Saturday, January 22, 2011


What is ALEKS?
Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system that uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS offers truly individualized instruction that meets the student at her learning level and instructs her on the exact topics that she is most ready to learn. As a result, no two students will experience the same learning path while working in ALEKS. Learn more by watching a quick 2-minute video.

We first learned about ALEKS last year when my oldest stepson used it in public school for his summer school program. He loved using it compared to learning at school, he excelled and understood it. Fast forward to December where we were offered to review it for my son that I homeschool. I was excited to have access and see if it was as good as I had heard. What I discovered was completely unexpected! My son LOVES this program! By the end of December he had logged 4 hours and 21 minutes on his own time doing the lessons. He also spent a few hours on a separate trial link one DAY doing numerous lessons. Needless to say this transformed his schoolwork outside of workbooks. He enjoyed the online format and the variety of lessons.

ALEKS can provide you with the instruction and support that you need to homeschool your children in mathematics for grades 3-12. With a comprehensive course library ranging from elementary school math to complex subjects such as PreCalculus, ALEKS acts much like a human tutor to help take the stress off of homeschooling parents.

ALEKS offers highly-targeted, individualized instruction from virtually any computer with Internet access, making it a comprehensive and mobile education solution for your children. A subscription to ALEKS offers access to all courses and your child may take as many courses as needed during their subscription period.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

* Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
* No Textbook Required
* Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
* Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
* Master Account Includes Quizzing and Automated Reports to Monitor Learning Progress
* Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
* QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction

One of my favorite parts of ALEKS along with my son enjoying it so much, is getting the updated reports that are sent to my email. I am shown what he learned, mastered, how long he worked on it and more. I find this to be very important as a homeschool parent that needs to keep track of hours and having specific times instead of trying to keep tabs myself.

My son checked his pie chart often and let me know the percentage of what he completed. I love the thorough charts and information they offer at this website!!! I am so impressed with how excited my son is to get his pie chart done and motivated to spend his time working on his math to get it done!

A subscription to ALEKS is

* $19.95 per student, per month, or

* only $99.95 every 6 months, or

* only $179.95 every 12 months.
Learn about our family discount program.

When you subscribe, we will create two ALEKS accounts:

* A Student Account: This is the account your child will use to access the ALEKS Student Module which includes assessment and learning features.

* A Master Account: With this account, you can monitor your child's progress through automated reports, assign quizzes, manage student accounts, and much more.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Virtual Nerd Review

One of the most frequently asked questions in homeschooling is: "What will you do when they are in high school and need to learn the more difficult subjects?". Virtual Nerd offers an online version of tutoring to help parents answer these questions confidently. Students get the essential benefits of private tutoring and access to over a thousand interactive step-by-step video tutorials presented in their patent-pending Dynamic Whiteboard™. Offering students teaching tools from Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, Intro to Physics as well as Chemistry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus in time for the 2011-2012 school year. I have to admit just reading that list helps me exhale and relax at the idea of high school education with assistance from a site like Virtual Nerd!

My son is currently working through Pre-Algebra so this is the area we investigated on the site the most. He enjoyed that he could pull up a lesson that he had not mastered and skip to the point where he was lost. Right now the site is primarily used to teach and review the rules, showing you how the problems break down. I enjoyed watching the Dynamic Whiteboard™ videos and found them engaging.

There is a wonderful review throughout the lesson explaining what they are doing instead of rushing through it and confusing you as you watch them do the problem. They explain it step by step and show you where the numbers and formula comes from. These are the minimum requirements for your computer in order to use Virtual Nerd:

*High speed Internet access
*Minimum of: Microsoft Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 2, Apple Safari 2, Google Chrome 2, or Flash Player 9
*Screen/display resolution of 1024x768 pixels
There are many options for signing up. From $5/day to $129/3 months and options in between you will find the perfect fit for your situation. I would highly recommend Virtual Nerd for parents, even as a resource to utilize during tough times in studies at school. You can read more about them and see pricing here:

You can also find them on facebook here.
You can view a video here:

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Master Innovations – Master Clock Review

Our latest review is for a product called The Master Clock. We were so excited to open this package! First of all the clock is better than any clock I have seen at various teacher stores. Finally a clock that moves the hour when the minutes go by! I also liked having the seconds hand and the color coding made it easy for me to explain and teach. The Master Clock is also able to pare down to the hour hand and then work in the seconds hand to get the hang of it. I especially liked the fact that it included digital because my son is familiar with both so helping him put the two together in his mind as being the same is efficient teaching!

