My Home School Grades {a review}

My Home School Grades a review

My Home School Grades is a website that allows you to easily track your student’s grades and create transcripts with the push of a button. You use your lesson plans/curriculum and can track extra curricular activities as well.  A lifetime membership with unlimited students is just $49.99! Seriously.

When this review came up for Mosaic Reviews, I will admit I wasn’t thrilled. Indiana only requires an attendance record and my kids are still in elementary school so I don’t really need to be thinking high school transcripts right now. However, God seems to be revealing more of His plans for our family in that “everywhere I turn I am seeing this message” kind of way and I am now thankful to have discovered this product.

I’m just going to dive right in here.

What I Like About My Home School Grades

  • EASY to set up. I think it took me two minutes to set my student up. You can upload a photo of your student if you want.
  • Classes were easy to set up and you have the options to grade the class pass/fail, with letter or number grades, by lesson plans with individual entries for tests and experiments (with the option to break the grade down to give more weight to tests or lessons), or for dual enrollment. Each option is simple to use.
  • You can also add activities to track those as well. They are added to the transcript on an additional page.
  • You can select what grade levels are included on the transcript (all the way back to Kindergarten).
  • It calculates their GPA automatically.
  • I like the layout of the transcripts.
  • I love the graphic design of the website. I like the chalkboard background and the fonts used.

What I Didn’t Like About My Home School Grades

  • The selection of pre-loaded curriculum to choose from is slim considering how many options there are available. I would like to see more added. Answers in Genesis would be a great addition.
  • I would also like to see more options for lower grade levels. Bright Ideas Press, Rod and Staff, A Reason for Handwriting, and Modern Curriculum Press are some options that I know of.

Overall, I think the software is awesome. The price really can’t be beat for the ease of use and for the ability to use it with all of your students.

You can find My Home School Grades on Facebook and Twitter.

Today’s review is short and sweet, be sure to check out My Home School Grades. There is a free two week trial available for you to experience the software for yourself.

Waterproof Bible {a review}

Have you seen the Waterproof Bible? This is a review of it.

Today’s Mosaic Reviews review is the Waterproof Bible. I was sent a Waterproof New Testament, Psalms & Proverbs so I could review it here on the blog.

The Waterproof Bible

The Waterproof Bible is exactly what it sounds like. It is a Bible printed on 100% plastic so that water does not cause harm to the Bible. It is also tear-proof (within normal reason). It is not indestructible, temperatures above 150 degrees F “adversely affect” the material. Um, I guess I won’t be baking my Bible… Also, petroleum products can cause the ink to smear, which includes bug spray.

Regular highlighters and gel pens won’t work in this Bible, but dry highlighters, ballpoint pens, and pencils will work just fine.

The Waterproof Bible came from a heart’s desire to take God’s Word into every nation, no matter the weather conditions. This is something I admit I’ve never thought about. I agree with the mission of taking the Bible all nations and peoples, but I never thought about what weather conditions those Bibles would face. My Bibles are your standard paper Bibles that would not hold up to rain leaking through a hut roof. This Bible will do that.

And they are taking the Waterproof Bible into the nations. Currently they are partnering with donors to send Bibles to Christ School Bundibugyo in Uganda. You can read about past causes on their website.

The Waterproof Bible is published by Bardin & Marsee Publishing. It is available in the King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version, New Living Translation, and the English Standard Version. A full Bible is $44.95 and the New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs is $24.95. All are available in a selection of covers and personalization is available. There is also a selection of accessories available.

You can find The Waterproof Bible on Facebook and Twitter.

My Thoughts on The Waterproof Bible

I like this. I like the size of the New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs version. I love that it is a King James Version. The text is on the small side, but very clear to see. It isn’t very heavy. And it’s WATERPROOF.

Waterproof means that it can go just about anywhere, like say, poolside, a nice long bath, and camping. It also means that even my littlest kid isn’t going to hurt this Bible. Unlike the one he ripped pages out of a couple days ago… 🙁

I bought a standard Bible recently, and the price is not any more than the average Bible cost. I do recommend this Bible as a great gift for those Christians who love the outdoors.

