Monday, March 26, 2012

Action Alert TOS Crew Review 2012

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 With modern technology comes learning opportunities that seem endless, but along with those opportunities comes a potential for our kids to be faced with harmful and objectionable materials. Especially while on the computer and surfing the Internet. With 3 tween/teen boys this is one of the things that sits on my mind most. We are a technology driven family, we have several computers, we all have I Phones and we have a Kindle Fire.
  So my boys have the opportunity to surf the web often. They are good boys and I do not worry as much about them doing something on purpose that would not be appropriate but accidental discovery can happen. We were given the opportunity through the TOS Crew to review a computer protection program called Action Alert. While we have been blessed to review some great curriculum it was a blessing to receive a program that would protect my children while on the Internet, whether for play or researching for school.

   Years ago when my oldest son first entered Middle School in the Public School system, I remember quite vividly an ordeal we were faced with. Another student passed out slips of paper to all the kids in the band, boasting about an awesome game he found on the web. Now we had safe guards on our Internet and thought our children were going to be protected from what was about to occur, but we were wrong. You see this slip of paper did not contain a gaming website but instead a link straight to a website full of nudity and videos of sexual acts. When Nick told us about this he was so embarrassed and after checking it out for myself I was mortified. This led to me having to phone all of the people I could think of whose children may have gotten access to this site as well as a lengthy talk with the school.

  Another memory that happened right in front of my eyes was when my then 7 yr old youngest son was playing on Webkinz. Now you may think what could possibly go wrong on Webkinz? Well let me tell you what happens when you mistype just one letter, change that Z into a K and think about what you may find, it was downright disturbing let me tell you. I attended an Internet safety meeting shortly after these 2 incidents happened and was told by a sheriff in the Internet crimes department that online predators purposefully create their sites with children in mind. This thought sickens me to this day, he told me they take a popular children/teen site and they change one or so letters that could be found by a common mistype error and bam they have your children watching things nobody should be seeing. Action Alert has a whole page on their website that explains Internet Dangers and the other dangers that come with computer usage.

   Why am I telling you all of this, well I am glad you asked. There is help out there to protect our children and keep them pure. This help is called Action Alert, a computer safety program that can help keep your family safe from these online predators.  The downloadable software offers 8 tools to help promote online safety.
Action Alert keeps in pace with today's world, with such benefits as sending messages straight your mobile phone if someone comes across objectionable materials, for instance when you are away from home. With this notification you can shut down your computer remotely right on the spot. You can also set up keystroke logging, so you can see what your family is doing with the computer both online and off. Activity Video recording allows you to watch up to 60 hours of PC activity. You can also set daily allowances setting limits on how much and how often the computer is used by each member of the family. I know in our house computer time is earned and this came in very handy.  Get email alerts about the activity that has been happening on your computer. The best part Content Filtering, making sure that when your family is surfing the net it is only approved content they are seeing and using. Another useful tool especially with teens is the chat and email logging tool.This allows you to log both sides of the conversation, if you have teens that like to push the envelope in this department as I have heard from many parents, they cannot hide parts of the conversation.
Now this all sounds wonderful but how much does it cost? I am sure that is the number one question on your mind. Well it is not in the hundreds of dollars like you may be thinking. Action Alert has two pricing options and one of them is FREE! Yes you read that right FREE. Now there is a paid option and that is the version I got to review, but it is only $29.99 and with that you get many upgrades that the Free version does not come with. The nice thing is you can start with the Free version to test it out and see if it is a good fit for your family and then upgrade it to the Full Paid version without any difficulty.
The Paid Maximum Protection from Action Alert includes the following options that the Free version does not. Multiple User Protection, Fully Customizable, and Full Social Network Monitoring, these are key components in making sure your family is the safest possible and for only $29.99, it is a small price to pay.
I did have one small issue while using the program, when I was using the computer and I believe I was putting some orders for my business in online, Action Alert disabled my computer for no known reason, but I was happy to learn that with my online password for Action Alert that I created it was an easy fix and in only a few minutes I was back to my work. The first time it happened I panicked but after researching a solution learned it was no problem at all. I just want you to know this so if you do choose to go with Action Alert you will know what to do if this small problem happens to you.

