Hooligan Zoo

Two Zookeepers… many Hooligans… It's always feeding time at this zoo!

TOS Review – Family Mint

Finances are tricky…  I think that if you weren’t taught how to properly handle money, then it’s incredibly difficult to teach it to your children.

Family Mint, Helping Kids appreciate money. I mean, honestly, what can be bad about that???  Know what else is great?  Wait…  do you really?  Do You wanna know?  come on, admit it, you totally do…

Okay, okay, it’s…


I know, crazy, right?

So, this program, that is really like a virtual bank for yourself and your hooligans (but you are the banker), is completely and absolutely free.

  • Family Mint is money management for kids where parents are the bank.
  • Kids manage their own money by setting goals and entering transactions.
  • Parents motivate kids through:
    ~ Interest rates they set themselves
    ~ Automated allowance
    ~ Matching deposits on important goals

Kids can:

  • Set goals for items they want to save for,  and even allocate money to donate to a charity of their choice.
  • Log into their own accounts to set goals, or request withdrawals which can be approved or denied by the parent when  he or she logs in.
  • View plenty of graphics and visualize where their money came from, where it’s going and how to manage it.

Parents can:

  • Log in and see all of their children’s accounts at one time.
  • Make deposits and set up automatic deposits of allowance each week, if so desired.
  • Set up a set amount of interest on savings, or match deposits made on important goals.

You can use your own hooligans real allowance and savings, or you could just assign them a virtual amount of money to play with.  Either way, what a GREAT learning tool.

This is a bit above my hooligans ability to use on their own, but with some guidance, it’s not too bad at all.

Go, check it out.  It’s Free, seriously, what do you have to lose?

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TOS Review – Math Tutor DVD

SO, there’s a train coming from Amsterdam going 100 kms an hour, and it passes by a train coming from somewhere not Amsterdam going 150 kms an hour… at what town will they pass each other assuming that they both left the station at the same time?

Yah, I have no idea either.  HA!

Math Tutor DVD sent me two videos to review for them.  One for younger guys about counting, and one for older hooligans about solving word problems.

The one for the younger guys, Young Minds Numbers and Counting, is really very high quality.  Lots of nature pics, and lovely classical music as well (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Brahms and Vivaldi).

It runs for 35 minutes, and the DVD also includes 15 minutes of bonus material counting puzzle pieces, connect the dots, and a guess the animal game.

You can view a sample excerpt  of the  Young Minds: Numbers and Counting DVD here.  The DVD can be purchased for $19.99 at the Math Tutor website, which is $5.00 off the list price.

My guys were a bit bored after the first little bit of this one.  Sure, it was cute… the numbers were nice, but frankly, I don’t really NEED a DVD to teach my hooligans to count.  HOWEVER, if you just need to catch a break, maybe take a shower for the first time in three or four days, then throw this one in!  You can be absolutely sure that there is no content here that would be inappropriate for wee eyes.

It covers topics such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing whole numbers, decimals, and fractions; as well as covering percent, ratio, and proportion. You can learn more about this DVD, and see screenshots, at the website.

This is basically just a teacher writing on a white board…  My hooligans lost interest in about ten minutes, unfortunately.  The lessons were just a wee bit too long, and really, it’s something that we already do.  Simply not necessary for our family.

AGAIN tho, (there always seems to be a “however” doesn’t there) I can see how this may work for families who need a bit of extra encouragement with solving word problems, and want to use different mediums in order to do so.

This DVD sells for $26.99, and contains approximately 8 hours of teaching time.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – All About Spelling Beehive Reader

Remember the whining I did about grammar, spelling, etc, etc?  (Btw, it’s eTc, not eCt…. *shudder*)

No?  Well, click on over here!  I’ll wait!

I love books.  I love pretty much everything about books.  I especially love hardcover books, and books for the hooligans with great pictures.  This Beehive Reader from All About Spelling?  It absolutely measure up!

* It was created for the beginning reader.
* It is a collection of 10 short stories on 160 pages inside a high-quality hardcover book.
* Each page is printed on non-glare paper, making it easy on the eyes for children.
* The reader correlates 100% with All About Spelling Level 1.
* When one is using AAS Level 1, instructions are included in the corresponding lesson when it is time for the student to read a story in the reader, making it easy on the parent for scheduling reading time.
* The reader can also be used independently of the AAS program.
* It is written with natural phrasing and line breaks, making for smooth, enjoyable reading for the student.
* The subtle underlining helps with tracking if needed, but otherwise easily ignored if not needed.
* Beautiful illustrations throughout the book are included, and the stories use simple words and sentences.
* Natural language and real storylines, including some funny stories make reading enjoyable for both student and parent.
* Beehive Reader 1 was recently awarded a Silver Medal for The Moonbeam’s Children’s Book Awards.

