Archives For TOS Crew Review

College Prep Genius Review

Heather —  November 15, 2011

Do you feel your child is ready for college? Do you know all the ins and outs of PSAT, SAT and  test preparation and scholarships and loans?

Well, I do not, but we are learning as fast as we can as three of the children prepare to begin applying to schools.

On the whole, I feel a bit overwhelmed. I know there is a ton of information available for my teens who attend school, and online for my son who homeschools. Still, I am not the one at school, and the career office doesn’t seem to help much. Here at home, I find myself spending a lot of time trying to decide which information is up to date and what is just marketing, etc.

When I saw a review come up for College Prep Genius I had high hopes that this was something that would be useful. When I began to review it, I had to drag my son to the laptop to watch with me. We watched the first lesson together, and within the first lesson, I noticed he began to pay attention. For real. The author of the course, Jean Burk, apparently has experience with her own kids, getting them into college and getting good scholarships. Her enthusiasm comes through loud and clear. She is a born coach, I think.

I think this course does reach high schoolers and is worth taking a look at. Nick did a video below:

After the first lesson my son had taken an online SAT and set up a college prep binder, made sure he was signed up for college board emails…and maybe more he didn’t tell me.  Something clicked for him.

The prices for this do vary depending on which portions you purchase. Currently, there is a 25% off special deal on the DVD set package. $99.

You can find College Prep Genius online. Take a look, there is much information on there.

See what my crewmates have to say about College Prep Genius


I received the College Prep Genius through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.


Math Mammoth Review

Heather —  November 14, 2011

And it is wonderful!

Right from the beginning, I want to stress that I like using Math Mammoth Light Blue Series for Grade 1. I find this Math curriculum to be very straightforward and complete, easy to teach and very affordable.

The author of the curriculum, Maria Miller, is herself a homeschool mother and a trained Math teacher. While reading her website and watching some of her videos, I was impressed with her way of making the math concepts clear—so much so, that I subscribed to her math blog.

Em and I have had lots of fun playing some of her math games.

Anyway, on the Math Mammoth website, you will see tons of materials and options to purchase. I highly recommend reading through the site very well and signing up for the 7-day virtual email tour around Math Mammoth. Signing up for that helped me to sort through everything available and decide which curriculum was the best option for my child.

After giving my daughter a placement test from the site, I chose and began the grade 1, Light Blue Series complete curriculum.

The Light Blue Series is mastery oriented, so we will spend a long time on each topic, and focus on understanding the underlying math concepts. Using the worktext format, with the workbook and teaching text combined means there is very little teacher preparation. I can skim easily and discuss with Em what she needs to do. As she can read, she often just goes ahead and gets it done unless she has a question.

She is very open to completing the work, so it is definitely working for her. I find that having less teacher prep time is making me play more math games with her. I think we are both enjoying math more. We tend to do about 3-4 pages per day, as she is somewhat familiar with the content in part A. I expect to slow down a bit when we get to Part B. But overall, she likes working quietly on the colorful pages. Here is an example of how the teaching flows into the problems to do on each page:

This curriculum, at $34 for the download set I received, includes a full curriculum, student worktexts A & B, answer key for each, chapter tests and an end-of-year test, cumulative reviews, and an easy worksheet maker (Internet access required) to make extra practice worksheets when needed.

The main topics during first grade are the concepts of addition and subtraction, addition and subtraction facts within 0-10, and place value till 100. Other topics studied are clock to the half hour, measuring length in inches and centimeters, shapes, and coins.

You can see samples here:

1-A contents and samples

1-B contents and samples

Options for purchase include buying full set curriculum downloads, or break this up and purchase a semester at a time. You can also buy the curriculum on CD or in regular printed format. As of November 2011, the pdf’s included in the download version are also enabled for annotation, so you can have your student fill in on the computer and save paper if you like. You can see prices here.

And at the end of the semester, this is a little perk for her!

See what my crewmates have to say about Math Mammoth


I received the download of The Light Blue Series Grade 1 through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.




Ooka Island Adventure

Heather —  November 7, 2011

Ooka Island Adventure is a 3D hero-mission literacy program, designed to teach young children, ages 3-7 how to read.

Actually, so far I do not have too much to say about Ooka Island, as I cannot get past the opening play button. From what I can see, I think the site has a lot of potential, great, colorful kid friendly graphics and a fun learn to read approach, with lots of robot characters, songs and online books.

I am waiting for my magical upgrade.  However, I am going to go ahead and share this site with you, as they have a promo code for their launch, you can take a look and see what you think.

See what my crewmates have to say about Ooka Island.


I received a download of Ooka Island through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

I recently received Excellence in Literature: English 1: Introduction to Literature with the Honors option, from Everyday Education to review.

The author, Janice Campbell, has created many resources to help those homeschooling through high School.