Action Alert has been featured on the Today's Show on NBC and also has one a few accolades from different organizations such as, Disney's iParenting Award. Action Alert has also won the Safe Family Seal of Approval.

Please be sure to stop by Action Alert today and at least download the FREE version of the program if you are not completely convinced to purchase the Maximum Protection, I am confident after giving it a try you will make the choice to protect your family to the max with the Full Paid Version, if it would help you make a more informed decision please stop by the other TOS Crew blogs and see how they felt Action Alert protected their family. What are you waiting for??

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or

services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it

on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally

and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance

with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the

Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, March 19, 2012

Progeny Press "The Cay" TOS Review 2012

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  Literature is a large part of our English Curriculum this year, and as we move up in grades it will continue to be so. My boys struggle not with reading but sometimes with reading comprehension and retention. I have found study guides to be helpful with mastering both of these issues. The TOS Crew members were recently given a choice of Progeny Press Literature guides to chose from to review, the boys and I chose the study guide based on Theodore Taylor's "The Cay"

                My boys are fascinated by any stories that are about the wars set back in our History. Not that the current war is not important they just find World War I and World War II and Vietnam extremely captivating. So when choosing our curriculum I often lean towards their personal interests so that I keep their attention. I often get far better results in their work when they are very interested.

   Let me start with a little background information about Progeny Press, here is some info from their site.
The History of Progeny Press

Progeny Press is a family-owned and family-run business operated by Michael and Rebecca Gilleland since 1992. Michael and Rebecca started homeschooling in 1991, but as they examined literature studies available to them, they could not find anything that helped them teach classic cultural literature combined with a Christian perspective. They discussed this with other homeschooling parents and teachers in Christian schools, and over and over they heard, "If you find anything, let us know! We'll buy it, too!"

Finally, they arranged with a homeschooling friend to write a study guide, and they offered it to a local Christian school for use in their classroom as a test run. At the end of the quarter, the principal of the school contacted the Gillelands and offered to purchase every title they had available. In 1992 they hired Andrew Clausen and in 1993 Progeny Press was selling 18 study guides for literature.

Progeny Press has grown from 18 study guides in 1993 to 107 study guides at the beginning of 2012. Just as in the beginning, Michael and Rebecca edit and review each study guide to make certain that it adheres to their high standards of literary analysis and biblical application.
Progeny Press study guides can now be purchased anywhere in the world via its online store, and in bookstores and catalogs around the world.

   Progeny Press sells over 100 literary study guides and they are available for a range of ages from Lower Elementary, moving on to Upper Elementary and then up through Middle and High school levels. "The Cay" that we chose is appropriate for Middle School levels. Progeny Press prides themselves on choosing and explaining cultural literature from a Christian point of view. I know this is an important trait that I look for in any company I am choosing to use to help teach my children.

     The Study guides are all set up in the same fashion, so I will take you through a walk of ours, "The Cay"
written by Theodore Taylor, the study guide was written by Lisa Tiffin. Our study guide was 66 pages long and sent to me via email .pdf download, it is also available by print format through the mail and CD with a .pdf download as well. As with anything the email .pdf is the most cost effective route to take and starting at $10.99 and going up to $27.99 you can decide which is the best route for your family to take. In the 66 pages this includes, information about the study guide author, the book's author, a synopsis of the story, instructions for the teacher/parent. There is also a table of contents and many activities to help you along your literary journey, pre-reading activities, ours had 6 of them. They were Report: 1-2 page report, map work, a time line, vocabulary, artwork and finally a biography. These pre-reading activities are suggested to be completed while the child is reading the book. The book should be read in the first week, as you work through the activities you will refer back to the book for cross referencing.  After the book has been read through in its entirety it is suggested that a worksheet a day be completed. It generally takes about 8 weeks to complete the entire study guide. You can work at whatever pace is right for your family. That is the joy of homeschooling, well at least in my opinion. The end of the study guide has pages of additional resources such as other books by the author, books that may be of interest or help in researching and completing some of the worksheets, and also internet resources that at the time of print were appropriate for Christian kids. please always use caution and parental supervision when allowing them to use the internet.

