in the word stories, a word search and crossword puzzle are fun ways to encourage reading and writing.  My son was able to practice his reading and spelling as he completed these activities.  

This study also includes a first-person telling by a firefighter of what life is like in this career.  I knew my son was engaged when, after reading one section, he pondered aloud, “They don’t go home to their family each night!”  More than just the usual bells and whistles, my son was exposed to what real life looks like for a firefighter, the qualifications to become a firefighter, and the process from rookie academy to becoming a sworn member of the department.      

A pleasant surprise for us was the science section which covered robots.  We used this study to cover math – graphing and addition, science – how the parts of a robotic arm are like a human arm, history – early days of firefighting, as well as vocabulary, geography and climate.  

Without hours of planning, my son and I were able to take a closer look at the career of a firefighter.  At $8.95, this study is less than the price of a typical career study book plus it includes a variety of activities to reinforce learning.  What a great tool.  I recommend the When I grow up, I want to be A Firefighter.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this product for review purposes. 

TOS Review: Download N Go Expedition Australia

Expedition Australia is one study in the Download N Go Series by Amanda Bennett and The Old Schoolhouse.  It is designed to be used over one weeks’ time and was written for children from K – 4th grade.  The E-Book sells for 7.95 at The Old Schoolhouse Store and is set up to be used over five days.  

As the series name suggests, I was able to download, print and go.   It was as simple as placing an order; there was no charge for shipping nor any waiting for the product to arrive at my door.  All the materials to teach my six-year-old about Australia were right there.  That’s a deal for any busy mom!  Using the links that were provided, I was immediately able to print a kangaroo coloring page and easily find the distance from our home to Sydney, Australia.  

As I mentioned, Expedition Australia is written for use in grades K – 4th; however, I found it simple to include my younger children (pre-kindergarten ages) in the study with us.  While they were not involved with the writing aspects of the study, they did enjoy learning common Australian words and, of course, coloring and drawing pictures as they listened.  The children were eager to jump in an color their own picture of a kangaroo and to find and circle pictures of “lollies”!  They were just as interested to look at pictures of and listen to facts about such unique animals: the Tasmanian Devil, the dingo and the wallaby.  

 The section on the continents and the worksheet to record time and temperature in our town and in Sydney or Canberra was an especially helpful way to expand my son’s understanding of the world.  When he commented to me the time it was in Sydney, Australia days after we had finished the study, I knew he had truly learned from this inexpensive and convenient study of Australia.  

Throughout the e-book are projects such as mini-books that can be created and then compiled into a lapbook; in addition, there is a list of links to online resources that show how-to create a lapbook.  In our home we enjoyed making the mini-books but did not actually put them into a lapbook. 

Overall, I am most impressed by the ease of use and wide range of activities and links to resources this study offered our family.  As a homeschooling mom of four, this resource was well worth our time and I would suggest to my friends that it is $ 7.95 well spent.