Monday, August 31, 2009

Maverick Books - Hank the Cowdog

This is one set of products I did not have to beg my son Christopher to try out and use. He eagerly took the products we received and wanted to read the book right away. We received Hank the Cowdog book #8 - The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse by John R. Erickson, Tales and Tunes from Hank the Cowdog and the Tornado game with cassette.

Hank is a cowdog and the head of ranch security. He is a "character" and he gets into a lot of "scrapes." In The Case of the One-Eyed Killer Stud Horse Hank is at it again and gets himself into a lot of hot water but in the end he saves two little girls from Tuerto the Killer Stud Horse.

There are currently 54 Hank the Cowdog books for sale. There are lots of extras on their website also: online games, talk to Hank the Cowdog or the Author, Read Letters to Hank, read a sample Newsletter and sign up for Hank's Security Force.

Click on each picture below to see details of that product from his website.

John Erickson has a snappy writing style that quickly draws your attention and he uses simple everyday language. The books have a "cartoonish" feel to them. The humor and wording reminds me of watching Wile E. Coyote, Sylvester and Tweety or Tom and Jerry.

Some parents would be concerned with some of the items I found in this book. The books have varying degrees of questionable items. In the book we got to review there are numerous times condescending words are used and words that, to some families, would mean the book is not suitable for their kids to listen to or read. Here are a few examples so you can judge if these books are for you. Most of these references are funny in the context of the book but since they may be a concern for some I wanted to alert my readers to them. Here are the words used: darn, a young boy calls his mom "dummy" (but he gets swatted on the butt for it), mom calls Hank the dog "moron", Hank calls his friend Drover "dope", and there are a few other things like this. Also their is a mention of hunting without a license and in a song called "Thank you Lord for making Gals" there are lots of comments that I feel are inappropriate. I would not want my little boy wondering if I think about him in the same way the song suggests. Two lines of the song, "Little boys ain't fit to keep", and "They'll make you cuss and they'll make you growl." This is not a song I would want my little boys (or girls) singing around the house and I don't think it is funny.

The lyrics to the songs are written in the books but what is worse, to me, is the lyrics on the CD's or Tapes are actually sung. There is also a Tales and Tunes CD (which we got to review) and there are two other CD's with just songs on them. To have a tune added just makes it easier for kids to repeat the songs and most of the songs are NOT ones I would want my kids to sing.

We are very particular about what our children read and the music they listen to. We want them reading wholesome books with characters that have good morals, not perfect characters, that would be unreal, but the faults the characters have they try and overcome and better themselves. Although the actual writing is good the content is just not what we would encourage our children to read. We want them listening to Godly music, too.

On the basis of these things, out of five stars we give the books:

Here is the pricing for the books:
Paperback $4.24
Hardback $12.49
Cassette **unabridged** $14.99
1 paperback, 1 audio tape **unabridged** - (SAVE $1.25) $17.99
1 paperback, 1 CD **unabridged** $19.99
CD audio story **unabridged** $17.99

Tales and Tunes CD $3.00

The game, however was a lot of fun. It is for 4 players ages 5 and up. The game is a lot like Trouble except with a spinner instead of a popper for dice and with three characters from the story for each player, instead of 4 colored playing pieces. The rules are very similar. Land on an opponent and send them back to start. Be the first to get all three of your characters home to win the game. It took my kids an hour or more to play, with 4 players, because they kept sending each other back to start.

One of the biggest pluses of the game is that it all comes in a self contained plastic case, the game is the container. You unhook the locking clips, open the game up, take the pieces out, flip the plastic case over and the box becomes the game board. Great for taking on trips!

Hank's Tornado Game $12.99

Out of five stars we give the game:

Read the other reviews my crew mates on the TOS Homeschool Crew wrote by going HERE it will give you some other opinions on these products.

Have a great week,
play a game with your kids,

The Simple Woman's Daybook - August 31, 2009

FOR TODAY... Monday, August 31, 2009

Outside my window... cloudy!!! I thought it was going to be sunny and cooler here today, but I woke late to cloudy skies... I hope it clears up later!

I am thinking... the boys and I need to get going on school because we have a lot to do and I have another review due today that I need to work on.

I am thankful for... cooler weather coming this week, a time to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows

From the learning rooms... Christian Kids Explore Physics (TOS Review Crew), early Renaissance for History, Knight of the White Cross for Historical Fiction reading, Grapevine O.T., Math for each boy, Wordsmith for each boy, Nutrition 101 (TOS Review Crew), College Prep Genius (TOS Review Crew- for Nathan and I to work on), I think that is all, might have missed something.