Some of her other books include Get a Jump Start on College!, Transcripts Made Easy, and the rest of the Excellence in Literature series. I mention Campbell right from the start, as I want to share that she has so much experience in non-traditional education, having homeschooled her four sons from kindergarten into college!

Since the 80’s she has been sharing her thoughts and resources. I encourage you to visit her blog at or her website at for articles, resources, and a free e-zine. (I signed up for the e-zine when I got my e-book, and I look forward to this in my inbox.)

Ok, so what about Excellence in Literature (EIL)?

Well, EIL is a college preparatory course, geared for students from 8th thru 12th grades. Normally, this would be a good first year English high school course, but can be used throughout your high school years to help “shore up” your student as far as knowing great literature and being able to write essays and practice literary analysis.

The course has nine overall units, and each is designed to last about a month. An honors track is included, for a student wanting the challenge, or to CLEP…or just for an older student.

Here is what my high school student thinks of EIL:

“It is self guided, and I like that. There are a lot of directions at the beginning and that helps to know what people want from you. The course has a lot of good books. Most of the books in here, I have been meaning to read. Especially the books by Verne and Twain. Really, the books are what I consider fun books and I’d read over and over anyway. I like this.

The units give lots of background information on the authors and books, like when they lived and what type of stories they wrote. It gives you lots of links to extra resources on the author/book, and different things to read about when they lived.

And, I like how when there is a movie for one of the books, it lists that as well, and adds it into the curriculum.

The actual work has you write an essay on the book and some have you answer a question about the book. You do get formats and examples of everything you will have to write (like essays). They have pages of that and links.

There is an honor track for CLEP. This is basically extra work for more practice, with additional reading. There is also a schedule for each unit. That is pretty cool. I like it so far. I also do IEW and I can use these together.”

Unit 1 Short Stories by:

Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron, Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter, Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace, O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief ,Eudora Welty: A Worn Path, James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Unit 2

  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
    Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Unit 3

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
    Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Unit 4

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Unit 5

  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
    Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

Unit 6

  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Unit 7

  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

Unit 8

  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare
    Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Unit 9

  • Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
    Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

The ebook version retails at $27, with instant download. You can also purchase the print version for $29 + shipping. I printed out the ebook, and that worked fine, but honestly, I’d rather have the print version, myself.

If you have several students in your homeschool, the ebook would be nice as you can download copies for yourself and your students, where online the links are all clickable.

For more info, see the EIL FAQ page.

See what my crewmates have to say about Excellence In Literature!


I received the ebook version of Excellence in Literature: English 1: Introduction to Literature with the Honors option through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

Say Anything Game Review

Heather —  October 27, 2011


Want a new family game that gets people laughing and is hard to cheat or be aggressive about? Do you just want to see people have fun without strategizing for ages?

Then get Say Anything Family this Holiday Season.

Seriously. This family and party game is hilarious and easy to play. In a spin on giving your opinion, in this game, you must talk, write and vote on opinions and guess how others will vote.


The game is good for multi-age play and for lots of players. We played a few times with just three players, but, the more the better. If you have more than six, you can make teams.


Pieces are all included and pack back up nicely. Kids seem to love the little dry erase boards and pens. I liked the bright colors and modern look to all the pieces. The cards cracked me up!

Say Anything Family Edition game retails for $19.99.

For more information, see

See what my crewmates have to say about Say Anything and Northstar Games.


I received Say Anything Family Edition through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

What’s For Dinner? e-Mealz!

Heather —  October 20, 2011

Greek Style Pizza was a big hit

So, what’s for dinner?

Do you dread hearing that?

I do. But, while cold cereal actually sounds good to me some nights, I know that is not the best plan for my family!

For years now, we have done family style sit down meals each night. Sometimes children come and go for these, but I try to keep at least that part of the day stable for us all. I am proud of that. On the other hand, I am not always proud of what I put on the table and I can often overspend grabbing last minute parts of meals.

I have heard about menu planning, but between homeschool planning and homekeeping planning and actually having fun (I didn’t count cooking in that category) well, you get the picture…

Sometimes my planning and meals are fantastic, while other weeks, it is a disaster, marked by frequent pasta mixed with something dinners.

And, as we have some special dietary needs, namely, eating organic for everyone and Gluten-free (GF) for me, I figured trying to use someone else’s meal planning was just another step I really did not need to focus on my meal plans.

I was wrong yet again. Enter e-Meals.
Emealz - Easy Meals for Busy People!

When I received the word that I would be doing a review for e-Meals, I was a bit concerned it would be a disaster. I saw that although they have over 20 meal plans to choose from, they did not currently have an organic plan. I also saw that I would be able to make only one change in meal plans during my subscription so I needed to choose my particular type of menu plan carefully.

