VocabularySpellingCity: Review

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One of the first sites I stumbled upon as we began our homeschooling journey was VocabularySpellingCity. I thoroughly enjoyed the site and felt it was very helpful from the start. Getting to use the premium membership ($29.99 for up to 5 students) has been even better! The extra content which is now available to us has really been fun for Beth, my 1st grader, as she works on her spelling words each week. This is a great internet-based program for grades K-12. Not many cover this wide age range!
Since our iPad is new and shiny I’ve enjoyed finding learning apps for the girls. I was so excited to find out I could use this for Vocabulary Spelling City and she was too. I give my daughter a pretest of 20 words each week, then the words which she misses or she had to think longer about become her spelling words. I don’t believe in busy work and in my opinion including words she already knows is busy work. This program allows me to include only the words I want which can range from 1 all the way to 51. She has been averaging about 6 a week. 
Once I enter the words under the parent account she can log in under her account (which is connected to mine) on the computer or the iPad. She of course typically chose the iPad! I really like that when I enter the words I also chose a definition from a pre-selected list which also created a vocabulary aspect to her spelling lists which hadn’t been present before. 
There are so many games to choose from for practice. She liked to try them all and when I asked her which was her favorite she said, “I don’t know. They were all so fun!” It is great to have something fun to add to our spelling. She is already learning spelling rules which she seems to enjoy, but a change of pace is always a welcome diversion for any subject. The games are colorful and fun with immediate feedback so she knows if she made a mistake and how to fix it. 
This past week I let Beth enter the word list herself instead of doing them for her. She felt so grown up to be able to do the parent’s part and it was also great practice. She choose the definition she thought fit best and I was pleased she did this with ease. I also really like the option for a spelling test. The program calls the word out and she types out the correct word. Since everything is scored and recorded with the premium account her weekly spelling tests have been a breeze! 
Rose, 3rd grade, has also been using the site, but only with the supplied grade-level appropriate lists since she doesn’t have weekly spelling tests at the moment. I love that even without imputing a list my girls can practice their spelling skills and find it very enjoyable. Even Grace, four-years-old, has been wanting to spell! She watches her big sisters play on the site and will try to help them. She doesn’t quite understand it all yet, but she does know letters have to go in a particular order to spell correctly so she too is gaining insight from this website. 
Click here to see what my Crewmates had to say about the site!


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Time4Learning: Review

Online resources for homeschooling is becoming a huge trend in the home education world. You can find anything you need from supplements for fill in the gaps to full course curricula. The difficulty comes in trying to weed out the useful from the time wasters. I typically aim to keep our learning environment as focused on literature and hands-on activities as possible. Computers and screens are usually reserved for supplementation, so I’m pretty picky about what my girls use. 
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Time4Learning is a company who has made its presence well-known both within the homeschool world. Simply search for online homeschool resources and Time4Learning pops up very quickly! All of the core areas are covered including language arts, math, social studies, and science for $19.95 each month for k-8th grades. Discounts are given for each additional student signed up. Courses for high school students are also available. The learning environment definitely has more of the feel of a game and Beth, a six-year-old 1st grader, definitely saw using this as playtime. This is a great benefit when you have reluctant learners. Sparking interest is vital with any program whether a traditional approach or computer-based.

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Beth was the primary user for reviewing the program and used the 1st grade level, but her sisters were right there along with her and thoroughly engrossed! She tried out all of the subject areas and was able to quickly complete all of the language arts and math material. Her official grade-level is 1st, but her ability level is second grade or higher. One of the nice things about Time4Learning is if you find the material is too easy (or too difficult!) you can request a grade-level change. This takes about 24 hours, but I’m glad it requires confirmation so parents have plenty of time to consider.

One area which we were concerned about was how science information would be presented. Our family’s world-view is that all of Scripture is true, including a literal 6-day account of Creation. I appreciate that although Time4Learning is not a Christian-based curriculum, they have taken time to address these concerns and even have a specific board within their forum to address this. Click here to see what they have to say.

