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Nerd Family Things: December 2008

Nerd Family Things

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Location: Fresno, California, United States

A homeschooling, conservative nerdy mom of 4!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Peterson's Handwriting Review

I recently received Peterson Directed Handwriting to evaluate with my kids and I have made some startling discoveries about myself;). The program is a good program. It has all the research that says how important handwriting is and that it is a learned reflex. I agree, the more you do it (the right way) the more natural it is. The problem for us lay in a couple of areas. First off you need to have the proper set up. It needs to be a straight edge table they work at (not a round kitchen table) with the chair height and desk height at a specific proportion. Also there is the right way to hold the pencil, place the paper etc. While I agree with all of this, it ends up being a lot like school at home.

I made the realization that I don't like having everything so perfectly layed out for me to implement with out any leeway for me to customize. I also realized that I don't care about handwriting as much as I thought. It is recommended that you try this for at least a month before you decide it doesn't work. But in my house that still equals a lot of hours of fighting and for me it wasn't worth it. Now I will be trying this again with different children (the joy of 4, always a new victim;) and maybe it will work better with a different personality. But I am not sure.

So my over all recommendation? It is a good program. It is obviously set up for either a classroom or some one who does school at home (verus our crazy method). It wasn't a good fit here but it might work nicely for you.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Alphabet Alley Review

I recently got the opportunity to review a couple products from Alphabet Alley. They are a company that Christian themed toys for kids. I liked the Christian themed toys. Now, I don't believe my kids are going to learn the story of Noah by playing Go Fish with words and pictures of the story but I do believe that it is a great way to affirm them and their Biblical knowledge. On to the actual products...

We got the Noah's Ark Go Fish game and we love it. The cards a thick and sturdy so they will last. That in and of itself is a huge plus. But I also liked the illustrations and the words with them. It helps the kids get a little word recognition in addition to the number recognition they get just from playing Go Fish.

We also got the Two by Two Matching Game. I will say up front that we have a lot of matching games and while the pictures were super cute there wasn't any inherent game play improvement. But the quality was awesome! They are very thick and durable. Not only will it last longer than the rest, the toddlers can't "mark" cards to know the matches without flipping them over.

These products were great and I would be very willing to purchase anything from Alphabet Alley for either us or a gift!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

All About Spelling Review

I recently got the opportunity to review the All About Spelling program and now I think I am in love. I will admit up front that I have kids that good at spelling. We have always made a game of knowing how to spell specific words starting as early as 3. Those games as great but someday your kids will see words they don't know and will need to know how to spell. Because reading and spelling seem to be closely linked, we value it highly here in the NerdFamily.

This is a program to teach kids HOW to spell in life and not just a list of words. This program is based on learning the proper sounds for letters and blends along with the spelling rules. This isn't workbook based and it does take a little time but it is worth it! This method uses all the senses by having word tiles that the kids can build words with or pick out with their hands and by you verbally teaching in addition to any writing they do.

They recommend that you start with the first book regardless of age but you can go through them at your own pace. So our second grader flew through the first book where as the kindergartner needs more time. This is also a product that isn't just for homeschoolers. I can see it adapting fairly well in a classroom. Currently they have 4 levels out and a 5th one will be out in 2009.

Let me also give a shout out for their customer service. It is a small company and they will help you with any questions. It takes a lot to impress me and they have. So go check out their program and teach your kids All About Spelling.


Pledge Natural Beauty Furniture Polish Review and Giveaway

I recently got the opportunity to review Pledge Natural Beauty Furniture Polish. Normally I am super cheap when it comes to cleaning but I do love using Pledge. Why? I am an asthmatic and have horrible allergies. So if I dry dust I sneeze and get sick. If I don't dust, I sneeze and get sick. Pledge combats both of these situations. In addition it also moisturizes my wood (so it looks richer) and actually repels dust. So what else could a woman want?

Win it!
So how would you like to win a can of your own?

