Archives For learning

Wordy Querty Review

Heather —  May 20, 2011

Wordy Querty supports reading and writing fluency for young readers, through fun computer gaming. The software is a part of the Talking Fingers program.

Although Wordy Querty was new to us, I am familiar with the Talking Fingers website and program, as we have used Read, Write & Type, the first component of the program, for a bit over a year now. My daughter enjoys working with that program. You can read my Read, Write & Type review to find out more about that level of Talking Fingers.

As we like RW&T, I was pleased to try out Wordy Querty. We played the games (lessons) online and it was easy to just go online and login. The program picks up where RW&T ends and offers 20 lessons, with 6 activities per lesson. The lessons are based upon developing reading fluency in students ages 7-10, by understanding and using these core concepts:

  1. Some sounds can be represented in several different ways.
  2. Most words follow about 20 easy spelling rules.
  3. There are many word families, (words that sound the same, or rhyme). By changing the first letter(s), you can make hundreds of words.
  4. Some words are “outlaws”. They don’t follow the rules. They must be recognized quickly and automatically.
  5. Writing to dictation develops vocabulary, comprehension and fluency as well as spelling skills.
  6. Reading (and filling in missing words) develops vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency skills.

There are six types of games and then the overall “game” in which the kids eventually complete a music machine with the help of their friendly robots.

Take a look at the website to see the games and how each one improves reading fluency. My favorite was the Recycler, but Em likes the Pop-a-Word best.

The Recycler:

I thought the games were great, silly and useful and colorful….and I was disappointed that at times they were too challenging for my little one. However, she is not at the recommended age level, so I suppose that could have been expected.

I will definitely continue to let her play the games she enjoys as we finish up RW&T. I do think Wordy Querty is a great way to let kids play around with spelling and just become more familiar with how words work in a fun way. Parents may enjoy the fact that students can work on this completely independently.

If you have a beginning reader—whether a quick or slow learner—this may be a great way to improve their reading and spelling fluency through a bit of daily gaming! I think the price is very reasonable with Wordy Qwerty available as an online subscription of $25 for one subscription, or $35 for the Home CD version. There are other pricing options, see here.

Curious? You can try out an online demo. Also, you can save 20% by signing up for their email newsletter.

See what my crewmates have to say about Wordy Querty.

I received an online subscription to Wordy Querty through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

circle c

Circle C Beginnings!

We adore the Circle C Beginnings Books around here! My youngest carries them around and has done many of the learning activities they have available to download on their website (for free:)

I recommend these for your young readers. Children have the excitement of having their own chapter books, but these books are not too long for little ones. Circle C Beginnings also introduces lots of adventures and new concepts and ideas about American History in a fun, family oriented way.

My child really identifies with Andi as a young girl in a large family-although there are plenty of boy characters as well–one of Andi’s best friends is a boy and she has lots of brothers, so, boys should enjoy these as well.

One of my favorite parts of the series has to be the illustrations! Gorgeous, pen and ink illustrations with lots of tiny details to engage the reader. You can see these and download coloring pages on the Andi and Taffy website.

A few other points: the books are paperback and quite inexpensive. You can totally use these as read-alouds with your children–you will not be bored–the storylines are great!

I have more to say about these, but I saw this morning in an email that Books 3 & 4 are now available, so I am copying that email asap below and hope you will check these out and enjoy with your kids!

“Books 3 and 4 of the Circle C Beginnings are now available!

Just in time for spring, Andi’s Fair Surprise and Andi’s Scary School Days are here. Get your own copies of the two newest books here:

* Best deal for the books! FREE coloring pages and learning activites for the Circle C Beginnings are available for download on the Andi and Taffy website: and from the Kregel website.

In addition, A Journey Through Learning has created lapbooks for each book. They’re full-color, with complete instructions for assembly. Tie in history and literature to make the books part of a unit study, if desired.

See sample lapbooks HERE
Follow the Circle C Adventures on Facebook

If you want to help your kids study for the SAT or ACT, or maybe you just want to improve your vocabulary, some of these new book and digital products might be perfect for you. I received a book from VocabAhead with over 300 pages of common SAT and ACT vocab words–the book uses the form of cartoons to tell a story, explaining and reinforcing the definition for each word. I think everyone would agree that kids like this type of learning approach. This way they have an amusing visual that helps them more easily remember a new word.

