Thursday, 30 June 2016

Spray can art

We went to a fab workshop where the girls learnt to use aerosol's to make pictures.

They started by lightly spaying black over their paper, then white over the black and used crumpled paper to texture it, next they masked off a circle (lid/plate etc) and sprayed over in black paint.

To finish they sprayed their fingers and splattered white paint to make the stars.

A few kids took it a step further and created backdrops and landscapes to go with their moon.

Notebooking Pages - TOS Review

We do lots of notebooking here, this means I've spent hours scouring the internet for pages that would work for us or having to design them. Thankfully that part of my life is over now we've been given a Notebooking Pages Lifetime Membership for to review.

Notebooking is an amazing way to cut out the busy work and really improve your learning, it's flexible, creative and is an excellent way for journaling your students work. Notebooking can be used to assist hand writing, copywork, vocab or spelling lessons, map work, history, grammar, project work, unit studies and more. It can be used for all topics and fits in with many learning styles and most curriculum. was created by Debra Reed, a homeschool Mum of ten, she has designed vast array of notebooking pages for your use. There are thousands of topics to choose from and they are divided into subjects for ease of navigation, these include;
  • Any Study (generic pages, mini-books and 3D pages)
  • A-Z (alphabet copy work, A-Z animals, A-Z sports, A-Z transportation)
  • Bible/character
  • Famous People
  • Fine Arts
  • Geography
  • History
  • Holidays
  • Language Arts
  • Science/Nature
Debra's pages are well thought out, she seems to have thought of everything - some are plain, others include spaces to draw in or stick pictures in, some have beautiful images for the child to colour in, still more have fill in the blank spaces and more.

We downloaded some work from her artist study of Georgia O'Keeffe to go along with our current art studies


and also from her Plant and Tree study for our nature and botany work,

both were enjoyed by all the girls, they fitted easily into our existing studies and were simple to use.

I was very impressed by both the range available and the quality. I loved that she had created an easy start guide and tutorials to help those who haven't notebooked before. I received a number of emailed tips and video links when I first signed up which were very useful.

My favourite aspect by far was that all the work was done for me, I no longer have to trawl various sites to try and find something suitable - its all in one place, there is a massive variety to choose from and it only takes seconds to download. You just need to pick and choose what page layout and style will work best for your students.

Debra has even added lapbook templates including mini layered books, matchbook books, popup book, top tab books and bordered templates, which you can use to make your own lapbooks.

The lifetime membership is available for $97 which full you full access to all the notebooking pages and any new ones that are added. She even has some free resources for you to try so you can see how it works for your family.

You can see what my crew mates thought over at the TOS Blog.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

You gotta smile when....

... your 7 year old tells you off in disgust for saying 'it's raining' and says ' it's precipitating - you should know because you taught me'

Friday, 24 June 2016

My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) - TOS Review

We've had the opportunity to review My School Year (Homeschool Record Keeping) from over the last few weeks. We received the Annual Membership to review. is an online lesson planner and record keeper. It's site offers many different tools to help keep your homeschool organised, help you know what is overdue, current and upcoming and to search, filter or sort lessons. These include;

Attendance - the automatic attendance will keep track of hours as well.
Lesson Planning - it can be used to create lesson plans and will reschedule lessons if you fall behind. It also lets you share and copy lesson plans for multiple students.
Reports - create transcripts, report cards etc.
Tracker - you can keep track of events, awards, sports, community work and any other extracurricular activities. It also tracks reading lists and there is an option to create materials lists as well. 

Grading - you can enter grades for an automatic grade average a well as keeping track of all graded work.
Teachers aid - automatic reminders for planning and tracking

You start by entering your homeschool information - name, school year, schedule, holidays etc. Then you start adding your students names and their subject, this does take some time so I would advise you find a nice quiet evening and sit down with a hot drink. There are some shortcuts that they have designed to make filling in this section easier (you have to enter lessons and times for each individual subject and student) called Quick Split and Rapid Repeat. Quick Split works by letting you divide a book into sections by day or lesson while Rapid Repeat repeats an assignment automatically adding the next lesson number for you (read chapter 1, read chapter 2 etc)

This is a well designed and well thought out program - they have made it as easy to use as possible and I was impressed with the Teachers Aid - it provided reminders and prompts that helped with the site navigation, it also sensed when I missed entering a piece of information or grade and alerted me so I could stay on top of things. I'm lucky that I don't need to keep records but if you do need to keep records, create reports or keep track of attendance then I can see how this would be really beneficial to you.