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Another wonderful aspect is the availability of lesson plans. We are blessed to live in a state where the regulations are easy to follow. Some states are a bit more challenging and require lesson plans. Time4Learning is a huge help for this. It is set up to be a full course curriculum. This can be reassuring for parents who are feeling unsure of themselves as they embark on their journey of homeschool can rest easy knowing their children will be able to meet what is considered grade-level requirements. My personal feeling is it is a little less rigorous than I like our curriculum to be, but my girls tend to be a bit advanced so I’m always searching for more challenges.

Whether you are searching for a full-online computer-based curriculum, fun educational or a supplement for any particular subject, you should check out Time4Learning! This is definitely a high-quality option for any of these scenarios. My daughter asks frequently, “Can I play my mousey game now?” Getting her to agree to play is never a chore and the bonus is she is all the knowledge she is gaining. 

Click below to see what others on the Review Crew had to say!


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Reading Kingdom: Review

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This year I’m getting ready to teach reading for the third time. The first time I began reading instruction with my oldest I felt completely inadequate and unprepared. My background is middle school education and so even though I took a reading class in college, I never thought I’d be teaching it. Then both of my oldest daughters, always eager to learn, started asking, begging to learn at age three. While I didn’t start their reading instruction that young, they were reading on a 1st grade level before they turned five.

And now there is almost four-year-old Grace. The sweet little thing is so incredibly distraught she doesn’t know how to read yet, but repeatedly tells me she doesn’t want me to teach her. I’m not a fan of teaching reading to very young children, but when children show an interest in any kind of learning I do not want to hold them back. She is incredibly advanced and her hesitancy has surprised me. I had decided to hold-off on her reading instruction for a while until I had this chance to review Reading Kingdom. This is a computer based reading program to be used with pre-readers through a 3rd grade reading level. I hesitate to list an age because kids learn at such different paces, but the website says it is intended for ages 4-10. It allows children to move at their own pace, requires mastery of a skill before moving forward, and as excited my little reader. The price is $19.99 per month or $199.99 for an entire year with discounts for multiple children. A 30-day risk-free trial is also available to try out first.

Grace has enjoyed using this almost every day…so much in fact she asks, “Can I play my owl game?” even after school has finished for the day. She started by taking an assessment which placed her where she needed to be. Parents are firmly instructed not to help at all with the exception of helping with hand control. This assures the child is accurately placed and will be able to work on their own. I followed this guideline and since Grace is used to using the computer I didn’t need to help her with the mouse at all. 

The program then begins at the appropriate level. I wish there was a bit more indication of what the levels were, but this is not preventing her from moving forward. I do really like the reports which you can access at any point. She has moved on much more rapidly than I expected. I’m not certain how her progress is measured, but I can see she has completed 10% of the entire program and 17% of the current level which is working with letters. I would really like a better understanding of where she is, but I am pleased there is a report to see.

Grace works on her own needing no assistance beyond accessing the website. She loves the owl. I’m not sure what has captured her about the character exactly, but she is particularly fond of it. She will sometimes complete more lesson in one day, but since I know the program will not allow her to progress without mastery this is fine. This is an example of what she is doing now. She is asked to identify the letters listed on the top row in the same order on the bottom row using the keyboard. There is an option to use the actual keyboard or an on-screen mouse activated keyboard. I have chosen the latter at Grace’s request. I think this is better for her age anyway because she can keep her focus on the screen. 
I would recommend this program to those looking for computer-based reading instruction, but from this point on I will only be using it to supplement the phonics curriculum I have already used for a couple of reasons. The first is I really do not care for computer-based only instruction for our family. Kids spend so much time in front of screens I prefer to do most of their learning through books and experience. The second is I disagree with some of the philosophy behind this reading program. While it is working well and Grace enjoys it I find some flaws in their assertions about reading instruction and why traditional approaches are failing the majority of students. 
To read more reviews of this program from my Crewmates click below!

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Typing Tournament v2: Review

(There is a freebie offer for everyone at the bottom of this review!!!!)

My daughter has been begging to learn how to type for months. She has already been typing each week, but you can see her method was one finger, hunt and peck. It was a good start, but she kept at me to learn how to type like I do, so the search began for an affordable typing program which she found enjoyable and was effective.

I was very excited to try out Typing Tournament v2 from EdAlive Educational Software. I loaded it on the computer after the girls went to bed so I could try it out as I usually do before giving the girls a chance to play new games. The thing was, I was having fun! Then my husband saw what I was doing and wanted to try it out. He was determined to beat my score, but couldn’t! Believe me, if there is a typing program that intrigues my husband enough that he wants to use it, there is something special about it.

