Homeschool Posts

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grab a Summer Unit Study


Melissa over at Half Dozen Mama has started a new meme for sharing things that make your life easier:  Grab & Go Thursday

I’m a little scrunched for time (and ideas) this week, but thought some of her readers might like to check out my free Flying Fish unit study, a perfect “grab & learn” summer resource that’ll save Mom the trouble of hunting for resources or printables.  Includes a teacher guide with oodles of weblinks, notebook/lapbook elements, and even a science experiment that involves making “flying fish” paper airplanes, all ready to print and use, whether you homeschool or not.  Enjoy and let me know if you’d like to see more unit studies.



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Top Ten Homeschool Review Products

The end is here, I’ve posted my last review this year for the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I’m excited (and a little sad) to be getting off this cruise ship after 3 blessing filled years!   Has it really been 3 years? 

As much as we enjoy trying out new things and sharing them with y’all (and I’ve no doubt we’ll continue to try new things and share), it was time to take a break.  Over 125 reviews of homeschool programs and resources in less than 3 years…wow!  No wonder I’m tired, lol!

To finish out the year, here’s our family’s top ten products from this year’s voyage (in no particular order): 

And for fun, here’s glimpse at just a few of our faves from years past:

Next year’s crew will be setting sail in a couple of months with some of my old shipmates along with some new reviewers.  Be sure to subscribe to the  TOS Homeschool Crew blog for updates so you won’t miss a thing.

Considering God’s Creation, a review

A complete one-year natural science curriculum designed for grades K-6, Considering God’s Creation from Eagle’s Wings was written from a young-earth Creationist viewpoint by Susan Mortimer and Betty Smith, sisters who grew up as homeschooled “missionary kids.”  These ladies created this program to teach their own children science in a way that glorifies God, rather than ignoring the Divine origins of the universe we live in.

The complete program consists of:  A Teacher’s Manual, a reproducible Student Book, and a CD with original songs.  The 36 lessons provide a general overview of natural science, subdivided by 9 different units:

  • Creation (the beginning of it all, this is really an introduction)
  • The Universe:  Stars, Sun, and Planets (Pluto is listed as a planet.)
  • The Earth
  • Non-Living Things:  Rocks and Minerals
  • Weather
  • The Plant Kingdom
  • The Animal Kingdom
  • Animal Anatomy & Physiology
  • Man:  Made in God’s Image

Unit lengths vary.  Individual lessons can each be covered in a week, though in general there’s plenty of room for doing further exploration on topics.  You could easily spend a whole semester each on The Animal Kingdom, Animal Anatomy, or Man, depending on subtopics you wish to pursue in depth.  You may cover the entire book from beginning to end in order, or pick and choose your topics.  There’s a list of additional resources in the back of the Teacher Manual, including computer games, books, and videos.

The Student workbook consists of “notebook page” designed to be copied (for your own family’s use), completed by the kiddos, and added to their science notebook.  Pages are mini-books, charts, word searches, and other pencil activities demonstrating comprehension.  Answers and full instructions are provided in the Teacher’s Manual (it’s not possible to do the notebook pages without instructions from the Teacher’s Manual).  When they are done, they will have a nice notebook to use as reference and share with friends and family (and the homeschool monitor).

The CD contains 23 little ditties.  Some are designed to be aids to memory in remembering key points and others are more in praise of God’s creation.  Lyrics are included in the Teacher’s Manual.

Each lesson consists of several parts (not all lessons have all the parts), including:

  • vocabulary-  The Teacher’s Manual includes the words, their definitions and origin.  You are encouraged to make flashcards.
  • introduction to the lesson
  • song or poem
  • activity- Most lessons have a hands-on activity for illustrating the concepts discussed in the lesson
  • Bible reading- Students are encouraged to look up pertinent scriptures.
  • notebook- The notebook activity reinforces the learning.
  • Evolution Stumpers- Scientific facts intended to uphold Creation+a young earth and question evolution+a millions of year old earth.
  • review- discussion questions for review
  • Digging Deeper- Here you will find extra activities for challenging an advanced or older child, or for embarking on a more in-depth exploration of a topic.

What did we think?

I had the opportunity to try out Considering God’s Creation with 3 kiddos:  Peter (grade K), Mary (grade 1), and David (grade 5).  I’d say that the optimal grade range for the text (contained in the Teacher’s Manual) is 3-5, though older children will get something out of it if you have them do the “Digging Deeper” activities, many of which involve doing research and writing reports. 

The readings in the text were pretty much completely over Peter’s head and Mary had some difficulty with them as well.  With a little more preparation, including a trip to the library to pick up some pertinent picture books (the resource list doesn’t really include picture books or easy readers as far as I can tell), and maybe a quick on-line search for free coloring pages to keep his interest, it would have been easier to maintain Peter’s interest.

Among the lessons we tried: 

  • Lesson 7 Weather, which is divided into 5 parts, each covering a different factor that affects the weather:  sun, air, water, rotation/revolution, and land. 
    • Activities include playing molecules as they heat up and cool down, investigating the water cycle, and witnessing the Coriolis effect by spinning an egg. 
    • At the end of the lesson, you put together a weather recipe for your notebook that includes the 5 factors. 
    • Possible Digging Deeper activities include researching local climate, watching a couple of Moody Institute of Science videos, drawing a map of ocean currents, and more.
  • Lesson 24  Animal Reproduction/Genetics is  pretty involved and covers both animal classification and dominant and recessive genes. 
    • The activity was The Gene Pool Game, which demonstrates how offspring inherit their genes from the genes available from the parents. 
    • Notebook pages included an animal classification chart and a couple of gene chart activities (determining offspring traits given the traits of the parents). 
    • Possible Digging Deeper activities include researching Gregor Mendel, Carolus Linnaeus (developed the system of classification for living things), writing a report on hybrid animals and plants, and more.

The activities are nicely varied.  The difficulty of the lessons and the amount covered seems to vary somewhat, too.  The weather lesson, for instance, is much easier for younger children to understand and participate in, while genetics and classification was a bit too abstract for them to get a grip on.  The different components work well together.  If I decide to use this for a whole year, I’ll definitely have to pick and choose lessons that will work best with my kiddos, with the oldest adding in plenty of independent research.

We did not use the songs.  I listened to the songs scheduled ahead of time and simply didn’t much care for them or feel that they added to the lessons.

