Friday, March 25, 2011

TOS Review: Big IQ Kids

Big IQ Kids is an online spelling, math, vocabulary, and U.S. geography program all rolled into one. Through daily lessons students in elementary and middle school learn good study habits and increase their self confidence in the subjects covered. Big IQ Kids offers a free program as well as a paid premium program. You can view the differences in their programs here. As a part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool review crew, my children and I were able to review the premium program.

The spelling program includes over 40,000 words in the dictionary and is pre-set with 40 lessons and word lists. With this program you also have the option of adding your own word lists. Big IQ spelling will generate a weeks worth of lessons when you add your own spelling list. For this review I primarily used the "input your own" method but I also looked through the pre-loaded lesson plans. The 40 pre-loaded spelling list lessons are excellent and are appropriately challenging. For my 4th grade son we use a workbook method for spelling. While reviewing Big IQ Kids I simply input each of the 20 words from my son's workbook into a spelling list using this program. I liked that he could get more practice and reinforcement using this program. My son enjoyed doing some of his spelling lessons on the computer, it was a nice change of pace for him. I liked that he could not go on without mastering the quizzes which he often struggles with when he wants to "rush" through his assignments.

The Big IQ vocabulary program includes a large number of words from the elementary age through the SAT level. Like the spelling program there are pre-set word lists with lesson plans or you can input your own vocabulary words. The word lists are challenging and the lesson plans were appropriately structured. However, my son and I had a challenging time understanding the voice that "said" the words. It is a bit like a robot and the sounds were not always easy to understand. Also, the synonym and antonym portion of the lessons were at time illogical. However, once I explained the words to my son he grasped them a bit more. If I thought the antonym and synonym answers were not correct I just had my son skip that question and did not count the wrong answer on the overall quiz score. For example, one of the questions indicated that nail and board were anotonyms. The word board does not have an antonym so I had some trouble seeing how this was a plausible answer. Otherwise I thought the vocabulary exercises were challenging and the definitions were accurate.

Big IQ Kids math is a fun online program. As a parent you can customize the lessons and math facts included in each lesson. My son really enjoyed this math program and I think it provided him with math drills in a sufficiently challenging way. As with the other programs from Big IQ Kids, I wish as a parent I could review my son's progress without logging in as the student. Parent profiles linked to the child's information is helpful in creating lessons and reviewing progress. I could forsee older students or technilogically afvanced children modifying their own lessons without parental notice.

The U.S. States geography program from Big IQ Kids is comprehensive and educational. My son learned a ton from this program and I am happy to say can now identify all of the states by shape and nearly has all of the capitals memorized. This program quizzes students on state capitals and state locations, state spelling, abbreviations, and basic state facts. Additionally, parents can add extra facts that they would like their student to learn. I found this program particularly helpful for a state postcard swap that my children and I are participating in this year. As each postcard arrives in our mail I enter additional facts that the sender included on the card. It is a fun way to include the poastcards in our learning.

Pricing information:
$19.99 for one month of all 4 programs or $99.99 for a year.
Individual subjects for one month from $7.99
You can read more about their pricing programs here
Also, you can begin with the free program and upgrade to the premium program at any time.

Want to read more reviews for this program?

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Monday, March 7, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Reading Kingdom

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse review crew I was given the opportunity to review the Reading Kingdom. Reading Kingdom is an online reading program that teaches sequencing, motor skills, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension. This program is recommended for ages 4-10 and teaches reading to a 3rd grade level. Dr. Marion Blank, the inventor of the Reading Kingdom, has been honored with the Upton Sinclair Award which is given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to education. She began with the Phonics Plus Five program and Reading Kingdom is an online “version” of that program.

Reading Kingdom teaches introduction to Reading & Writing, Keyboard & Mouse Training, Skills Survey 1, Seeing Sequences, and Letter Land. Once those are completed the child moves to reading & writing level 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

For this review I worked with both my 3yo and 6yo. My 3yo is a pre-reader and my 6yo is reading at about a 2nd grade level. I chose to do this review with both of my younger children because I knew my 3yo would benefit from letter recognition lessons and my 6yo would learn from the keyboarding practice available with this program. As we began this program I quickly realized that I would have to help both of my children with this program because of the short time limit for activity responses. In other words, my children were not able to find the letters on the keyboard quick enough for this program's pre-set parameters. This led to frustration despite my kids knowing their letters. So together my children and I worked on this reading program together. They were still learning but I provided a little extra guidance in the beginning to help them find the letters on the keyboard.

For example, in Letter Land the child learns to match and recognize letters by sight.

Then it progressively gets more difficult. . .

As the child progresses through Letter Land then they start reading and writing. In various portions of the reading and writing section the student is asked to match a singular word to its plural and choose the correct letter order for a given word. My 6yo particularly enjoyed this part of Reading Kingdom but I was always close by to help mitigate his frustration level by not being able to find a letter on the keyboard. Eventually, the more and more we played with this program both of my children became more adept at finding the letters on the keyboard quicker and needed less of my assistance.

Overall, both of my children enjoyed this program and learned a great deal from it. Working with both of them from the very beginning to prevent frustration with key hunting helped tremendously with their success in this program.

Program details:
Cost is $19.99 per month or $199.99 for a year. Each additional child is $9.99 per month.

Would you like to read more reviews from fellow crew members?

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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pirose Nursing Cover & Scarf Review

My twins will be a month old in just a few short days. As a Mama Buzz reviewer, shortly before they were born I was given the opportunity to review the Reno Rose Pirose nursing cover and scarf. When I received this item to review, little did I know to what capacity I would be using this new nursing cover.

With my previous children whom I all breast fed I simply used a blanket to cover myself and my baby when we were nursing in a setting which required modesty. These blankets were at times bulky and never stayed where I most needed them. When I was pregnant with the twins I knew I wanted to get a more formal nursing cover. Not only would I need something when we were out in public but my other kids are older now so modesty and covering up at home is also needed. I was elated when Mama Buzz offered the opportunity to review the Pirose cover.

The Pirose cover for nursing is much more than your typical nursing cover. No, this cover does not include an adjustable neck strap or rigid neckline to view your baby. However, because of the way this scarf cover is designed these features are not needed nor are they missing. I beautiful and light material of this cover flows so freely around Mom and baby that the highly marketed features of other nursing covers are not needed. The Pirose cover is contoured in such a way that the front is longer than the back and provides ample coverage while nursing. The thin flowing scarf material is light and airy which would be perfect for nursing year round but would be particularly nice if you live in a warm summer climate. An added and unexpected use that I have found for this nursing cover is to use while pumping. My girls are micro preemies so they are not able to nurse yet but I am still frequently pumping for them and I need to be covered while I pump in the NICU and at home. This cover is perfect for this use. Also, because it comes with its own matching storage bag I am able to throw it in my purse or in my breast pump bag easily. The material is so light that when packed away it takes up hardly any space; the wallet in my purse in larger than this cover when packed away. In addition to being a nursing cover, you can use it as a scarf and add some flare to your favorite matching outfit. The Pirose nursing cover comes in a wide variety of beautiful patterns, it might be hard to choose just one to purchase.

The Pirose for nursing covers are available for $35

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion and review. No other form of compensation was received.

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