So tell me, where would you take your Waterproof Bible?

Ooka Island Adventure {a review}

Looking for a fun learn-to-read computer game? I reviewed Ooka Island, a reading adventure for pre-k to second grade.

Today I am back with a review of Ooka Island Adventure reading program for Mosaic Reviews. I was given a free two month trial to try out the program and share my review with you lovely people.

About Ooka Island

“Ooka Island Inc. is an educational company committed to using science-based reading methods and technology to increase literacy skills for children. Our goal is to teach children to read fluently and well through reading instruction that is fun and compelling.”

Ooka Island was founded by Dr. Kay MacPhee and Jim Barber. Dr. MacPhee spent 25 years developing techniques to help hearing-impaired students develop language skills and learn to read. She was directly inspired by her son, who was born profoundly deaf. And if there is one thing I’ve learned in life, there is nothing quite as passionate as a motivated parent. Amen?

Jim Barber authored all 95 of the Ooka Island Books and is the creative brain behind Ooka Island. You can read more about the credentials of the Ooka Island team on their website.

Ooka Island Adventure

The part of the program that I reviewed is the Ooka Island Adventure game. It is a Pre-K to Second grade learn-to-read game. You install the program onto your computer, log in with your password, and then Zobot guides your student through the program. The program keeps track of your student’s scores and skills, which you can monitor in the Ooka Island Lighthouse online. While this part is online, the program itself is self-contained so you do not have to worry about little fingers clicking around and finding things they should be seeing on the internet.

The Ooka Island learning flow cycle goes like this: the student is guided through lessons by Zobot, then reads an ebook, and then they have a free play session. Progress is automatically saved so if a lesson is interrupted, your student will not have to start all over again. This is handy for younger computer users who do not understand the process of “saving” their progress.

Also, all the activities on Ooka Island are point and click, so those who don’t know how to use the keyboard can use this without problems.

Pricing & Other Ooka Island Products

The pricing for Ooka Island Adventure depends on how you will use the program. For example, for an individual student to use the program, the cost is $12.95/month or $124.95/year. For a family edition that includes 2-4 students, the cost is $19.95/month or $149.95/year. Ooka Island Adventure is available for schools as well.

For homeschoolers, there are a variety of helps to go along with the game. You can download a guidebook. You can also print coloring pages to go along with some of the books, maps and completion certificates to track the ebook reading progress, and workbooks to help with vocabulary and reading comprehension. There is even a free sing-along song app that you can download.

Ooka Island Adventure is not the only product offered. There are also many book packages available.

What Did I Think?

Oh, boy. My daughter loved this game. She repeatedly said, “This is awesome!” as she played. Her favorite part of the game was the Cave of Sounds. She asked daily to play the game.

What I loved most was the ability to track how she is doing without having to sit there the whole time. I loved that she loved it. I liked that I saw progress being made. The game is engaging and fun, my student doesn’t enjoy sitting to do reading lessons. Often times her reading lessons include her wiggling around as she reads. With the game, her eyes, hands, and brain are engaged.

The only thing I go back and forth on is the pricing. For one student, $12.95/month seems kind of high. I do like the flexibility and lower initial expense of monthly payments verses the lump sum of a year. It is more cost effective if you have more than one student (essentially 2 students = $10/month, 3 students = $7/month, and 4 students = $5/month). I would like to see better pricing for those with only one student.

Overall, I really like the program and am considering keeping it for my soon-to-be 2nd grader. If you would like to try it, you can save an additional 30% through June 1, 2013 (you need to click through that link to save the 30%).

The Etiquette Factory {a review}

A review of The Etiquette Factory character training curriculum. Good for homeschool or traditional classroom settings.

Today’s review is brought to you courtesy of Mosaic Reviews. I received the Etiquette for Beginners Combo pack so that I could provide you all with a review of the product. No other compensation was received, nor is a positive review required.