“Your beginning reader will delight in finding out what happens when…
…a busy cat lives in a windmill
…a slee
py bear cub takes a nap
…a grumpy duck demands a snack
…a singing bat befriends a lonely king
…a curious boy shrinks from tall to small
…and much more!”

This reader is a fabulous size for little hands. The print is not crazy huge, but it’s not too small either. The stories are charming and, here’s the catcher… Eph WANTS to read it. He wants to read it A LOT. He chooses this book over any other reader we have hands down.

The pictures are gorgeous, simple, yet help tell the story.  The stories are very cute, and even Zi will read them with Eph, although the reader is waaaay under her reading level.

Beehive Reader 1 is available for purchase for $19.95 (American Funds) at the All About Spelling Website.

And really, look at these pics… how can you NOT buy it when you see these?

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TOS Review – Homeschool Library Builder

Ah books.  How do I love thee… I love the way you smell, I love to flip through your pages… I love to get lost in you!

Books are my BIGGEST weakness.  If our house ever caught on fire, it would go up awfully quickly because of all that nice dry paper!  I simply cannot get enough of books!

Which is precisely why I love this motto…

Do you see that?  “Fill Your Bookshelves without Emptying Your Wallet.”

*snicker*  I am totally going to show that to Ja… maybe he’ll let me buy more books then?

Homeschool Library Builder is a service created by 2 homeschooling moms.  Their goal is to provide fellow homeschoolers (and others) with a place to find affordable literature for their educational needs.

Here is a list of services that are offered on the website:

· Books. We offer new and gently used books for all ages at affordable prices, giving others an opportunity to build their own home library. We stock titles used in literature-based curricula (Sonlight, Tapestry of Grace, Ambleside, Five in a Row, Beautiful Feet, and others), as well as those useful for unit studies for all interests and grade levels.

· Book Search. If a customer needs an out-of-stock book or a title we’ve not previously carried, we are happy to search for it.

· Fundraising. We know from experience how tiresome and time consuming fundraisers can be. Our fundraising program is designed for ease so that neither money nor orders are taken by the organization itself. We provide everything needed for a successful fundraiser, including marketing materials.

· Product Marketing. Wow! Marketing is expensive! For a small company like HSLB or others who want to launch a newly-created product or service, purchasing ad space in magazines or on the internet oftentimes just isn’t an option. The HSLB Market Place offers the opportunity to get the word out about a “homegrown” product or service through our website as well as our monthly online newsletter. This is a free service offered to our HSLB members.

· Spotlight on the Season. We preview and select sites for the current season or holiday, so our customers can eliminate searching and filtering, and enjoy that special time of year with their children. We also provide links to some of our favorite homeschool resources.

· Helping Hand. Through the Helping Hand program we have had the opportunity to raise money for those in need, such as a young autistic boy living near the Alaskan wilderness who needed a service dog, or the victims from the Chinese earthquakes or the Gulf hurricanes. We have a specially designated category of books whereby all money goes to helping others. Oftentimes HSLB matches the amount raised for a particular cause.

· Frequent Buyer Program. When a customer becomes an HSLB member (free of charge, of course!) we offer incentive programs through our book points program. Fifteen book points equals one dollar for use toward future purchases. These points never expire. Points can be earned a number of ways:

I mean seriously, earning POINTS by buying books, which frankly, I’m probably going to do anyway, and then using the points to get MORE books?  Totally all over that one!

Now, the biggest problem that I can see here is twofold, actually… first, I only have so many bookshelves.  Second, even tho shipping from the states to Canada is usually quite inexpensive, I see that the shipping rate schedule is quite high for us poor sad Canadians.  Up to $25 worth of product will cost $13.75 to ship, and then from $25.01-$50 is $20.12 to ship.  It really is unfortunate that they do not charge for shipping using actual shipping costs.

Homeschool Library Builder has a very special promotion going on this month.  How does 20% off the entire store sound to you?  Good books at great prices PLUS a discount?!  Sounds good to me!

See what my fellow crew mate had to say here.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – Dollar Homeschool/Ray's Arithmetic

Ah Math.  How we love to hate you.  *ahem*

I always joke and say that I should have been taught math the “old” way…  not that new fangled way I was taught!  The way my dad talks about his math classes, and how things were related to real life?  A far cry from the way it was for me.

You know what Dollar Homeschool does?  It brings us back ALL those old math texts and teaching tools of all kinds!  Right into your hands, well after you print it out, of course.

It can actually be a little bit overwhelming, the sheer amount of information contained in this file.  The Ecclectic Education Series was used almost exclusively in American classrooms from roughly 1865 to 1915.  Included in this series are Ray’s Arithmetic and the McGuffey Readers along with books for History, Science and Grammar.