To enter:

* Leave a comment with any cleaning questions you might have. That’s it!
* A random winner will be selected and notified on Jan 10th.
* The winner will then have 3 days to claim their prize.

To earn extra entries, you may do one or all of the following. Each one counts as an extra ticket but you must leave a separate comment for each one.

* Subscribe to my feed.
* Mention this giveaway on your blog with a link back here.

This giveaway is open to addresses within the US. Please leave a way to contact you in case you win.

("This post was written for Family Review Network as part of a program by SC Johnson, who also supplied the product for review and giveaway.")

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Zenses Game Giveaway

I love video games! There I said and put it out there for all to know. So I am always excited to be able to tell you about the Zenses Nintendo DS games. They are games that are primarily designed for women to relax with. They have spa-like music and can be played for 3 minutes or 3 hours, what ever you have time for. The games are designed to help you relax with nice music and games that highlight nature. You only use the stylus and not any buttons so it is easy to be leisurely as you play. It also has a high quality soundtrack that users will be able to download free as they receive codes to unlock more music. You can buy this game at various retailers like Target and Amazon.

I know that all sounds great but you want me to get to the giveaway!

Win it!

How would you like to win both the Ocean and Rainforest versions of the Zenses game?
To enter:

* Stop by Zenses page before Friday January 9th and check out the Zenses games.
* Then come back and mention in comments which feature is your favorite. That’s it!
* A random winner will be selected and notified on Jan 10th.
* The winner will then have 3 days to claim their prize.

To earn extra entries, you may do one or all of the following. Each one counts as an extra ticket but you must leave a separate comment for each one.

* Subscribe to my feed.
* Mention this giveaway on your blog with a link back here and The Game Factory.

This giveaway is open to addresses within the US. Please leave a way to contact you in case you win.

(This is a FRN post)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Puppetools Review

I got the opportunity to evaluate Puppetools. Their mission is:
OUR MISSION is to open the door to sweeping change in education by advancing the principle of play in teaching and learning. The world still looks to America for inventive social, economic, and technological solutions. Once, America's gift to itself --and to the world--was a bold new experiment in political freedom. America's next gift--again for itself and for the world-- can and must be a bold new leap in education.

Due to my creativity deficiency, I am always excited to try any thing that will help me out in the arts 'n' craft arena. This site focuses on the creation of hand puppets. It has a patent pending base and then downloadable templates that you can use to create a variety of puppets. There are also forums and opportunities to see what others are doing with puppets. There is also different things offered to give ideas on how to use puppets.

This site has a couple of different membership options. A year subscription is $99 and is good for up to 30 users. There is also a 60 day trial subscription for $20. With the trial you will have full access.

So my recommendation? For a homeschooling mom or small enterprise? If you really want puppet help, I would do the 60 day subscription and be prepared to look at everything during that time. I think you can fully take advantage of the program with in that time. On the whole it is ok. I do think you could find these resources cheaper but they are all here in one spot and that counts for something.

Go look at the site and let me know what you think!

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Let's Make A Webpage! Review

Recently I got the opportunity to review a new e-book called Let's Make a Web Page! I hate to say this and if I do I may never be asked to do another review but.... Don't buy this! This e-book, put out by Motherboard books, is supposed to teach your 8-12 year old how to program a basic webpage. Unfortunately, this really just teaches you how to use and manipulate a specific html editor (she tells how to get it) with a wizard. This means you don't actually learn any coding. You could get the same effect by taking a basic Word document and have it convert the document into a webpage.

I know this is harsh but I don't feel this actually expands any computer science knowledge. As someone who has taken programming, and specifically web design classes, this e-book doesn't really give you any skills to take away. Normally when a product is not my cup of tea I look for the person it would help. This time I don't really see a good audience that it could help.

