A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers

A Blog Devoted to Encouraging Homeschooling Mothers
The Burts in 2013

Friday, February 25, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ Math Rider

Math Rider is a computer math game aimed at helping children of all ages master addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts with ease. Math Rider is compatible with Windows, MAC, and Linux operating systems (it uses Adobe AIR runtime). The game can be played by several users on the same computer, with each user creating their own rider and completing their own adventures. Math Rider is not a multi player game, however. Each student works on his or her own, one rider at a time. When the student is actually playing the game, Math Rider uses it's "intelligence" to determine what the student needs to work on and adjust the facts accordingly. Mastery is the end goal with this program, and this is one of the ways they ensure mastery actually happens for every student.

The game takes place in the imaginary land of "Ray". As the student rides the horse (named Shadow) on quests throughout the land, they can find gems and rescue princesses, etc. The story line contains some mystical/magical content, and each family should examine the program to ensure it fits with their worldview. A student could complete a quest in one sitting,or take several days to work through a quest. It's totally up to the child and the parents. I felt that the visible progress on the map was a creative and unique motivator for student's using Math Rider. (See map image below):

Parents can choose addition, subtraction, multiplication or division for their child to work on. This allows younger students to use the Math Rider program; many math facts programs only focus on division and I appreciate that Math Rider covers all 4 fact groups. Student's can practice their "problem areas" and since the game is very easy to use, a busy homeschool Mom can assign Math Rider, go on to do schoolwork with her other children, and check student progress with a mere glance. Easy grading - very, very important to me!

I had 3 of my daughters use this program in order to obtain a thorough understanding of Math Rider for this review. Here is what my 8th grade daughter thought had to say:

"I really like the quests. As your progress to harder levels, the map zooms out and gets larger. They aren't short quests and it isn't a boring game to play, like some math games can be. It stops you when you miss a problem and it is good to know which facts you need to work on. It also lets you know the percentage of problems you have finished, so you always know how much you've learned and how much more you need to learn."

My 7th grade daughter said:

"My favorite part of this game is the story that goes along with learning the facts. The levels are laid out nicely and being able to choose my own difficulty level was awesome! I wish I had used Math Rider when I was younger, it would have kept me very interested in working hard so that I could finish the quest."

The primary user of this software in our family has been my 5th grade daughter. She likes the quests very much and the challenge presented by the timing of the horse's "jumps" when solving math facts. And she like the option to choose which problems to practice. This is a very nice feature, especially for homeschool families with younger children who need plenty of facts practice.

She also said:

"Some other math programs just give me the facts to drill. This one has a story along with the problems. I like working on my quest better than just answering math problems. It's like the characters are part of a story and I get to learn more about the story when I work on my math facts. It's one of my favorite things to do for school."

As you can tell, I didn't have any complaints from my kids about using Math Rider! I have been very happy with this program and recommend it for any family desiring to strengthen their children's math fact proficiency.

If you would like to learn more about Math Rider, please visit their website at The cost of the game is $37 - quite a value considering all the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts are covered. It's simple to order online at their website, and you get instant access to the program.

As always, let me state that I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

Happy Questing Everyone!

Day 80 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Friday, February 18, 2011

KID SCOOP Review ~ TOS Crew

If you are looking for a fun yet educational product to use in your homeschool that is also cross-curricular, KID SCOOP could be just what you need! KID SCOOP consists of an online program and a "hands-on" product called "The Reluctant Reader Solution". And while I can't say I have any reluctant readers, I can tell you that this product contains all the necessary ingredients to help a non-reader become an avid reader. (I think of the process in Star Wars terms ~ the reluctant reader begins to enjoy reading and turns from the Dark Side...)

There are 3 key components offered by KID SCOOP:

1. FREE ~ By visiting the website you can sign up for 30 days of "Make Reading Fun" and a tip-of-the-day.
2. "The Reluctant Reader Solution Download" ~ This product is basically a series of e-books contained in a zip drive (takes up minimal room on your PC or laptop). You receive and email link to download the product and a link with instructions; the link expires 48 hours after purchase and each purchaser receives a new link.
3. "The Reluctant Reader Solution Online" ~ This is best described as an online newspaper for kids.