I really liked having the option to track and include sports and volunteer work for the girls but my favourite section was the Reading Log, it is really simple to use and you can enter as much or as little info as you like - you can assign start or end dates, chapters, genre, assign pages or you can just enter title and completion date. Personally I liked that I could enter the price and keep track of my budgeting (I have a real weakness for book buying so it helped keep me in check).


Some nice perks of the program are it's compatibility for use with iphones so it can let you and your students know what you need to do even when you are on the go and it protects all your records so no more worries about crashes or viruses ruining your records. is available for a monthly fee of $5 or a yearly price of $40.

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

LearnBop for Families - TOS Review

We were given the chance to receive an online program designed to help strengthen math skills, LearnBop For Families from LearnBop is specifically designed for use at home and covers grades 3-12, they gave me a 12 month family subscription for review purposes.


LearnBop is designed to be a complete math curriculum offering personalised math support which identifies any knowledge gaps and helps your student to learn and more importantly master the concepts. There are over 11,000 lessons which include topics like Statistics, Geometry, Algebra, Pre-algebra, Trigonometry, Math Problems, Fractions, Decimals and more.

You start by picking an avatar for each student and a grade level (either grade level 3-8 or Algebra 1, Algebra 2, or Geometry) then they do an assessment to check where they are so an individualised Road Map can be created. You can alter their Road Map in the parents section if you feel they need something different.

Each lesson starts with instructional videos to show the concepts they will be learning (and extra, optional videos if needed). They are then presented with the 'Bops' which are the problems they need to solve - these can be multiple choice, fill in the blank etc. Once they achieve mastery in a subject by scoring a set % they can pass to the next subject, however if they answer any of the questions incorrectly they explain step by step how to work out the correct answer. Students are motivated by earning achievement badges

Each of the girls had a dashboard that showed what they are working on, number of videos watched, Bops answered, time spent on the program, percentage completed and any achievements awarded.


The parent account shows all of the same information but for all students on the account so its easy to quickly check how your kids are doing in the program and to see if you need to make any changes. Being able to oversee means they girls could be fairly autonomous in their work - the only time I needed to step in was when there was a glitch in the system - there were 3 instances where the right answer was entered but the program read it as the wrong answer, but as with any new product they are working through and correcting these - they even have a option to report the error so they can act on it quickly.

I really liked the video lessons and felt they were thorough and well explained, I also liked the explanations for incorrect answers and that they showed each individual step in detail for solving them. I found the program fairly easy to use and was impressed by the ability to customise this program - I could switch the areas the girls worked on and they didn't have to work through it sequentially. 


Lilly got frustrated that some of her correct answers were marked incorrectly but I believe they are working on the kinks (you can send a report if there are any issues with the questions). Otherwise the girls seemed to enjoy the lessons and both Tulip and Rose loved the awards.

Single student rates are $14.95 per month, or a family rate (up to 4 students) at $19.95 a month, there are also options to pay yearly at $149.95 for a single student and $199.95 for up to 4 students (saving you two months of fees)

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog



Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Wild Animal Activity Day

Our local group ran an activity all about wild animals.


We made some elephants and read the Rudyard Kipling tales,


looked at where and how different animals lived,


played guess who,


looked at endangered species,

and learnt how bread is not good for ducks and what is best to feed them instead.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

Progeny Press Study E-Guide - Indian in the Cupboard - TOS Review

We love reading, most of our lessons are based around books so reviewing the Indian in the Cupboard E-Guide study guide from Progeny Press has been great fun.

Progeny Press is a Christian company who have created a wide variety of literature study guides across various reading ages, they are student workbook style guides designed to help you enjoy reading, improve comprehension, understand vocabulary and to analyse the literature they have read.
We received their E-Guide which is an interactive version of their guides so you have the option to either print or type directly into the guide on the computer (you can also mark and comment on their work directly onto the computer as well)

The Indian in the Cupboard E-Guide is so well-organized and so easy to use in
conjunction with the book by Lynne Reid Banks. 