So that is my 2 cents, take it or leave it. I promise I won't be offended.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Times Tales Review

We recently received Times Tales to help the NerdBug learn his times tables. This is a cute mnemonic based system that is full of illustrations to help kids memorize their upper times table. Everyone I have talked to loves it. Well, we aren't those people. For us, this system is harder than just memorizing the facts themselves. Because we are focusing so much on teaching him the theory, by the time he understood the concept he memorized it. This would be perfect for the person who isn't working on the concept but is just trying to memorize. I am just not sure what kind of recall speed you would have if you have to recall the picture and translate it to numbers. At $29.95 you really have to figure out if you have the kind of child who would benifit from this system.

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Time for Learning Review

My Nerdlings and I recently got the opportunity to use the Time for Learning. Basically this is an online educational service. You sign your kids up individually and enter their academic level. Then they log in and complete lessons that are organized by subject. Time for Learning tracks time spent on each lesson, score and activity type so parents can go in and review the basics of what their kids are doing. You even have the option of printing a report for your academic records.

The price basics are:
Subscription Costs:
$14.95/month per additional child
14 day money-back guarantee
No contracts
Cancel at any time

So what did we think? The kids liked it well enough. It was a centralization of academic activities but was it worth the price? Not for me. I could look at the subject and basic details of what an assignment was but when my kids didn't score 100 I would have liked to look and see what they got wrong so we could correct it. You can't see any of the actual work they did. Also, and this isn't a big deal, NerdBug did the playground time (a reward for getting their assignments done) and it took him to PBS Kids. I don't have a problem at all with PBS Kids but it was the fact it took him outside the system that bothered me.

The user interface was a bit clunky because the kids had to listen to every explanation ("Click here when your done", for example) before they could do anything. My kids who have been on a computer for years found that a bit annoying.

Frankly, if you are friends with your Google I think you can collect enough sites to not need a service like this. But if you are not real internet savvy or don't want to spend the time, it is a nice service.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Man in the Map Review

American geography is important. There I said it. But the question is how do we teach it. Previously I have worked with flash cards. Now that has seemed to work as long as the kid is just looking at the shape of the state but placement doesn't really fit into this plan. Well, The Little Man in the Map book seems to have some solutions.

This award winning book has beautiful illustrations that emphasis the rhyming system. It has separated the US into regions and then has rhymes that help you remember each state individually and as a region. My kids absolutely loved it! You can use this book in conjunction with the wall map to make an entire US geography unit. How we are going to use it is with a lot of reading. The kids think it is such a fun book they keep wanting to read it.

Right now Schoolside Press is running some great deals. First of all they are doing free shipping for the holidays. The book by itself is $19.95 and the map is $21.95 but you can get the combo pack for $35.00. You can even get the book autographed!

My kids and I definitely recommend this book for families with kids under about 5 grade. Go check it out!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Clean 'N' Flip Charts: Review and Giveaway

Ever wanted your kids to help out around the house but they once again seemed to forget what they are supposed to do? What you think about a system that lays it all out for them so you don't have to be there telling them what to do every step of the way? I can say that especially as a homeschool mom, I had to get a system because if I had to do it all...well, we would all be in trouble.

I recently got the opportunity to review a collection of Clean 'N' Flip charts from Trigger Memory Systems and their Laundry for Kids, Bedroom Cleaning for Kids and Zone Cleaning for Kids do just that. Each chart goes through step by step and tells kids what they need to do. It sets out to teach kids the logical way of attacking these jobs. The Laundry for Kids has check boxes where you can point out the jobs you want your kids to do (not erasable). The Zone Cleaning chart is dry erase chart so you can personalize with any extra jobs that go with each room. You also have a spot to assign a job to a specific job and a time of day to do.

Overall, I think this is a really great idea for anyone who doesn't have an effective chore system. But at $30 for all 3 it is a bit pricey for the convenience of having it all laid out for you. But if you want to check them out for free....

Win it!

How would you like to win Laundry for Kids?
To enter:

* Stop by the Trigger Memory Systems before Saturday December 20th and check out the cool items they have.
* Then come back and mention in comments what you think is the best. That’s it!
* A random winner will be selected and notified on Dec 21st.
* The winner will then have 3 days to claim their prize.