From the kitchen... ??? I hardly cook at all any more. Because of TOS Homeschool Review stuff and homeschooling the girls took over the kitchen.

I am wearing... black Capri's, pink striped shirt, nothing on my feet

I am creating... blog post for Review of Hank the Cowdog products

I am going... to take Rachel to the Dr. about her thyroid problem tomorrow, out on a date with dh Friday he says, to the Library Mon. and Thurs. night, and to Ladies Bible Study on Friday.

I am reading... only school stuff right now. I was reading The White Company by Sir Arthur Canon Doyle but I did not finish it and it went back to the library. Haven't decided if I am going to get it back out. I have not made time for reading lately... but know I should!

I am hoping... dh will let us get a Wii for Christmas from my Mom as a family gift.

I am hearing... quiet talking... boys downstairs, car noises from outside.

Around the house... cleaning that needs to be done, chores, school, nothing special.

One of my favorite things... Yearly Church Picnic - it was yesterday. My daughters' blog should have some photos posted later today or maybe tomorrow.. they took tons of pictures. It was a day of activity for the young folk and chatting and sitting around for us older folk. Just a relaxing day sitting in our folding chairs in a woody shaded picnic area... a lovely day!!

A few plans for the rest of the week: school, grading, blogging, do my lesson for Ladies Bible Study, backup stuff from my computer to my external drive... lots to do there I have left it go to long; if we have time I would like to work on putting some more of our lapbooks from last year together.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...
In honor of the Movie Week at Homeschool Freebie of the Day (check it out here) I am sharing one of my favorite Schoolhouse Rock videos from You Tube.

The Simple Women's Daybook will start back up Sept. 14th but until then you can still post Summer Daybooks at

Have a great week,

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Web Design for Kids (... and Curious Grown-ups!)

The next item for review for the TOS Homeschool Crew is
click the banner to go to their website...
but make sure and come back...
or after you read my post then click the smaller banner at the bottom.

This DVD is an introduction, the basics you need to learn, if you want to design your own web page. The instruction is easy to understand for kids of all ages, recommended for ages 8 and up, and especially less knowledgeable adults...
like me!! Free Smileys

Brian, the instructor on the DVD made it so simple and nonthreatening. Have you, or your kids, had the desire to make a web page on your own, to begin learning HTML, and looked for online free resources or books from your library and come away with
huge amounts of confusing information Free Smileys or books almost as big as the telephone book, and been more discouraged Free Smileys and perplexed Free Smileys than when you started?

Brian and his student helpers will take you step by step through the beginning code. You will not just have a lesson; but a lesson you can see, hear and copy as you go along. I am a visual learner and this DVD is just like a tutorial, only better. They take you step by step and introduce the code you need little by little.

The best way to view this is on a computer or t.v. with another computer or laptop open to Windows so you can not just listen but do each step in the lesson as you go along. Here is a quote from the website that sums up my feelings.

"The final major barrier had something to do with the "gobedygook" terminology of HTML. I found out that this is probably the main thing that scares away a lot of grown-ups, let alone kids, from learning HTML. The solution was to replace several bits of terminology with Sesame Street language, so that anybody could understand!"

The DVD is approximately 1 hour and 22 minutes long and consists of seven chapters. Some of the subjects covered in the DVD are:

  • Coloring the Background and Letters
  • Making Letters Move Across the Screen
  • Designer Backgrounds
  • Changing Fonts
  • Adding Pictures

One of the best things about this program is that you can build a pretty cool website with only Notepad, Paint, and a couple websites from the Internet. You need nothing but the DVD and things already loaded on your computer.

How we used this:
My son Nathan (15yo) and I put the DVD in my husband's laptop and he sat at my desk with my computer open to Windows, ready to go. We were not sure how it would go but Nathan was ahead of Brian and the kids for most of the basic code in the first chapter of the DVD. In the coloring backgrounds section Nathan pulled up a website, on his own, that he knew about that had the possible colors, with their codes, that can be used on websites. I did not know he knew about that or knew where to find it. One thing Nathan did not know about was the marquee. Making words scroll across a website. He thought that was really cool and got really excited about that part.

Nathan and I did the whole DVD in one sitting. Since Nathan did not need the introductory part about making folders and saving stuff in them it was only about an hour long and did not seem even that long. Ever since he watched that DVD he has been working on a detailed website of his own. He also made a one page website for me to upload and link to here. He wants me to tell you this is not how his final website will look this was just a quick page for me to show on this post.