The E-guide is set out as follows

As you would expect this outlines how to use the guide and gives tips on how to get the most out of this study and to really help your student really enjoy the book.

Book Synopsis
This provides a short overview of the plot

Information about the Author
Gives some history on the author and includes information on other books they have written

Prereading Activities
This section sets out some great questions looking at history, lifestyle and culture based around the story and characters. It also sets questions to study the French Indian war.

Chapter groupings
Based on a couple of chapters they assign tasks which include

  • Vocabulary - here you match words with meaning and work on definitions.
  • Characterization - looking at a characters feelings and motivation.
  • Story Questions - short answer questions based on the text.
  • Point of View - looking at how the characters view the world and why.
  • Thinking About the Story - comprehension questions.
  • Dig Deeper Questions - matched with Bible verses, these questions look at character and how you would react in a situation.
  • Writing Project - sets short writing exercises
  • Summary - this looks at the story structure, includes a character study and compares the story relationships and contrasts them with your relationship to God. 

Additional Resources
list other books by the author and books of related interest

Answer Key
Suggested answers on a separate Pdf

The beauty of this study guide is it's flexibility - you can type or print and write, you can work at your own pace and set your own schedule. We typically read 3 chapters a week as a group read aloud (each taking turns to read) and I assigned the corresponding chapter/s in the E-Guide after we had done the reading, however there were weeks when we read more and weeks when we read less. The older girls worked on both the PC and printed pages whilst the younger two worked with me (both written and orally). There were a couple of 'dig deeper' and 'point of view' questions that we used as group discussion questions which prompted some great character/values conversations.

I also really like that it covered multiple ages - this E-Guide is designed for 5th-8th grade but even Rose (age 7) was able to join in although she didn't do so well on the vocab questions.

I loved that this got the girls thinking more about the story than they would usually and that it prompted such great value conversations. The girls really enjoyed it and I can see myself using Progeny Press lots in the future.

Progeny Press guides are available in various formats (bound book, CD or PDF). I received The Indian in the Cupboard E-guide which is available for $18.99, you will also need access to a copy of the book by Lynne Reid Banks.

You can see what my crewmates thought of this and some of their other guides over at the TOS Blog

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Forbrain Bone Conduction Headset - TOS Review

If you've been following us, you will probably have noticed that some of my girls have a couple of learning issues - this is why I was so excited when the opportunity to review Forbrain - Sound For Life Ltd and their Forbrain Headset came up (I was even more excited to be chosen).


Forbrain is a bone conduction headset that uses your own voice to help with learning, language, and memory. The headset is positioned to rest on the bone in front of the ears, this delivers the vibrations from your voice much faster than air conduction and creates a stronger auditory feedback loop with your brain. Forbrain recommend using the headset for at least six weeks for between 10-20 minuets a day (depending on age and need) whilst talking aloud, reading aloud, having a conversation or singing.


Our Forbrain headset arrived in a protective case and was supplied with a USB charger, extra microphone covers and instruction manuals. (it is advised that you charge for 3 hours before the first use which will provide you with a battery life of 6 hours)

Forbrain can be used in many ways and is particularly useful for;
  • concentration difficulties
  • memory improvement
  • improving focus
  • reading difficulties
  • confidence building
  • exam and presentation performance
  • improved motivation
  • singing and rhythm work
  • brain stimulation 
  • improve attention
  • improve speech and pronunciation
  • auditory processing disorder
  • ADD and ADHD
Tulip was intended to be the main user for this as she has has dyslexia and concentration issues which we hoped would improve using Forbrain (although the others decided it looked like too much fun and demanded asked for turns too). Tulip is an auditory learner so this was a good fit for her. She did complain of a headache the first few times she used it but it quickly stopped happening. She would read aloud whilst wearing it and was often spotted having conversations or playing top trumps with it on.

