The crazy life of the ClarkClan. Living a life of grace through Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 31, 2011

City Creek Press–Times Alive

2x2=4, 3x4=12, 4x5=20, 6x6=36 and over and over the drill goes.  Saying the facts over and over, looking at flash cards, drilling again and again. Memorizing multiplication facts is not the most fun task in the world. City Creek Press knows that drilling math facts can be boring and not very effective.  Their new program Times Alive helps to solve the boring, rote  drill and turn learning multiplication tables into an adventure.

Start the video to watch just how the Times Alive program works.

Musical, colorful and just plain fun is the approach that Times Alive takes to help memorize the multiplication tables.  This program is aimed at elementary age students.

Features of this program include: (taken from City Creek Press website)

  • Students read along while they hear the storyteller.

  • Lively animation makes the number characters come alive.
  • Each story is followed by a music video with a catchy song.
  • Interactive games and fun quizzes engage the student while testing recall.
  • Progress reports summarize date lesson completed, quiz scores, and time elapsed.
  • Students may stop anywhere and resume where they left off. The program remembers.

    Our View of the Program


    • Colorful
    • Catchy songs
    • Different Log-Ins for each child, remembered where they were at.
    • The facts were presented in a slow, easy to understand voice.
    • The  “Excellent” that was said each time a problem was correct. Rebekah and Ben loved the way this was said.


    Ben (9) and Rebekah (7) were the two that used Times Alive. Both of them will tell you they loved the program. I had to set the timer so that they didn’t play for hours. Ben knew most of his multiplication facts and this program helped to cement them into his long term memory. Rebekah had never done multiplication. I am amazed at how many multiplication facts she remembers. Both of them love the stories and songs that go along with each fact. To add to the fun, there are “coloring” sheets that can be completed with just a click of the mouse. I was listening to the stories and songs and some of them did not make sense to me. But, when I sat down with my kids and watched everything fell into place. The stories are presented and the pictures give clues. I worried that they would need the picture clues all the time, but once the facts were learned, they just seemed to be able to spit them out. As I said, Rebekah has done no multiplication, yet when Ben was talking out loud and said “6x6 is …” Rebekah piped up with the answer for him “thirsty-six”. This program seemed a little “spendy” to me, but I feel it is worth it  if you have kids that are having trouble memorizing their multiplication tables. It was just plain fun.


    Times Alive is available from City Creek Press in two forms: An Instant Download, (both Windows PC and Mac available) and a CD-Rom

    $44.95     Times Alive Instant Download

    $48.95     Times Alive Cd-Rom

    City Creek Press also has other Multiplication and Addition resources available. Visit their website by clicking on any link to their name and see what may be of help to your children,

    To get an even bigger picture of the Times Alive program visit the Crew Blog to read what other members of the TOS Review Crew thought about this product.

    As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a download of the Times Alive program for free from City Creek Press in exchange for my honest review of their product.

  • Friday, January 28, 2011



    • Online Math program
    • Grades 3-High School
    • Can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or a supplement
    • Personalized
    • Hints and Video lessons for every core topic


    TenMarks Approach (taken from TenMarks website)

    The TenMarks approach to effective math learning is based on 3 simple principles.

    1. Personalized Learning Makes All the Difference.
    2. On-Demand Instruction Provides Help When You Need it.
    3. Practice Builds Confidence and Improves Achievement.

    See for yourself how TenMarks lets students practice and master math concepts.

    The TenMarks program as We Used It

    We had two students that used the TenMarks program. Sarah is 13 and in Algebra I and Ben is 9 and in the 3rd grade.  TenMarks assigns each student a set of four “worksheets” to complete online. The parent receives an e-mail telling them when the worksheets are assigned and what date the child should complete them.  Different concepts are called “albums”. When your child logs in, they see their home screen. This tells them what “albums”they are working on, what they have completed and what is coming up next. As you scroll down this screen, you can see a visual representation of how much they have completed in the program. 

    TenMarks start page benjamin

    This is Benjamin’s home screen.






    TenMarks Program Completion guy

    The is the visual picture of how much of the program Benjamin has finished.





    Each worksheet is multiple choice and consists of ten problems. The problem is presented. If your child needs help solving the problem they have two options. They can click on the button that says ”Ask for Hints”. Three hints are available for each problem. Another option is they can also watch a video lesson for that problem.  A test is assigned at the completion of each album. The test is timed, but the worksheets are not.

