Category Archives: Review Web Sites

Orphs Of The Woodlands Review

Got kids who need to “up” their excitement about reading? Are your boys unmotivated to read? Do you need a wholesome online learning program where kids have fun learning with educational games? Then you might want to check out the amazing online resource by Star Toaster called Orphs Of The Woodlands.

free trial with 300 lessons

Orphs of the Woodlands

Online Interactive Books with Learning Games
Designed for kids in 4th through 7th grades
2 month subscription, available for $19.99 for up to 3 children in the same household.

Each book is designed to take about 60 days or less to complete.  Extensions are also available if your child needs more time to complete the book.  The first book is currently available,  and more books for the series are in development with the goal to eventually cover an entire year’s worth of curriculum.  Be sure to check out the free trial offer of the first 100 pages of the book and see for yourself how fun learning with this program can be.

Character Building
Wholesome character qualities learned and practiced by the character in the story:
Do your best.
Learn something new every day.
Be trustworthy.
Be a good leader (servant leadership).

Academic Lessons
Hundreds of academic lessons are woven into the story. It is like an interactive unit study in hyperdrive. Cross curricular subjects kids get lots of practice in:
Story telling
Thinking skills
Language Arts (grammar, vocabulary, etc)
Cultural social studies
Study of well known people
Arts and Crafts
Life Skills

Special Effects
To make this a really fun learning adventure, lots of special effects are woven through out the story and the activities. Some of these include:
Flash Cards
Disappearing Ink
Spy Reports / Top Secret Files
Memory Games
DIY instructions for crafts
Gold Stars are currency that can be earned and used
Cool sound effects, and more…

Progress Reports
Parents can keep track of their child’s progress and their learning challenges on the Progress Page where updates are posted. Parents are also sent regular emails with fun facts to discuss with their child too.

progress report

Check out this video to learn more about Orphs of The Woodlands Interactive Books and Games


How We Used Orphs of the Woodlands:

We received a subscription to the first book available in Orphs Of the Woodlands called The Treasure of HighTower.  I had my 10 year old, 12 year old, and 14 year old sons work on it for 30 minutes a day. They loved it! My 14 year old son has finished, and the other two are still working on it.


This program follows a fun story theme throughout the whole program and is designed to be completed with in 2 months.  Afterwards the kids move on to the next story book in the series.  Orphs of the Woodlands stands for orphan animals who live in the forest. You character in the story takes on the job of taking care of them and meeting their needs.

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To earn money (gold stars) the character has to do jobs and do them well to get paid.  Jobs can be in any curriculum category and come available or open at different times in the story.

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The student can keep track of the “open” jobs, and the jobs they have completed and what chapter in the book they correlate with, as well as what academic subject area they cover.


Woven throughout the story are fun facts to learn:


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We had a lot of fun making recipes from the story.  My oldest son typed Bicker’s grouchy recipes onto a word document to keep in a file so we can keep making them even after the program ends.



For this review, we made Blueberry Crumble Grumble.   It comes out like a cake bar and is moist and delicious!


We also made Nuts To You Cookies.



These cookies are so good!  They taste like pecan sandies.  We didn’t have enough pecans, so we added in various seeds and nuts and they turned out amazing.



We made a few substitutions in the recipes to fit our family’s needs.  The crumble called for 2 1/2 cups buttermilk.   It is a large amount of milk and I thought it might bother some in the family with lactose intolerance.  So we used almond milk in the crumble.

For the cookies we replaced the powdered sugar with evaporated cane juice. Also I only had half the amount of pecans so in addition we added in additional walnuts and pumpkin seeds.  I am going to remake them again and see how they turn out with gluten free flour blend too.   We will try a blend of almond flour and coconut flour to start.  They are a crispy cookie so they lend well to the substitutions we made so far.

What does my 14 year old think about it?
“I like how you get to follow a storyline or storybook. It is a really cool storyline. I like how they incorporate math and science, Latin sentances, cooking, arts and crafts where you learn how you would make something, quotes of wisdom from famous real people in history, etc.

For example: Professor Forp will give one math or science lesson a day if your character cleans his house (he is messy in the story), and will give you an additional lesson in exchange for a Latin sentance. The character has a friend named Radar (he is a friend and is also his boss in the spy network), and he says random Latin sentances all the time. My character learns the sentances and uses them later to exchange for more lessons with the Professor.

One of the characters is a cook. His name is Bicker. He makes a lot of recipes you get to learn.   He names the food disgusting names but they are actually delicious.  He doesn’t want the others to eat the food so that he can have more to himself.

It is a fun program and I can’t wait for the next book to come available.  I finished the first one and I’m kinda sad it is over already.”

What does my 12 year old think about it?

“I think it is really fun way to read.  I like the story and the games are fun.  Sometimes I get tired of reading, but it motivates me to earn stars so I can take care of the Orphs.  The jokes are funny too. ”

What does my 10 year old think about it?

“I love it mom!  It is really cool!  It teaches you to want to read.  You don’t want to quit.  You want to keep going and know more of what is going to happen next in the story.”

Social Media:




Star Toaster Review

Be sure to check out what other families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about using this product with their kids.

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SDA For Homeschoolers Review

Looking for a fun and challenging homeschool curriculum option for your students? Then you might want to check out Standard Deviants Accelerate for homeschoolers.


