Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Schleich Action Figures Review

Have you ever seen the adorable, extremely detailed animal figures that just stand out from the rest on the shelf at the store? Chances are they are by Schleich. All of Schleich's figurines are modeled true-to-nature and hand painted. They are extremely detailed and very high quality. All of their products are developed with the help of parents, teachers, and children.

We received seven animals from several of their categories to review. From the Farm Life, we received a cat, boar, hen, and Haflinger foal. From Wild Life, we received lion and panda cubs. And from Pets, we received a tortoise. My children were tearing into the box the moment they arrived. My son was so impressed with them, he didn't want to take the tags off because he wanted to keep them as collector's items. He also asked immediately where he could buy more of them. My daughter on the other hand had other things in mind. She snatched them up and added them to some other farm animals we have and started playing with them.

These figures are a wonderful way to encourage creativity. They can be incorprated into many activities in your home, helping to bring nature to your children. Not only will your children fall in love with them, but you, the adult, will find yourself falling in love with them as well. They are truly nice enough to be collector's items but yet sturdy enough for rough and tough play. Whatever your purpose, you will find yourself spotting them in stores and wanting to add to your collection.

Here is a list of the different categories of figures they carry: Farm Life, Wild Life, Forest Animals, Trees and Plants, Human Figurines, Pets, Dinosaurs, Dogs, Sea Animals, Prehistoric Mammals, Replica Saurus, The Smurfs, The World of Knights, The World of Elves, and World of the American Frontier. You can look at what is included in each of these categories if you CLICK HERE.

Schleich figures are sold at Target, Toys R Us,, and your local farm stores. Don't be fooled by imitations. Make sure there is a Schleich tag identifying the real thing.

To find out more about this company, CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Alphabet Alley Review

A while back, I did a review on two great products from Alphabet Alley. I was given the opportunity to review another product of theirs called Our New Baby Magnetic Playset. Alphabet Alley is a wonderful family owned company and they do their best to provide the highest quality products to their customers. Due to new lead regulations from the CSPIA guidelines/laws, the Our New Baby Magnetic Playset is not available for sale right now.

However, this company has many wonderful other items you may be interested in. They have great games, sticker sets, wooden toys, and puzzles. All of their products are faith-based and send a positive message to children. Everything I have received from them has been very sturdy, high-quality, and so fun for my toddler aged daughter. Any one of their products would make a nice addition to the educational toys and games you provide for your child.

To check out any of these items, CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Homeschool in the Woods Review

Homeschool in the Woods has some great products and their New Testament Lap Book is no exception! In case you don't know, a lap book is made up of a number of small activities which are completed individually and then put together into several file folders that have been connected together to make a book that opens on your child's lap.

First of all, I'd like to mention that we are not lap book fans at my house so I was not real sure how this would go over. This lap book was different from others we have tried. The first thing that impressed me was the quality of the graphics in this product. Wow! Very nice! And, if you have ever bought anything from Homeschool in the Woods, then you know how wonderfully organized their files are when you open them, whether in ebook or on cd. I reviewed this product in ebook format. It's very easy to find your way around and print out exactly what you need for a certain lesson. There are several files and each of them are labeled so you know exactly where to go. Their directions are always clear and easy to follow. There is even a Printable Photo Gallery for you to see finished products. All you need to add to this are some markers or colored pencils, glue or tape, some brads, paper (colored if you want), cardstock, and a few other easy to find supplies.

Each activity was so different from the last and kept my son's attention. I find that many lap books require a lot of writing and this one was not overwhelming. In addition, there are alternative suggestions to replace writing in some instances.

There are 15 different activities in this lap book. They cover:
* The Lineage from David to Jesus
* The Birth of Jesus Christ
* Miracles of Jesus
* The Beatitudes
* Fruit of the Spirit
* The Parables of Jesus
* The Last Supper
* The Crucifixion
* The Resurrection
* The Ascension
* Pentecost
* Prophesies Fulfilled
* The Twelve Disciples
* Paul's Missionary Journeys
* Postcards from Paul

I thought the Armor of God model was really neat and because it was hands-on, it made it even more memorable! There is also a bonus activity where students pretend to be a reporter during the New Testament times and interview different characters and create a newspaper in a scroll format. This activity alone is filled with tons of different ways for your child to creatively show what he has learned about the New Testament. For children who like to write, this is where they will shine! When this lap book is done, it will make a very impressive addition to any child's portfolio. This lap book can be used by itself, in addition to a Bible curriculum you have, or as a starting point for further research on specific topics in the New Testament. My son enjoyed doing this and learned a lot along the way. It was a very enjoyable product to use!

Homeschool in the Woods has two other lap book products you might be interested in. There is one for the Old Testament and one called Artists. All of them are $18.95 for a downloadable version and $19.95 on CD. They also have wonderful timeline products and Time Traveler History Studies. To find out more about any of these items, CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bonnie Terry Learning Review

Bonnie Terry has used her 30 years teaching experience to create materials that work with children with special needs, dyslexia, reading problems, math problems, and much more. She has many different products to meet these needs. I was fortunate to review her Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills and Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills.