    TenMarks worksheet with hints shown

    This is a worksheet from Benjamin’s program. This shows the problem with a hint open on the side.



    You, the parent, can check the report of how your child is doing with your own log-in. This report will also let you know how many hints your child has used. You can also see a concept strength score. Too many hints used and the concept strength is lowered.  On the parent screen, you can see exactly how your child is doing. There is a quick glance that shows what concepts were worked on and how well the concepts are understood.  If you want more detailed information choose report card which is more in-depth.

    TenMarks Report Card BenjaminThis is a picture of Benjamin’s Report card. The green check marks quickly tell that he knows that concept and the green bar shows his concept strength.


    TenMarks Report Card Sarah

    This is a picture of Sarah’s Report Card. This shows the yellow bar so  I can quickly see where she is having a little bit of trouble.



    There is an option that a parent can set up a reward for their child. The parent picks the reward and how many worksheets will be needed to earn that reward. When the worksheets are completed the parent is then notified with an e-mail that your child has earned the reward. Also your child can “unlock” games when they complete a certain number of worksheets.

    Program Likes

    • Personalized
    • Can rearrange “albums” as needed
    • Practice on any concept, even ones that have been mastered.
    • Reward Zone
    • Games

    Program Dislikes

    • No time limit for games.
    • Everything is multiple choice or true/false.

    Overall Assessment

    I found TenMarks to be an effective program for both of my students. I did notice that Ben breezed through the early worksheets and was slowed down when he hit concepts he was unfamiliar with. While he could watch the videos I sometimes had to explain the problem again. Sarah is doing very well in Algebra with this program. She watches the videos and is understanding the concepts.

    One of my main concerns with the program is that it is multiple choice. I noticed with Ben he sometimes would look at the choices and “narrow” them down and then guess if he was not too sure. I would prefer something that they had to enter the numbers with keyboard to avoid any laziness or guess work on their part.

    The other concern I had was there was no time limit on the games that were earned. While the games did have math concepts involved, I found that some days, when the worksheets were easy, Ben would just sit and play games until I noticed him. If there were a time limit for the games it would eliminate them playing indiscriminately.

    Price Information

    This math program is available online. Visit the  TenMarks website for complete program information and informational videos about the program.

    Pricing Options (per student)

    $10 a month

    $49 for 6 months

    $89 for 12 months

    TenMarks comes with a money back guarantee.

    I was not the only one to review TenMarks. Visit the TOS Crew Blog and read what my crew mates thought of this product.

    As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a 6 month subscription for 2 children for free from TenMarks in exchange for my honest review of their product.


    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    LifeWay Christian Stores

    illustrated bible dictionary for kids



    Target age 5-10


    Full Color

    A Holman Reference Book

    Published by B&H Publishing Group

    Available from

    LifeWay Christian stores

    This Illustrated Bible Dictionary is an amazing book. When I opened this book, my very first impression was WOW! There are 750 Biblical words that are defined and 500 full color photos, illustrations, reconstructions and maps.

    Most Impressive Features for our Family


    One of my biggest pet peeves are Biblical pictures that are drawn as cartoons. I feel this confuses kids and gives the perception that Bible stories are not real.  I was  very, very impressed with the realistic illustrations in this book. They are absolutely beautiful and  true to life.


    The photography in this book is very well done. Each photograph shows exactly what word is being defined.

    Maps and Reconstructions

    There are many different maps included in this dictionary. An  example is the map of Canaan which is included under the definition and explanation for Canaan.  The Reconstructions are very well done. They truly give a glimpse of what a city might have looked like or what the inside of the Holy of Holies is like.

    Illustrated Charts

    Throughout the book there are Illustrated charts. They show things like Insects of the Bible or Musical Instruments of the Bible in depth. These charts add to a person’s Biblical knowledge in a fun, creative way.

    Bible Dicitionary page

    Take a Closer Look

    Want to take a closer look at the Illustrated Bible Dictionary? Click  the picture on the left and it will take you the publisher where you can view a PDF sample of the book.





    Our family found this Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids to be a fun, very well done resource. The age range on this book is 5-10, yet Sarah, who is 13, and even Matthew, who is 17, enjoyed this book as much as Ben (9) and Rebekah (7). The truth be told, I found myself reading this book after the kids went to bed. This is one resource book that I would highly recommend.