Standard Deviants Accelerate Homeschool Courses ( are an easy to use, online, homeschool curriculum for students 8 and older. Courses are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week online (videos, interactive quizzes, writing, etc) and you can access them through your desktop computer, mobile laptop, and smart device like a tablet too. So this greatly increases your options of where and when you can find flexible time to work on your school work. They can be used as a supplemental program, but also may fit as your main learning program in a given subject too.


Homeschool Courses:


Standard Deviants Accelerate is appropriate for students ages 8 through adult. They currently offer 14 different homeschool curriculum options for middle school and high school age students, and 2 curriculum options are also appropriate for elementary aged kids in 3rd and 4th grades and above.


Each course offers a full year’s worth of learning materials including videos, note taking, quizzes, written work, review, and exams for your student. Each regular course costs $99.00 for a year subscription, or $24.95 for a month to month subscription. The AP courses cost $14.95 a month. They are currently running a special, and offering you to try out the program for free for 6 months and see if it is a good fit for your family.

Arithmetic – Grades 3+
Fundamental Math – Grades 4+

Nutrition – 6+
Earth Science – Grades 6+

Algebra – Grades 7+
Biology – Grades 7+

English Composition – Grades 9+
U.S. History – Grades 9+
Chemistry – Grades 9+

AP Biology – Grades 11+
AP Chemistry – Grades 11+
AP U.S. History – Grades 11+
AP U.S. Government & Politics – Grades 11+
AP English Composition – Grades 11+


How We Used Standard Deviants Accelerate In Our Home:


I am very grateful for this opportunity to review this homeschool program. I have taken time to explore all of the classes for grades 3 through 9 for the purpose of writing this review. I have not explored the AP classes yet, but hope to look through them too. I would encourage you to click the link at the bottom of this review to read what other TOS Crew members had to say about the regular and AP homeschool courses and see if this program would work for your homeschool.


My kids and I each have our own seperate dashboards when we log in. I have the kids log in each day and view the video assignment, take notes as they watch the video and save their notes on the computer program. They complete any related written work and take the quiz. The notes they type are stored in their “locker” which is a filing system they can keep track of all of their notes for classes. On my dashboard, I can view their progress, what areas need more practice or review to improve their understanding. Check out this short Teacher Account Video that explains more how this works.


Homeschool Algebra:

There are so many great features with the Homeschool Alegebra curriculum that benefit the student and the teacher. Here are just a few:

220 minutes of video (with scrolling transcripts)
54 vocab words (with audio playback)
38 critical thinking questions
205 multiple choice questions
14 drag n’ drop graphic organizers
Automatic grading
Progress reporting
Meets State and National Standards
RTI alerts
Differentiated Instruction
Editable rubrics
Student-to-teacher messaging


Below is a picture of my 8th grader working on Algebra. He is also working through the U.S. History, English Composition, Chemistry, and Biology courses. He is thrilled with these classes. He is not really a video oriented learner and prefers to read information for himself in most situations. I am very glad the classes include the written transcript of the video lessons. This fella loves to read and work independently and doesn’t need videos to grasp information though he does find it helpful at times. Over all though he loves the curriculum and is self motivated to work on it each day. He sets high standards for himself and strives to get good scores on his work. I feel like he is gaining a solid understanding of the information presented. We do disagree with some things regarding evolution in the biology course work. We believe the earth and all of creation was created by God and our faith plays a big role in our education. The course work is not written from a Christian perspective, but putting the evolution issue aside, the curriculum is done well and the kids like it.


Homeschool U.S. History:

Some of the great features of the Homeschool U.S. History curriculum include:

149 minutes of video (with scrolling transcripts)
144 vocab words (with audio playback)
160 multiple choice questions
29 critical thinking questions
14 drag n’ drop graphic organizers
Meets State and National Standards
Progress reporting, Editable rubrics, Re-teaching
Automatic grading, and Student-to-teacher messaging

US History

Below is a picture of my 6th grader on the computer working on the SDAccelerates U.S. History course. He is also working through the Nutrition and Earth Science courses too. Even though the U.S. History course is advanced for his grade level, he works exceptionally well with this style of learning. He is an audio-visual learner and works his best and excels when school work is presented in a combined audio video format. He does not like to read a lot of verbage, and will quickly become bored if expected to read all his school work. But he stays attentive to video presentations. His learning style is the complete opposite of his older brother, and I am thankful for SDAccelerate’s fun video style learning program for him to use.

US History

Standard Deviants Accelerate on Social Media

Be sure to follow Standard Deviants Accelerate on their social media links for all the latest news, courses, updates, and teaching ideas, and more:


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Check out what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about using Standard Deviants Accelerate with their family.

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Essential Skills Advantage Review

My, my, my… the online curriculum options just keep getting better and better.  We were recently given the opportunity to review Essential Skills Advantage and it is AWESOME!

ESA Logo

Essentials Skills Advantage (ESA) is designed to help kids in K – 6th grades build and strengthen foundational Language Arts and Reading skills. ESA retails for $9.99 a month for a premium membership of 24/7 unlimited advertising free access.


You can try out a free trial of the full version before you buy to see how this wonderful program will work for your family. ESA has just started a free version too that is sponsored with advertising if you don’t mind the ads popping up while learning. For a limited time, you can use the coupon code TOS50 and receive a 50% discount on the full advertising free Premium Membership version, and with your discount your cost would only be $4.99 per month as long as you remained a member.