We skipped the Bible readings.  I didn’t see anything there that would conflict with our Catholic faith, and you use your own Bible (references are given, but not the actual readings), I simply didn’t feel it necessary to specifically link these lessons with Scripture.  So, you can use this without the Bible readings if you so choose, which you may want to do if you are working on another Bible study.

We also skipped the Evolution Stumpers this time.  Looking through the book, these are a mixed bag.  A few are well done, but many of them are “huh?” moments instead of “aha!” moments, in other words the logic is not totally there.  Here’s an example of one:

Over the past 100 years, scientists have discovered that the sun is shrinking about 5 feet every hour.  If the sun had existed 20 million year ago (the length of time evolutionists say is needed for animals to have evolved from the “primeval soup”), the sun would have had to be so large that its surface would have touched the earth.  What effect would that have had on the earth?  Would there be an earth at all?

First, the sun’s shrinkage is stated as an accepted fact.  If you do a quick search online, you’ll find that there is no consensus in the scientific community on whether the sun if in fact shrinking at all, let alone 5 feet every hour.  That doesn’t mean that it’s not true, only that it’s not verified, in fact a lot of respected scientists have come to a lot of different and contrary conclusions from the same data (further proof that seeing is not always believing).   

Second, one of the (many) problems with Darwin’s special theory of evolution is that he takes his observations of adaptation, and attempts to project them back into the unobservable past and extrapolate what came before.  This assumes that since evolution is happening now, it must needs have been happening from the beginning, in the same way, and in the same rate.   There’s absolutely nothing to back that assumption up.  There’s also nothing to back up the assumption that if the sun is shrinking about 5 feet an hour now, that it was shrinking 5 feet an hour 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, or 20,000,000 years ago.   This is a logical fallacy.  If you want to combat someone else’s argument, don’t make the same kind of logical errors they make.

But not all the Evolution Stumpers are like this, there is some food for thought here.  The very first one points out that it takes faith to believe in evolution, just as it takes faith to believe in God, and that faith in the “Big Bang” is as much a religion as Christianity is.  I absolutely agree.

So let me tell you what I really like about Considering God’s Creation: 

  • It’s very easy to pick and choose what parts of the curriculum you want to use.  While the notebook is central to the lessons, most of the other components are pretty much expendable/replaceable.  You can use everything as written, or use it as a loose outline for organizing your studies, adding rabbit trails as you like and using whatever other resources you happen to have available. 
  • Considering God’s Creation does not pretend to be an exhaustive treatment of natural science, it’s more of a jumping off point.  There’s seeds here for years of fruitful study.
  • The authors encourage you to teach your child to use their brains and their faith to put everything they read to the test, rather than blindly accepting everything they read.

Overall, it’s a nice compact resource to have on hand with plenty of learning activities for rainy days and food for thought.

Considering God’s Creation (including Teacher’s Manual, Student Notebook, and cd) is available from Eagle’s Wings for $29.95.

Additional Student workbooks available for $13.95 each.

You can listen to samples of the 23 original songs from Considering God’s Creation here.

For more reviews of this and other homeschool products, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

Monday, May 23, 2011

enVisionMath 1st Grade, a review

The enVisionMath 2011 1st grade book from Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley is a colorful, oversized workbook with a twist:  the oversized pages will fit neatly into your child’s portfolio!  Each lesson is designed to be  removed from the book (it’s constructed like a huge notepad), and folded in half into a booklet, making them a standard 8-1/2” x 11” size.  If you’ve ever dealt with big workbook pages, you know this is a blessing. 

At a whopping 647 pages (this includes a short math glossary in the back), there’s definitely enough math work here to keep your little one busy all year round, summer included (we try to do some math all year to help prevent fall amnesia, if you know what I mean).  The content on the pages is fairly similar to other 1st grade workbooks that I’ve seen and used. 

enVisionMath 1st grade is divided into 20 topics:

  1. Numbers 1 to 12
  2. Comparing and Ordering Numbers
  3. Understanding Addition
  4. Understanding Subtraction
  5. Five and Ten Relationships
  6. Addition Facts to 12
  7. Subtraction Facts to 12
  8. Geometry
  9. Patterns
  10. Counting and Number Patterns to 100
  11. Tens and Ones
  12. Comparing and Ordering Numbers to 100
  13. Counting Money
  14. Measurement
  15. Time
  16. Addition Facts to 18
  17. Subtraction Facts to 18
  18. Data and Graphs
  19. Fractional Parts
  20. Adding and Subtracting with Tens and Ones

Each topic includes a Home-School Connection page (basically a page designed to be sent home to explain what will be covered in the topic), a game, several lessons pages (number of pages varies by topic), a problem-solving component, a digital component (requires using e-tools which you receive access to with book purchase), a topic test, and re-teaching (for going over problem areas identified on the test). 

You’ll probably find that the first couple of topics are mainly review, not uncommon for a school curriculum (they’re fighting that fall amnesia I mentioned) and that there are way more pages than you’ll ever get to in a year.  When my oldest went to school for 1st grade, I know they skipped around in the workbook and actually sent home any unused pages for summer review, so the teacher didn’t expect to complete the entire book.

enVisionMath is designed to be a multi-media wonder curriculum, with emphasis on hands-on activities, digital tools, and so on.  There are a number of teacher support products available, including the Teacher’s Edition and Resource Package, manipulative sets, an Interactive Homework Workbook, Digital Access and so on.  As I only received the workbook for review, I will be focusing on how this book works as a stand-alone without any teacher support.

What did we think?

I used the enVisionMath 1 grade book for a few weeks in our homeschool with 5-year-old Peter, who is just finishing up Kindergarten work.  As the first part of the book is mainly review, he found the work to be definitely within his capability.  In fact, he found it to be a little too easy.  There’s plenty of encouragement for using manipulatives and you can, of course use the e-tools.  We did not receive access to the digital component of this program, but were able to try it here.

The workbook is not what you would call a “worktext” and it’s not designed to be a stand-alone resource.  There is no direction given for introducing a topic, in fact it’s clear from the appearance of first page of each lesson that some sort of hands-on teaching is supposed to be going on, but that info must be in the Teacher’s Edition.   You can, of course, make up something that fits with the page design and teach the concepts any way you choose.



I do like the easy-tear-out and being able to fold the pages to pop them in a notebook once they are completed.  This makes larger 2-page spread games boards possible.


And it saves us from the dreaded crumpled/torn page edges or having to trim pages to make them fit.  Brilliant, really.