    This book is available from LifeWay Christian Stores for $14.99 along with other books such as: Illustrated Study Bible for Kids and Holman Bible Concordance for Children.

    I was not the only one to review this beautiful book. Visit the TOS Crew Blog and read what my Crew Mates thought about this book.

    As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a copy of The Illustrated Bible Dictionary for Kids from LifeWay Christian Stores for free in exchange for my honest review of their product.

    Monday, January 24, 2011

    Stylish Blogger Award


         A very big THANK YOU! to Sister T over at Sister Tipster's Tell'n It. She awarded the “Stylish Blogger Award” to me. Thanks Sister T for thinking of me. Make sure you visit her blog, she tells about a lot of giveaways and freebies you can find as well as reviews for The Old Schoolhouse.

         Here's what I need to do to accept this award and what my nominees will do:

    1. Award this to other bloggers. I  think it is supposed to be 15 bloggers but I am not that brave and am just doing 4.
    2. Tell 7 things about myself. “You might be surprised to know?…”
    3. Make sure I let my nominees know about the award.
    4. And for my  nominees, link back to me here at ClarkClan Craziness.

    And now….. “You might be surprised to know….”

    1. I am 37 years old this week and have been married for 18 years.
    2. I love having a dog and would like at least one more.
    3. I have learned to speak in public, but it still scares me to death .
    4. I love plants, and after years of practice, actually keep them alive now.
    5. I love homeschooling my kids, but even after 9 years and a son graduating this spring, I still wonder if I am doing the right thing. ( Just for the record, my husband, who is sitting beside me says I am.)
    6. I love snowmen, but only like snow if I don’t have to drive in it.
    7. I love pink and purple and anything girly (flowers, hearts, and so on).

    On to the next part of the award:  awarding this to other bloggers. I am fairly new in the blogging world and this is the hardest part for me.

    I am awarding the “Stylish Blogger Award” to

    1. Vickie at Tumbleweed News. Fun blog of reviews and life homeschooling many kids and grandkids.
    2. Lisa at Lisa's Lighthearted Library my sister the Librarian, maybe now she will update her fun blog of library and research tips.
    3. Denise at Light Liberty and Learning. I love the style of Denise’s blog, and I like to read her well thought out reviews.
    4. Jimi Ann at Path of Life Home and School Beautiful pictures and wise words are the mainstay of this blog.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Yeah! Packers

    We have one very happy family tonight. Why?

    The Packers are going to the Superbowl!

    My husband is from Wisconsin. He has been a Packers fan all his life. I wish he could be back in Wisconsin to watch the game with his family. But , Idaho is a long way away from Wisconsin. That is Air Force life for you.

    We have visited  WI during football season. They LOVE their Packers. We have seen green and gold snowmen, green and gold bagels, almost anything you can think of and someone in WI has turned it green and gold.  So I wish there was a way I could take my husband back to his home state and just be there for the ambiance surrounding this sports occasion.

    I love you honey!

    GO Pack GO!

    Friday, January 21, 2011


    Online Spanish Language learning videos.
    Target age range 2-10
    Features songs, animations, and puppets
    Real Spanish children in real Spanish speaking countries
    Activity sheets
    $7.50 per month through PayPal

    Standout Features for our Family
    • Repetitive – Each video follows the same format
    • Catchy, Easy to Sing Songs
    • Cute puppets
    • Can watch either on the computer or through the Nintendo Wii
    • Closed Captioning available
    • Multiple Activity sheets available with each video
    • Engaging kids, fun to watch
    • Easy to use, Log in and you are ready to learn

    Ben’s Observations:
         I really liked when Speekee sang and played the saxophone. My favorite was Lupi and Dino. I liked that I learned to speak a bit of Spanish.
    Speekee dino and Lupi

    Rebekah”s Observations
    I liked the songs for everything. I liked when Speekee asked “Que hay en la bolsa?” I really liked it when he had a plastic ice cream cone in the bag. I liked learning to speak Spanish.
    Speekee bolsa