Now, while using cartoons may not be brand new, the people over at VocabAhead are definitely thinking ahead…they have also made these cartoons available as videos and MP3s. You can listen to the cartoons narrated through your mp3 player–or even get iPod, iPhone and iPad apps which play the cartoons.

My book version of VocabAhead includes a code I can use to go to the website and download mp3 videos of the words in my book. The book also includes a review quiz after each set of ten words, so Nick is just adding a tiny bit of vocab into each day, and doing a review quiz weekly. I think this is a no fail way to add a bit of vocab. One thing I didn’t like is that the written book does not show the pronunciation for each word–but, the videos do sound each one out.

You can see a bit of VocabAhead here:

As far as watching the videos, I’m not so into watching my own mp3s–I like using the App, and I like playing around on the VocabAhead website. Check out the SAT visual flash cards in their study room, watch videos or signup for an email word of the day.

You can purchase the VocabAhead book with the 300 Most Common SAT words for $12.95, here.

See what my crewmates have to say about VocabAhead.

I received VocabAhead SAT Vocabulary through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

Dig-It! Games, Roman Town Review

Heather —  February 4, 2011

Bring History to life with Roman Town, the only game that lets you be the archaeologist!

So, when was the last time you begged your child to play a video game? With Roman Town from Dig-It! Games, I found myself asking the kids to let me play!

As we reviewed Roman Town, we learned much about how to be an archeologist as we worked a site in an ancient Roman town. The game is very logical, based on factual historical information, and has a steady educational pace.

I really felt as if I were taking a beginner’s intro to archeology or something. The game also incorporates a story line with Roman children helping out and that was interesting to follow. I think it is amazing that this game fascinates me, my teenagers and my five year old daughter. This is truly learning for everyone!

View a demo of Roman Town:

While playing the game, you will be managing a team of diggers on the site of the Roman Town of Fossura, destroyed in 79 AD by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Digging In Roman Town

It is great fun to see your artifact come out of the dirt and I began to use different tools to see how they each worked. As I went through the game, I appreciated the reality of the 3D graphics in the game.

Put Pots Back Together in 3D

So, what will you get to discover?

  • Roman buildings, artifacts and priceless treasures
  • The remains of real Romans
  • Ancient Roman history and cultural facts
  • Vivid, accurate and realistic illustrations
  • How to analyze and reconstruct valuable artifacts
  • Solve mysterious secrets about the lives of Roman kids centuries ago!

A fascinating element and one that differentiates this game from others, I think, is the LEARN component. L.E.A.R.N. (Locate Engrossing and Remarkable Knowledge) is an interactive, in-game encyclopedia that allows kids to learn as they choose. How does it work? Well, for each artifact you uncover, LEARN will present facts that “match” that artifact and give you buttons, allowing you to choose to find out more about that artifact with definitions and more detail on how it was used or how it impacted Roman Life.

In this version of Roman Town, there are 6 levels, and the game allows up to five players to save games, so several people can have a game going.

There are also 6 mini games in Roman Town, they are all accessible through a little tab in the upper lefthand corner of the menu screen.

Mini-Games are Fun, Too!

Mini-Games are Fun, Too!

For homeschoolers, Roman Town can be a great addition to your curriculum and can easily tie into many different studies—obviously History, but also English, Science, and I would even use it as a supplement for creative learning.

Main Features:

  • Engaging hands-on, interactive learning for all ages, specifically designed for 5th – 8th grades.
  • Game-play develops analytical thinking
  • Puzzles teach problem solving strategies
  • Authentic artifacts and realistic excavation site
  • Accurate information about Roman Life and Roman History
  • Encompasses the full excavation experience from start to finish
  • Archaeology introduced logically

System Requirements

  • Windows Vista/XP/2000
  • CPU 800 Mhz; RAM 412MB; Hard Drive 350MB

“Founded by a professional archaeologist and teacher, Dig-It! Games is an independent computer game developer committed to creating innovative, interactive, instructional computer games based on historical themes with high-value educational content. Dig-It! Games presents authentic and accurate historical information that conforms to the curriculum mandates and Standards of Learning of many states.”

Find Dig-It Games on the Dig-It Games website, Dig-ItGames on Facebook and Dig-It Games on Twitter

As of 2011, Roman Town retails for $39.95. But from now until February 21, 2011, TOS Crew Readers can use a special code to get 20% off of the 2010 Roman Town retail price of $24.95.

