Archives For teaching resources

I love it when our homeschooling is moving ahead with everyone pretty confident about their coursework and content with their schedules.

But, the reality of teaching several kids at different stages often translates into learning curves for all of us as we go through the year.

While most of our curriculum is working this year, I noticed a few things that needed tweaking. Two things stood out to me:

  1. Nick needed more English—especially Grammar practice
  2. Emma was bored with her Math

As I did not want to change up my major curriculum choices, I was not quite sure what to do. Luckily for me, I happened to get a chance to review some homeschool curriculum from Timberdoodle and The Critical Thinking Press.

I was inspired by the bright colors and entertaining artwork of The Critical Thinking Co. books. I liked the theme of challenging kids to think–developing critical thinking habits is an integral part of all their products.

And, I liked the idea of supplementing our current schedule with some items that would appeal to the kids and filled an important need in our curriculum.

As I was able to choose some books to fit the children, I chose Math Reasoning Level A (kindergarten) for Emma, and Editor In Chief C2, for Nick.

The book for Emma was an instant hit and totally solved our “boredom with math problem”. She loves this workbook. I was also thrilled with the colorful, sturdy pages that introduce and explain new math topics very well.

Bright graphics and positive reinforcement really motivate

Bright graphics and success really motivate!

The 250 pages reinforce many beginning math concepts without becoming dreary, as the authors introduce a concept, work on it for a few pages and then move to something else…and come back around.

For the first time ever, Em liked doing the number lines

For the first time ever, Em liked the number lines

This method of spiraling through many concepts gave Emma lots of practice while never leaving her frustrated and mathematical reasoningbored—the authors seemed to know exactly when to take a break and when to keep going! I began allowing Em to do as many math pages as she wanted each day—some days she will do at least ten without any motivation from me.

As the title suggests, the book teaches reasoning and problem solving skills, with topics including: addition, bar graph, calendar, capacity, coins, count, fractions, language, length, likelihood, match, number line, odd/even, order, pattern, real world problems, shapes, subtraction, time, weight, and whole numbers.

There is an answer guide included in the back of the book and this level can be used as a core math or a supplemental. We began using this as supplemental, but I soon felt that this book could easily be Emma’s complete curriculum for this level.

Look at some sample pages from the book.

We did not fare as well for Nick’s experience. But, it was not because the book wasn’t creative and just plain challenging. Our problem was that it was too challenging!

editor in chiefYes, I made an error in judgment on what level to get for him. While this level is recommended for grade levels 9th-12th, it is a serious grammar study—fun, yet the exercises cover some complicated concepts. Attempting to work through this book really forced us to decide to regroup and focus on grammar at an earlier stage–because Nick actually wanted to do this book, as it was entertaining, it showed me that he was not just lacking in motivation.

We liked the idea of the book, Editor In Chief. In these books, your child basically acts as if they are an editor and as they search for grammatical errors, they are truly analyzing the materials and thinking about correct grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalization and more.

The 130 page book includes an editing checklist, 33 lessons, answers, even a guide to grammar, usage and punctuation.

They do have five other levels for this book. See which Editor In Chief Book might be age-appropriate for your kids, here. We will be getting another one, so we can have a bit of fun, too.

See a sample page.

Are you looking to fill a void in your curriculum? Looking for Math curriculum? Language Arts? Check out Timberdoodle for tons of educational items, including complete curriculum kits. I so enjoy their catalog!

Click to get their free catalog!

Click to get your free catalog!

You can even get fun updates on the Timberdoodle Facebook page.

As a member of Timberdoodle’s Blogger Review Team, I received a free copy of these books in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

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.

Curriculum CleanOut Giveaway

Heather —  August 24, 2010

I have a couple of items for the CleanOut. These are mainly for the older set:) My five year old is hiding everything else! Thanks, Jolanthe, for doing this!


The 2010 Curriculum Cleanout is going on now–If you haven’t stopped by, go check it out! I was looking through our stuff to see what I was willing to part with–because I have only been homeschooling a couple of years, I don’t have too much. BUT, I do have a couple of things!



  • Light Speed Math, Geometry Intro. I really like all our Light Speed DVDs. I’d keep this, but my son says he’s done…This one has video and a digital workbook. You can see the item, here. Value: 14.98

Another Math! (Apparently I’m not covetous of my Math Curriculum)


I liked all of these, but my kids are done with them. If you want to enter, just leave me a comment saying which item or items you are interested in!