Just tear out…


…and fold.

This book requires a higher reading ability than many 1st graders will have, so don’t expect to give the pages to your child and have them work independently unless they can read the samples you see here.

Overall, the enVisionMath 1st grade workbook, without the support resources, is not really much different from the plethora of other math workbooks on the market.  If you are confident in your ability to teach 1st grade math (not that difficult, really), or are looking for a supplemental workbook for another program, this workbook could work on its own. 

Otherwise, consider looking at the support materials for your co-op.  From what I can see on their website, the support materials are designed for the classroom and require a significant financial investment, so this program might be better suited to a co-op situation, than to an individual homeschool.

The enVisionMath 1st grade student edition, with digital access is available for $34.47 from Pearson Education.

Additional support materials are also available, see Pearson for a complete list.

For more reviews of this and other products, including elementary social studies and reading, from Pearson Education, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wordy Qwerty, a review

Your child knows how to read pretty well, she can even find the keys on the keyboard without hunting and pecking…but spelling’s still a bit of a challenge, right? The folks at Talking Fingers, Inc., creators of Read, Write, & Type, have a reading and spelling program for 2nd-3rd graders you might like: Wordy Qwerty.

Meet the program’s two mascots: Qwerty and Midi.

wordy qwerty seeing patterns

These two characters will explain word patterns (spelling rules) and give instructions to complete the various activities in Wordy Qwerty. As your child completes the activities and earns points, Qwerty will create spheres to give to Midi so he can build his marvelous music machine (it’s the music of the spheres, of course).

Activities are quite varied and include not only spelling, but memory, and reading comprehension as well.

The Patterns Game simply involves typing the word to go with a picture and putting words into the correct category based on their sound to recognize spelling pattern (see above). Then there’s the Recycler, where you need to choose which words are real words and which are not (the machine “recycles” the duds).

wordy qwerty word recyclerPop-a-Word will display a phrase at the bottom of the screen for a short while (the audio reads it to you), hides it, then random balloons flip over to reveal words. You need to pop the correct word balloons in the correct order. A little tricky, they throw in plenty of homonyms.

wordy qwerty popper

Write Stories gives you 2 lines at a time of a story, then removes second line, and you have to duplicate it, including proper punctuation and capitalization.

wordy qwerty story Read Stories is a comprehension activity that involves selecting the correct words from drop-down menus to complete the sentences in a story.

wordy qwerty story blanksAnd, of course, each set of activities has a little quiz to check for progress.

wordy qwerty testOh, and I forgot to mention…there are songs in the Karaoke! Each spelling rule has a groovy pop tune, with an upbeat audio file and lyrics on the screen so you can sing along.

As you complete each set of 6 activities, you’ll earn more spheres to help Midi build the music machine. The machine is rendered in 3-D animation, pretty cool.

You can see a full explanation of how Wordy Qwerty works and the sequence of spelling rules presented here on the Talking Fingers website.

The parental controls for this program are the same as for Read, Write, & Type . For a really complete picture of how the parent account works, its strengths and weaknesses, please see my review of Read, Write, & Type. I’ll give you an overview here. You have one parent account from which you can access records for all of your students (a separate license is required for each student using it at the same time). Progress records are very basic. If you want to know exactly what your child is getting right or wrong, you’ll need to actively supervise her sessions while she’s working in Wordy Qwerty.

wordy qwerty parentIn addition to checking your child’s progress, you can set the percentage correct they need to have to move on to the next level. You can also set the times and days of the week your student is allowed to access the program.

wordy qwerty parent controlsLicenses are in your name and can be assigned to students. There is an archive option, so if you have a student who completes the program before your license is up, you can archive that student and have another student use the license. You can even have a child take a week or month long break from the program while another one uses it. The first child’s progress will be saved and available when you restore them from the archive.

What did we think?

I used this program primarily with 7-year-old Mary, though David (age 11) did check it out. Mary had already completed Read, Write, & Type with success, so we were looking forward to trying out Wordy Qwerty. Spelling is definitely a problem area for her and she needs all the practice she can get. We took a temporary vacation from her regular spelling program to give Wordy Qwerty our full attention.

Mary seemed to enjoy the activities well enough, but she felt a little overwhelmed by Wordy Qwerty. The Patterns Game presents pictures and asks the child to type those words (no spelling clues). The first picture in this review is from the Patterns Game in the 2nd set of activities. You’ll notice words like “circus” and “city”, words that are pretty hard to spell if you don’t already know all the spelling rules. Circus could be spelled cerkus, cirkis,…you get the idea. If you mistype, the program will pause and cue you with the next letter and so on until you complete the word. After going through the list and organizing according to the directions, the spelling rule is given. Mary found this way of “discovering” the rules frustrating.

Similarly with the Recycler, your child chooses which of the words are real words and which are not. For instance, they might be shown “blade” and “blaid”. And then “tail” and “tale”. And then “wail” and “wale”. There’s no pattern to which words are correct and no rule to learn. Even a child who is an excellent reader (Mary is) with a large vocabulary (ditto on that), may have difficulty picking out which words are correct and which words are not. The nonsense words are garbled into gibberish on the screen once your child makes her choice, so she can see which words are correct. The program asks her to look over the real words after this activity and to click on any words she doesn’t know (Wordy Qwerty will read and define the word), but there’s no time allotment given for this and a child could easily skip this step (ask me how I know;0).

The other activities were less frustrating for her, though Write Stories is pretty challenging. If you goof up, Wordy Qwerty will prompt you with the next key (whether it be letter, space, shift, whatever), but the program does allow you to try to fix it yourself first. The balloon popping exercise is a good way to differentiate between homonyms, and I like that they refrained from injecting any nonsense words into it.

The songs, well, our family has never been crazy about ditties designed to learn something…but these are pretty well produced with hip sounding beats. Still, I haven’t noticed anyone singing them around the house, so I’m not sure how memorable they are.

Overall, what did we think? They say the proof is in the pudding, right? With something like this, I like to base my opinion on results, and I have to admit that I have not seen any improvement in Mary’s off-screen spelling while using Wordy Qwerty. Perhaps with more extended use we will see results. I think this program might work much better from someone who is a pretty good speller, but needs help with homonyms (Pop-a-Word would be good for that) or the occasional word (the Patterns Game would be good for helping them see patterns that match words they already know), and Wordy Qwerty might work well as a supplement to another spelling program for independent practice.