By strengthening their “essential” skills, and building a strong foundation, kids can learn to master any other curriculum. ESA has over 20,000 learning activities and teaches 38 phoneme sounds, progression from phonics to complete sentences, 220 English words to help your student master the English language that make up to 70% of the words we use in our daily life, learning the meanings and comprehending the outcomes of stories they read, and grammatical rules of spelling.


Both kids and parents can keep track of progress. Kids are encouraged to progress and can earn virtual silver and gold stars and printable certificates to keep them motivated to learn.


I have set the program to allow each child to work in their current grade, plus work on lessons that are a grade below and a grade above for both review and additional challenge. Both the kids and I are pleased with their progress.


ESA is online, but is designed to appeal to all types of learners including visual, auditory, and kinetic learners and works well for on level learning, remedial practice, and is also flexible for those with learning disabilities. The majority of kids can learn to master the essential skills with ESA.


I usually have the kids spend 20 to 30 minutes each day doing a spelling, reading comprehension, and vocabulary activity each day on the ESA curriculum. They have their own dashboard on ESA and can choose from several options: vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension, word puzzles, fill in the blank, grammar, and so on.

short vowels

Once they have completed their lesson they can see the stars they have achieved by answering correctly. Most of the time, the program will not let them progress until they have answered the problem correctly. This method allows them to make mistakes, but also ensures they have learned the correct answer before moving ahead.


All of my kids love ESA and can’t wait to get on the computer each day. I have them work on two or three assignments per day. It is quick and painless (no whining, no drama, and no tears), and lots of fun. With six kids all waiting for their turn, and excited about their schoolwork, I just wish we had more computers in the house! While one is on the computer the others are doing book work or hands on learning. But even though they have to wait on each other and take turns, they stay excited and motivated to for their opportunity to do their online learning programs. I am thankful!


You can follow ESA on their social media links and learn more about the product, news, and updates too.

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Be sure to read what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about ESA.

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Mathletics Review

What’s that you say?  Math?  During the summer?  Yes we did!

logo for Mathletics

Why should we step away from math for the summer months just to get behind?  No Way!  The kids love Math practice when they use Mathletics by 3P Learning.

So do you want to know what all the excitement is about?  Would you like to see your kids excited about Math practice too?



Ages/Grades:  Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade. 

Online Math Subscription: is able to be used anytime day or night any day of the week.

It is recommended to use Mathletics three days a week for twenty minutes each sitting. 

Retails: $ 59.00

Contains over 1200 different learning activities; interactive games, learning achievement certificates, incentives, weekly reports sent to the parent, a parent dashboard,  printable workbooks, and more.

student desk


Our Experience:

My third and fifth grade kids have been using Mathletics online learning program this summer.  We were given two individual subscriptions for the purpose of writing an honest  review of our experience.  They use the program three days a week for skills practice as a supplement to their daily Math curriculum.

Third Grade:

joseph student center

I was really happy to receive this program.  We had planned to continue our Math study all summer, but I hoped the kids wouldn’t get tired of it.   Why should we step away from Math for the summer months just to get behind?  Kids forget how to do Math really quickly when they take a long break.  It just didn’t seem worth it this year.

Fifth Grade:

John student center

If we were doing book work all summer, practicing Math skills would have been boring!  Yeah, that is how I remember Math, just boring books filled with numbers, and almost as soon as I learned what to do with those numbers, I would soon forget too.  But my kids are not forgetting what they have learned and even more exciting is that they are getting really good scores while they play (ahem), practice their Math.  They can practice alone and they can also compete with other players in a multiplayer format.  They can earn certificates and virtual gold too.  Mathletics offers three printable certificates levels your student can achieve too.


Thanks to Mathletics, we are doing awesome online math challenges, and it makes learning math FUN, and that makes all the difference!


The kids literally fight for (oh a wait that sounds bad), beg for (no that’s not the word), look forward to their computer time online with their Mathletics.  They want to use the computer! They are not bored.  They don’t care that it is MATH!!! They want to do it. Seriously, where were these great learning programs when I was a kid?


The kids really are enjoying it.  I am looking forward to Mathletics helping them improve their Math skills.  Mathletics has won educational awards and has numerous studies showing how well kids who practice with their program improve their Math skills.

I am so thankful we will have this supplemental program to practice Math in a fun way for the upcoming school year too.  This is a real blessing and I am greatful that such a great program exists and we get to use it.  Yeah!

Be sure to follow Mathletics social media links to learn all the latest news and updates.


Crew Disclaimer

Be sure to check out what others on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about using Mathletics in their home.

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Have you heard of P&G?  P&G stands for Proctor and Gamble.  There is a good chance you (as well as your parents and grandparents too) have heard of the many products P&G produces, because they have been in business making household products for over 175 years.  They have been a household name for generations. They keep evolving to help each new generation with relevant products and tips on simple steps to take to help maximize life and create comfortable safe homes and enhanced living.  P&G has a great family orriented website set up to help you make the most of everyday living called P&Geveryday.  

P&Geveryday is your “go to place” to find out “how to” on so many topics! P&Geveryday is committed to making everyday just a little easier and aims to inspire, support, and empower you to reach your full potential everyday.