Our package came with the Master Clock workbook which has a great deal of information and fun activities to do. Helping my son think of things that take an hour, 1/2 hour and then using the clock to show how long it would take and what time it would be was enjoyable. The workbook includes a lot of information about the beginning methods of telling time, how to make clocks and so much more.

I am thrilled with the quality and the in-depth lessons offered through The Master Clock! My son is telling time more than ever and we greatly enjoyed sitting down and doing it together. I think that speaks volumes on its own!

Master Innovations is a company that has been inventing new manipulative for mathematics for over 10 years. They have created The Master Clock, The Master Angle, The Master Fractions, and their award winning Marvels of Measurement poster.

We also received in our review package a copy of Marvels of Measurement poster and I have to agree that it was the best measurement poster I have seen, as it contains numerous measurements on it so you don’t need rooms of wall space to put up various measurements. I will definitely be adding Master Fractions and Master Angle to our wish list for the future!

The Master Clock sells for $14.95 and the Master Clock Workbook sells for $15.95. You can read more about this and their other great products here:

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Professor in a Box Financial Accounting

We were recently asked to review Professor in a Box Financial Accounting course. I am about to say something that most people would never utter…We were SO excited to learn about Financial Accounting with Professor in a Box. I actually mean it! Professor in a Box gets an A+ from me on this curriculum. My son is in 7th grade and he couldn’t wait to learn about the details of financial accounting.

This course is laid out very nicely for you to learn! I enjoyed listening to it as my son went through the slide show and learned the basics of business terms. I enjoyed that they gave great examples so that the student could understand the terminology. It is never assumed that the students know the terms so it is a great course for the student to follow and not feel like a lecture is going over their head and hard to absorb. His voice is not boring, in fact it was easy to listen to and my son liked it while I find to be a strong positive recommendation!

What do you do?

Financial Accounting by Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. is a first accounting course for homeschool high school students. Many high schools offer an accounting course as an elective for students interested in pursuing a career in business. Now homeschool high school students have such an elective available to them. Financial Accounting by Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. is a challenging college level course similar in content to the first accounting course taken by all students in university and college schools of business across the country. Any high school level student with basic math skills can handle this course.

Students taking Financial Accounting by Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. will learn to prepare and interpret the four basic financial statements which all publicly traded companies must prepare and make available to the public. Complete financial accounting course featuring narrated lectures taught by a college professor and homeschool dad – Dr. Michael P. Licata, Ph.D. Featuring content coverage for the new CLEP Financial Accounting Exam.

This course is available for a limited time at the rate of $99.95 at their website:

They also offer a full money back guarantee! Work through the first three chapters and if you’re not satisfied with the course, send it back for a full refund including shipping!

I found this course easy to work through, efficient, nicely done and I am excited to look into their other offerings Principles of Marketing and Entrepreneurship (coming Spring 2011). I highly recommend this course and I will be sharing the details of it with all of my homeschool friends!

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

PG Key SafeKey

One of the biggest concerns of parents these days is protecting their time online. We have homeschool and public school children in our family and google is often on our public school sons homework list. So how do you protect your children without having to stand over them the entire time?

Enter PG Key…

PG Key Program Features & Functions:

• Simple, easy to use solution that any parent can use- Just plug it into the family or childs PC and immediately create a safer, supervised, kid friendly environment.
• A total solution that gives parents everything they need to follow the advice from experts.
• No annual fees required.
• Website blocking, filtering, access and time control, notifications – 10 essential parental controls are activated.
• Designed and endorsed by experts from law enforcement, education and children’s and family psychology.
• Works with Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7

Access Control
Control computer use by inserting or unplugging PG Key.

Time Allowance
Decide the amount of time the computer can be used daily.

Content Filtering
Eliminate unwanted results from innocent searches.

Site Blocking
Block sites you decide are inappropriate.

Activity Tracking
Review all activity on the PC with a DVD-like interface.

Activity Notifications
Be informed via text message or e-mail of any flagged activity.

Chat and E-mail Logging
See both sides of chat and e-mail conversations.

Computer Configuration
Properly configure all users of the protected PC.

User Name and Password Logging
Keep track of user names and passwords.

Inappropriate Activity Evidence
Use video recording to show obvious or suspected inappropriate activity.