    My boys enjoyed "The Cay" as well as using the study guide by Progeny Press, I really feel they benefited by delving in deeper by using the study guide while reading the book. It gave them a new perspective on reading a classic literary piece. We are still working with our study guide and have about 4 more weeks of work to be completed. It has been a very thorough lesson and I definitely think it is worth the purchase price.

  Please be sure to visit the Progeny Press website to see what other titles they offer, with over 100 to choose from I am sure their is something to fit the tastes of your family.  Also be sure to check out the TOS Crew Blog and see what titles the other crew members picked for their choice.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or

services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it

on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally

and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance

with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the

Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Friday, March 16, 2012

Art of Argument; Classical Academic Press TOS Crew Review 2012

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Middle School has proven to bring many opportunities to my boys. Having the opportunity to homeschool my boys through this time in their lives is rewarding and also challenging. I am always looking for curriculum to challenge them and recently was given another TOS Crew opportunity from Classical Academic Press to review their curriculum, Art of Argument. This curriculum of Logic is geared to middle school kids and early high school students, from grades 7-9 or an older child if they have no prior Logic education.
Here is what Classical Academic Press has to say about their Logic curriculum, Art of Argument...

Junior high aged students will argue (and sometimes quarrel), but they won't argue well without good training. Young teens are also targeted by advertisers with a vengeance. From billboards to commercials to a walk down the mall, fallacious arguments are everywhere you look. The Art of Argument was designed to teach the argumentative adolescent how to reason with clarity, relevance and purpose at a time when he has a penchant for the "why" and "how". It is designed to equip and sharpen young minds as they live, play, and grow in this highly commercial culture. This course teaches students to recognize and identify twenty-eight informal fallacies, and the eye-catching text includes over sixty slick and clever, “phony advertisements” for items from blue jeans to pick-up trucks, which apply the fallacies to a myriad of real life situations.

This text comes in a workbook format with clear explanations and many updated illustrations and examples to insure understanding and mastery. The text aims at the practical application of the informal fallacies through an analysis of current social, commercial and political issues, which are discussed and evaluated. This practical application should insure that students continue to evaluate arguments, detect fallacies and reason well long after the course is completed.

Students master 28 fallacies (such as begging the question, the straw man, ad hominen, et al) by studying many pertinent examples. The text features a variety of:



•Real-World Applications

•Phony Advertisements

•Dialectic Discussion Questions


•Fun extras such as a humorous skit for students to perform, and the famous short story, Love is a Fallacy by Max Shulman

The Art of Argument has been revised to include:

•Improved chapter and unit organization for greater ease of use

•Fallacy explanations rewritten for clarity

•Many added and updated examples

•Ten new and revised advertisement illustrations

Parents and teachers beware--students may use these skills against you!

The Art of Argument Teacher's Edition and The Art of Argument DVD Set are also available. The greatly expanded Art of Argument Teacher’s Edition now includes the entire student text, answers to all exercises, and new chapter and unit tests. The DVD Set features three experienced logic teachers and four capable, enthusiastic students discussing the 28 fallacies with contemplation and humor. Each discussion seeks to make a practical application of the fallacy to student life, advertisements, political speech, and various kinds of ethical and philosophical debates.

   Having a house full of teenage boys there is always a debate going on about some topic or another, and more often than not it gets particularly heated as the boys do not truly know how to explain their thoughts and logic in a productive and thought out manner. Having one teenager in public school (never truly homeschooled except what we work on after school hours) and 2 middle schoolers that have been homeschooled for the last few years creates a whole other set of challenges. Many discussions at our dinner table could be a scene right from a debate forum, some even make me rather antsy to just table them before someone's feelings get hurt.

   While using the Art of Argument curriculum I have seen huge gains in my boys 7th and 8th grade as they have been learning how to truly get their point across in an articulated conversation and have been gaining tools to support their argument and stand up for themselves. They now use valid points to back themselves up and they think their arguments out thoroughly before just blurting things out when opposing each other.