While looking through their web site I found articles on How To Set Up Your Laundry Room, How To Make Lemonade, How To Store and Dispose of Batteries, Ironing 101, How To Grill, and so much more.   They have lots of delicious recipes, food photos, and tips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner too.  

website pic

(photo of P&Geveryday web site dinner ideas)

The P&Geveryday web site is divided up into sections based on Family Life, Food, Health and Wellbeing, Home and Garden, Beauty, and Our Brands. Under each section are wonderful articles with tips to help you make the most of your everyday life.

So for example, with eight people in our home (two adults and six kids), we have a lot of birthdays to celebrate.  I found lots of great articles on family party ideas that I can’t wait to implement for birthdays and holidays too.  Some of my favorite ideas I found articles and helpful tips about include celebrating Christmas, hosting a Harvest Party, Memorial Day Party, New Years Eve Party, Themed Birthday Parties, and more.

We all love to snack in the evening, RIGHT?  You may have realized that some snacks can keep you awake and make it harder to get a good night’s sleep.  But did you know that there are healthy bedtime snack choices you can make that actually promote sleep?  Check out this short list of 10 Bedtime Snacks to Help You Sleep.  You’ll be sleeping better in no time!

They also have a section on family fun activities that are great ideas to for the whole family.  Some of my favorite tips for family activities they suggest include Camping, Things to do on Summer Nights, Summer Boredom Busters, Creating a Family Game Day, Create a Movie Club, Family Friendly Outdoor Activities, and more.

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Through all these great family activity ideas, we were inspired to visit a town close by, have a picnic, and explore it’s parks, history, and natural beauty with river front and forest with our kids. The whole family had a wonderful experience and we made memories we will share for a lifetime.

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P&Geveryday is also your “go to place” to find printable coupons on Proctor and Gamble products.  They have so many different products for different areas of your life, you will surely find coupons and tips that will make buying and using their products really helpful.


(photo of P&Geveryday web site list of Brands)

Check out what P&Geveryday has to offer you.  You will discover resourceful ideas, inspriational tips, recipes, support, beauty, healthy, product reviews, coupons, samples, and new products that make everyday enjoyable.  Be sure to follow them on their P&Geveryday Facebook page too for all the latest news and updates.

P&G Logo

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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Decide To Drive

Distracted Driving

How often have you driven on auto pilot, just going through the familiar motions, but your brain is somewhere else?  

I can’t count the times this has happened to me.  When I was first learning to drive I took a driver’s ed course in high school.  One thing that I have always remembered from that class was “you must drive defensively at all times, always be on your guard, keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road, and never allow yourself to get distracted.”  

Though I remembered those words all these years, there have been times I failed to maintain them in my daily driving activities.  There have been distractions, and different kinds of distractions at different stages of my life.  

For example, in highschool in the 1980’s, all my friends would pile into the vehicle and laugh, talk, and change the songs on the radio as we were driving around “cruising”, and it was hard to focus on driving when all that excitement was going on.  Thank God we did not have cell phones to be distracted with back then!

In college, I used to drive two hours to travel back home on the weekends.  I was really tired after a long week of classes, studying for exams, and working.  It was hard to focus on the road and stay awake sometimes.  I would stop at the quick store and get a bag of crunchy chips hoping that munching on chips and driving with my window rolled down would keep me awake. Even driving on the road just two hours in the dark when you are tired is definitely not a good idea. Though I always made it home safely, driving sleepy is a distraction that could have a very bad outcome.  I would encourage college students today to change their plans, stay at school if they are tired, go to bed and get a good night’s sleep before heading out in the morning to head back home, or anywhere they need to go that is more than a 20 to 30 minute drive away. It is just not worth risking your life, or the lives of other drivers on the road, because you are tired.
A lot of time has passed since I was in highschool and college, and technology (automobiles, cell phones, smart phones, GPS, portable movie players, etc), and driving laws have changed a little.  I now use a cell phone in my everyday life, and have answered and talked on the phone when I was driving. Though I don’t call out while driving, if others call in, I have answered the call.   I do not text while driving.  That is a risk I am not willing to take.  I definitely see how cell phones, both calling and texting, can be a distraction and why it is so important to stay focussed on what is happening on the road instead of what is happening on the phone.  

I am also in the stage of my life of having a vehicle full of young children.  I have six kids and that can be a whole lot of distraction at times when driving.  It is hard for that many kids, of various ages and levels of maturity, to understand to be quiet when in the vehicle.  For one reason or another, they always seem to need or want something, at all times.  Someone is always talking, singing, or fussing.  The only time they are truly quiet in the vehicle is when they are asleep.  Young kids have lots of needs: there are diapers to change, puke to clean up, stops for bathrooms, stops to nurse a crying baby, hungry, thirsty, and more.  I have had to really concentrate when I am in traffic when the kids have a question, or someone is having a disagreement with their sibling. I find concentrating at those times the hardest when I am pulling out onto a road, or coming to a stop and deciding which lane to be in if I have to make a turn to the left or right.  Something about having so many people talking to you at once makes those decisions even more difficult.  