Our family especially enjoyed reviewing KID SCOOP since our 5th grade daughter has recently become fascinated with creating her own daily paper. She enjoys exploring the website ( and reading the online newspapers. Overall it has enhanced her interest in the newspaper business, and as a homeschooling mother I LOVE products that increase interest (since an increase in interest = an increase in learning).

The downloads are down right terrific. I have incorporated several of them in our daily lesson plans (with ease, might I say). And I fully intend to continue using "The Reluctant Reader Solution" e-books. They contain enough "fun-n-games" to keep my 5th grader intrigued, but they are jam-packed with information. I consider the e-books to be an all-around excellent product for a homeschool family.

A sampling of the subject matter covered includes: Orca whales, teasing, immunizations, working with clay, nutrition labels, Valentine's Day, and Tom Sawyer. As you can see, KID SCOOP offers a wide variety of reading material. If you happen to have a reluctant reader in your home, and you were looking for a curriculum that would inspire said student while enhancing your current studies, you just found it. There is enough content in each volume of KID SCOOP to generate reading interest and expand the student's understanding of the given topic, but not so much as to seem filled with "busy work". (I've said it before and it bears repeating - I am NOT a fan of busy work...why take the time to create a curriculum and then fill it with twaddle?)

Not only can homeschool families utilize this curriculum throughout the course of the school year, they can also be printed out and taken along on long car rides during summer vacations. They contain puzzles and activity sheets that are educational but also fun. I know we will take some along when we drive to Florida this coming May :)

I've written quite a bit about the downloadable portion of what KID SCOOP has to offer, but don't think for a minute that the website doesn't have just as much to offer the homeschooling family! There are themed weekly topics, a weekly writing corner, instant lessons, ways to incorporate your local newspaper into your daily learning, a lesson library, and a nifty feature known as the "Webliography". (Is your interest piqued?? Go to to see more!)

While I received this product free of charge for review purposes, it's a quality product that I would be pleased to spend my homeschool dollars on. Prices vary depending on what is purchased, but you can buy individual download editions for $2.99 and entire e-books sell for $14.99. They accept PayPal and major credit cards via PayPal and once your purchase is complete you receive and email containing the link to your product.

Below is an image to give you an idea of how the e-books look on your PC:


I recommend this company's curriculum if you happen to have a reluctant reader who needs his or her interest sparked. You are sure to find topics to draw your child in, and who knows, your reluctant reader could quickly become your bookworm!

Happy reading everyone :)

Day 79 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Can I Take A Sick Day if I Claim to Have Spring Fever??

I've realized that my life has been so busy as of late that I haven't had any time at all to do one of my favorite things ~ ~ ~ which is attempting to encourage other homeschooling mothers via this little blog!!

And while I haven't suddenly unearthed an unfathomable amount of the precious commodity TIME I have discovered that giving myself a short break in order to blog is allowed even in the midst of my busy busy busy life.

So this post isn't typical for me. It's probably not meant to encouraging anyone else as much as it is to give myself a little boost! After all, I have begun to feel a bit weary and God's Word says not to grow weary in well-doing so that I might reap a harvest in due time if I don't give up. One of the ways I keep myself from caving into weariness is by reminding myself of God's promises from His Word. And one of the best places I've found declare God's Truth is right here in Blogger-Land.

I am ready for spring; I am ready for spring break; I am ready for our family vacation; I am ready for the busy-busy-busy pace of life to s-l-o-w w-a-y d-o-w-n. Of all the things I am ready for right now, above all I am ready to know my Savior better. Spring is powerful and emotional for us as human beings because we experience winter. The springtime of our souls is longed for because winter takes places spiritually, not just seasonally. Spring will reveal what grew in me over the winter months. I am ready to see what the Lord would like to reveal to me as spring approaches. And remembering that spring is on it's way spurs me on toward love and good deeds, even as winter tries to hang on just a little longer.