  My boys have Asperger's Syndrome and do not always know how to express their feelings and thoughts even in regular conversations, especially with those they are not too familiar with. I have seen an increase in their confidence in everything they do as they continue to study the Art of Argument Student Workbooks. I know they have noticed too, they recently asked me to order the remaining DVDs that go along with the book, we received the first one with our review materials. They are truly enjoying learning Logic and want to continue, I think this is wonderful. I can see this as such a useful tool as they grow older and move into high school subjects. This can be quite useful when even writing essays and other topic papers. I am considering adding a small debate class into our schedule for next year. Having them pick a side of a subject and run with it. The possibilities are truly endless.

  Along with our Student Workbook of Art of Argument which retails for $21.95 and is the first in a series, we also received the Teacher's Edition which is $24.95. You can see a sample lesson of the student workbook Here and one of the Teacher's Edition Here. Included with our two books was the first of the DVDs that include video lessons that demonstrate the Art of Argument using 3 experienced Logic teachers and 4 enthusiastic students. The series of 5 DVDs sell for $54.95

The Art of Argument DVD Set contains:

•5 DVDs containing a total of more than 8 hours of video

•28 videos—one for each fallacy contained in The Art of Argument text

•Fun outtakes, extras, and “logical” humor

Click here for a video sample of one of the DVDs

After finishing Art of Argument you can move on to the follow up books in the logic series from Classical Academic Press with The Argument Builder and there is also The Discovery of Deduction for children 9th grade and up.
 Please be sure to follow the linkys from our TOS Crew Blog and see what my fellow crew mates had to say about their experience with Art of Argument.
“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or

services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it

on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally

and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance

with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the

Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Creek Edge Press Task Cards TOS Crew Review 2012

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We are always on the lookout for new Science Curriculum and add ons, Science seems to be one of the boys all time favorite subjects. Recently as part of the TOS Crew we were sent a package that contained items from Creek Edge Press. The boys lately have been rather fascinated with Earth and Space Science so I was so excited when I saw that we were sent our first choice in that category.
    Creek Edge Press has developed Task Cards in various subjects such as Science, Art, Grammar, Music and Social Studies, which includes, History, Geography and Culture. Social Studies was our next choice as that is a favorite of ours as well.  The Task Cards come with a Student/ Teacher guide as well as the set of 10 cards.
    The Philosophy behind the Task Cards is this...

Creek Edge Press Presents: The Task Card Approach

Our goal is to provide a simple tool that pulls together the best of Classical, Charlotte Mason, and Montessori education. We do this with affordable, topic based Task Card Sets that facilitate discovery based, research oriented, independent learning.

The Task Card Sets are non-consumable and are designed for use by multiple grades. Specific books are not indicated in the tasks, making them easy to customize for use within your home. They support the following educational styles:

Classical – The tasks point to key vocabulary that students will use in future years of study. The tasks encourage students to read, think, and respond. The research tasks facilitate a habit of reading for detail, preparing the grammar stage student for work in the dialectic stage.

Charlotte Mason – The tasks rely on narration, in a variety of forms, as a primary means of response to reading and listening. The student encounters meaningful ideas and beautiful expression within the materials chosen for study.

Montessori – The parent prepares a learning environment and the student engages in research tasks indicated on the cards. While the topics on the cards are specific, the tasks are purposely open ended to allow for individual investigation and response at the student's pace.

   The Task Cards are set up with a step by step student led plan of activities and there are other items needed in order for the student to complete the objectives, for instance a Science Dictionary and Thesaurus and a list of books that can be found online through E-Reader catalogs such as Amazon for the Kindle, or you can check many of them out at your local library.