For additional entries:

  • Sign into my reader
  • sign into my Google Friend Connect
  • Follow me on Twitter (quinnschilling)
  • “Like” Faith, Family and Fun on Facebook
  • Give me an entry into one of your giveaways! (I’m serious! I see so many good giveaways, but I always run out of blogging time. And, I could use a bit of luck. Add an extra entry comment if you add me:)

Ideal Curriculum Review

Heather —  May 20, 2010

Ideal Curriculum

Summary & Rating: 3 Ideal Curriculum is a research-based, structured curriculum for early kindergarten or preschool. I received the first month of this curriculum kit as a download. The curriculum includes literacy, Math/Calendar, and Science/Social Studies, all revolving around a monthly theme. Mine was transportation (Click here for list of other themes available).

From the site: Each skill area for reading, writing, math, oral language, and science is developed in a sequential, systematic way and tracked by short assessments.

I thought it was interesting and useful that the creators of the curriculum take the time to explain why you are teaching the specific things to the children.

Overall, I found the idea of an all-inclusive curriculum attractive and enjoyed having print outs of each day’s work available at my fingertips…however, I also like coming up with my own mix of curriculum. This would be good for structured people and busy settings like daycares.

Monthly kits cost $30 for a downloadable version or $55 for a print version. Click here. Try it out with a free 1-week of Ideal’s curriculum by signing up for their newsletter. Readers can get 10% off on their first order of any product using the discount code welovekids, during the month of May.

To see what my TOS crewmates have to say, click here!

Ideal Curriculum, Month 1 download for preschool was provided to me for my review and I have given my unbiased opinion.

Cerebellum, AP US History Exam Prep

Summary & Rating: 5 I love this! This is a video program that acts as a fast, furious and actually fun review for students who are getting ready to take an AP test. This is from the same people who produce Standard Deviants, which I also like! We received the video for US History, but there are several available. You may remember taking AP tests before freshman year in order to get college credit without having to go to the class–I remember how happy I was to pass English 101 and a couple of others. I never did pass the Algebra one, though!

The video program includes two CD’s. One contains the video review—which is basically almost a cheat sheet of what kids can expect. The other CD has a digital workbook that kids can fill out as they study. The video is filmed with college aged presenters and they add a bit of humor. I was actually surprised—I think I expected some video from the time periods—and that was not part of the presentation. They basically reviewed the 30 most tested topics in 30 minutes. They also provided tips and strategies on passing the test, with an emphasis on how to take the essay questions.

I will definitely add these to our educational library. Even if not taking the exam, this is a neat and thorough review tool. It was an amazing review of U.S. History. The program covers colonists through Vietnam, with emphasis on the period from 1790 to 1914. (Because that is the most tested portion:)

From their site:

  • AP* U.S. History wins the top prize as the most popular exam of all AP* subjects in 2009 over 360,000 students took the test with over half receiving a passing score of a 3 or higher.
  • This is the first program of its kind, so go paperless and use this test-prep video to pass the exam!

I have always liked this company anyway, so these videos just reinforce that! Visit the company at

I have a special discount code to share! You can use the code OSH20 at checkout to receive 20% off any item that you purchase online. In fact, if you are looking at buying the AP videos, they are on sale right now for $11.24 each (normally $14.98)

Here is a peek at the video:

To see what my TOS crewmates have to say, click here!

The Light Speed History of the U.S. Exam Prep was provided to me for my review and I have given my unbiased opinion.

Lesson Planet Review

Heather —  April 28, 2010

Lesson Planet

Summary & Rating: Lesson Planet is just what it says it is–a specialized search engine for teachers. On the Lesson Planet website, educators can easily and quickly sift through over 150,000 teacher reviewed lesson plans and 75,000 worksheets. Once in, educators can refine their searches in myriad ways, such as by standards, ages, subjects…even themes. There are definitely many options, and I found that searches will turn up many items.