My son Chrstopher (12 yo) did not want to be in on the review of this product...

he saw the fun Nathan was having!!! Free Smileys

"What are you guys working on?", Christopher asked.
"That Web Design DVD that you did not want to do," I replied.
"Hey that looks cool. I want to try it now."

So, Christopher and I worked on the DVD yesterday. He had as much fun as Nathan, maybe more, because he had less background to start off. He also already knows about making and saving to folders so we did not have to review that part of the DVD.

Christopher also got really excited about the marquee effectFree Smileys especially making it bounce back and forth and go up or down. Brian also makes the kids mess the code up on purpose so they can see what effect mistakes in the code have on the web pages. Christopher loved some of these mess ups!! Having the kids mess up the code on purpose really emphasizes the importance of every letter and symbol in the code and what to watch out for if your code does not work the way it is supposed to.

I am also working on a web page myself. I have had a lot of fun with it over the past day or so. Keep your eyes on my blog for an update about that sometime in September. I want it to be just right!!!

We loved Brian's DVD and plan to buy Volume 2 when it comes out later this year.

Out of 5 stars we give Web Design for Kids...

If you have more questions there is a whole page for FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) here. Including a small clip from the DVD that you can view.

click the banner to go to the website

50% Off
Summer Special!

(Limited time only.)

(Original DVD Price:$40.00)
Special Price: $19.99
(Plus $3.99 Shipping & Handling)

If you would like to read other reviews on this wonderful product by my Crew Mates go to this link: TOS Homeschool Crew - Web Design for Kids

Free Smileys and visit my blog again soon,


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Busy Hands Make Busy Minds

My boys do not like to just sit and listen during History and Historical Fiction Read Aloud time. Actually, my girls didn't either. The girls used to knit/crochet (Rachel) or draw (Jessica) or sometimes other things. Kids like to keep their hands busy, it helps them focus. They can narrate back to me details of the History I read and they are definitely into the G.A. Henty we are reading right now - A Knight of the White Cross: A Tale of the Siege of Rhodes. My daughter even caught a part of a chapter while she was in the kitchen working on something and wants to read it when we are done.

But, back to my post which was about the boys keeping their hands busy.

Most of the time their busy activity of choice is building with Lego. But, since we started using the Christian Kids Explore Physics book for a TOS Crew Review they got the K'nex sets out that we bought the last time we did Physics. The boys love these. We bought them from Timberdoodle.

Check them out Price: $28.50 each

K'nex Intro to Simple Machines: Gears

K'nex Intro to Simple Machines: Wheels, Axles and Inclined Planes

K'nex Intro to Simple Machines: Levers and Pulleys

They not only started building with the Simple Machine sets they collected all theirr K'nex from all over. After they built one of the items from the set they wanted to make some stuff with their own K'nex. I made them put the extra set pieces away so they would not get mixed up and then they went to work.

Caught you making a funny face Christopher! LOL

Busy Boys


A scale they made from another K'nex book with projects in it.

The Blender is from the Gears set.

Assorted boy stuff: boat, flying vehicles, a sword, and some unknowns???

So as long as the boys listen, can narrate back about the stories and don't talk to much about there creating and drive me crazy; I let them continue to build during read aloud.

I hope you enjoyed this post,

Quarter Mile Math

When we were sent Quarter Mile Math Deluxe Version my first thought was, oh no, more math stuff to review! This made the 4th math product for my son to use this year, so far.

However, this one is a keeper. It is fun for everyone!! Getting the rest of the family to join the boys and I, yes I played too, will be a challenge though. The girls and Court do not like Math. Hopefully we can get them into the spirit of things by challenging them to try and beat our time, and then we can all improve our math skills and speed.

Quarter Mile Math is a mental math, skills, practice program. You can choose to race with riderless horses in a field or with race cars. It is easy to install, easy to set up, and easy to play. You can race yourself and try and beat your previous times or race other family members. It made me want to race my kids on the same topics as they have done and see if I could beat them. They win at most everything these days, they are much smarter than I am, and way, way smarter than I was at their ages. I was so excited to find that I beat both of them... "Come on boys. Don't you want to play some more and try and beat Mom's time??" LOL

Christopher has been using this daily as part of his school. Just a few minutes to do a couple races and then on to other things. Nathan has just started using it, he was trying to beat my time... and lost. HA! We are trying to get the rest of the family involved.

On of the cool things about this program is the encouragement you get when you try and beat your own time or the time of others. It will track and average your best five races for you and if you improve by hundredth of seconds it can tell and proclaim you the winner. Check out some of the video on the Overview and Features pages, also check out the pdf list with the massive number of topics covered.