Wordy Qwerty is available as a 5-year online subscription for $25.00 (one user, see the site for rates for multiple users).

Wordy Qwerty is also available on CD for $35 (not compatible with Windows 7 or Mac 10.6).

Click here to try a free demo of Lesson 1 (silent "e") of Wordy Qwerty and find out how to get 20% off!

Also available from Talking Fingers, Inc.: Read, Write, & Type and a K-4 reading bundle which features both products.

For more reviews of this and other homeschool products, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a 1-year license of this software free of charge in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mad Dog Math, a review

mad dog math header

Looking for a simple, non-stress-inducing math facts drill program that’s equally effective for your 1st grader and your 5th grader (and any other grade in between)? Math Dog Math’s drill software just might fit the bill.

How’s it work?

Mad Dog’s clean, uncluttered design is easy on the eyes, and the small number of problems on the screen is easy on the nerves. After logging in, you can do timed (choose 30 seconds, 1 minute, or 2 minutes) or untimed practice.

mad dog math screenshot

There are 4 levels of practice available. Level 1 covers addition and subtraction in small increments.

mad dog math screenshot 2Each “fact family” covers all the facts up to that number. For example in the “0 to 6 addition” practice, you’ll be drilled on any addition problems whose sums are 6 or less (6+0, 5+1, 4+2…).

Level 2 reviews those facts in bigger chunks.

mad dog math screenshot 3

Level 3 moves on to multiplication and division practice. The “Challenge” level has 2 different challenges: Mutt Math (mixed operations)…

mad dog math screenshot 4and Kennel Trouble (a real challenge, even for mom!).

mad dog math screenshot 5

The program moves you through each fact family and level as you demonstrate mastery. “Club Stickers” are earned after completing enough drills (all the drills in under 2 minutes, under 1 minutes, etc.).

The interface is easy to use. Simply click “Fetch” for a new set of problems, and then “Time Me” to start answering them. A little timer pops up on the upper right and the current problem will be highlighted in yellow. Type the answer and the program automatically advances you to the next problem, no need to hit enter or an arrow key (this might require some getting used to as many programs do require hitting enter to submit the answer). When you are done, there’s a dog barking sound effect, then Mad Dog shows your mistakes and indicates whether you can advance to the next fact set (you can make up to 2 errors).

What did we think?

I had the opportunity to try out Mad Dog Math with Mary (age 7) and David (age 11). First, let me say that both of these kiddos are allergic to being timed. The thought that they will be cut off and not be able to finish if they take too long just paralyzes them. The great news is that Mad Dog times you, even if you choose the “no limit” option, you just don’t run out of time! I love this! It takes away the stress, but you can still see how they are progressing in speed. Unfortunately, Mary found the little timer in the corner distracting. Easily fixed, we covered it up with a little sticky note.

I thought that I wouldn’t like the fact that they move on with as many as 2 wrong (2 wrong out of 20 isn’t horrible, but it’s not mastery, either), but have found that there’s so much overlap from one group of problems to the next, that there’s little chance they’ll get through without having mastered them all. And being able to get 1 or 2 wrong, helps them get over that perfectionism obstacle.

I also thought that the small number of problems in each drill was going to mean slow mastery and that the fact they all appeared on the screen at once would deter the kiddos…not so (see how much I know?). Having the problems all on the screen at once gives them an easy visual that the end is near, and the short drills encouraged them to try multiple times to beat their previous time. This set up really works.

I like the clean interface, the lack of fancy animations, and the lack of distracting music and over-the-top sound effects. There are a couple of areas where Mad Dog Math is a little too minimalist. Rather than having a drop-down menu to choose your login from, you must type your name in each time, so don’t forget what name you used (was it David, david, or one of your nicknames, David?). A drop-down menu would be a great addition. There’s also no way to check your child’s progress, except by logging into their profile. I’d love to see a way of accessing all the kiddos’ progress at once…a way to print it would be even better for those who need to document their math time.

Overall, we like it. Mad Dog Math seems to be getting my kiddos more comfy with math drills, a definite plus.

Mad Dog Math is available for download for Windows PC and costs $19.99- $39.99, depending on the length of the license (from 1-year to forever). You can add as many students as you like.

Download a free trial of Mad Dog Math here.

For more reviews of this product, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: I received a temporary license of this software free of charge in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

Monday, May 16, 2011

WonderMaps, a review

I don’t know if I’ve told you before how utterly geeky we are about maps around here.  Old maps, new maps, fictional maps, we love them all.  We plaster our walls with maps.  Ok, not all our walls.  But there’s no doubt to anyone who enters my kitchen that there’s some geography learning going on.

Maps are a great tool to bring your studies home in a way that books can’t always do.  There’s something satisfying about seeing for yourself where the Holy Roman Empire was located, and tracing the outlines of the nations there now with your fingertips.  And reassuring about realizing that you’re unlikely to find a poison dart frog in your backyard, unless you live in Central or South America (or maybe that’s a bit disappointing?).

But collecting maps, beautiful, detailed, useful maps to cover all our mappy needs can get a bit, ahem, spendy.  Especially when the little ones like to pull them off the wall.  Lucky for me Bright Ideas Press has just introduced an incredible new resource for all you map lovers out there:  WonderMaps.


This is a map collection like you’ve never seen before.  Over 350 maps that can be customized to fit your specific needs.  WonderMaps includes:

  • More than 60 world maps
  • More than 60 US maps
  • 125 historical maps
  • Thematic maps, including
    • Biblical maps
    • map set for The Mystery of History
    • map set for All American History
    • and more


Maps can be accessed through an pdf interface, dividing them up into categories, as well as alphabetically (for current maps), and chronologically (for historical maps).

That’s a lot of maps, but you are probably wondering, what makes them WonderMaps?  How is this  resource any different from the myriad of other map collections you can purchase and print for notebooks?

Have you ever printed out a map with no city labels and wished that you had one with the city labels?   Or vice versa?  Or needed a black map showing rivers, but couldn’t find it?  Or didn’t want all those rivers cluttering your map?  Every map in WonderMaps can be customized to fulfill your needs.  This is truly a brilliant concept and I love it! 

For every map that you open in the WonderMaps pdf interface, you’ll be presented with a list of options that you can turn on or off.  With a few mouse clicks, you can go from a full featured map…

maryland all

…to a blank map with city locations, ready to be labeled.

maryland blank


Country and regional maps also have a topography feature, so you can learn about the lay of the land.  Choose full-color…

regional color

…or black and white (a tremendous ink saver!).

regional bw

WonderMaps also features a Teacher’s Guide, full of ideas and tips for incorporating maps into your homeschool.