    Mom’s Observations:
         To be perfectly honest, when I watched Speekee for the first time by myself to see what the program was all about, I wasn’t sure how my kids would like it.  They have come to LOVE Speekee. I think it helps that my kids like both music and puppets. Rebekah (7) is a puppet fanatic right now, so Speekee is right up her alley. She has been fascinated from the first episode, both with learning the language and with speculations on what type of puppet Speekee is.
           We have watched some episodes more than once or twice, learning more each time. I am really surprised at how Ben (9) and Rebekah have both picked up on the Spanish language taught in these videos. They use it with each other, they use it with me and they try to teach their older brother and sister what they are learning. It is so much fun when Ben comes up to me and asks “May I have a manzana, por favor” (apple, please) and when I answer “Si” (yes) I get a cheery “Gracias!” (thank you) to which I reply “De nada”  (you’re welcome) . They have also picked up on a little bit of Spanish culture in that they try to greet me and each other with a kiss on each cheek.
         I think it is hilarious to watch Ben and Rebekah while they are watching Speekee. They giggle and laugh at funny things like him playing the saxophone and eating fake food. At the end of each episode Speekee has something in his “la bolsa” (bag) and they try to guess what it will be. 
    Speekee screenshot
         It helped me that Speekee has closed captioning. I took Spanish in high school and college. I do not speak it, but being able to read the captions really brought back some things I learned, which I then could use when speaking with Ben and Rebekah. 
         I realize that Speekee is a program based out of Great Britain. As such, I was a little concerned about the accent. I had visions of my American kids learning to speak Spanish with a British accent. But after using the videos I realized I do not need to  worry about the accent. The Speekee website states that the videos are filmed in Spain with real Spanish speaking children. So if they learn any accent it would be a proper accent from Espana.  Also, when I was taught Spanish, I was told it was Latin American Spanish. This program is based in Spain. After some thought, I realized that my children learning Spanish as it is spoken in Spain, is no different than when I lived in England. I could understand the language with just a few words with different meanings or usages that had to be quickly explained. I did not find it to be a big problem and found it fun to learn about a culture a little different from my own. Anyway, the Spanish taught on the ten Speekee videos is basic so I do not feel this is an issue.
         The only thing we found that we did not like: THERE ARE ONLY TEN VIDEOS.  Ben and Rebekah both wanted to watch more.
         As skeptical as I was when I first watched, I found we really enjoyed these videos. This was a great introduction into speaking Spanish.  This is a fabulous family learning program as all ages and ability levels can watch and learn together.
         Visit the Speekee website to learn more about the program and to sign up for the online version.  There is a DVD set available, but the DVD’s are in the PAL (European) format and they will only work on a DVD player that will play both PAL and NTSC (American) format.
         Don't forget to visit the Crew Blog  and read what my crewmates thought about Speekee.
    As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a two month subscription to Speekee for free in exchange for my honest review of their product.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Working Memories

         The topic for this week’s Blog Cruise is “How do you juggle working either in the home or outside the home and homeschooling?” Make sure and visit the Blog Cruise site and read how others juggle this hard topic.

         At the present time, I am not working a job outside of being a homeschooling mom.  But this has been the first year in about 12 years that I have not had a paying job.   This topic has really brought back memories of the past 12 years and some introspective thoughts about them.

          When I first started homeschooling, I was working as our church janitor. This was a very easy job to incorporate into our homeschooling. It simply involved cleaning the church once a week on either Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Since I had been doing this job for a few years before starting to homeschool, we continued as we always did. I have to say that, as unglamorous as this job was , I enjoyed it.  I could go in on my own time and I could take my family with me.  My kids learned early how to vacuum, dust pews, dump trash and clean bathrooms.  Because of this job, my kids were very comfortable at church, as well as being very conscious of the mess they made. They knew if they dropped crumbs while eating cookies on Sunday, they would be vacuuming up those same crumbs on Friday.

         I had to quit the janitor job when my husband was transferred to another state. About 3 months after we had moved our Pastor called and asked if I could come see him. He said they had noticed that I knew how to use the computer and would I be interested in being an assistant secretary. The duty that my husband had at this base involved him going into the field for four days at a time and then he would be home for about five days. The secretary at the church only needed help about one week a month to get out the newsletter. I was able to schedule when I went into work around my husbands off time. So for about one week a month, Dad would be home doing school with the two oldest and taking care of the two youngest. 

         This job worked out well for about 3 1/2 years. Then my husband was moved out of the field and into an office job. This made my working harder on me.  The church was wonderful and would let me bring my kids and the two older ones would do their schoolwork and the two younger ones would go the the daycare at the church.  I eventually found that it was too hard to be gone for a week or more throughout the month.