To earn extra entries, you may do one or all of the following. Each one counts as an extra ticket but you must leave a separate comment for each one.

* Subscribe to my feed.
* Mention this giveaway on your blog with a link back here and to Trigger Memory Systems.

This giveaway is open to addresses within the US. Please leave a way to contact you in case you win.

This week I am only giving away Laundry for Kids but I will be giving away another chart next week!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Salem Ridge Press Books Review

I recently received 3 books from Salem Ridge Press to review. Salem Ridge Press was started by a homeschool graduate in order to republish classic children's books. These books are a little different because they are all from the 1800's and early 1900's.

These books are pretty good but I feel you need to be careful. One of the books I received was The American Twins of the Revolution. It is a nice piece of historical fiction but it has slavery in it. That doesn't bother me (it is a sign of the times) but it is something you need to be aware of so that you can discuss the issue with your children. These books were written a long time ago with different issues so I would recomend parents read the books first because kids on the younger side (maybe under 6th grade) may have a lot of questions. The other issue with this book is the slave speak so to say. It is dialogue that is filled with gramatical errors and unclear words (I had to read it out loud in order to figure out all the words). That would be very frustrating to my 2nd grader.

But over all I do really like these books. In the spirit of full disclosure, I think some (if not all) of these books are in public domain but for the price you do get a nicely bound book. So go over and look at what Salem Ridge Press has to offer!


Spears Art Studio Review

The magic of homeschooling is sometimes knowing your strength and weaknesses so you can compensate. That said, we all have our gifts but art is not one of mine so I was very excited to try out Spears Art Studio. I got their K-8th art curriculum and it is designed to use with multiple ages at the same time. I love that because it is hard enough to do art but much less coming up with the time for 3 different lessons.

This program is a definite winner! I got the program completely on a CD ($39.95) and it lays out everything! It is set up on an academic year but you can pick and choose what lessons you do. It has a main lesson for everyone and then has broken out projects for each grade level. The program provides graphics to print off and a list of materials needed. It is really easy to follow with or without any natural talent.

Spears Art Studio also has a high school curriculum and a calligraphy program. I highly recommend this art curriculum for anyone but especially those with more than 1 age group.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Review: Rime to Read

I recently received the opportunity to review the Rime to Read program that is made up of 20 online books. It is designed for either early readers or students who are a bit remedial. I used the books with my 5 year old non-reader and my 3 year old preschooler.

These books are purchased online and then placed in your account. You can then read them online and take advantage of the fact you can click on words to hear the sounds on the repeating words (or rimes or word families). Or you can choose to print them out. My issue in that aspect if the fact you can only print them once. With 4 kids, I can say that 1 copy isn't quite enough if I want them to be able to drag them around and read them. But since they are ran on just a click of the mouse, the kids can go through them with out you. That is always very helpful!

Now what about the books themselves? They are pretty good. They are organized by word families and one of the great things is it forms pattern. The down part is that they aren't really in full sentences. So my 5 year old is a bit puzzled to make sense out of the books themselves. The 3 year old doesn't have that problem. But overall I do think they are very helpful in teaching reading.

Then comes the hammer. At $45 you really have to evaluate how much you will use them. But I also have to disclose I am a huge cheapskate. I absolutely love the Bob Books and won't buy them (I use the library;). That said I am not a great judge if you are getting a dollar to good value but I do like the system.

You can sign up to get a free book as a sample so go check it out and let me know what you think!

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A Month of Meals Review

Many of you who read my main blog (NerdFamily Blog) know that I am a huge fan of Meal Planning. I am constantly asked by people about how to start. Well, I found a great e-book called A Month of Meals that can get anyone started down the road to successful meal planning. Jamie Ussher does a great job of explaining how to plan, pricing, recipe rotation and she even gives some really good recipes. With 70 pages she also looks at nutrition and how to make sure that you get all your family needs. If you don't meal plan, know someone else who needs to start or are just not happy with your system, go check out A Month of Meals.