I guess I don't need to take a sick day, even if spring fever has taken a hold of me. I think I just need to hold on to what I know best, as it is revealed to me in God's sixty-six beautiful books. The only thing I really only need to be ready to depend more on Jesus. The rest is all just fluff anyway, and what I need as a homeschool mom is what's real. Forget the fluff - in essence, that's the same as gathering lint from the dryer in the hopes it will make me a millionaire. It's not valuable; it's highly flammable, just like anything I long for that doesn't advance God's purposes and bring Him glory.

As I get ready to say good-bye to winter and prepare to move into spring, may I remember to spend even my busiest of days loving Jesus more than I did the day before.

Day 78 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Monday, February 7, 2011

TOS Crew Product Review ~ 300 Most Common SAT* Words by VocabAhead

VocabAhead's softcover book entitled "SAT* Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3S" claims to be "the entertaining and effortless vocabulary building solution" on it's cover. I'd say that description is pretty accurate.

The book has an appealing layout - a nice flow from start to finish. Sometimes a book can be intimidating to use based solely on it's layout. VocabAhead has created a product that is fun and easy to use. My 16-year-old daughter says the book is "not at all overwhelming". Visual learners are provided plenty of pictures, which help with vocabulary recall. The humor incorporated throughout the book also makes it easier to remember the vocabulary words.

The authors haven't given users an exact lesson plan for using "SAT* Vocabulary" per se; rather they have laid out the words in groupings of ten (called "Units") and each Unit is followed by a "Review" that tests the student's retention of the vocabulary words from that Unit. My 10th grade and 8th grade daughters have been using this book simulataneously, each of them working at their own pace. Often one will learn an entire Unit (10 vocab words) in one day and take the Review quiz the next day to check retention. The other daughter might work on a different Unit at the same time, spreading the words out over two days and completing the Review on the third day. This resource lends itself well to either method and could be adapted for use in many other ways.

While neither of my daughters has completed the book, they have both consistently scored 100% on their Reviews. My 10th grader was especially pleased with her level of retention; she is an aspiring writer and enjoys expanding her vocabulary to further that end more than for future SAT scores! This is a good book for writers and if you have a child who truly enjoys the creative writing process, I would recommend "SAT* Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3S" as a handbook of sorts. I have also found it useful as a challenging list of spelling words. Two of my children have some difficulty with spelling and phonics rules have not helped them much. Their spelling is improved primarily by the see-say-spell method. While this book is not intended to be a spelling program, I have been using it to broaden spelling skills in our homeschool.

My 8th grade daughter really likes the example sentences that use each word in a grammatically correct fashion. She feels as if this aids her with her grammar assignments. She also commented that each Review uses both Fill-in-the-Blank and Matching sections; she feels more certain that she has really learned the words' meanings when she does well on both portions of the Review.

An answer key for the Reviews is in the back of the book, along with an Index, so don't worry that you will have to learn all the words in order to grade the Reviews! And here's a nice "bonus" - the purchase of the book entitles you to free downloads of vocabulary videos and MP3S of the SAT level words in the book. This is a real plus! A student can use their IPod to listen to the MP3S or watch the videos. A great resource of multi-faceted learning that truly accommodates all learning styles.

And one of the coolest features of VocabAhead's "SAT Vocabulary" ~ 10% of all profits from book sales are donated to non-profits providing educational helps in under-developed countries. That is a very appealing sales draw to me personally! I LOVE soliciting companies that have a "give-back" attitude :)

If you would like to see for yourself how "SAT* Vocabulary" works, visit their website to watch sample videos and to subscribe to their "Word of the Day" email to have a vocabulary video delivered to your inbox daily. At the website you can also check out the "Study Room" - a free feature that aids in mastering vocabulary words used in the most common standardized tests.

While I received this product free of charge for review purposes, you can purchase it at for $12.95. See the "Product" page at to find a direct link to this product at Amazon.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review of "SAT* Vocabulary: Cartoons, Videos & MP3S". Lord bless your homeschool!

Day 77 done :)

Jan L. Burt

*SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board.