The Crew was sent Ray’s Arithmetic to review.  Ray’s Arithmetic series is a collection of 38 books that have been scanned {textbooks, answer keys, and teacher’s editions} and are intended to use as ‘printing’ curriculum. As you need materials, you print what you need.

Really, if you liked these old texts (which I do, they are often written much much more reader friendly than a lot of modern texts are), then after purchasing Ray’s cd, you probably wouldn’t need much else in the way of curriculum.

While I personally probably won’t be using the series exclusively, I have already gleaned some great nuggets of wisdom.

Check out the list of books included in the EES here.

Ray’s Arithmetic is a curriculum that goes from Kindergarten to Grade 12 for a mere $59 in American funds!

See what my fellow crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – Kinderbach

For years now, Zi has been asking if she can learn to play the piano.  We were given a big old lovely piano last year, but had yet to touch it…

Kinderbach is an online piano playing lesson system.

“The Year Membership gives access to 6 Levels of entertaining music education for 3 to 7 year old children through about 22 hours of video and interactive coloring pages. Miss Karri introduces preschoolers to the keyboard characters, as well as the Grand Staff clefs. Kids will enjoy playing simple songs, identifying music direction, learning new rhythm notes and their beat value. Level 1 to 6 covers proper hand and finger position for the music scale, as well as staff note reading by pattern for voice, and keyboard.”

Kinderbach works with a series of songs and lessons that you watch on the website. There are also printouts and worksheets for the hooligans to colour, reinforcing the lessons just learned. You are supposed to actually push the keys on your piano, while the lesson is happening in front of you. It is very multi-learning style.

So, one problem I had with Kinderbach was that you need your computer to be where your piano or keyboard is… Our computer is in the playroom… in the basement. The piano is upstairs in the living room. Not a good situation. If you had a keyboard or a laptop, then you could more easily move things around to be able to do the lessons WITH the keys right in front of you.

My older two hooligans (almost 8 and 6 1/2) were a bit bored with the videos.  They thought that the videos were cheesy, and weren’t terribly impressed with the characters.  Talya, however, really liked the videos, and dancing around to them.  (Especially when learning about high and low!)

You do, of course, need a keyboard or a piano for this one.  The keyboard would not have to be fancy by any means to get the point across.

Ultimately, what this kind of turns into is watching educational programming over and over to learn how to play… the bits are short, which can be good, but also can encourage shorter attention spans.  Definitely go and try out the free trial!

An online membership for a year is $7.99 a month, paid in a 1-time annual payment of $95.88, or a $19.99 monthly subscription, billed monthly for a year. There are also DVD and audio packages (see the website for details).

See what my fellow crew mate had to say here!

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – Zeezok Publishing – Presidential Penmanship

Ah Yes.  We all worry about how to teach our kids to write, don’t we?  Preferably legibly, unlike the way my father writes…  or, quite frankly, how I write on most days.

Generally, with the way that WE homeschool, we like to use simple and basic copywork to form the hooligans handwriting skills.

That brings us to Zeezok Publishing! These guys have loads of different materials…  Their motto is “It is better to build children than to repair men.” And to that end they have many excellent resources available.

The one that I was sent to review is Presidential Penmanship.

The way Presidential Penmanship works is that it goes through (and you can pick which style of writing to use) and takes the kids through tracing an outline, tracing a shaded line, and eventually copying directly on their own.

The copywork it uses is all quotes from past and present presidents of the United States. Now, there are some really great quotes, all appropriate for the age levels of Grade one to Grade twelve, but for us Canadians, it may not seem so relevant.  This is not something I would choose for my guys at this age, simply because I want them to focus Canadian first.

All in all though, a very good basic copywork program that is easy to print and takes the guesswork out of coming up with work for your hooligans to copy!

See what my other crew mates had to say here.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – Mathscore/Accurate Learning

The beauty of homeschooling is that you can slow things down or speed things up as per the needs of your students.  I love that I can tailor their “lessons”… not move them on until they’ve completely mastered the steps that come before.  (this is tricky with Eph… but that’s a story for another post)

That brings us to Mathscore.  Their motto is Practice Makes Perfect.  I like that!  I’m very weak in the math area (don’t even know my times tables), so it’s especially important to me that the hooligans have a very strong basis in math.  I’m really hoping that they inherited Ja’s calculator brain… it’s a bit soon to tell.

(((as an aside, he really is some kind of freak of nature… you can just throw numbers at him, like ridiculous numbers, and he can do them in his head… often faster than me on a calculator.  crazy.  I should tour him around the world or something.)))