(FRN Review)

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Friday, December 5, 2008

Share Something Sweet

What could be better than chocolate, Facebook and free email greetings? Well, add charity into the mix. Ferrero has partnered with Share Our Strength to donate $150,000 this year. Also if you go to Share Something Sweet and then use the "send something sweet" to send a free greeting and Ferrero with donate $1 up to $10,000. Or you can join the "Ferrero Lovers Unite" Facebook group to have another $1 donated (up to $1,000).

If you need a little more fun, there is a chocolate personality test at Share Something Sweet!

What are you still doing here? Go have a little chocolate fun ans raise money for a great charity!

(FRN Post)


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Polliwalks Review and Giveaway!!!

My 5 year old NerdPie has some new favorite shoes, her new new Polliwalk kitty shoes in lilac! She is also looking forward to wearing the new Fish Lip shoes more in the spring and summer!

Now it probably isn't a surprise that I was a bit critical when I opened my box of Polliwalks to review them. Usually you have to choose between really cute things and really well made but not this time. These shoes are well made, out of a waterproof molded soft foam. The company is enviromentally conscious using recycled material and these shoes are completely vegan.
On the practical side they are really well fitting. NerdPie thinks the faux fur in the Kitty's are so soft on the inside that she doesn't want to wear socks with them. They are also washable. No, I don't just mean that you can use the hose on them but the shoes with out the faux fur can go into the washer on gentle. Just don't put them in the dryer! Another cool thing is that the brand new Fish Lips have a detachable back strap so if you have a kid that needs it (like mine) you can just put them on. Then if you need them with out (like for the pool) just pop it back off.

Not only do these shoes have the cute little faces but when the kids walk on something that takes a footprint it leaves the cutest little footprints of whatever animal you have on your shoe. This is the one of the most unique thing about these shoes.

Polliwalks has been smart in their over all plan because they have Polliwalks for all seasons. They have the fuzzy faux fur that are great indoor/outdoor slippers or just run around shoes. They also have pull ons that have a tightening cord and they also boots. Then the new shoes for spring and summer rock. Right now they are only available at Dillards and Zappos but the cool Fish Lips (the lips change color in the sun) and the Firefly (tail lights up with movement) will be available through other retailers in the spring.

Win it!

How would you like to win a pair of Polliwalks (choices are limited to Puppy, Kitty, Gator, Duck, Frog and Ladybug) for your little one?
To enter:

* Stop by the Polliwalks before Wednesday December 10th and check out the cool shoes they have.
* Then come back and mention in comments which of the shoe choices are your favorite. That’s it!
* A random winner will be selected and notified on Dec 11th.
* The winner will then have 3 days to claim their prize.

To earn extra entries, you may do one or all of the following. Each one counts as an extra ticket but you must leave a separate comment for each one.

* Subscribe to my feed.
* Mention this giveaway on your blog with a link back here and to Polliwalks.

This giveaway is open to addresses within the US. Please leave a way to contact you in case you win.

(This is a FRN post)

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Monday, December 1, 2008

You Can Call Me Hoppa!

I have just read the cutest book that would make an awesome gift for a new grandparent! You Can Call Me Hoppa! The Grandparents' Guide to Choosing a Name that Fits is all about finding a special name for each grandparent that fits them like a glove. Lauren Charpio does a great job of listing various traditional and non-traditional names for both grandmothers and grandfathers. This book helps to address the fact that grandparents are all different ages, ethnicities and even in different amounts per family (we have 8 in ours) with the names but also with sweet little anecdotes. And at 50 pages it is a great gift book because it has an inscription page, grandparent name tree, and a page to place the chosen names.

So it boils down to I love this book! Not only do I plan on giving it as a gift, I am planning on using it myself. We have Grandma “so and so” and Grandpa “so and so”. I much prefer to have a sweet personal name for each! So go get this book for any first time grandparent in your life!

(This is a Family Review Network review!)

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