Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MathScore - Another Great Math Resource

MathScore offered me a free trial to review their math subscription service. The free trial is available to anyone. Click here to sign up and give it a try for yourself. After that, the subscription is $14.95/month for the first child, $5 for the second, and $3.75 for each additional student. However, right now they are offering a discounted rate of $9.95 for the first child. I'm not sure how long that will last.

For homeschoolers, MathScore offers a choice of either a full curriculum or a supplement to your regular curriculum. They offer levels 2nd grade through Algebra 1. I tried the 5th grade which had 105 topics to choose from. The computer makes recommendations on what you should do next, but the decision is ultimately up to the student. I like the fact that Lesson 1 is a CopyCat lesson. This helps to build up the student's keyboarding skills. Numbers are not always covered (or at least not very well) in typing programs. Learning to use the number pad (10-key) is immensely helpful in many jobs. For me, my 10-key skills have actually got me more than one job in the past. The way computers run everything today, that may be a more useful skill than the math itself. I'm kidding, of course. I like the way the lessons are quick and to the point. My easily distractable student is able to stay focused long enough to complete a lesson at a time. I am not crazy about the fact that you are timed and have to repeat the lesson if you run out of time. For some students, that challenge is a good thing. For the easily distractable and frustratable ones it is not. I do love that they can earn "trophies" for completing certain assignments. It is amazing how motivating even fake rewards can be.

As a side note, if you are not a homeschooler, MathScore also offers supplemental practice for school kids.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Keyboarding for the Christian School

Keyboarding for the Christian School is a learn to type program by Leanne Beitel. I have to admit, when I first looked at this program I did not like it. Most learn to type programs you see now are all electronic, to immediately show errors and wpm scores. This program is all on paper with no bells and whistles. In fact, at first I did not even want to use it with my children. However, the more I looked at it and thought about it, the more this program makes sense. The lessons are laid out in a logical manner. Also, practically speaking when we type something in real life we generally do not copy it from an electronic format. If we are copying at all, it is going to be from a hard copy. Hence, learning to type from paper copy just makes sense. The beginning lessons, of course, are just typing letters starting with "F" and "J". The later lessons, however is where it gets interesting. The later lessons include copying Bible verses. There are also lessons on how to format the page using MS Word. They teach the proper layout for letters, reports, and some extra little formatting tools. I was really impressed with the overall quality of the program. The boys even enjoyed typing even though there were no cartoon characters involved. They just are just learning good quality typing skills. I might even suggest that the hubby use it. If you'd like to see some sample lessons, click here. The best part is that the program is a complete typing program for a very affordable $15.95. They also have an elementary version available for only $12.95. However, my first and fifth graders had no problem using the upper version either. So, either way you get a good product.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Review - Bertie's War

Kregel Publications has a mission to develop and distribute biblically based resources. I was fortunate to receive one of their books to review.
"Bertie's War" by Barbara Tifft Blakey is a story about Bertie who enters seventh grade at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is a great story to share living history with your children. I love historical fiction. It really helps give an inside look to what daily life was like at a point in history. This story does just that, and more. Bertie not only struggles with the fear of the Communists, but also with just the daily struggles of growing up. I loved getting to know Bertie and more about the 1960's. This is an exceptionally great story to inspire preteens and young teenagers. Bertie's War is available from Kregel Publications for $7.99 here. While visiting the website, be sure to check out all the other resources they have available.

Create Your Own Video Games

Have your children ever wanted to learn how to create your own video games? My children love video games and were given an opportunity to create their own games. Tektoma: Game tutorials for kids is a subscription service that teaches kids ages 7 to 17 to create their own games. They can create games for racing, arcade, memory, platform or fantasy. The subscription runs $14.95 per month or $140 per year. All materials, projects, and forums are moderated for age appropriate content. It works with Gamemaker, a free download. This is currently only available for Windows users, but they are working on making it available for Mac as well.

We were given a 3 month subscription to review. I was very impressed with how simple the program was to follow. Some programs will say that they are suitable for seven year olds, but really are more suitable for older students. My seven year old was able to understand quite well. I was a little surprised, however, that my children did not get into the program as I thought they would. Regardless, it is a great, safe resource for kids who want to learn the basics of creating games. In today's technology driven world, any experience in this area is a plus.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Worship Guitar

For a long time I have wanted to learn to play the guitar. My oldest son, who is gifted with music, had also expressed an interest. At $15 to $20 per hour, lessons are just not an option. When I received a copy of Jean Welles Worship Guitar Class to review, I was thrilled. The only challenge was finding a guitar to use for practice. Well, I loaded the kids, the DVD, and the book into the car to drive an hour to Grandpa’s house. However, Grandpa only has electric guitars. Electric guitars are great for some things, but for this music acoustic really works better. Though, it did give us a good chance to look over the program with my dad who is an avid guitar player. He was able to give me some good input. I found the program very easy to use and follow. Now, that doesn’t mean that it makes the guitar any easier to play. That only comes with practice. Between the book and the DVD, I was able to figure out the fingerings for at least the first couple chords. I was also able to help my 11 year old learn them as well. I was a little skeptical that one could learn from a DVD program as well as lessons, but it is definitely doable. I would recommend it as a valid option for anyone starting out, without wanting to spend a fortune on private lessons. My dad said that the lessons were very good and he would recommend it also.

I was only able to view Volume I, which is available for $24.95. If you are ready to jump in with both feet you can get the complete class with all four volumes and some bonuses for $99.95. There are even some bigger packages that include a guitar. You can view a sample of the first lesson here. This particular program is designed for people ages 9 and up. If you have a younger musician, they do have another program available for kids starting around age 5.