The 16 levels progress the student forward at their own pace starting with beginning typing skills. The practice isn’t anything that different from other programs I’ve seen, except that it places the student in the frame of being a knight in a tournament. The graphics are cute and engaging.

After finishing the lesson students can play a variety of games which are really fun! My husband and I really enjoyed these. Rose prefers the lesson! At whatever point the student feels ready they are able to take a test to see if they are ready to move on to the next level.

Rose is progressing slowly…a pace I expect from a 7-year-old! The fact that she is improving and learning typing at all impresses me at this age. She enjoys the practice and is starting with real typing skills. In the technological world she is growing up in, typing will be a necessity. The fact that she can learn to type in a fun way is exciting. My typing courses were never fun. They were dry, dull, and simply a means to an end. I’m thrilled that we have found something more enjoyable for the girls to use as they begin to learn to type the proper way. The one area she really needs to improve in is not looking at her hands. This is tricky for her, but since I require the same for her piano lessons I know she’ll get there eventually!

The program costs $49.95 which seems very reasonable considering the wide scope of typing skills which are covered. In addition they quite frequently offer discounts and deals through their Facebook page.

Check out this promo video to get a better look at the program! 

EdAlive Educational Software has lots of great things to offer in addition to Typing Tournament v2! Click here and sign up for their mailing list. You’ll gain access to a free math program! 

I received Typing Tournament v2 in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received. 

A+ Tutorsoft Review

Math is not my favorite subject to teach. I didn’t mind math in school…until I hit my sophomore year of high school and Algebra 2. Math wasn’t the easiest subject for me, but I understood the concepts up until that class. I quickly lost confidence in my ability to do math and that hasn’t really ever gone away.
PhotobucketI anticipated reviewing A+ Interactive MATH from A+ Tutosoft, Inc with mixed feelings. While the idea of giving over the actual teaching portion of math sounded appealing, I’m typically not someone who uses computer-based teaching. I was impressed with the concepts covered for first grade and decided to look forward to this opportunity with an open mind. Beth is in Kindergarten, but completed her kindergarten math by the end of October and was more than ready for something to challenge her thinking. The program costs between $99 and $124.99 depending on whether you want to be able to have parental track and reporting (feature available for up to 5 students). It also offers levels 1st-6th grade as well as Pre-Algebra and Algebra and is available in an online version in addition to the CD format I received. 
My husband helped me install the program the day after we received it in the mail. It was easy to setup and easy to get her started. I simply needed to print the corresponding worksheets for each lesson. I also had the option to print the answer key, but decided just to use the answer key on the computer to save paper. The pages are colorful, but not overly distracting with lots of unnecessary illustrations. I appreciated this fact since Beth tends to get distracted with wanting to tell stories about the pictures! 
My sweet little girl was over-the-moon excited to use the computer for one of her subjects! The girls typically only get to use the computer as a reward after school-work is completed. She was also excited to be the only one of her sisters to get to use it. 
Beth used headphones most of the time since we school all together each morning. It was very easy for her to use the mouse and to know where to click to move the program forward. She did not want to repeat after the lady who was teaching the lesson, but after some coaxing I convinced her she would learn her math more easily if she followed the directions completely. She seemed to feel a little self-conscious about this until I told her she could whisper. After that she didn’t mind so much.

Both Beth and I really liked the virtual quiz given at the end of each lesson. She loved when the little frog would ribbit as she pushed the submit button for her answer. The first time this happened she giggled and said, “Mommy! The froggy says, ‘Ribbit,’ when I get it right!” Nothing makes my heart smile more than hearing my girls enjoy learning! I really liked this portion because if she missed something the program immediately reviewed the concept and then gave her another chance to answer immediately. The only issues we had with this was the frog wasn’t always present and she was sometimes confused what to do when he wasn’t there. 

Next came the worksheet portion of the lesson. My sweet girl can get overwhelmed when she thinks she has to do a lot of work, so when I handed her multiple pages she gave me a rather panicked look. I quickly explained there were only a few problems on each page and then she was fine. In fact, when she finished the day’s work she would typically ask to do another lesson! There were a couple of times I had to explain a concept, like how to group tens, one more time, but overall she did great on her own letting me know this program was doing it’s job! 