About The Etiquette Factory

The Etiquette Factory was created by Monica Irvine. She is a certified Etiquette Instructor who specializes in etiquette training for children from preschool through high school. The program she created is a three phase system designed to change the world, one child at a time. She is passionate about giving parents the tools they need to teach proper etiquette to their children.

Mrs. Irvine believes good manners are vital to both the personal and future professional success of a child. I tend to agree with her. How many of us have had to deal with rude people who we then avoid dealing with in the future? We don’t want to raise our children to be that type of person.

Why Etiquette Matters for Christians

The Etiquette Factory is not a specifically Christian company or product. There are no Bible references that I found in my materials. That said, I would like to address why I think etiquette should matter to Christians (like me). I will keep it short.

  • Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
  • If we want the world to see children as a blessing, we need to be active in training our children to BE a blessing. I’m not saying that a child is a blessing only under certain circumstances. I simply see this as a chance to “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you (See Matthew 5:44 for the full verse).

I’ll move on from that now.

The Etiquette Factory Products

Like I mentioned before, I received the Etiquette for Beginner’s Combo pack (which you can find on their website). Included in this pack are the DVDs, teacher’s manual, etiquette jukebox CD, and four of the “Set Right” placemats. This set retails for $69.95. It is a 12 week program that covers what etiquette is, saying hello, kindness, sharing, magic words, cleaning up, table manners, good hygeine, the “no” word, sincere apologies, being a guest, and the power of words.

Each week there is a DVD lesson which contains a story read by Mary Manners, a song to reinforce the lesson, an activity, and a treat. All of these take less than 20 minutes each day.

Also available are: Etiquette Intermediate, Etiquette Masters, Life Skills Video Online Learning program, Time Timer, Kid Budget, and a variety of posters.

What Did I Think?

My kids thought Mary Manners was funny and they liked the songs. They LOVED the placemats and started implementing the “rules” on them immediately. The placemats are my favorite product from this kit. The DVD stories engaged my kids and they were able to answer the questions that followed easily.

The program is laid out in an easy-to-follow format and I liked that it didn’t take gobs of time each day.

What I did not like is that the cost feels high. The placemats are awesome, but they cost $16 for 4. If you buy the 3 Phase Learning program package, you get all three levels of training, the CD, and four of the placemats. If I were to buy this program, this would be the option I would choose. You would then have etiquette training materials for the school life of your student.

I was not particularly fond of the treats. One was making magic wands when learning the magic words (please, thank you, and you’re welcome). Another has you making a ghost in the graveyard treat that doesn’t really have anything to do with the lesson. Overall, my issue is the amount candy, fruit roll-ups, and pudding involved. I realize these are treats, but my kids really have no lack of treats in their lives.

I enjoyed reviewing The Etiquette Factory. The DVD, CD, and placemats were my favorites. Take a look at the website and see what you think!

You can also find The Etiquette Factory on Facebook and Twitter.

Saving Memories Forever {a review}

Saving Memories Forever {a review}

Saving Memories Forever Introduction

It is time for another Mosaic Reviews review. This time I was given access to an app called Saving Memories Forever. I received no other compensation and the only return expected was a review on me ol’ blog.

Saving Memories forever is a way to record precious memories with your family members forever. Have you ever wanted to hear the voice of a loved one who has passed? Or wished you could remember the details of the stories Grandpa told? You can preserve those stories for yourself and your children with this program.

Saving Memories Forever has two parts, a website and an app (available on Android and iPhone). There are user guides available for both parts of the program. The app and registration on the website are free. There is also a monthly paid option ($3.99/mo.) that gives you more options.

How Does it Work?

It is easy peasy lemon squeezy (you can thank my children). Once you have registered on the website (you can do this through the app or your desktop) and have the app downloaded, it is as simple as pressing record, asking a question, and letting them answer. Really. Once you have finished, you have the option to playback your recording, re-record the story, and upload it to your account. There are about 10 questions per section already loaded into the app when you get it, but you can add your own.

Saving Memories has many resources available to help make it easy for you. Be sure to check out the How It Works, FAQs, and Tips pages.

