Monday, September 27, 2010

Awesome Tool, Especially for Bloggers!

I've been blogging for several years and now that I am also doing homeschool product reviews for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew...

...I tend to use several pictures in my blog posts.  It's really not a big deal to find a picture to use, right click on it, click 'Save Picture As...', title the picture, save it, then go find it when I'm ready to use it.  It's what I've been doing for years.

However, there have been so many times over the years when I would want to show a portion of a particular website that wasn't actually a picture that I could save to my computer...

(This is what my home page header looks like.)
 ...or when I was giving instructions about a website or trying to explain something regarding a product but had to simply try to express what I was trying to say with words when it would have been so much easier if I could simply show my readers a picture.  For example...

("Look dad, it's easy. You simply go to the website and where you see this, fill in your information and click 'Sign Up'")
 Talk about frustrating.  Many times I remember saying, "If I could just take a picture of this screen and then show it to my readers (or my dad whom I've helped learn his way around a computer via long-distance telephone calls) it would be a lot easier!"

Well friends, I am happy to tell you that someone finally got smart and figured out how to do just that!  A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone at Digeus Software asking me to review their product, SnapIt Screen Capture.  Now, to be completely honest with you I was a little leery at first.  I have received these offers before but have not been interested in reviewing any of the products.  Oh I'll check them out to see exactly what it is they have to offer, but so far I've actually been more afraid of my computer contracting some kind of virus from these unknown websites than what they are offering me!

When I was asked to review SnapIt I asked my husband, my super intelligent computer tech, to check it out to see if he thought it was legit.  He did and gave me the go-ahead.  So for the past two weeks I have been using SnapIt every chance I get and I have to say I LOVE it!  I have used it here on my blog while doing reviews as well as on some of my Facebook posts.  It is so fun to be able to capture whatever I want from any website, or even from my desktop, and share it with my friends.

And, one of the very best things about SnapIt Screen Capture is that it is very easy to use.  Once you download the software to your computer you simply turn it on and when you see something you want to capture you press your 'PrtSc' button and SnapIt is activated.  You will see a big + on your screen and you simply use that to place a box around whatever it is you want to capture.  Not only can you capture images from websites, but this was captured from the email I received from Digeus...

You can even turn on an 'auto save' option and each image you capture will be automatically saved wherever you told it to save it!  How easy is that?  Simply turn on SnapIt, tap 'PrtSc', put the box around the image you want to capture, and that's it!  Now it's ready for you to use wherever you need it!

But don't take just my word for it, just look at the awards and certificates of quality SnapIt has received!  In my honest-to-goodness opinion I wouldn't think twice about paying $17.99 for this software.  It has made my blogging and reviews so much more fun and easy, not to mention more professional looking!

Interested?  I bet all my fellow Homeschool Crew reviewers are!  Well here's the best news of all.  If you would like to try SnapIt Screen Capture for yourself you can download a free 14-day trial here and if you type up your own review via your blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc. you can receive the full version for FREE!  Simply contact Julia Taylor at Digeus with the link to your review and she will take care of the rest!  Be sure to tell her you learned about SnapIt from me, Christy Mitchell, at Training Hearts at Home.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Salem Ridge Press

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8)."  
That is the underlying philosophy of Salem Ridge Press, a publishing company who strives to find and bring back the best and most wholesome children's living books that the whole family can enjoy.  The creator of Salem Ridge, Daniel Mills, believes that what we read matters and I wholeheartedly agree with him!

Our family loves history (especially American history!), however, we have never really used one set curriculum for our history studies.  Instead, our favorite way to learn about what happened in history is to read good, "living" books, historical fiction, and biographies so we can get a real feel for what life was like through the eyes of those who actually lived then instead of boring facts, that are possibly more 'politically correct' than accurate, from a dry textbook.

Preferring to study history this way, I was thrilled to read these words from Mr. Mills...