         I ended up quitting my job as secretary and getting an evening/weekend job at Bath and Body Works in the mall.  This job was totally different for me. I had never worked retail and was pretty worried about talking to customers and terrified of using the cash register.  But I quickly learned.

         This retail job was harder than any of the other ones to do while homeschooling. While the hours I worked were outside of “school” hours, I found I was pretty frazzled.  My husband was wonderful. He would cook dinner and take care of the kids in the evening. Most nights he would drive me to work and pick me up just so we could have some time together on those days. One of the hardest aspects of this job for me was that I would work until 10:00pm or later, then have to get up with the kids in the morning and be functional to teach them. It was also hard when I would work both Sat. and Sunday afternoon/evenings and had no time to prepare school for the week and no real down time.

         So now we have moved to a new base about a year and half ago. I do not have a job here. I have mixed feelings about this. I really enjoy not being rushed or frazzled trying to get things done before I have to go to work. I do not miss the drama that happens at some workplaces.  But, I do miss the extra money that my job brought in. I miss being able to afford piano lessons or art lessons for the kids. We don’t do as many trips to places like the children’s museum.   But when it really comes down to it, God has been very gracious and has supplied all that we need. We do not have an overabundance, but we do have each other and time together during my two oldest kids teen years.   

    Saturday, January 15, 2011

    Cooking Lessons

         The other day I decided to have Ben (9) and Rebekah (7) put dinner into the crockpot around noon. It really got me thinking back to one thing I know I said when we started homeschooling and what I still hear from people who are just beginning to homeschool. The phrase “We can just do cooking for math!”   I laugh inside when I hear this as over the past nine years, yes we have used cooking, but no great math curriculum has centered around the kitchen. But, I was thinking of all the other “lessons” that are learned while cooking.

          Reading:  Reading skills can be enhanced through the reading of a recipe. I insist that the recipe be read through completely before we start making anything.

        Listening and Following Directions: Listening to mom in the kitchen is very important. Listening to explanations of how to follow the recipe that was read. You have to listen to instructions on how to beat an egg, or turn on the mixer, Following directions is very important while cooking

         Obedience: This skill is of great importance while cooking.  Our rule is: if you do not obey, you are done for the day. There are no second chances. I insist on this rule because of safety. Kitchen tools can be very sharp, stoves can be hot,and  recipes can be ruined because of disobedience.

         Cooperation: The skill of cooperation is really tested in the kitchen. Seeing your brother or sister do a cooking job you want to do, or having to share that job involves a lot of give and take.  It may mean, I open this can and you open that one. Sometimes we do things like “we need two cups of water, Ben you measure and pour one cup and then Rebekah will.’

         Pride: My kids take great pride in a job well done. They love to serve what they have made. And the rest of the family gives praise for a job well done.

         Ability to accept Constructive Criticism:  Some recipes work out better than others. At these times it is important to have the ability to listen to some criticism and be able to correct it for the next time. Maybe it means not making something again, or maybe it means changing things to suit our tastes.

         Creativity: I think constructive criticism leads to creativity in the kitchen. Creativity comes when you change a recipe to suit your families tastes. It comes in trying new things, which leads back to being able to take some criticism and trying it again.

         A lot of school happens in our kitchen, but only a tiny fraction of it involves math. There are many, many  wonderful life lessons that take place in the kitchen. And the most fun of all is eating what you have prepared and sharing it with others.

    Friday, January 14, 2011

    Positive Action for Christ

    Life of Christ

    From the Gospel of John

    by Frank Hamrick

    Positive Action for Christ      The Gospel of John is one of the most powerful books of the Bible and the most profound Gospel.  John’s Gospel is evangelistic, which means it causes men to trust God for salvation. Positive Action for Christ has produced a Bible study that captures this profound gospel and opens its powerful truths for high school students to explore.

    Our Experience:

         Sarah (13) and I have enjoyed this bible study tremendously.  We found the student manual to be engaging and easy to use. The information contained within the student manual was fascinating. The real-life pictures and the artwork are beautiful and enhance the lesson being taught.