Five Minutes to Better Reading Skills was created to help with fluency, comprehension, visual closure, and visual tracking through 45 phonics drills. This book was so easy to read and start using right away. All materials are provided, including a sheet protector and dry erase marker which will keep your book like new and able to be used over and over.

At the beginning of every drill, a specific phonic sound is introduced. Then an oral pre-read is done for the child to practice. Then a one minute timed oral read is done where the parent keeps track of the errors and words read per minute. The student charts his own results, which creates motivation. My son loved doing this. He got excited when he was able to beat a previous score or lower the number of errors he made on a previous drill.

The drills build on each other so there is continual review. They are also set up so that the first couple of sets of words on the page are spaced farther apart than normal to help with visual perception. I noticed that when my son got to the bottom sets, which were closer together, he could read much quicker than usual. It was definitely helping him to read with better fluency.

These drills can be repeated with a child from year to year by just changing the words-per-minute goal. This program also fits in with any reading program you may be using. I was a little worried about that before I received the materials. Because my son is dyslexic, I have a very specific program I use with him and didn't want to have to put it aside for a while. I was very pleasantly surprised how easy this was to use and it complemented everything he has learned. We were able to continue our regular reading program and then just add this for five minutes at the end.

These drills really do only take five minutes to do and my son has really enjoyed using this. He actually cheered today when I pulled it out. He has yet to complain about using this and he doesn't usually like when I add "extra" stuff to our regular day. This is one we will be sure to continue and look forward to the results!
This program is $60 for everything (teacher and student books).
CLICK HERE to learn more.

Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills is exactly that! In just ten minutes a day, your child can learn to take notes and better prepare himself for studying and test taking. Note taking is an important life skill that all children need to learn. It will help them to organize material for better storage and retrieval when needed.

This book can be used from 3rd grade through high school covering story organizers and book reports to research papers and business letters. It is very simple to use and well organized so that you can move around in the book very easily to find what you need. It also works very well right along side the Five Minutes to Better Reading. When the child is done reading a short selection after the drill, one of these forms can be used to take notes.

It is divided into four parts:
1. Getting Started- this describes what you need, how to organize the program, and charts to assist in this.
2. Nitty Gritty- an overview of the different forms and the various ways to use them. The forms included in the book are simple and easy to follow visually.
3. Study and Writing Tips- Tips for studying, note taking, test taking, and paragraph and essay writing. The first several lists of tips are things that may seem like common sense to us adults, but not to students. In fact, as I read through them, I could easily seem many of them being overlooked by an adult because we would think the child would realize to do them. I thought this was an important section to include.
4. Easy Reference- This part contains great reference materials that would be a huge help to students when writing. Included are spelling patterns, capitalization and punctuation rules, grammar, parts of speech, and even how to write a bibliography.

My son hates to write so I modified this program (which is suggested in the manual) by having him dictate his responses to me and I wrote them down for him. I hope to work him up to writing a few of the responses for himself.

This book will be very effective in teaching your child how to study, take tests, and take notes in different formats and create well written papers from them.

The price of the book is $37.00.
CLICK HERE to learn more.

Go to Bonnie Terry Learning to find out about her other books, games, and learning tools.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Artistic Pursuits Review

I am NOT artistic! I have said this before in another review. In fact, I don't even like teaching it. It is a subject I have to force myself to do and I really don't teach it as often as I should. Artistic Pursuits makes this job easier. There are several books for different age levels available. I reviewed Grades 4-6, Book One, The Elements of Art and Composition.

This book is laid out very well. It is very teacher and/or student friendly. It starts with the very basics of how to sit and the type of surface needed when drawing. There are very few materials required for this curriculum because it is not arts and crafts, but rather learning to draw using different techniques. There is a list of materials on the table of contents page and it is divided into the units. This makes it really easy to quickly see what materials are needed, how long they will be used, and what units they go with.

The lessons are short, which I appreciate. It's hard to fit art into our week and when I do, I don't want it to take over our day. This book can be used independently by the student if you wanted because it is written in such an easy manner to understand. If you have a child that does not read well independently, you could read to him and then let him do the lesson by himself afterwards.

There are 16 units in this book with each of them being five pages long. Those pages are split into four different lessons that repeat in each unit throughout the book.
Page 1 will build visual vocabulary helping the student to make connections in the real world.
Pages 2-3 will cover American art appreciation and history.
Page 4 will teach the technique the student will be working on in that unit.
Page 5 is a final project to bring together everything the child has learned.

Here is a list of what is covered in this book:
The Elements of Art
Line and Shape
Form using Value
Local Value
The Shapes of Natural Forms

Proportion, the Face

When your child is done with this book, he will have really learned to draw a great picture in many different ways which will expand his creativity. There are students' samples included in the book to inspire the child. One of my favorite features is the American art appreciation. These works of art are in full color. I have used art curriculum in the past that contained works of art in black and white and I really don't like that. If I am going to teach my child about a specific work of art, I want it to look as close to the original as possible and that needs to be in color. I appreciate the fact that author, Brenda Ellis, went the extra mile and had these printed in color! Next to these pictures is the name of the author, the name of the work of art, and the date is was created. The other parts of the book are in black and white with a few things in color, such as titles and certain parts of the text, to make them stand out.

