Monday, October 29, 2012

Samson's Classroom-- TOS Review

Samson's Classroom is an online educational tool, offering three products: Sight Words with Samson, Spelling with Samson, and Reading with Samson. I was very excited to work with this review as my second grader found learning in this environment SO fun!

We began with using Sight Words with Samson – this area was created for beginning readers by helping them to master 224 of the most commonly used words in our English language. This helps build a strong foundation for new readers to encourage them to be successful in reading. It uses a 5 step process to help each student learn these widely used words.  During the process they will see and hear the word a myriad of times as well as seeing the letters needed to create each word they are learning. Even though I don't consider my second grader a "beginning reader," she still benefited from the practice of sight words in this section!

The games my daughter played asked her to complete a sentence, spell a word, identify the word, or take a short quiz.  There is a scoreboard which helps both the student and parent keep track of where they are and what their result was.  There is also a portion in the resource center that allows the teacher to print out additional worksheets and even flash cards. And you can print a certificate out once your student has completed each level, my daughter is saving these! She's so proud!


My daughter was very unsure of spelling, sometimes she puts all of her energy into reading a word! Reversing the process to spell it was difficult for her at first. Then, we moved on to the Spelling with Samson section. Spelling with Samson is a comprehensive set of games that drills spelling words in a variety of mini games.  More than 7,000 words will all be used in games which are designed to grab the attention of your children to play them over and over again all the while building their spelling skill. You can customize the lists to match what you are learning in your curriculum OR you can choose to use one of the lists already created.  Spelling with Samson is similar to Sight Words with Samson where it also uses a multi-step process to build confidence in your student’s spelling ability through a variety of games. My daughter was encouraged to try spelling and she wanted to play in this section more and more. What a fun way for a 7 year old to get spelling practice!


Reading with Samson is a combination of reading comprehension and logical analysis where the student will learn to draw conclusions from what they have read to figure out the answers to the questions presented to them. The questions asked cover cause and effect, discovering the main idea, context, and sequencing to name a few. This program also uses an instant feedback system. If a student answers a question incorrectly the pertinent information of the passage that they read will be highlighted and the child is allowed a second chance at answering the question correctly. This section was a little more difficult for my second grader but she does try a little each day. I think we'll be able to work our way up to this area more and more as we progress through the school year.

If you decide to take a look at Samson's Classroom for your homeschool, there is a variety of pricing options for home use ($30 per year), as a family (4 users $50 per year), as a classroom (30 users $80 per year) and even more. You can try a demo of the program and make sure you check out this short but very thorough video demo.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Samson's Classroom visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Crossbow--TOS Review

Crossbow is a company that provides many different kinds of learning tools. I was interested to see how I might be able to use their product in our homeschool. I had one child in mind that I thought might benefit the most from this review product.

When you visit their website you will find that they carry several tools designed to help you create a learning environment that promotes student achievement, especially for those with Dyslexia and Visual Stress. Because I have a child that I would categorize as having "visual stress," I was curious as to what this tool might do. I honestly wondered if I'd be able to see any difference or results.
Reading Rulers is the product we received to review. They are made of durable, color-tinted plastic; and you are able to underline and highlight about six inches of text at a time. Text is read through the transparent color. Each Ruler is small and convenient to carry, or keep in a book used as a book mark. “Reading Rulers reduce page glare, dancing, blurring text and other symptoms, while also providing valuable tracking support for reading.” They are available with duo reading windows – one is 1/2″ wide and the other is 1 1/4″ wide – to aid in reading a single line of oversize text, two smaller lines of text or a short paragraph.

Studies have shown that students need a spectrum of colors to choose from, to find the one that best meets their individual needs. I had my struggling reader start using the rulers and switch colors until he found one he "liked" reading with. Over time, I could see that he was always making sure he had a reading ruler with him and I saw that he was using it as a bookmark as well.

Crossbow Education has a Pack of 10 Eye Level Reading Rulers for $16.95. It is their most popular package, because it allows a student to examine each color, choose the one that offers the most benefit; and then order just that color. We received the pack of 10 to use and my son, as of now, has chosen 3 favorite colors to use when reading. I can't help but think this tool is helping him stay on track when reading pages with lots of texts and longer paragraphs.

I highly recommend this product for anyone with a beginning or struggling reader. I intend to continue using these reading rulers for as long as needed. Thank you, Crossbow, for making a product that helps us so much!

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Crossbow visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

ZooWhiz--TOS Review 

ZooWhiz is the FREE Online Learning System that gives children comprehensive coverage of Math, Reading and English in a fun, motivational and interactive learning environment. ZooWhiz is a free site for parents and teachers and kids. It works a bit like Skype where much if its functionality is free but if you want the best then the PREMIUM subscription is for you. Premium access is usually $30 per child.


This online learning website for children allows them to practice reading, math, grammar, vocabulary, and word skills while “collecting” animals and playing games with the points they earn. It is designed for kids ages 5-15, and allows the parent to customize levels of learning to suit their child. Children can also customize their account by choosing their own “zoologist” character to play as.


Zoo Whiz was created for users across the world, with options that include American or British spelling, and different units of measure and currency. Parents are able to access progress reports that allow them to see how their kids are doing in each area. Kids are able to play learning games in different disciplines, and earn coins they can spend on animals and games.