Quarter Mile Math:
  • Was chosen for use in all 1,300+ Sylvan Learning Centers in the U.S. and Canada
  • Is a self-competitive format—a top motivator
  • Has a race format makes mental math practice exciting
  • Has topics that cover K through pre-algebra
    (K-9th grade)
  • Has 70,000+ problems to keep boys, girls, and teens on their toes (adults too!!!)
The Deluxe Version has access to all the levels, all the math problems, for as long as you pay the subscription price. To see a comparison between the Deluxe and Standard see: Deluxe Version vs. Standard CD Version Comparison

Quarter Mile Math has just started a new page just for Homeschoolers Here. In that section you’ll find helpful resources like…
--- “Getting Started” (Information that will help you understand the basics of the Quarter Mile Math quickly and easily and help your kids jump right in to using it.)
--- “Tips & Info” (This will be an ongoing series of emails to help you make the most effective use of the program. Once emailed, they will be posted on this page. Anyone can sign up to receive these emails.)
--- “Printable Progress Chart” (Helps you keep track of students’ progress in The Quarter Mile Math.)
--- “Users’ Forum” (A place for homeschoolers to see how others are incorporating The Quarter Mile Math into their curricula.)

The Homeschool pages were just started this week so the forum is practically empty, but if you sign up you can become a part of the community and add your ideas to help other homeschoolers.

Out of 5 stars we give this:

Because of the following, I also give it my good value icon:
They recently added more affordable options for subscribing to the Deluxe version. Subscribers can now get it for…
--- $2.95 per family per month
--- $19.95 per family for one year (save $15.45 over one year) and
--- $34.95 per family for two years (save $35.85 over two years)

Go to the Order Now page and then click on each" order now" box for more details. With the Standard version you get a CD but with the Deluxe version you can get a CD or just download it if you want... saves $5.

You can also give it a try with a free Demo, then you can see if your kids (and you and your spouse) like it as much as we do, I know you will want to keep using this product.


Check out the other reviews on this product by my pals at the TOS Crew blog.

Update: Good News!! Quarter Mile Math is offering the readers of the TOS Crew Blogs $5 off any product--Standard or Deluxe-- use the Referral Code below
There is a place to input this code on the order forms. This Referral Code will be good until September 30.

Have a great week,

Thursday, August 20, 2009

ALEKS - Online Math

Aleks Logo

What is ALEKS?

The following quote came from the people at ALEKS. "The acronym ALEKS stands for Assessment and Learning in Knowledge Spaces. It is a Web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system."

Wow! that is a mouthful. ALEKS, to me, is an online, complete math program you can use with your children. You choose the level you think your child should start with. They will assess their current knowledge and then choose what things they should learn next.

Note: the screenshots below came from ALEKS and are not the ones from my kids account, with the exception of the e-mail from Christopher and the Create a Quiz screenshots. They are, I assure you, a very accurate picture of what my kids and I have found in using the program.
Below you will find a description of the essentials this program offers:

Student Account - these are some of the features the student gets to see and use.

Student Assessment
Assessment: Students begin in ALEKS by taking an individualized, adaptive assessment to determine what they already know and what they are ready to learn next.

MyPie" src="">

My Pie: The ALEKS Pie summarizes a student's current knowledge and offers topics that the student is ready to learn next. The darkened portion of each pie slice represents the topics that the student has mastered and the lighter portion represents what the student has yet to learn.

Christopher is trying to get as much of his pie done as he can. This is a great motivation to my kids. To see what they know and what they have left to cover to "graduate" to the next level.

Student Graphing Tool
Input Tools: ALEKS provides a free response environment and sophisticated input tools that avoid multiple choice and require students to demonstrate content mastery. Christopher loves the tools, especially the protractor.

Student Problem Two
Learning Mode: The Learning Mode provides students with practice problems, and offers explanations of topics and procedures as needed. Once a student has demonstrated mastery in the Learning Mode, the item is added to the ALEKS Pie, and new material that the student is now ready to learn becomes available.

One of the features Nathan likes most is the dictionary. In the lesson you can click on green underlined words to see what they mean. Nathan also likes the Explain button. If you are stuck on a certain type of problem it will tell you how to do that type of problem, then you can go on with your lesson.

Student Feedback
Feedback: Students receive immediate feedback and, in some cases, suggestions for correcting mistakes. This is very helpful. I have been having a hard time getting my son Christopher to always reduce his fractions. I am hoping using this program will help him with this problem in particular. Immediate grading of each problem in the lessons makes it so the kids learn the correct way to do their math and helps them progress well. One of the things I was lax in last year was grading the boys math and so they, and I, did not know what they were getting wrong which just compounds the problem of wrong thinking upon wrong thinking with their math. Daily grading and correcting of their math is one thing I am determined to keep up with this year.