For a full demonstration of the WonderMaps interface, check this out:

What did I think?

WonderMaps is a welcome addition to our homeschool.  The maps look great, I’m truly impressed with the quality.  I love being able to customize what’s on them.  That said, there are a few areas that could be improved (few things in life couldn’t stand some improvement, right?).

As far as I can tell, there are only topographical options for modern country and regional maps.  If you want to study the topography of a particular state or relate topography to your historical study, you’ll need to use the modern country or region maps to do it.  Of course, topography changes some over hundreds of years, so having topographical info on the historical maps might not be possible.  I’ll note here: You can add a modern political map overlay to historical maps, so the kiddos can get a clearer idea of what was what.  Clever!  Might not be practical for printing purposes, but it’s a great on-screen teaching tool.

There are not individual country maps for every country.  For Africa, for instance, you can only access the full African continent, Egypt, or regional maps.  The regional maps are labeled with individual country names.  One way to get around this:  enlarge the regional map on your screen and scroll until you have the country the way you want it.  Then print that view.  My printer has a “print current view” option and most have a similar option.

I would also like to see a search feature from the main page, saving me the trouble of clicking through the subheadings to find the map I’m looking for.  And further options for customizing the maps themselves (pretty please?).  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to add a legend box for your kiddos to fill in with things like natural resources?

Lastly, it seems like there are a few key map elements missing.  While you can turn on/off latitude and longitude, none of the maps seem to show scale (how many miles to an inch), or feature a key for the elevation coloring on the topographical overlay.

Overall, I really like WonderMaps a ton, but it won’t totally replace our mapping resources.  I’ll still need my wall maps, of course ;0).  But I’ll also need other resources for showing actually distances, understanding relative areas of countries, finding elevation, and so on.  But it’s an outstanding tool to have in my educational box.

WonderMaps requires Adobe Reader v. 9.1 or higher to run and is available for Windows PC or Mac.

WonderMaps can be purchase from Bright Ideas Press for $49.95.

Available as a download or download plus cd.

For more TOS Homeschool Crew reviews, please visit the Crew blog.

Disclosure:  I received this software free of charge in order to review it.  I received no compensation.  The opinions expressed here are my own and I was in no way required to write a positive review. My thoughts cannot be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered.” They are my own.

Credit: The quote in my disclosure comes from the 1960’s TV series The Prisoner.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rethinking My Style

It’s May, that time when we evaluate how the school year went and what we’ll do differently next year…and I’m torn.  Right now, after my really schizo year full of fits and starts and bad curriculum choices (not bad curriculum, just bad choices for us), I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Unschooling is looking very attractive.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not equating unschooling with not doing anything or anything like that.  I’m just seeing how badly the best laid plans can go…and appreciating the amount of learning that can happen when the kiddos are allowed to just “have at it” themselves.  And the value of throwing together a unit study (not exactly unschooling to some, I know) in less than 24 hours, simply because it was what my kiddos wanted/needed at the time.  There’s nothing lazy about that.  Or traditional, or classical, for that matter.

We had a beautiful experience on Tuesday when I took the kiddos to the library to choose their own topics for research (we had to leave when the “baby” started dousing everyone with the water fountain;0).  I asked the older 2 to each pick at least 1 biography and 1 nonfiction book on a topic they wanted to learn more about and 1 book fiction book just for fun---they each came back with a stack of books that fit the bill.  And they have been bird watching and sketching birds from bird guides since.  Because they want to.  David looked up Whip-poor-wills on-line and wrote a brief report.  He even blogged about it.  Because he wanted to.

The trip to the library wasn’t planned.  It was something a “little bird” told me to do.  Nor were the nature walks, kitted out with binoculars, cameras, sketch books and the like.  We have a bog nearby.  Great place to hear unusual (to us) critters calling to each other.  And a great way to spur all kinds of questions.

I’m taking this as a sign, an answer to some prayers, that, yes, we do need to go with some more delight-directed learning.  And more spontaneity.  There is fruit there.  And joy in the learning that can’t be planned.

But I’m getting some other signs, too.  Like the Well-Trained Mind book that Emma very helpfully found (somewhere, I know not where, my library shelves are disorganized and double stacked and I hadn’t seen this particular book for ages) and left in the middle of the floor for me to trip over.  So I read it.  Again.  I read it many years ago, before we started homeschooling.  I was so going to do it that way.  And then real life happened and I didn’t.  It just didn’t quite fit.

And  Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist, another gem Emma found for me…I was totally going to do it that once upon a time.  I even looked into the Mother of Divine Grace curriculum.  Didn’t happen.  Reread it.  And now I’m starting to see why I didn’t go this route.  Or the Well-Trained Mind route.   But I’m also seeing how I may be able to incorporate elements of both into the plan.  I don’t have to do it that way, but I can use what I want from it.

A clearer picture is starting to form in the haze.  I’m being directed.  If I can just keep my bright ideas out of the mix, it should be ok.  But I’m impatient.  I want a plan. 

This is what I’m hearing in my heart:  classical unschooling.  Can you get much more paradoxical than that?  Of course, that’s not really what I mean.   I prefer to think of education, like all things, as being a continuum.  Few things in life are all one thing and nothing of something else.  And I’ve never been good at fitting into one box or another anyway.

Here’s a very vague idea of what that might look like, from a logistical standpoint (I told you the picture was still hazy):

  • teacher-directed 4 (short) days a week, with “free” time in the afternoons for the kiddos to read and pursue personal interests
  • 1 research/free day a week when we spend some time at the library and the kiddos pursue personal interests while Mom plans for the next week
  • the hope is to have weekends totally free for family stuff, maybe we’ll actually go somewhere next year

Hubby likes this idea. 

Teacher-directed studies will focus on the 4 Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic and reasoning), social studies, the arts, possibly Latin.  I think I’ll let the kiddos handle science through their interests (they love science), and of course there will be overlap between what is teacher-directed and what is child-directed, particularly in the arts, reading, writing and possibly social studies.    Nothing’s going to be set in stone.  I’ll talk more about the specifics in a later post…as the picture becomes less hazy. 