Sunflower and Lilly both used it for read aloud and conversations and even used it to help memorise some scripture verses quicker - they had a friend over who was revising for some exams and she wanted them to test her on her revision cards so they suggested she read the cards aloud with Forbain on.
Rose loved it - she loved hearing herself and wanted the most turns (she loves everything her sisters use). I noticed her pronunciation improved (she often has a slight lisp) and she seems more confident in her reading with it on.


I loved how popular this was with the girls, it almost became like a favourite toy where they would time the others go so they could tell them when it was their turn for it. I did notice an improvement in Tulips concentration and an improvement in her reading skills as well as an unintended improvement in the girls singing - we were learning a new song for hubby's birthday (they learnt their parts whilst wearing it) and no one hit a single wrong note.


Forbrain is available for $359 and you can see what my crewmates thought of it over at the TOS Blog 


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

MaxScholar - TOS Review

I'm always excited when we get offered the chance to review something we really need. Step up the MaxScholar Reading Intervention Program by MaxScholar.

MaxScholar have created a systematic, comprehensive and multi-sensory online program designed to help students improve their reading and language skills. It was specifically created to help students that have dyslexia, learning disablitlies, ADHD, processing problems and those who are struggling to read and need extra help. They have put lots of research into creating this (including utilising methods from the 
Orton-Gillingham approach and the Lindamood-Bell Process) and have included a read-aloud feature for struggling readers. 

They start by asking your student to take a pre-test to work out exactly where they are in terms of comprehension and reading skills so they can put your child where they need to be, but you can ask the company to adjust that placement later if you feel the need to. They then go on to do activities at their level, progressing through the levels as they improve. For the best results it should ideally be used three to four times a week, each lesson takes on average 20-30 minutes per lesson.

We were given a years access to the MaxGuru pack which included;

MaxPhonics - this uses a multi-sensory phonics approach to work on letter sounds, blends, digraphs and even work on your handwriting. Activities include movies, drills and fun games that really reinforce what they are learning.

MaxWords - offering multiple levels that look at prefixes, suffixes, Latin and Greek roots, spelling rules and syllabication. They work on decoding words through multiple games and activities that allow them to really work with and understand the roots and rules. There are also timed readings that help improve fluency.

MaxVocab - a dictionary like no other, this section teaches thousands of word meanings through games like matching definitions and hangman.

MaxReading - with 13 levels there is something for everyone. This section teaches strategies to improve reading comprehension and introduces the concepts of highlighting, summarising, outlining and how to pick out the topic, main idea, and important details within a passage. Comprehension questions at the end of the text include multiple choice. You are
automatically scored as you progress so you can opt redo the chapter, look at the correct answers or progress to the next chapter.

MaxBio - by selecting famous people from the past and present they get to practise reading, comprehension and organising skills while reading biographies from sportsmen, musicians, political leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists etc.

MaxMusic - this is a really fun section where you get to use music and games to work on memory skills, recognition, grammar and auditory skills. It uses well known songs and asks you to identify parts of speech, remember words and play along on a virtual piano or guitar.

MaxPlaces - here you get to select from 51 countries around the world. After reading the passage and highlighting parts, it test your comprehension and reading by asking a series of questions. Although similar in set up to MaxReading and MaxBio it also sneaks in some additional history and geography knowledge.

MaxReports - this is the parents section that allow you to see the last time your students were logged in and where they were doing. This allows independent working.

I real like that MaxScholar have really tried to utilise relevant material to engage interest (the music choices and reading passages were spot on). I was also impressed by the balance of games to learning - too often I find programmes can be all about entertaining the child so that the content suffers or all about content so they are dry and boring. I felt that MaxScholar hit the balance perfectly, they were entertaining but still had a high level of educational content. I loved the fact that the programme is designed to reacts to your students evolving reading level.

My favourite aspect was the extra teaching I got from what I expected to be a reading programme - history, geography, grammar, music, vocabulary, Latin etc.

Tulip was the child that benefited most from this and in her words

 'I find reading abit easier and I learnt to find all the important bits on a page' 
' it made reading more fun'

MaxScholar is currently offering a 20% discount making MaxGuru available for $279

If you are looking for a fun and painless way to improve reading skills and comprehension then its definitely worth checking out.

You can see what my crewmates thought over at the TOS Blog

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