About two years ago, the kids and I were getting ready to leave the house to attend a 4H program that I teach.  We got the van loaded with all of our supplies, and got the kids fastened into their seat belts.  Just as I started the ignition, suddenly an argument broke out between the two boys in the back seat, and then the baby behind my seat started crying.  I was so distracted by all of the commotion that instead of putting the van into drive, I put it into reverse and hit my husband’s parked truck.  The impact dented his bumper, and dented my bumper.  There were no other damages or injuries. But there I was, in tears because I had been so distracted by what is going on with the kids right in my own driveway, and the end result was not a good one. Thank God that didn’t happen out on the road somewhere.  

Even though we have a big family both my husband and I have tried to be very alert and pay attention to the road and other drivers at all times. But watching this video about parents and kids on the road really drives the point home of how much of a challenge it can be to decide to drive and not get distracted when you have children with you.

So why am I talking about driving distracted?
Because there is a new Decide To Drive program sponsored by the American Auto Alliance and American Academy of Orthapedic Surgeons.  They have asked me to help spread the word about the dangers of driving distracted.

Decide To Drive:
(quoted from the Decide To Drive web site)
“The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the Auto Alliance want to increase awareness about the risks of distracted driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the nearly 33,000 roadway fatalities in 2012, there were 3,328 fatalities and approximately 421,000 injuries in distracted driving-related crashes.  Orthopaedic surgeons—the specialists who put bones and limbs back together after road crashes and traumas—along with our partners, the automakers, would rather help all drivers “decide to drive” each time they get in the car and to keep bones and limbs intact.

The Decide to Drive program aims to empower drivers and passengers to speak up about distracted driving, continue the conversation at home, work and play, and reduce distracted behaviors behind the wheel. Remember, the most advanced safety feature of any vehicle is the driver. The AAOS and the Auto Alliance urges all drivers to keep their most sophisticated safety features engaged at all times: eyes on the road and hands on the wheel”.

Be sure to follow social media links and keep up with all the latest information:
The Decide to Drive program is hosting a Catchphrase Contest they can use on bumper stickers.  Be sure to check it out and share your ideas.  Top prize is a $1,000 Visa gift card, and also two additional phrases will be chosen and receive a $500 Visa gift card.  
Turns out my Driver’s Ed instructor was right.  YOU are the only one on the road who knows what YOU are going to do while driving.  Decide to drive defensively and without distractions.  Minimize the opportunities for distractions to happen.  Keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel and most of all stay safe.

Have you ever been a distracted driver?
Please leave comments in the comment section.  Thank you.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Please share. Review

Do you have a science curriculum you love for your K-2 students?  Is it engaging?  Do your kids ask to do it?  Or do they dread another day of “school”?  We have found a great younger student science program to share with you called  Perhaps you and your young science students will love it too!

We are currently reviewing a six month subscription to Online Supscription an interactive online science program.  It is produced by the same wonderful folks from another program my kids love called  

What is

The curriculum is a complete, standards-based, core science curriculum for students
in Kindergarten through Second Grade. 

Grade Science
Review for 3rd-5th Grade Science

350 Online Lessons,

Hands-On Activities and Worksheets.

Available on iPad in 2014.
to National & State Standards.

Math & Language Arts Skills.
Great for Homeschool Portfolios. Online Subscription costs $7.95 per student per month.  

Science4Us curriculum is divided into 28 modules that cover 4 areas of science: Physical Science, Life Science, Earth/Space, and Inquiry. 

Science for you motivates kids and expands their learning of various science and developmental skills, science concepts and understanding, literacy, procedures,  through computer-based digital learning, virtual investigations, and through fun explorations of science.
How we are using

I have four kids signed up for this program and they are ages 5, 6, 9, and 11.  My Preschooler and Kindergartner are working on this program together, and the other two are working independently.  The younger two are so excited to be doing big “school” with the same program as their older siblings.  They enjoy watching the videos and doing the hands on learning activities.  The 9 year old and 11 year old have been using this program for review of things they have learned.  

Each day my kids spend about 25 to 30 minutes working with this interactive program doing the tutorial online videos, and correlating activities.  When they sign on, they have their own science lab dashboard and can choose a book of science to study, watch a video, complete an online activity, etc.  I also print off worksheets, science sheets, crafts, experiments, etc for them to do offline too.  All the links are provided in the curriculum.  The dashboard also helps the kids keep track of their learning progress.

Science4Us Review
The program literally teaches the kids itself and requires as much or as little imput from me after I get them started.  However, I can expand what they are learning as much as I want too by using the printable lesson plans and additional activities.  

Science4Us Review

Each grade level has their own level of challenges and activities and worksheets, but I love it that all the grade levels can be learning the same topic and information at the same time.  This makes teaching various age levels so handy for the teacher.

You can go as fast or as slow as you want.  My older kids are completing this a little faster than recommended. There are 28 modules, and it takes approximately 8 days (sessions) to complete a module, or approximately two weeks (-2days).  Or go faster if your child is comfortable at a faster pace, and accomplish this curriculum in half the time which I think is very reasonable.

Here is a sample of subjects covered, and a link to lesson plans and scope and sequence information for Kindergarten age:
and Mixtures, 
Heat Energy, Location and Perspective, Motion, Force, Science Tools, Living/Nonliving, Plants, Animals, Eco Awareness, Materials, Weather

Be sure to check out the website and review the lesson plans and scope and sequence for First and Second grades too.  They have really done a great job putting all of this together for the students and the parents. I love how easy the lesson plans make teaching these subjects.  You just follow the steps, have the kids review the videos, do the online challenges, do the offline challenges, etc.  