Free Vs. Paid

With both options you receive the option to add transcription files to your audio, add a photograph for your storyteller, add tags to stories, search the site for relatives’ stories, uploading MP3 files directly from your PC to the website, and the use of the free app.

The paid version gets you the following: unlimited storytellers, unlimited story listeners, unlimited number of stories you can listen to per day, the ability to add photographs to your stories, and attach Word documents to your stories. Plus, you can search tags to find other stories.

My Experience

Personally, I found this simple little product to be fun. I answered a couple questions on my own to get familiar with the app (more like getting used to hearing the sound of my own voice). Then I asked my kids to answer some questions. I loved hearing their answers. This product that will enable me to hear those little voices long after they are grown. I like that. It was easy to use and my kids had a blast answering my questions.

You can try it out for free yourself. If you do, be sure to stop back here and let me know what you think!

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner by Debra Bell {a review}

The Ultimate Homeschool Planner & The Ultimate Daily Planner for Studets {a review}

It is time for another review for Mosaic Reviews! I received both planners for free so that I could scrutinize, um, I mean review them. In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I should mention that I have seen these planners floating around the homeschool and blogging communities for a while now. I even checked them out a couple times online, but could never get past the cost. I tend to fall in the cheap, um, I mean frugal side of life. Want to know if I still feel the same? Keep reading.

We shall start with The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, a planning system designed by Debra Bell. My first impression was that my mailman needs to learn to read, “do not bend” does not in fact mean “bend in half”. Once I smoothed out the wrinkle in my cover (and attitude), I dove on in. First impressions of the actual planner, it’s purple. Purple, people. Purple just so happens to be my very favorite color. The cover is nicely designed and I love that it is plastic (easy to wipe off…) and has a pocket on the inside of both the front and the back cover.

The first pages of the planner are four years of year at a glance calendars (one, card-stock page…nice), an information page for you to fill out, general info about the planner and the other planners (like the student one we will discuss below), a welcome letter, and table of contents. Table of contents? Why would a planner need this? To label all the information that follows, of course. Things like what pages the user’s guide starts on and where your one-year planning grid, student goal setter, and family priorities pages are.

The planner walks you through how to plan your homeschool year. Step. By. Step. Debra tells you how often you need to do this, which seems ridiculous. I mean, come on, do I need you to tell me that I need to have a yearly, monthly, and weekly planning time, and what I need to do on those days? Apparently, the answer is yes. You see, I am a planner. I love, love, love, love to plan things. Love. This is all fine and dandy, but sometimes I spend more time planning than doing. I always feel like I might miss something.

Basically it goes like this, first you sketch the big picture, then you divide up what parts of the big picture you want to work on, and then you set the tasks that will walk you towards your goals.

Then! Then you get to map out what you have going on in your life for the next year. You fill out the year-at-a-glance calendar (slightly tedious since it is not numbered, which is really a good thing since you can use it for any school year) with dates that are permanent or semi-permanent (holidays, off days, regular field trips or co-ops…you get the picture). After that, you set some goals for your students. What I love about this is that it does not just cover the academic, but character goals you may have as well. Next come family priorities, resource lists and then the monthly calendars.

Best of all? There are examples of how to use these pages in the user’s guide section. As a visual person, I loved this. I loved seeing examples to get my mind going. There is space for up to six students in all of these pages.

And then we come to the meat of the planner, the weekly pages. These are just awesome. You break your week down on four pages. First page, you set your weekly Bible plan, Battle plan (explained in the user’s guide), Prayers, and Hospitality/Outreach. The top of the page includes an inspirational quote as well. Second page, you record your week’s memorable moments (achievements) and evidences of grace, where God showed you His goodness, mercy, faithfulness, provision, etc. The third and fourth pages are your actual lesson plan pages, you have six rows of six columns (excluding your label boxes) to use as you need (examples in the user’s guide). There is also a column of smaller boxes for notes, supplies, and appointments. Also, another inspirational quote.

After the weekly section, comes a small section for recording grades, reading lists (six), field trips/outside activities record, some encouragement for homeschooling moms, a chart for plotting homeschool high school (with an example), and a year-end review.

