Monday, March 26, 2012

Action Alert - a review

I am married to a self-admitted technology junkie. He has always loved technology and has been involved with computers since he was a teenager (and that was a LONG time ago). He had and worked on home PC's before many people knew what they did. I remember thinking he was "so cool" because he had a home computer. All I had was a typewriter, and later a really big word-processor for college. Our parents didn't have to worry about internet dangers or even know what the internet was! We, on the other hand, have 4 desktop computers, 1 laptop computer and an iPad, as well as an iPhone and a Blackberry. All of these devices can give our children access to the internet.

Having all these devices does not mean that our children have unlimited access to technology, because they most definitely do NOT. However, I know there will be a time when they have more access and we will need to be more careful.

Action Alert is a downloadable program that helps you set up a "kid-safe" computer in just a matter of minutes. It is fully customizable to the amount of security you want/need for your particular situation.

There are 2 versions of Action Alert. The completely FREE version shows you how dedicated Action Alert is to the safety of our children.

The Free Version allows you access to all of the above safety tools. The paid Full Version, which is very reasonably priced at $29.99 allows you to set up multiple-user profiles on one PC as well as complete social network monitoring.

I really like the idea of ACCESS CONTROL. Being able to shut-down the PC remotely from your phone is a wonderful feature. I can see this being very useful as my children get older and are left home alone.

The ACTIVITY NOTIFICATION ALERTS will alert you via text or email that your child has typed in an inappropriate word. I think this is a good idea and can be used as an accountability tool for your older teens. However, for us, we have young kids who might accidentally type in a word that pulls up inappropriate content. I don't want them to see any of that at all! This is a great tool for accountability, as is the ACTIVITY VIDEO RECORDING. But, in my opinion, it's not what I need to protect my young, naive children from some of the internet dangers that are out there.

The TIME ALLOWANCE is another great feature that would work well for older tweens or teens who are given more freedom on the computer. My kids are typically given a set program to play for a set amount of time, or a set number of lessons/activities. I can see this being a great tool when the kids are older and possibly left home alone a little more often. This would be a great program to use if you have older kids out of school during the summer.

The SITE BLOCKING blocks sites that you list, or allows sites that you list. I didn't have any specific sites that they could not go to, so this was a little trickier for us to use. At first I had it set up to go to the sites I know they use. But, when Paul does research I don't know what site he might need to go to. This is when the CONTENT FILTERING would come in handy. However, you have to search from their search engine. It is easily maneuvered around by going to any other search engine. Of course, you have the accountability which I discussed above. It's just not quite as secure as I want for my kids at their young ages. Again, it would be great for older kids.

Action Alert has won several awards. They have also been featured on the Today Show.

I can definitely see the benefits of Action Alert. Plus, most of the features are free, so you can see how you like it. And if you need multiple user protection the $29.99 fee is extremely reasonable to protect your kids and give them accountability for what they are doing online.

You can see what other TOS Crew Members thought at the TOS Crew Blog.

Disclosure: I was given the Full Version of this product for free in exchange for my review. There was no other compensation given for this review. All opinions stated here are my own, honest opinions.

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Monday, March 19, 2012

"D" is for Disaster!

I am a few days late, but better late than never! This weeks letter is "D", and in our home:

"D" is for DISASTER!

I can't believe I am actually going to put these pictures on my blog for the whole world to see (ok, so maybe not the whole world, but still...).

Our home is "lived in". We work, school, play and live in our home! So, at the end of our day it is a true DISASTER!

There are school related items all over the table in the breakfast nook turned school room:

There are piles of dishes to be done:

There are books on every surface in the house:

There are piles of "stuff" everywhere:

But most importantly, there are three happy, healthy kiddos:

(This picture is a couple months old)

So now I must go put those three kiddos to bed and get busy cleaning the disaster that is left from the days fun!

The kids do have chores, and they do help out. But, there's simply not enough time in the day sometimes to get all the school books put away, dishes done, and "stuff" picked up! There is always a frog to be found outside, a treasure hunt to go on, a tent to be made, or some other adventure waiting for us. Cleaning can wait until they are in bed, or even until the weekend, next week, next month, next year, or when they are grown (which seems to be coming way too fast).

I am happy living this life, even if

"D" is for DISASTER!

Thanks Marcy for this great meme!