That’s right! Use code TOS2011 for 20% off of $24.95 until Feb. 21st!

See what my crewmates have to say about Dig-It! Games.

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

This is an interesting review for me as I am writing it. The main reason? Well, because this review has reminded me that:

  1. Not to always go with my first opinion
  2. That I should verbalize and/or email my thoughts and feelings sometimes, because sometimes, things can be changed to suit my purposes!

So, let me explain myself a bit. I received Math Facts Now, which is a computer math program which reinforces math facts though simple drills. The program is no-frills. By that I mean, no avatars and worlds to explore…that type of thing. Just straight math practice.

I needed to use this program with my youngest, and when the two of us first sat down and uploaded the program, I was not ecstatic. I am really not a no-frills girl…and neither is she. But, I know there is value in some types of memorization and repetition, so we gave it a go. I quickly found that some of the programming details, which would be helpful in pressuring…lets say leading…an older child to perform were just too difficult for my little one. Now, when I refer to programming details, I mean some of the portions of the game that you can control to suit what your child needs practice in. Some of the presets were just too advanced for her. Bearing in mind that she is only 5 ½, you can probably imagine how our first session went.

I messed around with the program a bit, but then decided it could be useful for ages, probably about 8 and up, and did not ask my daughter to try it anymore.

Well, some of my intelligent TOS reviewer friends had similar experiences and contacted the creator. He immediately responded by creating a few additional options that made it easier to use this program with younger students.

So…we went back in, and the first time, my daughter played until I made her stop to go to bed! I was surprised and pleased. A simple Math facts practice that she enjoys doing. And yes, there are no fancy avatars and award sheets, but I can set the game for as few as 10 questions, choose which facts she will go over–say addition of just 1 and 2 to numbers up to 12—and then I can include a reward that we have chosen—like a piece of bubble gum—and then, if she gets all the problems correct, she gets a pop up message that she gets the gum.

math facts now

Now, if she does not get the question correct, she needs to retype the entire equation 2x. At first, I thought this was too hard for her, but after doing well a few times, she realized that having to type the equation was not a horrible punishment, and that after doing that, she often got the question right easily in the future. Haha. Voila! The power of practice.

This program is inexpensive, simple and very usable as an extra in your homeschool–or even to help with homework for public schoolers. Make your beginning lessons simple and choose doable rewards and this is a winner.

You can get an instant download for $15.95 or purchase the CD for $15.95 plus a small shipping fee.

System Requirements: Runs on Windows 2000, ME, XP, Vista and Windows 7. 4.5 Mb of free hard drive space required.

Go check out the Math Facts Now website for more info. Also you can get a free trial of Math Facts Now.

See what my crewmates have to say about Math Facts Now

I received materials from Math Facts Now through the TOS Crew for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

Imaginative Music Appreciation!

Heather —  November 13, 2010


Have you heard of Freddie the Frog? I recently took a look at the Freddie The Frog website and I think it is great. Sharing Freddie with your kids would be a great way to incorporate some music appreciation and fun into your child’s day!

Check out Freddie!

“While there’s nothing new about kids loving music, science involving music and the brain proves that learning music early in life enhances brain development.

In the fantastical Freddie the Frog® 4-book series (hardcover with companion CD; $23.95 each) detailed below, preschool through elementary-age children learn musical concepts while they are duly immersed in Freddie’s colorfully illustrated adventures.

Freddie the Frog® Adventures were designed to engage and introduce children to fundamental music concepts by simply playing the audio CD and turning the pages of the story book.  Freddie is a portal to the world of music and a reference point for the sequential learning of reading and writing music.

It is not a stand alone curriculum, but rather an enticing introduction to musical concepts.  Kids fall in love with the main character, Freddie the Frog, through his stories and eagerly await the next adventure, learning about music while they read.  When singing or learning to play an instrument, it makes it easy to refer back to the stories when reading music notes.  No longer is it a bunch of black dots and sticks all over the page of music.  Now the kids recognize rhythms and places from the books. Piano teachers love the reference.

As one six-year-old eagerly blurted out, “I LOVE Freddie.  That’s why I love music!”  That’s the real magic.  With these books, kids fall in love with music and begin a life time of building neural pathways that extend far beyond the world of music.