Now just choosing organic over regular at the grocery store is not difficult, but it can be pricy, so this is a bit of an issue for me. In the past, I’d work hard to choose what was on sale and then figure out what to do with it. While that sounds good, I often ended up with rotten vegetables that I never figured out what to do with…or my intentions were to make a super complicated dinner I did not get done. Either way, I ended up feeling guilty.

And for the GF, I am slowly moving the whole family into eating more and more GF meals, but really, it is just me that really needs that.

Now, I also have moved away from using much red meat at all, but we are not totally vegetarian. I like chicken especially for dinners.

So, with these three main things in mind, I first chose the Gluten-Free menu plan from e-Mealz.

I absolutely loved using it.

I respect the founders and their vision, which is to gather family for dinners and relationship. A worthy endeavor!

Still, especially for working mothers, such an undertaking.

I do believe if you use e-Meals exactly as shown, it is very simple and well worth the extremely reasonable cost. Apparently, lots of people agree, because they have a community of over 150,000 members.

Did I use it exactly how you are supposed to? No. That would be too easy, right? Haha. Currently, I am feeding myself, one husband, three teenagers and one child. I went ahead and printed out the two GF menus that were available on PDF on their site. A current week and one past week are available to copy/print.

I then chose the meals I thought everyone would like best and went to Whole Foods and basically bought 7 dinners, some breakfast stuff and a bit of lunch stuff. Altogether, this was about $120.

I messed with the plans. Ideally, you can just print & go, with the itemized shopping list organized for the store

Now, I know some people would gasp at that price, but this is good for our family, for all organic, not bulk prices.

And, when I did not have to run to the grocery stores, grabbing last minute extras—well, that saves a ton of money.

In fact, our first week was fabulous. We had great dinners and all the pieces were in the fridge. So relaxing!

I actually even got sick, and my husband was able to make a delicious meal in the crockpot for us! (It was like having my mom take care of me, foodwise!)


So, the next week, I got more adventurous and matched up the meals I wanted and local coupons and did even better . Again, dinners were new and different…and a giant hit.

A super healthy sauce mimics alfredo:)

I started to enjoy cooking again! (I even had brain power left over to plan a few deserts).

One thing I didn’t love for us about the GF menu was the amount of red meat recipes. So, I decided to be daring and use our one meal menu change to change to the vegetarian menu plan.

Honestly, if I hadn’t done it, I would have been curious forever, but I was sorry. The vegetarian plan was just so different for me. So many, well…vegetables.  Even Tofu. Still, we found a few recipes we liked which I never would have tried otherwise and I learned how to cook some new things. I added real bacon and chicken to some meatless dishes.

I plan to go back to the GF menu plan asap. And, I plan to stick with using this. After several weeks using this, we have saved money and enjoyed nutritious and fun meals. I am more relaxed about dinner plans and have found extra time to plan some deserts. It just really is helping with the planning.  Even buying more new foods and adding in the $5.00 per month for the ability to download the menus and plans, I am saving money each month.

My husband even asked me to continue:)

Bottom line:

At $15 for three months, this is a real value and a nice experience!

  1. Choose a plan: Choose from more than 20 plans based on grocery store chains, dietary choices and family size.
  2. Print out your list and shop: Print out your list with 7 preplanned meals and matching shopping list
  3. Cook & Enjoy

Go take a look for yourself at, you can also find them on facebook and they have a great blog as well.

See what my crewmates have to say about e-Mealz.


I received a 3 mth. membership to e-mealz through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.




Ok. This is the first online site I have become REALLY excited about in a long time. I think it must be because the site is founded by parents of five children, Swenja and Johannes Ziegler, co-founders of Yes, with five children comes wisdom!

Em and I got a chance to review Always Ice Cream, an online community and educational site for girls ages k-8. Several weeks later, she is still enjoying the site tremendously.

As you know, I do review lots of virtual games and educational sites. It is funny what clicks sometimes. Some sites I will love and my kids really could care less. Or, the kids love a site and I have concerns about site security or lack of educational content…or we all like something but their servers more so slowly that we give up on them.

So what is working about Always Ice Cream?

Well for Em, the site is very specific. It is geared to elementary and middle school girls. The artwork is adorable and well-drawn, there is plenty of pink and purple, cute animals, lots of friends and content relevant to girls, and the servers are super fast. There is a selection of music to choose from while you play, or you can play with no sound.

For me, I am impressed by the planning to make this a safe online spot for children. For starters, the communication is moderated, there are no advertisements and parents control the choices for community involvement (ie you can turn on/off the social features as you see fit). Also, parents receive emails letting them know what their child is doing on the site and are able to interact with their child by giving them game rewards.

On top of that, the educational content looks good. They are adding content all the time, and content includes games and videos in Language Arts, Math, Math drills, Geography, History, Science,Music and Art, Computer Skills, Foreign Language. Emma actually wants to play the learning games, rather than me asking her to. They are doing something right!