As children play, they also learn about the animals in their collection. They get information about their habitats, whether or not they are endangered, what they eat and other information. They can even collect “rare” animals like dinosaurs and a phoenix!Many different skills are covered in the Zoo Whiz program, including basic math facts, phonemics and phonics, and more advanced skills as well. The learning levels are adjustable, so you can customize them to fit your child's ability level.

As I mentioned above there is a free account available on Zoo Whiz, I was able to try out the Premium account, which currently costs $14.95 for a year. You can't beat that! Zoo Whiz is still being developed and new content is being added all the time.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about ZooWhiz visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Box of Ideas, Pearl Harbor--TOS Review


Box of Ideas is a company dedicated to creating interactive, learning modules centered around various subject areas. When using this product you can't help but find yourself irresistibly drawn into critical thinking & knowledge building! The variety of fun topics makes learning intriguing and fun.


A Box of I.D.E.As. (Ideally Dynamic Enrichment Activities) contains ten or more modules that supplement learning on a given subject or provide an interesting journey into usual topics.  Each module contains quick, fun activities that allow your student to dive deeper into the subject being explored.  At the end of the Box, a student will have created a small portfolio of projects representing what he/she has learned.  Additional links are provided with each module for further exploration.  For older students you can take advantage of the SAT style test (included in each box) to determine if your child has mastered the information.


Box of Ideas modules can be taken and used anywhere: in the car, at the doctor’s office, waiting for a sibling to finish an activity, etc. My family was able to review World War Two: Pearl Harbor in PDF form. I used this comprehensive module with my 3 oldest children (ages 13, 12 and 10). We haven't studied WWII yet in their schooling but this was a fun and easy way to begin! I couldn't believe the amount of information available in this kit. Not only was it extremely thorough but the instructions were very user friendly and the kids' loved all of the graphics. 

This Box of Ideas was broken down into these categories regarding Pearl Harbor:
  • Before becoming a naval base
  • Beginning of a naval presence
  • Weeks before the attack
  • Day of infamy
  • Day after the attack
  • Weeks after the attack
  • Six months after the attack
  • A year after the attack
  • Four years after the attack 
  • Decades after the attack
Each category began by explaining the contents of that particular module, what we'd be working on and what I needed to prepare (copies of certain sheets or cutting that needed to be done beforehand). After the directions on the prep work, the module began with instruction and references. There were colorful pictures that corresponded with the information given. Each module was, on average, 7-10 pages long. I was very pleased at how comprehensive this was and what my older children learned (and remembered!).

No program would be complete without grading sheets! The answer keys were broken down by each module and then for the final test at the end.

There are other Box of Idea versions available, check out the website to see which one you'd like to try first! PDF versions cost $49.00 while a physical box costs $79.00.  Extra modules can be ordered for $4.00.
Box of I.D.E.As. can be used for students of multiple ages allowing a homeschooling parent the opportunity to engage all students at once.  The age range recommended is 9-16.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Box of Ideas visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Music Together--TOS Review

Anything music related usually gets our attention in a QUICK HURRY! This has been such a fun review for us. The very first thing I did was pop the CD in the player in the car on the way to an appointment. My older children weren't so sure about what I was about to present them but by the time we were on song #2, they were captivated. :)

We really enjoyed the entire CD but our favorite songs were:
  • Playin in the Kitchen
  • Mississippi Cats
  • Obwisana
  • Goin' for Coffee (Mama's favorite!)
  • I've Been Working on the Railroad (a super awesome version of an older song!)


The book has semi-glossy pages and begins immediately with a breakdown of describing every aspect you would need to know such as:
  • The Music Together teaching principles
  • The types of songs and activities in the book
  • How to work with instruments and props
  • How to work with children with special needs
The songs are then broken down by title and specific examples are given on how to create movement in conjunction with the song playing. For example, one of our favorites was Playin' in the Kitchen. I was able to find the sheet music for the song (although I'll never be able to play it myself!), directions on collecting ordinary kitchen items to use as instruments and then specific examples on working with preschoolers, older children and children with special needs.


The Music Together CD is award winning!  Look at all the awards it has gotten:
  • A Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award
  • Earlychildhood News Directors’ Choice
  • Earlychildhood News Judges’ Selection
  • National Parenting Center Seal of Approval
  • NAPPA Gold Award
  • iParenting Media Award
  • Learning®Magazine 2008 Teacher’s Choice
         for the Family
  • Creative Child Magazine Preferred Choice
  • Children's Music Web Award
  • Mom's Choice Gold Award
  • Parent-Tested Parent-Approved Award
Music Together is an internationally recognized early childhood music and movement program for children from birth through age 7. They offer classes in locations across the United States and in more than 40 overseas countries. They also have an online store that sells instruments for preschoolers (shakers, drums,  etc), CDs and teaching materials.

 This vender has offered you some cool opportunities! If you would like to listen to the songs on the "Family Favorites" CD, you can preview them HERE. You will also have the option to buy the songs individually (for $0.99 each), the entire CD (for $14.95) or the MP3 version (for $9.99).

Another awesome option you can take advantage of is that if you order the Songbook and CD combo (instead of buying separately) you can save $5. If you enter the coupon code "Schoolhouse" at check-out when you're in the store, you can save $2 more! Here's a quick way to go directly to the songbook and CD.

To see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Music Together, visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to read more.

**Disclosure: My review and opinion written in this post is entirely my own. This product was provided to me for free in exchange for my review as a member of the 2012 The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Homeschool Crew.