This is our tentative “plan.”  Next up, I’ll be considering what our overall goals are for next year and how to make them happen.  And I’d love to have input from other homeschooling mamas out there.  What’s your homeschool style?

Monday, May 9, 2011

MonkiSee, a review


MonkiSee was created by Krista Guerrero, a homeschooling mama to 6 wonderful kiddos who used the same methods to teach her two youngest children to read. Each MonkiSee video is designed to both entertain and teach your wee one words, colors, shapes and more, through the use of songs, skits, poems and pictures.

MonkiSee is aimed at the littlest kiddos, ages 3 months to 3 years and we recently had the opportunity to try out one of the dvds and one of the books with our littlest one, Emma (age 2).


MonkiSee Baby’s First Words , $19.95

  • running time 30 minutes
  • includes a video Parent Guide (featuring Krista Guerrero)
  • features young children, short skits, songs, puppets, and computer animated monkeys, Howie and Skip
  • includes a word slide show with all the words introduced

Additional dvds available in the series include: MonkiSee All About Shapes and MonkiSee All About Colors.

Ms. Guerrero recommends showing your child the 30 minute video once a day, five days a week, for about a month for optimal exposure to the material. She also recommends reinforcing the words by using the word slideshow once a day. You might use the video in the morning and then use the slideshow in the afternoon.

Know Your Monkey by Krista Guerrero, illustrated by Joshua BowensKnowYourMonkey355x358, $9.95

  • paperback, featuring heavy, full-color semi-gloss pages
  • 8” x 8” carry along size
  • features lovable monkey puppets, Skip & Howie

Monkeys Like the Color by Krista Guerrero is also available.

A reading kit is also available, which includes the 3 MonkiSee dvds, 2 MonkiSee books and other resource materials.

What did we think?

The book is cute and very nicely put together. In the front cover, you’ll find a word list giving you all the words introduced. There’s a very simple narrative that is alternated with the monkey puppets, Skip and Howie, shown in poses that illustrate the words.

For instance, “Monkey mouths open and close.” is followed by a picture of the two monkeys with their mouths open (the text reads “open”) and then the two monkeys with their mouths closed (and the text reads “close”).

Emma loves books and this one is no exception. One word in the book is a bit difficult to illustrate in this way, so the monkey pose is vague (ironically, it’s “pose”) and perhaps a bit too abstract for little ones to understand, but given that Emma listens to all of our read alouds, I don’t expect her to get every word.

The video is professionally produced with high quality sound and picture, and consists of a series of short segments that each illustrate one of the 40 words introduced. Many of the words are body parts, like “knee,” and “eye,” but other common words are included. Segments include songs, little kids doing little kid stuff and puppets being silly. Words are shown on the screen, but not throughout each segment. I was actually a little surprised by that.

There are very short interludes (almost like intermissions, but at seemingly random intervals), where Howie and Skip (computer animated monkeys) come onscreen and monkey around, illustrating some of the words. I found the computer animation a little creepy and not in keeping with feel of the rest of the video. It felt like an interruption in the normal scheme, and I wish the monkeys were more like the monkey puppets used in the book.

The word slideshow is essentially just the words being flashed on the screen with a white background.

While the video is nicely produced, I can’t recommend it and we only allowed my daughter to watch it once (she loved it, by the way). I need to explain this a little, because some of has to do with Emma’s personality and her stage of development.

At age 25 months, Emma is an absolute parrot, meaning she will copy anything anyone does or says within her hearing. She’s an absolute sponge. She also has a tendency to do potentially dangerous things (more so than my other children did at this age), like wrapping things around her neck, putting things in her mouth, hitting with toys, that sort of thing. She’s a free spirit who needs to be watched with constant vigilance to keep her safe.

There are a few segments that I feel unintentionally promote dangerous behavior for kids in this age group.

In one, a young girl is wrapping a thin, decorative scarf around her neck (the word is “neck”) several times, rather tighter than necessary (not gentle loops around her neck, but wrapped right up against her neck). Not something I want my little girl doing.

In another, for the word “knee”, a little boy leans over and bites his knee and says “Bite Knee!” Of course, you know what Emma was doing less than 30 seconds later? That’s right, biting her knee and saying “Bite knee.”

In another, one puppet hits other puppet (a cow, I think) with a fly swatter while trying to get a “bee.” He actually knocks out the cow who then appears with a small bandage on his head. Let’s hope Em doesn’t get hold of a flyswatter. I wouldn’t want her to try to swat a sibling or a bee.

Now, I realize that these segments are meant to be fun and funny and with an older child, I would simply explain that while it’s funny, we don’t do those things. But children in this particular age group are so very impressionable and have no way of understanding why they shouldn’t do those things…I simply cannot recommend this MonkiSee video for that reason. I realize that children are all different (at least, all of mine are). You know your child best, I’ve given you these details so you can come to your own conclusion.

To read other reviews of this product, please visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product for free in order to review it. I received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Circle C Beginnings, a review

Susan K. Marlow has taken her lovable tween-age heroine, Andrea Carter of the Circle C Adventures series, a little further back to when she was a little girl.  The year is 1874, and Andi’s a perky 6-year-old trying to lasso one of the ranch dogs.  Her horse, Taffy, is such a pretty foal and Andi is more than a little miffed when her big brother tells her that she most certainly cannot enter Taffy in the state fair.  Seems Andi has always been a bit headstrong.  

I think many 5-8 year-olds will enjoy hearing about Andi’s adventures, whether they are already reading independently or listening with rapt attention as Mama reads aloud.  This is a simple chapter book with short chapters and charming illustrations to keep the attention of little ones.

We received a complimentary copy of Andi’s Fair Surprise for review.


In Andi’s Fair Surprise, you’ll ride with Andi on her very first train trip to the California State Fair.  Once you’re there, meet the pigs, sheep, and other livestock, and even play a few carnival games with Andi, but watch out, there are surprises in store for this rambunctious little munchin. 

After reading the book, visit  Andi and Taffy’s website to download a free pdf of activities that accompany the book, including comprehension questions, a full explanation of how a steam locomotive works, math word problems, coloring pages of the book’s illustrations, and more.  I was very impressed with the quality of the worksheets.  These aren’t just coloring pages, but real learning opportunities.

What did we think of the book?