“Nothing compares to music in brain stimulation and development,” notes Burch.  “The plethora of music and brain research findings are clear – music training profoundly affects brain development and music education benefits every child.  The Freddie the Frog books were purposely developed to make learning music easy and fun!”

Enjoy a narrated sneak peek inside Freddie’s world and read about the cognitive benefits of music. Learn more, play games and purchase at

Talking Fingers TOS Review

Heather —  October 11, 2010

She is concentrating on keeping her fingers in the correct typing position!

Talking Fingers is described as “Revolutionary reading software that includes phonics, spelling, keyboarding and word processing.”

To be honest, when I first logged my five year old into the program, I was a bit put off by the talking hands.

BUT, after working through the program and seeing how it actually works, how interactive it is and how appealing it is to my daughter, I have to say, this program is a winner.

Last year, I reviewed a few great programs. One was a typing program. One was a phonics program. They were both good. But, I want to say that this is different, better. This program manages to effectively teach several things at the same time.

With this program, my daughter is learning to type, and learning phonics, reading…spelling. AND, she wants to do all these difficult things, mainly because she is involved in the story.

talking fingers1

What story? Well, the program for Talking Fingers incorporates a storyline. Your child will be fighting off a bad little green guy, and making plenty of friends (one for each letter of the alphabet) while working through all their lessons.

I was surprised how into the lessons/game my daughter got! The plot and experience definitely appeal to a 5 year old.
From time to time, she has gotten a bit frustrated—mainly because this work is not easy—this is a serious learning program. She has to use the correct fingers for typing, and listen and sound out things…and she is in the beginning levels.

Yesterday, just when she was the most frustrated, she managed to pass a “level” and then got an award certificate to print out. This certificate had a couple of her favorite characters, and she was so proud!

If you have a child about 5 or older, I recommend trying out this program. You can find a link to try 8 free lessons or just a sample here:

After poking around a little, I found out that Talking Fingers was “Founded in 1982 by neuropsychologist Dr. Jeannine Herron, Talking Fingers has based its software development on many years of research on how the young brain learns. In addition, the software is field-tested extensively in California schools.”

The Talking Fingers program is also correlated to State Standards.

Also, If you join their mailing list, you can get 20% off of your order.

You can also find info about Talking Fingers here:

See what my crewmates have to say about Talking Fingers

I received Talking Fingers online lessons for review purposes. I have given my honest opinion.

You can't go on field trips everyday...what do you do for fun in lessons?

Are you good at making learning fun? I am not, really. I just do not have that “creative gene”. I know this because my mom used to be the most fun science teacher…ever.

I, on the other hand, I tend to get focused on our work and straight reading and such. I could just use textbooks all day long and be happy. Not so my kids! I know my kids learn much better through games and hands on activities.

In reviewing my curriculum last year, I found that Mystery of History and Illuminations from Bright Ideas Press really helped me spice up my lessons….and, once I had a clue what I was doing got going, I had a great time with these lessons. And, I got to be the fun teacher:)

This year, I see that BIP is offering many items that complement The Mystery of History and Illuminations and some that even stand alone, like Literature Guides. They have some great titles, like Phantom Tollboth, The Canterbury Tales and many others. Another thing–BIP has curriculum for multi/all ages.

While you may be all set for much of your curriculum for the year, adding in a couple Literature Guides and Folderbooks might be fun and simple…even for the teacher! Another good thing about these is that they are all immediate downloads–so you can quickly add these into your day and not pay for shipping, etc.

I have signed up for BIP’s monthly newsletter and I get an email with teaching tips and updates…and special coupon codes each month. (I recommend signing up!) Anyway, here are some of their new releases, from my BIP email:

  • Challenge Cards–these go with Mystery of History (MOH). They offer 3 questions and answers for every lesson in the MOH text. They currently have cards for MOH 1 and MOH 2. MOH 3 to come. Get these in a digital download deal at $14.95 for each volume.
  • Folderbooks—Kind of like lapbooks for MOH. But even cooler. They are on sale now.
  • Literature Guides—I used these from the Illuminations curriculum last year. They take great literature titles and create a unit study. I adored these. They are fun for the kids, but also in-depth studies. Last year, you had to purchase Illuminations to get them, but now you can buy them individually!

I am an affiliate for BIP. I think they produce worthwhile curriculum and I like sharing information about them.