When I used Lesson Planet, I felt a bit overwhelmed. While I enjoyed seeing so many options and lesson plans, I almost felt like I was on a rabbit trail—just finding too much material suited for classroom settings that was not relevant to my little homeschool. I can see how this could be very useful to teachers and I hope Lesson Planet will continue to evolve to find ways to include more homeschool items. People who are more focused on exactly what they need may like it better–I am bad about reading everything and getting sidetracked!

I did especially like their Curriculum calendar. I love using things like the calendar to give me ideas for extra activities.

You can go check out Lesson Planet and try it free for 10 days to see if you like it. After the trial, it is $39.95 per year.

To see what my TOS crewmates have to say, click here!

A 3 month subscription to Lesson Planet was provided to me for my review and I have given my unbiased opinion.

The TV Teacher–Alphabet Beats

Summary & Rating: During my time reviewing on the crew, I have come across many handwriting programs. I really need to do a post comparing and contrasting all of the approaches. But for today, I must say,  Alphabet Beats stands out as a great way to get little beginning learners writing in a fun way, with very little help from Mom. This product would also be a great addition for a young child who needs extra practice.

We received the Uppercase Letters version of Alphabet Beats by The Tv Teacher. The way the CD is set up is great for my daughter, because Em really likes being in control during her computer time. With this CD, I can set her up with lined paper and pencil and then I can pop in the CD. The main menu then offers her the choice of which letter (or letters) to learn about for the day. Once Em chooses a letter, a five minute, multi-sensory lesson begins about the letter with the entertaining (and amazingly energetic) Miss Marnie.

Miss Marnie sings and acts and patiently teaches correct letter formation. She speaks into the camera as though your child is right there (aka Mr. Rogers) And, even better–once Miss Marnie is done…Em can click on that letter again and Miss Marnie will do it all over again! Remember how tired one can get hearing “again, again?” Well, Miss Marnie does not get tired:)

And, when each letter is finished, the screen goes right back to the main menu so the child can choose another letter. There are some recommendations about how to best use the teaching videos like–watch them together and don’t write the first time, etc–but you can see all that on the website.

I see on their site that they also have learning packages, and videos focusing on shapes, numbers, etc. Also, they have won several awards and are used in some schools as well.

I liked that my daughter thought it was fun, that she was practicing without my input and that lined practice paper was available on the website to download. Overall, the teaching seems sound and the ease of use is just wonderful.

See The TV Teacher website for other programs and costs. The Alphabet Beats Uppercase Letter CD was $35.

To see what my TOS crewmates have to say, click here!

The Alphabet Beats Uppercase Letter CD was provided to me for my review and I have given my unbiased opinion.

Time4Learning Review

Heather —  April 14, 2010


Summary & Rating: 3.5 This is an online curriculum which is available for ages pre-k through 8th grade. Today, I am reviewing the newly added preschool section on Time4Learning. It is pretty amazing how many educational programs are now available through the internet. My kids seem to engage pretty easily with a colorful screen and catchy characters giving them lessons and Time4Learning does just that.

The preschool curriculum seems like a great idea to me. However, we do have so many sites that we like, such as Starfall and PBS, that are free. So, I  have to admit I was a little skeptical of what Time4Learning could do that we do not already get elsewhere online.

The preschool option has two levels, with over 40 topics for children to explore. In watching my daughter play, I noticed that they do have a lot of the things I like to have when my daughter plays or works online.

For example, the lessons, or topics are designed so that she can move easily from topic to topic, game to game without extra help from Mom. The information is read to her, so pre-readers can also participate and work independently.

While she can click around and make many choices, the parameters are also well defined, so that no matter where she goes, she is learning something. Some of the topics did seem pretty elementary to me, but my child is almost five, so I probably could have looked at moving up a level or two. I do see that the curriculum, overall, is correlated with state standards.

I liked that Time4Learning has a “playground” section–so that when children do their “work” (which is also pretty fun) they can earn some free play time with straight up games and links to some good preschool sites.

Time4Learning can be used as a complete or supplementary curriculum. Based on how I teach, I would use this as a supplementary curriculum.

Time 4 Learning offers access to their pre-K to 8th grade programs on a month-to-month basis. The first child is $19.95 per month and each additional child is $14.95 per month.

You can check out a demonstration of the program, here.

To see what my TOS crewmates have to say, click here!

A 30 day subscription to Time4Learning was provided to me for my review and I have given my unbiased opinion.