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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Progeny Press Literature Guides - a review

Paul is a wonderful reader. He has read 24 books so far this year for "school" and many more just for fun. It has gotten to the point that I can't possibly pre-read everything he reads. So, it's difficult for me to always be ready with vocabulary development and comprehension questions for him, much less deeper discussion questions. I have him do narrations about what he is reading and try to ask thought provoking questions, but as he gets older and is reading even more, and the other two begin reading more in depth books I am never going to be able to keep up. So, what a wonderful think Progeny Press has with over 100 literature guides for students.

Progeny Press offers literature guides for all ages! We were blessed to review the guide for "The Cay". This book and the accompanying guide is geared for middle schoolers. Paul is not yet a middle schooler but his reading and comprehension skills are strong enough that he was fine with it. It could also easily be adjusted for younger students if someone read the book to them.

The suggested way to use the guides is to have the student read the book and then take a couple of weeks going through the guide. I felt it would work better for Paul if we read each section and then did the accompanying assignments for that chapter(s). There is vocabulary to work on, basic reading comprehension questions as well as deeper more thought-provoking questions that help the student relate to the characters and learn from their experiences. There are also wonderful scripture references that help to give the student a biblical perspective on great literature, and help them use literature to make changes in their own life.

I have looked at many different literature guides and used quite a few. Progeny Press is the first one I have found that effectively brings Biblical truths out of regular literature. Paul truly learned a great deal and it really helped him to better understand the book. I am currently looking over next years reading list to see which guides I will need to purchase for next year. Even though the curriculum we use offers comprehension questions for many of the books he will read I like the idea of more detailed questions, as well as the thought-provoking questions that help him think about how it relates to Biblical truth and his own life.

A great feature that I might use in the future is that the pdf versions of the guides are interactive. This means the student can type his/her answers directly into the pdf and then save it. I contemplated allowing Paul to do it that way but decided I wanted to see how he liked it as just a regular assignment instead of having his opinion influenced by the thrill of extra computer time! (In reality it was God intervening since our computer crashed shortly after I printed and started using the guide, so if I had not printed it it would have been totally gone...but that's a different story for a different time. Let's just say, back-up all your data! Hard-drive crashes are no fun!)
I won't lie and say Paul loved every minute of working on the guide and he especially didn't like the vocabulary (it is a good bit of vocabulary). However, I will be ordering more, because they helped him to understand what he was reading and it gave him so much perspective on the lives of the characters in the book as well as his own life! There are sometimes (actually many times) that Mom just knows best and this is one of those times when Mom knows he needs this. It is going to be a part of our "stepping it up a notch" for him next year.

The guides are available in print format($18.99), as a pdf for download ($16.99) or you can get the pdf version on CD ($16.99).

Go take a look at what TOS Crew Members had to say about these amazing guides on the TOS Crew Blog.

Disclosure: I received a free pdf copy of this literature guide for review purposes. There was no other compensation given for this review. All opinion are my own, honest opinions.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

"C" is for "CAREFREE"

So, I am such a slacker I missed the 2nd letter of the alphabet! I had a post started and was going to do "B" is for Boys, but I never finished it. Oh well, on to this weeks "Blogging Through the Alphabet"

"C" is for CAREFREE
I was watching my two youngest play in the yard yesterday and I thought how wonderful it was that they were so carefree! I ran out and snapped a couple of pictures

These two are typically the most carefree kiddos. They know that Mommy and Daddy have everything taken care of, so they just enjoy life! I couldn't help but wish that I was more like them. I know my Heavenly Father is in control and has everything taken care of, so why do I worry about things. I think God would love for us to recognize that He is in control and let Him take care of us, instead of us fretting over everything. So, my lesson for the day is that I need to "Let Go, and Let God!".

"C" is for CAREFREE

Thanks to Marcy over at Ben and Me for doing this great Link-Up! Go check out what others have said the letter "C" is for!
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

K5 Learning - a review

The kids love anything that they can do on the computer. No matter what it is they think it is fun because it means they get extra screen time. So, when I get a chance to review an educational computer program they are always ready to get started.

K5 Learning is intended for Kindergarten through 5th graders and works on Reading, Math, Spelling, and Math Facts. You start with an assessment so the program knows where to place the students. The assessment is a little long so I sat with each of my three kiddos to make sure they stayed on task. They actually enjoyed the assessment as did I. It helped me to see their strengths and weaknesses in both Reading and Math. I was also given a detailed report when they were finished. The assessment broke down Reading and Math skills and gave specific information on which areas they were strong and which ones they were weak. It then placed them in the appropriate level of the program. At any time, if the parent thinks the assigned level is too difficult or too easy they can send a quick email to have that adjusted. I did this with Zach and they changed the level by the next morning.