Master Account - these are the features for the teacher/parent

Master Homepage
Master Account Homepage: Easily manage all student accounts, monitor student progress, view customized resources, and more. This is the part I use the most, of course: checking to see how much time the kids have spent doing their math, making quizzes for them, and checking their progress on the pie chart.

Teachers can see the same pie charts the student sees above with a few additions. The pie chart is especially useful. You can click on an arrow and see previous pie charts. See details of the other pages below.

Master Attendance Report
Attendance Report: Track student time spent in ALEKS per day, the topics attempted, and the topics mastered and added to the ALEKS Pie.

Master Progress Report
Student Progress Report: Track student progress made throughout the course. The blue bar represents the percent of course material that the student has mastered during an ALEKS assessment; the green bar represents the percent of new topics the student has mastered in Learning Mode since the last assessment; and the yellow bar represents the percent of topics the student has yet to learn in order to complete the course.

Create a Quiz
Taking the quiz... that is the students job... creating the quiz... that is Mom's job.
Click on the picture above to see a close up.

ALEKS makes it easy for mom's to create quizzes for their kids by including a button you can click to "Create a recent knowledge Quiz". This automatically creates a quiz based on information your student has recently been reviewing. You can, of course, do a quiz topic by topic, but this makes it so easy that I have done all the boys quizzes this way.

Master Quiz Results
Quiz Results: Quizzes are automatically graded and the results are available to both the parent and student immediately. An e-mail is sent to the parents inbox when the student has finished his quiz. View a detailed quiz results sample report (PDF).


One of the things the boys and I have enjoyed is the e-mail. We each have our own e-mail but using the e-mail in the math program has been fun.

Please click on the screen shot below so you can see the details of this e-mail my 12yo son sent to me.

This is the best sales pitch for ALEKS math. This was not fabricated. This was sent by my son on August 11th and I did not even start my review until this week. When you have a 12yo boy who not only likes to do his math but wants to do more quizzes... well what more can be said.

They do have a family discount program which gives you a discount for each additional student you enroll. My sons like this program... in fact my youngest son loves it! Unfortunately the cost is out of our price range, even with the family discount. The other thing that makes it hard to spend the money for this is the fact that there is no tangible book or program to hand down to younger children. The math programs we have used, except for High School math which we borrowed from a friend, have been used by all my children and handed down and reused and most of them were purchased used to start with.

ALEKS is a Research-Based Online Program:

  • Complete Curriculum Solution for Math with Access to Full Course Library
  • No Textbook Required
  • Artificial Intelligence Targets Gaps in Student Knowledge
  • Assessment and Individualized Learning for Grades 3-12
  • New and Improved Master Account - Includes Quizzing, Attendance Tracking, Automated Reports, and More
  • Unlimited Online Access - PC and Mac Compatible
  • QuickTables - Complimentary Math Fact Mastery Program for Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction

Out of five stars we give this program:

Since Christopher mentioned, in his e-mail to me, a problem we have with the program I will tell you what it is... the only problem we have is... the cost.

A subscription to ALEKS is

  • $19.95 per student, per month, or

  • only $99.95 every 6 months, or

  • only $179.95 every 12 months.

They do have a family discount program which gives you a discount for each additional student you enroll. My sons like this program... in fact my youngest son loves it! Unfortunately the cost is out of our price range, even with the family discount. The other thing that makes it hard to spend the money for this is the fact that there is no tangible book or program to hand down to younger children.

We love this program... wish we could afford to keep it going at least for Christopher... but we can't. If you only have one child, or your student is having a struggle with a certain portion of math, this may be a good solution. Or, if money is not a problem but math is, than this would be perfect for you!

But because of the cost I have to give this my break the bank icon.

ALEKS has been kind enough to offer a free 1-month trial ($19.95 value) to my blog readers who are homeschoolers. They only offer a 48-hour trial directly from their website so this is a special offer only for homeschoolers who are new users to ALEKS!

Visit ALEKS for 1-Month Trial

You can always click on the box, sign up for your free month, and see if you like it enough to put out the money. I wish we could afford to keep it going after our review period is over. Christopher will greatly miss it. We were all grateful to have been able to try ALEKS Math and if our financial situation changes in the future a subscription to ALEKS is one thing I will be putting at the top of my wish list.

I hope you enjoyed this review,
I hope you will consider ALEKS math,
It truly is a great product,



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