So far, we have worked on the subject book area of EARTH/SPACE.   Space unit is divided into two areas: Exploring the Universe and Earth in Space.  Earth unit is divided into 4 areas: History of Earth, Materials, Features, and Weather. 

So for example, when we studied the WEATHER module, there were 8 session days in the lesson plans including videos and online challenges, each taking about 25-30 minutes to do. There were also 8 offline activities, one for each module, and these mostly entailed worksheets and observations of the sky for this subject.  In this subject, we mostly focussed on procedure, tools, vocabulary, observation, and recording in learning this subject. 

Vocabulary we learned about included: data, forecast, hail, measure, meteorologist, observe, precipitation, rain, rain gauge, record, severe weather, snow, temperature, thermometer, weather, and wind. 

The kids learned about normal patterns in weather, seasons, and extreme weather (tornados, hurricains, blizzard, drought).  They identified accessories and clothing, etc. to assist them in living with various weather conditions too.  The kids filled in worksheets such as the OWL (Observation, Wonder, Learn) Charts, drew pictures of extreme weather, used weather vocabulary worksheets, made a weather book with flash cards, graphing, colored pictures, and more.  

Currently our weather has been bitter cold for almost two months.  We have had record breaking temperatures, and near record breaking snow fall totals for our region.  We currently have had over 50 inches of snow for this winter.  The kids are not happy about the current weather.  But it was fun to observe the current weather in context with learning in this interactive online curriculum.


I think this is a great homeschool science curriculum for young learners. Science is fun!  Science curriculum should be fun too.  This program will fit right in with a wide variety of homeschool and classroom applications.

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VocabularySpellingCity Review

Are you a good speller?  Did you learn to spell easily or did you find it hard to learn?  I loved to read and write in my childhood, but I loathed spelling.  I didn’t feel comfortable writing essays and reports until I was in college and learned how to memorize, write lots of rough drafts, and proof read.  My whole life I have mixed up a few letters like p, b, q, d, ei, and ie.  No matter what I did, I just could not seem to master spelling words that contained these letters.  I know now that it is called dyslexia, but back then it was just called bad spelling!

I am really grateful for spelling programs that help kids overcome spelling confusion.  One fun program is called VocabularySpellingCity and we were recently given a one year VocabularySpellingCity Premium Membership to try it out.   

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So what is this all about?  

VocabularySpellingCity is an online interactive learning program that helps you build vocabulary and spelling skills through a series of computer learning activities and online games.  It helps your student become better at both.   

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You can set up your own lists of words for them to learn, or use word lists already preprogrammed in the system.  Just pick the words you want to use and you are ready to go.  You can set up assignments for your student.   VocabularySpellingCity sets up a Teacher Home Page for you.  You can list your students, and add your spelling word lists on your dashboard.  It also shows their progress and quiz scores too.  It is a very fun and easy tool for parents to use.

VocabularySpellingCity is useful for students in grades K through 12.  It retails for $29.99 for a premium family membership and can be used with up to 5 students.  There are additional programs for classrooms too.  Check out the website for all the details.  You also get a free app when you purchase the premium membership to use the program on your iPad or tablet too if you have one available.

The amount of things a parent can do with this program to enhance your student’s learning is amazing.  You can use what is preprogrammed which is so easy to do, but you can also customize it to go along with other subjects you are learning in your homeschool.  So if you are studying a group of words in your chemistry studies, you could ad those words to a list and use VocabularySpellingCity to help your student practice those words and their meanings in games, quizzes, flashcards, and more.


This is an award winning learning program, and it has so much to offer. 

Here is part of the reasons parents and students love this program. It offers:
        Interactive Learning Activities 
        Fun Interactive Vocabulary and Writing Games and Activities 
        Student Accountability 
        Student activities are tracked. 
        Differentiated learning 
        Able to assign different lists to individual students or groups. 
        Efficient record keeping making the parent teacher’s job easier.
        Student test results and activities are automatically recorded. 
        Tools for specific populations. 
        Customizable lists and lessons to meet each student’s individual needs. 
        Can be used for ESE, ESL/ELL, and RtI! 
        And MORE!!!

How We Used It:

We love all the learning games.  The kids use this program on our laptop for a set amount of time each morning.  They use ear phones so they are not distracted by their siblings and can hear the definitions and spelling of the words correctly.  They log in using their own password, then choose a list assignment to work on.  They can hear the words pronounced, learn the definition of the words, play games, take quizzes, work with flash cards, and more.  We like to use the preprogramed lists.  Some of these lists deal with math terms, or science vocabulary, or words from history, etc.  It is useful in so many ways.

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There are lots of things parents and teachers can do to customize this program.  There are step by step tutorial or faq videos to get you started.  You can view them here.  There are also printable worksheets and handwriting tools too.  I love using this program in our homeschool.  We have used this program the past with my kids and you can read about it here.  I am really thankful that programs like this exist, and I
am very thankful we have been given the opportunity to review this learning program in our homeschool.

I think VocabularySpellingCity is a must have in your homeschool learning tools as you can do so much with it.  I think this would be a fun program to use in bible school too.  If Sunday School teachers had access to a program like this to enhance the learning opportunities of their students.  You could customize the word lists to correspond to the bible lesson you are teaching and then give the kids some time to practice learning those words with this program.  It is the digital age!  We need to think outside the traditional learning box to equip this generation.   Be blessed!