At the end of the book there is an evaluation sheet to help you obtain a number and/or letter grade for your child's work. There is a chart that guides you through choosing the correct amount of points for your child's level of understanding of concepts and assignments completed.

This was a really nice art curriculum that would easily fit into anyone's schedule and for any level of ability. The price of this book is $42.95. That is the only thing about this book that I would have a problem with. I know that it could be used for a full year if done twice a week, but it still seems a little pricey to me. Homeschool families are usually on a budget and have a certain amount of money allotted for each subject, and unfortunately, art probably isn't one they would spend this much money on. Especially since there are other materials that have to be bought to go along with it. This particular book didn't require as much but some of the other books by Artistic Pursuits do. If you have several children who could use this book at once or over several years, then it may be more economical for you. That is something to take into consideration.

There are also books for Preschool, K-3, and Junior and Senior High. All books are $42.95 each.

To learn more about Artistic Pursuits, CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

Sunday, March 1, 2009

one2believe-Noah's Ark Review

This is the second product I have gotten to review from one2believe and it was no disappointment either. This Tales of Glory Noah's Ark Set has been so much fun! My daughter has really enjoyed playing with it and it's a great way to introduce the story of Noah's Ark to her.

There are 7 sets of animals (both male and female) included with Noah and a big ark. The animals are really cute and it is very easy to tell which is the male and female. I really like the fact that the top of the ark comes off and the animals can be stored inside. A huge plus when you are dealing with a set of little animals!

There is a small storybook that comes with this set, which can be read to your child to teach about the story of Noah. This set is a nice way to bring the story alive and make it more realistic and hands-on, which will in turn make it more memorable.

one2believe's products seem to be a good quality and are durable. My daughter has played with this quite a bit and other than Noah's staff being lost (which was our fault), everything is still in great shape.

There are several different sets in the Tales of Glory line, which include a nativity set (see my other review) and the Galilee Boat set. There are also some other smaller figurine sets.

To find out more about this product, or other products one2believe has, CLICK HERE.

Heidi Miller-Ford

SpellQuizzer Review

If you are tired of giving the same old spelling test each week or perhaps you have a child who hates taking those spelling tests each week, SpellQuizzer is a spelling software program you might want to try. This is a very simple little program compared to many software programs out there today, but don't let that fool you. We have thoroughly enjoyed using it and my son has a new found interest in taking spelling tests.

This program has five different options when the main screen appears.

1. Quiz me on a list!- This is where your child will go to take a test from a list you (or your child) has created.
2. Create a spelling list- This is where you or your child will go to create a spelling list (recognizes both US and UK words)
3. Edit spelling list- you can go to any spelling list that has been created and change them.
4. & 5. Import/Export spelling lists- spelling lists can be shared between SpellQuizzer users to save time.

To create a spelling list, it is very easy. Simply type in a word and then record the sentence or phrase that you want your child to hear. Then click a button to add that word to the list and continue until you have all the desired words for that list entered. It's as simple as that! If you do not have a microphone, it is not needed. You can type in reminder phrases your child will see on the screen. However, I recommend getting a microphone. I really think that is best part about the program. Your child will really enjoy hearing the sentences you have recorded for each word. The sillier the better! My son even asked me to wait for him to leave the room one day so he would not hear the sentences I was recording. He wanted it to be a surprise when he took the test.

All of your lists are saved, which is great if you want your child to go back and review certain ones. During a test, if words are missed, he is given the option to correct them at the end. There is one thing I would like to see added to this program though. I wish there was a way for the parent to see the child's progress. When he is done taking the test, there is no way to know how many words were missed and which ones they were. Yes, you can ask your child but it does not give you an accurate answer or even a way to print out their progress to keep track of. Despite this one little thing that could be added, I feel this is a wonderful program! My son hates to write and taking a written spelling test is awful for him. He now looks forward to taking them and it has become one of his favorite activities to do. My husband has even gotten in on the fun and when he is around when I am getting ready to enter the words, I have him do it instead and this is even funnier to my son.

Some other possibilities for using this program are:
Entering vocabulary definitions and your child types in the vocabulary word (which would have to be spelled correctly).
Entering a complete sentence your child would have to type in correctly, including grammar and punctuation.

Another thing to note, if you don't want to make up your own spelling lists, the SpellQuizzer site is in the process of adding downloadable spelling lists that can be imported into the program.

The price of this program is $29.95 for a single license. There is also a discounted rate for multiple licenses for a group.

I highly recommend this program is you are tired for the same old spelling tests you have been doing or your child hates to write. It has really helped change my son's outlook on spelling tests and made it enjoyable for him! To find out more about this program, CLICK HERE. There are also video demos to watch on the site.

Heidi Miller-Ford