I love that this planner is essentially a homeschool lesson planner, gratitude journal, record keeper, and goal-setting journal…all in one!

Now, there are a couple things that I would love to see added to make it just perfect (well, for me anyways).

1. All the great information kind of gets lost in the shuffle. I used some Post-It tabs to mark the sections in mine, but they don’t match. Visually, this is annoying. I would love to see coordinating tabs available.

Tabs added to my Ultimate Homeschool planner

2. I would love to see coordinating curriculum planning sheets available. They would not necessarily have to come in the spiral bound book itself, but maybe an add-on pack that I could tuck in the back pocket. I used plain paper to do this, but it would be nice to have a guide to break down what curriculum I need to consider looking for by subject. (By the way, I know this is really picky…don’t hate me for it).

That’s it really. I love this planner and as of now, I will be buying one each year to help me plan our homeschool.

The Ultimate Daily Planner for Students {a review}

Now, a little about the student planner. This post is already over 900 words, so I will keep this short and to the bullet-point. 😉

  • Love the size, plastic cover, and colors (bummer about no pockets though)
  • LOVE the little journal like entries at the front to record what your student’s favorites are each year. A little time capsule.
  • Study-smart student toolkit = great information for students
  • Includes month-at-a-glance calendars that my daughter thinks are great (I like them, too.)
  • Weekly assignments pages? LOVE that they include a “quiet time” check box each day, also the columns to mark when an assignment was finished and approved are great (helps me keep track!)
  • I like that the student can track their grades, reading list, and activity log themselves as well
  • There is a section called Active Lifestyle Activity Log for the President’s Challenge that would be great for helping homeschoolers to remember physical education is needed, too!
  • The handy reference section includes a timeline of U.S. and world history; U.S. map with capitals, time zones, and population chart, world map with current political boundaries; a chart of the scientific method; multiplication and division chart; conversion and measurement equivalency charts; general grammar and good writing guides; recommended reading list for middle schoolers; greek and latin roots chart; and finally a notes section
  • A cardstock page with four years-at-a-glance (and pocket!) and stickers for marking events on the calendars round out this awesome planner!

I will also be using the student planners for my kids because I like how the end-goal is independent learners. I see how these will help train my students to take responsibility for their work over time (explained a little more in the homeschool planner).

Overall, I’m kind of in love with these planners. And it has nothing to do with getting them free, I actually need to get at least one more. I am debating whether I need one of the student planners for my soon-to-be second grader, but the almost fourth grader will definitely need one. They are worth every penny of the cost (if you use them, of course).

We Choose Virtues {a review}

We Choose Virtues review at the Vicki Arnold blog

When I first considered doing reviews, one of the first things I wanted to review was a character training curriculum called We Choose Virtues. I was thrilled when it was announced that we would be reviewing just that with Mosaic Reviews. I received a set of the Virtue Flashcards and a few digital files for free for this review. This review is a compilation of my own honest opinions (which just makes me laugh that I need to state that, and annoyed that there are dishonest people out there who make this necessary). Oh, and I wasn’t paid. Alrighty, the FTC should be happy now so let’s move on to my review…

First, look at this cool collage I made of my girls using the curriculum:

We Choose Virtues ReviewOk, now I’ll tell you about it.

The first thing we did was use the free character assessment sheet that comes with just about every product. It is a download that you print out for each member of the family. This can be an eye-opening experience, to see what your kids think of themselves. My kiddos were pretty accurate in their assessment of themselves once I explained that there were no wrong answers and this was just to help them see how they are doing with their character.

We then discussed what character and virtue meant.

What I found most valuable with this task was the reminder that my kids already know they have flaws, I don’t have to point those out to them. What I need to do is help them aim for positive change. Focus on the positive, not the negative. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes you have to deal with the negative head on. I simply mean that a lot of the negative things we deal with in parenting (and life) can be helped by taking positive, preventative action.

This is what I appreciate about character training. What I appreciate specifically about We Choose Virtues is that it is bright, colorful, and fun.