         I liked that this study of John started out with 3 lessons of Background information . There was an introductory lesson, a lesson on the purpose of John’s gospel and a lesson on the Geographic and Political situation at the time of Christ. This background information formed a solid base on which to study the Gospel.  I was impressed with the amount of Bible study Sarah had to do on her own, before we met together for a Teacher’s lesson.  The teacher’s manual states “…the objective of this study is not just to fill students’ minds with facts, but even more importantly to help them grow in the knowledge of their Savior, we have designed this section to help their minds ponder Him and His teaching.” It then warns that some students may be resistant to this approach, but I found that Sarah was the opposite. She was very enthusiastic and always ready to work on her part of the study and then come together for more information.

         The Life of Christ study can be used in many different settings and the teachers manual accounts for this. There are different options for how to plan out the lessons. They give a three, four, or five day option. But, then it also tells you that you may adapt the study to your particular needs.  We choose the three day option. Sarah would do the student work on one day, the next day we would proceed with the teacher’s lesson and the third day would be a review/quiz. I have to admit it was more review than quiz. With just the two of us, I could tell when she was understanding the information and when she needed more explanation, so I usually would just scan the quiz and ask her questions for review orally. I can see where the quizzes would come in handy in a school or Bible class type setting though. This particular study is designed for 9th –12th grades, although the company said it has been used as low as 7th. 

         The resources included in this study were very well done. The student manual is a 277 page consumable textbook. As stated earlier, the pictures and art are amazing. There are eight maps included in the appendix of both the student manual and the teacher manual. Also, included is a timeline of Christ’s life, a timeline of Christ’s last day on earth, a Jewish calendar, and a clock showing: modern time, Jewish time and Roman time (used by John) . The instructors manual is well thought out and easy to use. Each lesson covers lesson objectives and notes to help with teaching your student(s). Your student will take notes in their student manual while you are covering the information. You do not have to be a brilliant Bible scholar to teach this course, the teachers manual gives you all the information you need. Also included with each lesson is a smaller copy of the student manual lesson complete with answers to all the questions.   Included with the teachers manual is a DVD with  transparencies that enhance the teacher presentations. Sarah and I were able to sit with my laptop and look at the transparencies for each lesson while I was teaching it.


    Life of Christ Student manual


    Life of Christ Student manual (outline only edition)


    Life of Christ Teachers Manual (includes transparencies DVD)


    Life of Christ Teachers Manual on DVD


    Deluxe Presentation DVD


    Overhead Transparencies


    Positive Action for Christ also produces products for Kindergarten through Adults. Visit the Positive Action for Christ website to see the many studies available.


         I would highly recommend The Life of Christ. Sarah and I thoroughly enjoy learning with this study. We both look forward to our times together to see what comes next. In our families budget, this product is more than I would usually spend. That being said, after using this study I feel it is well worth the cost and will finish the study and consider buying another that they offer.

    I was not the only one to review this study. Visit the Crew Blog to read what my Crew Mates thought about this study.

    As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew received a Life of Christ Student and Teachers manual for free in exchange for my honest review of their product.

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Virtual Nerd

         When strangers hear that I homeschool my high school age children, there are usually two comments that follow. The first is “What about sports?” and the second is “I would never be able to teach upper level math!”  The sports answer I will save for now, but the math, well that is easier to answer. One way that I am able to help my kids through math is finding resources to help them. One of those resources is:

    Virtual nerd banner

    This description is taken from the Virtual Nerd website.

    Have algebra questions? Do you dread physics? Virtual Nerd offers interactive tutorials for students in grades 7-12. Whatever you're working on, algebra functions or solving inequalities to complex concepts in physics, Virtual Nerd complements classroom and private tutoring instruction. Our compelling video tutorials are designed to give students fundamental understanding of math and science concepts, not just easy answers. Built on a patent-pending e-learning platform, Virtual Nerd lets students take control of how they learn.

         Virtual Nerd is not a stand-alone math or science curriculum. It is a web site where you can get math or science help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when you need it.  Virtual Nerd videos are dynamic, easy to use, engaging, and very understandable.  There are videos available for Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Intro to Physics. More subjects are planned, such as Chemistry, Pre-Calculus and Calculus.

         We primarily used it for Sarah who is doing Algebra I this year. She was able to go to the Virtual Nerd web site, use their dynamic search and find the video that could help her with the question she was having. The search feature on this site is very good. You are able to easily narrow down your search from a broad topic to the exact one you are looking for. The screenshot below shows you how this works. This screen shot shows how to use a Topic search. You may also use a Keyword search or a Textbook search. They have taken the most popular textbooks used in public schools and allow you to search for a tutorial video based on what lesson you are doing in the book.