While the girls play they earn “$coops,” an in-game currency. They can use $coops to take care of pets or decorate homes. There are medals and awards…and the social aspect of chatting with other girls about how they liked a game or lesson, and they can also help take care of one another’s pets and compete for certain things.

I want to share my report about what she has been doing on Always Ice Cream Lately:

Your Daughter’s Recent Learning Progress

During the last 90 days, Emma made progress in the following learning games:

  • Math Quiz – Adding from level 4 to 5, earning a Bronze Medal
  • Health Quiz from level 1 to 4, earning a Gold Medal
  • Bible Quiz from level 1 to 4, earning a Gold Medal
  • Word Confusion from level 1 to 6, earning a Silver Medal
  • State Shapes Quiz from level 1 to 6, earning a Bronze Medal
  • Basic Anatomy from level 1 to 25, earning a Silver Medal
  • Internet Quiz from level 1 to 5, earning a Diamond Girl Trophy
  • New Testament Bible Quiz from level 1 to 4, earning a Bronze Medal
  • Cooking School from level 3 to 10, earning a Diamond Girl Trophy
  • Dog Breeds Quiz from level 1 to 3, earning a Bronze Medal
  • States of the USA from level 8 to 22, earning a Silver Medal
  • Classical Music Quiz from level 1 to 11, earning a Bronze Medal

Moderated Communication

In the last 90 days, Emma received a message from, or wrote a message to (edited)

Educational Videos Watched

During the last three months Emma watched the following videos:

  • Basic Addition – (c)
  • How To Make Baby Rattle Cupcakes
  • Baking: Decorate Jungle Birthday Cupcakes
  • How To Make a Princess Castle Birthday Cake
  • How To Make a Train Cake – Birthday Cake Decorating Ideas
  • How to Draw a Cartoon Cat
  • Pool Safely Educational Video

Artwork Created

She created the following artwork:

  • 10 art piece(s)
  • 14 piece(s) of furniture for her house

I love that I can get these stats!

Always Ice Cream is available for $4.99 per month or annually for $29.99. You can also get a lifetime membership for $99.99.

This would make a fun Gift for a special little girl! Do go see the FREE trial!

Go take a look for yourself at and, you can also find them on Facebook.

See what my crewmates have to say about Always Ice Cream!


I received a lifetime membership to Always Ice Cream through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

“This course was created as an elective for high school students interested in pursuing a career in business and for students interested in taking the CLEP Principles of Marketing Exam.”

I will add that this course is a nice addition for any student as advertising and social marketing are so prevalent in our society. Are you teaching a budding entrepreneur? Social Media Genius? These days, no matter what career you choose, this college level marketing class would be an asset.

The authors participating in Professor In a Box are are first and foremost, teachers. And, they have figured out how to be the cool teachers, by making the learning environment very efficient. No messing around. This particular course is taught by Julie Pirsch Ph.D, a Marketing Professor at Villanova University.

First off, you will not need any additional resources. No textbook. The included DVD and online links are all you need (I like this).

There are five main components to how one uses the course:

  1. Watch DVD: 28 individual lessons, 19 Chapters. The lessons are in a Flash lecture style, with powerpoint slides and audio. Dr. Pirsch has a pleasant voice, which is helpful. Give yourself about 30 minutes for each lesson.
  2. Study Key Concepts and terms. Review
  3. Investigate online web links–these are found through your DVD and link to items like documentaries, websites, journals, branding and case studies, etc. Fascinating stuff.
  4. Take chapter quizzes
  5. Take exams: three main exams. Quizzes and exams are online and automatically graded, but you can also print them out if you like.

Professor In a Box outlines options to use this for an entire year, a semester, or summer schedule. Everything the teacher or student would need is provided, such as lesson plans, grading information and schedules.

There are no prerequisites. This course is similar to a standard college 101 marketing course, yet the language is clear for a young high school student and using the Flash lecture slides lets you proceed at your own pace. Honestly, I found it very interesting so far and I want to finish it!

I will have to come back and let everyone know if Nick passes the CLEP test for this one. He is a Junior now and I know the cost of this curriculum is less than the 101 college course credits at even our local community college. He likes the independence of using the DVD/lecture format.

Originally, I scared him by showing him the lesson plan titles and such. But, each lesson is not difficult to understand, and Nick enjoyed recognizing companies that were used in marketing examples.

Take a look at Chapter One. You can watch the entire first lesson. I like how seamlessly the DVD flows. I really appreciate non-traditional ways of learning.

I recommend this for the older high school student, college student, or someone like me, who is just interested in marketing.

The course retails for $119.99 with free shipping and is available in PC or Mac format. There is even a money back guarantee.

Go take a look for yourself at: and, you can also find them on facebook.

See what my crewmates have to say about Professor In a Box, Principles of Marketing.


I received  Principles of Marketing through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.