Mathscore has been proven to raise test scores because of its mastery basis. The hooligan in question watches a little lesson on the topic they’re to be doing, can do some practice, and then does worksheets, all online. A little grid pops up so that you can see the number they got right or wrong, and in what amount of time. Handy, really.

MathScore targets grades two through Algebra I, though it can be used by first graders, and certainly can provide drill to older students as well. There are suggestions for topics by grade level, but you (or your student) can choose which topics to work on.

Looking at the Grade 3 topics, there are not only your standard math facts, but also topics such as weight conversion, unit cost, and quadrilateral types, for a total of 57 topics. Grade 6 includes math facts, plus proportions, decimals to fractions, restaurant bills, congruent and similar triangles, batting averages… 86 topics in all. High School includes a total of 69 topics covering basic math facts and algebra I topics such as absolute value, trinomial factoring, applied linear equations, and nonlinear functions.

It’s very simple in the design. No flashy colours or dancing mice… which is probably helpful for easily distracted hooligans (*ahem* EPHRAIM).

I do have to say, while it’s an intriguing little program, Zi got a bit frustrated. If you accidentally hit enter, it pops you out of the worksheet, meaning that you have to start that one over again. That frustrated her a little bit.

They also have a fabulous free trial… Ahhh, how I love free trials! Try before you commit to buy, see if you love it, and if it’s worth it!

MathScore’s pricing starts at $14.95/month (American funds)for the first child and gets significantly cheaper beyond the first child.  With a 9-month commitment, the first child’s price can be locked in at $9.95/month.
A really nice aspect of the pricing is that you can freeze your account (over Christmas break, or while on vacation) and activate it again when you return, which means you aren’t paying for time that you are not using.

See what my fellow crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – Keyboarding for the Christian School

Ah yes.  It is the digital age… an age requiring pretty much everyone to know where the keys are on ye olde keyboard.

When I learned to type… way back in the age of typewriters (hey, at least they were electric!) the keys were blacked out and we had to listen to this terrible music while a disembodied voice chanted, “quiet aunt zelda, QUIET aunt zelda.” and “willy sits x-ams, WILLY sits exams.”

That bring us to a program that has absolutely no disembodied voices, that is lovely and quiet… a very simple guide to learning how to type accurately and quickly.

Christian Keyboarding has blazed across their front page that they “fill Your Student’s Mind with God’s word Using Typing Skills.”

I’m all about filling my student’s mind with God’s word any chance I can get, that’s for sure!

This is a great basic program that starts with the standard drills we all grew up with (well, except maybe for me…) learning the placement of fingers on the keys, learning the order that the keys go by typing in sequence, and moving on to words, phrases and paragraphs.  You can see some sample pages here.

The Revised edition covers all the essential typing skills, using Scripture verses and text taken from Christian writings to teach skills such as:

  • numbering
  • centering
  • MLA and APA reports
  • works cited
  • bibliography
  • letters
  • proof-reading marks

A nice basic inexpensive program that would give some good guidance to anyone teaching their respective hooligans how to type.

Both versions of Keyboarding for the Christian School are available as e-books upper level is $15.95 and elementary version is $12.95 in American funds.

See what my fellow crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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TOS Review – Tektoma

Ah Video games.  They seem to make the world go round these days, don’t they?  Creative kids will always be coming up with ideas on how a game can be better… what they would do to design one… etc, etc…

Bring in Tektoma.  A company that has designed a way for kids to create their own video games!

Tektoma offers,

•    Engaging video tutorials for ages 7-17
•    Tutorials of varying skill levels and topics
•    Learn at your own pace in the comfort of your home
•    Natural progression helps develop technical skills
•    Customize your learning experience
•    Low monthly membership fee gives access to all our resources
•    New curriculums available monthly

While I do think that this is a great idea, and if you have tech minded hooligans in your home, well worth trying it out for a month or more… or even the free 14 day trial.  That being said, while the age listed is from 7-17, my 7 year old was in way over her head.  The first lesson was much too long for her, and she lost interest very quickly.

Now, her interest doesn’t really lie in the way of creating video games, so I’m sure that that may be part of it.  We will definitely hold onto this site to try when Ephraim is older… although I would wait a few years with him as well, there is no way he could focus for an hour long tutorial.  he needs more instant gratification.

The cost is $14.95 (American Funds) a month
$140 a year will get you you access to all the tutorials as well as online help via the forums.

Free Membership Opportunities:
• Free 14-day trial
• Earn free membership time by telling your friends

• Windows XP or Vista (Mac versions coming in the future)
• Broadband internet connection
• For GameMaker tutorials, you need a copy of GameMaker software installed.(Lite edition is available for free.)

See what my fellow crew members had to say here.

Disclaimer: The only compensation that I received for this review was a free copy of the materials. I will give honest and truthful reviews, and where concern is warranted, it will be noted.

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