    Virtual Nerd search screen

         Sarah found the videos to be engaging, never dull. We primarily used the Algebra videos and found the woman presenter to have a great, clear voice with lots of inflection. The screen that the videos are presented on has three parts to it. There is the main picture with the presenter standing in front of a white board, talking and writing as the problem is solved. Along the right hand side there is a section called diagram which gives you a computerized version of what is being handwritten on the screen. The lower part of the right hand side is every step needed to accomplish the problem. These steps are highlighted as each one is done by the presenter. A (still) example of the video is shown below.

    Virtual nerd solving equation screen

         When the problem has been solved the screen then gives you options on where to go next. If you need more help, or need another concept explained this can point you in the right direction. Sarah found this feature to be  helpful.

    Virtual Nerd What comes next screen

    There are multiple pricing options for Virtual Nerd. You can choose from a day, a week, a month, or three month option. I like the flexibility that these choices give you.

    The rates are as follows:

    1 Day:  $5.00 one-time fee

    1 Week: $19 one-time fee

    1 Month: $49 recurring fee

    3 Month: $129 one-time fee

         In answer to the “I would never be able to teach upper level math” statement, I  say  “I don’t need to, I just need to be able to find the resources that can help!”

         Check out the Virtual Nerd website for more information. Or visit the Virtual Nerd Fact sheet. and read in depth about the website. We have truly enjoyed using this site and will turn to it for answers to the tough math questions.

         I am not the only one to review the Virtual Nerd site. Visit the Crew Blog and read what my Crew Mates thought about this product.

    As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew received about 6 weeks of access to the Virtual Nerd website for free in exchange for my honest review of their product.

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Blog Cruise: Following a Schedule

    This week the topic for the Blog Cruise is: Do you follow a traditional school day/time/schedule/year? As I took a month off from blogging, I decided that writing about this topic would be a good way to ease myself back into the habit of blogging.  Visit the Blog Cruise to read how other Crew members schedule their school. I am sure no two will be alike.

         We have been homeschooling for 9 years now. And for 9 years I have had the dream to school throughout the summer. For 9 years it has never happened as I have planned it. I have decided to give up the idealized dream that I will be able to school through the summer and just plan to take a summer break.  There are many different reasons why it has never worked out, sometimes we have taken vacation, sometimes I have worked an outside job in the summer and sometimes we have moved. 

         So this year we are following more of a public school “schedule”. I have to say I am following it rather loosely. We started about a week before the public school in our town started. We have taken Federal Holidays off, because my husband gets those off, and to “do school” when dad has the day off never works out. Around Thanksgiving we worked Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. We left for a Christmas vacation early in December. I did pack some schoolwork and we did a modified schedule while on vacation for a week. Then took two weeks off for Christmas and then again did a modified schedule for the last week of our  vacation. Now we are back in the swing of things and plan to take a Spring break in March, for another trip, and then finish up the beginning of June.

         Since I have my kids work until they finish a book or program we usually just pick up with the same work after a break, unless a new book is needed. This means that they may need a new math or science book in the middle of the year. It seems to work well for our family. The only thing my kids find confusing is when people ask what grade they are in. They never seem to know, because they work at whatever level they need. So, I have begun telling each child, “Say, you are in ____ grade, if you are asked.” This works better than having your 9 year old get a worried look and immediately turn to you to answer for them when a clerk in a store or an acquaintance asks them this inevitable question.

         As for a daily schedule I do not necessarily follow a public school schedule, but I do make up my own schedule so we stay on track during the day. After having three kids that were able to just go with the flow and do things as I asked, I never really had a set schedule. Then my youngest started school a few years ago and that whole “no set schedule” thing went out the window. She just could not function. I had tears and fights and fits everyday. So I re-evaluated, and came up with a daily set schedule. I use this schedule for both Rebekah (7) and Ben (9) and it works very well. For Sarah (13),  I still will give her a list of subjects that need to be done and she will accomplish it. I just add in time to my schedule with Ben and Rebekah to work with Sarah. Matthew(17) is very independent. He works on his own and just e-mails me all his answers and papers.

         So I guess in a nutshell I just end up “doing my own thing”. I have some basics I follow, but can change them when needed. I have not had the experience of living in a state that required a lot of documentation for homeschoolers. For New Mexico and Montana, just sending in a form with your child’s name and grade was required and here in Idaho nothing is required, so I have been able to make my own plans as I see fit for each of my children.