Be sure to check out what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about Vocabulary Spelling City.

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Reading Kingdom Review

Do you need a little help teaching reading to your kids?  As a mom of 6 kids, I can tell you that all of my children learn differently.  Some are easy to learn to read, and for some of my kids, reading is a lot more challenging.  So I was really excited when I learned about a wonderful online reading program called Reading Kingdom . 

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Reading Kingdom is an online program for children ages 4 to 10.  It can also be used with older kids who need a little extra help or practice to sharpen their skills too.
Whether your kids are just beginning to read, read well, or are struggling, it seems that all can benefit from Reading Kingdom. 

Reading Kingdom goes beyond just teaching phonics and whole language approaches.  It also covers a wide range of subject skills across the board.  It uses a patented six skill model of reading instruction covering: sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, grammar, and comprehension.  

Reading Kingdom offers six different learning levels for your 4 to 10 year olds, and e
ach level is customizable.  Check out the links to read more about each level: 
Preschool (skills: left and right, sequencing, letters, upper and lower case, etc.)
Kindergarten (skills: common words and meanings, punctuation, upper and lower case, keyboard skills, etc)
First Grade (skills: sequencing, motor skills, phonics, grammar, reading comprehension, decoding, sentences, punctuation, and more)
Second Grade (skills: vocabulary, sight words, reading, spelling, decoding, writing complex sentences, summarizing, and more)
Third Grade (skills: reading, comprehension, writing, spelling, language expansion, increase their abilities to read and understand more complicated texts, academics, and literature, etc. ) 
Struggling Readers (useful in helping build skills for: struggling readers, learning disabilities, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and English As A Second Language (ESL) more). 

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Reading Kingdom is available to you 24/7 online for your convenience, and costs $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year for the first child.  Each additional child costs an additional $9.99 per month, or an additional $99.99 per year. 

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Reading Kingdom was created by Dr. Marion Blank.  She is the director of A Light On Learning Institute from Columbia University, she is also a developmental psychologist with a specialization in language and learning, and is an author, teacher, and a world renown expert on reading.  You can watch an hour long interview with her and learn more about why she believes everyone can learn to read.

Marian Blank’s passion to teach others to read and write came about in her childhood as she watched older generations in her family who were unable to read or even sign their name.  She became determined to teach them and her passion was born.  She has spent her lifetime fulfilling her passion.  Listen to this short 2 minute video as she explains more:     

I am currently using the Reading Kingdom program with my 10 year old son.  I plan to ad my 8 year old son, and 6 year old daughter to the program this fall when school starts for us.    

Each child will be able to start and work at their own skill level and this is very exciting for all of us.  For many of the other programs we have tried, all the kids had to start at the same point and do the same things.  But not with Reading Kingdom, it is customized for each child. 

In the beginning, each child takes a skills survey to see where they should begin.  My son spent about 20 minutes or so answering survey questions on the computer screen and demonstrating his skills.  He could choose to answer with the keyboard, or by using the mouse and clicking on the screen.  He wasn’t real excited about the survey, but was thrilled when that part was over and he could actually use the program at his learning level. 

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After the comput
er analyzed his skill level, it placed him where he should begin and marked off what areas to skip over so he doesn’t get bored with things that are too easy, or frustrated with things that are to hard.   Then he was able to work for 15 to 20 minutes each day making progress through the designated skill sections.  It keeps track of his progress and both he and I can check to see how he is doing.  He is moving along very well and I am impressed with his improvement in his reading skills.

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We are thrilled with this online learning program and can’t recommend it enough to all our homeschool friends.   This program can truly help children learn to read.  This is a great example of technology benefitting us and it is a wonderful tool for homeschools.

If you would like to try before you buy, you can sign up for a 30 day free trial.  You can follow along and learn more from the Reading Kingdom Blog, follow Reading Kingdom on Facebook and Twitter too.


Be sure to read what others on the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about Reading Kingdom.

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Dig-It Games Mayan Mysteries Review

This summer my 13 year old son has been playing Mayan Mysteries Online Game by Dig It Games.  He was excited when we found out our family was chosen to review Mayan Mysteries for The Old Schoolhouse.  He really enjoys reviewing products, and not only him, but all six of my kids are becoming very skilled product reviewers these days. 

I used to teach Cultural Anthropology as a student teacher at Kansas State University.  I love learning and teaching about other cultures, geography, history, and historical and cultural artifacts (archeology).  I wish a product like this had been available for the college students I taught.  I am glad my kids will get some exposure to these subjects through this online game. 

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Mayan Mysteries Online Game
Grades 5-8
$21.99 year subscription
$9.99 iPad app
School license also available to use with classrooms for $299. 
Check the website for details.

What Is Mayan Mysteries?

It is a fun online game that teaches cultural anthropology, archeology, history, geography, and problem solving centered around the Great Mayan Empire in South America.  Though this empire went extinct, there is much to discover about their culture and way of life by studying the clues left behind. 