Sounds too good to be true right? We tried PG Key recently and found that it does offer a great amount of support, settings and options. Although the install was quick and easy, I found it difficult to go to some of my normal websites, I had not added any filters but yet it seemed to only block my shopping sites and forums. Playing with the settings has fixed the issues for me for now.

I liked the fact that it uses the USB port although I have noticed my computer was running slower because I don’t have a huge amount of memory on my computer. I do think that the PG Key has a lot of potential and with more time I hope to get more accustomed to how it works and fine tune the searches. I like the options available for recording and playing back. Especially as someone else mentioned when you forget a website where you found some information while researching online, you can scroll back through and find it.

Solution – PG Key’s SafeKey allows parents to record up to 60 hours of computer activity that a parent can then watch as easy as watching a movie.. and notify parents when their rules are not being followed. Since SafeKey is visible, the child or teen knows that their parent is “over their shoulder” so they don’t engage is the behaviors in the first place. No monthly fee’s and a more complete solution also make PG Key a better option for parents.

PG Key is $49.99 + shipping. I would say this is a comparable price to other filters and software out there. You can also request a free trial at this link:

I will say with my experience of PG Key I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. There is a learning curve to it and I didn’t find it as easy to use as I had hoped, but their customer service and one time fee are a good enough value that I would say it is worth trying. My advice: request a free trial and see for yourself.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Schleich Action Figures

You may recognize the logo and even the name. But if you are like me you try to think about where you have heard of these before? When I received my box of Schleich action figures I knew exactly where I recognized them from…teacher stores, book stores, toy boutiques and more. These are the top quality animals my kids love to look at and play with when we are at the stores. The figures themselves are nicely constructed and well made, these are not easily replaced with any cheap plastic figure. They have excellent details and when you search the website, you learn fun facts and details about the animals.

So, we opened up our exciting package to reveal some of the African and Farm animals they offer. Eight figures in all. One of the most unique was the Okapi from Africa: Okapi share the stripes of a zebra and the ossicones of a giraffe.

My boys were immediately taken with the details and enjoyed looking them over and talking about things they noticed about the animals. We went over the names and facts about the animals.

These toys make a great addition to learning with the numerous resources on the website and the quality of the toys. It was through doing this review that I learned about their website facts, painting templates (here), online playworld (here), and even e-cards. Not to mention the other things I learned with the kids about the various animals.

Schleich figures are found in stores and various websites online. You can find a store or website here. Our local Target, Barnes and Noble Books and teacher store sell them. Prices vary from $3.98 a piece to $24.99 for small sets of animals and up to $179 for a castle. They have a wide variety of items for numerous interests to explore the world and its creation with a very realistic view.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

Vocabulary Cartoons = FUN

Our newest review is of Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power ( Book 1) from New Monic Books. I received this book in the mail to review and what surprised me immediately…it has become my 7 year olds favorite book! He constantly takes it in the car with us, he asks for us to read the words to him and then pieces together what it means with the cartoon. Seeing how this works for a 7 year old I have to say that I was quickly curious to see what our older children would think about it!

My twelve year old is also the sidekick reader and they are found often reading it together and thoroughly enjoying it. I am seeing that my older son is also retaining the information and sharing what the words say and what the humorous cartoon mentioned. It even peaked my 16 year old sons interest and he browsed it with amusement before the 7 year old claimed it back from him! ; ) (Side Note: I will be offering this up to him again as he gets closer to SAT’s because I think the information is very valuable!) I have to say that I was very impressed with the layout and the mindset behind these books!

Okay, okay so I have bragged and told how popular it is but what exactly is it?

Vocabulary Cartoons is a book series to help students learn hundreds of SAT words with easy memory techniques. The techniques include , Subject Word, Phonetic Pronunciation, Definition, Association Link Word (a rhyming word or phrase that “sounds like” the subject word and links them together), Mnemonic Cartoon, Cartoon Caption and Sample Sentences. These were created with the kids of helping students link a few things like pictures, rhyme, funny sentence to remember the words. Students learn hundreds of SAT level words faster and easier with powerful rhyming and visual mnemonics. In independent school tests, students with Vocabulary Cartoons learned 72% more words than students with traditional rote memory study materials and had 90% retention. Contains 290 SAT words with 29 review quizzes consisting of matching and fill-in-the-blank problems.