Friday, February 4, 2011

TOS Review ~ Roman Town by Dig It! Games

Today's review is of a computer learning game that focuses on archaeology and ancient Roman life. It was developed by a professional archaeologist in an attempt to make the study of archaeology fun. Judging by my 7th grade daughter's reaction to Roman Town, I'd say the goal was achieved!

My daughter is fascinated with ancient history - primarily that of Ancient Egypt. The reason she enjoys learning about Ancient Egypt is because she loves archaeology. So much so that when she hears of a new archaeologcial find she laments that it wasn't her doing the finding! Having access to Roman Town by Dig It! Games has been more fun than school work for her!

The game Roman Town comes with a downloadable Educator's Manual, which makes use of the game easy for moms and kids. While the game is fun, it's also very educational. We learned quite a bit about archaeology, which is impressive when you consider that it's a topic we're well acquainted with in our homeschool. It was also a nice change for me to discuss some of Ancient Rome's history in lieu of Ancient Egypt! Sometimes too much of a good thing can be just plain too much, if you get my drift :)

The geographic location of Roman Town is a site in southern Italy somewhere around Naples, with the historical sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum close by. I like the use of a modern day map combined with historical geographical sites because it ties the present day with ancient history. It also cements the location in the student's mind to see it on a map - we've all met people who can't locate parts of Europe or Asia on a map and the reality is our world is a whole lot bigger than North America. To rightly relate to the world we live in at this time in history, we need to know where we fit into the whole world and where each part of that world fits into God's plan of redemption. In the Christian homeschool, there is always more being taught than academics and I appreciate that Dig It! Games lends itself easily to our family's bigger educational goals.

The player (or should I say learner?) is an excavator at a dig site. There are 6 dig sites in Roman Town and each site is like it's own mini-game. The player can choose the type of tool they would like to use at the dig site. Using 2D and 3D reconstruction, memory games, modern versus ancient comparisons and much more, Roman Town teaches Roman history along with archaeology.

Language and spelling skills are strengthened as new vocabulary words are learned - this is by no means a language arts program but a mom could easily incorporate the vocabulary from Roman Town in writing and spelling assignments.

Now lest you think that only my 7th grade daughter who has a keen interest in archaeology enjoyed this computer program, my 8th grade daughter and 5th grade daughter also played Roman Town. They liked the dig sites and the challenge of completing each level and learned more about Ancient Rome than they knew previously. It's truly a fun learning game for children of all ages.

The layout is very thorough and it is evident that a whole lot of consideration, attention to detail, and hard work went into the creation of this product. The creator's passion for her subject matter is clearly seen in the game itself as well as in the end result. And homeschool moms know that a passionate teacher makes the subject matter come alive - which is exactly what occurs when learners play on Roman Town.

To learn more about Dig It! Games visit their website at . Roman Town is available for purchase at the company website in CD form for $39.95. The Educator's Manual is available for $19.95. There is also a Teacher's Edition - feel free to suggest it to any public or private school educators you might know who could use this resource in their classroom.

As an aside, let me mention that I received this product free of charge for review purposes.

As a special bonus Dig It! Games has made Roman Town available to blog readers at a 20% discount. To take advantage of this offer use the coupon code BLOG20.

Happy Digging!

Day 76 done :)

Jan L. Burt

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Senseney Music of Wichita, KS

I just wanted to take the time to do a "shout-out" about Senseney Music, where my daughter Lindsay takes piano lessons.

To see Lindsay and her classmate playing at the Wichita Art Museum at Christmastime, see the link below.


We could not be more pleased with Lindsay's progress since she began lessons at Senseney. Her teacher Megan
is absolutely terrific and the staff at Senseney are wonderful to work with. The price is the best deal you will find in the Wichita area (trust me, I've shopped around!). And the personal service we receive from Kathy Fehrmann (music education department manager) is fabulous!

To learn more about Senseney Music, visit their website here:

Or contact Kathy personally at 316/262-1487.

Many of my blog followers don't reside in the Wichita area, but for those of you who are locals, I strongly encourage you to check out Senseney Music for your family's musical education needs.

Enjoy watching Lindsay play via the world wide web!

Day 75 done :)

Jan L. Burt