    Friday, January 7, 2011


         See-N-Read® Reading tools are handy little devices that help struggling readers of all ages to focus better. The idea for this reading tool was originally developed by Dr. Sylvia R. Smith to help her youngest daughter overcome some early reading difficulties. The See-N-Read reading tools came into being years later as Dr. Smith’s oldest daughter was a teacher and asked her mother to make some of these tools to use in her classroom. The products I received are tools that have been thoroughly researched and developed to help everyone discover the joy of reading.

         The See-N-Read company describes the tool as:

    See-N-Read's clear reading window (ReadBar™) is surrounded by a non-glare tinted transparent finish, allowing readers to see text in "chunks" instead of as individual words. This controlled visibility helps readers to focus on the information being read in the clear ReadBar™ while simultaneously tracking ahead to upcoming information using peripheral vision (or reviewing prior information while keeping their place by glancing from the ReadBar™ to the above tinted area of the See-N-Read®). Unlike opaque tracking devices, See-N-Read® enables smooth line-to-line transitions without stopping. "Chunks" of information remain visible without distracting the reader from the current text, thus improving fluency and comprehension.

    Visit the See-N-Read Reading Tools website by clicking on the banner below to read all the product specifications and research behind the products. It is very interesting and informative.


    There are multiple See-N-Read reading tools. They include:

    snr_book_size See-N-Read® Reading Tools - Book Size

    1-pack -  $2.99

    For multiple pricing  go to See-N-Read® Reading Tools



    See-N-Read® Reading Tools - Document Size

    1- pack – $3.49

    For multiple pricing  go to See-N-Read® Reading Tools


    See n read memory mark

    See-N-Read® MemoryMark™ - Book size

    1-pack – $2.99

    For multiple pricing go to See-N-Read® MemoryMark™ Reading Tools


    See n read memory mark document size

    See-N-Read® MemoryMark™ - Document size

    1-pack –$2.99

    For multiple pricing go to See-N-Read® MemoryMark™ Reading Tools


    see n read e version

    eSee-N-Read™ electronic Reading and Instruction Tool for PCs


    For system requirements go to eSee-N-Read™ electronic Reading and Instruction Tool for PCs


    What We Thought:


         For my daughter Rebekah, who is 7, the See-N-Read tools were a help to her reading. She reads well, but struggles to keep from skipping lines when reading chapter books. I would have her read a page to me without the See-N-Read and then a page with the See-N-Read.  Her reading ability was greatly enhanced when she used the tool. She read more fluently and did not skip lines, ever. I liked that the tool was extremely easy to use. Just place it on the page and she was off and reading.

         I did find that if your child has no reading difficulties the product can be a bit cumbersome. Ben, who is 9, wanted to use it and then found that it slowed his reading down.

         For the eSee-N-Read I was the one that primarily used it.  I found it to be helpful for applications that involved reading a large amount of text on the screen.  When reading long blog posts, or eBooks on my computer, I really liked the way it kept my place.  I liked that the eSee-N-Read was very user friendly and easy to adapt to my preferences.  I could change the size of the ReadBar, I could make the tool larger or smaller depending on what  I needed to read.

          There are many different applications where this tool would be very useful. My husband is taking college classes on-line. He uses a two monitor set up and this tool is very effective in keeping his place on one monitor with his research material while he looks at the other monitor to type his papers. It saves time by keeping his place on the screen so he does not have to search for where he was reading last.

         I also used the eSee-N-Read to help Ben and Rebekah focus on the computer screen.  There are some studies where we look up vocabulary on the internet and they copy the work and meaning. The eSee-N-Read was extremely helpful to focus their attention exactly where I wanted it.

        I was also the one to use the Memory Mark tool.  I primarily used it with my bible to be able to quickly and easily underline verses. I liked that that  it was easy to store in my bible, like a bookmark and that my underlining was straight and even. I liked it so much  I am planning on getting a few for my son who will be starting college soon and for my husband for his studies now.

    Don’t forget to visit  The Old Schoolhouse Crew Blog and read what others thought about the See-N-Read products.

    As part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a packet of three See-N-Read reading tools and a trial version of the eSee-N-Read for free in exchange for my using and reviewing their products. The opinions expressed are my honest review of the products received.