We focused on the Reading and Math lessons for Zach and Paul.

The reading lessons were divided in to:
Reading Comprehension
Phonemic Awareness
Sight Words

The Math lessons were divided in to:
Number Skills and Algebra

Both boys enjoyed doing their lessons and it was great extra practice for them. This is not a complete curriculum. But it worked really well to make sure some of those skills we don't necessarily get to everyday were covered and reviewed.

The parent reports were very beneficial to see how many lessons were completed, how much time they had spent on the lessons as well as the percent mastered.

This would be a wonderful program for summer time to keep the important skills sharp. It was also great for the week this month that Mommy was sick. I could easily tell the boys to do a Math or Reading lesson on K5 Learning so I knew they were learning. I could also see it being beneficial for a student who is behind to work on needed skills in the summer months.

You can sign up for a free 14 day trial or you can take a look at some sample lessons to see if this program would work for your student.

Pricing Info
Monthly Subscription
1st child.....$25
Additional Child.....$15

Yearly Subscription
1st Child.....$199
Additional Child....$129

Please go take a look and see what other Crew Members thought on the Homeschool Crew Blog

Disclosure: I was given a free subscription to K5 Learning for a limited time for the purpose of this review. There was no other compensation given for this review. All opinions are my own, honest opinion.

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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading Eggs - a review

As I have mentioned many times before we are not big on a lot of "screen time" for our kiddos. It is seriously limited. The Wii is limited to about an hour/week and only on the weekend. TV time is probably 2-3 hours/week maybe a little more when Mommy is sick (like I have been this week) Computer time is typically only for educational purposes. The boys both have a few educational computer "games" that they use on a semi-regular basis. But, Molly doesn't really have any yet. We have reviewed a few that she liked for a time, but nothing that she has really begged to do for any length of time.

Enter READING EGGS! I had a friend suggest this online reading adventure game to me when Zach was struggling with learning to read. I looked at it briefly and just thought it was too expensive and it probably wouldn't help anyway. Well, I sure wish I had listened way back then. Along with the reading program that we are using during Molly's "learning time with Mommy" we have implemented Reading Eggs into her day. She LOVES it, and she is learning so much. The other advantage is it gives her something to do on her own while I work with Zach.

So, what is it? Reading Eggs is an online game where children work through maps to build phonics skills. There are also fun games to play and points are earned for completing activities. These points can be used to purchase various items for your "house" as well as your animals.

With interactive animations, fun games, great songs and lots of rewards, Reading Eggs is a great place to learn to read. Children are highly motivated to return again and again. At Reading Eggs, learning to read is enjoyable as well as very rewarding. Every lesson ends with a new book and a new critter to add to your growing collection.

It is designed for ages 3-12. Molly is almost 5 and has a little bit of phonics knowledge already so she tested on the second set or "map".

I think a 3 year old might struggle and would need some assistance. They could probably maneuver the playroom area on their own and get used to using the mouse. Around the age of 4 is when I would think it would be more appropriate for learning to read. But, as we all know, every child is different! It starts out with just letter sounds and quickly moves to words. It uses phonics as well as site words to quickly have the student reading short books.

You can head on over to Reading Eggs and try a sample lesson, start a 14-day free trial or just go ahead and sign up. You can purchase different lengths of membership:
1 month-$9.95
6 months-$49.95
12 months-$75.00

There are also book packs, activity books and flashcards you can purchase.

Molly really has loved this program. I love that she can do it all by herself! And it has worked perfectly right along with the reading program we have been enjoying. I think it would well as a supplement to any reading program. I do not think it incorporates enough review to be a reading program by itself.

Another great aspect is that the parent can log in and see what the child has been learning as well as what their "reading age" is.

There is also a second portion of the program Reading Eggspress that is designed for working on comprehension and fluency, once reading is mastered. We have not yet used this portion of the program. If it is anywhere near as well done as Reading Eggs I am sure we will enjoy it when the time comes.

Check out what other TOS Crew Members have to say about Reading Eggs over at the Crew Blog!

Disclosure: I received this product for a limited time in exchange for a review. There was no other compensation given for this review. All opinions given above are my own, honest opinion.

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