I thought this book would be a perfect fit for Mary, aged 7 (and lover of horses).  Turned out, not so much.  She read about half the book on her own and put it down.  And wouldn’t pick it back up.  When I asked her about it, she said she wasn’t sure why she didn’t like it, but she did think that Andi tends to jump to conclusions (this is true) and that one of Andi’s brothers was cruel to her---there’s scene where Andi is being stubborn, so her big brother lassos her, pinning her arms to her sides, then picks her up and carries her across the yard, upside down, letting her braids drag in the dust.

For Mary, a girl who’s got an older brother who could do just that (but wouldn’t) and a younger brother who would do just that, this scene was more than a little uncomfortable.  And Andi’s mother backs up brother on this, she does not reprimand him for treating Andi this way.   It seemed like a classic instance of a bigger, stronger person overpowering and forcing a weaker, smaller person into submission and I can understand why Mary didn’t like it.

However, the rest of the book is better at  demonstrating how brothers and sisters care for one another, and big brother does make it up to Andi in the end. 

My little ones (Peter, age 5, and Emma, age 2) did sit in rapt attention, hanging on every word, while I read it to them.  They loved listening to Andi’s adventures and Peter even did the locomotive worksheet (and he’s not really a worksheet kinda boy).  I suspect this one will make it into our regular nightly rotation, but I may skip over that early scene.

Visit Andi and Taffy’s site to read about Andi’s other Circle C Beginnings adventures.  This series is available at your local bookstore, or directly from Kregel Publications as single books or in bundles.

Disclosure:  As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.  I received no other compensation and the opinions expressed in this post are my own.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Free Unit Study on Flying Fish

Here it is!  I promised you a surprise, a special gift just for my readers.  Putting the study together to use with my kiddos was a breeze compared to getting it all typed up, proofread, links double-checked…this was definitely a learning experience.  I hope you enjoy it, or at least find some worthwhile resources here.

This is a mini study, intended to quench a desire to know about something, but not intended to totally replace your regularly scheduled studies.  It was born of one child’s desire to know about flying fish.  Use it as a one day vacation or as a science supplement.  Or add some books and math word problems and turn it into a full-blown unit study. 

You can download the teaching notes for this study (5 pages) from Google Docs (click the highlighted words).  The teaching notes do not provide a schedule, more like a list of resources (complete with links) for you to use as you wish, followed by notes of how we used them.  All of the resources mentioned are available for free on the internet (clickable links provided in the pdf) or have been created by me and can be downloaded at Google docs (links provided).  Click here to access all the files I created on flying fish, including the teaching notes, in one folder.

You may use this study as you see fit.  I only ask that if you wish to share it with someone, please direct them to the original post at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds where you found it.  And if you find it useful, please leave me some feedback…a little positive reinforcement could go a long way to pushing me to do this again.;0) 

Thanks a bunch, and have fun!

Lapbook pics (sorry about the quality, my camera is still DOA, so I borrowed my son’s):


For those of you who prefer to put together your own materials or just want a few resources on flying fish, I’ve included some of the resource links below.

Note:  I always recommend previewing any web resources before sharing them with your kids.  Web pages are frequently changed, sometimes ads are added or changed and everyone has a different idea of what’s ok and what’s not.  I try to note any potential issues.

Teaching Notes for the Flying Fish Mini Study (includes all weblinks)

Parts of Fish Diagram

Flying Fish coloring page

Flying Fish coloring page 2

Flying Fish photos (specimens)

Flying Fish photos (live)

Flying Fish video (amazing!)

Attack of the flying fish (funny video, but an example of how easy it is to catch them)

Flying Fish Airplane

No-Work Spanish, a review

learn spanish audio cds

Studying a foreign language = hard work, right?  Between verb conjugations and subject verb agreement and understanding idioms…I don’t know about you, but I studied two different modern foreign languages in school (one in high school and one in college) and I can’t speak either one of them very well.  They just didn’t seem to stick.  And yeah, it was a lot of work to learn the little that did stick.

Teaching my kiddos at least one foreign language is a priority.  In our diverse country and global economy, being able to communicate is important.  But how can I teach something that I never learned very well myself?

That’s one of the fallacies that plagues homeschoolers.  How can we teach things like pre-algebra and AP physics without degrees in mathematics and science?  Or at least a degree in elementary education?  The answer, of course, is that we don’t.  We give our kiddos the tools they need to teach themselves and the environment and opportunity in which to do it.

And there’s never been a better time for it.  The amount of resources that are only a click and a download away are unbelievable.  And they’re a  far-cry from the textbooks and overhead transparencies you remember from when you were in school.

Want to learn Spanish wherever, whenever, without lugging around a textbook and a passel of worksheets?  Slip a No-Work Spanish audio cd into your player or load it onto your iPod and immerse yourself in the gentle rhythms of the language.  Before you know it, you might find yourself repeating those words and actually getting what you’re saying.

No-Work Spanish YaksEach No-Work Spanish audiobook varies in length from 50 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes.  First, the narrator will read the text to you in English and then in Spanish, sentence by sentence.  The following track is that entire chapter in Spanish.  Then the next chapter gives each sentence in English, then in Spanish, and on through the entire book.

Open the pdf file on your cd, and you’ll find the transcript in its entirety, so you can follow along while listening, or read it to yourself in a quiet moment.  Note:  the pdfs are also available for download off the No-Work Spanish website, providing easy access for those who purchase the download version.

We received Yaks March on Washington and Poster Girl  on cd for review, and have listened to Yaks so far.  Check out the No-Work Spanish site for descriptions and excerpts from these two books. 

Yaks follows Dash, a ranch dog, and his owner (and best friend) to Washington, DC as they bring 6 yaks to a Tibetan festival.  Based on a true story, it’s full of fun little details about yaks, ranch life, and even Tibetan life that had my curious kiddos asking all kinds of questions (I feel a yak unit study coming on, smile).  

Sound quality is good and I would guess that the narrator is  a native No-Work Spanish Poster GirlSpanish speaker.  His English pronunciation is flawless, but he does speak it with a very slight accent and sometimes his inflection is a little off (the emphasis on a particular or syllable is sometimes not what you would expect).  He reads in a spirited way, adding in little verbal effects (likes sighs, voice changes, etc.) where appropriate.  Definitely not a monotonous recitation.  We are enjoying this very much.

Is it effective?  Time will tell.  We haven’t had very much time with this resource yet, but the children are picking out the the few Spanish words they already know and making connections.  I’ve found that playing it in the car works great.  Whenever I try to play it for them elsewhere, there is always something else they’d rather do…it just seems like a chore.  In the car, it’s a treat!  And it takes their minds off the “Are we there, yet?” mantra. 