Vocabulary Cartoons are available for Elementary students 3rd – 6th grade levels, Middle/High School 7th – 12th grade levels, and the SAT Word Power Original and II version. They are available in books and on CD-pdf format. These books are a great value at $12.95 available through

From the interest my sons have shown in these, I would give them a definite Thumbs Up and I am considering purchasing the other levels for my kids to ENJOY! How many times do you get to say that about vocabulary?

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.

America’s Math Teacher – Where there is strength in numbers

This weeks review is for America’s Math Teacher website. This site teaches 4th grade – Algebra I with online lessons, printable sheets, pre-tests, quizzes and exams. There are also speed drills to get accurate with the basics: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. You can go here to try them out for free:

We started out using the website to review decimals and gauge what may need more review. The video tutorials were nicely done although my son said they were just slightly fast. He still enjoyed doing the lessons and many days did 5-6 lessons because he simply enjoyed it. This is definitely a HUGE plus for us as my son likes math but if he is stumped it can be difficult to motivate him to keep trying. He seemed very confident in his work and when he wasn’t sure about how to do a problem he would simply pull up the tutorial and watch it and then do the problem. I thought that showed a nice amount of motivation on his part to search for it, learn it and then finish the assignment. Kudos to AMT for encouraging my son so much that he seemed to kind of forget he was doing math and go log on and stay on the computer learning for an hour or more a day!

AMT is a new website that started just a month ago and I think it will become a popular name in no time with its wonderful lessons, nice looking worksheets which you can view Here and the ease of customer support. Part of why this site was created comes from the statistics of America’s students nationwide and the big lack of knowledge and skills as kids get into high school and even college.

Homeschool families can get a subscription to America’s Math Teacher for $195 for a full year. The subscription includes online access anytime, anywhere. Access to the entire library of courses, math for Grades 4 – Algebra I (Algebra II coming soon!). Written exercises, Resource center with glossaries, charts, tables and more. Students can work at their own pace and repeat lessons when necessary. Students will master the topics necessary for success in college

Taken from their website: “Excellent for adults as well as children No fluff or side topics: just good solid instruction.” I can agree with that, it is direct and keeps learning on track. I appreciate that as opposed to other websites and games online that try to keep things as busy as possible. I feel that this website has been a great source of encouragement for my son to revisit the things he learned last year and take him up to the next level of learning with ease. I am adding America’s Math Teacher to my list as a big YES for referrals!

**I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.**


As part of the TOS Crew I was given the opportunity to review Spelling City.

A little about Spelling City, they offer the following:

* Over 42,000 spelling words and customizable sentences
* A REAL person who says each word and sentence
* Free home pages for teachers and parents to save lists
* Teacher training videos to show teachers and parents how to use
* Customizable sentences for words with multiple meanings (e.g., a scale for weighing, to scale a mountain, the scale on a map)
* Free printable handwriting worksheets for handwriting practice with your saved lists
* Free teaching resources with lists and lesson plans for teaching high frequency words, compound words, sound-alike words (their, there, they’re), contractions, possessives, and more. There are also lists for learning state capitals.
* Twelve games to play online or to print: Spelling, Word Meaning, Vocabulary, Alphabetical Order
* A free forum and newsletters with more vocabulary and spelling resources

My 12 year old son Dakota and I worked on this website first together. The website took a minute to figure out where to sign in and where to start. After a few clicks we found our way into the site and began our tour. We tend to create our own spelling lists but because we had not started any of our “official school year” yet I was more than happy to use the grade level lists available. The teaching part of the site works by saying the word, spelling it, using it in a sentence. Dakota enjoyed being able to take a spelling test online and have the “teacher” read the words aloud and use them in a sentence if needed. I liked that after he took the test he could tell me his score.

Spelling City is $24.99 for a family of up to 5 students for a year, or $49.99 for a classroom for up to 30 students. Included With Premium Membership, you get:

1. Automatic test grading and student grade book
2. Complete activity tracking of all student activities
3. Access to SpeedySpeller and LetterFall, our Premium Games
4. Telephone support

They have a play a game section which has 14 different games to choose from including fun titles such as HangMouse, Crossword, Which Word and more.

In closing, while I have always enjoyed doing spelling on our own, I find the ease and the appeal of the games and self-lead tests changing my mind. If you are looking for a great spelling program to use with ease, Spelling City is definitely one I would recommend.

I am a member of The Old Schoolhouse 2010-2011 Crew and receive free products and services in exchange for my thorough use and honest review of them. My reviews will always reflect my honest opinions, findings, beliefs and experiences on the products and services that I receive.