The virtue cards are awesomely illustrated with kids that my kids love. They love the names particularly. Did you know how fun Oboe Joe and Feather Heather can be to say? Apparently, it is much fun.

The cards have a positive statement on the front that reads “I am <insert virtue here>” with an illustration of one of the aforementioned kids. The back side has a catchy catch phrase to use when you need a practical, hands-on reminder in life. You know like when your kid starts to whine because they are bored and don’t like waiting? Yep, you prompt them with ” I wait, and wait, and wait with a smile!” With a smile on your face, of course.

There are also antonyms listed on the cards. For example, “I am NOT…pushy, or controlling, and I don’t get frustrated or bored when others are slow!” I do like giving kids the words to acknowledge weak character, they need to know that patience isn’t just waiting with a smile, it means we don’t push the person we are waiting on. The antonyms paint a full picture for kids to learn to recognize what good character looks like…and what it doesn’t.

Probably my favorite part is the Bible verses on my cards. I asked for the King James Version cards because that is what fits with our family. There are also options for NIV and secular cards which have no scripture verses. The secular cards are perfect for teachers wanting to use We Choose Virtues in the classroom.

The final product that I will mention is the coloring book. I received the digital (downloadable) version. My kids loved coloring the pictures! I loved that I only had to buy (well, you know what I mean) one and then print off as many copies as I needed. I did not like that I had to use my printer, but that’s just because my printer is dying and not exactly working the greatest.

Overall, we love the product. It is a bit on the pricey side, but you do get what you pay for and you are supporting a family business in the process. That is priceless.

I know I said it was a little pricey, but guess what? I have a discount code for you all! Two, actually.

HOME20 is good for 20% off the homeschool kit through the end of April.

VIRTUE15 is good for 15% off ANY product with no expiration date.

I will be sharing more about how we are using the curriculum and even some supplemental ways to use it in the coming weeks. So be sure to sign up to get my blog posts in your email (on the right, at the top).

Now tell me, what do you use for character training in your home?

I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp – A Review & Giveaway

I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp - A Review and Giveaway

I Still Believe by Jeremy Camp is a book about the glory of God. A refreshingly honest story about what it means to live a life of worship. Jeremy grew up without material goods, but was blessed to be raised by parents who lived a life of faith. He learned by example what it meant to praise God even when you didn’t understand. This would serve him well as he faced what most would call tragic circumstances later in his life.

Jeremy married Melissa on October 21, 2000. She died from ovarian cancer just three months later on February 5, 2001. From this tragedy came some of his most beloved songs, great worship songs about trusting God when you can’t see through your grief. It is one of the most moving books I have ever read. Let me elaborate.

I have always been a fan of Jeremy Camp’s music so I was aware of the songs he mentions in the book. What I didn’t expect was how deeply those songs would touch me once I knew the circumstances surrounding their creation.

This story is more than Jeremy’s testimony of faith. It is the testimony of faithful parents, who raised their imperfect children to see God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and provision EVERYWHERE. It is the testimony of Melissa, who praised God with abandon even as cancer destroyed her body. It is the testimony of Adrienne, who embraced a situation most would run from and came out a better person.

Every page of this book drips with God’s glory. Jeremy takes you through his thoughts as he struggles with his questions, like David in the Psalms. He doesn’t paint a perfect picture of a perfect Christian living a charmed life. You can feel his grief as he mourns Melissa. You can feel his conflict as he struggles with his growing feelings for Adrienne. And you celebrate with him as God begins using his story to touch many, many people.

I found myself in tears many times as God touched my hear through this book. I still am not sure how to comprehend when I started chapter 18 titled “There Will Come a Day” and heard the song “There Will Come a Day” come streaming through the radio in the kitchen. Sometimes God really hammers a point home. 😉

I loved this book so much that I am giving away three copies. Contest ends at 11:59 p.m. eastern on 3/12/13. Easy peasy entry with the Rafflecopter below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book from Tyndale house for an honest review. All giveaway materials are paid for by me. This post contain an affiliate link.