"I have always loved historical fiction and believe that it is one of the best ways to study history. While textbooks can cover everything in a thorough and complete manner, historical fiction can bring the textbook to life. It is so easy to forget that history is really made up of the stories of individuals with the same hopes, dreams and fears as we have. Historical fiction can bring these people to life and help us care about history. The very best historical fiction will do even more. It will help us understand what led to the events of history, what effect those events had, and what we can learn from them."

Salem Ridge has books that cover Church History, American History, and World History.  They also have Adventure books as well as Younger Reader books.

How many of us have heard the saying, "Garbage in, garbage out"?  Well, in the case of Salem Ridge Press books, you don't have to worry for one second about any garbage going in while reading one of their books.  Those at Salem Ridge Press seek out and review books (mostly from the 1800's and early 1900's) that are only of the utmost quality and that teach Godly character and high moral values.  Occasionally they may tweak a passage which may have  included a brief kiss or embrace or maybe a word that seemed a bit derogatory or even possibly an illustration that didn't uphold to Salem Ridge Press's high standards.  As a parent this means so much to me and gives me the confidence that my children could read any of these books and it be perfectly safe to do so without my previewing it first or having to read it to them so I can edit it as I read.

As a member of TOS's Review Crew, I was able to review three books by Salem Ridge Press.  Between the three of them the time period settings of the stories range from 1500 B.C. to 1384 A.D.  Two were written in the mid- to late 1800's while the third was written in 1912.  The reason I tell you this is to emphasize that the wording is a bit different than we are used to reading today.  Sadly, I feel we, as a people, have drastically strayed from the intelligent conversation enjoyed by our forefathers who came from England and elsewhere.  The language then seemed, in my opinion, to flow so elegantly and was so classy and upstanding.  So be prepared to be challenged in your reading and perhaps your student's comprehension if they are not used to such a different way of speaking.  As I read to my children I would stop periodically and explain what was happening, or at least what I thought was happening, since it was sometimes difficult for me to read and understand what was going on myself.  But what better challenge for us as well as our children than to read classic literature in it's original language and try to gain understanding and learn what it was like during different peiods of time throughout history.

All of Salem Ridge Press's books can be found here.  You can search them according to the time period and location each story takes place, by title, by the author's name or even by age ranges.  Prices for their books range, from what I have seen, from $12.95-$24.95. 

Would I recommend Salem Ridge Press books to other homeschooling families?  Sure.  They're pure, wholesome, and trustworthy stories.  Are they going to be easy reads?  No.  But don't let that scare you away.  Try one for yourself!  (You can purchase them here.)

Besides, doesn't the picture at the beginning of this review (taken straight from the Salem Ridge Press website) and the thought of reading wholesome, living books by the fire just make you all warm and fuzzy inside?  Like you were back in the Little House days? 

Happy sigh...

 *As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it.  As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews are honest and contain only my own true opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Best Way to Increase Their Vocabulary

All four of our children know the U.S. presidents, in order, simply because of a book we have that uses mnemonics.  (A mnemonic is a device that helps you remember something by associating what you are trying to remember with something you already know.)  This presidents book has silly little cartoon pictures that incorporates the president's names to help the reader remember them in order.  After using this book to learn their presidents, they can each recite them to you in an impressive amount of time even though it's been several years since we used the book!

So when, as a member of the TOS Review Crew, I was asked to review the book Vocabulary Cartoons- SAT Word Power by New Monic Books I knew, before the book even arrived, that this was most likely one that we would not only use on a regular basis but would also probably thoroughly enjoy.

So, how does this book work?  How does it help students "learn hundreds of SAT level words faster and easier"?  Well, it's simple really.  290 SAT words are each presented with a silly cartoon along with a linking word or words that help the student remember the meaning of the words. 

Here is an example from the book using the word 'Fathom'...

Although the target age for this book is 7th-12th graders, I like to include as many of our children as possible in the reviews we do just to see what they're capable of.  For this book I chose to give the kids (and myself!) a new 'word-of-the-day' each day throughout the school week. 