This is not, by any means, a complete Spanish program, but a fun resource that we’ll continue to use.  I suspect that subsequent listenings will bear more and more fruit and I’m very pleased with it so far.  It’ll be interesting to see what other titles they add to the collection.

Want to try it out yourself?  Go to the No-Work Spanish website and sign up to receive the first 3 chapters of one of  their books by email.

Yaks March on Washington and Poster Girl are both available on cd or as downloadable mp3s.  You'll find purchase options for No-Work Spanish here.

And for updates, be sure to like the No-Work Spanish Facebook page.

Disclosure:  This is a MamaBuzz review. The product was provided by No-Work Spanish for this review.  I received no other compensation and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Yesterday’s Classics (the Whole Ebook Shebang!), a review


We are a family of bibliophiles. Chances are that if one of my kiddos has disappeared when I’m getting ready to teach a lesson…I’ll find them curled up in a corner somewhere with a book.

And we have thousands of books. Don’t ask me how many boxes of books we packed to move from Missouri to Maryland…and then from one town to the next and then the next.

Much as I love books, moving them is a real pain. And so is storing them. Yes, I love the feel, the smell, the etc. of real live books. It did take awhile to make an ebook convert of me. But it’s happened.

Yesterday’s Classics is known for their quality reprints of classic books that were formerly out-of-print and have fallen into the public domain. But did you know that theyhaaren_greece now have their entire collection of 225 books available for purchase and download as ebooks? And they are formatted perfectly, with the original illustrations, and clickable tables of contents for either your Kindle or any device that will read EPUB files.

These are living books that you will find on the book lists of Ambleside Online, Old Fashioned Education, Mater Amabilis and others. You can see a complete list of the books included in the collection here. Books that are in the public domain, true, and many of which you can download for free online, that’s also true, but I’ll tell you something…I’m genuinely impressed with this collection.

You know me, I love free. I’m a cheapskate. I hate to pay for anything I can find for free. But it takes time to find free stuff. Real time I could spend actually planning how I’ll be using the books, and actually reading the books to my kids.

And sometimes free is, well, not so great. Many of the free books I’ve found online for my Kindle have problems. You see, freebies on the web tend to come from scans that use OCR software to convert the scans to text. And a lot of times there are glitches in the software or the scans are not clear enough for the software to convert it…and you end up with gobblygook in the middle of the page. Whole sections that are nonsense characters. You also end up with page headings in the middle of the page because the pages haven’t been actually reformatted to line up right on your device. And a worthless table of contents that has page numbers that don’t apply to electronic format, either.

In other words, sometimes free isn’t all that.

And there are public domain books that simply aren’t available for free download. You can’t get them at all except as a reprint or to read online…while it might seem appealing at first to read something off your computer rather than pay a buck or so for it…my eyes and body much prefer the easy book-like access of my e-reader.

pratt_ahs1A while back we started using some sources listed on Old Fashioned Education to supplement our history studies: American History Stories by Mara Platt, The Awakening of Europe by M.B. Synge, The Discovery of New Worlds…but I couldn’t find many of these books except as online reading or as audiobooks. We were enjoying the books, but going bug-eyed from trying to read them off the desktop. And the kiddos were fighting over the desk chair when it came time to listen to an audiobook (my cd player doesn’t do mp3s, I know, I live in the dark ages). It was really not working for us and I was ready to just quit and do something else.

Then Yesterday’s Classics came along and we were finally able to read these great books in a comfy spot. I’m looking forward to using more of these books in the coming years…and I won’tgould_greeks have to hunt for them, they are all right here on my Kindle.

I love the clickable tables of contents, the clean format, the clear pictures and the lack of errors. My kiddos looked over my shoulder and said, “Hey, there’s pictures!” Many of the free versions I’ve gotten in the past simply lack pictures at all…or the pictures are somehow wonky. Not with Yesterday’s Classics.

Now, keep in mind that these books are a century old. A lot has happened in the past century. Pluto was discovered and declared a planet. Then demoted to a dwarf planet, whatever that means. Just as some of the “facts” that I learned in school are no longer valid, so are some of the bits of info presented as “facts” in these books.

I don’t have a problem with that, really, as I welcome the opportunity to talk things over with my kiddos and to help them realize that just because you read it in a book, doesn’t mean it’s true. Lately, I’ve had a great deal of difficulty finding any non-fiction book without some problems in this area, anyway. History really isn’t a static collection of facts to be memorized and pondered, our understanding of it is changing all the time.

andrews_motherMy latest beef is the prevalence of the idea (in modern history books) that people in the middle ages all thought the world was flat and that Columbus was going to sail right off the edge of it (that’s simply not true, but they did know that his calculations were wrong and that he’d likely starve before he got to India, since nobody knew the Americas were here…except the first Americans, of course…check out Inventing the Flat Earth from your local library, it’s fascinating)---ironically you’ll find those same fallacies in these Yesterday’s Classics books, so maybe times haven’t changed that much after all.

My point is that, while some of the information may be out-dated, an up-to-date book is not necessarily more reliable, so I’m happy to work with these.

Yesterday’s Classics ebooks are DRM-free! That means you can put them on as many devices as you want. Available in either Kindle or EPUB format, Yesterday’s Classics can be read on your Kindle, Nook, Sony, iPad, iPod Touch, Smartphone…you name it. The books can also be read on your computer with the correct app installed. Need it in both Kindle and ePub? Order one and then contact them asking for the other format, they’ll be happy to send it to you. How’s that for having your cake and eating it too?

Your download of the complete Yesterday’s Classics collection will include instructions on printing the books and email support in case you run into any technical troubles. And there is a 100% satisfaction money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied, just email them for a complete refund. I love it when a company stands behind their product.

What’s the bottom line?

The Yesterday’s Classics complete ebook collection (225 books) is available for the special price of $99.95, but this sale won't last! perkins_dutch

Head over there and download a free copy of The Dutch Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins in Kindle or EPUB format (or both) and see what you think.

Books can also be purchased individually for Kindle or as EPUBs.

And if you absolutely must have the physical book in hand…all of Yesterday’s Classics’ books are available in paperback editions.

You can read reviews of this and other products by other homeschoolers at the TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.

Disclosure: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free copy of the product for review. I received no other compensation. This post reflects my personal opinion and I was in no way obligated to write a positive review.