At the end of every unit is a test which looks very much like the daily worksheets. I wasn’t certain how Beth would do for several reasons. Because she is only in kindergarten she had not yet taken a formal test. In addition it was 9 pages long and contained 40 problems…many more than she had ever had to do at once. To my pleasant surprise she took this in stride and just handed me page after page as she finished. She was getting over a cold as well, but this didn’t stop her! Out of all the problems she only missed 3, which I was very pleased with. 

The one downside is I missed being the one to teach her this particular subject. Although I could check her work I did miss being directly involved in the learning process. However, this is a program I would like to revisit as my girls move forward into more difficult math concepts I may not feel as confident teaching. 
Overall I feel A+ Tutosoft, Inc math program is an excellent program for any family looking for a computer-based math curriculum. It is thorough, builds skills logically, and reviews concepts for the students when they don’t quite get something. I also liked that I could track my daughter’s progress and review any missed problems from the program in addition to her worksheets and tests.
A+ Tutorsoft, Inc has generously offered Review Crew readers a coupon for 50% off! If you are looking for a computer-based math program this is an excellent opportunity! 
Use SPOFFER50 at checkout for 50% off until the end of March.
Don’t forget to check out other reviews by the TOS Review Crew!


I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received. 

Always Ice Cream: Review and Giveaway!

My daughters really enjoy using the computer, but we limit the time and limit what games they play. My girls are allowed to use a small handful of websites and a few games we have loaded on to a laptop given to us by a friend. However I’m rather skeptical of some kid-friendly sites because of the amount and type of advertising. Wouldn’t it be great for our boys and girls to have a safe, educational, advertisement-free website? I have some great news! I found one!

These sibling sites are geared respectively towards girls and boys. The idea is to provide something safe, educational, and fun! After watching my girls play and learn for the past month I can tell you they have succeeded! As kids play the educational games they earn scoops (for girls) or gold coins (for boys). They use these to purchase pets, items for their pets, or items for their house or castle.
You can choose games within a range of grade-levels (k-8th) which is nice since no one child is exactly the same as another. The learning games span a wide range of topics including language arts, math, science, music and art, Bible, geography, history, life-skills, and foreign languages. New games are being added all the time and as students complete a level they move on to a harder level. Students also create a person and can customize it using hundreds of possibilities for skin, hair, eye, and outfit colors/styles. 
Rose has been begging me to learn how to type for several months now. She is fascinated by how quickly I am able to type and often mimics my fingers on the keyboard. Until finding Always Ice Cream I honestly thought she would need to wait a few more years before beginning typing skills. So far, this has been her favorite game.  
The typing game keeps her attention and has gradually taught her letter placement on the keyboard. Rose always wants to get to the next level and she loves the challenge! I like that she can see the letters and finger placement on the screen so she is not looking down as much at her fingers. I also like that there is an option on screen to move to an easier level. This way if she is unable to practice for a few days she isn’t stuck with a level beyond her skill. 

This particular website has been a great incentive for my girl. She knows she’ll have a chance to use Always Ice Cream when she completes her other schoolwork for the day…although, she also begs to play on the weekends as well. We still limit their time because I recognize that too much screen time is not healthy for them, but it is so nice to have such a good option for learning and reward.

Since I had surgery over Christmas all of my great ideas for things to do with my girls went out the window. I found myself happily allowing my girls more screen-time than usual because I knew they were learning and I could trust what they were doing was safe without my having to look over their shoulder the entire time.

Ideally each of your children should have their own account.The benefit to doing this is you get weekly reports unique to each specific child and you can customize each student’s account. For now we only have one, but it would be great to have an account for each of my girls. There are several purchasing options so you can choose what is the best fit for your family. 

I know you are really interested now! When you purchase your order (because I KNOW you will want this for your kids!) be sure to put my name, Melissa Williamson, into the “how did you hear about us” field during registration!

And now for the giveaway!!!!
The great people at Always Ice Cream and Clever Dragons are generously giving away a full year membership (valued ta $47.40) to the site of your choice! WOW! Enter through rafflecopter below. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free year subscription of this product from Always Ice Cream in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. No other compensation was received.