Each day, after going over the new word and the cartoon associated with it, I would write the new word along with it's definition on a sheet of paper and hang it on our refrigerator where we could all see it each time we passed by.  The kids enjoyed reading over them, using them in sentences when talking to each other, and telling daddy about their new word when he got home from work each day!  Several times I even caught them trying to use more than one of our new words in one sentence!  This to me is all the proof I need that Vocabulary Cartoons works!

If you'd like to check out Vocabulary Cartoons SAT Word Power for yourself you can see examples here.  New Monic Books also offers a vocabulary cartoons book for elementary students, a second edition of SAT Word Power, as well as a Picture Speller for Young Writers.  Each of the vocabulary cartoon books are priced at only $12.95 with the spelling book being $19.95.  To see more information on these books or to purchase one or more of them, please visit the New Monic web site.

As for me and my family, we give Vocabulary Cartoons two big thumbs up!

Read what other Crew members think about New Monic Vocabulary Cartoons!

*As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it.  As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews are honest and contain only my own true opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Need Extra Math Help?

I used to love math, until I had to teach it!

Honestly, I would have to say that out of our 8+ years of homeschooling, math has been the one consistent thing that has caused the most tears, and not only for me!  Just ask my oldest.

We have only used two different curriculums for math over the years, one having it's own instructional DVD that helps teach each new lesson.  It's wonderful!  I don't have to rely on just my knowledge of what they are learning in order to teach them.

That's what I like the most about America's Math Teacher.  I was asked to review their site as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew and while it isn't a complete math curriculum, it is like having a math tutor right in your home any time you need it.

With America's Math Teacher your student can listen to and watch videos as Rick Fisher, a math instructor with a B.A. in mathematics, teaches a number of different math lessons on a white board.  There are four different course levels of lessons, Basic Math for fourth and fifth graders, Advanced Math for middle grade students, Pre-Algebra, and Algebra I with Algebra II coming soon.  The Basic level includes 85 different lessons, the Advanced level has 67 lessons, Pre-Algebra has 44 lessons, and Algebra I has a whopping 95 different video lessons.  So as you can see, there is plenty to help your students have the extra teaching and support they may need for many different math levels.

Along with the teaching videos, America's Math Teacher also has timed speed drills that students can do to practice answering simple addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems quickly. This was Handsome's (11) favorite part of the website. He enjoyed seeing how fast he could complete the problems and then trying to beat his previous time. I can see this part of the website being very helpful for a certain student of mine who doesn't quite know their multiplication tables as well as they should. There's just something about having that little timer ticking that makes all of us push ourselves to go faster and do better.
In addition to the teaching videos and the speed drills America's Math Teacher also has worksheets that coincide with each of the video lessons that can be printed out for the student to do on their own.  Also, online quizzes and exams help students and parents know when they're ready to move on to the next level as well as provide extra practice and review.

Overall, I am impressed with America's Math Teacher. For my son, who keeps getting confused with fractions, it has provided some extra practice and some different ways to look at fractions than just what his math book provides.  But while the extra review and practice has been nice, I don't believe I would willing to spend $195 for a year of America's Math Teacher, especially considering we're very pleased with our current math program and don't have any major issues that would justify the expense.  However, there may be those out there that could use the extra instruction and practice that would make using America's Math Teacher worth the price.

The only thing that disappointed me with AMT is that we found several of the video lessons were mixed up, meaning when we tried to view one video it actually wound up being a different video than what it was titled.  And others were duplicates of ones we had already watched.  However, when I emailed the company to bring this to their attention I received a response right away that thanked me and promised to look into the matter, which I am sure they did because we noticed later that some of the videos had already been changed.  This website was just recently launched and bugs and glitches are inevitable.  However, I do believe those at America's Math Teacher are determined and dedicated to fixing the glitches and continually improving the site as issues arise.

If you are interested in seeing if America's Math Teacher is right for your family you can try it for free here.  Interested in purchasing a subscription?  The cost is $195 for one year and can be purchased here.  (I'm not sure what the 30-trial coupon is).

Read what other Crew members think of America's Math Teacher!

 *As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it.  As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews are honest and contain only my own true opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!