In this game, kids travel through history, explore, and learn about the Maya civilization, discover artifacts, decode glyphs, visit ancient cities, explore the Maya calendar, and more in this exciting educational journey.  Here are just a few of the learning opportunities:
            •Visit Maya sites 
            •Discover and analyze ancient artifacts 
            •Decode glyphs 
            •Explore the mysterious Maya calendar 
            •Learn about the Maya math system 
            •Solve puzzles
            •Gather clues

My 13 year old son enjoyed playing this game.  He usually spent 45 minutes to an hour playing it each time.  In the game, he is part of a team that follows clues to solve the mystery of Mayan artifacts that are flooding the black market.  These artifacts are being looted from ancient Mayan civilization sites.

The game did take a while to load some of the levels due to our slow internet connection, but once that portion of the game loaded, he really had fun learning with it.

This is a journey of exploration, and the learning goes way beyond playing the game.  There are hyperlinks built into the game to learn more about this culture, history, and geography.  My son is very inquisitive and always clicks on every available link to learn more.

My son and I were able to keep track of his progress and achievements, his quizzes he had passed, and artifacts he uncovered on the Achievements page.

However, if you are a school teacher, there is a great feature built in the classroom version of this product.  I wish parents had access to a great feature called the  Teachers Management System.  But it is only available at this time for Teachers if you buy the school classroom license which works with up to 30 students in a classroom.  But look at these great progress reports!  I hope one day they will make it available to parents too.


My son would like to have the iPad app of this game so he can play it when we travel.  He always plays digital games when we travel.  He gets motion sickness and keeping his mind busy with a game helps to lesson the symptoms.  I can see where the app would come in handy for on the road learning.

He was a bit uncomfortable with one feature of the game, so I am going to mention this in my review.  After he played the game for a while, “out of no where” (his words to me), a spirit guide appears from an online book that is opened.  This really bothered him, and I can understand why.  We talked about how the Mayan culture believed in such things and many indigenous peoples that still exist in the earth today also still believe in these as part of their religion.  But it is not something we believe in, according to the bible.  The only spirit we consult or listen to is the Holy Spirit whom Jesus Christ sent to us when he went to be with God.  Beyond that we are told to test the spirits and avoid interacting with them.

I don’t mind teaching my son about what a “spirit guide” is and that we don’t believe in listening to it even though some cultures do.  I want him to appreciate different cultures and their beliefs.  But I do mind a “spirit guide” being an essential feature of the game and that the game required my son to interact with it.  He has never participated in any thing like this.  We have intentionally avoided all forms of wizardry, witchcraft, Harry Potter, fantasy and magical stories and games his whole life.  It was a shock to him and to me that it was an essential part of this game. 

I love Cultural Anthropology, but I
would never require my students, even on a college level, to simulate or participate in aspects of cultures that involved the spirit world.  So I am torn as to whether or not to recommend this game for younger students.  I think it would be better suited for older students who have a solid foundation in their beliefs and are able to evaluate this aspect at a mature level and understand that it is wrong to seek out information from a spirit guide.

I asked my son to type out his own review about the game and I have included it here:

Mayan Mysteries is a fun game that teaches you about Mayan history by taking you to virtual dig sites where you can discover facts about the Mayan culture artifacts by reading facts, completing quizzes, completing out run the looters mini-game, excavating artifacts.

When you first start the game you are given the option to continue your previous game or start a new one. Once you click “start new game” you are taken to an intro scene with Chief Mateo talking about artifacts being looted and sold on the black market in Guatemala.   He wants to stop the looting of the ancient ruins.  Then a sack with an artifact in it gets thrown through the window, and it has a note:

From the website: “Policia: You can have this guy, and the crazy collector who’s after it. Not enough money in the UNIVERSE to make this loot worth keeping – good luck you’ll need it!” Signed, “Saqueador”  “Mateo is shocked!” “A looter that is turning in loot the world has clearly gone loco” “Mateo looks on the bottom of the Mayan ballplayer and he see’s a glyph so he grabs a magnifying glass and examines the glyph again” “Curious… this glyph doesn’t match any of the ancient Maya sites… well, none of the KNOWN sites” “This is a job for team Q!”

So Mateo decides to contact team Q, He talks to Alex Quinn the leader of team Q, alone with Alex is his niece Fiona and his nephew Charlie and their friend Me. After the information scenes it takes you to Mateo’s office where he tell’s you that if you can solve all the quests for this level he will give you his ancient Mayan book, one of the quests is to name all of the places the Maya lived in Central America you have to label their names shade in all the areas they lived and name the dig sites.

After you complete all the quests he gives you the book then you travel to the first Mayan dig site Ceren where you have to dig up artifacts complete quiz puzzles and out run the looters.

The game is very accurate to Mayan history. I loved the game up until the part of the game where after you complete all the quests for Ceren and Fiona and Charlie have a question and decide to open up the ancient Mayan book. When they got it open it said “Spirt of the the Maya awakening” and a spirit came from the book and said and says he is the chief Mateo. I was very unsatisfied with that. For me the “spirit” totally ruined the fun of the game.

So far my favorite part of the game is excavating the artifacts. Over all the game was good, but it would have been better if the spirit was removed from the game. I think the game would be awesome without it.

And there you have it folks, straight from the lad who played the game!!! 

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Dig-It Games was created by an archeologist.  Two archeologists actually worked on creating Mayan Mysteries.  Read more about the creators and their vision for these online learning games here.   They also produced Roman Town, available for $19.99  and I am sure will have more of these games to come.  My son has already asked me to purchase this game for him too.

Be sure to check out what others on The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about Mayan Mysteries by Dig It Games.

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