    What I loved about the cards was that they promote independant study and work ethics, something we are really trying to promote this year as the boys get older. Being that they are chronologically in 7th and 8th grades this year we are working hard to have them functioning social and developmentally as their age appropriate peers, something that their Asperger's has always hindered. This year we are doing a work box study approach for many of our daily activities and these Task Cards worked right into our set up. I was also happy to see that the Task Cards are a multi-age learning resource for students grades K-8 so that the boys could work together as well as independently on the same tasks. I love when I find curriculum items that fit this category, with the boys only being 1 grade apart and barely a year in age difference it helps tremendously to do the majority of our school work together and it helps school flow when we are all on the same page.
  In addition to working on independent and group work ( the boys working together to complete a task), we have also been focusing more on independant research projects and essay papers. The Creek Edge Press Task Cards were wonderful in lending a hand in that direction.
The Task Cards are set up in a form that gives the boys bullet pointed tasks which is great for all kids but especially kids with special needs. I think I may laminate our Task Cards so they can check off each item with a wipe off marker as they complete the steps. The boys work better when they can visual separate what has been completed and what still needs to be accomplished.

   Another trait of the Task Cards that I like is that all of the components are non consumable so not only can we use them again but I can share with my good friends that homeschool as well. I love being able to share my homeschool resources with friends, it is a great feeling to bless others after you have been blessed by a stellar product.
  Be sure to check out the gallery at Creek Edge Press for more images of the vast array of Task Cards they offer to homeschoolers. Also there is a FAQ that goes into more deep discussions on the hows and whys of the Task Cards. You can purchase your Task Cards for $18.00 and up per topic or the whole set of a Subject like Science for $65 and higher. There are other areas worth checking out on the Creek Edge Press Website, like testimonials and the About Us pages. There are also some great articles written about the Task Card approach.  Be sure to take the time to stop by the blogs of my fellow TOS Crew Mates to hear all the details of which Task Cards their families were blessed in receiving. Each of us got to chose which ones we felt would be the best fit for our family. So there are many choices to read about.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reading Eggs TOS Crew Review

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   TOS Crew members were given a 3 month trial of an online reading comprehension program called Reading Eggs. This is an online interactive program that helps children ages 3-7 get started with finding a love for reading. There are games and colorful characters and sound recognition. The children become captivated by songs, puzzles and games all while learning alphabet recognition all the way to reading early reader books. The characters are fun and do a wonderful job of engaging the children into reading.
 There is another component of the Reading Eggs World and this is called Reading Eggspress, this is for older children that have some fluency with reading but need to build on their reading skills. This is perfect for children ages 7-13.

  Reading Eggs was designed by Educational Experts and focuses on core concepts and site words.  Children will enjoy using Reading Eggs as they work on their own individualized reading experience as they work at their own pace, not feeling rushed or overwhelmed.  There are 100 reading lessons for the "Eggsplorers" to work through as they continue on the reading journey. There are more lessons in the works for the older age range of kids.

  Here is a glimpse into the world of Reading Eggs so you can get a feel of what is in store for your young reader...

  As your children work to explore Reading Eggs World, they will work on stories that are on the year 2-6 level and earn online game rewards for completing lessons and quizzes. As your little reader ventures through stories both fact and fiction they will travel the Reading Eggs World by the online map. As they complete each map they have a quiz to take. Reading Eggs Parent reporting system then emails the progress and quiz results to the parents, so you always know how well your children are fairing in the land of reading.

As they complete maps by taking and passing the Quizzes they will unlock a new map to explore. Here is a sample of what the reading test looks like.

  There is more to Reading Eggs than just an online world, they offer companion books a writing workbooks.
While these added workbooks and companion books are optional and do not need to be purchased to use the online Reading Eggs World, they do help to reinforce the lessons and principals learned and used online.

There is a 14-day free trial available, so there is no risk with Reading Eggs. Subscriptions are available in the following options:
•12 months for $75 (add a second or third child at 50% off)

•6 months for $49.95 (add a second or third child at 50% off)

•Monthly for $9.95
To learn more about Reading Eggs, be sure to visit their website.  Also be sure to check out the reviews from the other TOS Crewmates and see what they are saying about Reading Eggs. I do not have children in the Reading Eggs age range so my review was simply informational, but many of the crew members used this program with their kids that fit perfectly in the recommended age range.

“Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or

services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it

on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally

and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance

with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the

Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”